Friday, June 29, 2007

I Need a New Project

After working on it for 7 months, I've finally finished the counted cross-stitched wall hanging I made as a wedding gift for my sister. Except for the personalization changes, this is what it looks like:

To make a counted cross-stitch piece, you literally count the number of stitches you need to make in each row or column based on your pattern. This means that in addition to taking for-fucking-ever to complete, accidents are fairly easy, and I had to unstitch and even cut out a few sections when I miscounted.

I chose to do this for my sister not because she would appreciate the time and effort I put into it (hardly), but because I am incredibly detail oriented, crafty, and have a weird, mild form of anxiety-based OCD--it's best if I keep my hands busy.

I was joking with a friend that I've been working my project almost as long as a pregnancy, although this baby didn't require me to gain weight, stop drinking, or, well, care for the damn thing afterward.

I've worked on it nearly every day since I started--cross-stitching on the subway, on planes, in cars, and every night or during the weekend when I watched tv. I've been working on it for so long that I kind of don't know what to do with myself now that I'm done. I accomplished my goal--now what? A friend told me that he felt the same way after he ran the marathon--after months and months of training, he felt hollow after finishing the actual marathon, like there was nothing left to push him forward. I guess that's how it is after you work for an extended period of time on anything--whether it's the book that took me 5 years to write and is languishing on my computer, an extensive craft project, or planning for a one-day event like a marathon or, even a wedding. What will my sister do after planning for her wedding for 9 months? I guess she'll work on being married.

I'm not ready for the wedding stuff yet. I need a new project.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sometimes it's Not the Crazy Looking Ones You Need Worry About

Since I've been in New York for over 6 years now, I've grown accustomed to the craziness of the city. In the past week alone, I've seen a woman putting a cigarette out on her tongue, an Asian man in his 40s standing on Ludlow dressed only in a polo shirt and tighty whities, and a middle-aged man in the vet's office sporting a tattoo on this calf of his dog's head and name.

It's easy to forget that with all the obvious colorful, over-the-top nonsense in New York City, sometimes the craziest people of all are the ones who look the most normal.

Here's what happened at work last week:

We hired someone new at my small PR firm about a month ago. My lawyer (my boyfriend) has advised me to change his name, so I'll call him "Chris" here. Chris was hired as a Senior Account Supervisor. When he interviewed with my boss, Sally, he told her that he had several other offers at bigger firms for a higher-level position with more money, but he really liked that we were small and represented non-profits. Sally was concerned that he might not be satisfied, so she was extremely honest with the way our firm worked and his role within it. He assured her that our firm was where he wanted to be. Chris was assigned to work on our two largest accounts. Along with our boss, I worked on one account with him (account A), and our colleague, Heather, worked on another (account B).

In an office as small as ours (8 people), everyone knows everyone's business and it soon became obvious that Chris was unhappy. He kept clashing with the owner of the firm, talking back to her rudely. He insisted he was so busy that he needed his own assistant (we all share one assistant--not even the owner has her own). And he never really shared any of his personal life with us. We knew he was gay, but that was about it. But I thought I had something figured out--after watching his (non) eating habits for a few weeks, I was pretty sure that he was a manorexic. He drank at least 2 cups of coffee a day, smoked, never ate breakfast or lunch, and the one day we had a lunch meeting, he literally ate 2 bites of a salad before throwing it in the trash. I was concerned for him (I told him I was going to Jewish grandmother him), but he insisted that he was fine.

He wasn't fine, at least, not work-wise. He wasn't delivering what he said he would, and after only two weeks, Sally had to have a lengthy chat with him. It seemed to do the trick, though, because suddenly he was on a roll--he got 2 major publications to commit to interviewing client A, and another major publication wanted to do a feature story about client B. We were so excited! Things seemed to be looking up.

Until last Monday.

On Monday morning, I ran into Sally in the elevator and we entered the office together, chatting about the weekend. I sat down at the computer and started going through my email and that's when I saw it: the email sent at 8:53 A.M. from Chris, the subject line "URGENT," with a red exclamation point highlighting the urgency.

