The sign of a great career is having great opportunities, and saying no

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This is about the farmer. The guy I met last year, and I drove through tornados, twice, to see. He dumped me. But I kept his toothbrush in my bathroom for five months while other men paraded through. And the way you can gauge if you love someone is if you keep the toothbrush even after the toothpaste gets so crusty that it makes a mess on the sink.

So it was a big day in May when he sent me an email inviting me to Burgers and Brew. It took only one email for me to let myself be obsessed with him again. (The great thing about a Blackberry is that if you spend the day at the office reading a romantic email fifty-five times, you don’t look obsessed; you look like a hard worker.)

The festival is a big deal. Restaurants here in Madison, WI understand the draw of the grown local movement, and the Farmer's pork is the meat of choice for the most picky chefs in the city and also the best pizza places.

Last year, when I had not met the farmer, his first invitation to me was for Burgers and Brew, and I declined. It struck me as one of the moronic, provincial invitations I get for Wisconsin stuff every day.

But somehow, somewhere, I became a Wisconsin girl. I'm not sure when it happened. But I remember last year, when the farmer introduced me in his town of 500 people, he'd say, “She's from Madison.” And I thought it was ridiculous, because I felt like I was from New York. I don't even know what “from Madison” means, because it seems to me that everyone from Madison is not actually from Madison but from a farm and thinking they just moved into a big city.

When I came out of my giddy stupor from his email, I realized that Burgers and Brew was the same weekend as maybe the biggest schmoozing event of my life: Guy Kawasaki invited me to spend a weekend on the USS Nimitz with Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble and others.

I said yes to the weekend, of course. Because how can hanging out with these guys not be great for me? It's probably what I've been working up to my whole career: a weekend like that.

People always talk about how you need to give stuff up in order to have a fulfilling career and a fulfilling personal life. What people don't realize is that the better you get at your career, the more amazing are the opportunities that you give up. But this is a hard reality to swallow. So I said yes to the farmer and yes to Guy and lived in an alternate reality where there are no hard choices in life and I was doing both events.

Until finally I told Guy that I couldn’t go on the trip. Right after that, I was besieged by the greatness of the people going on the trip. For example, Charlene Li ended up being the source for a quarter of the statistics in my investor pitch. And someone asked, “Do you know her personally?” And I thought, well, I could. If I hadn't fallen for the farmer. Again.

And then I went to the airport for one last trip before Burgers and Brew. And I saw Pam Slim's book there. And first I thought, “She's amazing to have gotten her book such good placement.” And then I thought, “She's amazing to have such passionate views on the workplace.” And then I started to think that my career is going totally downhill, when I could have spent a weekend with her and I'm not.

But you know what? Burgers and Brew was great. And there does not seem to be fallout from my decision to pass up the USS Nimitz. And, in maybe a little message from God that the farmer is more important than my career, Michael Arrington cancelled as well. And then I felt like I had this great self-knowledge about myself, that somehow I know how to balance a boyfriend and a career. Like, one good decision begets many more.

So for our second date this time around, I cut out of work early, and we go to a state park. I don’t say, “This is ridiculous. I can go to a state park with a city guy and I want to be on your farm.” I don’t say that because I want him to know that I'm the new, agreeable me. And I know it's going to be hard to be agreeable on the tough stuff, so the state park seems like a nonnegotiable. I have to say yes.

I am nervous. I knew I would have to change in the car from my work clothes to hiking clothes, but it was a rushed morning and I couldn't make important decisions, so I brought every bra I own. I have to make the decision if I should wear a padded, looks-great-under-a-t-shirt bra, or a soft, lacy, your-hands-will-feel-good-here bra.

I go with the second one, but I tell myself not to be too optimistic. I tell myself that the key to keeping him is to let him do things at his own pace, and I need to not just say I'm okay with that. He'll see through it. I need to really truly be okay with it.

He doesn’t watch me change in the car, which is funny since we've been together for seven months before. And it's not funny because I think to myself, “Where are we now? What are we doing? We are not at the beginning but where is the middle and are we there?” I'm not sure.

We start hiking and I am nervous. I just want things to go well. I am not sure if he knows what I've been up to. He doesn't have an internet connection at his house, and he always has to be careful what he reads at his parents’ house, but somehow he always managed to read my posts anyway.

Now I wonder, did he read my post about the 25-year-old?

It turns out he did because he says, “Why do you need to write about oral sex in every post?”

I say, “I don't put it in every post. But it seems to just come up.”

“I think you force it.”

I am quiet. I think there is no right answer.

Then he says,”What's your goal with all that? Why do people need to know how much oral sex you're getting?”

I am quiet.

And he says, “What do you want to be known for?”

I can tell that this is his real question. So I had better have a good answer for him. I pause. Then I say, “I want to be known for being honest in my pursuit of a good life.”

Then we are quiet, while we hike through the forest.

Then we get to some rocks, but they are uneven, and I end up being taller than the farmer. Not by a lot. Maybe an inch or two. In this case, most guys would subtly move me over to the spot that is a little shorter and then go over to the spot that is a little taller. But he doesn't care. And he kisses me.

