Dirty Towel

30 04 2014

blue_bath_towel_3d_model_8f9c1e4c-00a0-4578-b107-9f421c1f6559It was Saturday—cleaning day—a time I use each week to collect my thoughts through the repetitive motion of putting things in their proper place. It was time to clean my bathroom.

What does a towel say about who you are? My towels say I don’t give a s*** about who sees them. They are a mix of old, beat-up, absorbent wannabes that have no style or any inclination that they ever did. They are a mix of colors, ages, and textures; brands and sizes that range from the small useless hand towel, to the oversized and neon striped beach blanket. The short and messy of it was that my towels looked like they belonged to a man (or perhaps the cliché of one), a man who lives on the fringes of town—on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. You know, a renegades’ arsenal of terrycloth.

It was then that I realized an outsider had not seen my towels in some time. I don’t entertain much in the way of towels, and I guess I’ve never brought them to lunch with me. But there they were. Hanging in effigy as I scratched my head and wondered when I had become so shamelessly lazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my towels. But I was considering my boyfriend seeing them for the first time and wondering what he would think about them. In an effort to be the perfect host and girlfriend, I concluded that this just wouldn’t do. How could he possibly dry himself off with you, faded-green-blanket-of-absorbencies-past?

Then I started thinking about all the other stuff that I own that could also inflict some kind of damage. Are my sheets new enough? Do these decorative pillows accurately communicate my need for unconditional love? So what if I don’t have any matching socks. I don’t even like socks! Does any of this matter?

I stood inside Bed Bath & Beyond, contemplating the Beyond part. The towering shelves made my heart beat faster as I looked up to see items of the domicile spread out over a plane of frivolous marketing. I feared that one of them might fall on top of me—would I survive? I walked out. No need to have an anxiety attack over the simple task of purchasing new towels for my bathroom.

I walked next door to Marshalls where the shelves were more manageable. After comparing the quality of Turkish and Egyptian cottons, I settled on some no-name brand that was the proper shade of gray. A savvy shopper would never allow emotional turmoil to sway a purchase, but my mood was stuck in the middle of one of those self-realization moments, where you evaluate the black and white of things. Gray looked really good.

In some ways, confronting my towels was like closing a very long, single chapter of my life. When you’ve been single for as long as I have, you get comfortable with the idea that towels don’t matter by virtue of their privacy. I myself am an extremely private person. I like secrets. I like mystery. I like leaving a party when I feel like it simply because I’m tired. And I like not caring about my towels or my dirty laundry that too often prefers to be an area rug.

I would like to say that this introspection went deep enough—that I was able to deny the fresh cotton of department stores and my need to feel unabashed by my very, very personal space. But alas, I am only human and towels tend to come in pairs.

And so, they sit. Still folded in the bag, until I am ready.

 

-Stay Strange

 

 

 

 

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WWJD? No, seriously.

4 02 2014

Apparently my soul is going to burn for all eternity in a fiery hell while my boyfriend’s soul enjoys basking in the eternal light of the golden city. I’d ask hell what’s up with that, but currently, that feels cliché.

Religion is an incredibly sensitive subject for most people, myself included. I don’t pretend to be anything other than Switzerland in most religious conversations. Any judgment I pass on a bouquet of religious doctrine is about as informed and  thoroughly thoughtful as proclaiming, with no particular authority, “Yeah, that Joel Osteen guy, he’s a big douche.” That’s where it ends for me. It gets a laugh from people who might agree and it’s dumb enough to not legitimately threaten any Christians. My views on religion are completely unsubstantiated, probably incorrect, and reinforced by a populace of wacko hypocrites. Sure, I know and respect some wonderfully religious people—Christian, Witness, Catholic and probably a few Muslim extremists—but I’ve never pretended to be a model citizen, let alone a religious martyr. Judge not yet ye be judged.

So when my boyfriend told me a few days ago that he had been saved, I was at a loss for words.

funny-jesus-trex-ark

I felt like Rex 😦

We read fantasy, enjoy discussing society, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, share a cynical view of the world and a uniquely obsessive fondness for one another. It’s disgusting, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. So how would you feel if suddenly using the F word produced a bitter taste in your lover’s mouth?

