Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Concert creep

At the concert, I stood behind three teenagers lined up along the aisle. I think the chaperon must have had a seat towards the back. After the opening band, the one boy disappeared with the older woman and did not return. That left to the two teenage girls.

They were very excited about the event, jumping up and down and excited talking to each other. The front girl was stout with brown hair that was cut in a bob the stopped an inch above her shoulders. The second girl had golden blond hair that had a bit of wave at the ends and fell to her shoulder blades. My best guess is they were 12-14 years old.

When the main band started playing, I noticed this guy on the other side of the aisle eyeing our area. He looked college-age. The guy was medium height, with brown wavy hair wearing a red athletic jacket. It seemed like he was looking for a better viewpoint for the concert.

All of a sudden he dashed over and positioned himself in front of a guy few inches taller than him. It seemed a bit random that he chose to nestle himself there. The guy behind him seemed a little taken a back since there was much more empty space behind him. He stood probably eight feet ahead and to my right. The blond girl was five feet to the side and slightly behind his left shoulder.

At first, he mostly stood like everyone else and occasionally rocked his hand with the music. She acted wildly when her favorite songs played. There was one song where I backed off because her erratic arm and head movements could have whacked me in the face. When a song came on the girls especially favored, he seemed to try and rock harder by bobbing his head up and down. He'd stop once he realized no one around him was acting the same.

It started to get creepy as I felt he glanced over at the girls as often as he was watching at the stage. I thought maybe it was my imagination, after all, out of the corner of my eye, his line of sight was a guess to me. I tried to look at him without being noticed to check where he was looking. It did seem he was looking their way, particularly at the blond girl.

Half way through the concert, he made a sudden move. As he took two steps to his left, he put his hands on the blond girl's shoulders. For a moment I thought he was going to try and hit on her. His gesture seemed too friendly for just passing her to get to the aisle.

What alarmed me was watching his left hand slide down her arm as he continued past. It's one thing to tap a stranger to let them know you are walking behind them but not stroke an entire arm's length. The girl looked over her shoulder at him as he walked back to the section from where he originally came.

She and her friend talked and looked his direction. Clearly, she was uncomfortable and concerned about the guy's suspicious contact. I hoped for her that he was not going to be a problem.

After disappearing behind some guys, the creep soon reappeared. He stayed in the other section but was obviously watching her song after song. His eyes seemed somewhat glazed over (maybe stoned?). What could be done?

When he moved towards our section again, I worried. This time, he stood slightly offset behind the girl. I debated whether I should try and step up to do something, but I didn't want to get near the guy. Very quickly, the girl was alerted to his presence. I couldn't see enough to know if he tried to touch her. She and her friend traded places so that the stout girl now protected the blond girl's back. It reminded me of my guy friend who always tries to form a buffer between female friends and random guys who get too close at clubs.

As soon as the friend was the one in front of him, he moved away. He stood there through the song and then returned to his remote post. The girls kept an eye on him, discussed their options, and dashed off for a safer spot. It was great to have the clear space ahead of me, but I felt bad for their situation. I feared he would roam the theatre to harass them later.

I never saw the two girls again. Hopefully, they spent the rest of the evening with the other boy and chaperone who came with them. The creep disappeared for awhile. It looked like he checked in with friends immediately after the incident. Then, he got lost in the crowd for a time. Towards the end, I spotted him coming down the aisle drinking a beer. It made me wonder whether he was drunk. I wanted to report him to the security staff but it seemed like a difficult complaint to lodge without the girls or creep in sight.

The concert date

The phone rang just before 7pm. I was walking along the city streets on a balmy evening, seeing the tourists and occasional Halloween revelers roaming about. Limey had called to firm up plans for our upcoming concert date. Now, of course, the word "date" has never formally been mentioned during any conversations between the two of us.

I warned Limey that I might have trouble hearing him as I walked down the street. He asked if it would be better to speak later, but I assured him this was the best time to chat since I wouldn't be home until late.

Since the concert started at 8pm, he suggested we arrive in the neighborhood a couple hours early for dinner. Limey then asked if I knew of any places to eat near the venue. I indicated that I wasn't sure. (Besides, I'm not sure what he has in mind in terms of $$$ so I didn't want to set an expectation by making a decision.) He said we'd play it by ear. The plan was to pick me up from my home. He requested that I sent him an e-mail with my address.


Date evening came, and I was running late. With about 30 minutes before his expected arrival, I scurried about my room trying to figure out what to wear. I chose a silk skirt with a rose print. Next, I debated whether to rip the price tag off of a recently purchased black lace top. At first, I tried to maneuver the plastic leash through the size tag but eventually gave the price tag a quick yank to remove it. When I viewed the combination of the top and skirt in the mirror, I felt too matronly and tossed the skirt aside.

The door bell rang. The clock said that I still had 15 minutes. Could he be *that* early? I ran down to the door in my top and panties and peered through the peep hole. The man standing at the door had blond hair. I asked, "who is it," and learned that it was a local politician going to door-to-door about his election to city councilman. I expressed my apologies and told him that I was late and could not speak with him.

Back upstairs, I immediately settled on the safest clothing piece, my best pair of dark jeans. Next, with 10 minutes to go, I started on the makeup. In previous meetings with Limey, I've worn very neutral and minimal makeup. In this case, however, being that it was a dinner and concert, I felt the need to put on a bit more for the scene. I tried mascara but almost poked my eye. I settled for extra eye liner and dark eye shadow.

Our agreed upon pick up time came and went. I check my cell phone in case I had missed his call. The extra time gave me a chance to tidy up the entry area little but there was no hiding the mess in the living room. Limey arrived 15 minutes late. From our conversation, my guess is that missing a turn and almost forgetting the tickets delayed him.

He was dressed rather casually - jeans, a charcoal gray fleece pullover with a navy stripe across the chest. His car was sporty but appeared a bit neglected, either it hadn't been washed or the bright paint coat was going bad.

I don't know whether it was a desire to please or a casual attitude, but the choice of restaurants was random. He also informed me that he wasn't very hungry after eating excessively at a friend's Halloween party. As we walked, he said that when he used to go to concerts with his buddy, they'd always just pick a resturant somewhere new the venue like this. (Gee that makes me feel special... not.)

We walked past two restaurants - an American bistro and the other a stylish Mexican place. In each case, he'd look at the menu and say that it would be fine. We'd then stand there and ponder walking another block or stopping to eat. I wished he would take more of a decision-making role. We agreed to finish walking around the block.

A sign caught my eye because I recalled hearing about the restaurant in a recent tv segment. I wanted to walk down the alley to verify that this was indeed the place reviewed. The shiny Mercedes, Lexus, and BMWs parked in the lot, alerted me that it would likely be expensive and pointed my theory out to Limey. He hadn't noticed the cars until I mentioned it. We entertained ourselves by browsing the menu and continued on our way.

To the right, I noticed a familiar little hole in the wall. I had eaten here a few years ago when Pisces visited town. The menu looked different but it still offered similar Malaysian-Indonesian dishes. The place looked like it had been recently been painted and fixed up. We gave it a try. As we sat at our window table, I commented at how the seats were up high and my feet were dangling. He laughed.

Limey ordered an appetizer and I experimented with a vegetarian dish consisting of bean sprouts, basil, and peanut sauce. The conversation seemed to go well. Again, it was a lot of random conversations about sports, weekend activities, and family history. As we talked about the loss of family stories as grandparents pass away and family background, he commented, "is this appropriate topic at this point of knowing each other?"

It was the one moment in the entire night where the pretense of our concert outing was acknowledged. I wondered what he was thinking about me. Although I enjoyed the conversation, I couldn't help wonder why neither of us could seem to take that next step and talk about what we're like and what we're looking for out of this. I have to think that by a third date these topics should work themselves in.

I'm great at carrying on random conversations with people. It's why people have the impression that I'm intelligent, outgoing, and attractive. Unfortunately, when it comes to developing a more intimate, soulful understanding with others, I must rely on the other person to initiate. I am at a loss about how to broach those topics and how to create an environment that is conducive to honest and vulnerable admissions.

Dinner finished right on time. Limey requested the check. When it arrived, I offered to pay. He paused for a moment and thought out loud, "I paid for the concert tickets. Okay, sure."

Because we'd eaten so little, the total bill with tip was less than $17. Not exactly what I had imagined as a balance to the concert ticket. He thanked me, and we headed to the concert venue.

We entered the theatre just as the opening band started to play. The floor was decently filled with people. The problem with floor "seating" is that it's not meant for short people. The standing area consisted of three tiers, each about three steps lower than the previous. Each tier could hold people at least 10 rows deep. That's not good when you're 5 foot and the people ahead of you are 5' 10" plus. The key was to stand next to the aisle and lean to the left to watch the stage.

