Good plans feel unsteady

Cullen left. It’s unclear if he has dumped Melissa. I think he has. (If you missed earlier installments on this story, here’s where I find Cullen in Melissa’s bed.)

This photo is from when Cullen was excited to be in lots of photos on my blog.

Good plans feel unsteady

It was the day that a TV writer emailed me about adapting my blog for the big screen. Or semi-big screen. Or whatever we are calling TV now, but I have to say, as an aside, that TV is the new hipster medium because episodes allow for more character development than a single movie. I heard this from the Farmer, and he’s not a guy who could make this stuff up. And we are watching Breaking Bad and I want to be absurd and funny like those writers.

This is what happened with Cullen. He agreed to redesign my blog in exchange for free room and board. And then he realized he didn’t have time to do that, because he has a full time job.

Meanwhile, we were having big Facebook drama on the farm because Melissa does not feel like she has a boyfriend unless the guy puts in on his Facebook status. So Cullen did that.

And then, the day after the status changed I told them that I think they need to live together as boyfriend and girlfriend somewhere else because it’s not working for us here on the farm.

So Cullen went back to Austin. He told Melissa that she can come back with him, but he doesn’t want to live with her.

Melissa said, “How come you want to live with me on the farm but you don’t want to live with me in Austin?”

Cullen said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question.”

Melissa decided to stay on the farm. Cullen decided to go. But they decided that neither of them will change their Facebook status. Cullen said, “I’ll be back.” And maybe to show that, or maybe because they were so cheap, he left his green rubber boots behind.

We said goodbye to Cullen at 6am when he left to catch an 8:30 am plane. Melissa drove him to the airport.

But not really. Because five minutes after Cullen says to me, “Okay. See you soon. I’ll be back,” he said to Melissa in the car, “I actually don’t have a plane ticket. I have a train ticket. I just didn’t want to tell Penelope.”

I’m not sure why. I do not have anything against trains.

Three days pass. Cullen writes an email to Melissa explaining why he had to leave. We read it at lunch even though I told Melissa she is not allowed to bring her iPhone to lunch.

The Farmer reads the email and says, “Guys should never send stuff to girls in writing. They just show it to all their friends.”

Melissa tells me she is going to die if I don’t write on my blog that Cullen and Melissa are not together. “I need closure,” she says.

I tell her I have to write about careers.

Melissa says, “Why? You never write about careers. Anyway, look at James Altucher. He’s a finance blogger who doesn’t force himself to focus on finance. And we love reading his blog.”

“When I am independently wealthy like James Altucher then I’ll write about your love life.”

The Farmer says, “Penelope’s career advice chapters are like the whaling chapters in Moby Dick. You like the storyline about psychotic behavior, but you need the whaling chapters to keep things based in reality.”

I wish there were something on Facebook for me to quantify how much I am in love with the Farmer. I give him a ten for his combination of intellect and strength to hold my goat down so I can milk her. I think maybe I can make a plan for my blog that is a little scary because I feel secure with the Farmer. You need to feel secure in one place to create instability in another.

Melissa gives me more blogging instructions: “I want to make sure you write that I’m sad.”

The Farmer shakes his head. “No. You can’t do that.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Do you two know anything about playing hard to get?”

I laugh. The Farmer broke up with me about 50 times. Twenty-five of those times were because he thought he should be the one doing the chasing. “Guys do the chasing,” he would tell me. And then I’d kiss him.

“No,” I say. “Melissa and I have no idea how to play hard to get.”

The Farmer says, “You cannot email Cullen to tell him you miss him. That gives him an opening. He left, and he has to make his own opening to come back. People care more about their plans if they make the plan themselves.”

This seems true. It seems true for all plans. For all departures. For all entrances. And you can tell if it’s your own plan by how lost you feel. People who do their own plans feel lost most of the time. People who do other peoples’ plans feel on track most of the time.

Melissa says, “Fine. Is that going to be your post? Fine. But I want to take a picture for the blog post about being sad.”


