20/20 Vision Is For Suckers

Do you have a favorite doctor? I’m not talking about your favorite M.D. who takes care of you the best at their medical practice. I mean, do you prefer the laser-eyed-mole-chasing Dermatologist over the pinprick-scratch-test Allergist? Or the “take a deep breath” (100 times until you’re dizzy) Internist vs. the “slide down to the end of the table, you might feel a little pressure” OBGYN?

My favorite doctor has always been the dentist. Mostly because I have never really been told anything bad during my appointment. I am blessedly free of cavities (ok, ok, there was one, but I’d like to think it was a fluke), and have skated by with barely any scolding over my sporadic flossing habits. In fact, I am usually able to shine like a braggy, obnoxious star pupil when I exclaim with pride that I am not a coffee or tea drinker, nor do I favor soda outside of the occasional movie theater cherry coke. I get my pearly whites all buffed and sparkling, then walk out with a new toothbrush and things are looking good.

Perhaps you aren’t really a doctor type of person. Like, if I came over to your house and was in need of some Ibuprophen and inquired as to where your medicine cabinet was, you might give me a quizzical look to say “Why would I need an entire cabinet for medicine??”

I see your point.

But, here’s the thing, I grew up in a very medicine-friendly household. Not like substance abuse medicated or anything, just the kind that felt strongly about the benefits of a 6 month supply of Tums, a 3 month supply of inhalers, nose spray, cough medicine, 3 varieties of aspirin and a couple boxes of Sudafed, (when it was still available over the counter and crafty kids had yet to realize it was a key component in Meth making).

Sometimes, when I was older and found myself tossing and turning at 3 am unable to sleep, I’d creep into my parents room and whine to my mother about my insomnia. She’d kindly drag herself out of bed and into the kitchen, where she’d cut a Benadryl in half and hand it to me with a glass of water. Now, mom, before you get defensive, I was very grateful for this instant fix! I feel like it’s the equivalent of doctors suggesting that you give your baby a touch of Benadryl before a long flight or car ride in order to calm them down. So, whether it had a placebo affect on me or not, I always fell into a sound sleep immediately after that middle-of-the-night dispensing of medication.

By the same token, we were also a family that would head to the doctor for pretty much anything that ailed. For the mere price of a copay (thank you insurance), we could at least obtain peace of mind, if not a friendly Z-Pack. Hence my lengthy list of doctors at the beginning of this wayward rant. I assume most people struggle to maintain a general physician, with nary a need for an additional Grey’s Anatomy entourage.

For example, a friend of mine once told me that, growing up, if she complained to her mom that she didn’t feel well, her mother would reply, “Are you bleeding?” If not, there was no doctor to be seen. This so affected her psyche, that when her parents did try to offer her medicine or take her to the doctor, she thought she must be terminally ill and adamantly refused any sort of treatment.

So – the overall truth is that I was born and bred to find a sense of calm upon entering a physician’s office, and a sense of purpose behind dutifully taking my assigned prescriptions. It all goes to instantly soothe the beast inside of me called, Hypochondria. My fear of impending illness or disease, for both myself and those around me that I love, is so intense that I’ve succombed to panic attacks just thinking about the big What If’s. When I worked in a hospital during college, my mom’s first question to me, knowing my fears, was,

“Doesn’t it bother you being around sick people all the time?”

And I responded “Actually, I feel really safe constantly surrounded by doctors. Should anything go wrong, I’d absolutely be in the right place!”

It seems that I’m a medical lifer. Scrubs and white lab coats, icky tongue depressors and those weird plastic moldings of our internal organs just seem to put me at ease. Only one doctor do I really loathe, and he comes with one of these.

*Insert dreaded da, da, dum music here.

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The eye doctor is a certain brand of torture. They employ all kinds of ancient pain techniques that involve blinding, blowing, straining, gouging, searing and overall frustrating that leave the so-called patient (aka. Prisoner Of War) feeling adrift in a sea of misery. Left at the utter mercy of your Opthamolo-hitman until they release you from your hazy world.

My vision has been terrible for decades, so at this point, trips to the eye doctor are too many to count. Maybe my anger and anxiety are the result of my first pair of glasses being delivered just weeks after I attended a Bryan Adams concert—wearing a bejeweled tie and broad-brimmed black hat, no less (blame it on the vision problems?)—and, subsequently, was too blind to see him clearly when he romanced me with (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. C’mon, that is a TOTAL catastrophe and grounds for the seeds of hatred to begin.

Or maybe it all started after I begged my parents to finally let me get contacts on my 13th birthday. I thought they would transform everything in my benign seventh grade life, and I would reappear as a majestic butterfly to expertly bat my newly glasses-free eyeballs at Steve Dugger to win his affection. Too bad that, by the time I was finally able to jab those transparent half-orbs into my eye-sockets, I was affronted with a mirror reflection that was basically ⅔ eyebrows. For years I’d been hiding those hairy caterpillars behind the rims of my standard, 90’s oversize frames and, TA DA, now they were front and center for the world to ogle. I don’t blame Steve for deciding Missy Scheer was the hot one!

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It could be because of that whole, lazy-eye, had to wear an eye-patch like a pirate situation, but let’s not get into that again.

But, if I’m really being honest with myself, the true fear stems from embarrassment, pure and simple.

Somehow I always take it personally when I can’t read the lines on that stupid eye-chart. It’s a test I can’t study for (though, full disclosure, I did memorize the board once when I was tired of guessing wrong and just wanted the torture to be over) and am always doomed to fail. As if every time the doctor says “And can you tell me what this line says” I’m forced to scour my mind for a realistic answer…

“E, S, T…um, 2? Are there numbers in here? Are you going to take away my license? Do I need a seeing-eye dog?

And the doc will just keep forcing me to plug away, moving to the next line as if they don’t notice that I’ve started sweating so profusely that I’ve pitted out the shirt I’m wearing. As if suddenly the line will become completely clear.

“Ah, yes! I see it now!  The first one is a rooster, then Justin Timberlake, some cowboy boots, a measuring cup and some mac & cheese.” 20/20 vision! Hand me my pilot’s license.

Let’s not even GET into the process where they ask you which one is better, 1 or 2. 3 or 4. 5 or….come on!! Now you’re just shitting me! You’re gonna go back into your little perfect-vision lounge after this appointment and laugh with your cronies about how many times you got that gullible little twit to guess! “And it was the same one the whole time! Hahahahah!”

I realize the further I get into explaining this phobia of mine, the more crazytown I sound. I once told a friend that I had plenty of neurosis…she wondered at the time, what those might be. DING DING. Here you go.

Apparently, stressing out over going to the eye doctor is just going to be my lot in life, because I’ve heard your vision just get’s worse as you age. And I’m too afraid of someone peeling back my cornea and buzzing lasers into my brain to get any sort of Lasik surgery.

Instead I’ll just wail all my sorrows and horrors to you fine people.  And maybe the next time you find out I’m heading to the eye doctor, you’ll offer to buy me an ice cream cone afterwards.  For now I’m just going to schedule my next dentist appointment so I can feel better about myself.

