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Cramped

9 Jun

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I get foot cramps.

In case you’ve never had foot cramps, let me break them down for you. “Foot cramps,” also known as “Charley Horses,” are incredibly painful and also kind of embarrassing muscle spasms, which cause your foot to seize up and look like a snarling cat that was just dipped in a bubble bath.

The first foot cramp I ever had left me feeling confused and alone. I was 14. It was a Tuesday eve. I was sitting on the floor of the family room, telling a story about how a tiny bit of pee had escaped my bladder during a cross-country running race. I was laughing. My family was laughing. Cheese was being shared among us. There were also crackers. It was a great night.

AND THEN…my foot cramped.

I’ll never forget the random, searing pain I felt in my left foot as I looked down and saw that it was all…twisted…contorted…and gnarled. It looked like a tree branch, hanging off of one of those really hideous and evil-looking trees that grow in Disney forests (and probably Mar-a-Lago).

I was horrified, and so, I started screaming.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL IS WRONG WITH MY FOOT? IT LOOKS LIKE A WOODCHUCK THAT WAS SHOVED INTO FORMALDEYHYDE WHILE IT WAS STILL CHUCKING WOOD.”

My mother was alarmed, and rightly so! I was experiencing some kind of medical abnormality that would land me as a guest star on Grey’s Anatomy (and maybe even forge a friendship between Shonda and me). Books would be written about this! I’d be considered “one of those people” who have trees for limbs, or who are born with tails! (No offense to these people. If you have a Maple tree growing where your leg should be and a tail growing out of your behind, I’ll still say “hi” to you on the street.)

“Oh,” said Mother, “that’s just a foot cramp. It’ll go away.”

JUST A FOOT CRAMP?? JUST a foot cramp??

I writhed in agony as my sisters watched and laughed at my pain.

Am I sensitive to pain? Who’s to say (except for everyone who’s ever said so). Maybe other people are too insensitive to pain? Have you ever thought about that? Why shouldn’t I use papercuts as an excuse not to walk my dog? Infection is a serious risk.

Anyway. The cramp did subside. And then I ate some cheese and felt better.

That was nearly ten years ago. In the last few weeks, I’ve experienced more foot cramps than I ever thought possible.

Let me paint you a picture…

It’s a Wednesday night. I’m lying in my nice, big bed and I’m sleeping with one leg sprawled across the bed, and the other hanging off the bed. (Try to imagine how this works…you can’t, can you? I sleep like the human pretzel I’m not, which is probably why I get foot cramps. Maybe if I slept like a human pretzel roll, I wouldn’t be dealing with any of this.) I’m dreaming that I’m locked in a hotel and some old lady is chastising me for wearing a dress. Does this mean I feel dominated by the elderly? Am I itching for a vacation? It’s too soon to say. All I know is that mid-old lady lecture, I awake with a surging pain in my left foot.

NOT AGAIN, I think, as I silently whine and try to keep breathing. It takes a while, but the cramp passes, and I fall asleep.

THEN: It’s early on a Saturday morning. I’m sleeping in a bunk bed on Cape Cod. I reek of lobster and Jim Beam and there’s a lifeguard – in uniform – lying next to me.

Just kidding.

I am sleeping in a bunk bed, but I don’t smell of anything other than morning breath and shampoo. And the only things next to me are a bunch of rogue tissues that I must’ve used to blow my nose over the course of the night because I have a virus and an ear infection. I really, really have to pee, and I do a quick cost benefit analysis; either I damage my bladder by holding it for a few more hours, until I feel like it’s an acceptable time to wake up on a weekend, or I exert energy now and climb down from the top bunk. Either option is uncomfortable for me.

I decide to “just do it.” This is a mistake.

As I stretch my foot down to reach the bottom rung of the bunk bed ladder, I feel that familiar twinge of pain – FOOT CRAMP, NOOOOO!!!!

I stand awkwardly on the ladder as my foot spasms and contorts. I try not to wake anyone, but the bed is pretty rickety and I am not graceful without at least a hint of Prosecco in my system, so the entire structure is kind of shaking in the wind, as I shift my weight from left to right and try not to fall (one foot) to my death. My uncle walks by and chuckles, as if he’s not at all surprised by what’s going on.

I finally get my foot to calm the fuck down and am able to dismount the bed. I then make the decision to never, ever let my kids sleep in bunk beds…mostly because I think that physically placing one kid on top of another establishes a very literal hierarchy, and that can leave a kid dropping out of school to “find himself” as a bongo drummer in a traveling street band…but also because I don’t want my children to have foot cramps.

THEN: It’s a peaceful Tuesday afternoon. I just finished a run and am taking a nice, long shower. I decide that summer is coming and I should get used to shaving again. I look at my leg and realize I may have overcommitted; time is running out and the US no longer supports climate efforts, so I need to hurry this shower on up. I extend my leg to get a clean, even shave and BAM: foot cramp. I start yelling over Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” which happens to be playing at the very moment that my consciousness begins to float off into the mystic. I think that I see Van’s face projected on my shower wall, before coming to and realizing that Van is not in my shower at all. The foot cramp subsides, and I continue to shave.

So you see? These cramps have been following me. They’re trying to take me down, one foot at a time.

Yesterday, I decided to “proactively deal with my concerns,” and do a little research on foot cramps.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, foot cramps “tend to happen more frequently as we age.”

Please note: as we age.

Who’s this “we” and am I included? I surely can’t be included. I’m not getting older! Just wiser! Those lines around my mouth aren’t wrinkles; they’re “smile lines,” and you can direct any further questions to my grandmother, who assured me as much.

I decide to focus on the second cause: dehydration.

This is something I can wrap my head around. Fluids! I dig them!

I’ve been chugging water nonstop for a few days, and I’ve yet to feel a single cramp. *Knocks on wood and silently tells her foot to stay the fuck in line.*

Drinking so much water, however, makes me have to pee at night, which might not bode well for me, where bunk beds are concerned. So, if you read about a girl who fell off her bunk bed because a foot cramp struck on her way to the bathroom and she suffered horrible injuries, don’t feel too bad – it’s just me.

 

 

 

 

 

How John Mayer Ruined My Life: A Love Story

14 Apr

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“L’amour de loin”; love from afar; Medieval Courtly Love; King Arthur and Queen Guinevere love – leave it to the French to create an incredibly seductive yet torturous form of love and sell a bunch of books about it, lulling all of us mere mortals into believing that it’s trendy and fulfilling.

Love from afar is like the croissant; the French pretend that they eat croissants “for breakfast” and that croissants are the key to balanced lifestyles. So then we Americans go to Costco and buy a bunch of croissants and eat ten in one sitting, and we wonder, “Why can’t I see my genitals when I stand naked and look down at my feet?” Spoiler alert: you can’t see your genitals because the French don’t eat croissants for every breakfast. And you also can’t find fulfillment in “love from afar” because you can’t see past the fact that you can’t see your genitals. This all comes down to croissant, really. Are you following?

Alright, I’m being dramatic. I’m not in love. But I do have a crush on someone who doesn’t know I exist. Actually, I believe that somewhere, deep, deep down, John Mayer does know I exist and is just waiting to tell me…that I exist…and that he cares about my existence… (and yes, I am holding my breath for this affirmation, so if I start to turn blue in the face, dial 911 and don’t leave my side until I’m in the hands of a capable medical professional).

I recently attended John Mayer’s Boston concert with my mom. Before the concert, I was an enormous John Mayer fan. I’ve always listened to his music. In fact, his “No Such Thing” music video was one of the first videos I ever saw, after my aunt accidentally left MTV playing on the TV and I snuck in to watch a whole ten seconds of the music video. (Music videos were banned and yet I somehow managed to watch Jerry Springer on all of my sick days? Suspicious parenting, at best.)

A week has passed since the aforementioned Mayer extravaganza, and yet, I still find myself…crushing.

My friends are saying supportive things, like, “Oh, it’s totally normal to be obsessed with a performer after his/her concert! I feel you, girl!”

Like Gluten-free cookies, these friends are sweet; but they’re wrong. This is different.

I’m no fool. I know that concerts do weird things to people.

The first concert I ever went to was the Dave Matthews Band concert. I was ten and everyone around me was high. Some dude spilled beer on my sweatshirt, and I wore it to fifth grade the next day and told my teacher to smell it. Clearly, this concert had me thinking I was a 19-year-old frat boy.

One time, I saw Train in concert, and it started raining, right as they started playing “Drops of Jupiter.” I remember thinking that I’d never forget that moment. I then proceeded to go to the dining hall and eat five pieces of pie. Five pieces. All because of the concert.

When I went to Adele’s concert, I forewent drinking so that I could “soak up every moment.” Who was this girl? Why wasn’t she drinking? She was clearly possessed.

