One day, as I was reading Backpacking Dad's blog, I saw a link to a blog I'd never visited, one that was holding a Great Interview Experiment. I'm pretty new to this corner of the blogosphere and in the hopes of meeting more bloggers and letting more bloggers get to know me, I signed up. And I'm really glad I did because I got a chance to get to know Mary Beth, whose blog I read regularly now. I interviewed Mary Beth and she replied with some great answers to my questions. You can read them below. My questions are bolded and Mary Beth's answers are in plain text.
Q. I am a nontraditional student and I find that there are all sorts of perks and problems that come along with it. After reading your blog, I think you're nontraditional as well. You live with your immediate family and aren't living out the "American Dream" (y'know… 2.5 kids, a house, 2.3 cars). I admire this quite a bit and it seems that you are very happy and content. I want to know more about what it's like. Do you find people treat you differently because you don't live with a spouse or have children? Tell all!
A. I am happy with my living arrangements. I am extremely introverted and the thought of meeting new people is difficult for me. I overcome it when I start new jobs (which I seem to do a lot), but I have to steel myself for it. So the thought of going to bars or other dating places has never appealed to me and I wind up being miserable and who wants to hang out with that. It's just so comfortable living with my sister who knows all my good and bad sides and knows exactly what to do to get me out of my funks. She also knows almost all my secrets (except where the bodies are buried) so I never have to pretend around her.
I think one of the biggest questions people have when they find out I don't have a spouse is whether or not I'm gay. Stephen Colbert has declared that the only way you are allowed to be a lesbian is if you were born on the island of Lesbos or if you attended Smith College. I would love to fall into the stereotype of graduates of Smith, but these damn cravings towards hot guys keep getting in the way. Sorry, folks, nothing to see here.
The only time I even miss having a mate is when I'm at large gatherings for work (which almost never happen and I try desperately to get out of going to when they do happen) because everyone is paired off with a boyfriend or spouse and I'm odd man out. Other than that, I'm pretty content.
Q. I think we all have a pivotal moment in our lives when we go from being insecure children to becoming fairly comfortable with who we are. When did this happen for you? Was there a specific event that spurred the change?
A.The first time I spent any significant time away from my family was when I went away for college. The first two months were miserable – I was homesick and I didn't know anyone there. However, Smith College is an all women's college which allows everyone to be relaxed without worrying about primping or competing for the opposite sex within the dorms or at classes (although, guys are allowed to attend classes there now). Luckily, there are three other colleges in the near vicinity (leaving out Mount Holyoke – also all female) which brought lots of testosterone up for the weekends.
Being on my own, having to do laundry without destroying everything, managing my money all helped me grow up a lot. I am a big believer of having kids go away for college. It doesn't have to be far – just outside of walking distance – because it forces the kids to start taking care of themselves.
Q. What is your favorite literary genre and what do you think it says about you?
A. I really like mysteries. I've always thought I'd be a detective in an alternative universe. I love solving puzzles so I always try to figure out who-dunnit before the end of the book (I rarely get the right person – I never said I was a good detective). There's so much ugliness in the world right now, I like reading something that ties up nicely in the end. I want a nice, neat ending with the good guy coming out on top. Oh, and I hate it when the author introduces someone at the end of the book as the killer. Bringing someone in, in the final act is just cheating.
I also love fantasy/sci-fi stories. The age old battle between good and evil, light and dark is always good for a saga. Although I'm well into adulthood with all its responsibilities and obligations that go with this state, I prefer to maintain a sense of wonder and believe that the elves and dragons do exist, even if not "here in the swamps of Jersey". And I KNOW the vampires are out there waiting for me whenever I have to take the garbage out after 10PM.
Q. What are some of your best memories?
A. I have always loved being near the water. We used to spend summers on LBI at my grandparent's house. By we, I mean my extended family on my mother's side – she and her three siblings, their spouses, and the 19 grandchildren. Now, my parents have a house there and we get to spend weekends there during the summer (growing up and having to go to a job every day really sucks sometimes) and there are a ton of happy memories down there.
Helen and I got to go to England last year which I loved. I think I was born on the wrong continent. But there was so much joy involved in every step of the trip – from standing in line to get our passports to when they actually arrived (can you say mug shot?) to the actual trip. And I got to do it all with my best friend.