Neither of us had ever heard of the opening band. I stood in front of Limey as he needed the aisle view as well (though not as badly as me). There was little opportunity for conversation when you combined our standing positions with the loud music. It felt a little odd not to really talk yet stand next to each other for more than two hours.

The concert was decent. I was frustrated by the overwhelming base. It obscured the lead singer's voice. Limey referred to it as "muddy sound." He told me a little bit about the history of the band during the walk back to the car.

The drive home was random. I gained some insight into his attitidue, towards cars anyhow. He's driving a car that some 14-years-old that he bought five years ago because it had low mileage. His last car was also probably more than five years old when he got it. He drove it for six years until someone hit it. His attitude is to keep driving the car until it doesn't work. I believe in keeping cars for many years, but personally I think 12 years is my limit unless I had more than one car (or if I was driving kids).

There were times when I wondered if he thought my random comments were odd. As he was surfing the radio channels for something decent, I pondered to him whether my middle-aged co-worker would express any interest in a radio station I had recommended. She has asked for a suggestion on a more modern rock station to try out to expand her musical interests. That steered the conversation towards music collections for TV shows and thus to preferred tv shows.

Upon arriving in front of my place, I thanked Limey for the evening and told him I had a good time. He echoed the sentiment and said goodnight. It was clear he didn't plan to get out of the car to walk me to the door since the engine was still running and he sat still in his seat. I paused before reaching for the door handle thinking maybe he'd want to hug or say something more, but he didn't. So I said good night and hopped out of the car.

When I got inside, I wasn't sure whether to think the night had gone well. We have good conversations. We learn and exchange ideas. It's never dead serious, it's never a laugh a minute. It's pleasant. The past two times we've met up, he's always signaled wanting to see me again. I suppose that's why I was perplexed by his quietness at the end.

Overall, I think he grew on me a little. I still wish our conversations would get a little more personal, a little more to the point concerning dating (I know - how unromantic). Since his feelings and intent are unclear, I'm fine being a little ambivalent about what to do next. The truth is I still long for some butterflies. As nice a guy as he is, it's a little too mellow. Or, am I too old (and jaded) to feel that rush of excitement?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weekend peeks

The weekend went by FAST! I woke up this morning wishing I just had a day to myself.

On Saturday, I did some rewiring in the house. Since I don't have cable, I rely on various antenna for my analog and HD signals. That means that I can't record anything using my VCR. I changed that by moving the VCR into the spare bedroom where I relocated my old tv and have decent reception. (I miss having a TV in my bedroom but I keep telling myself that it's a bad habit.) This way, if I'm out on a weeknight, I can record shows that I might miss like "The Amazing Race" and "Gilmore Girls."

Around lunch time, I caught up with two girlfriends for 9-holes of golf. Chi and I played one awful game. We're too out of practice. Meanwhile, MusicDoc has been getting lessons and hit some great shots. Chi and MusicDoc has never met before.

Between shots, Chi and I caught on our dating lives so MusicDoc was curious to learn more. She asked a lot about Chi's experiences with online dating. Naturally, Chi has a very positive opinion since that's where she met Juan. As an aside to the conversation, I asked MusicDocn how she had met her last boyfriend. It was someone whom she met at an alumuni social.

What caught my attention was the hindsight she added to her response. MusicDoc wistfully said that he has been the type of guy that looked good on paper. He was everything she has thought (or was told) she would want in a man. The lesson was that he was nothing of what she wants and that what's down on paper means little. Hence her curiosity about online dating because she is skeptical. The three of us all agreed that dating "resumes" a just window dressing.

I tried going shopping twice this weekend. Both times, I found some cute clothes but no good fit. On the one hand, it's good to say that I didn't spend any money on things I don't need. But then, with such great prices it's maddening to not get in on the deals when you see people at the cashier. ;)

I stopped over at my brother's on Sunday afternoon. It's nice to see their apartment coming along. He's been so busy with work they still have yet to buy a bed and simple things like a duvet and sheets. Every time I talk with them, I learn something new about how the newlyweds are learning. It's amusing.

- For dinner, they ate mopo tofu. My brother commented on how meaty the dish was and asked about the recipe. Ricer said the recipe called for 4 ounces of meat. Then she asked to verify, "4 ounces is a pound right?"

- On the refrigerator is a sheet of scratch paper with my brother's two e-mail addresses clearly written. I asked why they were posted there. Apparently Ricer can't seem to use either address correctly. She either forgets to add his middle initial or omits it, or she only uses his first initial, or she uses his full name rather than his nickname. Any they've been together for seven years?

Later, I went over to a neighbor's house for a pumpkin carving party. The turnout was smaller this year. It's a nice way to get to know some of the neighbors since usually it's just a quick glance as we drive past each other or seeing people in their backyards.

One of the gentleman there is divorced with a daughter in college. He was talking about how his daughter invited him join her Facebook network. It's reassuring to be able to see what activities and events she's involved in. It's nice to see that she's comfortable enough to share that with her dad. I also found it funny that they found "Project Runway" as a source of bonding. He knows nothing about fashion, but they like to watch and discuss it with each other. They seem to have a good relationship.

Friday, October 27, 2006


For whatever reason, I'm feeling rather solitary these days. I'm looking towards my weekend wondering why I ever committed to all these things. When I left for my brother's wedding, the plan was to come back and not hang out with anyone for a couple weeks. I put that off feeling like I should be social instead. Now, I wish I had some quiet time.

I have this e-mailer, Hguy, who I've been terrible about replying to. I'm amazed he still writes me as it takes me a good week to respond each time. I don't feel like we've exchanged any personal information that makes me want to meet him.

I watched "The Lake House" the other night. While it was a good idea, I feel like they failed to develop the characters enough for me to understand why they chose to write each other in the first place. It wasn't always clear to me why they behaved as they did. Obviously, they were good people, but I didn't feel that close to them. I mention this because it made me wonder what, in writing to people, makes for meaningful conversation. How do you generate a strong (and genuine) connection with someone you've never met? It used to happen in the old days. These days, maybe I lack faith, but I think it's all based on unrealstic expectations.

At least the weather has been unusually nice around here. I'm hoping to find a bit of time to sit on a park bench and read. Knowing me, I'll end up in front of the tv or running around trying to buy a pumpkin instead. Being boring just seems so appealing right now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Positive emotions linked to lower blood pressure

This is why no matter how much I hate certain things about my life, I try to think about happy things (or about neutral things like cleaning).

Positive emotions linked to lower blood pressure

"NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Having a positive outlook makes life more enjoyable, and it may also lower blood pressure in older adults.

Among more than 2,500 people aged 65 or older, the higher a person scored on a questionnaire measuring positive emotions, the lower was his or her blood pressure.

'Our thoughts and emotions do affect our physical processes,' Dr. Glenn V. Ostir of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, the study's lead author, told Reuters. 'The nice thing is that we have some control over that.'

There is evidence that positive emotions can help keep a person's chemical and neural responses in balance, and help people handle stress better, Ostir and his team note in the latest issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

To investigate whether happiness might be related to blood pressure as well, they surveyed 2,654 Mexican-Americans. About half were men and half were women, and the study participants were an average of 72.5 years old. All of the subjects completed a questionnaire that ranked their degree of positive emotions on a scale of 0 to 12.

The higher a person scored on the test, the lower their blood pressure was, the researchers found. The effect was strongest among people who weren't taking drugs to lower their blood pressure, but it was still significant fo"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Big Mouth still on the loose

Many years ago, my mother was chatting with me on the phone and told me about how this family friend's daughter, Curleye, was doing well with her current boyfriend. Her mother had told mine that she said she was happy.

A couple weeks later, I randomly came in contact with a woman who I discovered was a classmate of theirs from school. She was closer to the boyfriend. During the course of conversation, she asked me something about what Curleye thought of her friend. I innocently answered that she had said "she seems happy."

A week later, I got an upset call from my mother. My seemingly friendly comment had gotten back to Curleye and her mom. Apparently, they were rather upset about the gossiping. It had not even occurred to me that such a simple comment would cause so much scandal. I really don't see the harm in such a comment other than maybe it got mistranslated into something bigger.


Ever since, I've tried to be cautious of what I say. Generally, I guess I don't filter things that well. Information seems less sensitive to me than it apparently is.

Well, I kind of did that again over the weekend. I rode in a car with someone who is a semi-friend/semi-acquaintance of Chi (they've known each other for several years but aren't close). 3Degree is a very talkative person. What I did not realize is how he tends to ask very personal questions about people. As the conversation flowed, he got on the subject of Chi. I think he commented or joking asked whether Chi was dating many men. I rebutted his idea (because it seemed to sound bad to me at that moment) and explained that she is happily dating one guy right now.