All Hallows Eve (aka) My Favorite Day Of The Year

If you know me, you know I love Halloween.

If you don’t know me, I’ll probably end up sharing this tidbit with you long before it’s conversationally relevant or seasonally appropriate.

Like, when work functions demand you play that awkward game where everyone has to “share something unexpected with the group.” My fallback tends to be, “Halloween is my favorite day of the year.” My birthday is in early November, but I truly have no interest in it, (and I’m not just saying that in a whiny way where I really expect you to make a big deal out of my bday even though I swear I don’t care). So, I request that anyone who really loves me should participate in Halloween instead. Just pretend October 31st is my real birthday and, instead of presents, wrap yourself up in a costume of some sort and come on over!

Ridiculous? Probably. But for some reason, the ability to get dressed up in a random costume and eat copious amounts of chocolate, or as an adult, consume mass amounts of liquor, is incredibly appealing to me!

The biggest nerd flag I fly is that I’m a sucker for anything that feels magical. And I mean, Harry Potter Hogwarts magical, not “what card am I holding?”  pull a rabbit out of a hat magic. When someday my kid asks me if I believe in witches and wizards and unicorns and flying hippogriffs, I won’t have to hesitate when saying, yes.

But in the essence of not embarrassing myself or those around me, I try to limit this excitement and childlike obsession to 1 month a year when it is somewhat accepted by society. Enter, All Hallows Eve.

Dressing up is a big deal. It’s not enough just to slip on a pair of cat ears or a clown nose and call it a day. I have extreme appreciation for the kind of creative detail and planning that goes into the perfect Halloween costume, and will always have a big soft spot in my heart for those who go down the rabbit hole with me on this occasion.

That being said – I feel a certain amount of stress over choosing the perfect costume. One that is crafted as much by hand as possible, with the right amount of clever mixed in with pop culture, immersion-blended with some unique imagination. But, most importantly, does not have the word “sexy” in front of its name. You are not a “sexy” pirate, or a “sexy” Rainbow Bright Doll, or a “sexy” nun. These things are counterintuitive and wrong and I will not stand for it! (whew!)

And so, in honor of the upcoming occasion, (and because I’ve yet to figure mine out this year and I need some inspiration) I give you…

My top 10 costumes:

10. A (Good) Witch: Notable only because it was the first costume I can remember wearing and the first birthday I celebrated in Halloween-style. I was turning 3 and all the kids dressed up in costumes to attend. I was decked out in a perfectly ragged witch costume, though apparently I was vehemently adamant to anyone that would listen that I was a GOOD witch, and rung in my new year with a pumpkin shaped cookie cake. My mom used chocolate chips to create a smiling jackolantern face, and I’m thinking that I’d be pretty damn pleased if someone wanted to make me that exact same cake every birthday for the rest of my life!

9. 70’s Rollerskater: I’m convinced this was a clever costume for 2 reasons:

First, because I found the perfect pair of old-school roller-skates in a thrift store. They were shiny white with neon orange wheels, and I paired them with expertly feathered hair, ill-advised skin-toned tights and a violently short pair of polyester track shorts that I wish I could say were actually from the 70’s, but were really from Abercrombie and Fitch.

Second, this was the first year I lived in Chicago and I kept those death-trap roller skates on ALL NIGHT. I mean, this girl maneuvered them in and out of bars with beer soaked floors, cabs that lurched us through the night and straight into 6” deep rain puddles and what had to be the worlds steepest climb of apartment stairs.

I managed to stay on my feet and off my ass for 99% of the evening, and didn’t wimp out even when my ankles were screaming “UNCLE!” Sometimes costumes take real dedication to pull off, and a night spent on 8 little wheels proved that.

8. 80’s Aerobicizer: Originally I had intended for my costume to be Olivia Newton John in Xanadu, but that required more rollerskates and I just wasn’t up for it. So I went with Olivia Newton John in Let’s Get Physical instead. (Though even that is kind of a mouthful, so 80’s Aerobics dancer it is.)

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oh, OLJ, this was a risky move

And while the key costume items mainly consisted of a sweatband and leg warmers, the real kicker was the assless leotard. I SWEAR I wore two pairs of opaque tights underneath! Oh, and I was 24 not, like, 8 when I wore this. Though, now that I think of it, a Little Miss Sunshine costume would be pretty amazing!

7. Jem & The Rockers: We’re just moving right along with an 80’s theme, huh? Well, this was when I was about 8 and my mom concocted a brilliant fuchsia shredded dress that sure gave that little animated rockstar a run for her money! Then my Aunt surprised me with a homemade cardboard guitar that was completely covered in pink glitter. I might have cried 8 year old girl tears of joy!

6. Elvis: Ok, I have never dressed as Elvis myself. But last year that’s how we decked out our then 18 month old, and it was kind of an amazing homemade feat. I usually wouldn’t brag, but take a look for yourself and let me know if you think this earns me a little mommy pride?

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enter, The King!

5. A Piece of Pizza: Pizza Hut pizza, to be exact. Including a real, cardboard pizza box with a hole in it as my hat. Clearly as a 5th grader I was not at all concerned with what people thought of me, because there might have been some questions when the elementary school parade was taking place and, mixed in with all the princesses and pirates and superheroes, was one random, awkward slice of pepperoni pie. This oversize triangle even had sad little strips of felt mozzarella cheese hanging from it’s belly. Truly delicious.

4. Ziggy Stardust: So, in addition to my intense love for Halloween, I also have a little obsession with David Bowie. And not even for the right reasons! I shamefully didn’t learn to love his music until I was in my 20’s. My crush with this man started much earlier (and this will come up later in the countdown) when I saw The Labyrinth for the first time, but has extended since then. So I was honored to pay proper homage to Bowie’s incredible, glam-rock, androgynous alter ego.

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Oy vey.

3. Super Jew: I still stand by the fact that one of the easiest costumes to concoct on short notice is that of a homemade superhero. Dawn a ski mask, tie a sheet around your neck, grab a plunger as your weapon and, TADA! Creepy Toilet Man is here!

So my sophomore year of college I decided to craft my costume around an oversize Jewish star necklace an Israeli friend had bestowed upon me. My clever roommate Audrey deemed it the “Super Jew Necklace” and even non-Jew friends used to borrow it sometimes for a little extra power. I paired it with head and wristbands bedazzled with glittering jewish stars and a cape that I believe said, “The Chosen One”. No one at the parties we attended that night had any idea what I was dressed as.

2. Chippendales Dancer: Sometimes I want to copycat this group costume because it was that excellent. I mean—3 girls wearing flesh colored t-shirts under plastic man-body chests, with penciled-in facial hair and sock stuffed pants—it was the perfect blend of innovative, hilarious and totally creepster. We were invited to do “shows” on the tops of every bar we visited, and in lieu of dollar bills we accepted free drinks. My children are going to be VERY embarrassed someday when these pictures resurface.