So you see? I know that concerts can cause abnormal behavior. But something in me changed during the John Mayer concert. It wasn’t the two beers I drank, or the fact that I ate some weird Thai food before the show and thought that maybe I’d contracted a parasite…There was a cosmic shifting of my soul, and I know that it was caused by a crushing crush.

I’m not even someone who gets celebrity crushes. Ok, sure, when I was 11, I once spent an entire weekend watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s deleted scenes from Titanic. I was supposed to be studying for a “math final,” but I couldn’t rip myself away from Leo, and so I scored a 74 on the test.

But I’m an adult now and I rarely have tests anymore because grad school is more of a “project-based” type of learning environment…so I’m all good, academically.

I felt swept up by John’s musical talent, his weird, scrunched up facial expressions while playing the guitar, and his ability to play the piano and whistle at the same time. I think I’m letting this celebrity crush continue because the universe is slowly but surely signaling to me that John Mayer and I are meant to be together. Shall I break it down for you (John)? Here’s a list of the whys:

  1. At the concert, John played the song “Why Georgia,” which is my mom’s absolute favorite song. She started screaming and kind of growling, and I briefly felt embarrassed because the gentleman in front of her looked like he might say something, like, “Ma’am, are you choking on a chicken bone?” But then, right at that moment, John started playing “Dear Marie,” which is my favorite song. It was like he was sending me a message, saying, “Don’t worry about the haters. That guy is probably jealous or vegan. You do you, boo.” That’s when I knew that he’d tailored the entire concert to fit my emotional needs. What has your soulmate done for you today?
  2. On a recent evening, I fell into a deep, dark internet hole. I found myself on John’s Twitter account, which is how I found a tweet from him, in which he proclaimed his love for mediocre movies from the late ‘90s, to the early 2000s. He may have been being “ironic” (it’s hard to sense tone over Twitter), but I’m sure this tweet came from a place of truth. Norah Ephron rom-coms spanning the entire ‘90s decade comprise my favorite genre of film, and so I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about. Maybe he loves Tom Hanks as much as I do? A girl can dream.
  3. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, John said that he’s a fan of The Bachelor, but that he can only sit through the season premiere because two hours per week is a lot of “buy-in” time for the average viewer. This is something with which I completely agree. What else could I do with two hours? Let’s see: learn how to ride a moped; research sharks; invest in multiple IKEA lamps and then see which one breaks first; train a pony to deliver me snacks on its back; domesticate a long-haired latte artist. The list continues…I think John and I are on the same page with this one. Give me just one hour of women crying and pretending to eat recreational fruit bowls, and I’ll be forever grateful.
  4. John recently said that the drawing of the woman on one of the the front covers of his new album is “her” – his ideal woman – a combination of past, (hopefully not present), and future lovers:

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Now, I’m not saying she looks like me, but I’m also not going to argue with the fact that she has long, wavy hair, and I also have long, wavy hair. She also seems to have feathers floating around her head, which either symbolizes her “free spirit” personality, or the fact that she likes chicken. Either way, I’m down.

  1. John is known for getting himself into trouble with the press. While this hasn’t ever happened to me, I did once draw a butt crack on a computer during “computer class” (back when Microsoft Word was like, the futuristic spaceship of its time), and got in trouble with my teacher, after I announced – not very quietly – to my friend, Brandon, that I’d “drawn a butt crack on the computer.” Getting in trouble for spur-of-the-moment self-expression is shocking and upsetting. I’m still trying to get over my reputation as “butt crack girl.” I think we could relate on this level.

So these are the signs from the universe. Now, you might be wondering about the practicalities of it all. It’s sweet of you to worry. Here’s a list of possible concerns and their solutions:

  1. Sure, John is ten-plus-six years older than I. But here’s the thing: after I got busted for drawing that butt crack, I had to mature very quickly. You can’t be a six-year-old “butt crack girl” and look and act like a six-year-old. Even now, guys come up to me in bars and ask me how old I am. This can only mean that I look too old to be in a bar. Which means I’m probably just old enough to be living in Montana with John and his dogs. Plus, it’s not like I can claim I “grew up on John’s music,” because, as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t allowed to watch his music videos. (Also, Amal and George don’t seem to have any issues.)
  2. “But he’s a world-famous musician! How will you ever get his attention?” It just so happens that I’m going to the Grateful Dead concert at Fenway Park in June, at which John will be playing guitar. Fenway is an intimate, outdoor venue, so when I fly the blimp over Fenway that says, “Dear John, look to your left, no, your other left, by the sausage stand,” he’ll surely see it. I’ll be waiting there for him with a sausage and a soft serve ice cream in a Red Sox souvenir hat because celebrities: they’re just like us – they eat souvenir ice creams!
  3. If the above plan fails, I will just resort to old-fashioned techniques, like moving to Los Angeles and attending hip co-ed parties and hoping to meet him. This approach could go on for years, but there’s something sweet about 70-year-old men raising infants.
  4. “But he’s a womanizer! He’s dated so many famous women! It would never work!” Honestly, if I had as many good-looking ex-boyfriends as John has ex-girlfriends, I’d buy myself a huge molten lava cake, put on some sweats, get a crown, and declare myself Queen of the World. Life moves quickly, and we all have baggage. I know I do. There are literally six Trader Joe’s bags next to me right now, which I’ve yet to unpack and put away. I’m not saying John and I have to be bound together for all time! Please, I’ve got so much living to do. I’m just saying that he has to fall madly in love with me and then can’t feel attracted to any other woman for the rest of time.

Any questions? I think I’ve pretty much covered everything. John is witty, wavy-haired, and creatively talented, which are really all of my requirements.

They say to “write what you know,” but I, clearly, prefer to write about those whom I don’t know, and then hope that they magically discover me.

I’ve also written more about this fantastical love story than I’ve written for any of my final projects and papers that are due in the following weeks…so I guess I lied, and this crush really is impacting me academically.

Bottom line: I need out of this fictitious romance, ASAP. I need a break. It’s been mentally exhausting, knowing that I’m meant to be with someone who’s currently making Japanese-themed music videos to accompany jazz-hybrid music about an *cough cough* ex-pop star girlfriend. He doesn’t have time for me.

So here’s my message for John: you’ve totally ruined this week for me, but I forgive you. Let’s take a break – I think we could both use one. I’ll be at Fenway in June, so let’s go on a date. I think (know) we might be (are, beyond a shadow of a doubt) soulmates. And if you take me on a date and disagree, I’ll give you my souvenir ice cream hat and we’ll call it even.

(Also, I’m moving to LA in the fall, so that’s also totally a possibility. No pressure. Just saying. I’ll be there. Waiting. Just kidding. I don’t wait. But you should. OK. Bye.)

 

 

 

 

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Hacked

19 Mar

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A few weeks ago, I got hacked.

Not cyber-hacked. (That was my mother. She started tweeting out messages about Beyoncé’s weight gain…which made sense to me because my mom is in the one-percent of people who really are not Beyoncé fans. But even still – that would have been way harsh.)

I mean “hacked” like Hacksaw Ridge hacked. (No. Just kidding. I don’t. That’s way too aggressive an analogy for what I’m about to describe. I just wanted to sound cinema-fluent and current.)

About a month ago, I went to the dermatological surgeon for a “brief,” “routine” procedure.

“You have a weird mole,” my dermatologist told me. “It’s probably nothing! It’s probably less than nothing! In fact, it’s probably not even there! This has probably all been a dream!”

She’s a nice dermatologist, and she has really nice shoes. But she was dead wrong about this one.

One biopsy later and BOOM: you have “problematic skin cells.” Not cancerous, or even pre-cancerous cells – just “problematic” ones.

The way I see it, problematic cells are like problematic children: if left unattended, they may grow up to be problematic adults – people who don’t recycle, or who start bar fights, or who only talk to their parents when they need money (to be bailed out of jail).

If you remove problematic cells, then you’re at a much lower risk for developing pre-cancer, or cancer. (I’m not suggesting we kill off problematic children. I’m suggesting we nip them in the bud, with a firm talking to, or a good, thorough PowerPoint on recycling.)

As I understood it, I was going to this dermatological surgeon to remove a few “problematic cells.”

THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T TALK IN METAPHORS, PEOPLE!!!

I showed up to the doctor five minutes late, but chipper. It was the Friday of a long weekend! I was home for the weekend! My parents were taking me to Papa Razzi, where the breadsticks are firm and the focaccia bread is moist. So I’d be a few cells fewer…what’s the big deal? What could go wrong?

Would you like to know what the surgeon said to me, as soon as I walked into the “operating room”?

“I’m really sorry about this,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty.”

What wasn’t going to be pretty?

“It’s a tough area to heal. You’re probably going to have a pretty big scar. Again, I’m sorry.”

