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Confluence of influences

08/04/2010

I am a product of my teachers.

The primary school mistress who graded my calligraphy with 9 when the other kids got a 10, and thus taught me that appearance sometimes supersedes substance, and that hard work will never substitute, or even compensate for, talent.

The secondary school head of form (diriga’), who valued the neat, but dull, kids over the spirited, disheveled, but brilliant ones, who taught me the value of conformity and the sweetness of rebellion. The history teacher who gave me my first low grade, but made me become a better student and a lover of history, by showing me that intelligence and gifts carry within them the responsibility to use them to the maximum, and the physics teacher who gave me an equally low grade and humiliated me in the process, teaching me to lie, but also forcing me to push against my disinclination and lack of ability to become better (in order to spite her and the universe).

The highschool literature teacher who taught me the true meaning of being an intellectual is curiosity, and the willingness to learn. The Latin teacher who helped me find the joy in being uncool and liking geeky things. The art history teacher who showed me that true victory is not in demeaning your opponent, but in rising above your own limitations. The English teacher who taught me the value of conviction, and standing tall in face of persecution.

And then there were so many others. Perhaps not in college, where teaching was a profession more than a vocation, although I did understand passion because of the photography teacher who traveled the world in pursuit of his craft, and I learned from the theater teachers who lived the life they spoke about and taught me truth, and human behavior, and observation, the music teacher who showed me discipline, the writing teacher who was the first to discover that I too, had a gift, a talent, perhaps less rare than that of others, but a true talent nonetheless.

In my MBA, there were life lessons. From the captain turned crack entrepreneur, I learned what it means to seize the day and reinvent yourself. From the failed academics I learned the price of mediocrity. From the experienced PM, what it means to value your personal life, and the balance you must strike between that and your profession.

But I’ve had other teachers. The friend who stands by me without judging. The one who forgives slights and neglect after may years. The one who profits from my open heart and mind. The one who uses my confessions to keep me bound. The man who does not take you home after a steamy night. The one that does, but never calls again. The one who stays your friend. The one who is a friend, but pushes for more.

I am a confluence of influences.

But I am delightful, if somewhat plastic, product after all.

Of the Games

01/03/2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Russian Olympic officials resign following the poor result of the country’s Olympians. Some Americans, in typical headlong fashion, berated the Russians, Medvedev and other Olympics participants and extolled the virtues of their own country. Here’s my take:

1. Hurray US athletes for managing to get noteworthy on nothing but hard work and your parents” support (up to the time when  you were noteworthy enough to have sponsorship money from the world’s biggest brands, headquartered in North America).

2. American commentators on popular websites: stop attacking the president of country when he calls for accountability. Unlike the US, in many European countries, most notably ex-communist ones, the state is still investing money in the selection, training and rewarding of athletes, Olympic or otherwise. If that is done poorly, then those responsible for sending athletes who cannot win or place as well as the previous generations must be held accountable. And if it is not the selection, but the pool of athletes and their training prior to the Olympics that’s at fault, then the people who had 4 years to recruit and train talent, and to put in place a system that allows good athletes to be found and nurtured should be held accountable. And replaced, if they are not up to par, with people who will not squander the next 4 years of the state’s time and money. Note that if an individual athlete fails, and wins second or third place because of a bad day, it’s not the same as placing in the middle ranks of a sport where you used to be the world leader. That is a sign that your system of training and support and selection is ailing, and you’d better stop spending money before you fix it. The deed is not that of a poor loser obsessed with his country’s worth in  sports, it is consistent with a president responsible for the use and allocation of public funds.

3. Someone should tell Base (i.e. the Romanian president), that the situation is no different hereabouts (who will represent us in kayaking where we used to be Olympic champs, Mr. President?), and he too should step up and call for accountability.

I don’t care

08/02/2010

I don’t care …

I don’t care that you are not paid as much as you need or think you deserve, if you are not doing your job. After all, you signed a contract, and accepted that salary level and the responsibilities that came with it. I sympathize with your financial plight, but to a person of ethics, accepting the money and not doing the work is equal to thievery. However, if you do do the work, and are not paid fairly for it, I am going to stand up for your rights and support your fight.

