For the sake of efficiency

“You stole the last jalapeño popper.”

Ed turned slowly to face his accuser. “Pardon?”

The petite woman frowned. “You snatched your sixth one before I could even try my first!”

“I couldn’t help it — they’re addictive!” He held his hand in front of his mouth to hide his enthusiastic chewing.

“Good.” She smiled. “‘I made them.”

“Ed.”

“Nisey.”

“Short for…?”

“Denise. My lil’ brother couldn’t pronounce his d’s, so he called me Nisey.”

“One of the many joys of being an only child — no siblings to give you nicknames.”

“In your case, I’m sure the bullies at boarding school did the honors.”

“How did you know I went to boarding school?”

“Just a hunch.” Nisey drained her solo cup and shook it, rattling the ice cubes.

“I owe you a drink.”

“Good thing drinks are free at potlucks. Kay’s goin’ on a liquor run soon –”

“Which is why we should walk to the pub down the street. She’ll buy the shitty stuff since the party’s winding down.”

“You’re real slick.”

Ed offered his arm. “Shall we?”

Nisey narrowed her eyes and looped her arm through his.

***

“I’m too old for this!”

“For what?”

“Neckin’ with my friend’s husband’s cute friend.”

“So you think I’m cute?”

“Wipe that smirk off your face! Would I be straddling you on your couch if I didn’t?”

“You could just be using me for sex.”

“Who said anybody’s gettin’ laid tonight?”

“I didn’t assume — just trying to lighten the mood!”

“Ed, I’m forty years old –“

“You’re smokin’ hot.”

“– thank you, but I’ve been divorced for a couple of decades. I’m good at being alone –“

“Nisey, I’m thirty years old. I’ve been divorced for a decade. I’ve dated a lot of women since –“

“A lot, eh?”

“– and I know right away whether I like someone or not. I like you.”

“I like you, too.”

“Since neither of us wants to waste our time –“

“Amen to that!”

“– what’s the harm in enjoying each other’s company, as the feeling is mutual?”

“Speakin’ of savin’ time…where’s your bedroom?”

****

“This was way better than either of our first weddings.”

“We should advise any youngins who wanna get hitched –“

“What’ll we tell them? If you meet someone at a friend’s party, marry the person a year later?”

“No, dumbass. We’ll tell them to save the money they’d use on a wedding and put it toward a downpayment on a house –“

“They don’t buy houses — they buy lofts or condos these days.”

“– get a friend to marry them, and go out for margaritas and nachos afterward.”

“The kids we know don’t have friends who are judges.”

“They’ve got friends who’ve bought marriage officiant licenses on the internet!”

“You can do that?”

“Yes, you old man.”

Your old man.”

“Your sappiness is embarrassing.”

“C’mon — gimme a kiss, missus.”

“Fine. But only ‘cuz I expect wedding night action when we get home.”

“Nobody would watch a movie about kids workin’ on a farm who fall in love!”

“This is the slowest lunch place ever.” I glanced at my watch, noting that Mike and I had been waiting for our food for fifteen minutes.

“I thought we’d get our orders quicker by getting ’em to-go, but I guess not.”

Mike took a seat at a table by the window. I followed suit.

“What do you and your wife have planned for this weekend?”

“Just gonna do stuff around the house and fix up the barn. She might have a horse show, but she’s not sure yet.”

“How did y’all meet?”

“Well, we knew each other growin’ up ‘cuz we lived in a real small town in Washington state.”

“Were y’all the pair of kindergartners that everyone knew would be together?”

“Not at all. We actually didn’t get to be close ’til I went away to college up at Stanford. Summer before my senior year, I came home and worked on her uncle’s wheat farm with her.”

“A wheat farm?!”

“Wheat farming is big out there.”

“This is like the plot of a Lifetime movie.”

“Nobody would watch a movie about kids workin’ on a farm who fall in love!”

“They definitely would. Especially if they cast the actors from Nashville.”

“Maybe people would watch for the scenery. It’s beautiful — the sky’s clear out there. Not like here (in town, at least) where you can barely see the stars after dark.”

“What would be on the soundtrack — Fleetwood Mac? Led Zeppelin?”

“All the other classics, too.” Mike laughed. “Y’know, she was actually seein’ somebody else when we started hangin’ out.”

“Oh shit! You stole her away?”

“She didn’t like that other guy much anyway.”

“Still.”

“She’s always been a firecracker. Never puts up with anybody’s shit (in a good way).”

“Sounds like she and Dusty’s wife would be friends.”

“They definitely would. We had a low-key wedding at the end of the summer. Her mom made her dress. Her friends did the flowers and mine helped cook the food for the reception.”

“Wow.”

“Then I went back to school for my senior year and the rest is history!”

“Seriously, though. Which actors would you want to play y’all in the movie of your life?”

“Hell if we know any of the young actors these days!”