The surgeon was preemptively apologizing to me. Save an oral surgery procedure and one rogue colonoscopy, I don’t have much experience with surgery (*knock on wood*). But I knew this was not a good opening line.

I was nervous, and he could tell. As he numbed my leg, I tried to answer his questions about my life and my studies. I tried to tell myself that scars build character and besides, wouldn’t I rather have a scar over “problematic” cells?

The male nurse came in to assist. He was cute. I noticed. My toenails were unpolished and kind of gross-looking. I worried he’d noticed. He probably had.

I’ll spare you the details of this procedure, but let me say this: I am NOT a fan of surgery. I nearly passed out, peed, barfed, and cried, all at the same time. I think the doctor could tell I was about to up and run, because he started asking me if I watched…WAIT FOR IT… The Bachelor.

I must’ve lit up like a Christmas tree, because he looked like he’d struck gold. We talked about this season. I pretended I was too good to “fall into the trap” of the show. (I crossed my fingers underneath my butt because of course I’m not too good to “fall into the trap” – I jump in, every season, head first!)

When all was said and done, they mandated me not to exercise for two weeks (no problem, gentlemen) and to clean my stitches. HA! You think I’m taking that bandage off? Think again!

The day after my “surgery,” my grandmother showed up at my house with a present. Not a stuffed animal, or some soup, but…a “leg condom.”

What is a leg condom? Why does my grandmother have a leg condom? Who coined the term, “leg condom”?

These are all very good questions.

A “leg condom” is a big, plastic stocking that you wear over your leg when you cannot wet it in the shower. It cuts off your circulation with a big rubber-band and makes it impossible to wash from the knee-down. It also creates a safety hazard in the shower because it is very slippery against a porcelain tub.

My grandmother has a leg condom because she, too, had a skin procedure that mandated she keep the area dry.

The term “leg condom” was invented by my grandmother. It was the topic of conversation at at least two family dinner parties that I can recall. And now, it had re-entered my life with a vengeance.

After a long explanation about leg condom usage, and a lot of weird looks from my poor father, we had a cup of tea and my grandmother was on her way.

I received several texts that day, asking how the “L.C.” had worked out in the shower, and if everything had stayed dry. These texts were sent under the assumption that I am someone who showers over a long-weekend. Am I? You’ll never know; a lady never reveals her bi-weekend shower rituals.

Two weeks passed quickly, and I again found myself at my dermatological surgeon’s office. I waited 45-minutes for him to take a snip to my stitches and say, “Looks great! All done!” Couldn’t I have done this myself? I have scissors. I know how to congratulate myself. I’d make a fabulous dermatological surgeon.

I told the doctor that I was to leave on a trip to Guatemala the following morning. He told me to be careful and to avoid any intense activity.

I said, lightheartedly, “Ok, but, it’s not like the scar is going to split open, right?”

“That’s exactly what might happen,” he said, before patting me on the shoulder and walking out.

I panicked to my mother. I told her I’d never be able to pose for leg photographs again. I worried about my leg modeling career. I worried about my potential marathon career. I feared I’d never have an article written about me, titled, “Leg Model Wins Marathon.” I also worried I’d do something rash on my trip to Guatemala, like sky diving or bungee jumping, which would cause my leg to explode and me to be evacuated in a dramatic helicopter scene.

….

And so, we reach the present-day. Guatemala has come and gone, and while I thought my scar would be my biggest health concern during the trip, it was not. Nothing split open or necessitated medical evacuation.

There were, however, some *other* medical issues.

There’s nothing like a little Dengue Fever to distract yourself from an overreaction to a minor skin procedure and its scar.

Did I actually contract Dengue Fever? Of course not. Did I convince myself I had? Of course.

What our group learned in Guatemala is that one day, you’ll feel fine – you’ll sip strawberry daiquiris and eat side lettuce and wonder why Guatemala gets such a bad rap for its food safety because my God, this food is delicious!

The next day, you’ll feel like an army of trolls is trying to make its way out of your insides. You’ll run five minutes down a lakeside trail to use a nearby public restroom because both toilets in the house where you’re staying will be clogged.

You’ll walk back to the house, feeling “off,” but convinced there’s nothing a little oatmeal and some fresh air won’t solve.

You’ll spend your day in the sun, riding on boats between villages, trying to not act sick. You may even eat an entire Hawaiian pizza, just to prove to yourself how totally not sick you feel.

Then, you’ll get home, and you’ll get in bed with a fever. You’ll ache and feel cold and then hot. You’ll notice a petit bug bite on your cheek. You’ll remember that one time your friend was sick with Dengue Fever. You’ll wonder if Guatemala has a Dengue risk. Because you’ll – unfortunately – have Wi-Fi, you’ll Google such questions, and will discover that yes, Guatemala is, in fact, a Dengue country. What harm could a little Dengue research do to a feverish young woman? Much. Much harm.

You’ll read the symptoms for Dengue and decide that you, too, have been stricken by the D. You’ll text your mom and make her panic. You’ll tell your roommate that the incubation period for Dengue is “three to 15 days,” and that you’ll surely be bedridden for the remainder of the trip. She’ll walk in on you wearing a dramatic mosquito net as a veil, and will laugh openly in your face. You’ll consider what to eat for your last supper. You’ll ask her to bring you back a full fish meal, with cake for dessert, from the group dinner you’ll miss. She’ll do so, kindly, and you won’t touch a bit because you, of course, have the Dengue.

The next morning, much to your surprise, you’ll wake up feeling totally fine. You won’t have a fever. You won’t even have a stomach ache. You’ll smell like someone who sweat through a mosquito net all night, but other than that, you’ll be back to normal.

And so, here is my recommendation: if something, such as a big leg scar, makes you feel at-risk and slightly uncomfortable, simply convince yourself you have a far worse issue plaguing you. Act as dramatic as possible and get everyone around you to worry. Do not consider alternative causes for your discomfort. Let your imagination run wild.

That, my friends, is what I call, “getting some perspective.”

 

 

 

 

 

Powdah

8 Jan

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There are some families that are downhill skiing families. You know the types. They all have their own equipment and they all – yes, all – wear those helmets that have fake fur popping out of them, so they look like they have giant manes sticking out of their helmets, when really – BIG SURPRISE, HERE – they are just wearing: HELMET COVERS WITH TUFTS STICKING OUT OF THEM.

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(A photo, for reference.)

They pack sandwiches with delicious red peppers and copious amounts of deli meats in them, and they all sit around in the lodge and eat chips and drink beer and then somehow manage to get back onto the slopes.

They can be overheard saying things like, “Amazing powdah today,” or, “Billy was shredding up Death Rock but said there was gnarly ice on the West side,” or “It was a fat dirt patch but I 375ed my way around it and landed in a righteous patch of moguls.” (They were all talking stocks and comparing their Forbes covers.)

They know the lift operators and the store vendors. Actually, they know everyone on the mountain. For them, walking into the lodge food court is like walking into your own wedding – you know about 75% of the people there, and to everyone you don’t really know or recognize, you give a knowing nod or wink or high-five and say something like, “It’s a great day out there!” or, “She really is a beaut, isn’t she?” (At your wedding, you’d be referring to your bride, but on the slopes, you’re referring – from what I gather – to the mountain.)

If I sound petty or jealous, it’s because I am both petty and jealous. There is nothing I hate more (except for a ton of other things that I hate, like videos of tiny animals doing shit) than not being “in the know” about something. Ironically, I am usually the last to pick up on things, so I essentially live my life in a prolonged state of frustrated anxiety about not knowing the things that I want to know. (Tiny violin for the slow processing, “fringe” girl.)

My family is a cross-country skiing/hiking/snowshoeing/ reading by the fireplace family. My family has never been a real “downhill skiing family,” and it is one of my biggest, darkest insecurities – one that rears its head for one day every winter.

We go downhill skiing once a year. I don’t mean like one week per year – I mean one day (actually, more like one half-day) per year. We don’t own any equipment, and we always spend the days leading up to our trip up north hobbling together mismatched, old snow pants and winter coats. I usually roll up to the mountain looking half like a six-year-old boy and half like a 1980s college kid who decided to “hit the slopes” with her “guy friends” over a long weekend.

We went up north during the days between Christmas and New Year’s, and we dedicated one day to downhill skiing.

Downhill ski families are usually dressed and in the chairlift line by 9am. At 9am on “downhill ski day,” I was undressed and wondering where I’d put my toothpaste and whether or not I had time to clean my retainer. This may not have created a huge delay for us, if we all owned our own equipment…which, if you remember, we do not.

10am rolls around and all five of us – plus my cousin, Julia – have wandered into the ski rental place. But not the main ski rental place at the base of the mountain…no, no, we decided to rent our skis from “the other guys.” As if there weren’t enough ways for us to not fit in, now we were renting less mainstream equipment?? This is like asking your parents for a Bratz doll for Christmas and instead getting a Carlos Santana CD (because Bratz are “trashy,” but Latin American rock fusion music is the gift that keeps on giving).