He wrote: "Due to an extremely personal family situation that has just come up, I need
to leave indefinitely. I’m not comfortable sharing any further details at this time... Please
note that I will NOT be accessible via phone or email for the next several months. I have left everything in my office as is, and the keys are on my desk."

What. The. Fuck.

I ran into Sally's office. "Have you read your email?" I asked.

"No," she said, wondering why I looked frantic. "What email?

"The one from Chris marked urgent saying that he was quitting."

The color drained from her face.

"I'll leave you alone for a minute," I said backing out of her office.

I went back to read the email again. Who quits without giving notice? And over email? Not accessible via phone or email for several months? What kind of bullshit is this!?!

Within a few minutes, we were all buzzing about Chris' unexpected and disturbing email. What a fucking coward! What a fucking liar! We all gathered in Sally's office so she could read us the email (it was sent to her and the owner; only I was bcc'd). We all wondered why he would do this and how he thought we would buy the lamest excuse ever. Even if he was in Africa or climbing Everest, he could still be reached via phone or email. Several months, my ass.


"You know, I really think that he had an eating disorder. Maybe his parents staged an intervention on Father's Day."

"What?!" our Office Manager cried. "Girl, you watch too much tv."

"No, I'm serious! If he was in rehab he really wouldn't have access to phone or email. I mean, I'm not surprised that he quit, but who quits like this?"

"That totally makes sense," agreed Heather.

Our office manager just chided us for our naivete. "Are you kidding me? He left his keys here. His ass knew he wasn't coming back."

After we got over our shock, our office manager started the process of cleaning up Chris' mess. She changed passwords, called the building to get a new lock, and disconnected his email. Sally and Heather started looking through Chris' sent emails to find contact information for the interviews he had arranged, and that's when we realized things were much worse than we initially suspected.

1) When he wasn't emailing a client or a journalist, he changed his signature to say that we was the Vice President of the firm.
2) He started applying for jobs on his third day at our office, attaching a CV that claimed he was the Vice President.
3) The day he said he was at a doctor's appointment, he was really at a job interview.
4) There was no journalist contact for the 2 major publications who wanted to interview client A; not only did he not secure the interviews, but he never called or emailed anyone there.
5) The journalist who was going to write the feature story about account B? Not only did Chris never arrange an interview with the journalist, but he completely fabricated this person. No one by that name had ever written for the paper and we couldn't find any record of their existence.

Again: What. The. Fuck. He made up a journalist? He never secured the interviews he said were scheduled to happen? How could he lie to our faces? Didn't he think we would find out? He had already asked off for two weeks in September to take a trip to Turkey, he had already discussed long-term strategy with our clients--how could he make all these plans knowing that he wouldn't see their fruition?

Late on Monday afternoon, Sally emailed the company Chris had sent his CV to--she thought they should know that he misrepresented himself and left abruptly.

That night we left, still in awe at his audacity. Who was this person who worked with us for a month? This must be the kind of person who has two families or turns out to be a pedophile. Okay, fine--I do watch too much tv.

On Tuesday, we gathered in the morning for our weekly staff meeting. Obviously, everyone was preoccupied with Chris' departure. At 9:30, we got an update.

A woman from the company Chris had interviewed at called Sally in response to her email from the day before. Sally took the call in her office and returned to the meeting room after a few minutes, beaming.

"So that was Chris' new boss."

"What?!" we cried, hungry for more gossip.

"She told me she was so glad I emailed her yesterday because she had hired Chris to start working at 10am today."

Gasps filled the room.

"She said she couldn't possibly have someone on her staff who lied about who he was and she was going to have to fire him when he got in today." Sally thrust her fists in the air, looking vindicated.

"See, I told you he didn't go to rehab!" yelled our office manager.

"I didn't really think so, but just like 2% of me--the 2% of the Kansas girl in me wanted to believe that he wouldn't, couldn't just LIE like that."


And so, so crazy. But sometimes, it's not the crazy looking ones you need to worry about.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm a New Yorker Twice Over

There are certain milestones one passes on the way to becoming a New Yorker: having a tourist ask you for directions (and being able to answer correctly), becoming blase about seeing rats on the subway, and not only knowing which pizza place is the best, knowing the "correct" way to eat it.