We hike to the end of the rocky part and he tells me he doesn't think I should write about our relationship because maybe it won't last.

I tell him if it doesn't last then I will write about being sad.

I tell him that I have to write to make sense of everything. But, to be honest, it's not making that much sense to me now why I was so critical of him before, yet I'm not now.

Here's an example: He's really erratic about touching me in public. Sometimes he will and sometimes he won't. Initially I told him he was totally immature and that this is the problem when a guy has almost no girlfriend experience and spends all his time eating meals with his parents.

This time around, though, I am more observant. For example, we went to the county fair, and I reached for his hand and he said, “We can't hold hands here. I'll look whipped.”

I laughed. I told him that's hilarious, but he didn't think it was funny. He told me to look around and see who else was holding hands. And honestly, he was right. It was dark, people were drinking, most people were with a date, and no one was touching. Really, I did not see one couple touching each other.

And then, in the dark, he put his hand on my back.

Me: Are you happy?

Him: Yes. Can't you tell?

Me: No.

Him: Well, I have a nice tone of voice to you. And I'm touching you in a nice way.

Me: Oh. Yeah.

113 replies
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  1. Lala
    Lala says:

    Weak. ‘I’ll look whipped’ is no reason not to hold hands. You hold hands (or not) because you want to.
    Cut this guy loose.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Got it. Thanks. I think I misspell that word in every post. I think it’s some kind of sign that I’m drawn to words too hard for me to spell…


      • Shinako
        Shinako says:

        I think it’s a sign of being a person :-/ Why does anyone have to bring it up anyways?

  2. Dan
    Dan says:

    When I lived in Madison, I never went to “burgers and brew” because it sounded lame.

    Funny comment about small town Madison being the big City. When I went to my six week DUI class at MATC, downtown, there was some guy from the Country in this class who was “overwhelmed” by having to come to tiny madison for this class. Apparently, “big Cities” scared him. The instructor had to correct him that Madison was small, Milwaukee was even a small City, and that Chicago was what would be considered a “big City.”

    Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, most people in WI are small minded but I would take a small town mentality any day over the Madison liberal, do weird things like “buy local.” OK, so if buying local in Stoughton is great in Stoughton, why can’t someone in madison buy the great Stoughton produce in madison? Often times, it’s just as fresh as it’s doubtful the farmer’s market produce that is sold was picked that same day and most produce is shipped in a day.

    It’s really the epitome of stupid, mindless, caucasian liberalism, but I digress. I grew up in WI for 30 long years and now live in Tennessee where I finally feel like I live in America again!

    • Grown local
      Grown local says:

      It’s not about freshness, it’s about avoiding mass production and industrialization of food.

      Supporting local farming is essentially supporting natural farming because local is usually small.

      This means biodiversity for plants, natural diets for animals which means no antibiotics, and a greater likelihood of ethical treatment of the animals among other things.

      What part of that is stupid and mindless? Serious question here.

      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        Although it is about freshness, because supermarket produce is picked early so that it looks good on the shelf.

      • William Bruce
        William Bruce says:

        Although perhaps your question was merely directed at Dan, I would say that supporting local farming is often “stupid and mindless” because it shows an abysmal ignorance of modern production and economics, e.g., “avoiding mass production and industrialization of food.” To carry the point further, I suspect that the phrase “natural farming” is semantically misleading, and the entire emphasis on the “natural” element of the buy-local mentality is horribly exaggerated (or tragically misplaced).

        The brunt of your argument:

        “This means biodiversity for plants, natural diets for animals which means no antibiotics, and a greater likelihood of ethical treatment of the animals among other things.”

        Even assuming that all of these things are consistently true, it is questionable whether or not they are worth realizing. I have little doubt in my mind that Dan, whom you address, would say that a reasonable cost-benefit analysis would vindicate *his* sentiment. Being a rather impecunious fellow, I am inclined to agree. The beauty of “the mass production and industrialization of food” is that I can take advantage of it without geographical frustration and usually at a lower cost than my local fare.

        In responding, I may have shifted the focus of the conversation somewhat, but such was also the case with your response to Dan.

      • Grown local
        Grown local says:

        William, you failed to make a single argument in your response.

        Please show me the “abysmal ignorance” because I’d like to be enlightened.

        That you find biodiversity, healthy livestock, and ethical behavior to be questionable pursuits would be a good place to elaborate for starters.

        From my perspective, it seems as though you’ve done little to no reading or research to understand the position against which you are posturing.

      • Mark Havelling
        Mark Havelling says:

        Also, buying local means that the produce/goods don’t have to be shipped long distances, burning up fossil fuels and polluting the environment. And it keeps money in the local community, enriching the same people who will in turn, pay your salary.

      • William Bruce
        William Bruce says:

        @Grown local: My intention in posting was not, in the strict sense, to make any sort of argument. Rather, I was merely attempting to gesture at some different ideas — ideas that might vindicate statements that certain parties have made (Dan included). Unfortunately, you seem to have ignored some important qualifications in my statement, “often” being the most essential to my purpose.