I don’t care if you rent your skis from Lindsey Vonn herself – renting equipment is chaos. CHAOS.

Mom needs another size because she has “problematic arches”; Lydia has a phobia of skiing and so is trying on hats, to numb her fears with retail therapy; Dad is missing his wallet (spoiler alert: it’s in his snow pants pocket); Cecelia is too short for average sized poles and so now the hipster snow bunny men need to find her child poles; cousin Julia has forgotten her goggles and is wearing a smelly neck warmer that probably has snot on it from 1996; Sophie has an abnormally large head and is trying on a helmet that is squishing her Jimmy Neutron squash harder than a mom of four squeezing a stress ball. (Never mind the fact that the day before, she’d been hit in the head by a giant log that disconnected from a tree during a lovely winter wonderland walk, and so was painfully struggling to maneuver her lumpy, disfigured squash into said helmet.)

The entire rental scene was enough to make anyone throw in the towel and head to the bar (and by “anyone,” I mean me). But press on we did.

Equipment rented, it was time to drive up to the mountain! We approached the mountain entrance, only to be yelled at by a balding man in a neon vest who claimed they were not allowing any more cars to drive up to the base, and that we’d have to park in the overflow parking.

The “overflow parking” was actually a petit field, stuffed to the brim with confusedly wandering kids and huge Escalades (not too dissimilar from a celebrity kid party, I’d imagine).

My dad kept referring to people as “wide loads” and my mom was waving her arms while still inside the vehicle, apparently expecting people – whose backs were turned away from her – to get the memo and make a path for our car. Shockingly, no one cleared a path.

We finally found a parking spot, before realizing that the ever so convenient “overflow parking” was nearly a mile –downhill– from the base.

Holding all of our gear, we trudged our way up an incredibly icy and snow-covered path. I made a few too many highly insensitive comparison jokes about the Trail of Tears, and then – rightly so – nearly got hit by a rogue, slip sliding Escalade that decided it was above all of us and would just casually drive its way up the trail.

We arrived at the base hours later, totally depleted of protein and completely sweat-covered.

In that moment, we were nothing but renters who’d been forced to walk to the mountain because they hadn’t kicked their asses into high enough gear to get to the mountain on time, and everyone knew it. They could smell it on us, like a parent sniffing weed on a nine-year-old. (Invest in some body spray, you nine-year-old newb!)

And I found myself, once again, with so many unanswered questions about downhill skiing, such as:

  • How can you wear those fucking boots without feeling like you’re stuffing your pudgy feet into cement blocks and attempting to run a marathon?
  • Don’t you mind not being able to pee for long periods of time?? What, do you all have the bladders of camels?
  • Aren’t you fucking freezing? What, are your gloves lined with animal flesh? That is sick.
  • Why are your snow pants so skinny legged and streamlined?? Why are mine so fucking puffy and in the way?
  • Why are you forcing your screaming kid to ski? You heard the girl – she doesn’t want to ski! Leave her alone in the lodge with one of the 700 people you happen to know at this mountain, instead of telling her it’ll be “bed without suppah” if she doesn’t get outside right this instant.
  • Back to the peeing question: how do you not emerge from the stall all sweaty and red faced from peeling off layers of tightly fitting athletic apparel? Honestly, my “stall time” is the most exercise I get all day during a ski trip.
  • Why are you letting your kid poke me with his pole? Did you raise him in a barn? Tell him to get the poker out of my back!
  • Why do the French fries cost $10? Are they magic? Will I, too, be a “shreddah” if I shovel them into my gourd?
  • Why are you sitting alone and knitting at a table for six, when there are about ten million people waiting for a seat in this godforsaken food court?! Unless you’re knitting me a fucking neck warmer that won’t ricochet snot back into my face, I suggest you MOOOVE.
  • Why am I here? How did I let them talk me off of the Nordic trails and onto the Alpine mountains of Hell?

***

This particular half-day of skiing cemented my status as a downhill skiing outsider. But, it also ended with me telling my parents I wanted to do a second downhill day. This may have been due to the fact that one of the hipster snow bunny men grazed my hand while I was returning my skis, and I felt a shot of sexualized adrenaline toward him. It could also have been due to the fact that I’d managed to survive the day, without obtaining any more head injuries. Or, it could have been that my original head injury caused me to confuse downhill skiing with things that I actually do love, like my mom’s meatballs and when I wake up and realize that my hair is clean.

Regardless, I was on a skiing high (which is more than I can say for that poor weed newb of a nine-year-old).

The next day, when 9am rolled around, I forced open one eyelid and checked my phone, which told me that it was 9am and 17 degrees outside.

The cross-country trails were beautiful, that day, thanks for asking.

 

 

 

An Onion Experience

15 Dec

onion

I’m going to be frank: I recently got chased and “spoken to” at a fine art museum – the exact name of which I will not mention, to protect the identities of the guilty – for wandering into the museum restaurant’s kitchen.

Am I proud of this? Well, yes and no.

On the one hand, well-behaved women seldom make history. (Which is what I said to my captor.)

On the other hand, misbehaved women are seldom allowed to stay at classy events…so it’s really a toss up. Making history or hors d‘oeuvres and overpriced Chardonnay…HMMM…

My friends and I set out for this classy event with all of the best intentions. My intentions were (in no particular order): dressing up, wine, dancing, wine, and pizza – the same intentions as any other day of the week.

The dressing and the wine and the dancing were all very easy to accomplish. A little too easy, in fact. Despite having waited for an hour in freezing weather to get into this event, things couldn’t have been going any smoother. But, you know what they say: if things are going too well, then it’s time to break and enter!

Well, maybe “break and enter” is a bit strong. It was more of a “wander and then move aside a barrier and then enter,” type of situation.

Mid-dance, I decided I had to use the ladies room. I inspired my friend, Celery (names have not been changed), to also use the bathroom. I am very inspirational, like that.

As we were looking for the bathroom, I saw a doorway with a big, black plastic barrier in front of it.

OH LOOK, A DOOR THAT IS CLEARLY BLOCKED OFF TO CIVILIANS. Could they beg any harder for someone to break through? That door was clearly flirting with me. I mean, if you want me to come inside, at least ask me to go on a date first!

I can’t tell you what made me think I should scoot through the crack in the barrier and enter into a room where I was clearly unwelcome.

Actually, I can. It was the $4 Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s. (Quick plug here: excellent wine at a very good price. “Pay rent AND drink like a fish!” That should be Trader Joe’s new slogan.)

Pinot whispered to the imp on my shoulder, “Go, Sophie. That barrier doesn’t apply to you! Sure, it’s tall and plastic and big enough to be a sled for a family of twelve…but what’s stopping you? The law? Your mom? The patriarchy? TAKE DOWN THAT WALL.”

And so, I – along with Celery, who will probably never, ever listen to me again – slithered past the barrier and entered into the restaurant kitchen of this fine establishment.

No one was in there. I was in an empty industrial kitchen, untethered. This is dangerous for a number of reasons.

Celery and I felt like we’d entered into Ellen DeGeneres’ bathroom and were getting to look at all of her soaps and medicine cabinet contents. (I have no idea what Ellen’s bathroom is like…I just love Ellen.)

We noted the deep sink and the very utilitarian faucet. We appreciated the stature of the oven. We looked for snacks. There were none.

BUT WAIT, WHAT IS THIS?

There, in the corner, was a bag of onions.

Apparently, I love onions. I don’t mean like, oh yum, onions are great when they’re caramelized and on a sandwich…I mean, WOW, I love onions so much that I’ll fondle a bag of them that I find in an industrial kitchen, as if I’ve never seen an onion or a mesh sack in my entire life.

As I was fondling the onions, Celery and I noticed a few kitchen staffers standing at the far end of the kitchen. (It was a huge kitchen.)

This was our queue to go! I dropped the onions and started to make my exit, but NOT before deciding to take just one peek into the fridge on the way out because WHY NOT??

And that was the straw that broke the back of this entire Pinot/curiosity-fueled mission.

“Hey, what are you doing in here? HEY!”

I took off like a rocket. Every cross-country running instinct I’d ever had kicked in, and I flew out of there like an advertisement for American Airlines.

It was a foot race. We – Celery, the staffer, and I – were engaged in a full-on foot race.

I buzzed out of the space we’d created between the wall and the barrier, while Celery took the more genteel approach of plowing right on through the barrier and knocking it over. And do you know who got chased and caught by Mr. Fridge? Take a wild guess.