Thus far, my experiences with the legal system had included threatening to sue Sea World when, at 10, I knocked out my front tooth on a jungle gym, and when Amete and I sued an ex-roommate of ours in small claims court, where we were discovered by a Judge Judy producer (a long, salacious story from the book that won't be teased here. Hi Mom and Dad!).

Recently, one Thursday, I, along with about 200 of my fellow New Yorkers, gathered at 9am in the criminal court building. While we waited for our names to be called, we filled out backgrounders with questions detailing our personal and legal history. Around 11am, about 20 of us were finally called and we headed to our assigned courtroom. The room was small and unimpressive; if I didn't know we were in the courthouse, I would have thought the we were in a classroom preparing for a mock trial.

But it certainly was real--the judge spent nearly an hour reading instructions to us from a packet. Then it was time to call role and answer some questions. Of the 20 of us, about a dozen of us had surnames like Rosenstein, Bloom, and Silverman.

"Who of you is related to a lawyer?" All of our hands shot up. I'm sorry, but asking a Jewish person if they're related to a lawyer is like asking if Britney if she wants more Cheetos: if the answer isn't yes, you know there's something wrong.

After a break for lunch and more questions, we finally found out the details of our case: a bearded guy in his 20s with a pony tail was on trial for a sound disturbance. Translation? He had used a bullhorn at an anti-war demonstration. I may be an asshole, but he looked like he would have used a bullhorn at an anti-war demonstration. Why didn't his attorney tell him to get a shave? Or a haircut? Guilty! I'd be the worst juror ever. Which is why it was a good thing I wasn't chosen for his jury. After lots of questions and a few more hours, we were all dismissed with instructions to return the next day.

Apparently, when you're called for jury duty in New York, you owe the city 2 days of service.

The next day was far different from the first. Instead of 20 other people in my pool, there were about 100 of us called for a far more serious case--attempted murder. We filled the pews of a huge courtroom, something right out of a movie or tv set. Once again, the judge read us a packet of instructions, and then asked us if we could impartially weigh testimony from police officers (she read a list of names like O'Mally, Callahan, McMahon) and from the defendant's witnesses (names like Hernandez, Perez, and Rivera).

Then it was time to question us. The judge called up groups of 12 people at a time to fill the jury box, and that's when I saw her--a short woman in her mid-50s with pouffy, blond hair. I knew her, but from where? I never worked with her. And why would our social circles intersect? It took about 15 minutes for me to realize that she was my friend's husband's aunt--about a year and a half ago, she threw them a wedding shower at her place in Mamaroneck, about a 45 minutes train ride from Grand Central Station. Oh man, I got d-r-u-n-k that night--we all did--they ran out of food, but not out of wine, and since we missed our train back into the city, we had nothing to do but drink for the hour and a half we had to kill before we needed to leave to catch the next train.

Out of all the people called for jury duty in the entire city of New York, I got drunk with a woman in my random jury pool. Not only am I a New Yorker, I'm a New Yorker twice over.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dating Sucks My Ass (Part 3)

After 2 emails from me, this is how the editors of described me: kinda smart, literary, delusions of grandeur drunk slut type.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, June 18, 2007

When Did My Dad Turn into a 12 Year-Old Girl?

Like many people's parents, mine aren't too tech savvy--I'm pretty sure my mom thinks that punctuation isn't allowed on email. Although I've sent my mom a few text messages before, I've never texted with my dad even though he has one of those fancy-pants brick-like cellphone/camera/computer/appointment book/kitchen sink kind of phones.

I talked to him briefly yesterday, Father's Day, but between the golf game he was dragging my mom to and the wedding my mom was dragging him to, I didn't have the chance to speak to him again, so I sent him a text saying, "Happy Father's Day. I love you!"

This is how he responded today: "Mis u hp ur sndy ws xlnt Lv dad"

Oh no. When did my dad turn into a 12 year-old girl?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Bubbie is Not Politically Correct

My Bubbie is one of my favorite people in the world, but although she's a somewhat liberal thinker (she urged my cousin to have a baby with her boyfriend when she thought a marriage would never happen), she is not politically correct. She uses a Yiddish word for black (with derogatory connotations) for black people and her word for gay people? Fairies. Oh, Bubbie. But the woman's 89 and lives in Missouri--there's no way I'm going change her.