He had been going to apologetics classes and church services for a while. He’s in Afghanistan right now and I guess that makes sense. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know and while I miss him dearly, they’re lucky to have him because he’s doing a world of good out there with his boys. I don’t know exactly when his quest for truth manifested into said activates. Nor was I was ever threatened by his search until his salvation suddenly compromised my perception of our equal partnership and general appreciation for magic.

I felt left behind. I felt self-concious. It was like my best friend suddenly started speaking Latin, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but I don’t know how to speak Latin.

While I’m not a religious person, I have at one time or another been so moved by beauty that I can hardly breath. I’ve tried to write about it, but like faith, it’s something that can’t be tangibly held or coveted without loosing its intrinsic excellence. I’ve given up on that idea and pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude—know thyself.

And I know that beauty and truth and love can exist in the world despite how often it seems easier to believe that humans are just another species on this planet waiting out their inevitable extinction. My relationship with him makes me believe in the good and to see him smile or make him laugh is worth any fire and brimstone that may await me on the other side. But I feared that might not be enough.

WWJD?

I didn’t pray. I steeped—in a warming concentration of the worst possible feelings known to the human experience: jealousy, anger, resentment and above all fear. This is where I become my best impersonation of Hemingway. I see everything in shades of blue and grey, lose my appetite and suppress the urge to drink scotch and chain smoke. I reminisce about The Running of the Bulls in Spain, though I have no particular recollection of ever being there. I try to pretend I’m okay when I’m not until those crazy, bovine mother***** push me to feel something I don’t want to feel.

At the time, it felt like it would be safer to steep than try to understand his choice. But safe has very little to do with relationships. More importantly, I realized that his salvation has nothing to do with me. It’s about him and his journey, not mine. I know who I am.  It’s other people that scare the s*** out of me. And when it’s your best friend, your parents, your boss or your gorgeous boyfriend that’s doing the scaring, it can be really f****** scary.

We like people to behave the way we expect them to behave, do the things they normally do and so on. It gives order to relationships and insight to guide our interactions. I was sitting at my work desk not working when I realized I was being an idiot.

If I ever want to get anywhere in relationships, I have to let people change. I should support people’s self-discovery not confine them with expectations. I was scared that our relationship would change because he was changing. How many times have you ever been in a relationship and thought to yourself, “they just wont let me be who I am”? I’m taking steps to encourage change rather it define my relationship.

I told him all of this, and like a good Christian, he explained to me that nothing I’d ever known about Christianity was correct.

I was saved.





Prose: Alone at a Café in Paris

19 01 2014

The seductive sounds of a four piece jazz band—a scat-cat afternoon buzzin’ on too much caffinee.

If there is such a thing.

Thank God I’ve got this music to fill me up.

I feel so empty.

I can’t believe I left him standing there—in the rain.

It rained last night.

It’s very sunny today.

The weather irritates my mood with its inconsistency.

How can a person be less predictable than the weather?

I’m a mess.

This trigger steadied by a shaky crook-hand up my back side and I feel angry.

What did she ever give him other than his drink?

A stiff drink is nice but not nearly as nice as her sex.

I can’t figure it out.

I kissed him!

And for what?

To discover that he had shaved himselfby coincidence?

I doubt that.

I wonder what it’s like to be a man? To make love to a woman…

I wonder if he thinks… what I think?

I doubt that.

I’m a mess.





Sex on the Internet

18 09 2013

internet loveOne subject I will never get tired of talking about is dating—or in my case, mostly awkward encounters that make for hilarious stories—my college professor, the military assassin, random men named John and so on. Turns out, I can get kind of sentimental betwixt all the ironic humor and dangerous innuendo. The truth of the matter is I kind of like this guy. And what’s not to like? He’s my Internet boyfriend.

 

Trust me when I say I kept this a secret.

“What’s an Internet boyfriend?” my friends joked.

“Exactly what it sounds like,” I mumbled back.

For weeks I grappled with the idea. Why do I feel this way about someone who lives so far away? FaceTime is like, real life, right?