I’d never been chased by a man before. It was kind of like When Harry Met Sally, except it was more like, When Sophie Met a Bag of Onions and Then Got Chased by a Refrigerator Guard – very romantic and highly cardiovascular, but without the New Year’s Eve kiss and marriage. (Although, who knows!) Norah Ephron would have approved.

When Mr. Fridge caught up with me, he started yelling.

“Why were you in the kitchen?” he yelled.

“I was just looking for the bathroom!”

“But you opened the refrigerator! Why did you do this?”

“I was just looking for the bathroom!” I reiterated.

“In the refrigerator??”

“I was being silly! I’m sorry! Where is the bathroom?”

If you’re impressed by my defense skills and critical thinking under pressure, then please, run – don’t walk – to sign up for my defense attorney services. I was clearly born to be a lawyer.

Mr. Fridge was very, very displeased, and I don’t blame him. We came into his house…on the day of his daughter’s wedding…and we (I) fondled his onions.

All joking aside, I do feel bad about this. I shouldn’t have been in that damn kitchen. (And I am apologizing to every kitchen into which I’ve ever walked.)

Mr. Fridge told us we were allowed to stay, but that we had to use the bathroom that was outside of the event room. Not wanting to make any (more) trouble, we followed his instructions, and ended up at the back of an hour-long re-entry line. Manipulation at its finest.

The next day, as I was recounting the events in my mind, I found a video that my friend, Mushroom, had taken of me, post-onion adventure. I was going on and on about the onions: “There were so many of them! Red, yellow, orange – an onion for every occasion! And the fact that this man would dare to interfere with my onion experience is just…well, it’s just baffling.”

I will never see another onion and not remember that evening. I will also never allow my friends to take me out in public without an adult leash. You never know when an onion mood might strike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punched.

2 Nov

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I got in a physical fight this weekend.

Just kidding. But I did get punched.

Still kidding. My roommate, Megan, got punched. I just got shoved. And slightly punched.

Getting shoved while dressed like Cruella de Vil was actually on my bucket list, so things are going incredibly well for me.

There are some situations you can’t imagine happening until they actually happen. Like winning an Oscar. Or winning the World Series. Or being on Leonardo DiCaprio’s yacht. (That was fucking awesome, by the way.)

Getting punched by a girl who’s dressed as a devil is one of those experiences.

Let’s back up.

It was a dark and stormy Hallow’s eve. (It wasn’t stormy but I had been drinking a Dark and Stormy.)

We were innocently minding our business and wandering the streets. I was dressed as a Disney villain who tries to kill dogs, and Megan as Harley Quinn, from Suicide Squad.

And that’s when the Devil emerged and said the insult to top all insults: “Wow, Harley Quinn, real original.”

Did we know this girl? No. Were we wearing signs that said, “Please, questions and comments are welcome! Critiques encouraged”? No. Mine had fallen off on the dance floor. I hadn’t fastened it very well.

So, what possessed her to say this about Megan? It’s unclear.

Maybe we look like fighters? I’ve always wondered if I give off a “pit-bull” kind of vibe…and I don’t mean Pitbull the rapper, because obviously I give off a Pitbull the rapper vibe. (Bald and rapping about thongs. That’s me.) I mean pit bulls, like the dogs that belong to big-bellied men who have yellow stains on their white tank tops. (OK back off, I get it – this is a stereotype.)

But that’s not the point.

The point is that we got punched.

I’m not going to lie to you and say we heard that comment and then skipped away like a couple of dainty Julie Andrews impersonators…These are a few of my favorite things! No. We did not do that. Because that is a Christmas song (for some reason) and that shit doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving.

We may have turned around and given a glare. We may have said, “Yeah, because a devil is so original.”

If life were a movie, and if I were a star, this is the part where I’d pause the action and talk directly to the camera. I’d say something cute and mysterious, like, “Now, here’s where things got crazy,” and you’d think you were watching a fun romantic comedy, and you’d probably be like, “OMG, I didn’t know Kate Hudson died her hair brown! She looks awesome!” And then the action would resume and you’d ever so briefly think you were watching the all-female remake of Ghost Busters…only to realize that you were actually watching the all-female remake of Fight Club.

In this version, Megan was Brad Pitt and I was the little insomniac man who just wanted to be included.

My experience with physical combat is minimal, at best. Growing up in a household of girls, we used to slap each other with bras and fight with our words. Not in a cutesy, “let’s have a pillow fight” way (so all you pervs can stop thinking that). Girls can be vicious. But that was really the extent of the viciousness. (Except for that one time I dared my sister to lick dog pee and she did it.)

Besides this, everything I know about violence came from my drivers education course.

In drivers ed class, they tell you not to have road rage – not because it’s unnecessary, or bad for your health, but because some people might carry crossbows in their vehicles and this might not end well for you. Again, crossbows. This was an actual lesson, taught to me by an actual teacher.

No one ever prepares you to defend your choice of Halloween costume because some young women carry emotional crossbows and might come after you in a very real and very physical way.

These girls came at us. It was fast and it was furious. But it was also all in slow motion.

Devil #1 lunged at Megan like a puma, as I watched in horror, while noting her quick footwork and wondering if she was a dancer. In the time it took for me to register what was happening, she’d already thrown a punch.

Megan is an athlete and she is tall…and she could have really Cross Fitted her way out of this situation, let me tell you. But, she is also rational and intelligent, which really boded well for us in this situation. Because if – God forbid – the cops had shown up, whose alibis were they going to believe? The alibis of a Suicide Squad character who’s known for wielding a baseball bat and an evil, dog-killing woman with half a head of grey hair? Or, the girls wearing black dresses and petit, red devil ears?

Things were escalating rapidly. Suddenly, the Devil had company. Five other devils, actually, which really threw into question this girl’s argument about a Harley Quinn costume…

She had five friends, and I was carrying a stuffed Dalmatian and a plastic cigarette holder…

Some of the Devils were ganging up on Megan, so I decided it would be a really good idea to put all of my fight club training to good use.

My internal – and perhaps external, although it was all a blur of adrenaline – dialogue sounded something like this: PUT ME IN, COACH, I’M READY TO PLAY. FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE. IMMA JUMP ON YOU LIKE A SPIDER MONKEY. YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL INFERIOR WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT. THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF.

I ran into the ring and tried to pry the Devil’s hands off of Megan. It was all very Exorcist-esque. Except I don’t recall a devilish Snooki being in the Exorcist, nor do I recall her shoving and hitting people on Halloween. But then again, I watched most of that movie with my eyes closed, and she’s a mom now, so we can just live and let live.

The Devil karate chopped my arm and my Kate Spade bangle smacked against my wrist bone.

Let me repeat. MY KATE SPADE BANGLE BRUISED MY ARM DURING A PHYSICAL ALTERCATION. If there has ever been a less cool way to procure a bruise, I would really like to know because honestly, I am one step away from being a Stepford wife.

I bounced back from the blunt force trauma. At which point, a cab driver pulled up and asked if we needed a lift.

I have never been so happy to hop in a cab. Actually, it was a Prius and I’m not sure if he was really a cab driver. (We later had to jump out, when we were told it would be a fixed-rate, cash only ride. But it was exciting to make a getaway.)

So that’s that. I was bruised from my own bracelet and Megan had a few bruises but (luckily) no major injuries.

I probably shouldn’t be joking about this. Street fights are not good.

But I will say this: I could never make it on a reality show. I bruise way too easy.

 

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He Loves Me, He Loves My Back

25 Sep

backpack-pic

I’m in love with my chiropractor. My new, French chiropractor.

This is what I told my mom when she asked me how my visit to the chiropractor had gone and if I was “still in pain.”

Clearly, I wasn’t.

Let me back up, though.

Earlier this week, I became someone who actively uses the waist strap of her backpack.

I don’t mean that I used it once because I happened to have a heavy load and then immediately removed it…I mean that I wore it around all week, like a commuting Earth Science teacher.

Remember the high school stigma that came along with that damn waist strap? It held the potential to ruin lives. If you were caught wearing your backpack in a responsible, back-healthy way, it didn’t matter if you were quarterback of the football team, or if you played strip poker in hot tubs at parties (two things I only know from “the movies”). You were a loser.

I’ve had the same backpack since freshman year of college. It’s a North Face, which was trendy when I was 18 and also can fit a ton of books, without looking obviously stuffed to the brim (as opposed to LL Bean’s backpacks, which make you look like you’re hauling a potato-carrying little person around, no matter how much you’re actually carrying). I know my backpacks.

So, I’ve been running around with this backpack for the last few weeks of graduate school because when you’re busy and it’s 90 degrees outside, and the students for whom you’re a teaching assistant call you “Mrs.” and ask if that costume jewelry you’re wearing is a wedding ring (IT’S NOT), you just feel too damn lame to give a flying fuck about looking cool or fashionable or trendy.

BACKPACKS ARE FUNCTIONAL.