For Valentine's Day this year, like every year, I sent cards to both my grandmothers and my mom. My mom and my other grandmother thanked me, so I assumed my Bubbie got her card too. Not so.

Later that week, my sister Stacey told me that Bubbie had asked her if I was mad at her for some reason. When Stacey asked why she thought that, Bubbie explained that I hadn't sent her a Valentine's Day card, which was unlike me. "You better call her right now," Stacey said, finishing her story.

So I called her immediately and after chatting for a few minutes, I asked her if she ever got her Valentine's Day card.

"No, sweetheart, I didn't."

"I'm so sorry!" I cried, "My mom and granny got theirs, so I assumed you got your also. I sent them all on the same day."

"Oh, it's ok. I'm glad to know that you sent me one. You know, on Valentine's Day the only cards I got were from Stacey, your mother, Barbara, and Brian. I didn't hear from anyone else." Oh no, the guilt! Bubbie has 4 children, 10 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren, so she's been honing guilt trips for a while. "You know, I've been having some problems with my mail--some of my magazines haven't been coming."

"Well, I'm really, really sorry. I was thinking about you."

"Oh, thank you, Lover, it's so nice to hear that."

Every time I talked to Bubbie for the next few weeks, I would inquire about the card, but it never showed up. I think she thought I was just trying to cover my ass. She always tells Stacey and me that we're her favorites, so we respond with cards and gifts in ways that my cousins don't. She's easy for me to love, so I did feel bad that she thought I forgot about her.

A few weeks later, she told me that she thought she figured out what happened.

"Jenny, I want to tell you about an article I just read in the paper." Bubbie is the only person who's allowed to call me 'Jenny.' Well, Tom, this guy from high school I had a crush on for 10 years, calls me Jenny, but come on, after 10 years, I would have let him call me anything. "There was a story about this couple who took in all these retarded children and they've helped them get into all these special programs."

"Oh, that's so nice of them."

"Anyway, one of the kids is older now and he has a job at the post office. So I think that's why my mail's been so screwy lately."

Oh. Oh Bubbie--blaming the retarded kid at the post office? Hmmmmm.

About two months later, I was surprised the find a familiar looking pink envelope in my mailbox. My Bubbie's Valentine's Day card had been returned to me--I wrote her address wrong. So it was her address-challenged granddaughter who screwed up, not the retarded kid at the post office.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

No really, I fucking hate flying

This is my fourth post about flying. About how much I hate flying. As you might have surmised, I really fucking hate it. But it's not the actual flying part that I hate--it's the lead-up, the nonsense, the bullshit. What I hate are the indiscriminate rules.

I don't mind following rules if they serve a purpose, if they are in place for a valid reason, namely safety or efficiency, but bureaucratic red-tape gets me so angry! And nowhere are idiotic rules in evidence so obviously as in airports.

In April, I went to Kansas City for my sister's wedding shower. It was a quick trip and like always, I took a small, carry-on bag instead of checking a bag. Now, I know the new rules for flying: any one container with more than 3 ounces of liquid can be used for making a bomb--combining 2 smaller containers while on board to make a bomb? Perfectly acceptable.

So, I had all my liquid necessities bundled together (my 2.5 ounce contact solution, my 1.7 ounce face lotion, my .8 ounce toothpaste, etc) in my toiletries bag. You know, the bag designed for toiletries. I put my shoes, my hoodie, my purse, and my carry-on bag onto the screening belt and that's when the trouble started.

"Ma'am, I'm going to have to look through your bag," one of the checkers told me.

"Of course," I replied confidently, knowing I had painstakingly banished all the dangerous extra ounces of liquids and/or gels from my bag.

He pulled out my toiletries bag and looked inside disapprovingly. "All liquids need to be together in a plastic bag."

"Oh, I'm sorry--they're all together here--and look--they're all under 3 ounces."

"Yeah, but they need to be in a plastic bag."