But it’s not like real life. Nor is texting a substitute for close couch conversations or two cups of really good coffee. I felt dirty. I was spending Friday nights Skyping with a vacation fling that in my opinion had plenty of summer left to live.

This isn’t normal. And it’s not normal. It’s awesome.

What’s better than a real boyfriend? A boyfriend you can literally put in your pocket—turn silent should circumstance require.  Travel sized—I can take him anywhere, talk to him anytime, and best of all, I don’t have to pick out his clothing.

It all started five months ago—after years of travel, jobs that took us very far away; we found each other, briefly, in San Diego. The rest has been recorded in more text messages, emails, Skype sessions and FaceTime encounters than I care to admit. It’s a real emotional affair—one that has brought great joy to the end of days, a time now specially reserved for him and our bastard love-child: technology.

Trust me also when I say, I never thought I was the kind of girl—the girl who gets caught up in something so fantastic, so seductively unreasonable and so impatiently void the tangible experience of entertaining a man.

“You’re an idiot. Don’t you know he is going to cheat on you?” my friend argued.

I guess that’s a legitimate concern for most people. Having a relationship dependent on technology definitely has its disadvantages. But I’ve seen people get bent out of shape over ambiguous text messages. I’ll take my chances.

“So, you’ve had sex with him on Skype?” she asked rhetorically.

I started to feel very old-fashioned the sixth or seventh time I had to explain this to someone. This question has become so popular in-fact, that I decided to write about it. The short answer is no—I’ve never done it.

“Why not? You’ve never wanted to try?” another friend pried.

“You know how you’ve never tried heroin?” I explained. “Well, it’s kind of like that.”

My girlfriends sat up straighter around the table as though I had just offended them. “Why not? It’s fun,” asked one gal.

“He’s never even asked you to try?” added a curious boyfriend. “He must be gay!”

Apparently, the only social moray that permits having an Internet boyfriend is becoming an amateur pornstar. Ergo, long distance relationships are no longer socially acceptable unless you have sex on the Internet. Could this be true?

My brain shifted through numerous books I had read, movies and experiences I had that brought this assertion into sharp focus and heated resentment.

Odysseus

This is Odysseus’s O-Face

The whole time I’m getting interrogated over how I spend my online time with this guy—who is now in Afghanistan—all I can think about is how different the world would be if Penelope, from Homer’s, “The Odyssey” was busy finger f****** herself in a letter to Odysseus who—instead of being a hero—decides to release himself onto the messenger that unfortunately happens to be a demon summoned from the underworld. Look out! Imagine  soldiers in WWII texting private parts to their lovesick wives. What would they have thought? Imagine it. I’ll bet she would have been pissed—probably wondering how the hell he has time to j*** off when Nazi’s are afoot! Just another wonderful byproduct of defeating the Germans: more time to masturbate!

Everyone complains that the word becomes increasingly less genuine as technology interferes more and more with our human interactions. Does taking naked picture of ourselves and sending them to people we care about really mean we care? What does it say about who we are?

And don’t try and turn this around on me. I won’t entertain any of that quasi-feminism-sexual-empowerment-free-love-bull-s***. This has nothing to do with whether I’m sexually empowered enough to have sex on the Internet. The better question is: am I empowered enough not to?

I’ve found that my Internet boyfriend is exactly what I need right now: someone to laugh with after a very long day of work—someone to listen and someone to miss. Not so long ago, people called this a long distance relationship—a term now so passé it requires virtual consummation. I’ve never been one for labels—or Greek mythology, really.

I prefer my Internet boyfriend.

 

For Cameron:)





The Bridal Bizarre

31 01 2013

 

Leave it to a writer to create one the largest romantic scams of the 20th century. In 1947, a young copywriter employed by N.W. Ayer & Son—a prominent U.S. advertising agency—worked late into the night meticulously searching for just the right words to evoke romance, desire, and eternal love. This project, commissioned by one of the largest monopolies the world has ever known, continues to thrive yet struggles to shake the blood stains and controversial legitimacy in our post modern family society.

american-gothic-parody

 

I’m sitting in a room of women at my best friend’s bridal shower. Navy blue, white and gold decorate the tables, napkins, flower arrangements, candle holders, decorated cookies; suspend from the ceiling in delicate tissue paper balls. Everything is beautiful and I am jealous of my friend who is about to get married.