Well, things took a turn this week when my backpack injured me.

Actually, it could have been the intense Pure Barre class I took that injured me. But the backpack also played a role.

In addition to my usual aches and pains, I’d been having some aching neck pain for a few weeks. I attributed this to hauling around my backpack and texting a lot. According to Web MD, I had a yet-to-be-discovered form of cancer. So nothing was really going as planned.

Instead of cutting back on my backpack use, or trying to text less, I decided to go to a physically strenuous barre class. (See my post about barre classes to understand what this entails.)

Halfway through the shoulder workout, I felt a searing pain run from my neck to my shoulder. I assumed this meant it was working, and I was on my way to Kelly Ripa arms.

Kelly Ripa arms and the joints of an elderly coal miner – a truly compelling dichotomy.

I guess I assumed incorrectly because, a few days later, my arms looked the same and my neck was aching even worse than before.

Enter chiropractor number 1: The $100 Truth Concealer.

The first chiropractor I went to asked me about my year in France, looked at my spine, told me to stop carrying a backpack, and then asked me how I’d like to pay for his $100 services.

QUOI??? (That’s French for “WHAT” – pronounced “kwa” and sounds a lot harsher and more animalistic than “what.”)

“Um,” I said. “Is there anything wrong with my spine?”

“Oh yes,” he answered. “It’s messed up.”

Expensive and scientific! What a combo.

He seemed incapable and/or unwilling to divulge any more.

He was, however, eager to show me the collection of “Thank You” cards he’d received from patients, and I was eager to write a “No” in front of each “Thank You” and be on my way.

But what did I do instead? I thanked him for robbing me blind and then set up an appointment the next day. (Which I later cancelled, by telling him I needed to “get my parents’ permission” before continuing with his services. When in doubt, act 12 and make NO mention of autonomy.)

So there I was, in pain, out $100, and still carrying that fucking backpack.

As I lay in bed, using old Trader Joe’s frozen green beans to ice my neck, I considered my options.

Then, I got tired of considering my options, and asked my mom to consider them for me, while I caught up on the season three premiere of Black-ish.

After EVER SO KINDLY calling our insurance company, my mom had made friends with the customer service agent and had the scoop. There was another chiropractor I could see and he came highly recommended.

And now, I know why.

So here we are: I am in love with my chiropractor.

Without revealing too much, I will reveal that he is French and charming and cool. I will also reveal that I showed up to his office at 8:30am on Saturday morning, having eaten a pint of ice cream at 2:30am and fallen asleep in my clothes. I also had a cold, greasy hair, and five hours of sleep under my belt.

McDreamy gave me some paperwork to fill out, and then took said paperwork away from me because I was taking too long to answer the questions. He’s very time-conscious – it’s one of the things I love about him.

Next came the exam.

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea here – this guy is extremely professional and not untoward in any way.

I, however, am unprofessional and very “toward.”

McDreamy asked me if I’d ever been “adjusted” before. (Woah, that’s a little much for a first date, don’t you think??)

I had, in fact, been adjusted. I’m relatively experienced, in that area.

He leaned over me and for a moment, his chest was near my face. I thanked Jesus I hadn’t had time to drink coffee that morning, and tried to ease my beating heart.

He also told me I have misaligned hips, one leg that’s shorter than the other, and compressed vertebrae. Sexy can I, am I right?

We chatted about France and life, all while he was cracking and adjusting my neck and back.

He made a joke; I laughed. I made a joke; he laughed.

I felt like an elderly woman getting a sponge bath – vulnerable and exposed, in need of medical attention, a wee bit sexy, and excited for my dessert pudding.

When all was said and done, he told me to take Vitamin C and drink lots of water. Whether this advice pertains to my back or my cold, I’m not sure – I’m just happy to know he’s concerned for my well-being.

He asked if I was good at swimming and had access to a pool, since swimming is really the only non-impact sport my brittle bones can handle. I said “no” and asked if that was an invitation. (I didn’t and it wasn’t.)

We agreed I’d come in a few times a week for regular adjustments, and then I’d have to work to maintain my own spinal health.

As I was on my way out, he added one more instruction to my care regimen: “Oh,” he said. “And NO MORE backpack!”

Yeah, ok. We’ll see about that, doc.

😉

Belly Up to the Barre

15 Aug

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Barre class.

When I mentioned to a friend that my co-worker, Allison, and I had gone to “barre” on Friday during our lunch hour, he said that noon seemed “early” to start drinking, even for me…While I support drinking at lunch and associate it with European sophistication, good fashion, and a high intellect, I was not noontime imbibing on (this particular) Friday. I was at barre class.

Unlike alcohol, which is an expensive yet relaxing, therapeutic hobby, “Barre” is known as an expensive, torturous one.

When Allison mentioned she goes regularly to barre classes and asked if I’d want to join, I enthusiastically said yes. (As I do to most things, without first thinking them through.)

At the time, I was reading Jessi Klein’s book, You’ll Grow Out of It, in which she discusses her personal barre journey (and a lot of other poignantly insightful and hilarious parts of her life). She talked about how intense the class is and how quickly it moves; how painful its effects can feel; how odd it is that the instructors refer to one’s ass as one’s “seat”; and how, despite all of its cons, the class will leave you with the tight cheeks of a five-year-old. I’d been warned, but I’d also been inspired.

Come Friday, I was ready. Despite the fact that she’d said I was forbidden to do so, I borrowed my sister’s Pure Barre socks, with the sticky dots on the bottom. I felt like a scrub-wearing high school biology student, about to conduct triple bypass surgery: vastly unprepared, yet dressed for the part.

Allison and I got to class with two minutes to spare. I went up to the very perky instructor:

“Hi, you’re Sophie, right? I saw that you registered online!”

“Yes,” I said, “that’s me!”

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but you can’t do this class.”

She’d seen through my scrubs.

“Um…why?” I asked.

On the website, you indicated you’re new to barre, and I simply won’t have time to instruct you and then help you get set up. You’d be lost and confused. You’ll need to attend another class and arrive ten minutes early. It says so on the website.”

Internal questions, go!

First of all: why do you keep talking about “the website” like it’s your dear friend, Tina, whom I’ve just told can’t attend my birthday party because her feet smell like dog food and shrimp?

“Don’t apologize to me! Apologize to Tina.” TINA CAN STAND UP FOR HERSELF.

Second of all: “Lost and confused.” As if barre was some kind of deep-sea excavation journey, and I was attempting to dive into the depths of the ocean in a snorkel mask and a bikini…

Because Allison and I didn’t have time to simply, “attend another class,” I opted to put into action one of my most tried and trusted techniques: The Scrambler.

The Scrambler is simple. If someone tries to inconvenience you by asserting their tiny bit of authority and saying you simply “can’t” do something, or “won’t be able” to do something, you start acting confused yet lethargic. You think aloud, and ramble about scheduling concerns, and health issues, and deep-seeded insecurities…basically anything that will make the other person scramble to come up with an alternative plan and get you to shut up. (HINT: the “alternative plan” is you getting exactly what you’d wanted all along.)

Here is an example:

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but you won’t be able to order the ‘Bird-On-Bird’ chicken and turkey sandwich until we start serving lunch at noon. It’s only 10AM.”

“Oh. That’s a real shame. I was so looking forward to it. I guess it’s alright, though. You know what? I’ll just call Ellen and tell her to meet me for lunch, instead of breakfast. Oh, but she has to get to her kid’s appointment this afternoon. Nope, it’s not looking good for little Suzie…not looking good at all. Last I checked, she still had the tiniest little tail, but I’m sure the doctors will work it out. But then again, maybe they won’t…We can never really be sure about anything in this life, you know?”

*Pause and gauge reaction*.

*If necessary, pivot the subject*.

“My mother raised us to be strict vegetarians. She always said I was a weak failure. This is why I eat sandwiches filled with multiple varieties of poultry. It’s a form of rebellion. But maybe she’s right? Maybe I am a failure?”

*Cue a reflective look and misty eyes*.

“I just want to take control of my own life, you know? I don’t want to be stuck under her green thumb for the rest of eternity. But it’s fine, don’t worry about the sandwich. It’s just a sandwich. It’s really…just…a…sandwich…”

Boom. The Poultry Prohibitionist is defenseless, and you gobble gobble down your sandwich for breakfast.

I looked at Allison, and put my plan into action.

“I can’t go later,” I said. “I have an appointment.”

“We can just head back to the office,” Allison offered.

“It’s fine,” I said, all mopey. “You go and have fun. I’ll just stay here and read. I brought a book. Oh wait, did I forget my book? Shoot, I did. No really, though, it’s fine. I’ll just sit here and sip water. Sippin’ and readin’. Oh wait, I forgot – I don’t have my book. Well then, I’ll just sit…right here…and…sip…water…”

I waited a beat, as the clock stuck 12:31 and Perky Peg’s students started to get restless.