        For good or for ill, this comments section really is no place for an involved philosophical discussion of issues not germane to the matters in Ms. Trunk’s post. The same is true for lengthy conversations about economics. If you truly do wish to be “enlightened,” as you say, by discussing this with me, you are welcome to do so by email. Therefore, I will leave those matters alone, and address only one issue here: cost-benefit analysis.

        It is important to understand the manner in which I and others (I assume Dan is among them) are going to weigh the value of the claimed and actual benefits of “buying local,” particularly how we weigh them against the costs. It is, I would hope, obvious to all that “buying local” is not some absolute good that is to be effected without cost. There are crucial questions to be asked about the production and distribution process, the signals of its costs (such as price), and the results of the extended process (with buying as a signalling element). Then there are the more holistic questions: What else might be done with the resources employed in such endeavours? Is anything else to be preferred, given the costs and benefits? My own answer to the final question is pedestrian, but still carefully qualified: “Yes, most of the time.”

        Alas, I can only hope that my statements do not effect another uncharitable interpretation of my “posturing” and lack of understanding.

      • William Bruce
        William Bruce says:

        @Mark: Fortunately, the issue of pollution is not a significant one in this case, as the amount produced per item shipped represents an almost incredible degree of efficiency. This fact, coupled with the one that “locals” are often terribly inefficient in their production-to-pollution ratio, leads me to little additional concern about the issue of transportational pollution. The price mechanism takes care of the costs to individuals and companies, leaving only the negative externality of pollution not accounted for by taxes, permits, etc. Therefore, you must forgive my thinking the issue germane but trivial.

        For the matter of “keeping money in the local community” and enriching those who pay one’s salary, I see two distinct reasons to discourage such thinking. The first is simple: I can think of no way in which that is any sort of “good,” except perhaps if you are playing politics with the locals. The second reason is more subtle, but far more compelling and complete. It pertains to those notions being murky at best, and simply untrue at worst. For an explanation of the “murkiness,” see my discussion with KateNonymous in these comments. For the matter of simple untruth, consider the fact that many of us are *not* in any meaningful way paid by our community. That also relates to the issue of “locality” becoming a plenitude of different things, as increasingly larger numbers of people work “outside” of their “local communities.” Do forgive the scare quotes, but that is the only way to do the semantics justice.

      • Casual Surfer
        Casual Surfer says:

        And if you want another argument for local, small farms instead of industrialized agriculture here are two:

        1) The great Irish potato famine – where overproduction of a single crop in a small area led to devastating results. A fungus was able to spread rapidly & destroy the crop. If the government had allowed some farmers to plant corn or another grain this would have been averted.

        2) Industrial agriculture uses an immense amount of oil & natural gas to run tractors, fertilize (most commercial fertilizers are petrochemical-based), and transport food. 17% of the US energy is used to run farm equipment. That isn’t including the cost of trucking produce across the country in refrigerated trucks.

        A local, diverse food market minimizes the risk & cost to our longterm survival.

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        “grown local,” it is documented that many of the “sellers” at farmer’s markets either buy their produce at a grocery store or obtain it from someplace OTHER than a local farm.

        The idea of a local farm is “romantic” so people will pay more for the same produce they can get at Aldi. Hopefully Penelope has checked out Aldi near Middleton as the produce there is AWESOME and you can often times get strawberries in summer for only 99 cents, on sale! I once saw a guy at Aldi, who was dressed like he looked like a farmer, loading up on cheap blueberries and strawberries. I presume he was going to:

        1. Resell them at a lame, mindless farmer’s market for twice the price OR MORE to someone like you.
        2. Freeze them for winter, to eat at a later date.

        What “processing” other than picking do you think goes on nationally or other places that doesn’t go on locally? Give me a f’in break.

        Thank God I live in Tennessee.

    • Matt Secor
      Matt Secor says:

      That’s right, you show all those small-minded people what is what, with that big mind of yours.

      I’m with Grown Local here. I think you’re missing the point.

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      “OK, so if buying local in Stoughton is great in Stoughton, why can’t someone in madison buy the great Stoughton produce in madison?”

      Where I live, that distance from farm to market would absolutely be considered local. But if I’m in Virginia and eating an apple from Washington state (or Chile, or New Zealand), that’s a whole different kind of apple.

      • William Bruce
        William Bruce says:

        Another beauty of “the mass production and industrialization of food” is wonderfully illustrated by what you describe: An erosion of any straightforward sense of “locality.”

        That, I think, is the supreme challenge to anyone defending a “buy local” mentality (though not necessarily a “buy natural/organic” mentality).

      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        Whereas I would suggest that “local” is always relative. It’s like defining “upstate New York.”

        This is why I ask how someone is using “local,” and sometimes I’ll ask why they chose their definition. Then the questions are for me: does their definition match mine? Do I find it acceptably similar? How important is that to me in the particular moment?

        It’s hardly an earth-shaking conundrum, and ultimately my response to the proffered definition (buy something, don’t buy something, get in a fist fight over what “local” means) is based on communication. And as I don’t care enough to get in a fist fight about it, I think “supreme challenge” is overstating the case rather significantly.

        (“Natural” is also open to interpretation, BTW, and definitions of “organic” are rather hotly debated as well.)

      • William Bruce
        William Bruce says:

        @Kate: Although I agree with your reasoning, from premise to conclusion, I do not accept the premise of your argument. “Local” is not always relative.

