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September 19, 2010

Weather Theory

I am full of theories.

I left advice behind a few years ago, I can't bear unsolicited advice and so I stopped giving it, too, almost full stop. Or at least I try. For someone who used to be overflowing with advice and how-to's I managed to zip it up, put a cork in it, shut the hell up. Like many people I had gone from being a friend to channeling Dr. Phil, always at the ready with my words of completely unasked-for advice. Thank God I finally shut my mouth and stopped with all my finger-wagging counsel, I must have been a real pain in the ass.

Unsolicited advice puts the giver of advice in a position of all-knowing, all-powerful Unfuckedupedness. Meanwhile the poor recipient of the advice is left holding all your shoulds and do this and do that and here's where you went wrong, see. I like plain old listening. And anyway I'm not any wiser or smarter or finer than my friends, so why should I tell them how to live? Sometimes someone is just having a bad day, a challenging issue, a moment. They don't need a to-do list from me, unasked giver of advice. They need to just sit where they are and be. Yet for a while there my first inclination was to break out the bullet points.

But people do exactly what they want to do in the end. If it happens to go against the grain of your unsolicited advice, then you have opened up a can of awkward. When I am not specifically asked for help I figure it's best to just listen, love, be kind, be polite. I forget sometimes how good it feels simply to be polite. I don't have to figure out and solve everyone else's problems.

So I left most of my unwanted advice in the dust (I catch myself sometimes, spouting nonsense) but I have theories up the yinyang. I love my theories! I have a theory about everything. Some aren't truly full-formed theories, just observations, like:

• A feline will sit on the one piece of paper you most need it not to sit upon.

• When you are most worried about the state of your house you will get an unexpected guest/building maintenance call/dishwasher malfunction.

• You will run into your ex/old boss/horrid acquaintance while at the grocery store looking your grungy worst. However, when you look fine as a high-class call girl you will only run into underage busboys and soccer moms.

• Bullet points are kind of awesome and awfully hard to resist.

But I have other theories, real theories, more fleshed out and evolved. There's my condiment theory, for one. One day I'll share my Bumper Guy Theory, it will have to be a no-comments day since it will irritate 99.99% of all readers. Today I'm on Weather Theory, something I developed back in college one million years ago.

In my Weather Theory, people are both drawn to and reflect their environments. I loved the lushness, the dense thick kudzu-covered South when I was a kid. I loved all the humidity, the rainy days, the storms, the lightening. I was all tangled up in it. I used to write gushy poems with big words and drive on the farm roads in the rain and smoke cigarettes while listening to rainy day music. Lots of Nina Simone, Jim Croce, Ella Fitzgerald, that old Hank Williams with the scratch sound in the background. I would sing along, driving on some muddy bayou road, "... yeah, I want some sugar in my bowl..."

By the way, I sound like a dying cat when I sing. No one believes this until they hear me sing. People think I am being hard on myself, surely I can sing a little bit. Upon hearing me sing, however, my audience will immediately agree that I should stick to car and shower singing, preferably with no one in a ten-mile radius. I don't mind. It's good to know your limits.

I moved to Los Angeles unexpectedly. It was different out here, unlike the South it is bright and hot and clear and sunny and a little bit brittle. Hard, but also shiny. Like a never-ending spotlight. There is no sun like a Southwest sun, all that space across the map between here and Laredo is just sun and heat and dry and dust. I once dated a guy from Guatemala and he loved the heat, loved it when the Valley got to 110, 115 degrees. He was hot blooded all the way through. People are their climates. That was the theory, anyway.

Lately I've amended my theory to contain a new anomaly: people can rebel against their climate. I love the clarity of Los Angeles, the way the heat and the sunshine just flatten everyone out, toughen them up like leather. But I miss stormy nights and overcast days. I miss the lushness, the solitude of winter. Well, let me rephrase that. I think I miss winter. Having not lived in a real winter for at least sixteen years I can't say for sure what winter is. I do remember being in college in Middle Tennessee and hating all the rain (in the Southeast it can rain for weeks, months it seems) and I would drive around in my little Volkswagen Fox and smoke menthol cigarettes and look at all the houses with their shutters closed and curtains drawn and wonder who was inside, snuggled up, laughing, kissing, living life.

In L.A. you never feel lonely from the weather. You never bundle up against the winter. You only have to escape from the sun.

It's always bright, it's always flat and reflective and shimmery. Except those few days a year when you get the June gloom, the May grey, the anomaly overcast that makes the 6 o'clock news. We're not used to being introspective out here, we're not used to the blanket of fog or the softness of the air (actually, if you live right at the beach maybe you're more used to fog. But beach life out here is another world altogether). A drastic change in our weather makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you cook elaborate chili and read something besides Variety. Out here we only get introspective weather a few days a year.

I can't tell where I am in my theory. I still love the irradiated charm of Los Angeles, spray-tanned and be-flip-flopped and full of weathermen who get excited about a little cloudy sky. But I like my theory better when I don't apply myself to it. I can't imagine actually living in a place where you need four seasons of clothing and a working umbrella and something called a "coat." It makes me laugh when I think of how goofy we get over a few clouds.

Oh, one last theory, laundry theory: The amount of extra coat hangers you have is directly proportional to the number of orphaned socks in your drawer. It has something to do with laundry mojo. Very mysterious, that one.

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Edited to add: Well, I thought the goofiness of giving advice about giving advice would be, you know, sort of obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I can see in the comments I may not have worded it quite so well because I think a few people felt icky about my advice on unsolicited advice. I'm sorry! This is not supposed to be the feel-bad place, this is the feel funky fresh dressed to impress ready to party place. (And apparently the place where old rap lyrics go to die.)

As always, all of this nonsense I type is just a bunch of internet blahblahblah from a charming nobody who just navel gazes and drunk-types. Kind of like it says on the side of the Ouija board, "For entertainment purposes only." And you know I still give advice whether I try to shut my mouth or not. Especially about giving advice!

Oh, remind me to tell you the story about the time my friend and I got all freaked out in high school over a Ouija board, with screaming and running and much carrying on. It will FREAK your panties off. Funky fresh dressed no more!

Posted by laurie at September 19, 2010 11:37 AM