He asked how long they had been dating and how they met. I admit, for a moment, I wondered if I should be sharing this information, but considering that they've been dating for two months, it didn't seem so secret. We talked a little about online dating sites. 3Degree then commented that he didn't think Hrmny had Asian people. I pointed out that Chi is dating an Asian man. That surprised him. From there, the conversation moved to other things. Sharing that last piece of information I will acknowledge was voluntary on my part.

Still, I felt a little uneasy about what I had divulged. I mentioned to Chi in an e-mail that 3Degree has asked about her and that I had told him she is dating. I wanted her not to be surprised if he mentioned it. I think she was a little upset about it but acted very polite. I did not get into all the details of the conversation because hopefully he won't remember everything I said. She was more understanding once she understood that the initial conversation was directed by 3Degree not some free offering of information by me. Her suggestion was that if I wasn't sure about answering his inquiries to simply say, "you know, you should ask Chi about that."

Suggestion taken. Man, I feel like a heel (beating my head against the wall). One more instance like this and I won't be surprised if she doesn't tell me anything anymore.

Every heard the book title "Kids Say the Darndest Things" by Charles Schultz. Well, sometimes I think that was based on me (though it was written before my time). There's some part of me that feels like I should be honest and open about things. I haven't quite learned the difference between honesty and appropriateness. I've managed to put my foot in my mouth big time every few years. Maybe I've been writing in journals too long and grown comfortable with saying what comes to mind. I need to remind myself that it's not necessarily dishonest to not answer a question.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Choice and decision

So I have a small dilemna...

Limey sent me an e-mail today saying he has two tickets for a rock concert this Saturday. He's asking if I'd like have dinner and attend the concert with him. For that night, I already RSVP'd for a post-wedding party of a friend who I haven't seen in a year. Since their wedding was in Hong Kong earlier this spring, I'd like to catch up and see all the wedding photos.

I'm still neutral about this guy. It'd be nice to go with Limey, but I *feel* like it'd be more because of the band rather than because of how much I want to hang out with him. On the other hand, I think I should spend time with him, given the chance, to figure out whether or not I'm interested. Argh.

My gut tells me I should just tell him that I cannot make it and go to the wedding party.

Social etiquette

It's almost 8pm. The cell phone rings.

"Hello, hello?"

"Hi P. [garbled]"

"I'm having dinner right now, so I can't talk too long."

"What? [garbled] Hello?"

As I walk outside, "I can't hear you TJ. Just wait a second"

"This is really bad connection."

"I'm outside now."

"Ah, yeah, that's much better."

"Yeah, I was inside a restaurant. How are you? What's up?"

"Oh, you're at dinner."

"I'm catching up with my brother and sister-in-law. They came back from their honeymoon this week."

"Ah, that's right. Nice. I was going to invite you over to hang out with us. Bubbles is cooking tonight, and I don't have any big pots. You know the deep ones for stews and things. I was hoping to borrow some of yours."

"Hmmmm. Getting ready for the party tomorrow?"

"Yes, ... . Where do you think I could buy some pots?"


Gee, could I feel more used? We rarely talk to each other or see each other except in group situations. Now, you want to hang out (at the last minute) with me so you can borrow my cookware? Lame. If Bubbles knew she was going to be cooking, why wasn't this planned better. You two have been dating for more than a year and she spends every other weekend at your place. Doesn't she know what's in your kitchen by now? It's fine to want to borrow, it's fine to want to hang out... it's just awkward being "included" just for the sake of needing something.

Thank goodness I had an excuse, otherwise he would have tried to give me some good reasoning to come over. Of course, I've had no problem saying "no" to him in the past. Once, he overheard me mention that I'd be gone on a business trip for a couple days. He asked if he could borrow my car to make a run to Home Depot. In a split second, my mind processed the idea of his tailgating, hard acceleration driving style, the lack of care he has for his furniture combined with throwing all sort of dusty, sharp-edged hardware items into my two-year-old car. Without barely a pause, I said "no." I feared for my car.

When I mentioned the pots conversation to Tim, he said, "of course TJ would ask that. It's just like 'hey Tim, would you and your four-wheel drive car like to coming skiing with us?'" (And when I bought my car, one of the minor thoughts that crossed my mind is that I would always be asked to drive for TJ's ski trips if I got the AWD option.)

On another note, a friend had a birthday party for her one-year-old daughter. When it was time to open the gifts, she spread a blanket out on the lawn with all the gifts. She then called everyone over. All the toddlers rushed over from the air jumper. Several three and four-year olds, including her nephew, began to try and open her daughter's gifts. None of the parents did anything to stop their kids. (How about, "Bobby, that's not for you, please don't touch. Sit down here and wait for the birthday girl.") My friend had to finally had to voice a request to the parents to please watch their kids.

I noticed how at Disneyland now, the automated message during the ride not only reminds you to stay in your seat until the ride has stopped, it asks parents to please watch the children. Duh! Growing up, I never recall hearing that. What is it with the lack of discipline on young children these days? Are parents more lazy these days or is this some mistaken belief that they don't need to be as hard on their kids as their parents were on them?

Friday, October 20, 2006

My "Love at First Site"

Funny that he's come to my mind recently. I just realized that it was 10 years ago this week that I first met Unagi. If I ever believed in love at first site, he was the one for me. Sadly, our inexperience and immaturity doomed the relationship. He will always be the one man with whom I wish I could have had a second chance.

I had just come back from a month of training in Boston for my new job. Pisces invited me to her roommate's birthday party. She knew I needed to meet new people and thought this would be a good opportunity. She also wanted me to have a look at the people she had been gossiping about. ;)

Kata had a boyfriend in Boston who she just hadn't had the nerve to break up with yet. Meanwhile, she had been spending more and more time with another grad student guy, Ig. Pisces told me they were headed towards boyfriend/girlfriend status. The people at the party consisted of grad student friends and college friends from Boston who had also moved to California.

I met so many people in the first 30 minutes I could barely remember faces. You know how it is when you meet more than a couple new people and talk to them for 10-15 minutes.

But one guy stood out. As Pisces took me around the circuit, I felt like he had been waiting to meet me. I was trying to convince this mid-western transplant about the joys of BBQ eel when he injected himself into the conversation. He seemed a bit nervous but cute. She left me there to talk to the two guys.

Maybe an hour later, Pisces asked my opinion of the people I had met. Somewhere in the conversation she asked me what I thought of the pairing of Kata with Ig. Then, she wanted to know if I found anyone interesting or cute. I spied Ig and Unagi talking and walking away as the question mark of her sentence registered in my brain. At the time, I confused Unagi *for* Ig. (this is what happens when you meet too many people too fast.) The thought I kept to myself was, "too bad he's not available." I was smitten.

The party moved inside as the sunlight faded. I remember only that it became this bizarre tv trivia match between me and Unagi towards the end of the evening. Everyone else in the living room became spectators.

When people started heading out around 10pm, Unagi stood 10 feet from me and tried to casually suggest that a group go out for dancing. I didn't bite. I'm generally pretty clueless when it comes to signals, but I had some inkling that maybe it was a test. Some of the men then decided to join up for a poker game. A couple guys asked for my business card, but since I just started a new job, I didn't have any to offer.

Sunday afternoon, Pisces called to chat. She again asked if anyone at the party had caught my eye. I hesitated and gave her two names, E and Unagi. She was please to hear my answer and proceeded to tell me that Unagi had asked Ig for my e-mail. Needless to say I was flattered and very elated.

I couldn't concentrate at work. I kept thinking about how handsome he was. I daydreamed half the day away wondering what would happen. This was the first time I'd ever really felt like I'd been asked out by someone post-college. (Dating in college just feels different - no car, no money, etc.) Monday passed with no e-mail. Tuesday was quiet as well. Wednesday I began to grow frustrated and wondered if maybe he's changed his mind or the e-mail got lost.

On Thursday, my group went out for lunch. We had Chinese food. At the end of the meal, fortune cookies were left with the bill. Reading my fortune, I marveled at the serendipity of the message - "You are about to receive an important letter."

Of course, when I returned to my desk, I anxiously checked my e-mail thinking I'd see something from Unagi. My disappointment subsided as I delved into my work. After 3pm, an e-mail came through. It was from Unagi. I was SO excited. It was perfect. He made a self-depricating joke to remind me of who he was, mentioned my favoritism for BBQ eel, and asked if I'd like to go out for sushi.

Those are some of the best memories I have of dating. The thrill, the exhilaration, the anticipation. There was such a natural magnetic force between the two of us. Wow, what a rush!

He's married a few years ago and has a young daughter. I'm guessing another child has just come or will come soon. In the grand scheme of things, he probably married someone better suited for his life - she's the same ethnicity. He never felt like he conformed to his culture, but hearing about his wedding, I know it was a good match for the families.