1. The Goblin King: This is the yet-to-be costume. The ultimate of all costumes that will require months of planning and practice in order to make it right. And if you haven’t watched The Labyrinth yet, lemme tell ya, you’re missing a magical musical Jim Henson tale with a lot of puppet goblins and weird M.C. Escher stairs. Sounds pretty awesome, right??

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I didn’t say it was pretty, just that it was my favorite.

One fine October 31st, I’ll dawn my intricately homemade Goblin King costume and know that it will never get better than this. My favorite movie character on my favorite day of the year. Eating too much candy, drinking too much spiked cider and watching my kid start his own top ten list of costumes to adore and rehash at length someday:)

Keepin’ It Classy

I can’t breathe. Everytime I try to inhale deeply, I feel constrained. It’s making me panicky. I’m breaking out into a cold sweat and the lack of oxygen is making me a little lightheaded. My lungs feel compressed, gripped, like they are slowly and painfully being squeezed together by a vice or a noose or…my belt.

Wait. This doesn’t sound normal. I bet this doesn’t happen to you, does it? Panic-inducing breathing problems brought on because that stylish skinny belt wrapped around your waist is somehow cutting off your airway? That’s just some of my crazy.

It begins like this: I  wake up in the morning after a good night of sleep, and I’m feeling the slimmest I’ll feel all day. The food slate has been wiped clean, there’s been 8 blissful hours of digestion going on, and things seem relatively flat and un-bulgey. So I figure I’ll cinch that belt around my waist to try and add some curves to a body that looks more like a 12 year old boy than a 32 year old woman—more Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory than Sophia Vergara.

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I hold my breath while threading the buckle into the loop, (trying not to think of the Culver’s double cheeseburger and fried cheese curds I had for lunch yesterday), seeing what hole I’ll be able to reach. It’s sad, I realize this, feeling at competition with a belt. Hoping I’ll be able to mouth-off at it when reaching the inner circle of notches saying “That’s right! Take that, generic mass-market belt Biatches, I’m in it to win it!” Then I breeze out the door feeling fit and fine, off to start a wonderful day.

Things first start to go downhill once I reach the car. This teeny cinched belt was MUCH more meant for standing then sitting, and now that I’m curled into my munchkin Ford Focus, I’m feeling a lot less slender than 10 minutes ago.

Then I arrive to work and it’s time to eat breakfast. Sitting and pumping food into my belly is also not conducive to tummy restraining devices. Neither are unseasonably early bowls of Halloween candy that seem to tempt me at every turn. Come 3pm I’m fidgeting in my chair trying to find the most comfortable position, and somehow I’ve completely forgotten that the nucleus of this problem is a .25” leather band. I’m stressing out – people outside my office can probably hear me huffing loudly in attempt to grab a full breath – when it suddenly occurs to me that all I have to do is loosen my belt. Or even better, take it off completely.

The relief is immediate. I splooge (I want you to know that spell-check didn’t even underline that made up word) into my chair as a puddle of mushy, oozing, relieved goodness. Not even caring if someone wonders what happened to part of my outfit from earlier that day, or whether I look like the Wicked Witch melting into a hazy abyss.

Really, this is just one of the many things about me that starts out with the very best intentions of classiness, and ends up crashing and burning into a smoldering pile of oh-so-much-trashiness.

Another shining example would be my illustrious kleenex and napkin debate.

In our house, you will rarely, if ever, find actual kleenex or napkins in our cupboards or bathrooms or bedside tables. Where is the need for them when you have paper towels and toilet paper?

I wouldn’t claim to be a terribly proactive save-the-earth kind of girl. I buy fancy organic cleaning products more because they smell delicious then because they lack toxic ingredients. We have a drawer in our kitchen overstuffed with hand towels, and at any given time we’ll be simultaneously using three of those, in addition to a roll of paper towels, for various tasks. So the decision to allow certain paper products to do double duty is, sadly, not a politically correct one. Just laziness at it’s best.

The other day I was dreamily e-shopping on Anthropologie (be still, my heart) and sent my sister a text out of the blue that said:

“I think I want to start collecting pretty placemats.”

Her response.

“Fun–that can be your thing!”

Like how she decided one day that collecting kaleidoscopes was going to be her “thing.” Or how collecting empty plastic water and Gatorade bottles in the back of his car seems to be my husbands “thing.”

So I’ll start collecting lovely, colorful placemats. And I’ll design my entire meal around the theme of their pattern, and create a magnificent tablescape all Martha Stewart style with repurposed sticks and calligraphed placecards. Like the one time I cooked a meal for 13 girls in Chicago where I bought bright fabric for a tablecloth and planted little ceramic pots of grass for a centerpiece and served parchment wrapped sea bass and lemon infused noodles. YES! Yes I have done this, I WILL do this! And I’ll use paper towels as my napkins. So what?

I seriously didn’t realize this was an issue until we moved away to Dallas and noticed that any time my mother or mother-in-law visited and went shopping for us, they returned home with a huge package of napkins and several boxes of kleenex. I guess adults don’t find it charming to seek out a roll of toilet paper when they need to blow their noses, or using oversized paper towels when they need to wipe their hands. It was a not so subtle way to remind us that we were also grownups, no longer living a college or nearly post-college lifestyle, and should join the real world of proper household accessories.

Considering somewhere along the way my child has become fastidious during mealtime and is always demanding “a napkin!” with which to wipe his grubby paws, (yet he somehow could care less that his cherub face is smeared ear to ear with spaghetti sauce – just get his hands clean for fucks sake!), I guess we’ll have to follow suit and start stocking them in the house.

Nobody is perfect, and I certainly don’t hold myself to such high standards that I expect my whole world, from closet to cupboard, to be Pinterest perfect. It’s just some of the more egregious errors in class that gnaw at my conscious. Like the suffocating belt issue, or lack of napkins, or when I consider licking clean my food utensils at work and putting them back in my drawer an adequate substitute to antibacterial soap and a dishwasher.

I’d ask you to please not judge me, but it’s ok. Go ahead. I’m sure I’d be overly critical if I saw someone else filling up the same water bottle on their desk that hadn’t been taken home and cleaned in several months, (it’s just water! how does that get dirty??).

My one request is that, if you ever happen upon me looking red faced, irritated, awkwardly trying to take in a breath while sitting at my desk, please just kindly point out that perhaps I should loosen my belt.

Love Letter

Dear College,

 I was just thinking about you today, you know, a little reminiscing about how, at this time of day while we were hanging out, I’d just be dragging myself out of bed. Instead, I’m in the midst of making edits to a Powerpoint Presentation I’ve been working on since 8am. Sigh. Remember when Powerpoints were just for professors? To be fair, I once wanted to BE a professor, so I can’t give them, or you, too much crap.

 Remember how I got lost on my way to English 101 that first week? It was so cliché – this newbie freshman wandering around campus in the mid-august heat – walking briskly but not running (wouldn’t want to look like a loser), while silently freaking out that I was going to be late. When I finally arrived at the correct building, I flung myself inside the classroom to the interested looks of everyone else in the room, and tried tononchalantly take a seat while brushing away sweat beads on my upper-lip. So much for playing it cool. Oh, college, you must have been laughing your ass off at me.