But instead of tears of happiness, I experience waves of depression as I learn—for the very first time—about the progression of bridal ceremonies that mean more to the average American woman, than any other single experience she will savor.

From outside the glass house of her engagement, I am holding stones feeling overwhelmed by so many contradictory feelings that I pretend to wonder if Mary of Burgundy, the first recorded female to ever receive an engagement ring, was surprised when the Archduke Maximilian asked for her hand—probably not. Centuries ago, marriage was a way to unite kingdoms, gain property or sustain noble bloodlines. It was all business—romantic love and bachelorette parties had no place in the process. Today, we are no longer  in the business of uniting kingdoms so much as we are watching them rip a part. My kingdom, for example, was split into two nations when I was fourteen.

I listen to three generations of women talk about boyfriends, husbands, sex and children and I’m looking for a reason to get up and clean something. Now I’m jealous and about to be sick.

The grass looks much greener from where my best friend is standing. It makes me happy to see her so happy, but as I search for the same kind of fulfillment I am increasingly more depressed by the realization that Walt Disney fucking lied to me as a girl. In colonial America, women wore thimbles as a symbol of betrothal. I find this almost as amusing as watching one blindfolded grandmother hold a broom between her legs while another granny directs her to insert it into a cardboard toilet tube held by her crotch.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel so perplexed by these wedding traditions if I myself were in love—whatever the hell that means—or maybe if I felt like there was any credibility left to the ceremony itself. But instead I’m totally hallowed, searching for something meaningfully romantic to fill myself up with. I look to books, great movies, art and music to ease my confusion—but even these can’t be trusted.

In the 1930’s diamond sales were down. In the original 1949 Broadway production of “Gentleman Prefer Blonds,” Tony award-winning, Carol Channing, introduced women to the idea that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” A few years later, the quintessential blond of the 1950’s—Marilyn Monroe—took the song and its proverbial meaning to the masses.

The night before my friend’s bridal shower, I attended a wedding—it was a very bridal weekend. I listened closely to the couple’s vows from inside the museum where they stood under a flowered arc. I really wanted to believe. I wanted to know that what the bride and groom were saying meant something real, and I wanted to believe that love is as easy as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Maybe I had just missed the words that were supposed to mean forever? So, I listened closer. I tried to be optimistic, but that became more difficult a long time ago: when I leaned that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Full House were all just make-believe.

And than I thought about that damn writer, a young girl named Frances Gerety, who wrote the words that would have an impact on women of future generations the world over. Circa 2000, Advertising Age magazine named De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” the best advertising slogan of the 20th century. There is something to be said about the relationship art and reality play in our perception of love. Art has done a great job of providing the example but the reality is less romantic than Shakespeare. But even art can surprise us by being particularly poignant. Read “The Death of a Salesman” if you don’t believe me. Nothing says true love and the American Dream like hallucinations, adultery and suicide. Or listen to “The Civil Wars”, beautifully depressing love song, Poison and Wine.  Don’t worry about my dark-humoured soul burning in hell, that’s make-believe too.

I can overlook uninspired drunken speeches, bad wedding food, and to an extent, uncomfortable heels that match my dress. But I draw the line at love. Because every time I hear about someone getting married, it ignites my confusion and begs every man and woman of my generation to defend their choice and prove me wrong, that all of this bizarre bridal behavior isn’t all just a bunch of bullshit. In my opinion love and marriage are mutually exclusive. And don’t think I didn’t try to persuade myself otherwise, I read “Twilight” okay!

How can I pretend that any of this makes sense knowing that some girl with a pen arbitrarily changed the world of romance with carbon? I don’t think anyone who get’s married today really thinks their diamond will really last forever, so much as they need it to last long enough for people to think they’re happy. In my—not so humble—opinion, happiness is seriously overrated. Forever is an impossible standard to assume; especially from within this room of divorced women, widowed wives, married women and one cynical bitch wearing black. It’s almost as if we love to hate being married, because loving it might lead to bitter disappointment. And when love is lost, what else is there besides frozen wedding cake smashed in the back of the freezer saved for a forgotten anniversary?