“Ugh, whatever,” she said. “Just do the class. Allison will get you set up.”

WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TOAST WITH THAT SCRAMBLER?

I hastily changed into my outfit, leaving my hair in a “for work only” fancy braid and leaving all of my valuable possessions in the openness of the lobby.

By the time I got settled, the class was already kicking and plucking and pruning and whatever else they were doing. I took my place among them (in a remote corner of the room, against the wall) and tried to assimilate.

Because Perky Peg had been so curt and rude to me, I immediately wanted her to like me. I had to be the best student she had EVER SEEN. But not only that, I had to be her BEST FRIEND. I WOULD get an invite to her wedding! I WOULD be there for the birth of her twins! And MY ASS WOULD LOOK LIKE A FIVE YEAR OLD’S FOR ALL OF THESE MAJOR LIFE MOMENTS, DAMMIT. (If I were in therapy, I imagine this is the kind of long-standing, “win them with kindness” flaw that I would bring to my therapist’s attention.)

The thing about barre is that the instructor really is omnipresent. She wears a headset, which means her voice permeates the room, even when she’s not physically there. You can never really be sure where she’s standing, but she’ll occasionally call out praise or suggestions. She’s like the popular girl in school, and you’re an acquaintance who sometimes gets invited to Friday night “let’s try drinking Listerine” parties.

I was sure Perky Peg hated me and would let me contort my body into incorrect, potentially dangerous positions. I was sure I’d walk out of class with one leg wrapped around my neck and a hunchback.

But suddenly, an enthusiastic, “Good job Sophie!” boomed over the speakers. I instantly swiveled my neck, to see who’d called me. (I assumed I was the “Sophie,” which says something about how I view the world.) It couldn’t have been Perky Peg! She hates me!

But it was Perky who’d called me. Perky was watching me. She was in my head. She knew my thoughts and about that wine I’d had last night. She could smell it on me.

She started walking toward me. I wondered what kind of scene this would be in a movie. Would she make peace by initiating me into her popular group as “the Funny One Who Has a Good House for Parties”? Or, was she about to cut off a chunk of my hair and throw water on my white shirt, to expose my training bra in front of the other popular girls? I wondered if I should put my hair into a bun and hold onto my breasts, in preparation.

“Awesome job, girlfriend. Just move your seat forward a bit. Great work.”

Awesome job. Great work. Girlfriend. Seat.

I smiled and silently wondered what I should get “The Twins” for their first birthday…

***

The next day, I couldn’t move my arms. My abs felt bruised, like I’d drunkenly ridden a mechanical bull and belly flopped onto a steel rod. My arms ached, like I’d spent all night physically – and financially – supporting my entire family’s weight. It hurt to climb stairs. It hurt to sit on my couch. It hurt to close and open my eyes. My hair hurt. It hurt to pick up a fork. It hurt to look at a fork, knowing that I couldn’t pick it up.

I was a barre girl.

 

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Working from Home

5 Aug

bird blog

Working from home is a luxury that is not meant for everyone. Kind of like fancy champagne, or a nice white blouse. Fancy champagne is expensive and classy, but *some people* *accidentally* drink it like they’re dehydrated ants, swimming in a pool of water after having survived a Californian drought. (It’s now occurring to me that it’s more likely for an ant to survive a drought than a bath in a small pool of water…but I’m from the East coast, so I’m no expert.) Drinking so much champagne that you end up doing somersaults in a skirt is probably an indication that you are not equipped to deal with the refined luxury of “da fizzy drank” (how fancy people refer to “champagne”).

Similarly, a crisp white shirt should not be wasted on someone who can, and will, spill three different, unidentifiable liquids on it before the hour of 10AM. White is not the “new black” if your shirt is so stained and dirty that it’s black; black can’t be the “new” black, THAT’S NOT HOW FASHION WORKS.

My parents both have the luxury of working from home a few days a week. For a long time, I thought that “working from home” meant responding to emails, in between bubble baths and re-runs of Dawson’s Creek. Not because this is what my parents do all day, but because I know myself well enough to know what I would do all day.

My sisters and I have been known to stand incredulously in front of our mom and ask her why she “just can’t” take three hours out of her “workday” to bring us to lunch and a movie. Why is that such an outlandish request when we know that all she does is respond to emails? Why must we “speak quietly”? What’s so wrong with loudly announcing that the dog’s “butt crack looks open and poised for number two” and that I “refuse to take her out because I ALWAYS do it”?

My mom often resorts to taking calls in her closet, like a brunette, non-twin Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap.

My mom takes the closet, and my dad takes the basement. Because everyone knows that nothing spurs brain activity and creativity more than mold-infested dens full of dusty exercise equipment and headless dolls.

Every morning, when I realize I’ve neglected to transport my clean clothes from the basement to my bedroom, have nothing to wear, and am running 30 minutes late, I throw open the basement door and run down the stairs, like some kind of deranged Justin Bieber fan. I bang and stomp and rattle, only to hear Dutch voices coming from the speakers of my dad’s computer. He is on “a call” with his Dutch “co-workers,” and I have just caused them to ask if my dad will need to take tomorrow off to assess the damages from what sounds to be the largest earthquake in the history of the East coast…

This is working from home: a luxury that cannot always be enjoyed, even by those who deserve to enjoy it.

This week, I had a mid-day dermatology appointment. For some, an appointment like this wouldn’t last more than fifteen minutes. I, however, am a dermatologist’s fucking dream. With the skin of a delicate Irish flower, but the ability to tan and speckle like an elderly Italian farmer, there is no chance of me getting out of an appointment in under an hour. My dermatologist, and her lanky – often unannounced – Lance Bass-esque assistant, poke and prod and take pictures of my freckles and moles with their fancy iPads (and I silently curse myself for wearing a thong because now they definitely think I’m a freckle-faced harlot).

It’s like one of those episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, where some kid walks in with two heads and everyone is all like, “YES, AMAZING,” and then they fight over who gets to surgically separate the two heads, and then Dr. Yang obviously wins because she’s a boss with zero bedside manner, and then everyone takes tequila shots and finds someone to bone in an on-call room. I am responsible for so many dermatology babies (and pregnancy scares!) that Shonda Rhimes should really be taking notes from me.

But I digress.

Because leaving my appointment and commuting to work for a two-hour window of the afternoon seemed like a huge waste of time, I opted to work from home.

The day was largely productive. The house was quiet, and I was actually getting shit done.

Why not take my work outside, onto my screen porch, like one of those poets who needs to be “closer to nature” to put pen to paper? (We all know that Henry David Thoreau just built that tiny cabin in the woods to preemptively vie for an appearance on HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living. He was definitely just a beanie-wearing hipster, writing on his parent’s suburban porch. Then again, there is something gratifying about someone who “simply cannot work” unless they have the unconditional support of their heirloom tomato garden.)

It was actually quite peaceful. Nothing but the chirping of birds and the clicking of my fingers against the keys, typing away like the professional I am.

But then, there was a link. A link to a video. Well, OK, full disclosure, it was the link to Hulu, and I consciously typed it into my browser. But still. THERE WAS A LINK.

Four minutes into an episode of Inside Amy Schumer (the one where she says “pussy”…oh wait…) and I heard a deafening “THWAP.”

It was the call of nature. No, not that call: a different call.

A bird had flown face-first into my porch.

I jumped out of my chair and ran over to the screen door to assess the damage.

What I saw can only be described as a bird with a twisted neck, dragging itself along the patio.

I ran inside the house, yelling to my sister, “Cecelia, help! There’s been an accident!” She was “napping” and apparently “didn’t hear me.”

I ran back outside and feverishly started Googling, “How to fix a bird with a broken neck without getting attacked by said bird and also do birds carry Zika virus???”

Google was largely unhelpful, although there was one Yahoo forum responder – who I can only assume is a wise, old Jamaican man – with the following theory: “I think u can save the bird by taking it 2 da vet and see what the vet says or if he could save da bird.”

Mmmhmm. Not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.

But there wasn’t time for da vet! Da bird was dying, and no amount of wise Jamaican advice would save it!

My sister finally came to see about da bird and immediately started laughing.

“This isn’t funny!” I said. “Can’t you see that this is an OMEN? Can’t you see that this bird scarified ITS OWN LIFE to make a point about slacking off while working from home? I AM AN UNPRODUCTIVE BIRD-KILLER.”

She accused me of making the situation about myself, which is completely ridiculous because I would never do something like that.

We decided the best thing to do was play the inspiring, stand up to cancer song, “Just Stand Up,” and hope for a resurrection.