"Ok, I'm sorry, I don't have a plastic bag. They're all together though and they're under 3 ounces. Isn't that ok?" I was trying to be calm and not accusatory. Why did he keep harping on this plastic bag?

"Is there a problem?" A robust man wearing a fancier uniform approached us.

"Her liquid isn't in a plastic bag." The peon dutifully reported.

"But everything is under 3 ounces," I chimed in, still thinking this was a valid argument.

"Well, ma'am, that's good, but it all needs to be in a quart-sized plastic bag."

"Ok, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that."

"You're going to need to go get a plastic, quart-sized bag. The gift shop right outside the terminal will give you one for free," He said as if this was a perfectly reasonable demand.


"You'll need to get a plastic bag for all your liquid."

"What are you talking about? Why would I need to get a plastic bag to put all my toiletries in?"

"It's the policy. You need to have all of your containers within one quart-sized plastic bag."


"In order for us to see that none of your containers is over 3 ounces."

"But you can see that nothing is over 3 ounces. See?" I held up my face lotion. "Under 3 ounces! It's all under 3 ounces."

"That may be so, ma'am, but it needs to be in a plastic bag."

"But I don't understand. The entire reason it needs to be in a plastic bag is so you can see that it's under 3 ounces. You can see that it's under 3 ounces now. Why would I need to put everything in a bag if you can already see that I'm following the rules?"

"The policy is that everything needs to be in a quart-sized plastic bag."

"Fine--but the reason behind the policy is to see that everything is the right size and it's all the right size!"

"But it needs to be visible in the bag."

"You're really going to make me leave the terminal, go get a plastic bag, put my liquid that's already passed inspection in the bag, and come back through, wasting everyone's time."

"If you want to keep the liquid, it needs to be in quart-sized plastic bag."

I stared at him incredulously. Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. I huffed my way out, muttering under my breath and scowling.

So, I got the bag, filled it with my under 3 ounce containers of liquids, waited in line and went back through the scanner. Once again, a checker asked to look through my bag. He took out quart-sized plastic bag of toiletries and looked at it approvingly. Then he asked to look through my purse. It was my make-up pouch that interested him. As he unzipped it, he said, "You know, all liquids and gels need to be a quart-sized plastic bag."

"Yeah, I know that." Could he hear me rolling my eyes?

"Well, you have mascara and lipstick in this bag--it really needs to be in the plastic bag."


"I need to put it all in the plastic bag."


So he transfered the deadly mascara and horrifying lipstick to the safety of the quart-sized plastic bag.
"Now you're good to go!"

What? How did that make any sense? How did any of this make any sense? All of these nonsensical rules are in place to make the public feel safer, and yet, it makes me more and more afraid of the idiots and assholes in charge.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Letter to My Neighbors *or* Really? An Air-horn?

To the neighbors on my otherwise quiet, family-centered, tree-lined Brooklyn block,

Wow. Really? An Air-horn?

You know, when I first moved in, I must say I was surprised by the late-night gatherings on your stoop when your chattering and cigarette smoke would waft upward, invading my third-floor bedroom. Every few days I would curse your arrogant youth, your forgiving parents, and my street-facing bedroom.

But after a few months, your horseplay seemed to get a bit predictable. It began to border on trite and stale. Really, how often could you gab, smoke, and race up and down the block on motorcycles? But then, a few weeks ago, you really shook things up with those fireworks. Man, that was a surprise--to be lying in bed, almost asleep and the BANG! BANGBANG! Fireworks! At midnight! On a Thursday!

You had set the bar pretty high for yourselves, but last night you topped it. You pulled out all the stops with that air-horn. 12:30 on a Sunday night just after I had fallen asleep--an air-horn was the last thing I was expecting. But there it was and there you were blaring it--waking up the neighborhood while you apparently didn't have a care in your non-working world. And the way you would blare it, then wait a few minutes before the next outburst, startling us all over again? Genius.

At this point, I'm just wondering what excitment you have planned for the rest of the summer. A curb-side bonfire? A chorus of dogs? A jam session featuring tamborines, harmonicas, and cymbols?

