Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: neurotic

Can I Break My Promise?

We were on the couch, kissing and undressing, when I suggested we go into the bedroom.

“I don’t know.  I’m not sure I feel the same way about you anymore?” she said.

I pulled back, suddenly feeling very alone, like a lonely sailor on a clipper ship on a dark New England shore.

“I need you,” I said, as I reached out to her breasts, the two precious, flickering lighthouses that could save me from my solitude.  “And I thought everything was going so well?”

“It was.” she replied,” her blue eyes showing a restrained affection.   “I once found you so…manly…”

She nervously took out a cigarette from her purse.  I wanted to tell her to quit, just like Schmutzie had done recently, but I didn’t want to make waves.

“And now I’m not “manly” to you anymore?” I asked, my voice trembling.

“It all happened on September 17th.   In the beginning of the month, you promised to blog every day in September, and then, on that infamous day, you said you just couldn’t go on.  You couldn’t handle the pressure.  You broke your promise.”

“I hated blogging every day.  It made me feel so unfunny and self-absorbed and selfish and stupid.  There was even this blogger who sent me an email, complimenting me, saying she wished she could be as productive!  And instead of saying thank you, I sent her a sarcastic email back.  “You want to write every day?  It is easy.  You just ignore all the other bloggers out there, all your friends, and never read their posts, and never comment and act like you are the only voice important in the world, and then you will be able to post every day.”

“That was a bit assholely of you.”

“Yeah, I’ve been a jerk all week.  Sweetney wrote this interesting post that drove me crazy, where she shares her affection for Kanye West after the VMA awards.  She wrote that we must separate the art from the artist, and even said, “I’m a person who has long stated that I would rather be friends with an interesting asshole than a boring nice person.”

“So, do you disagree with that?”

“No, but it got me thinking a few days before the Jewish High Holidays about what is important to me in life.  It made me wonder if I should just be a jerk to the world and only care about myself, because when it comes down to it, people are judging you on your final product and not on how you act in the world.  Theoretically, if I push an old woman down a flight or stairs and then write a fantastic blog post about it, I might even get to win a award for it!”

“You really are losing it.   Just relax.   Blogging is just a silly hobby.  Worry about your REAL work, the stuff that PAYS YOU MONEY, not this shit.  You’re being manipulated by those who ARE making money through blogging to make you think that BLOGGING  is super-important.”

“This is what happens when you blog every day.”

“I still don’t see what the big deal is about blogging every day.  It isn’t nuclear science.  Just put up a video or a photo.”

“Don’t you get it.  No one wants to think about themselves all the time.  And by blogging every day, it is like going into therapy every day.   It is uncomfortable.  It drives you insane.  And then there are distractions all around you, all the time.  Mamatulip wrote a post two days ago where she complained about her inability to get any writing done when her family is around.  Just to cause her more grief, I wrote this nerdy comment on her blog —

I once read this book about being creative and writing — I think it was called The War of Art, but I am not certain, and the thesis was a bit scary — the ones who are going to most frustrate you and hold you back from any creative endeavor are going to be those closest to you – your spouse, your kids, and your best friends, and that you almost had to view them as “the enemy” to get anything done. It made sense because those are the ones who are dependent and love you, and the most fearful of you taking too much time for yourself. I think this author would probably tell you that during those afternoons alone, you need to throw the phone out the window.”

“So are you saying that if you really want to accomplish anything, you have to be an asshole to everyone and ignore your family?” asked the beautiful woman on my couch.

“Have you ever seen a movie about a brilliant musician, artist, or writer who hasn’t cheated on his spouse, ignored his children, chopped off his ear, or committed suicide?”

“No offense, but you are not writing a symphony here.  You are writing a stupid blog about your mother and your penis.  Get over yourself.  No one really cares about you.  No one knows you.”

“You mean Redneck Mommy doesn’t really want to do me?”

“No.”

“What about you?” I said, with a sly smile.  “I thought that’s why you came over and we were making out?”

“Yeah, I was going to f*ck you, but things changed when you decided to quit blogging every day in September.”

“What’s the difference?  I’m still the same person!”

“Don’t you get it?  For a woman, sexy is in the mind.  You were very sexy when you were blogging every day, like you were a Homeric hero on a journey, just like you described yourself in your first post this month.   But once you quit, eh.”

“I’m not quitting blogging.  Just blogging once a day…”

“I’m sorry.  It’s all in the mind.  It’s like now I visualize you kissing my special spot, and then suddenly getting all bored after you get a hair up your nose, and saying, “Can we move on already?”  I want someone who I know can go the extra mile, not a quitter.”