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  1. Lex Luthor
    Lex Luthor says:

    Maybe subconsciously intentional, but the photo at the top is most certainly a Wisconsin rendition of “American Gothic.” The Farmer rocks with his Moby Dick analogies. I would buy veal from him any day.

  2. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Dear Penelope,

    I think this essay is good character development for the Farmer.

    Aaron and I also watch Breaking Bad – he calls it his favorite drama on TV (though it ties with Big Love). I am impressed with the lead actor, myself. Can you believe he is the dad in Malcom in the Middle? Now, that’s what I call a serious acting range!

    Television is completely different nowadays. I tell people – it’s the golden age of television. It’s groundbreaking what the writers are doing, to me anyways. But you are funny and silly, to the same extent I believe.

    Got to go cook a late supper now, but glad to hear how in love you are with the farmer. Love grows deeper over time and when you are able to get through the obstacles and tough patches, it only seems to get sweeter.

  3. reqwrewrew
    reqwrewrew says:

    Search on this blog “Moby Dick”, and you’ll see the same ideas regurgitated – either good blogging is like Moby Dick, or this writer thinks she herself writes like Melville, etc. etc.
    Been reading this blog for too long. Time for the reality tv-show.

  4. sophie
    sophie says:

    You know how Gen Y is becoming this group of foodies, going back to a natural way of cooking and eating? They say they grew up thinking food came from a package and now they want something more. They want real food, with nutritional value and flavor. They take time to cook from scratch. They create a meal that not only tastes good, but has meaning.

    Well, they should look at sex the same way. They’ve grown up seeing sex as fast food. A relationship without the relationship. Maybe it’s time to think of it like homegrown food and cooking from scratch. Maybe they should take time to get to know one another and truly love one another. Maybe sex should be the culminating act of a relationship instead of the initial act. Maybe it should have more meaning.

  5. terri
    terri says:

    The question in, can you develop a reality show with goats as the main characters? My guess is it would be better than most of the reality shows out there…

  6. biffpow
    biffpow says:

    Wait, someone has really entered into a discussion with you about doing a television show based on your blog. Seriously.

    Trunk, I think it’s lovely that you care about Melissa as much as you do, but you need to write more about the TV thing. Reality series or sitcom? Would you be in it or would they hire actors to play you? And, no offense, but what is the plot? You know that your blog has no actual plot, right? Not that reality shows usually do either, I realize.

    Melissa does need to stand up straight, PS. And stand up to needy, aimless leeches like Cullen.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I get contacted by Hollywood types a lot, actually. It never amounts to anything. When something really happens, believe me, it’ll be all over the blog.


  7. Dale
    Dale says:

    Just a thought, but Cullen’s persona non grata on the farm isn’t he:)
    The goat is really doing a number on his boots.
    Been married for a long time, and have had alot of female friends. Given my experience, those pictures seem to symbolize him or rather his masculinity being trodden upon and then butted… ouch! Is the goat female by chance? That would put the issue beyond doubt…

    Just my2centsworth.

  8. TwistedByKnaves
    TwistedByKnaves says:

    I’m confused by the anti Melissa/pro goat picture comments. She did take them, didn’t she?

    Then she IS interesting and I want her to be happy.

    Anyone who has followed this blog will know that any one bust-up is only a tiny part of the story of a relationship. We will see, in the fullness of time, what we will see.

  9. SSW
    SSW says:

    Don’t have time to read every comment, so if this is repetitive — well, tell the farmer to take it as a great compliment.

    That guy isn’t just smart. He’s very sensible, about how to run a farm and a lot of other things. But he’s also WISE. A rare thing today — look at all the Cullen-types and other ‘slacker dudes’.

    Farmer wise. His good points must surely outweight his bad points. He’s a keeper. Work hard to make that happen.

  10. rb
    rb says:

    I love the bit about Melissa not thinking she has a boyfriend unless he changes his Facebook status to say so.