 School started back this week. We just finished putting a lookbook together at my job featuring a bunch of home decor items supposedly perfect for that college dorm-room makeover. We’ve got leopard print bean-bag chairs, rainbow shag pillows, canvas prints that say “Love”, “Inspire” and “LMAO”, the latterof which would have been just a big ol’ misspelling in my day.

 Then you get down to business with important items like dry-erase boards for the outside of your door. Ya know, so you can give your roomies a heads-up when you’ll be back late. Or, in our case, start hate-filled ranting wars with the guys down the hall.

 “Turn down your mother effing music! If I have to hear the baseline from Metallica’s Welcome Sandman one more time, I’m going to slap your face off your face!”

Remember when we hated Jim and Ryan from next door? We even complained about them to the Resident Advisor! Hahahah, I know, right?! He was really a total goober. Seriously, College, how could you have put him in charge of a bunch of rowdy 18 year olds? I mean, silly RA should have known that after a few angry dry-erase-board-exchanges, we’d work things out in your regular college way. By making out with each other. But I will give that dude props for helping us dispose of our suicidal fish. To this day I can’t figure out how that little guy managed to lodge himself in the air filter.

 Hey, College? Um, while I’m thinking about it, would you mind keeping a few things under-wraps for me? Like, how my roommates and I choreographed that dance to a Britney Spears song and then tried to perform it on the dance floor at The Sports Column? See, we’d been pretty inundated with those 90’s movies like “She’s All That” where the charactersburst into simultaneous booty shaking and hip grinding during a designated song, and it like, totally revved up the party. Just don’t tell anyone that we got confused looks and were basically booed out of the bar. Oops, we did it again.

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Also, let’s just refrain from telling my parents about what that art teacher told me my freshman year. Ya know, about how I was lucky I had talent because otherwise I would have flunked out of class from talking too much. I’m pretty sure my parents thought that those immature Chatty-Cathy tendencies were limited to High School only.

 And for my sanity, could we lock the vault on discussing my job with the survey service and the other one where I had to sort through slides of Dermatological oddities. Honestly, to this day, thinking about how miserable I was at both of those places of employment still gives me a stomachache. Please don’t ever make me call 14 year old boys and ask them what their favorite X-Box game is! Or lethargic 50+ males asking about their diabetes medication! And, please, if you ever loved me at all, don’t remind me about the horrific images of genital herpes that I was forced to label and file. I can forgive, but I’ll never forget.

Speaking of unpleasant College memories, remember the Green House? Don’t play dumb with me, I know your skin is crawling just thinking about it. See, my husband and I just moved into our first house a few months ago, and one of the annoying things we’ve had to deal with is bugs. Stupid ants swarming the deck, and spiders building exaggerated webs on every bush in sight. But the worst of the worst, are the Silverfish. YOU know the ones. They haunted that green house we lived in our senior year. I shiver to recall the way we would suddenly see this 3” long critter with it’s million+ legs scurrying over the wall. Or that time Dana found one in her laundry basket…deep breaths…trying not to hyperventilate.

 That house was such a dirty wilderness. One time I found 3 DIFFERENT kinds of bugs in my bed after pulling back the covers. Are you kidding me? Look, College, I know you were trying to throw a learning curve our way, but could you have stuck with just one species? And you really crossed the line with the snake.

 There I was, minding my own business, heading to the basement to throw a load of wash in, and what happens to catch my attention? Something twitching on the floor. Just  a lil’ ol’ garden snake creeping his way behind the dryer. Thanks for at least keeping that one in the basement. Oh, the horror.

 But, enough about me. How are you, College? How’s life treating you? I heard you received some accolades recently.  May I offer my congratulations? I’m impressed you’ve kept up such a stellar reputation! I mean, I’m not surprised. I’ve been singing your praises ever since graduating. Though, let’s be honest, I sure can’t party like I used to.

 If we were still hanging out, it would be cup night at the Q Bar tonight. Bring your trashy, plastic red cup from the previous week, and refill it for $.25 all night. Now THAT’S a bargain! Then we’d sink the rest of our quarters into darts, which I really only played so I could flirt with my now husband.

 Thanks for that, by the way, College. I really appreciate you introducing the two of us. I know that it’s not always reasonable to meet the person you’re going to marry while in college. I mean, at the time you’re priorities are a bit skewed and you still barely know what kind of person you want to be when you grow up. But, we were lucky. Your charming midwestern campus, lax underage drinking laws and enticing beer specials were enough to bring the two of us together. And then hard work, dedication and a lot of love kept us together. Sorry, I can’t give you all the credit.

 Anyway, I just wanted to say, hi, and that I think of you fondly every now and again. You were pretty fantastic during those 4 years, and sometimes I still wish we were close. Like on a Saturday morning after imbibing too heavily the night before. You would keep my head from feeling like it was being trampled by a herd of buffalo. You’d serve me up some frozen burritos and put me sweetly back to sleep until the nightmare passed. And then you’d ring me up and tell me that that it was $2 You Call It night at the Airliner and I’d better get my ass outta bed and meet you for a drink.

Here’s Looking At You (I sure am)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people pretend they can’t see glaringly obvious body malfunctions.

“Oh, I didn’t even notice you had spinach stuck between your two front teeth.”

“What pimple? I can barely even see your dainty, dirt-free pores.”

“Don’t be silly. No one else will even notice the, ahem, Gatorade stain on your white skirt.”

Not only do I NOT BELIEVE YOU, but my opinion of you has now plummeted a few notches for the impertinent lie. These kinds of things are not subtle, and you aren’t doing me any favors by “pretending” that you didn’t notice that I had my shirt on backwards all morning. As a friend, it is your duty to shield me from as much awkward embarrassment as possible, therefore, when you see me looking crazy – for the love of all that’s good, TELL ME.

I’m even happy to have complete strangers helping me get through the day in one piece. See a dark, stray hair blemishing the back of my white shirt while standing behind me on the train? Feel free to pluck it off. Notice while sharing the elevator that I’ve got mascara smudged underneath my eyes? Please, go ahead and give me a little clue. I won’t be mad atcha! It’s a true kindness and deserves a badge of honor to deliver the truth, albeit as kindly as possible, to those around us so that they can avoid these needless pitfalls.

But, the truth is, I notice a lot of details on people. Perhaps more than the normal human being. For instance, today while in a meeting, I became engrossed in the fact that 3 of the 4 men at the table had an intense amount of dark hair on their arms. Like, seriously, they were all in the third phase of werewolf transformation. It looked like they would need a comb to keep it in check.

Additionally? Another one of the guys had exceptionally pretty lips. They were perfectly bowed on top and plump on the bottom. The kind you would draw on a comic book superhero to accompany his sexy five-o’clock shadow. This of course sounds super creepy, like I’m one of those hillbillies in Deliverance saying “You got a purdy mouth.” Shudder.

It’s just that I happen to be fascinated with the details, and constantly soak them in when in the company of others. While listening to you talk I might easily notice that your hair is wonderfully shiny and looks really soft. Or that the freckles on your arm are in the shape of a spaceship.