Q. What are some of your worst?
A. The worst memory I have is getting a call from my sister to tell me my father had a heart attack. I was in the middle of getting evaluated by my literacy supervisor (back when I was teaching kindergarten) and I had to get out of the classroom and let her know what was happening without disrupting the class. My father is our Christopher Robin, our rock. He's who we all turn to when we have any problems because he's so calm and he knows how to fix everything. It was a scary few days but, after some surgery, he's doing okay. That was 5 years ago and he's still going strong.
Losing my maternal grandparents was very difficult as well. We lived within 20 minutes from their house so we saw them a lot. They were very important in my life – great role models. I lost my grandfather when I was 16 and my grandmother 10 years later. I miss them still and think of them, especially my grandmother, all the time.
Q. Personally, blogging has done so many positive things for me. For example, I now pay attention to every little thing I see and hear, in case I want to write about it. How has blogging changed your life?
A. Being an introvert, it takes me a long time to get to know people. Once the walls are down, though, you'd never believe it's the same person. I can be really LOUD when I get comfortable around people. By blogging, I'm getting to know all these fantastic people without actually having to face them. I'm hoping by the time I go to BlogHer next year, I will have bypassed the shy beginnings and I can just run up and jump into conversations with them. We'll see.
I do look at things differently. I find myself writing blog posts in my head while I'm in the shower, driving, just about anytime I can't actually write anything down. It also has me writing just about every day (this past week not-withstanding) which may actually get me closer to writing fiction. Does every English major dream of being an author? I dream some vivid dreams and wake up with storylines in my head. I once had one about a crack team of assassins and I woke up with the name of the organization and everything. I need to write these things down before I forget them because I think I've lost several novels due to stubbornly insisting on going back to sleep.
Q. You mentioned your faith in a post about His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Did you grow up in a particular religion? Have you maintained that connection throughout your life?
A. I was baptized and confirmed an Episcopalian. I went to Catholic School for grades 8-12 and then taught in Catholic Schools for almost 9 years. I am a Christian who believes in Heaven and in God. I don't feel the need to go to church on Sundays or to take part in traditional prayer sessions. I prefer to find God in nature and in good deeds done by others.
Q. I feel there is a huge dichotomy in our culture: we are encouraged to be okay with who we are and love ourselves and at the same time, we are constantly bombarded with messages that we aren't okay and that we need to buy certain things in order to improve ourselves (make-up, fancy clothing, bigger cars, etc.). How do you deal with this dichotomy? Do you shun buying things, shop like a mad-woman, or fall somewhere in-between? How does it affect you spiritually?
A. I hate shopping for clothes. It's not because I'm not the perfect size six or anything. I just hate trying on things or wasting time in dressing rooms. I usually find something that works for me and buy it in different colors. This summer, I'm going with polo shirts and khakis or slightly dressier pants. I work in a construction office so, thank god, I don't need to worry about stockings or skirts or anything like that.
I come from a family of minimalists where make up is concerned. I rarely ever wear it because whenever I wear foundation, it feels like my pores are choking and clogging up. Same with blusher or eye-shadow. It's probably all in my head but I can't get rid of the claustrophobic feeling. I have an eyeliner pencil that I use once in a blue moon and some Bert's Bees lipstick. Other than that, I go au-naturale.
I am a glutton for books. Put me in a bookstore and I can spend a minor fortune in a matter of minutes. I love buying cook books, maps, fiction, sci-fi, mysteries, you name it. Also stationery stores. I love Staples, Office Max, etc. And gadgets like ipods and the iPhone? The Apple store is my Mecca.
I don't believe you need a bigger car to be happy. Helen has an SUV for when we move (which we do a lot – I think we have gypsy blood in us somewhere). I go for the smaller cars. My favorite car – my Geo Tracker with a soft top. The only problem with it was it had no pick-up. But that car was perfect for me – relaxed, laid back and you could park in any parking space going in head first. I never had to parallel park with that car. Now, I have a Saturn Ion which is a smaller, sporty car, with GREAT pickup. I put on good music (Bruuuuuce) and find myself doing 85 on the parkway without realizing it.
* THANK YOU MARY BETH!!!