    I have noticed this phenomenon as well. My 21 year old nephew and his friends are all my friends on Facebook (that’s another thing, 21 year olds are very unfussy about who they ‘friend’ on social networks, as in their friend’s 46 year old aunt.)

    Anyway, when these kids get in to fights with their boyfriend or girlfriend, the relationship status gets updated immediately to “it’s complicated” and then that causes a bigger fight, which either leads to “is single” or “is in a relationship” *heart*. And the cycle goes round and round, over and over, and makes me really glad to be 46! :)

    • downfromtheledge
      downfromtheledge says:

      Old or young, far too many people view their “couplehood” status as a reflection of their value as a person. STATUS implies worth — whether it’s online, or in the way someone introduces you to people. This is my _______. Girlfriend? Friend?

      What am I to you? That is the question. Your value in the world is not tied to the answer, however.

  11. Lady Blue
    Lady Blue says:

    I want to live with you on your farm and be written about. That would be quite the dream actually since I really adore your contributions as a writer/blogger.

  12. My-Tien
    My-Tien says:

    loving your series of stories and it seems like you really did find somebody to “gets you”

  13. Cousin Eddie
    Cousin Eddie says:

    I’m not sure about your career or happiness advice, but you’re a very fine writer and observer.

    Enjoyed this post very much.

  14. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    “And you can tell if it's your own plan by how lost you feel. People who do their own plans feel lost most of the time. People who do other peoples' plans feel on track most of the time.”

    This just made me feel alright about my decision to leave NYC after 12 1/2 years and move out West. I have been struggling to determine if it was really my decision or just the pressure I felt by family and friends that don’t live there to move somewhere more manageable. I feel pretty lost in many ways and for awhile couldn’t figure out if that was because the choices I was making were really my own or someone else’s. THis just clarified a lot for me and now I feel much better.

    I really enjoy this blog.

  15. Irina I
    Irina I says:

    Great blog post. Your pictures are priceless.

    I love what the Farmer is saying. Listen to him. It’s so true. I’ve been chasing guys my whole life until I finally got sick of it (it doesn’t work!) and read advice by dating coach Evan Marc Katz. I know, I spent $30 on an eBook titled “Why He Disappeared”. Totally embarrassing. But totally worth it! In it he expands on the notion of men reaching out first. As women, it’s as simple as sitting back and letting the guy do all the work in the courtship process. Anyway, you and Melissa should check it out…

  16. sandy
    sandy says:

    I want to hear more stories about the farmer.! He has great advice ! I love you Penelope but sometimes it does sound like he’s the only adult living in your house lol.

    I also think it’s interesting that when you told Cullen and Melissa they’d have to find somewhere else to live together that’s when Cullen split. Words like immature, irresponsible and freeloader do come to mind.

    As far as a t.v. show of your life there I could totally see it happening. It would we kind of Wisconsin meets Ozzy Osbourne. It might be fun!

  17. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I can’t understand why Melissa and Cullen aren’t an item anymore. They look absolutely head-over-heels in love in that picture.

    Look, Melissa is insecure and just wants to feel loved and safe. Cullen is a web designer flake who wanted a little nookie. For a week they served each others’ needs.

    If they have any sense about them, they’ll leave it at that.

  18. Bitch
    Bitch says:

    Excellent insight about treading the path less traveled. It is nice to hear that perhaps I am on the right track after-all, even though I don’t clearly see the way through. I try, re-asses, redirect and repeat. My 3 R’s of (hopeful!) success.



  19. happysus
    happysus says:

    Ya great ending and great photo. I agree with sandy Why Melissa and Cullen aren’t an item anymore. yap. They look absolutely head-over-heels in love in that picture.

  20. Savannah
    Savannah says:

    Thank you for saying that!….”You need to feel secure in one place to create instability in another.” I feel that I’ve been trying to tell myself that for a long time, but have not been able to put words to it. It explains a lot as to why people hold back from making certain decisions, and choose to just stay where they are, IMO.

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