Have you ever really paid attention to people’s hands? A big, bulky guy, buying vitamin B tablets and Muscle Milk next to me at Walgreens, might have baby-size hands that are smooth and callus free.

Or the woman in line at Snappy Salads who’s tapping obnoxiously on the plastic sneeze-barrier will have an extra lumpy knuckle, one she clearly chews on when she’s anxious or upset. And now it’s all calloused and protruding and a foot away from the edamame I’m now thinking of leaving off my salad.

Hands can be hilariously missized for the overall height of a person. When I was in 5th grade I took an art class where we were learning figure drawing and the method of proper proportion. My teacher explained that a person’s hand was, on average, supposed to be the same size as their face.

Try it. Line your palm up with your chin and spread your palm over your face like a catcher’s mitt. Does your middle finger almost meet your hairline? Congratulations, your hand is fairly proportional. As for the rest of you, who’s hands barely cover your nose, don’t worry too much. I doubt thaaaaat many people will notice the anomaly (aside from me, of course).

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This kind of microscopic attention to detail is even worse when it comes to things I tend to self-obsess about. For instance, I have never had nice skin. I battled acne for 10 years before going on Accutane in 2008, and I’ve yet to wake up in the morning without leaning into the mirror to inspect my entire face for anything foreign and unwanted that might have sprouted up overnight. Thus, I am terribly fascinated with women around me who are blessed with flawless skin. I’ll be listening to you tell a story while simultaneously following the smooth sweep of your brow and relishing in the beautifully soft, unlined curve of your cheek. I’ll sigh wistfully at your invisible pores and wonder what kind of under-eye cream you use before bed.

I also have a weird thing about eyebrows. Mine, if left unattended, would take up half my forehead. Like I got drunk and pasted a fake mustache too far up on my face. I spent many years trying to tackle them myself and ended up with all sorts of questionable question-mark shaped icons tacked onto my head. But then an eyebrow-waxing magician changed my life and I haven’t looked back since.

That being said, now I’m always curiously looking at the exact definition of other girl’s eyebrows. Do they have a really defined arch? Are they filling in with a curiously mismatched pencil? Are they battling some errant hairs that seem to be rebelling from the pack and sticking up? An old boss of mine had eyebrow hairs at least an inch long that curled away from his forehead. I can’t tell you how desperately I wanted to just reach up, and pluck them off.

Understandably, sometimes this kind of thing can get a girl in trouble. I was talking to a co-worker today and she mentioned how she accidentally made an office enemy after being caught one too many times giving another woman the elevator eyes. Anytime they were in the same room together, she would find herself staring at this other woman’s clothing. But while she was truly appreciating her sense of style and grace, all the other woman saw was some snotty bitch giving her the once over.

Therefore, I try to be sly in my perusal, or at least offer an immediate compliment if caught. I swear I’m not judging. Well, 90% of the time I’m not judging. Mostly I just end up fascinated with the slight nuances that make us all individuals. And I store them away as minute fodder for a character I might create one day.

In the meantime, I cross my heart pinky swear that I’ll do my best to let you know if something funky is going on with your appearance. Or anything you can control, that is. I can’t do nuthin ‘bout that gnarly, chewed on knuckle. Ew.

No, It’s Not A Sex Tape

But, my husband and I DID star in a video. Now let me explain before you start getting the wrong impression and thinking we’re some wild, swinging, key-party couple. It was only 1 video. It’s not like either one of us is Hollywood bound. No hidden, on-camera talent was discovered. In fact, neither of us is really even that photogenic! (Sorry Honey) Wait, I don’t have to be sorry, he doesn’t even read this blog:)

It’s all my sister’s fault. At the time she was wrapping up her undergrad as a broadcast journalism major at the University of Lincoln. (She’s now a successful social worker with a masters—if that’s any indication of how far her broadcast career took her). As a final project for one of her classes she was required to film a music video. Immediately she knew the song, Please Forgive Me from the amazing David Gray album, White Ladder. Beautiful lyrics mixed with a pulsing, toe-tapping, get-stuck-in-your-head backbeat.

Next up was a theme for the video. Her vision was of two people passing through life and always missing each other. A shot of feet walking past each other, or people crossing paths with no recognition. Not until the final frame, when the song goes into this amazing musical fade out, will the couple meet face to face. And it will feel like a reunion, even though they’ve never met, and the camera will pan out and catch them in a dramatic, moving 360 degree turn.

Doesn’t sound too shabby, right?

The only problem here is that my sister is NOT A VIDEOGRAPHER. I’m not crushing any dreams right now, it’s just the truth! And what she discovered was that, in order to cobble together a 5 minute and 36 second video (geez, Laura, could you pick a longer song?!), over 5 hours and 36 minutes of film had to be taken! Oh ya, and she also had to find two willing schmucks to star in her debut film.

Enter Jennifer and Mike.

Dating about 4 months at the time and freshly off our first “I Love You’s” we were prime for emanating those uber romantic vibes. Not to mention the fact that I was leaving for the summer to be a camp counselor in Wisconsin, so this video was like a touching farewell. Something we could cling to over the days and weeks we were apart, missing each other so dearly, sitting in front of a tv screen with our fingers grazing the face of our beloved and whispering “I miss you so much!”

Mkay. Let’s just say that my now husband isn’t usually the overly emotional or dramatic type. He was not consulted about participating in this video, just enthusiastically volunteered.

My sister’s first question when I agreed to a day of filming was, “Does he have any shirts that don’t have stripes?” I think the answer was, “no.”

Our shoot began at a downtown business park. She had us criss-crossing through brick pillars, not looking at one another, and she stood back with her old-school, 20lb, on a tripod video camera and took various shots of our feet and swinging limbs. All the while yelling at me, “Jennifer, stop smiling! Look lovelorn and lost!” Mike didn’t have any problem with the no smiling rule. Half hour in and he was already bored.

Problem with this location was that, since it was company property, the establishment seemed to frown upon random kids videotaping anything on the premises. A uniformed guard eyeballed us warily for a little while and then, kindly, escorted us to our car.

Next up, a huge park with rolling hills and gardens. Director’s instructions to me? “Jennifer, sit on this bench and pluck the petals off this flower, all the while staring off into the distance as if wondering when you’re true love is going to arrive. Look stoic, but hopeful.”

WHAT? You seriously expect me to pluck petals off of a flower while my boyfriend looks on and random passersby point and stare, and not dissolve into fits of laughter? She must have tried to shoot this portion of the video a dozen times. My face constantly in an unattractive scrunch, trying to hold the laughter in before it burst free into tear-filled guffaws.

And, now that I think about it. I don’t even think I was sitting on a bench. I think she had me on my stomach with my legs kicked up in the air, like I was getting high school senior pictures taken. Would YOU have been able to keep a straight face?

Now, as all industrious film students are aware, you don’t always shoot things in order of appearance. So the final 360 shot followed the flower petal plucking. The director stuck us in the middle of a public park and requested that we kiss each other while she moved her clunky camera to no less than 15 different spots around us.