I doubt he'll ever read this. I know we both felt strongly for each other at the time. If I could say something to him now, I'd want to tell him how much that time meant to me; that I think he's a good man. I can't find the words to describe how compeling my attraction to him was. He will always hold a very special in my heart.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where to spend the winter holidays

At lunch the other day, people started talking about the holidays. It came up because one woman wishes we had a company-wide shut down for the holidays. I immediately disagreed. Stupidly, and perhaps inappropriately, I provided my reasons.

The fact is the holidays are boring for me. I didn't mean to make them feel sorry for me. It was simply meant as fact (or maybe I had an unconscious need for attention).

Growing up with first-generation Asian parents means that they don't quite understand American holiday traditions. I never had an Easter egg hunt except one year when we visited someone else's house. We had Thanksgiving turkey every other year or so? My father's relative were mostly on the East Coast; my mother's family is in the South. We were the lone family an usually spend the holidays as a single family unit.

Xmas means putting up a little fake tree with some pretty glass balls and arranging a few random, half-wrapped gifts under the tree. We eat dinner the night before as if it's just another night. In the morning, we spend about 30 minutes opening gifts and then move on like it's a Sunday morning.

While it's nice to see my parents, I don't exactly look forward to going home. Xmas doesn't mean anything unless you're a kid, a parent, an aunt/uncle or a grandparent. It's all about family, and mine is kind of disfunctional about this holiday. I could visit home any time of the year and sit around watching movies and eating my mom's cooking.

Things would be completely different if I were married with kids. I'd be exhausted shopping for gifts and trying to make the house festive with lights and poinsettias. Maybe I'd be grumbling under my breath about ignorant travellers while waiting to go through airport security. I'd complain about having to host my brother or parents for the week. The kitchen would be filled with the scent of cakes and cookies, along with the hint of sauted onions as garlic as I prepared dinner. It would be crazy and frustrating at times, but it would be fun.

Instead, I'm 35 and have nothing to do. It's painful to be at home. My parents usually attend a Xmas party or two hosted by friends. It's mostly just adults now and the few kids under 25 who come. All the other "kids" are married and elsewhere - except me. It's so humiliating sitting at the kids' table now.

Mom always asks me to stay until New Year's, but I'm always itching to go home. What does she expect me to do at home for a week? One of these years, I'm thinking I'll go on vacation instead. It's the peak of summer in the other half of the world. It would be nice to get away from all the holiday expectations and reminders of what's missing from my life.

The irony is that I have all the Xmas stuff I need in my closets. I have three boxes of decorations and ornaments that I have amassed over the years. Last year, I bought decorative mantel hooks for the stockings I bought at the Macy's After Christmas clearance. I was very discriminating about buying items that weren't religious in nature. I settled on ones that looked like a snowflake and a wrapped gift box. Is it all because I long for those romantic family images or am I just a shopaholic?

So, here comes another fabulous holiday break of sitting at home with my folks...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What a picture's worth

I realized that on this site where I have a dating profile posted that people can also rate your photo unless you turn off the setting. Obviously, I clicked through curious to see how my photo performed.

There are three pictures of me on the site. The main photo is the one that people saw in the image ratings. It's a photo of me from a party, I cut around some friends to get a decent head shot. I'm wearing a red, v-neck sweater with shoulder-length, black hair. The picture is zoomed enough that my freckles cause a slight discoloration to my skin. I have a friendly, though not enthusiastic, smile on my face.

At the time I created the mug shot, I thought it was a representation of myself. Plus I tend to think bright colored clothing is complimentary. You can imagine how I felt with my average rating was 4.2 (or something) out of 10. Ouch. I don't claim to be a beauty queen, but I think I look okay.

As I perused other people's photos, I came to realize two things (interesting things anyhow). People's preferences and concepts of attractiveness are heterogeneous. This could be learned preference, cultural preference, etc. In my own succession of ratings on other people's photos, I found that my opinion matched more than 50% of the time with the photo's average score. However, there were many times when I was surprised to see the photo received a two-point worse or better rating than what I had marked.

The other point... do you remember the site "Hot or Not?" I went through that website a couple times so years ago. In that case, I recall thinking that people's ratings of each other were somewhat inflated. It was rare to find people who's pictures scored lower than 7. Here, however, my impression was the average scores were more between 4 and 5. Rating scales can be very arbitrary and values have different meanings to people. An 8, for example, is much more significant when the average person is scoring 5 versus everyone scoring 7.5. And, it could just be that on that site people were more conscious about putting on their best face.

For fun, I changed the picture that I made available for rating. The second picture is one that was taken of me while vacation. It has a much more romantic background and shows my upper half. My face is less detailed but you can see that I'm a petite woman. The photo is a little uncomfortable for me to show because it's the closest I've ever looked to having a model pose with my hair slightly flowing in the breeze. I'm not wearing anything skimpy or sexy, but the clothing is definitely more trendy.

Can you guess how it's doing? I'm averaging 6.5 after one day of votes (less than 20 votes). I can't remember how many votes the former picture had (data gets erased when you change photos). I seemed to do a little better with women than men. Right now, I only have male votes. I wonder how much the better background influences the rating.

I have a debate with various girlfriends about the types of pictures to post on dating sites. Do you put yourself out there with a really attractive picture which might get the attention of the wrong types of men but gives you more hits? Or do you want to be contacted based on a realistic, everyday picture? Then there is the philosophy of providing a slightly plain photos because you want them to like how you might looking after waking up in the morning and to judge you more on your personality. I think the answer is whatever makes you comfortable.

I don't really like having my picture on display like this, so it's time to take it down from being rated.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sushi or Kabobs

I parked my car in the lot just behind the restaurant. It was five minutes until 7pm. I passed the minutes listening to the Da Vinci Code audio book.

I emerged from the car just before 7pm. This was an unfamiliar area of town for me. From the right corner of my eye, I observed an outdoor patio in an unexpected place. I had just assumed that the shop opposite my car was a liquor store. Yet the patio tables indicated otherwise.

Over a loudspeaker, a man called out numbers. Bending my head around the corner, the banner over the window touted rotisserie chicken and kabobs. The number of people gathered there convinced me that sometime in the future, I'd have to return here and try the food.

I stood in front of the restaurant door for about a minute. There was no sign of Limey inside. As I walked past a lantern at the door, I thought about how I need to practice writing my Chinese characters. Then I heard someone call out my name. Limey came from around the corner.

He is a decent looking guy. The one thing that always puts doubt in my mind is his voice. It's rather high-pitched, like a teenage kid who hasn't hit puberty (think Richard Simmons). It's just not sexy. :(

Conversation with Limey is easy. I have a tendency to jump subjects when I talk. He seemed to be able to keep up. A subtle smile hinted that he seemed pleasantly entertained at times with my eccentric habits - like being able to recognize See's Candies flavors. Our discussion about chocolate intrigued him as it opened a new view of gourmet chocolate making that he was unaware of.

The time passed well until maybe the last 15 minutes. I probably should have let the pauses alone. But I got a little nervous and would search for a new question to ask. The check sat for a minute or so before Limey pulled it towards his end of the table. He pulled out his wallet and tossed down a credit card.

The restaurant tables were filled to capacity by the time our plates were taken away. I guess a 7pm start for dinner was early considering how empty the place had looked when I arrived.

Outside, I thanked him for dinner. After a polite response, Limey paused to find the appropriate follow-up. He expressed interest in meeting up again and asked if I would be in town. (I had mentioned an upcoming business trip.) I said October was all at home, he nodded and said he call me.

Then, somehow it got awkward. Neither us seemed to know what to say. As he started to say goodnight, I couldn't tell if he wanted to come closer. My nervousness got the better of me, so I stepped forward with my arms extended. We gave each other a friendly hug.

He continued to walk towards the main parking lot when I pointed out that my car was on the other side of the building. He wished me a good evening and headed for his car. Part of me thought that it would have been nice if he had walked with me to my car. Another part of me was relieved that there wouldn't be another awkward moment.

Honestly, I haven't thought about the dinner since. It was fine, we had a decent time. So far, it feels nice to hang out, but I don't have any romantic notions about Limey. This feels more like friends thus far (but it had only been two dates). Given my track record for obsessing and over-analyzing the littlest things, perhaps it's better that this is slow-paced.

It would seem with people who I am neutral about, dates are easy. I'm just there. In contrast, when I go out with someone I'm attracted to, I'm totally nervous, bubbly, and probably a bit... ditsy? If I'm not sure about the guy, I probably act self-confident and aloof. Why is it so hard to just be myself?