I don’t care that you’ve worked hard, if your product is not good enough. I am not going to buy a vacuum cleaner that breaks after its second use merely because factory workers worked hard to put it together. I don’t want to see a show with talentless performers, buy an ugly dress, or give a good grade just because somebody worked hard. The key is to work smart. I will appreciate your hard work, commend you for it, guide you to do better and encourage you to want more, but I will reserve the right to say your product is bad, and not buy it (unless it is to support a social cause or an educational purpose).

I do not care that your last girlfriend was a bitch / left you in tatters / made your life hell. I am not she, so don’t take it out on me. Go cheat on her, if she cheated, go nag her, if she nagged you, go sue her if she took you for all you’re worth, but don’t take it out on me. We all come with baggage, but there is such a thing as emotional maturity. It’s what helps you separate the present from the past, and relate to people as individuals, not stereotypes. So stop. I have enough faults of my own without paying for those of others.

All in all, I do not care for convenient excuses. You have to work at being a good person, a just person, a professional person, a partner, a lover, a friend. And if you’re not willing to, then I don’t care to deal with you any more.

The Facebook Year

29/12/2009

As 2009, with all its upsets, turmoils and exaggerations, dwindles down, and 2010 springs full of promise ahead, I do what I’ve been doing at every turning point (calendar or spiritual) in my life: look back.

Even with hindsight, I can’t define 2009.

It’s not the year of a major success, or a major setback. No new opportunity has been embraced, no new challenges overcome. Increasing difficulty, yes. A higher complexity, yes. But nothing that would set 2009 apart. It was perhaps a year of fruition: the MBA completed (sort of), the big cinema, the one that makes us market leaders, opened, the shaky, painful relationship, ended. It was perhaps a year of consequences, the outcome of choices made, or not made in years before. I do not know.

My mother says I am stuck in a loop, that she sees me repeating behaviors and, to her, mistakes that I’ve made 7 or 8 years before.It may be so, though the only similarity that I can truly see is that I am yet again single, so I’ve taken up some of the things I used to do back then.

In 2009, I’ve once again sung karaoke (and on a regular basis too).

In 2009, I’ve restarted hanging out in clubs until the wee hours of the morning (it’s a salsa club this time).

In 2009, I’ve had meaningless sex, and no meaningless relationship.

In 2009, my best friend once again left for London.

In 2009, I’ve had crushes on wildly unsuitable men and was humiliated in their presence.

In 2009, I got really drunk for the first time in 12 or 13 years.

In 2009, I’ve lost weight.

In 2009, I gained a few friends. Like previously, it remains to be seen whether these are friends of circumstance or long-lasting, true closeness.

In 2009, I’ve restarted writing poetry.

I feel like my entire 2009 life has been a Facebook page. Snippets of thought (I’ve managed to blog close to zero), abortive action, hopes raised and dashed. All of it very public, a long lifestream of thoughts and songs and silly games displayed and archived for my future reference. Never has a year been so undefinable, and yet so minutely documented.

So if I had to define 2009, it would be the Facebook Year. Not quite the definition you’d like a year of your life to have, especially when you’re past thirty.

That being said,  I am now going to publish the link to this post on Facebook.

Not good versus too good

24/11/2009

For many years (in my salad days, when I was green in judgment) I had countless problems with the men in my life (and those I wanted in my life) because I was either too fat or too thin, too wild or too demure, blond as opposed to brunette, too driven, not ambitious enough, a spendthrift, too clingy, too aloof and all those other things that aren’t good whether in small doses or in excess…

As I am becoming a riper fruit, with flavor, color, taste, and sometimes judgment to match my age, I have the opposite problem. I am too good. Too much woman. Too smart. Too composed. Too self-actualized. Too well-read. Too educated. Or so the men in my life, or those I want in it, say or imply.

