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7/23/06
Excuse me ma'am, I'd just like to marry you. (Mouse Over)

Dear Kim,

I am still thinking about my time at the Santa Monica Park feeding the homeless.

As I was leaving the premises, I emptied my pockets of the disposable cash I had on me. A dollar here, some quarters there. Less than $10 in all. I would have spent more than that if I had gone to the movies.

(Kim: I rarely give to panhandlers. I guess it comes from the fear of getting mugged from my parents. It is strange that my mom worked in poor neighborhoods as a social worker in the late 30s, and was so afraid of the poor. It is also strange the parts of us that are cast from the same molds as our parents.)

As I was walking, a man waved at me and said he wanted to ask a question. I kind of blew him off. I was afraid he was going to ask me for money. Several people had asked me every few feet and I was getting frustrated at being asked over and over. Frustrated by the numbers of people who seemed to need something, frustrated by my inability to be more immediately helpful. In a way that would feel safe and—if I am being honest—convenient. At least that is what I think it was.

I think I was rude to him. At the very least, I was brusque. I don’t feel very comfortable when men I don’t know talk to me on the street. Unless they are old men.

That is a sad admission. But it is true. I have to work hard to feel safe walking around in the world, especially since I often prefer my own company and thoughts.

So I said somewhat impatiently to this guy before he even got the words out, “I’m tapped out. I already gave away my money today.”

He smiled and said to me, “I just wanted to ask if you would consider marrying me. You are such a pretty lady.”

I told him it was an appealing idea but that I was already married.

I instantly felt ashamed and confused. Maybe it would have been followed by a hustle but the immediate request had not been for money. It had been for a moment of recognition, maybe for a kind word or a little joking. And I had been too impatient and too defended for that.

And I thought, what the hell have we come to? I felt sorry for both of us. For him, in his loneliness and need to be seen as a man. And for me, in my fear and need to have my privacy and space as a woman respected.

And all of this after I had just volunteered on a lunch line for the homeless and had really noticed all of the individuality that passed before me.

What a fucked up world.

(Kim: Isn't it really whether you want to look at whether the glass is half filled or half emptied? Again, it is the yin and yang that describes most things. We have Iran supposedly threatening destruction of their neighbors, and we have millions who engage in daily activities that benefit others.)

Later,

Joan

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006

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