I know, I know, I sound like a bitter old maid, but I’m actually the maid of honor.

 





Under Covers

24 12 2012

What holiday inspired blog post would be complete without a dash of ironic melodrama? Not this one! That’s for sure.

I was sick this week. Well, not really. I said that I was sick so that I didn’t have to go to work. But as seven rolled into noon, from the comfort of warm bed covers, I thought, maybe I am sick.

I wasn’t contagious, but my silent revolt from work and worry alarmed me. What am I doing?

Struggling to manage several writing projects, holiday events and fussy clients, I was so buried in frustration and Scrooge-like feelings toward the season, that I was now hiding from my cell phone yelling annoying melodies at me from under the pillow. The anonymous phone numbers flashing across the screen felt like strangers attacking and I was paranoid. They’re all trying to get me! So, I slept.

I slept for two days, and on the third day I forced myself up, tried to caffeinate my mood and headed back to work with apprehension, uncertainty and guilt that I had lied. I still don’t know precisely what caused my personal incarceration.  I even began to think I really was getting sick, but like my paranoia, it was all just a dream.

Some people struggle to deconstruct their stress. Mental breakdowns are socially uncomfortable and marginalized by people who appear to have their shit together. The truth is, we’re all stressed out to various degrees of insanity and paralysis. I take everything too personally, I take myself way too seriously, and my work is often the only thing that matters — causing a kind of blindness that hurts those closest to me. And when something doesn’t work out, if my efforts to provide perfection are capsized in the storm, I feel like my entire world is collapsing. My body shuts down, I can’t think clearly and all I want to do is isolate myself from people. It’s a very real and very tangible reaction to stress.

Luckily I have moments of unbelievable clarity. I feel blessed to have gained introspection that allows me to see the world in dimensions, casted by shadows and light through a symbiotic relationship that forever keeps the world turning round and round and round. It reminds me of that kid from American Beauty, watching that dumb plastic bag dance in circles on the wind.

Ricky – “It’s like God is looking right at you, just for a second. And if you’re careful, you can look back.”

I’ve seen incredible beauty in this world, more regularly than I can ever remember standing in the dark. When the shadows take over, I hide in my bed until I can’t bare it any longer; I step out into the sun, just hoping that I don’t get burned, and sometimes I do.

Sometimes I’m on fire, everything is going my way, my head begins to swell with pride and personal satisfaction, and I get totally burned. I fall down, I hide and I cry. And just when everything seems lost, I’m cooled by the shade. I find clarity in the brilliance of night skies, standing next to the ocean, guidance from those who share this struggle.

I live with an anxious drumbeat that pounds out a cadence pushing me faster and harder, and it never stops. And in the wake of this intense rhythm, I fall apart, stay alone in bed for days, hide and rise to thank the universe for affording me the kind of human circumstance that allows me to do this with absolutely no consequence.

I am thankful for those shadows that keep me strange and attract dark thoughts on the brightest days. They are the reason I find love and beauty in a world that at times pushes me to maddening bouts of hysteria. It makes me sad to think that my experiences happens to other people. What’s worse, that those people would rather ignore the internal fire than find refuge in the truth. Were it not for the polarizing effect of this discomfort I would inevitably miss those subtle nuances in life that evoke the best of me, the parts that make me want to connect with others these shared experiences that all too often are left untouched and unloved. I enjoy the broken, the sick, the strange and the struggle, and I will continue to keep my eyes open for plastic bags catching the wind as I prepare myself to get swept up by the season and the coming new year.

I know my character can be challenging for those who seek comfort in normalcy, but my intentions are good and I promise to always do my best. To my friends and family who love me unconditionally from under the bed covers, thank you for letting me be who I am without apology. Often the uncomfort I feel is merely a reflection of the amazing things happening around me: the love and compassion of my closest friends, being acknowledged for a job well done, the sun setting just behind the cliffs as purple and pink flash into twilight — I’m just struggling to take it all in.

whitney butlers blog

Ricky – “It’s like God is looking right at you, just for a second. And if you’re careful, you can look back.”