        Obviously, semantic clarification is critical to any fruitful examination of the issue. However, I fear that such a matter can quickly become a red herring. The issue is not “relative vs. absolute,” but rather “singular vs. plural.”

        What the interconnectedness of our modern world has effected is a plurality of “locality” that has made the entire idea of “buying local” a multitudinous and multifarious affair. I think it is rather obvious that we face a far different (and far larger) set of economic choices than our forebears. Therefore, I say that the idea of the “local” is quaint. In doing so, I defend my statement that our economic and technological circumstances are the supreme challenge to a “buy local” mentality.

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        I have read that the logistics at the welfare food store I buy MY produce at for dirt cheap, Aldi, is so incredibly good and efficient that their produce is often times fresher than the “farmer’s market” produce which, without a doubt, can be picked at any point in time and resold just like a grocery store.

        However, if it means paying $3 for green beans that can be bought elsewhere for a $1, so you can smile at the friendly Hmong man with his 8 little kids who also has the added benefit of not speaking English that well, and that makes you feel “diverse” and relieves you of your liberal white guilt for your inherited oppression by your ancestors, then go nuts!

    • Liza
      Liza says:

      Buy local doesn’t strictly equal buy fresh.

      It means you are supporting your local economy. A farmer goes to the market to make that extra buck, the produce he sells to have shipped probably only make .10 to the pound, but if he goes to the local market he can get .25 to the pound. People will gladly pay that because it goes directly to the farmer and its probably cheaper than what his produce is selling for in the store two states away.

      I guess if you really want to compare, I would take a stupid liberal who understands local economy over a naive conservative who thinks being liberal is a fashion trend.

      You really should know that the small town mentality in the upper Midwest would be very concerned over the local economy. I don’t think you have any clue what you’re talking about.

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        Liza, get a grip and THINK about what you are saying? Show me any proof that the produce you BUY was ACTUALLY grown locally? I bet 50% of that produce at farmer’s markets is either store bought or GROWN elsewhere. There is no guarantee, unless you PERSONALLY KNOW the farmer, that it was grown locally.

        Where I live in TN, I can attest that the chocolate milk I once bought at one of these circus shows WAS from a local farm because the local farm family is WELL KNOWN and they sell their dairy products at all kinds of LOCAL stores. I only bought it because it WAS fresh, I could care less if this milk was local or from Vietnam!

        Under your logic, should we also not employ anyone locally to EXPORT agriculture products, as that hurts a LOCAL economy somewhere else?

        Give me a break, we can’t live like hermits in the 21st century WITHOUT a substantial decrease in our standard of living.

        Go OBAMA! (tongue in cheek)

    • Ariella
      Ariella says:

      I live in Madison and think the above-quoted comment is ridiculous. In my experience, Madison’s liberal caucasians (oh noes! white people who care about the earth and others! run!) consider “local” to be produce/meat grown/raised in Wisconsin. For example, I belong to a CSA that grows its food in Blue Mounds, about 20-30 miles outside Madison. Last year, I belonged to a CSA in that grew its food in Viroqua, about five hours away from Madison by car. I considered both CSAs to be “local,” as compared to purchasing tomatos from New Jersey, cherries from Michigan, or apples from Washington.

      However, local is a relative term: I’d rather buy an apple from Washington than one from Chile because Washington is more “local” to me than Chile. Furthermore, I’d prefer to support the US economy rather than Chile’s economy. The same goes for buying “local” within Wisconsin: I’d rather support farms within Wisconsin, where I actually CAN speak with the farmers and look at their farming practices, than buying from outside Wisconsin.

      To suggest that there are people in Madison who won’t buy food/materials from Stoughton because it’s not “local” enough is spurious. I doubt that’s ever happened, and even if it has, that’s not the point of the “buy local” movement. You’re deliberately missing the point if you’re suggesting otherwise. But what else should I expect from someone who doesn’t consider living in Wisconsin to be living in “America”?

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        Ariella, living in WI was like living in some communist People’s Republic. My grandparents didn’t emigrate and work in steel mills so I could live under a communist regime in Madison. Being that my family, by the GRACE OF GOD was from OH and not WI, I grew up with TRADITIONAL AMERICAN values and know the difference between capitalism and a forced communist state.

        I LOVE LIVING IN DIXIE. My brother has left as well for the free’er, greener pastures of NV and I hope and pray that my other two siblings will one day leave. There is hope yet.

    • Erika
      Erika says:

      What? In Madison, it’s hard to buy local and get much closer than Stoughton. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make–other than figuring out a roundabout way to make a pot-shot at liberals.

      You might try again when you can figure out a way to do it and make sense.

  3. Erika
    Erika says:

    I’ve been in Madison for almost 9 years now, after living in major cities on each coast, and I think–just in the last year–that I’ve finally come to accept that I may be here for a long time. But at times (like yesterday, when someone said she was going to the Bay Area for vacation, and my first thought was Green Bay), that’s a difficult realization…

    • Dan
      Dan says:

      Erika, my in-law’s still live in Green Bay, and worse yet, are LIFERS. I can attest as conservative as I am, I would RATHER live in Madison than Green Bay. At least in Madison I could be a closet conservative whereas in Green Bay the comments I hear like obesity is “caused by genetics” are so incredibly ignorant that I’d rather live with the lefty wierdos. However, I much prefer Tennesee and not have to deal with that state ever again.