Thanks, neighbors, for reminding me that just because I've left Manhattan, it doesn't mean I'm not still living near insensitive assholes.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Dating Sucks my Ass (Part 2)

About a year and a half ago I went on a few dates with this guy. Many things were promising about Travis: he was good-looking, he was artistic (oooh, a photographer, not just a bartender who liked taking pictures), and he was from KC (we peripherally knew each other in high school, and I liked the idea of my dating life coming full-circle).

Unfortunately, I knew early on that things were not meant to be. What was the clue that gave it away? He told me he liked subway musicians.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Soul Sucking Work

Here's another teaser from the book. I debated between naming this "Soul Sucking Work" or "My Day-Job is eating my Soul"

I know a lot of people have shitty day jobs--here are little glimpses into my first godawful dayjob in New York where I worked at a newspaper, taking ads over the phone and doing data-entry.

Soul Sucking Work

A man calls me to ask the current price for placing his required ad.

“It’s 80 dollars, Sir,” I tell him.

He is taken aback.

“What? You guys raise the price each year. That’s just not fair. I hope you make 10% more each year. Do they increase your salary year after year?” I can hear that he’s smiling through the complaint but that doesn’t make it less annoying.

What sort of approach should I take to these questions, the same that I hear several times a day?

“Yes, they let me set the price. Anything over $50 I get to keep, so you’re actually paying me right now for my annoyance.”

“Well, no, I don’t have any control over the prices, it’s just company policy.”

“Are you serious? If I had to work here year after year, I would kill myself. I can’t believe I’ve actually been here as long as I have already.”

“Even if they did raise my meager salary, it still wouldn’t enable me to support myself. Thanks for inquiring; I am making less money than all of my friends, even the stupid ones.”

He is trying to make small talk and banter with me, but I can’t do it. I can’t even try today. I hate it.

* * * * *

Today I am wearing a letter opener as a hair stick. I twisted my hair up and somehow threaded the metal through the bun. Like most days, I’m just trying to amuse myself.People stare at me and laugh with/at me. It is Friday and I don’t feel good, so I care even less than usual (if that’s possible at all, which I doubt). My boss walks by smiling, unsure of how to approach me.
“Do you get good reception with that thing?” he asks, chuckling.
I manage a wry smile.
Maybe if it slips and stabs me in the neck I won’t have to come to work for a day or two.
* * * * *

By all accounts, I should feel a lot worse than I do. After all, I didn’t get home until after 3 and how many drinks did I have? As usual, too many. Instead of merely brown-bagging into the city with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, Adam and I varied our routine by filling a water bottle with vodka and 7UP. I made an exception to my diet soda only rule since this was for medicinal (ok, partying) reasons. The vodka on the subway ensured I would get drunk and I did, having a great time until I fell asleep drooling against Adam’s shoulder while on the ride home.
Waking up late for work, I threw on a dress (how I love dresses with their all-inclusive one garment simplicity), corralled my mess of curls into a ponytail, and raced out the door.
The surprising part is how I feel now. I don’t feel terrible. I don’t need to puke. Where is the hangover? I can stumble to the bathroom just fine on my own. It is in the bathroom (the scene of my twice or thrice-weekly crying jags) do I realize that I’m not hung-over. I’m still drunk.
This is a new low for me. I’ve never gone to any type of work drunk before. When I was a waitress at a 24 hr diner I got high a couple times during shifts, but that was on purpose. I would sneak into the large freezers with one of the cooks to smoke. Besides, customers almost expect college girls who serve pancakes at the 2 in the morning to be as high as they are.
As unfun as going to work with a hangover is, getting one while you’re at work is even worse. I’m wondering if I’m obviously misjudging depth and distances. If people can tell that I’m not merely trailing my fingers along the wall, but using it as a brace in my journey to the bathroom. If I am hitting corners of walls and desks not in a hi-I-meant-to-do-that-on-my-way-to-talk-to-you way, but in a where-did-that-suddenly-appear-from-and-why-do-you-keep-looking-at-me way. If my constant needs to squint, sigh and rub my arms are reminding anyone else of a disadvantaged Wal-Mart greeter or the retarded cousin in a movie.
Of course this would be the day that I have the appointment with the guy at the staffing agency who called me out of nowhere last week for a job I applied for nearly 4 months ago. My appointment is around lunchtime (so as not to attract undue attention to my leaving), but as I head toward the elevator, so does my boss. Fuck. Ordinarily this would constitute basic, awkward chit-chat about my mundane job. Today, however, I have to concentrate just on making sense instead of sounding business-like or savvy.
“Off to lunch?” he asks. I nod. Maybe that will be the end of it. I’m actually on my way to a recruiter’s office. In addition to talking to my boss drunk, I’m on my way to not impress a headhunter while drunk. My self-destructive nature is astounding.
“I have to buy Kleenex.” Is he still talking? Why? “Do you know the closest place to buy Kleenex around here?” Is he serious? How am I supposed to answer this?
“Um,” I look to the floor of the elevator for help but it’s moving up to greet me and instead I have to shift my gaze to the doors in front of me. “I’ve actually not done any Kleenex shopping around here. I guess Duane Reade would have something like that?”
“Duane Reade. Right.”
I watch him leave the building, wondering how it is that he’s the boss before realizing it’s probably because he’s not drunk.