Friday, October 13, 2006

The better man

What an ending on Grey's Anatomy last night. (spoiler ahead)

Everyone acted like adults which kind of took the air out of the tires. Still I'd say it was more realistic. I like how Derek asked the chief about his affair with Ellen and why he stayed with his wife. I think it's hard to understand or appreciate making that choice until a person's experienced it for themselves. To love someone but not choose to be with them is a difficult realization to achieve.

Considering my own recent thoughts about Ryan and Tim, I could relate to watching Derek walk away and Meredith giving Finn the no-go. Life sucks, but it's better to be honest now than hurt someone more later.

Attractiveness scales

I saw this diagram posted by Dating Dummy and found it rather entertaining. Dividing attractiveness between the mental and physical puts a new spin on things.

It feels like I've spent most of my life in that bottom quadrant, hovering just above the intersections of PAIN, awkwardness and dating. Of course this is all relative since beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Okay, enough with the serious analysis... just be entertained.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

None of his business

F*ck! I know I shouldn't care. I know I shouldn't let it bother me. I logged into a community profile I keep for friends who want to set me up. It's a way of letting the guy see if he's interested. I posted recent pictures and a description of myself.

A friend of a friend wants to introduce me to a friend of his. Earlier this week, I directed him to the site. I checked in today to see if anyone had looked me up. To my horrified shock, my ex, Ryan, has viewed me. YUCK!

What the hell caused him to look me up? We haven't spoken or seen each other in almost three years. Admittedly, I happened to try and look him up to see if he was on a couple baby registries the other day, but there's no way he would know that. (His wife turned 40 this month, so I couldn't help be curious if he's gonna have kids since he was ambivalent about it when we dated. I was browsing toys online in preparation for Xmas gifts.)

The sucky thing is there's nothing I can do to block him from looking unless I block everyone. I don't want him knowing what I'm up to. It's not fair that he so easily rebounded and got married, and that I'm still single. His possible pity angers me. I don't want him to know anything about me. I feel violated. (Yes, apparently I still have baggage issues.) He's the reason I lack faith in relationships, he was the final straw that broke me.

In cleaning out my computer files the other day, I ran across an old document. It was a clipping of one of our last e-mail exchanges. I had foolishly asked him to rationalize what happened, why he didn't want me anymore and whether there was something I failed to do. His response was very rationale, very fair. Even though I understand, it still hurts.

"I don't think you failed to communicate your needs. I think I knew near the beginning what you were looking for. I am more to blame for the failure to communicate, and I am sorry if I waited too long to tell you how I felt. I suppose it was so hard for me to ultimately decide because I can't really explain it. You and I are compatible in many ways, and I loved the way you cared about me. That is why I think we could have a good life together. But there are also some things that I wish could have changed or were different. I think I have mentioned those before. That I felt our relationship was imperfect does not mean that my affection for you was not genuine.

Sometimes I wonder if I have made a mistake, and that I am being too picky. I think about that often. All I know is that I don't have the feeling that this is it, and if I don't have that feeling, there is probably something wrong. I am sorry I cannot be more helpful with my explanation."

I didn't write about this finding because I had forgotten about it. I processed the thought and moved on. Sure, Ryan pops into my head now and then. That's fine. But it's okay because I've never felt like we are still connected.

Seeing him appear like this scares me. Everyone has a right to be curious about others, I just don't want to know. Now, all these painful old feelings are overwhelming me. Sh*t, and I can't take my profile down because that other guy might go take a look. What a way to rattle my day.

Okay, after a few hours to relax, eat and snooze, the psycho moment has passed. The truth is, once I thought about it, I'm probably to blame. Back in March, when I was getting to know KT, I used the site and peeked at Ryan's profile. It's most likely that I appear in his viewed list from that, and he only logged in this week for the first time in months. My bad.


Observations that I'm not sure what to do with:

1) People always think I'm younger than I actually am.

How does that affect my credibility at work? I can only imagine how differently I might be treated if people didn't think I was some young college graduate rather than someone who's had three careers and been in this particular field for 5+ years. (Being taller would probably help as well.)

Just how much younger than 35 do I look and act? This is why I can't let my hair get too long; it takes five years off my age and therefore doesn't look professional. I work with people who aren't more than 10 years older than me and I feel soooo much less "adult." This all goes back to being an only child and not being social enough as a kid. Who knew that partying and drinking in college can be considered skill development?

Does that affect the chances of getting asked out by certain men? This is one of those catch-22s where the older men think I'm too young for them (minus the creepy old men) and the younger men realize I'm too old. At least, that's how I feel sometimes.

2) I don't get asked to partner up for activities. Then people are always surprised I didn't get asked (both genders).

Do people assume I'm already "taken," leaving me high and dry? It's just a theory, I have no idea. There have been a couple of times, in hindsight, comments from people gave me the impression that since I present myself as confident and outgoing that I can't possibly be single or lacking a partner.

Am I somehow unapproachable? Intimidating maybe? I'm an Aries - I'm headstrong and always think I know best. (And most times, I am.) Other times, people have indicated that their first impression of me that I can be aloof. It's not that I look down on people or anything. Exactly the opposite, I'm so concerned that people are uninterested in talking to me or that I'm boring that I shy away from introducing myself to others. I do need to work on being less serious.

Do people think I don't like them? I'm very uncomfortable making eye contact with people. I'm afraid I'll imply the wrong message (or be too obvious). Not sure where I learned this habit from.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

That weird dinner thing

I'm finally having dinner with Limey this week. We've exchanged brief e-mails every couple of days, but nothing definite is planned to dinner just yet. I only have a day and rough time.

It's been so long since the time I met him for coffee, this dinner seems almost anti-climactic. He sent me a brief text message Saturday night after the college football game was won. That was cute.

So the one thing about dinner dates I'm TERRIBLE with is the bill. I never know whether to let the guy pay or to offer to split the bill. If the guy is quick to grab the check, then there's no question, no problem.

It's when the check tray is allowed to linger on the table that my mind wanders. The conversation may be going great, but a little twitched begins to develop in my side. I try not to draw attention to the black plastic try (or billfold), but it's like a little kid jumping up and down yelling "look at me!"

My guy friends are all very clear that if they ask, they pay. Anything else would be bad etiquette. When the guy is slow to look at the bill, I can't help wonder if I'm being tested. Maybe it's because he is totally spellbound by our conversation? ;) When the guy is fumbling through his wallet for cash or a credit card I don't know whether to say anything. It's such an awkward moment. But I do always say "thank you" when they put the payment down. (Or is that awkward to point out?)

And what happens on the second date, the third date, or so on? At what point is it appropriate to offer to pay for something like dessert or tickets for a movie as a reciprocal gesture? You'd think I'd have this down pat after all these years.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Which came first -- the fashion or the egg?

Several postings I've read today came to mind as I ran across this article today. What a bizarre bit of research. I'm guessing women were asked to take a picture of themselves each day. That in itself must have made them a little more self-conscious about what to wear. (Plus we are talking about L.A. here. ;))

I have to admit there might be something to it. In my twenties, I used to talk with Pisces about feeling particularly horny when ovulating. She noted the same urge.

The last paragraph is especially bizarre to me. In high school I developed a good guess for what was happening to me each month. How hard can it be to read a book that describes the physical signs of ovulation? It could be that all the artificial ingredients (preservatives, sweeteners, fillers, growth hormones in meat, etc.) we consume mess up our bodies' natural indicators. It's also because women are waiting longer to have children. Those natural indicators may not be as obvious at an age when human biology expects women to be raising children not having them. (I'm not trying to start an argument here, just state scientific fact.)

Of course, now that I'm aware of this research, I'll be watching to see what I wear next month.

CNN.com - Which came first -- the fashion or the egg? - Oct 10, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Women dress to impress when they are at their most fertile, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study they say shows that signs of human ovulation may not be as mysterious as some scientists believe.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelry when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

'They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably,' said Martie Haselton, a communication studies and psychology expert at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.

Writing in the journal Hormones and Behavior, Haselton and colleagues said their findings disproved the conventional wisdom that women are unique among animals in concealing, even from themselves, when they are most fertile.

Some animals release powerful scents when ready to mate, while others display skin color changes, but human ovulation is notoriously difficult to detect. This is attested to by the frequency of unintended pregnancy, as well as test kits marketed to women wishing to become pregnant but unaware of the likeliest time to conceive.

Mystery along the road

I noticed this recently on the side of the road during my commute. You can quickly tell they are roses surrounded by baby's breath. Clearly, this bouquet was meant for a special occasion as the plastic wrap is decorated with red hearts. It's resting on a cable belonging to a roadside impact barrier.

At first, I thought it was left there from Valentine's, but it wasn't there a month ago. It had to have been placed there sometime in September as I was gone for a bit. Each time I sit at the light, waiting for the left turn signal to change to green, I look at this poor bouquet and wonder how and why it is there...