  4. Seth Rosen
    Seth Rosen says:

    Penelope, you made the right choice to go to B&B. It’s clear from your blog that what inspires you to create are your kids, and individuals like the Farmer. Your work related posts are always great, but the passion you show when talking about life and relationships is much deeper. I’m looking forward to reading your book about these topics when you’re ready to write it. There is a great book there, and ideas that will really shine if given more room to grow.

    I couldn’t be happier to see how well Brazen is doing, great work, and keep leading the charge.

  5. says:

    I grew up in a large metro area (Detroit) and now live in a small one in northern Michigan. I know exactly what you mean when you realize that you’ve become what I call “a townie.” I’ve now been her 13 years and now only am I a townie, I find myself not really liking going down to Detroit. Too busy. Too commercial. Too full of Detroiters.

    What took me a long time to get over is that “big” is somehow better. For me, it’s not. And I think for you there also seems to be a little bit of peace that comes from being away from intellectual interference that comes with big city life.

  6. rennie
    rennie says:

    "We can't hold hands here. I'll look whipped."

    Is this guy in junior high? Who cares what you look like.

  7. diarrhea
    diarrhea says:

    I grew up in a large metro area (Detroit) and now live in a small one in northern Michigan. I know exactly what you mean when you realize that you’ve become what I call “a townie.” I’ve now been her 13 years and now only am I a townie, I find myself not really liking going down to Detroit. Too busy. Too commercial. Too full of Detroiters.

    What took me a long time to get over is that “big” is somehow better. For me, it’s not. And I think for you there also seems to be a little bit of peace that comes from being away from intellectual interference that comes with big city life.


  8. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    “I tell him that I have to write to make sense of everything.”

    I completely understand this. However, there is a difference between writing and publishing. You can write something and keep it private (not inherently the same as keeping it secret, BTW). But when you publish it, as you do here, it isn’t even remotely private.

    Is there a reason why you can’t write about the farmer, to make sense of things, but do so offline? Because while I understand your desire to avoid secrets, and I understand how writing can help you grapple with ideas and relationships, I also think that your refusal to accommodate his desire for privacy is disrespectful. It’s possible to meet your need for understanding and his desire for privacy. But when you just do what you want, without (apparently) looking for a way to make both of you happy, well, that’s part of why people have used the word “narcissistic.”

    • Shawn
      Shawn says:

      Isn’t calling someone “narcissistic” in a public conversation/debate an act of narcissism in and of itself?

      A synonym for narcissistic is egocentrism. Someone feeling the need to say that someone else is narcissistic isn’t all to different than saying – “It is MY God-given duty to point out “said person” is not acting within the parameters of what society deems as “normal” because their actions don’t align with how I feel they should be acting.”

      Ah the paradox/curse of human egocentrism. If you don’t like/agree with it, don’t read it…or at least keep your opinion to yourself. Else (in this case) you are guilty of the same transgression that you felt the need to point out.

      On the other hand, you could always live your life never to fall in love with an artist or appreciate their work.

      Great artists are born with an unstoppable burning desire to express the world around them, this includes the people who come in and out of their lives. So if you don’t ever want your “privacy” laid out on a canvas, in a hedonistic sculpture, or the lurid details written into history of man for all to see, then don’t hang out with them or become a voyeur of their creations.

      Then again you could always just except them for the beauty and excitement they bring to your life.

      PT's love for farmer is an ongoing life lesson for both parties involved and since the story is from real life (or at least I hope it is – ) that makes the expression of it a life lesson (a gift if you will) to all who read it and have an opinion.

      I love how PT expresses her thoughts, but I also love the comments she ignites with her unbridled honesty. She says what others would be thinking if they were in that situation, but would never admit to. It's like reading a gourmet meal instead of eating it.

      Sit back and enjoy!

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      It looks like we can boil your response down a bit:
      The one who smelt it, dealt it.

      It’s certainly possible to read without reading critically–thinking about what the author (particularly in a first-person account) is intentionally and unintentionally revealing about him- or herself. But that’s your choice of how to respond to art, and it’s not the only valid one.

      The issue of whether something is or is not art, of course, is its own topic.

      However, none of this answers the original point of my comment: Why does Penelope’s desire to reveal trump the farmer’s desire to remain unrevealed? Why is there no evident attempt to find middle ground between these two?

    • Terence
      Terence says:

      Not only cheesehead or brathead. you are a sconnie.
      Penelope, you need to ask farmer when is he having a brat fry. Enjoy your post? Sounds like Devil’s Lake.

  9. nicole
    nicole says:

    You’re way to smart and self sufficient to let a guy who doesn’t know what he wants have such power over you.

    p.s i still love you.