* * * * *

Morgan, my work friend, and I like to play “Let’s Pretend.” Today we are standing in front of the vending machine.
Let’s pretend you didn’t have to worry about fat or calories—what would you get from the vending machine?
Let’s pretend you were stranded here and starving—what’s the last thing you would ever eat from the vending machine?
Let’s pretend you could redesign the packaging for a candy bar—which one would it be and what would it look like?
Let’s pretend you could make your own candy—what would be in it? Let’s pretend we could give ourselves advice when we were freshmen in college—what would it be? What would we have changed?
Would we have told ourselves that our art degrees were ridiculous? That soul-sucking day jobs were in our future? That every grey day seems longer than the last? That we should get a more practical degree so that even if we got jobs we hated, we’d still be making a lot of money? That floundering with shit day jobs would leave us desperately unhappy without any idea of what to do next?

* * * * *

Morgan says we get to be in charge of putting up the Halloween decorations. We pull out the large envelopes filled with black streamers, pumpkin garlands, and flattened witch hats from the filing cabinet. It seems so wrong to me that all this color and fun should be locked away in a miscellaneous gray cabinet. We’re here to liberate the fun!
Today Morgan and I have permission to be silly. We are given an excuse to mooch around the office, giggling and asking the boys for help because they’re tall. And maybe the best part of all is that the day after tomorrow we’ll be having a pumpkin carving party in the afternoon. How fun. How random. How weirdly uncorporate for this insidiously stifling place.
“Do we get to wear costumes?” I ask Morgan.
“I don’t know, but that would be so awesome.”
“What would you wear?”
“Pajamas. I’d just come is my pajamas and be comfortable all day long.”
Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of that. Mainly because I a) don’t sleep in pajamas and b) pretty much wear the most comfortable thing I can find to work anyway. I figure if these assholes are going to make me show up, I’d better be comfortable. And if I’m going to have the responsibilities of an eight-year-old, I’m determined to dress like one.
“What would you be?” She asks, taping a cut-out of a black cat to the wall.
What would I be? Standard Halloween costumes are most girls’ excuses to dress like a slut; I won’t even try to deny that I don’t deign to this kind of aberration in my dressing. It’s the one time of year when girls can pretend cleavage is an accessory, a necessity even, and not just an obnoxious way of showing off. But I would never wear anything tight or revealing to this office. Gross. So what then?
“I’d be a ghost,” I say.
She just looks at me.
“I’d wear a sheet over my head all day long and I’d float through the halls.” I could ignore everyone and have the whole day to pretend that I wasn’t here. It would be like I was still in bed all day long. It would be perfect.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Thinking Thin

A teaser from my book:

Thinking Thin

I keep trying to “think thin,” but I’m not really sure what that means. I think I should be thin—that makes sense—but I’m not. Thinking I should weigh less gives me the excuse to eat more. Or crappy food. Oh, I can eat that cookie—I’m thin! I’m thinking thin. But, this isn’t working at all. I should think fat. I am fatter than I want to be—I must behave like a fat person and head to the gym.