I appreciate the compliment, but resent the implied criticism. But most of all, I resent the cliche that there is a certain type of men that a woman like me should be dating / be involved with (to quote my friend D. aka “the Guru” “a bank manager of sorts”). Invariably, their choice represents all that is staid, and boring, and enough like me to be like living with a clone. Or, it’s a balding, increasing 30 something guy who thinks the pursuit of money absolves him of all concerns for health and appearance and that his car (in leasing) functions as a replacement for a sense of style, a sense of humor or other essential organs.

Thanks, but no thanks. I like myself well enough, but I don’t want to live with a double. And I don’t want to live with George Constanza either. In friends, as in life partners, I want somebody who can push me out of my comfort zone, and show me a different point of view. In short, I like/want/need:

– men who are not afraid to tell me to shut up, and if I don’t, shut my mouth with a kiss
– men who are not afraid to show off, with their looks, talents, feelings or girlfriend
– men who will ask somebody who is rude to me to step out to the parking lot and settle the issue there
– men who think life is for living, not for accumulating wealth and social status

I like musicians, and bartenders and DJs and casino managers and actors and NGO leaders and dancers and entrepreneurs. People who grab life and squeeze the juice out of it and smile at the end and say: hey, I had fun. And who are willing to pour half their juice in my cup.

Of course, I am too good for them. In other words, not good enough for what I want…

Late nights and police cars

10/11/2009

Sunday evening I joined my friends for karaoke in our regular haunt, Coyote Cafe.

As always, Miss Barbie performed. Uncharacteristically, I was off key, so I left slightly earlier than usual, to walk the few hundred meters that separate the club from my home. I was wearing short shorts, on top of dun colored tights (kinky much?), and flat, below the knee, boots. I had a waist-length lined jacket in a burnished satiny gold (classier than it sounds, really), and a regular purse that didn’t quite match my boots.

I was walking at a rather clip pace, since I dislike being on the streets at night on my own, when suddenly a car turned sharply in front of me, as if attempting to enter the parking of the hotel I was just walking by. It was a patrol car, with three relatively polite policemen, who asked me for my papers. One of them called me by my middle name, an attempt to see if I recognize it, I guess. I didn’t quite, since nobody except my ex-boyfriend and his crowd ever called me that, and in any case they didn’t preface it with a sarcastic “domnisoara” (miss).

Missish as I am 🙂 I politely explained who I was, (work included) what I was doing and where I lived, but I could see the disbelief in the policeman’s eye. I expect he took me for a superannuated street walker. I don’t know if to feel flattered or offended.

I chose to laugh. I told my friends about it, and most found it hilarious. But on a deeper level I find it disturbing that a woman walking home downtown can be stopped and questioned by police, while working girls abound on the ring road of the city, and nobody does anything about it, and there has never been a policeman in sight when drunk or otherwise obnoxious men made lewd comments or gestures at me and my friends, when we rush by a group of idlers, eyes downcast and avoiding to look left or right for fear of provoking a flurry of catcalls or worse, and in so many other circumstances when it sucks to be a woman in Bucharest. And I am still unsure about the legality of just stopping someone with no apparent cause.

The 10 Commandments of Sexual Encounters (ouside of a relationship)

06/11/2009

1. Thou shall not mislead thine partner into thinking that this is more than a sexual encounter. (Catechism note – deception is not only perpetrated with words, and intent is not always necessary in order to mislead)

2. Thou shall not make thy partner feel cheap by underlining the purely sexual nature of the encounter. (Note: The balance between the First and Second commandments is delicate, and requires attentive maneuvering).

3. Thou shalt not seek thine own pleasure solely, even though thou may never encounter that partner again.

4. Thou shalt clarify the confidentiality setting for the encounter .

5. Thou shall treat thine partner with respect and friendliness when meeting under other circumstances.

6. Thou shall not allow a casual encounter of this type to marr an existing friendship.

7. Thou shall not expect greatness.

8. Thou shall not refer negatively to thy partner because he or she has agreed to a casual sexual encounter (Note: words such as slut, asshole, etc. are in general considered negative)

9. Thou shall not seek sexual encounters of the kind with friends of your current or recently ex-ed steady partner.

10. Thou shall not trust to chance if thou desirest to repeat the encounter, but instead procure the means to contact said partner and arrange a new encounter.