  10. gioconda novellino
    gioconda novellino says:

    The blogs I like the most are the ones about the farmer. I really, really love them because they remind me of my husband, after 22 years I still don´t get him in a lot a ways. He´s my “the farmer”

  11. Alexis Grant
    Alexis Grant says:

    By using this title, you make us think the post has something to do with career… but really it’s about how you want to find love. Calling you out on the misleading headline, Penelope!

  12. Kirk
    Kirk says:

    We’ve clients in the area owned by a multinational org. based in Europe. Several years ago, invited me up for a site visit, the topic came up about what the location of world HQ was like & without hesitation the leader of that organization looked at me and said, “Denmark looks just like Wisconsin, less the Ocean view” ~had to be there, but it was pretty darn funny.

    But come on PT, you passed up Guy AND the Nimitz? Yikes!! I don’t know, on second thought, it couldve made ya looked whipped to all the other peoe who would have LOVED to have gone. (Guy, I’ll be available for the next event)

    • Dan
      Dan says:

      Kirk, when I vacationed in Germany I thought the same thing about WI and Germany, the trees and such looked identical to those in WI.

  13. marcelino
    marcelino says:

    “reading a romantic email fifty-five times, you don’t look obsessed”

    Not exactly, however I keep phone messages for months, just so I can start my day hearing their voice, AND, ah, 5 or six more times during the day.

    JMBEAUFORD says:

    I think we’re moving forward now. Great post! Get clear on what’s TRULY important to you, stay focused, stay positive, create.

    All the Best!


  15. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    This post seemed to be a wonderful description of romanic involvement mixed with how that may or may not affect career improvement choices, and that sometimes allowing the personal time to win over the career may be good for life and yet, saying no might be good for the career anyway. Obviously the post is more complex. What surprises me are the comments that seem at times to be an argument about the grown local concept, a small versus big town discussion and even a type of liberal versus conservative political discussion. So a personal love story and how a career moment was passed without loss becomes a political city versus rural settee that morphs some into past distain some readers have for anything or anyone bucolic seems to differ from what I took from the “article”. That does not mean I know the intended points of the blog anymore than anyone just I got something different from the discussion and was reminded of the reality that: whether it is for a moment or a lifetime, and whether it involves sex or not, everyone needs and wants moments where love is felt, shared and cherished. The moments can be quick and come and go but as long as there are moments of love we are ready to face more challenges in life and at work with a refreshed soul.

  16. GregoryDopka
    GregoryDopka says:

    Is it really “The sign of a great career is having great opportunities, and saying no” or that “The sign of being in love is having great opportunities, and saying no?” I think a both!!!

    • Dana
      Dana says:

      Actually, I think it’s a sign that boy-crazy behavior by women continues to impair judgment well past high school. I’m glad you had fun, Pen. Strikes me as a very short-sighted decision to make for a CEO who is responsible for a growing (and sometimes struggling) business that has employees and relies on you to do the type of networking that you would have done had you taken Guy up on his invite.

  17. Helen
    Helen says:

    I love that you could easily summarize your purpose “Then I say, "I want to be known for being honest in my pursuit of a good life.” I’ve been asking that question often when I’ve read some of your posts and it makes me happy to know your purpose and see how well you are living it.

  18. Nailed IT
    Nailed IT says:

    “reading a romantic email fifty-five times, you don’t look obsessed”

    This is why there’s a gender pay inequality in the work place.

  19. CJ
    CJ says:

    I have to say tha tI loved this post. Your hope for happiness is infectious. Excellent writing too!

  20. Wait a minute
    Wait a minute says:

    When I read this post, what struck me was how it was all about you reacting to the farmer, and what would he think and what would it take for you to keep him and what do you have to do to please him and what to wear etc. Sadly this is the way so many women participate in relationships. In the post this guy seems to be self-contained, inscrutable, and in control of the relationship, while you sacrifice for him and the relationship. Why not try reversing the roles and see how that feels.

    • Editormum
      Editormum says:

      “Why not try reversing the roles and see how that feels.”

      As I recall, she did that. Last year. And he dumped her.

      I don’t agree with changing who you fundamentally are in order to gain or retain a relationship, but if PT has decided that The Farmer is the man for her, and if she is willing to try some self-sacrifice to see if that can make the relationship work, then I won’t give her too much grief.

      SOMETIMES, changing who you are can be good, if (and only if) it brings you to a place of greater maturity and happiness.

  21. Deanne
    Deanne says:


    I have to tell you. My mother told me to NEVER marry a farmer. But I think her advice was really to never marry a poor, working farmer who could never take a vacation. So, be careful with the farmer. Being a farmer is the hardest, most stressful, most rewarding career choice a person can make. Have you seen the price of milk lately? I think you should talk about farm careers more in your posts.

    The Farmer sounds like a careful guy. He has to take many risks everyday being a farmer, the last thing he needs is more risks socially, like holding hands with you in public. Because if it doesn’t work he’ll have to answer the question, “what ever happened to that brown haired chic you were holding hands with at the fair?” and then he’ll feel sad too.

    And for the record, I didn’t marry a farmer… but still married a get your hands dirty kind of guy. Best of both worlds.

    Just my observation as a former farm girl who loves the small city of Madison. Keep the posts coming, they are great when you talk about the Farmer.