“Are you saying that if I quit blogging for the entire month of September I will be sending the message to others that I will be lousy in bed?”

“I’m not sure I can ever have an orgasm with a quitter.”

“WTF!”

“Yes.  Women are weird.  We think that way.”

“Can’t you just fake it?”

“Sure.  An once you quit blogging every day, all your female blogging friends are going to say, “Oh, Neil, it is fine if you want to quit.  We understand.”  We have a mothering instinct.  We want our sons to try their best, but if they strike out during little league, it doesn’t matter.”

“So, why not the same for me?”

“Because we’re not your mother, asshole.  You already have your mother IN Queens to coddle you.  If you want to be with a real woman, you better be prepared to finish the job!”

“But I will.  I promise I won’t give up!  I’ll never give up.”

She started to close her unbuttoned blouse.

“No!”

“I’m sorry.  Stop reading the phony crap in Cosmo and let me tell you what REAL-LIVE WOMEN talk about in the locker room.  Rule #1 —

If a Man succeeds, he gets a blowjob like no other
But a Man gets zilch if he quits before Rosh Hashana”

“That doesn’t really rhyme, and it is rather insulting to men… and Rosh Hashana.”

“Woman’s prerogative.”

“What kind of double standard is that?  Why do I have to perform like a solider in the Foreign Legion just to prove my worth, my manhood? Why can’t I quit, or fail, or give up — and still get laid?”

“Ooh, Project Runway is on!” she said, turning on the TV.

+++

I can’t quit doing this — blogging every day in September — can I?

+++

Editor’s note:  This was truly an anxiety-producing post.   I had to go to take a nap immediately after I published it.  I’m not sure why yet.   It’s probably about my own shame I would feel if I quit doing something as unimportant as a month of blog posts.  Why would I react so strongly over something so silly?

Even more troubling — do I feel I am not worthy enough to be in a normal relationship until I prove something?

Fall is a time of introspection.

Shana Tovah to my Jewish friends!   A happy, healthy, and joyous New Year.

Two Neurotic Bloggers

gift2.jpg 

One of my father’s biggest faults was his inability to accept gifts.  He was uncomfortable when people did favors for him because he felt pressure to return the gesture.  He didn’t even like getting birthday gifts, which was odd since he was generous with others.  He was always picking up the bill in restaurants, even when others wanted to split the bill.   Rather than finding this quality endearing, I found it somewhat petty and insecure.   But he was the oldest of three brothers, and never grew out of the role of the “big brother,” so I understand where he was coming from.

I’ve inherited some of these tendencies.  Oh, I’m not as bad as he was, but at times, this insecurity just pops out. 

Like this morning.

In the blogging world, there are some special bloggers who go out of their way to make the blogging experience as personal as possible.  These bloggers don’t only write comments on your blog, but send you an email after you comment on THEIR site.  I really find this an endearing gesture.  Of course, I rarely do this myself.

One of these special bloggers is named Abby. (I’m using Abby as an alias to protect the identity of Alison of Ali Thinks).

After writing a typically dumb comment on her blog, I received a humorous email from her.  At first, it made me laugh, but then, immediately, guilt set in, both for writing such a shitty comment to begin with, and for never sending HER an email when she writes a comment on my blog.  Like my father, I didn’t feel comfortable with our uneven relationship. Why should she send me an email when I rarely send her one?

Out of total anxiety, I wrote her the stupidest email I’ve written in a long time.

Dear Abby,

As much as I adore getting emails from you in response to one of my dumb comments, you don’t have to always write back to me.  I won’t be upset.  I know you love me either way!  I just hate that I’m giving you all this extra work.

Neil

A few minutes later, Abby wrote back:

Dear Neil,

 It’s habit, Neil. And the truth is, sometimes I don’t write back. The funny thing is that as I was hitting send on that last e-mail to you, I thought “He doesn’t want to answer that stupid question you’re writing him, Abby!  Don’t respond to comments with questions!”

If it bugs you, I won’t answer your comments. But trust me, I like to do it. 🙂

Abby

At this point, I was totally embarrassed.  Does she really think it bugs me that she is such a kind-hearted person?  Did I just insult her by saying I hated her emails?  I quickly wrote back:

Dear Abby,

Shit, I should have never wrote you that last email.  I DO LIKE you writing to me.  In fact, I love it!  I was just trying to make it easier for you by telling you that I wouldn’t feel bad if you didn’t.  Jeez, this is so neurotic.  I was worried about you, not thinking myself worthy of your time to write those emails.