What sad story could this bunch of dried roses tell us? Here are some theories I've come up with while passing by:

1) A girl was wooed by some guy desperate wanting to win her affections. The minute she got away, she wanted nothing around to remind her of him.

2) An anonymous fellow driver trying to create happy thoughts to help others through the work day.

3) A promising first meeting of an online romance - gone sour.

4) Someone daring enough to sell flowers while standing on the median of a 6 lane highway who couldn't sell that last bouquet.

5) A guy wanted to ask a girl out that he's had a crush on for some time, but as he neared her home, he chickened out.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Is speed dating dead?

I has originally planned a quiet weekend for myself. In the end, I spent much of it handing out with people and not getting my chores done - dinner, shopping, football, tv, photobook editing. If only I could get by on four hours of sleep for a few days.

On Friday, one of the directors planned for a hooky day from work to watch Fleet Week. At the last minute, however, an executive meeting was scheduled. I was left to drive a fledgling group out. The mood was not as upbeat without half the gang. The whole point of the outing was to spend time together. The organizers were not present which none of us liked.

We ditched the Fleet Week show in favor of a classic restaurant with an ocean view. Birdie is getting married in three weeks, so the conversation naturally tended towards her life. I stayed engaged though somewhat detached from the conversation. I didn't want to appear uninterested, but it's hard to participate in a conversation where you know you don't fit.

My only goal was to not draw any attention towards my own situation. I'm sick of talking about it with friends and acquaintances. (This blog is the only place I care to mention what's going on or complain, so you hear a very different slant from what all my friends think I'm about these days.) I prefer to let everyone think I'm doing fine and enjoy whatever else they want to talk about.

The one interesting thing I learned was that her former boyfriend is now a father. She found out after she broke up with him that he had been cheating on her with a college co-ed who is more than 10 years younger than him (yeck). She was this crazed girl who ripped up any pictures of Birdie that she found at his place. For some reason, the Co-ed began crank calling Birdie. She just call and listen on the line while Birdie said, "hello, hello... hello?"

The situation got so bad that she had to change her home and cell phone numbers. Birdie had no contact with Vainman, so it was perplexing to understand what obsession the Co-ed had with harassing her. My life sounds so tame in comparison - no boyfriend trying to get back together, no stalkers, no deranged other girlfriend (okay, perhaps some covert, harmless spying on my part).

Birdie must have picked up on my tame behavior and asked how my love life is. I panned the whole topic. She asked if I had been attending any more speed dating events. I told her that I had stopped going to those. I grew uncomfortable as she tried to remind me that I initially seemed to enjoy them. We discussed how they had been interesting at first but have since lost their allure. In fact, I looked into some sites recently and the frequency of events has dwindled. The last one I went to had incredibly poor attendance. Birdie agreed that they seem to have become passe. So is their a new option out there? Is it back to online dating and bar socials?

As we savored our desserts, the big group behind us departed. It was a table of seven men, half white, half asian, and one Indian or Middle Eastern guy. As soon as they were out of site, Birdie commented about the one guy who came to lunch in scrubs. Everyone at our table agreed it was rather tacky to dress like that in public. We guessed they were interns or residents from the nearby medical campus. All the other men were dressed in button down shirts or decent t-shirts. Birdie shared her opinion that there is an "in" about being a doctor because of the popularity of medical shows like Gray's Anatomy (a show which I enjoy). This guy was probably trying to make sure everyone knows he's a cool dude to date.

Yes, I will admit there's this culturally engrained radar for "successful" Asian men. Admittedly, it would be nice to date a doctor with the idea that he could support the family and allow me to stay home with the children. But I'm not going to date someone purely for that resume bullet point. I'm attracted (or I'd like to believe) to the fact that being a physician conveys intelligence, a kind and patient heart, and a caring nature. The financial security is a plus. I probably naively give them unwarranted credibility as "good guys" because of their occupations.

In reality, I know there are bad apples in the mix. There is unfortunately that segment of physicians who are total players because they know women want to date doctors. What made this particular guy personally unappealing for me was that he didn't wear a t-shirt under his scrubs. His ample chest hair showed over the v-neck of the top. Blech! Have some pity for the patients that have to be next to you.

We had lovely lunch. The view was rather overcast but seeing a sailboat or two pass by on the water was very relaxing. Nothing like enjoying a seafood lunch on the company bill.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Advice from Dear Abby - Giving Gifts

Seeing this article below reminded me of how I have learned about gift giving over the years.

When I was a kid, my parents did what might be described as the minimum compared to the average American family. We didn't make a big deal of all the holidays. I'm not sure they totally understand what to do for them. When I had birthday parties, my mom let me keep most of the gifts. If I already had something similar to the gift, she regifted it.

At Xmas, there was never a time when my parents pretended there was a Santa Claus. My relatives sent packages, and they were immediately put under the tree. As I got older, I'd peak underneath the grocery bag wrapping in case they had taken the time to wrap it in prettier Xmas paper. I never knew what my parents sent to my cousins. There was a lot of cheque exchanges in the teenage years. I don't recall giving my parents anything nor do I recall my parents buying anything for each other. I did try and do things for my brother a few times. He actually believed Santa came one year - my parents immediately told him that it was me.

I remember one year, I talked my dad into buying a mini deep fryer for my mom. She had been deep frying things outside for fear of splattering oil in the kitchen. My keen 9-year-old mind reasoned that an enclosed cooking system would be a better appliance and allow her to cook inside the house. When my mom opened the gift, she had my dad return it because she felt it was not necessary. I think that held me back from suggesting a gift again.

Sometime around college, my mother started to remind me to write "thank you" notes to my relatives for the gifts they sent. I would mostly get checks for small amounts. One aunt would send me clothes, another would send me fashion jewelry. It would always take me forever to write those notes.

When my cousin, Hams, was pregnant with her first child I went all out. I had been in the work force a couple years by this point. She is ten years older and has always been like a big sister to me. I hand-sewed a quilt and sent several other little goodies for the impending birth. Every year I would send them a Xmas package that included a gift for their son and a gift for the family. When her daughter came along, I didn't make another quilt but did my best to send some cute clothes and a stuffed animal.

Every December, I continue to send them a package, inside is a gift for each child, a family gift, and maybe something for the parents if I happened to come across something appropriate. My one rule has been to never go overboard on how much I spend for each kid. I don't believe in extravagant gifts, so I limit myself to $25 each. There's less of a limit on the family gift. I remember sending Shel Silverstein and Eric Carle books, classic board games like Clue and Candyland, cookie cutters, the School House Rock DVD (awesome collection I must say), magnetic and foam puzzles, Trader Joe's foods, Legos, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, dinosaur model, Ello craft kit, and more board games. I can't tell you the numerous hours I've spent struggling to find the perfect gift each year. I want them to have fun, but I also want them to learn so I end up putting way too much thought into it at times. They've only ever had the most generous compliments about the gifts I've sent. It's fun. They are my Xmas.

Over the years, I've worked with my brother to give our parents gifts. They don't happen every year, we're more likely to buy them something big that combines birthdays and Xmas - like electronics. One year, I used my miles to give them two plane tickets so they would take a vacation. Maybe it's time to give them some airplane tickets again for their trip abroad next spring.

Hams is a major reason I've tried to be better over the years about gifts. She's always written thank you cards as if the kids sent them. Now that they are older, she has them write notes themselves, very cute.

What struck me the most was when I helped clean out my grandmother's apartment after she died. Grandma passed away a month before Xmas a few years ago. Among the items in her room were recent gifts from the relatives. I happened to sift past a piece of tissue paper that read: "To Greatgrandma, From J." Hams had sent our grandma something in her son's name.

I felt saddened that I had never sent anything to Grandma all these years. It hadn't ever occurred to me. No one had ever taught me this. I felt so selfish. And my chance to change that was gone.

I have one aunt who never married. She's a very happy person and has plenty of friends. I know that Hams has always sends her little gifts for her birthday and for Xmas. It's really hard to know what to give older folks. They pretty much have everything they need. My aunt's small apartment in Queens certainly doesn't allow her to collect too many random decorations. With my parents' encouragement, I send her little things like classical DVDs and other practical things. My mother once told me my aunt really like the LED keychain light I sent one year. With all the travel she does I thought it a good and practical gift. It's good to recognize a lady who's always been kind to me.

This is another example of something that has taken me a lot of years to learn. I still struggle to find good gifts for people I'm dating. It's so hard to come up with something unique and thoughtful. I need to work on paying more attention to subtle cues.

Sometimes I wonder if I should sit down and read Miss Manners cover to cover. I wonder if my parents realize why I sometimes as so clueless. They didn't teach me. This is why I know I can't simply do everything for others like my brother or my (future) kids. People learn best by doing. I hope that I can teach my kids good things.