  22. Anna
    Anna says:

    Your post is supposed to be about great opportunities… and there’s your oral sex in it. Looks a bit forced to me.

  23. Ruby Leigh
    Ruby Leigh says:

    Hi P T

    “We can't hold hands here. I'll look whipped” sounds like a typical midwesterner.

    This post brought back memories of my wisconsin days of yore. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota “the big city” according to my friends in WI. I love it, but there is still something rememberble and authentic about beers and wings. My gf’s complain about what they call “Minnesota Men”… but while I know they are sometimes annoyingly subtle or shy – they are often very authentic.

    Love your posts… keep them coming!

    -Ruby Leigh

  24. Honestly
    Honestly says:

    All this “big city” “small town” talk is so lame. I’ve lived in Wisconsin all my life and in Madison for the past 9 years. Who care’s where you are from? If you take your life’s mentality from the population of the city you grew up in you need to do some self-evaluation.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the most important thing you can do with your life is be a good person and enjoy your life as much as you possibly can.

    PT no one will look back on your life after your gone and say, she was the most amazing “pitch woman” or man her PP presentations really moved me. It will be, she was a good mother, freind and companion. That doesn’t mean you have to give up a career in persuit of love/motherhood/friendship… it just requires balance to do everything each day (work, mother, love) to the best of your ability on that day.

    I seems as if the farmer is helping you add more love into each day which is a good thing, but don’t forget love applies to yourself as well. Don’t worry too much about changing for him unless it’s a change you want to make first and foremost for yourself.

  25. Cheesebabe
    Cheesebabe says:

    I loved this post and think it delivered perfectly on its title. In fact, your opening ‘graphs about keeping the toothbrush and reading the email 50 times made me shiver–I felt you were looking over my shoulder as I am prone to the same exorbitant behavior.

    And it is true, as a singleton in Milwaukee, I make similar choices–out to drinks with a date (because I do want a date, I do want a relationship) or out networking for work is a decision I make frequently. Knowing how to choose between them, knowing which one is important when is key to reading people and understanding yourself and what you’re capable of.

    This was a fantastic post.

    Go for the farmer, the challenging ones are the only ones worth it. ;)

  26. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    I loved this post, mostly because the farmer asked the same question about your propensity for mentioning oral sex {or lack thereof} in every post that I asked a few months ago – you crucified me back then, but you managed to be nice to the farmer. Shows real restraint on your part, Penelope. And since I am about as far from a farmer as one can get, it made me smile.
    I did have to read the first few papragrphs over more than once before I figured out that “Burgers and Brew” is a festival – I thought it was the name of a local burger place (“he invited me to Burgers and Brew”) FYI, since other posters are getting picky, it’s “schmoozing” not smoozing.
    This post goes well with your recent transparency theme. It helps readers understand where you’re coming from, and maybe helps you understand where you’re going.

  27. Andy
    Andy says:

    I live in a differnt orbit of life (relatively speaking) and reading your posts is a bit voyurestic, but they are always just a great read because of your style! This one was interesting and like farmer I am not a big fan of PDA’s. Can’t wait to read the next saga.

  28. Erin
    Erin says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I have a vague connection to your farmer – my best friend is his best friend’s sister-in-law. I believe this best friend’s wife and daughter (Rebecca and Elisia) will be on his farm checking out the pigs sometime soon. How silly is that? :) I love saying it because it’s one of those silly six steps of separation things.
    Anyway, he sounds quintessential Midwestern to me. I live in Minnesota, so I understand that sort of guy. It just takes patience :) They find their own ways to show you that they care, which you’ve obviously noticed by what he said at the very end of your post. I wish you the best of luck :)

  29. Sara
    Sara says:

    Thanks for the link to Pam Slim – it was interesting. On the farmer, I have just two questions – When you’re with him, do you feel like you’re the luckiest woman in the world to be with someone so wonderful? When he looks at you does he feel the same way about you?

  30. miss muffett
    miss muffett says:

    The farmer is too immature for you. You should have gone to the USS Nimitz get-together. There are many wealthy, intelligent, single men in the Bay Area.

  31. Julio
    Julio says:

    This entry reminds me of a line from – INTO THE WOODS – my favorite. “But if life were made moments, how would we ever know we had one?” It´s good that its not, so that the ones that stick, stick. Thanks!

  32. Jeremy Day
    Jeremy Day says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Somehow I am a sucker for posts like this. It’s a perfect story from the heart, and it is how I choose to write and live as well!

    And don’t listen to lala or miss muffett. You do what you want. You want to be honest in your pursuit of life you got it. Right answer! I’m sure he loves you for saying it. Now you gotta stick this one out, whether you last or not, you gotta see it through. Otherwise, are you being true to yourself?

    You’ve studied all the happiness literature. Does it mention anything about listening to other’s opinions? ;-)


  33. Christine
    Christine says:

    Who cares if the farmer is scared to hold hands in public. Those are the social norms of his world and we all have them- even those of us who are pretending not to.
    I think it is sweet that he admitted his fear of being seen as whipped. He will likely get over it eventually anyways.

    I love this story of you and the farmer.

    It sounds like you two will learn a lot form each other even if you don’t end up in a long term relationship. Maybe sometimes it is better not to become partners.