The grass is always greener (for competitive people).

The elevator ride up to my office isn’t long. Our firm is on the second floor of a large tower, so it’s typically a minute or two ride. As I was walking into the building last week, I got stuck behind a pair of pretty, thin girls a few years older than me. They wore four inch Christian Louboutin pumps, so they were walking slowly. Plus, it was Monday, so no one was in a hurry to get to work.

In the short walk from the front door to the elevator and the ride up to the office, I was privy to their woes about life and love. One was a blonde and the other was a brunette, so I’ll call them Betty and Veronica since I don’t know their real names.

Betty tossed her waist-length blonde hair as she pushed through the revolving doors. Veronica followed, slinging her enormous Louis Vuitton handbag over her shoulder. Another elevator never arrived, so I squeezed into theirs.

“Can you believe Shelly?”

“I know. I hate her.”

“Her wedding was perfect. Bitch has gotten everything she’s ever wanted since high school.”

“Which designer did she decide on for her dress?”

“Vera Wang.”

Of course.”

“Everyone from high school seemed surprised by how Mark looked.”

“I mean, it’s kinda like Lance and me. You wouldn’t think he was my type, but –”

“Are y’all engaged?”

Veronica sighed exasperatedly. “No, we just live together.”

Betty nodded sympathetically. “How long have y’all been together?”

“Since 2005.”

“Wow. That’s –”

“A long time.”

“Beau and I have been dating since 2004, so I know how that is.”

“I just don’t know how much longer I can wait.”

“Seriously. I’m almost thirty.”

“Me too. I do not want to be a thirty-five-year-old bride.”

“Ew, me neither. Then what? You have kids at like, forty? Hell no!”

“Maybe we should have brunch with Shelly and Mark.”

“Why?”

“Y’know, so Mark could talk about how great married life is –”

“That’s an awesome idea! I’ll text that lucky bitch now.”

I cleared my throat. “Excuse me. This is my floor.”

Betty and Veronica jumped, horrified that I was standing in the other corner of the elevator the entire time. As I exited the elevator, I made a mental note. Must tell Ceddy that I’m grateful that we’re together and refuse to compete in a race to complete life’s supposed milestones.

My boss likes to give unsolicited life advice.

When I started working at the firm two years ago, I made an unfortunate discovery — my boss likes to give unsolicited life advice.

My boss is clueless in a Mitt Romney kind of way. He grew up and stayed in Buckhead, one of the most bourgeoisie neighborhoods in Atlanta; his brothers and parents’ houses are also on the same street. He’s never lived in an apartment.

Since my boss got his driver’s license, all of his cars have been new BMWs — that’s forty years of driving nothing but BMWs, y’all. Aside from a few of us people of color at work, he’s insulated from diversity. I’m the first Filipino person he’s ever met.

I had been working at the firm for several months. On a Friday afternoon in September, my boss called me into his office.

“Sam! Have a seat.”

I sat in the chair in front of his desk and fidgeted nervously.

“You’re not in trouble — don’t worry!”

“That’s a relief, sir.”

“Whadda y’all young people do for fun these days? Like, this weekend?”

“My boyfriend and I are going to the Music Midtown concert tomorrow.”

“Didn’t know they were bringin’ that festival back! I went in the ’90s when I was single. Who all’s playin’?”

“A lot of indie bands — I’m looking forward to seeing Walk the Moon, The Joy Formidable, and Young the Giant. Coldplay is headlining, though.”

“Never heard of any of ’em, ‘cept Coldplay.”

I suppressed a laugh. “What are you and your family doing this weekend?”

He sighed in exasperation. “Prolly somethin’ lame like takin’ the kids to the park or some shit.”

“That should be fun!”

“Nah, it’s borin’ as hell! Lemme let give ya the biggest piece of advice that anybody’s gonna give ya.”

I gestured for him to continue.

“Put off gettin’ married ‘n’ havin’ kids as long as possible.”

“I’m twenty-three, so I’m not in a hurry.”

“Good. ‘Cuz everybody says the day yer kid’s born is the best day of yer life — they’re lyin’.”

“…”

“Not to say kids aren’t great — ‘cuz they can be. But they wear ya out and are a money pit.”

“…”

“Forget about doin’ what ya wanna do — yer life’s gonna revolve ’round them ‘n’ their schedules.”

“…”

Enjoy yer freedom. Y’all hafta live it up for the rest of us who’re stuck with our balls ‘n’ chains.”

I glanced around, waiting to be dismissed.

My boss nodded, grinning. “Glad we had this talk, Sam.”

“Me…too…”

Children aren’t the “next step” for everyone.

I’ve reached the age where a lot of people I know are getting married and having kids.

Many people believe that the ideal way to live your life is to follow the American dream. Graduate high school. Go to college. Get a job. Get married. Settle in the suburbs. Have kids. Your life path has a trajectory that you can’t change, nor should you want to based on societal norms. I fully support those who actually wants to do this, but I don’t think that everyone should.