Advice from Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: 'Had It in Arlington, Wash.' (8/29) was upset because her teenaged stepchildren didn't give her husband, their father, gifts even though he was generous with them.

She could change that by inviting them to go shopping with her when she picks out a gift for him the next time they visit. If it's not a gift-giving occasion, that's OK. A 'just because' gift is the best kind.

If their relationship is close enough, she might feel comfortable suggesting they get something for him, too -- even if she has to pay the first few times. My guess is that, unless the kids are selfish, insensitive brats, they'll get the message and want to use their own money. The gifts need not be extravagant, just thoughtful.

I get some of my most interesting things in flea markets, consignment shops and closeout stores. -- IT WORKED FOR ME, DUNWOODY, GA.

DEAR I.W.F.M.: You're a smart cookie, who I am sure not only endeared yourself to your husband for what you did, but also his children. And you're not the only smart lady who responded to that letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: You were right on to say that the husband shouldn't punish his children for what amounts to their mother's poor teaching or example.

I was divorced when my son was very small, and I always helped him get his father at least a small gift for Christmas and Father's Day. His father, on the other hand, never once responded in kind. He seemed to think it was the responsibility of some other man in my life to get me gifts -- first my father (since I moved back home for a short time), then my new husband. Have I pointed this out to my son? Heck, no. Has he noticed? You bet he has!

We teach our kids by example. What the stepmom could do is talk to the kids and say, "Your dad's been generous to you. Would you like some help in getting him a present for his birthday, to say thanks?" -- KAREN IN SALEM, ORE.

DEAR ABBY: I could not believe your response to "Had it in Arlington, Wash." You said, "Children behave as they have been taught, usually by their mothers." How incredibly insulting to mothers everywhere. Let me tell you that when I went through a divorce, it was their father who "taught" them such despicable behavior!

My ex-husband was so bitter, he did not want my children to give me anything -- on birthdays, Mother's Day or Christmas. In fact, I was the one who took them to the store and gave them money to buy gifts for their father on each and every occasion, even though it was not reciprocated.

At one point, my son asked me as I drove them to the store to get a gift for their father's birthday, "Why do you care, Mom? He doesn't care about you!" Let me add that the Christmas that I gave them enough money to buy everyone (including me) gifts, their father would let them spend only $10 on a gift certificate for me, regardless of what they knew I wanted and they had wanted to buy for me! Shame on you, Dear Abby, for making such a hurtful comment. -- UPSET IN BRIGHTON, COLO.

DEAR UPSET: I offer my apology if what I said you took personally. It was simply an observation and not intended to be hurtful to anyone.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bar scenes

I went to a charity event for a local volunteer organization. C3 is feeling like she needs to be more social and would like to start volunteering. This organization held a social at a trendy bar in the area. I have actually volunteered with this group once and learned about it from Chi. C3 had never heard of the group and thought this social gathering would be a good way to check out the members.

I've never been into bar scenes. The social etiquette and small talk is very awkward for me. (They should offer a class for people like me. ;) ) The people there were mostly friendly. The funny thing, to me, was that virtually all the people we met were people who had never volunteered through the organization and were "checking it out." Frankly, I couldn't help wonder how many of these people were using this social function as a way to network and perhaps meet potential singles.

The bar was basically a wide hallway, separated by what I thought was frosted glass but later realized was a wall of metal beads. Behind the counter, the bottles of liquored were displayed on shelves backlighted with red light. The design was modern with dark wood, chrome , and leather cube seating.

I weaved my way through the crowd to find C3. She was talking to a man and woman. They had all connected because they each had worked for PWC at some point in their careers, though in different groups. She told me I missed out on this snooty European woman who thought she was better than everyone else and tended to put a damper on conversations.

The guy seemed like a decent Asian man. Part of me couldn't help size him up for potential dating. I recall thinking, "yeah, I'd go on a date with this guy." He had indicated that he was in his early 30s. After talking about our undergrad experiences, he asked what year we graduated. He was surprised to hear that we were near his age. He even commented that we looked younger. I wondered if he was disappointed to hear we were older than him. That negative little bug in my head thought, "there goes getting exchanging e-mails." Let's face it, a large percentage of men want to date someone younger than or the same age as them if they're thinking about marriage. We stepped up to the bar for drinks. He excused himself for the restroom and said he'd return. I never saw him again.

After talking with each other for awhile, C3 and I approached another group of people. This time I recognized one of the guys. Arms is a guy who knows some of our other friends, like TJ, and who I have run into a couple times at speed dating events. Nothing ever happened even though we "matched," not even a coffee date. We exchanged friendly hellos. I caught him up on the whereabouts of some folks. There were also two other guys there, Gir and E.

I suppose if I really wanted to mingle and meet more men, I should have moved around the room more. Instead I stood and talked with Arms and E. C3 spent some time talking with Gir. E seemed like a decent guy. We even grew up in the same area of SoCal and discussed locations for good Mexican food. Alas, he is eight years my junior. Probably a nice guy to hang out with, but he's at a different stage of life than me.

Just before 8:30pm I let everyone know I was heading out. I said that I wanted to get home to watch the premiere of "Lost." Arms asked why I wasn't just recording the show. I explained my preference to watch in HD, and that launched into an information session on how he could do the same and ditch his cable.

I made it home with one minute to spare. :)


I'm trying; I give myself credit for that. I really need to let go of attending these events for the slim hope of getting a date, and yet, I would just stay home if I didn't have that underlying goal in mind. I'm dragging myself to another happy hour event next week. No wingman to come with me next time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How Can You Mend...

I keep hearing this song in my head (the Michael Buble version). At this moment, I'm sad, lonely, confused. I hate these emotional rollercoaster days (no, it's not hormones today). I'm thinking about what to do with Tim, about my one love-at-first-site guy, Unagi, that lack of excitement I feel about dating, why I'm so uninterested in work, how I have no single girlfriends to hang out with now.

Everyone says I'm such a nice person. My cousin loves the Xmas packages I sent her family every year. As part of their wedding gift, I'm going to stock my brother's empty refrigerator the night before they return home. (Because who wants to go grocery shopping after 6+ hours on the road, just having returned from a honeymoon the previous day.) If I'm such a thoughtful and caring person, why am I still single?

Good thing I have a therapy session this week...

"How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" by the BeeGees

I can think of younger days when living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do.
I could never see tomorrow, but I was never told about the sorrow.

And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend a this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again.

I can still feel the breeze that rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow, no one said a word about the sorrow.

And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again.

The wisdom of age

When my brother first indicated that he intended to propose to Ricer, my parents were not enthusiastic. Although they have been dating for five years, my parents, my father especially, were concerned he was too young. They wanted him to wait a couple more years.

While Mickey stayed with me, he met some of my friends over dinner. Later, they all commented that "your brother is YOUNG." His knoweledge or lack thereof was very noticeable to my friends. We're all in our 30s, so maybe we were just as clueless as him then. Somehow though, I think not. I can't recall, but I'm sure some of his conversation revealed a lack of common sense about simple things. I think it stems from my parents coddling him too much growing up.

On our drive south, we had plenty of time to chat. One of the things we talked about was his plan for the weekend. He'd stay with the folks one night and planned to stay with Ricer and family the night before the wedding. I thought that was a bit odd but he acted like it was fine.

At the rehearsal, he learned that Ricer wouldn't let him stay with her because the groom is not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. He was surprised to learn about this tradition. Duh!

"So now where are you going to stay?"

"I don't know."

"Why don't you just stay with Mom and Dad?"

"Naw, that's too far away."

"Yeah, I guess. Can you stay with either of the groomsmen?"

"Chris said his place is too messy."

"What about Abe?"

"He live over in Cbass. [probably as far, but opposite direction of parents] It's no big deal, I can just sleep in the car."

"No. No, don't sleep in the car, not the night before you're wedding okay? Someone need to know where you are."

"No really, it's not a problem."

"Well, why not just stay at the hotel then? Can you get a discount being the groom?"


"How about this... you said Abe lives in Cbass. Why don't you give him a call and see if he'll split a room with you. I'm sure he would prefer that over driving a long ways as well."

"Yeah, that might work."

Thank goodness Mickey considered my idea. They decided to get a hotel room for the night. I felt much better about it. What kind of person spend $30,000 plus on a wedding and then spends the night before sleeping in a car?

Now if only he had taken my advice about changing the mailing address on the wedding registry. All their gifts are down south. How the heck are they going to pack everything into two mid-sized sedans for the drive back up? I'm guessing they're going to have to live without some of their wedding gifts until the next drive down.