Kiss each other. In public. For, like, a half hour. Did I mention that my husband isn’t much of an exhibitionist? He’s wonderful and loving and all for PDA’s…minus the P portion. Plus it was hot outside and I think there were bugs, and tarantulas and lighting and any other thing you can think of that would make the situation even more awkward than it already was.

By this time we’d been running around town for about 4 hours and my loving counterpart was ready to call it quits and beeline home for a beer (or 20). But Laura was worried that we didn’t have enough film to finish the video, and she was hoping to get some more guy-centric shots.

We headed to a local man-made lake where the plan was to have Mike skipping rocks across the water. This was to add some literal imagery to the video to pair up with the lyrics:

Throw a stone and watch the ripples flow

Moving out across the bay

Like a stone I fall into your eyes

Deep into some mystery

Beautiful, right? Well, the only looks I was getting from my boyfriend were far from mysterious. He was getting closer to throwing that stone deep into my skull.

We wrapped up with a few more shots of us walking towards each other on a bridge and a full-frontal of me lip-syncing the entire song so that Laura could fill in blank spots with visuals of my sweat-stained face pretending to know the words to a song I had just heard for the first time that morning. I’m a natural.

I think, in the end, she got a B+ on the video. Nothing to scoff at. Their one complaint was “Why is only the female lip syncing throughout the video? How come you don’t have the guy as well?” Laura didn’t think it was worth explaining, “Well, at that point, if I had asked the guy to do ANYTHING else, all the film and video equipment might have ended up at the bottom of the lake.”

I said my oh-so-romantic goodbye’s to Mike and headed off to Wisconsin with a heavy heart. But I was excited about the fact that in a few weeks, a VHS tape showing us in all our lovestruck glory would arrive for me to watch, in private, on a random TV in the camp auditorium one night after dinner. I popped it in and sat 3 inches from the screen, eyes welling up at the music and heart swelling up from missing him so much.  It was a masterpiece.

I immediately packed up the video and sent it to Mike’s apartment, then waited with bated breath for it to arrive and him to call me and say how amazing it was. He told me that he loved it, thought it was great, and that he missed me very much.

One of those things was true.

About 10 years later it came to light that Mike had never watched the video at all. Said he couldn’t bear to cringe his way through those 5+ minutes and just faked the reaction for my sake. Oh, well. At least the missing-me part was true. And at least that video didn’t show up at our wedding, as I seriously feared it would. Pretty sure I’d do some cringing if I had to see it now, too.

Either way, I’ll send out a big “Thank You” to my sister for the hilarious memory, if not the catapult into stardom.

The Search Is On

How did we exist before the invention of Google? I mean, did we really get all of our questions answered by parents, librarians, store clerks or the smart looking guy waiting at the train stop? And then you were under the blatant scrutiny of the question answerer to openly judge you for whatever question you, the asker, were posing. Therefore causing an excess of personal editing and a general loss of the knowledge you were seeking.

 With Google at my fingertips, I have an extensive—and private!!!—tool at my disposal to get all manner of random questions answered instantly. Looking over the search history on my computer is a very intimate, albeit slanted, visual of what is going on at my head at any given time. Slightly alarming? I’ll let you be the judge.

  • How many calories are in a Cadbury Egg?

Yes, yes. I know that Easter is over. But this delectable treat is delicious year-round. In fact, in college my mom used to buy Cadbury Eggs in bulk to store in her freezer so that she could send them to me during finals. I tell ya—pretty motivational studying material! (Thanks, mom! xoxo) But when you’re sitting at your desk, giving in to a 3pm chocolate craving, it’s helpful to know how many calories you’re in for, if only to dissuade yourself from repeating the same (wonderful) mistake the following day(s).

  • Couch cleaning tips

Upon moving into our new house, one of the immediate decisions made was that our current sofa and chaise should be banished to the basement. They were the first we had ever purchased as “adults” living in Chicago, and had since seen their fair share of hard living.

Multiple overnight sofa sleepovers? Check.

Late night sessions of Rock Band? Check.

Comfortable participant in a stadium seating experiment? Check, and success for Superbowl XXXVIII!

These couches were also the mainstay of our foray into parenthood, only further mushing the almost non-existent stuffing, and adding new stains of the formula, banana and apple sauce variety.

Midnight sessions of VH1 videos while new baby didn’t sleep? Check.

Father and son naps during weekend golf tournaments? Check.

Subsequent fort, trampoline and lemme-show-you-how-many-times-I-can-climb-back-and-forth-over-this-sofa game? Every chance the kiddo got.

 But even though it’s being banished to the basement, I’d still like it to at least appear presentable to the untrained eye. What did I find out was one of the best tips to clean off dirt and stains? Baby wipes. How appropriate.

  • How do you change your actual home address?

I’m not talking about submitting a form to the Postal Service telling them that I moved from one place to another and need to get my mail. I’m talking about the actual, physical address written on my door. I don’t want it anymore. After a burst pipe, leaking toilets, holes in my ceilings, nails driven into other pipes and hail damage that is going to cost us a new roof, I’m a little worried that my house is cursed. It doesn’t help that 666 is in the address.

Now, I’m not really a superstitious person, but I’m also not going to say that I DON’T believe in ghosts because then I’m just gonna end up with some whiny, old, misplaced spirit moaning through my hallways. So, here we are, not even 6 weeks into our new place and the hits won’t stop coming. We’re beat up and scared of the elements and basically tiptoeing around a house that supposedly passed it’s inspection with flying colors. Could switching my address to 668 change the chakra or juju or whatever is inhabiting the walls of this building? I don’t know, but I’m hell bent to try.

  • Why do guys wear wood bracelets?

This was a bit of a useless search, as I don’t think there is a valid answer that exists online (or in nature), but I really wondered if it was a sudden fashion trend I wasn’t aware of? Several times in the past few weeks I’ve encountered grown men wearing elastic, wood-beaded bracelets. The kind you’d maybe see on college kids returning from spring break in addition to the cliche pooka shell necklace.

 My husband had one of those necklaces when we met. He wore it religiously and had a tan line from it on the back of his neck. At first I tried to pretend it was cool because, let’s be real, I was already trying to stalk him into dating me. But once that initial rope, I mean connection, was cinched, I prayed daily that the necklace would “accidentally” snag on his coat or my hand…or a pair of errant scissors. So this random resurgence of cheesy tropical jewelry on men is baffling to me. Especially when it’s paired with pressed chino’s and an IZOD button-up. What kind of regge-prep-school is this place I now live??

  • How much should a 20 month old be eating?

I know this certainly varies by child, but mine seems to be training for a future career as a professional eater. He’s constantly walking around saying, “eat” “eat” even if he just finished a meal. The other night we watched him put away a veggie patty, hot dog, carrots, broccoli, rice, two pieces of string cheese, some graham crackers and two cups of milk. You’d think he was on some sort of bender after a month long cleanse consisting of only lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. (I tried that once, for two days, decided it was poppycock and reverted to eating like a horse). Mostly I was just looking for some sort of assurance that his intestines weren’t going to rupture if I continued allowing him to ingest the caloric intake of a 40 year old man.