Neil

Abby wrote back:

Dear Neil,

And I was thinking that I wasn’t worthy or your time and attention!  Gah!  Neurotic! Insecure!

Abby

After laughing a bit, I wrote to Abby again:

Dear Abby,

Two people pleasers trying to please the others.  Just like I wrote about in my blog post a few days ago.  But since I’m trying not to be a people pleaser anymore, I’m going to start asking for what I want.  And yes, I do want you to email after a comment.  In fact, I demand that you do it every time!  Or else.

Neil

After I sent off the email, I thought about how this ridiculous exchange would make a great blog post, so I sent her my fourth email of the morning:

Dear Abby,

I might just write a post tonight based on our email conversation.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?  Of course, I won’t mention your name, unless you want me to.  Is it OK?  Again, if you don’t want me to do it all, I’ll understand.  Is this being neurotic?  Email me!

Neil
 

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  A Tribute To Teachers

The Toothbrush

tooth2.jpg

Sometimes I feel a little frustrated with blogging, mostly because of you, my dear reader.  While I enjoy our interaction, try as I might, I still don’t feel I really know you.  Mathematically speaking, am I being too generous in saying that you only get to see about 15% of a person by reading their blog?

People are complicated in general.  It’s hard enough knowing yourself, so knowing someone else is especially difficult.  For all my time with Sophia, I suspect I only know 25% of her.  She’s always doing things that are surprising to me.   Last night, we played Texas Hold ’em poker with some friends, and she bluffed with a two of diamonds and three of spades.  That just wasn’t her!  It was shocking.

I love my mother, but having never seen her in her wild single days in Coney Island, I suspect I’ve only seen 35% of her true self. 

I don’t understand myself at all, especially with all my self-deception, so I gather I only know 60% of myself.

As a "writer," I’m supposed to understand characterization, but in truth, people are way too mysterious.  My interest in the human psyche started at an early age. 

When I was a kid, I remember my parents being involved in a  Jewish social group that met at our apartment every month.  There were about twenty members of this group.  On this night, my parents would let me stay up late.  Sometimes, I would come out in my pajamas and play a song on my clarinet,  or do a magic trick (I was a budding magician who did shows at childrens’ parties).  After doing a trick, Abe, a hefty optomotrist, would give me a quarter "tip."

I bring up this monthly event because something odd happened in my apartment every single month — something that became legendary in my household.  After all the guests left, we would find that one of the toothbrushes in the bathroom was missing, and we would then find it sitting in the bathroom hamper with the laundry.

The first time it happened, we assumed it was some weird accident.  But every month it would be the same — a toothbrush in the hamper after all the guests left.

My mother suggested that we hide all the toothbrushes, but my father, being an overly nice guy, didn’t want the culprit to know we were onto him — and make him feel bad.   My father worked in a hospital and was very understanding of all sorts of neurotic people.

One night, a year and 12 discarded toothbrushes later, my mother had had enough.  She gave me a secret assignment, something I wasn’t supposed to tell my father.  I would watch TV in my parents’ bedroom during the evening.  With the bedroom door slightly ajar, one could get a perfect view of the bathroom.  Each time someone went into the bathroom, I should make a note of the person, then run in to check the status of the toothbrushes as soon as they left.

I was on toothbrush patrol all night,  and I must have run into the bathroom at least 10 times for an examination, each time with my father’s handkerchief covering my face, protecting me from any smell and making me feel like a real sleuth. 

Then came the big moment.  

Abe had just left the bathroom.  As he passed from view, I ran inside — and there was the proof —  my father’s toothbrush was gone!  I opened the hamper and laundry scattered all over the floor.  On top of one of my t-shirts, was the toothbrush!

I rushed into the kitchen and told my mother.  It was Abe!  She said we should talk about it with my father later. 

After everyone left, I told my father about my investigative reporting.  He was not surprised, but insisted that we never bring it up and embarrass Abe.  The next day, my father and I went to our local dime store and bought a 12-pack of toothbrushes, enough to keep Abe happy for a year of throwing toothbrushes into the hamper.

My parents were friends with Abe for many years.  His weird toothbrush fetish was never brought up.  Why did Abe do this?  Did he have a bad experience with a dentist when he was a child?  Did he want us to launder the toothbrush?  And why only one?  Would he have remained friends with my parents if they confronted him? 

Did they ever really know more than 2% of the real Abe?

People are complicated and mysterious. 
  

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