He's a smart kid, just not necessarily street smart. I've always been very practical. It'll be interesting to see what wisdom comes to him during this first year of marriage. I can't imagine how different I'd be now if I had gotten married at his age.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Behind the alter

My brother's wedding was a success. Ignoring the minor little glitches and unnecessary bits of family drama, everyone had a great time.

We rehearsed the ceremony three times the day before the wedding. On the first run through, I got a little teary-eyed during the procession of the bridesmaids and bride. My emotion was not from sentimentality, however, it was from my own broken heart. My mind wandered from the moment to my own situation and how awkward it felt to be officiating my brother's wedding but not be married myself. If you had told me ten years ago that I'd be single at my only brother's wedding (who is almost a decade younger than me), I would have thought it a joke.

I clamped down hard on my tongue to hold back the emotion. The last thing I wanted to do was "steal" the show and cry about my own pathetic situation during their wedding. Whenever I felt tingling in my nose, I distracted myself by looking at the hotel windows or think about cleaning at home, anything to not imagine myself in their place. I got over it after the first practice.

In the evening, my parents hosted a rehearsal dinner for Ricer's family and our extended families - one table with the parents, one table of the wedding party, one table for my father's side, one table for my mother's side. Wow, all my relatives in one place. It was great to see everyone.

My dad was so nervous about entertaining everyone, he forgot his camera. Being the dutiful daughter, I went around with my camera and made sure to take a picture of everyone in attendance. During his speech, he took the liberty of introducing people. He went around the wedding table and acknowledged the bride, groom, bridesmaids, and groomsmen, and wedding coordinator. He didn't mention me. I thought it a bit odd, but then I figured that everyone in the room knows me.

Afterwards, however, all my cousins couldn't help comment to me how I had been forgotten. I shook it off as not important. Someone must have said something to my dad because the next thing I heard was him saying that he did not know what my title was for the wedding and introduced me as I clarified to everyone that I was the officiant. Later that night, my dad explained that he didn't forget me, he simply assumed there was no need since everyone present knew who I was. (totally logical reason)

As the officiant, I am a key component of the wedding and yet am not considered part of the wedding party. I wasn't invited to the pre-wedding pictures because that was just the wedding party plus parents. The thing is that that was basically all the immediate family except me since Ricer's two sisters were the bridesmaids. Yeah, it hurt a little even though I know it wasn't intentional. We took family pictures after the ceremony.

I did pretty well with the actual ceremony. The microphone was placed a little too high so when my brother and Ricer read their vows, it was difficult for people to hear. I probably should have picked up the microphone from its stand, but I was concerned about being able to juggle everything without dropping something.

After they completed their vows, I tripped on a word confirming their marriage and started to crack from the emotion of realizing that I was really marrying the two of them. I could see in their faces the knowledge that this was really happening as they slid the rings on each others fingers. It was beautiful to be standing there with them. (I'm such a big sap.) My voice squeaked and trembled as I read the pronouncement of the legal jargon. I regained my composure just in time to present them as husband and wife to their family and friends.

During the pictures, the maid of honor failed to do her duties. She rarely helped her sister with her train unless directed and left for the reception before the pictures were finished. Come on, don't people realize that you are basically a servant for the day? The best man did much of the train carrying. I stayed through all the group photos so I could have copies to give to my parents.

No surprise I missed all the hors d'oeuvres. I grabbed a drink and sat down just in time for the entrance of the wedding party. For some reason, all of the cousins were seated in the back of the room. With over 300 people in attendance that means our view SUCKED. I had to run up with my camera and stand behind my parents to capture some shots. My dad said he was just too nervous to take pictures. Again, I took responsibility to make sure I snapped shots throughout the evening.

Most of my night was spent taking pictures. I knew coming into this wedding that my primary responsibility was to make sure my parents were happy and safe. Any fun I got to have was an added bonus. Wearing three inch heels didn't help matters. I sat down in other people's chairs whenever I had a chance.

Ricer's dad spoke first, half in Cantonese, half in English. Only half the group understood Cantonese, so many of us just sat there waiting for it to be over (my family included). My father gave an awesome speech. People commented afterwards that my dad was the "winner" of the father's speeches. I'll have to write about his comments later.

It's been awhile since I attended a family wedding. Towards the end of the night, the dancing picked up. I barely say my brother during the reception. He was dancing with his friends. I totally understand wanting to do that. They're all young and having fun. The older generation also took their turn on the dance floor. I think many of us cousins found it visually shocking to see our parents try and dance to "YMCA" and other 80s standards. My cousin said she was traumatized when her dad tried to spell out the letters. ;)

Overall, people were very supportive of me. I received many a "good job" for my performance. One family friend said I should be a radio host after hearing me speak. The surprising thing was not getting a lot of pressure or pity comments about being single. I'm sure there was plenty of discussion happening in the corners, but I'm fine with not hearing it. My aunts made some comments about "for your wedding...," but they were neutral in tone. My cousin got a little annoyed about comments from some to her about "heating up the oil and get cooking" to find a man. Some older cousins took the opposite approach and cheered me for enjoying singlehood, assuring me that marriage isn't what it's cracked up to be. I can't help wonder if my mother will get renewed offers from other mothers about setting me up?

My feet were killing me by the end of the night. It felt like the arch of my foot had snapped in two when I walked. I was shocked to see my feet swollen when I pulled of the strappy shoes. They had left welts on my bloated feet.

No matter. My parents looked content. I took more than 100 photos that I knew they would be happy to see. It was weird to see my brother wearing a wedding band. I was happy for him.

Age of volunteering

I recently volunteered at the local dragonboat racing event. I had the choice of either helping out at the children's craft tent or marshalling the rowers at the docks.

There was some confusion in the early morning. The person at volunteer check-in asked me to go down to the dock first. At the gate, the two volunteers I encountered said that everything was fine and no additional volunteers were needed.

So, I headed over to the big tent. Along the way, I stopped at the volunteer table to tell her there was no need for additional people at the docks. Another woman had just walked up to inquire about the person in charge of the children's area. No one was there to set up.

Indeed, when I got to the tables, there was one guy opening the boxes of craft materials. It wasn't clear he knew what he was doing. Two other girls and a young boy were standing around waiting. Soon after, three girls more showed up. They looked as if they were in their teens. They were finishing their free breakfast muffins and chatting. The guy had told them to unpack things from the boxes. When they started randomly opening any package they grabbed, I cautioned them because it was obvious from looking at the boxes that the unopened supplies were extra. It made sense to use the bags that were already open first rather than have beads and foam shapes loose everywhere. I felt like a mom around all these girls.

Once everything was on the table, we stood around again. I went to get myself a muffin. While I was at the food table, I overheard one of the coordinators say they were still short two people for the docks. I let her know that there was still no coordinator for the craft tables. She then asked if I would go down to the docks, I said, "sure."

At the docks, there were three people per dock, dressed in PFDs. They looked as young as the girls at the craft tables. The coordinator was am adult, with bullhorn and clipboard in hand. He clearly had experience running this event as he was very methodical in directing the teams to their boats in an orderly fashion.

On the upper dock was one guy. He seemed a little more mature. It turns out he is a grad student. In my mind, I still couldn't help think I was probably a decade older. I was wearing a beach hat to shade my face from the sun, so maybe I looked younger to everyone.

The racing heats varied. I'd say the majority of the teams were high school groups. Boy, I wish I'd had something like this to get involved in back when I was that age. My mom would have complained about getting too dark with all that time in the sun. I would have had fun and probably made some good friends. Socially, I could have learned a lot.

I was surprised to see so many adult groups participating. I'm not talking only about the Asian teams, but also the pink team of breast cancer survivors, the German and Canadian rowers. There was the "Blind Ambition" group of blind rowers who were escorted to their boat by other teams. The variety was amazing. It reminded me that age shouldn't stop you from trying anything.

Still, I felt left out. We always had a few minutes of down time waiting for the boats to return. I stood and observed the teams interacting and wishing I was still in my twenties. I also thought about how much I'd like my children to be active and emotionally healthy in addition to being academically successful. There are so many things, so much noise to process in life. Will I be able to do everything I need and want to do (major accomplishments-wise)? While I'm still single and can do whatever I choose, there are a lot of responsibilities that I can no longer get away from so easily.

Rambling aside, here are my final thoughts. As I stood and watched all the dragonboat participants file in, load into their boats, and paddled hard through each race, I realized that volunteering is a great way to experience things I've missed in life. I enjoy doing things I normally wouldn't think of doing. On the other hand, the secondary purpose of volunteering is to meet people - make new friends or potential dates. I've noticed lately, however, that the people I meet at these events are getting younger (well, I'm actually just getting older). I still plan to volunteer, but I no longer expect to meet eligible men there because most of the singles are under 30. [sigh of sadness] Time is moving along and I feel like I've been in a holding pattern way too long.