  • Pheobe from Friends + Banana Hammock

Did you know that Tuesday, April 9th was “Name Yourself Day”? Nobody else did, either. Except that my job revolves around producing new, interesting content all day every day, so I’m constantly scrounging around for little nuggets of inspiration. What came to mind when I thought about naming oneself anything in the world? Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Never heard of her? Where WERE you in the….wait….gimme a sec to Google search when Friends was on the air….

I should probably start deleting my search history on a more regular basis.

Wanna Be Friends? Check Yes/No

When was the last time you had to make friends? I mean, really, truly, make the effort to appear fun/attractive/interesting enough to some group of strangers in the hopes that maybe one of them would someday enjoy playing Apples To Apples in the basement of your house while drinking copious amounts of red wine.

It’s such a stress as an adult! When you’re little, there isn’t so much to think about and friends are made and lost in the span of a dodgeball game. Did Melissa share your love of My Little Pony? BFF’s forever. Did Brandi invite you to choreograph a dance to Madonna’s Like A Prayer on the playground at recess? Bosom buddy. Did Janet hog the best tiara in your dress-up bin and make fun of Peaches and Cream Barbie a little too much? Cut the B out of your life.

I’m not saying it’s not dramatic, the epic shifts and changes of those you choose to play with throughout your childhood and beyond. There are many tears (or in a boy’s world, punches in the face) to be dealt with when naive, guileless kids are petty or cruel or unfair. As a parent I’m already dreading the day when my little dude asks me why so-and-so-ginger-headed-neighbor-boy doesn’t want to play with him anymore. What can I say?
“Oh honey, he’s a total d-bag, just don’t worry about it.”
“Sweetie, don’t worry about that pimply, brace-face. His teenage years are gonna be hell.”
“I don’t know baby, maybe because you can’t kick a soccer ball worth shit and he wants to find someone who can actually play.”
(of course, we hope it’s not the third one)
I will have zero control over who’s gonna want to hang out with my kid through thick and thin. All I can do is try and raise him to be as easy-going, intelligent, fun-loving and lighthearted as possible…and pray that he’s not super annoying.

But here’s the thing, I’m a grown adult, not a boppy sixth grader ready to take on a whole batch of new middle-school recruits. How exactly am I supposed to meet people to make friends??

My husband, son and I just moved from Texas back to my midwestern home. It’s an interesting transition as we are currently squatting at my parents house while waiting to close on our future home. I’m even sleeping in my old, adolescent bedroom. It’s like a weird flashback where I’m actually allowed to have a boy in my room (in my bed!!)  and not have the “lights on, doors open” rule enforced by my dad. Except in this scenario, there is also a toddler upstairs who wakes up promptly at 7am every morning screaming Eat! Eat! Eat!

We moved back to be closer to family. To buy our first home. To hopefully lay down some permanent roots and build a community of our own to run around with, raise our kids with, amass embarrassing drunken stories with. But first, we have to find those people.

The first thought that comes to mind is attempting to reconnect with old friends who still live in the area. We might still have something in common, right? I’ve stalked enough on Facebook to see that some of them have young children and/or still seem to enjoy watching losing sports teams and drinking Miller Light. But then, even if we get past that awkward hurdle of “Oh, hey, you. Uh, wanna maybe hang out sometime and see if you still think I’m normal (and vice versa)?” there is this huge fear that we’ll get in a room together and have nothing to share with one another besides old stories about that time we drove around stealing lawn ornaments.

I started a new job this week, and can’t help thinking every day I pass through the halls that somewhere inside this building is a new bff just waiting to welcome this not a nerd…but almost girl into his/her life. It’s not a crazy thought, I’ve been lucky enough to have it happen before. Now I just have to seek them out…

Let’s see, where to begin? Ah yes. I had sent out some introductory emails to associates with whom I will be working with down the road. While reading through their responses, I came upon one that seemed exceptionally friendly. Dare I say, fun? I held my breath as I went to check her out on the company org chart, which halleluja!, includes photos.

Jackpot! She’s relatively young. I don’t detect any crazy eyes and her smile is authentic, yet quirked enough to convey that she knows standing in a mustard-colored hallway, haloed in florescent lighting, isn’t going to be her best look. This could be her. She could be fun, enjoy writing or running, think Halloween is the best day of the year, too. Who knows?

I haven’t sacked-up yet and gone to visit. My hair kind of looks like ass today and I dread the fact that I’ll get lost on the way to her office. Not sure what I’m so afraid of. I’ll either find myself laughing heartily while bouncing ungracefully on an oversize athletic ball in her cube, rejoicing that this is just the beginning of a lifelong friendship, or I won’t. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow…

Is 18 months too young to enroll my kid in some sort of competitive sport? I keep imagining how perfect it will be to meet other cool, like-minded adults when we’re all huddled around the sidelines of a soccer field on Saturday morning. Each lamenting over the early hour while hugging our coffee, and then covertly making fun of that one kid who keeps picking boogers instead of chasing the ball. Haha, gross. Wanna grab lunch somewhere they serve margarita’s before noon?

My husbands parents have a very tight-knit group of friends that they’ve maintained since high-school sports days. All those seasons of football, basketball and baseball where the same 5 couples took over their reserved portion of the bleacher seats and prepared to cheer their kids to victory. Then they knew exactly whose turn it was to bring stadium snacks, and now they take turns boating together while thoroughly enjoying retirement in sunny Florida. I’m not one to fast-track time, but that sounds pretty amazing.

I guess, in the meantime, we’ll just have to be fearless in our search to find future boating buddies. We’re good enough. We’re smart enough. And gosh darnit, people will like us! So, if sometime in the near future I show up in your office all smiles and supposed-to-be-funny quips, hoping to appear casual yet clever yet entertaining…throw me a bone, eh? I promise I’m not a serial killer.

An Ode To The Gym: You Are Gross

I once fell off the treadmill while running at the gym. Yep. That girl was me. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about that appalling possibility any and every time you’ve stepped near one of those evil devices! It still runs through my head every time I bite the bullet and hop back on. Just one of the many things that makes my gym experience oh-so-special.

I’m no die-hard when it comes to working out. I’ve never been an athlete—general hand-eye coordination somewhat escapes me—but I love being outside, and realized that learning to run a few miles in the great outdoors was a hellavuh lot easier than learning to swing a golf club. So over the years I’ve tried my hand at a variety of exercise methods: kick boxing, spin class, hot-as-balls Bikram Yoga. But none beats the endorphin release I get from a good ol’ 5 mile jog on a sunny day…preferably around a lake, surrounded by trees, at the height of fall. And when that isn’t available?

Da Da Dummmm (menacing music sounds), THE GYM.