Just as Mary J. Blige was about to go into an epic riff, a miracle occurred: THE BIRD STOOD UP. It looked dazed and confused, and its neck was severely swollen, but it was alive…which got me wondering if perhaps we’d just witnessed God at work…which had me wondering if God was still hanging out somewhere on my patio, and if I shouldn’t take this opportunity to make a few wishes, just for the hell of it…which had me thinking about that electronic toothbrush I’d wanted for my birthday but hadn’t received…

But NO! This wasn’t about me! This was about THE BIRD.

But back to me for a second. What did I learn from this experience? I learned that if you’re not responsible enough to work from home without taking breaks to watch feminist comedy shows, then you will be responsible for the near-death and/or swollen neck of a living creature.

Which is why, the next day, I brought headphones to work, so I could watch Inside Amy Schumer in the office.

Just kidding. I watched Broad City.

Just kidding. I would never watch TV at work. THESE HAVE ALL BEEN JOKES. (We all know the best jokes are the ones you need to clarify.)

I think I’m almost responsible enough to drink champagne, while wearing a white blouse. Don’t you?

***

UPDATE: The evening after the “bird incident,” I returned to the patio and found a big clump of white goo where the bird had been sitting. While it’s entirely possible that my neighbor’s fat cat came and attacked the poor creature, causing it to shit out of fear, I prefer to believe that God lifted it with her levitation powers, and then gingerly placed it on a bed of angel hair pasta (the bird equivalent of a Tempurpedic) in a field of daisies, before leaving her signature “white goo” sign-off mark on my patio…which, remarkably, resembles Crest toothpaste…which is the toothpaste I use…so does this mean I’m getting that toothbrush, or…

 

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Resting Bitch Tonsils

8 Jul

caller-clipart-scared_phone_call

“TONSILLITIS. PHLEGM. GREEN. PHLEGM.”

This is not how I like to begin public conversations. Actually, this is not how I like to begin any conversation. Especially one that takes place at 8:30AM. On a petite shuttle bus.

I am not a fan of phone conversations. Which is odd, because I love talking, and I love my phone…so you’d think the combination would be equivalent to a cookie pizza, or a puppy who can turn into a stress-free turtle, on those days when you just don’t feel like cleaning up piss and going for walks.

But no. Phone conversations are annoying and cumbersome. Why can’t we just text? (The title of my romantic memoir. Or, rather, someone’s romantic memoir about me.) Why can’t I just tell my secretary to make the call? (He’s been on vacation for nearly 23 years, but I’m confident he’ll show up at some point, tanned and ready for work.)

When someone calls me, I feel panicked, like, oh my God, the last time someone called me was before THE WAHR, what could this possibly be about??

Internal panic makes my voice sound like a stereo that once experienced an *accidental* strawberry sauce bath: “Hello?” I hear myself whisper. (I have nodes on my vocal chords, so sometimes, I try to speak and literally NO sound comes out.) I clear my throat. “HELLO??” I accidentally SHOUT, in my clear, nodes-free teacher voice.

Static. A pause.

“He-” I begin again, only to be interrupted by the person on the other end.

The conversation continues much like this–with ample starts and stops, and a lot of whisper yelling–until one of us decides to say, “Ok, great, I’ll text you the info to confirm. Thanks!”

You’ll TEXT ME the info?? Why couldn’t you have TEXTED me this entire conversation? You’ve raised my cortisol levels for no significant reason, and now I’m more likely to gain weight over the course of my lifetime. Also, my nodes are acting up. I haven’t prepared them for this. Will YOU be paying for my surgery? I want Adele’s doctor. And I want Adele to be there. SHE NEEDS TO BE THERE.

Anyway. This is why I don’t like phone conversations. Unless they’re with Adele.

On this particular morning, I had to make a phone call pertaining to tonsillitis, which I thought had been cured after ten days of drinking, while on antibiotics. But apparently, I was mistaken. All of my symptoms had returned with a vengeance.

Since I am a working woman, and a mid-day doctor’s appointment means a serious disruption to my work-life balance, I decided it necessary to call the office right after opening, so as to secure an appointment time that would convenience me.

The office opens at 8AM. I make the transition from train to office shuttle bus at approximately 8:25. I arrive at the bus stop at 8:30, which leaves me five minutes to occupy myself with extracurricular pursuits. Usually, I just lean against a wall and do my anti-Resting Bitch Face exercises (these include repeatedly raising and lowering the corners of my mouth, while thinking of peaceful things, like beaches and tax returns.) I’m pretty sure these exercises will result in even more wrinkles, but my mom says the resting state of my face isn’t very “pleasant looking,” so I’ve added “Anti-RBF” exercises to my long list of self-improvements.

This morning, however, people would have to deal with my natural grimaces because I had a health-related call to make!

I dialed the doctor’s office, where I was received by a pleasant, no doubt RBF-free operator, who told me to press buttons until Sandra was done with her breakfast sandwich and free to take my call.

I waited. And I waited. I wondered if her breakfast sandwich had bacon, because that would make it greasier and might mean she’d have to wash her hands after eating.

I continued to wait, until I saw my shuttle bus arrive. Shit.

I had two options: either hang up in a panic and call back later, or risk the humiliation of a public phone call.

How much do people really listen to other people’s phone calls, anyway? Sure, I know all about the birthday party that Wendy from Acton is throwing for her son this weekend, and how her mother is very concerned that ordering pizza might “send the wrong idea” to neighbors, and how Wendy will need to discuss things with her husband before making any decisions, and that her husband’s name is Robert, and that Robert has “a lot going on this week…”

But I only know all of that because the man sitting next to Wendy on the train yesterday burped into my ear, which caught my attention and inspired me to pay closer attention to my surroundings.

How much do people really listen when there’s no one there to burp?

I decided to continue with the call.

I boarded the shuttle, which was a lot quieter than usual. Where was the hum of the AC? Why wasn’t at least ONE of these six or seven people talking?

“Hello,” a human voice said on the other end of my phone call.

SANDRA!

“Hi,” I whispered. (My nodes were particularly active this morning, and I also didn’t want to display all of my dirty laundry for these shuttle people. I was already wearing a shirt that I’d found in my dirty laundry, so no need to beat a dead horse.)

“I, uh, had a bout of tonsillitis two weeks ago and it went away with medication but now…”

“What was that? You had what?”

“Tonsillitis,” I said, slightly louder.

“Name?” Sandra asked, like she was taking my order at a 1960s diner and was tired of serving food on roller skates.

“Sophie.”

“Date of birth?”

What was this woman going to ask next?? My social security number? My underwear size?? Why I’d said “No, not today,” when that cashier at Marshall’s asked if I wanted to donate a dollar to The Jimmy Fund last week??

I told her my birthday.

“Ok, so what are your symptoms?” Sandra asked.

“My throat is still really sore and I’m having some…phlegm,” I nearly whispered.

“What? I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you.”

There was still not a SOUL talking on this bus, besides me. Even the driver’s intercom had shut off. He was probably airing my conversation to the other bus drivers for their early morning amusement.

“Phlegm,” I said, at a perfectly normal volume.

“Could you repeat that?”

Seriously?

I felt the nodes parting like the red sea. Oh no. There was going to be a flood.

“PHLEGM,” I nearly yelled. “I HAD TONSILLITIS AND AM NOW EXPERIENCING A LOT OF PHLEGM. GREEN. PHLEGM. TONSILLITIS. PHLEGM. GREEN. PHLEGM.”

Whoop, there it was.

The man behind me shifted uncomfortably in his seat. I heard another man clear his throat. (Oh no he did NOT just appropriate my issue! There is only room for ONE phlegm monster on this petite shuttle bus, and that monster is ME.)

“Okay, the doctor can see you tomorrow, mid-day,” Sandra said.

“What’s the latest time she has?” I asked. I had already put an arrow on my back, why not annoy one more person in the process?

“That is the only time she has. Shall I put you down for tomorrow?”

“Sure.”

I hung up the phone. I felt eyes on me. Oh, that’s real nice, guys, way to single out the “sick girl.”

I tried to distract myself with texting, but then I felt something happening to my body.

A sneeze. A freaking flawlessly comically-timed sneeze.

I tried to hold it in by holding my breath and tensing my body, but then realized this wasn’t a fart; this was a totally different animal all together.

As the oxygen began to drain from my body, I felt my resistances weaken, and out popped a loud sneeze. Not a gross one (I am a LADY) but a nice, loud one.

None of the windows of this tiny ass shuttle bus were open, and I’d just infested the incubator.

When we finally arrived at the office, I scurried off the shuttle, as if to say, “Don’t worry, guys, you can still live life to the fullest, even if you get tonsillitis!”

I’m not sure they noticed my efforts to be positive and upbeat. But on the plus side, all of my apologetic positivity meant a lot of raising and lowering of the corners of my mouth.

Tonsillitis and public humiliation: the best cures for Resting Bitch Face.

 

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