    It could keep it more magic and romantic.

    Mismatched relationships are possibly the most honest and beautiful because they go beyond the superficial social bullshit masks we all wear such as: ‘city person’ ‘country hick’ etc.

    People need to live a little. Have you seen Vicky Christina Barcelona? When Vicky meets a man who is out of her comfort zone it actually wakes her up out of her middle class stupor.

    This is way more life affirming than dating a boring politically correct middle class city guy who wears and says all the right things.

    Rock on PT.

  34. Dree
    Dree says:

    FADE IN:

    EXT. DAY – The sun sets over a landscape of green rolling hills, patchwork and wooden fences. A MAN, mid-40’s, crests the hill in silhouette on a HORSE.

    MAN (spurring horse)

    Cattle moo, hustle across farm and into paddock. Horse REARS and Man TIPS HAT at camera.

    Man DISMOUNTS and KISSES WOMAN, of indeterminate age.

    PAN OUT to reveal that woman is standing on medium-sized boulder.

    CUE Farmer Cologne Bottle and TITLE: “The Farmer”.

    Introducing “The Farmer” Cologne. Sweaty hats. Hay. Tucked in shirts. The Farmer for Men.

  35. derzafanistori
    derzafanistori says:

    I like the sentiment in your last paragraph – not being able to tell if someone (more so when this is someone you’re sure you care deeply about). People are so often wrong presuming that if something makes them happy, it surely makes other people (significant others included) happy too.

  36. derzafanistori
    derzafanistori says:

    It seems that I lost part of my comment, ups! It should have been:

    I like the sentiment in your last paragraph – not being able to tell if someone (more so when this is someone you’re sure you care deeply about)is happy or not. People are so often wrong presuming that if something makes them happy, it surely makes other people (significant others included) happy too.

  37. Jo
    Jo says:

    No no no no, not this guy again. I honestly hate that when you write about him, I see every relationship me or my friends have had with a guy that turns out to be an asshole. An asshole that you try to change yourself for. I completely understand that every relationship requires compromise and censoring the thoughts that go through your head. But not in order to change yourself for someone who sounds like a controlling pubescent boy.

  38. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    To all the people saying “get out; you are in denial”….I say “exit your “movie-relationship” world, shut-up, and examine your own relationship”. PT, I have been going through the same cycle with the man I love for almost 3 years, and we are happy. We are different but happy. Building 1 life with 2 unique people is always a challenege: either you meld the things that really aren’t that important to you and accept the things that are…….or you figure out you are not happy and move on. My guy would “dump” me whenever there were really rough issues that we were not communicating about effectively….it was cyclic and happened less and less over time. Communication improved and we were not happy apart, so we realized it was him freaking out………not him wanting out………I hope, if you make each other happy, the same is true for you!

  39. Erica
    Erica says:

    For KateNonymous who thought it was disrespectful to keep writing about the farmer, can you explain the difference between writing something privately and keeping it a secret? And can you explain it in a way that makes sense to someone like PT who lost years of her life because she didn’t realize she was keeping the wrong kind of secrets? See her post on “How to decide how much to reveal about yourself.”

    For PT, you say the difference now is that you are being more observant. But in both your examples (seeing the other couples not touching, and having him touch your back in the dark), he was the one who explained it to you. Seems like he is making an effort. Although I’ll admit I liked that you noticed that he kissed you without pushing you to a lower position.

    For those who say he should get over himself and hold hands in public — different cultures have different norms. When in Rome and all that.

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      “For KateNonymous who thought it was disrespectful to keep writing about the farmer, can you explain the difference between writing something privately and keeping it a secret?”

      Sure. Because it’s largely about intent. A secret is something you’re ashamed of–something that makes you feel bad when you encounter it or its results. Writing something privately (or just thinking it, but writing can be a process for organizing thoughts) doesn’t mean you’re ashamed of it; it means that it’s about your internal understanding, and you realize that not everyone needs to see all of the gears of that machine. One does not need to blurt out everything to avoid being secretive.

      Is that an overgeneralization? Sure. But often that’s where you start, and then find the nuances.

      “And can you explain it in a way that makes sense to someone like PT who lost years of her life because she didn’t realize she was keeping the wrong kind of secrets? See her post on “How to decide how much to reveal about yourself.””

      Probably not, at least not in a blog comment. And, really, do I need to? I did read that post, and found it very sad, very moving, and very inspirational. Clearly she’s had a lot to deal with, and I’m sorry that’s the case. However, I believe that all of us have a responsibility to minimize the effects of our own issues–no matter how big–on others. Penelope needs not to keep secrets for her own survival. I get that. But that doesn’t mean that everyone around her has to be okay with the way she discusses them publicly, particularly if they’ve asked her not to.

      As you point out, it can be a more complicated issue than it appears on its face. But Penelope (or anyone else) has to identify those nuances for herself. I don’t see that she’s identified this one, which is why I’m pointing it out. Maybe she’ll think about it and decide that I’ve got a point, or decide that I don’t. Or maybe she’ll dismiss it out of hand. That’s up to her. But explain it in its entirety? No. That’s a whole lot of counseling sessions, not a blog comment.

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