Jane – “And what do you see?”

Ricky – “Beauty.”





Sex in the City

30 03 2012

I was anxiously awaiting inspiration for my next big story. Writing about my job isn’t particularly enlightening, nor at all the subject I usual revel in, which typically involves some sort of self-induced catastrophe. So where would I find inspiration? Where does one look? As life would have it, inspiration doesn’t wait to appear in neatly wrapped packages. No! It runs you down the sidewalk in four-inch heels. I’m going to have a very Carrie Bradshaw moment here. Sure, I don’t live in the big apple or wear Prada shoes, but I do smoke a cigarette from time-to-time, and I can often be seen staring out a window contemplating bad weather. Like a storm, inspiration may come with sudden force, and with the deliberate intention of bitch-slapping you across the face like a Telemundo star.

So, without further adieu

whitney butler

Relationships! What are those all about?

See! I told you I was going Bradshaw.

Good. Now that I’ve got the cliché out-of-the-way, we can move on.

That’s actually what I want to talk about: moving on…or the lack thereof when we insist on regressing in relationships. Why do woman go back? Why do men? Why does everyone believe their exceptionally illogical motivation is the exception and not the rule?

Why?

Through the various stages of a relationship: the awkward courtship, the crazy can’t-sleep-alone-because-I-love-the-way-you-breath beginnings, the comfort in establishing pet names, the messy break-up, the sexy make-up, the I-fucking-mean-it-this-time break-up, and so on, there often comes a time when someone witnesses a door opening, an opportunity that challenges loyalty, integrity, and above all, our ability to make a decision quickly and with conviction.

Him: I didn’t know how much I wanted to be with you until I slept with her.

Her: Oh, Dillon! I love you!

Me: (Smoking in a room with no windows) How white do you have to be to name your son Dillon?

But instead of being impulsive and making a quick, think Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, type of decision, we dance up to these opportunities and finger the edges, seductively stick a leg out to test the weather. It’s cowardice that keeps us from making the difficult choices, for better or worse, like not walking away when clearly there’s nothing left to pick up; not your self-esteem after he cheated on you, or your bank account when she spent all your money.

So why is it that once through the threshold, there on the other side, most of us look back at the door and wonder: can I go back in?

It was for my own pleasure that I contacted my ex several months ago. I wanted closure – whatever that means, something we never got because we moved a part so things fell a part, as they often do in those circumstances. But I had questions! I even thought his new girlfriend would understand where I was coming from, understand that my intentions were pure…if she were to ever find out, that is. Disillusioned would be an understatement. Because I should have known all along there was nothing pure about my intentions, nor could anything pure ever come from walking backwards into his arms.

Here’s the thing about regressing in relationships: you’ve already been there, it’s not new, there’s history, so we’re capable of manipulating and constructing assumptions that serve our self-interest instead of reason.  The motivation comes from a place of deprivation, regret, shame, embarrassment, and a list of other slimy feelings that inevitably reveal the second time around a calculated version of what once was. This week, I was accosted by his girlfriend who threatened to hurt me physically should I ever show up in her life again.

Besides feeling awful, I am embarrassed. I reached out to him, and he reached back. I wanted closure, but maybe a small part of me also wanted something else. Perhaps the satisfaction of knowing I could get him away from her. So, because I wasn’t brave enough to walk away, even after he had made me hurt, she’s hurting, and I’m half the reason. I opened the door and he stood there looking out at me, testing the wind with his finger; then she slammed the door in his face. At least she’s smart.

Going back to find answers, going back to fill a void, just going back facilitates only two possible outcomes, differentiated merely by the amount of time it takes to get you to the same conclusion: It’s not going to work. So when you  break up with someone, you shouldn’t go back. Period. I thought I needed closure. He thought he could get laid. I was wrong and so was he. Now, I’m just pissed off, looking out the window contemplating bad weather again. This time a little wiser.








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