Three of my coworkers are married men under 40. Until last week, only one of them was a dad. However, another became a dad to a little baby girl. During his wife’s pregnancy, the dads in the office joked with him about the “joys” of fatherhood.

“You won’t sleep for two years.”

“Baby spit-up will stain all of your favorite shirts.”

“Pray that you don’t drop the baby first, or you’ll hear about it for the rest of your life.”

I’ve seen too many people have kids because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. My friend Angela is my only close friend who’s a mom. (She’s the only one who should be a mom at this point in our lives.) Between everything Ange has told me and Dean’s blog, it’s evident that parenthood is rewarding, yet hard work. Ange is a nurturing person who has always been great with kids. Dean’s blog showcases the highs, lows, and magical moments with her toddler. Ange and Dean make raising their daughters seem easier than it is.

None of my male coworkers have said that they had kids because they wanted to — most of them indicated that they were going along with what their wives wanted. According to them, their wives wanted to have kids once their friends started having kids. I cringe at the thought of babies as accessories — “I want one because my friends have one.”

There are also the parents who hate how “expensive” kids are. There are the parents who complain that they have to go to Little League games and dance recitals. My boss will stay at the office until he knows that his kids are in bed, so he won’t have to play with them.

Why do those people have children? Their kids grow up knowing that their parents resent them. Those parents feel unfulfilled because they consider their children to be shackles. These people should have figured out that their ideal life didn’t include milestones that society determined.

If (when) the day comes that I get to be a mom, I’m going to remember this list — the promises I made to my future daughter. I want to have kids someday. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the childless life. I’m not racing to the “next steps.” Those will come when the time is right — when we’re ready.

A friend from high school is getting married today.

A friend from high school is getting married today.

We met in Spanish class freshman year, but became close friends (best friends in school) the following year. I always joked that though she had her self-professed redneck family, she wasn’t a cracker — she was a Nilla wafer. I called her Nilla from then on. She called me Sammy Shine (mostly, just Shine).

On Fridays after school, Nilla and I would grab ice cream at Bruster’s or coffee at the Bean Hole, then watch movies. We scribbled and passed notes to each other during classes.  We squealed about other’s first boyfriends. We offered hugs and chocolate for the subsequent breakups. We had girly sleepovers and watched chick flicks. We read and commented on each other’s livejournal entries. We commiserated with each other, as Filipino and southern parents tended to be equally strict. We were inseparable.

Senior year, I moved to Alpharetta. We were able to visit each other a few times. I even went to prom with her and my other friends from Birmingham. But proximity seemed to be a contingency on which some friendships rely. As time passed, phone calls and texts became less frequent. Every few months, we catch up on each other’s lives, but it’s not the same.

Nilla is the first of my friends (who I was close to, once) to get married. She was the friend dreamt of being married and having a family. Though we’ve grown up and grown apart, I’m looking forward to celebrating (what she has always thought would be) the best day of her life.

Yesterday would have been my grandparents’ 70th anniversary.

Lola & Lolo's wedding photo.

Lola & Lolo’s wedding photo.

Yesterday would have been my grandparents’ 70th anniversary. (They were always excited to share the day with their youngest grandchild’s birthday.)

Lola and Lolo were together for 64 years before Lolo died. They met in the Philippines during World War II; Lola was a nurse for the U.S. army and Lolo was a mining engineer. It was love at first sight. Three months later, they married. They had my three uncles two to four years apart and my mom a decade later. Their life wasn’t perfect (no one’s is), but they did everything together as a team.

Lola was a chronic worrier, so Lolo always made her laugh. When he became diabetic in middle age, she managed his medication and administered his insulin shots. He doted on her, picking up her favorite flowers or jewelry just because. They called each other “my dearest darling” and were still sweetly affectionate even as octogenarians. As Lolo was dying, he told Lola not to fret. For the five years after his death, she was inconsolable. Life was unbearable with her other half missing. When she died last December, she was finally at peace because she knew she would see him again.

My grandparents were one of the few couples who I consider to be role models for a healthy and happy partnership. My mother disregarded the epic love she witnessed while growing up. The only similarity between my parents’ and my grandparents’ marriages is that my parents got married after dating for five months, while my grandparents did after three. Lola and Lolo were in constant communication, but they didn’t fill the silence with meaningless chatter. They didn’t avoid their issues by buying each other expensive cars or watches. They didn’t use their children as pawns in fights. When things got hard, they leaned on each other. They were each other’s best friend. All of us grandchildren aspire to have a relationship as long-lasting and fulfilling as theirs.

Lola gave me one piece of advice about men, which I’m sure she would be happy to know that I followed:

“Find the man who you will be happy to wake up next to — not just because he’s handsome, but also because he’s a good man.”