I know this is a mistake as soon as I enter the room. Bad at motivating myself, I had decided that I needed to take a structured cardio class: Spinning. The lights are out and I wonder, half hoping, if the class has been canceled, but no, they are waiting in the dark so as not to heat the room unnecessarily. Two overweight gym members and a gigantic body builder who works at the gym are already pedaling, warming up.

The instructor walks over to me, inquiring whether I have taken a spinning class before. No, I haven’t. She helps me adjust my chair, showing me the three ways to grip the handle-bars: first position where I am to remain seated with my hands firmly in front of me, second position where I am to lean forward with my hands in the corners of the handle-bars, and third position where I am to stand and pedal without moving my shoulders while holding the ends of the bars. Strapping my feet into the pedals, she warns me, saying “don’t take your feet out under any circumstances. Trust me, I’ve seen someone break an ankle doing this. It is not a pretty sight.”

Huh. This does not bode well. I am not the most coordinated person. In fact, I still manage to walk into walls and furniture. As such, I’m a little apprehensive about what I’ve gotten myself into.

I, too, begin pedaling, waiting for the other people to finish setting up. I am the youngest and smallest of the 7 participants. Okay, I can do this.

We start, pedaling fast on a low resistance to warm our muscles. The teacher commands us to stretch, raising our arms above our heads, but I tilt unnervingly to one side then the other. Apparently, it takes coordination I don’t have just to move my arms and pedal at the same time.

I must not look at the clock. The power certainly affected the clock when the lights were turned off because the minute hand has not moved. We pedal and pedal. She yells at us to spin so fast that now I understand why I have been buckled in. I feel like my legs are going to pedal themselves off. They will continue on their own velocity, hurtling across the room until they run into the wall of mirrors. The wall mocking my every bounce, jiggle, and look of frustration. I have no control; my legs are just moving. The muscles want to leap from my thighs, escape in a quivering thrust with my veins trailing behind them, waving like streamers.

It’s been 4 minutes. What was I thinking?

I did not realize that Spinning was synonymous with hell. I am standing, then sitting, and then standing, all for counts of 8, then 4, and then 2. In spinning vernacular, these are called “jumps.” In my world, this is called “torture.”

I am fervently cursing the stupid pizza and vodka that has made this class a necessity. Surely, there is a better way to lose weight than this. If it’s possible to eat nothing but water and frozen spinach for the next 3 weeks, I will do it.

I am spinning around and around, faster and faster. We race as if our stationary bikes could take flight and I feel as if I’m en route to visit my parents, halfway across the country. Start your own spinning class, now, Mom! Maybe we can meet each other halfway. I feel as though I’ve already biked at least most of the distance.

Changing exercises, we are told to lean forward and grasp the end of the handlebars. For this set, we take turns sitting and standing, switching between second and third position, really feeling every rotation in our butt and thighs.

“Come on,” the instructor yells, “work it!”

I’m working things I thought were out of order. Is it possible to stand, pumping up and down without moving my shoulders as points of leverage? I don’t think my thigh muscles can support me. Still holding the ends of the bars, we pedal furiously, then sit again.

The seat is pressed against my crotch. Hard. But not in the good sort of way bikes sometimes rub against you. No, no. This is just hard and irritating, the possibility of pleasure somewhere far, far away. It is a constant, throbbing reminder of why I’m putting myself through the most hellish way I can think of to burn 18,000 calories. Either that, or a hint that I should have invested in a Southern piercing.

I am pouring sweat. I don’t think I will be able to walk tomorrow. My face is the same hue as my freshly dyed hair—bright auburn. And somehow I make it through 45 minutes without incident. I don’t fall off my seat or walk out of class or scream (or even mutter) the 'are fucking you serious?' that I’m thinking the whole time.

The teacher congratulates us on fogging up the mirrors and encourages us to return in two days for more “fun.” If this is her idea of fun, her priorities have definitely spun out of control. But then again, so has my affinity for junk food.

Limping home, I decide that if broccoli and gardenburgers will ensure a minimal amount of spinning classes in the future, they will become my new “thinking fat” dinner plan.