Describing the gym, any gym on the planet, is like that SNL skit where “Stefan” talks all about the new clubs opening in New York. The name is always something like “Two-Tone Swirl Factory” and it has glitter bombs and naked acrobats and midgets carrying boom boxes. That’s pretty close to most of the fitness factories I’ve attended. So many random things can be seen and wondered about when visiting the gym. Here’s just a few of my own observations…

Attire:
It was only a few years ago that I stopped wearing old boxer shorts to the gym. This was spurred on by a combination of things.
1. My older sister’s guilt-inducing distaste of my workout apparel.
2. Moving to TX and its unendurable 110 degree heat, which required better, moisture wicking (my mom says “wikkan”, like witch voodoo, technology) athletic wear.
I always figured, who  cares?  I’m gonna get gross, sweaty and breathlessly unattractive over the next 45 minutes-1 hour, why should I care what kind of outfit I have on? And this is coming from someone who really loves fashion! A slave to pretty clothes and the experimental art of crafting the perfect look. But, for one reason or another, workout gear has always been off the radar. Hook me up with some greyed-out leggings, an oversized t-shirt from my dad’s old bowling league and I’m ready to run.

TV shows always seem to depict gyms as a place to meet potential mates. Somehow urging the innocent viewer to believe that, in addition to their goal of burning 500 calories on some sort of mechanical torture machine, they should make sure to look hot while while working up a sweat. But, you guys?!! It’s hard enough convincing one’s self that hitting the gym during their lunch break will be SO much more satisfying than a visit to Wing Stop. Add in the pressure of potential flirting across the gleaming collection of dumbbells and things start hitting terror level orange. I don’t want to spend any additional time making sure my ponytail looks properly mussed-yet-perky, and I certainly don’t need the stress of worrying if my socks don’t match. (Those suckers are all small, and white and the biggest pain in my ass when folding laundry. You’re getting matched up with the closest cotton ball I can find, you hear?!). So if…let’s just say when, you see me stretching in a pair of american flag boxer shorts that I got as a camp counselor back in 2000, please understand—it’s not that I don’t appreciate those pretty, ass-raising lululemon shorts, or that lovely, built-in sports bra tank top that perfectly hides your underboob sweat. I’m just too lazy.

On the flip side, I recently encountered an unexpected outfit choice while attending the gym at my local Jewish Community Center. This guy, who I first spotted on the elliptical machine, was wearing a white collared shirt, dress pants…and suspenders! At first I thought, perhaps he’s just squeezing in a leisurely 10 minutes before changing for his racquetball game. But no! He went from the elliptical to the stairmaster to the weights before fitting in a good stretch. This was a full-fledged workout, done in pretty upper class attire. Hat’s off to you sir. I admire your ability to keep that ol’ ticker in A+ shape while dressed to impress.

Camouflage:
The last thing I want when working out is to attract any sort of attention. I want to blend seamlessly into the scene, so that my huffing, dripping personage is no more noticeable than the next heaving, galloping human. I’m not saying you can’t look around while you’re there…I love judging, I mean, observing the locals while maintaining an elevated heart rate, but it must be done covertly.

For awhile, I was working out at my office gym over lunch. This makes the don’t-look-don’t-talk-don’t-ask policy a little harder as co-workers are awkwardly hovering everywhere. But there was this one girl, let’s call her Tiffany, who apparently had no qualms about brash treadmill behavior that drew the attention of anyone within a 20 ft. radius. She would literally crank up the speed on her Precor 5000 and do ACROBATICS for a good 30 minutes! I’m talking full-fledged splits, hops, skips, jumps and leaps as she spun side to side in some sort of frenzied, Richard Simmons rockin’ to the oldies routine. Pity to the poor soul who ended up on the machine beside her. You could actually feel the floor vibrating, and no matter how much you just tried to ignore it and focus on running until the end of your Justin Beiber song, her flailing body in your peripheral was seizure inducing. 

Another key element to fading into the background? Don’t fall off the treadmill. That’s right, don’t get on a machine in the first row, where the entire gym can see you. Don’t crank the speed up to 8.0 in an attempt to run off the chili cheese burrito you just scarfed. And whatever you do, don’t get so caught up in a sports play on tv that you forget to run straight and end up hitting the plastic side rail with one of your feet, forcing your other leg to crumple uncomfortably before you hit the deck. And please, please, don’t try to quickly get back up. That thing is still moving, and no matter how much you paw at the rolling track, you’ll just end up looking like a cat thrown in a bathtub, squealing and trying to get out. Rest your limbs and allow yourself to slump to the floor in the pathetic heap of sweat embarrassment that you now are.

Look Away, Just Look Away:
In case you didn’t know, there is a lot of nakedness in locker rooms. It’s pretty unavoidable, and most of the time, unnoticeable if you’re just focused on getting in and out of there as quickly as possible. But unfortunately, there are always a collection of loitering exhibitionists that want to make everyone uncomfortable. I have found that these women fall into two categories.
1. Chicks with breast implants. Always looking to share with the world their new lift, size, shape and relative lack of self-esteem.
2. Old women who take an inordinately long time locating, and then putting on their granny panties.

But really, the worst of what I have seen in the locker room has happened on accident, and can truly scar a girl for life. And thus, I feel the need to share these things with you so that we can indulge in a group round of cringing and I won’t feel so alone.

I’ve caught women blow-drying their nether regions
I’ve heard the most horrific labor and delivery stories on the planet
I’ve accidentally dropped my panties in front of my boss
I’ve realized that the girl who sits next to me in my cube doesn’t wear panties with her skirts
I’ve noticed that a large number of sweaty women don’t shower before heading back to work
I’ve seen the most gnarled, bare, ogre feet enter in and out of bathroom stalls uncovered
I’ve had sweaty, smelly towels hit the side of my neck on their way to the hamper
I’ve discovered stray piles of dandruff sitting idly by the hair tools
I’ve heard my spin teacher putting a pad in her underwear a foot away from me

These things shouldn’t happen in real life. But I guess the gym is like an alternate universe, where a variety of death defying, guilt inducing, brain bleaching moments are sprung at you with only a second’s notice. You have to be prepared, because you never know what might be coming at ya on your next visit.

I suppose it could be considered a little entertainment to keep you going during that 45 minute workout. The reality is that I’m saving up to buy a treadmill that I can put in my basement…so that I can huff, puff, undress and dismount (however ungracefully) in private.

Not A Nerd…But Almost

Remember that character in Sixteen Candles with the back brace? The one played by Joan Cusack who had braces and wore a red sweatshirt with some 50’s doowop girl on the front? And when Joan bent over for a drink at the water fountain (all awkward and hunched because the metal hinges on her brace only allowed for robotic movement) she used the skirt on her sweatshirt to wipe her mouth?

That could have been me. That probably should have been me. Somehow I managed to escape epic nerddom by a just a hair.

A brief (or not so brief, depending on your attention span) blast to the past will outline a few of my more prominent dweebilicious traits. Weigh in as you will. Remind me of others I have forgotten, this should be fun.

The Eyepatch

It wasn’t a black pirate one, but almost as bad. I have what is called a “lazy eye”, and NOT I must clarify, the kind that runs rampant in its eye socket like a cat chasing red laser dots on the wall. This kind of lazy eye is truly of the slacker sort, and allows its counterpart to do all the work while it sits aside, smoking pot, looking pretty and batting its eyelashes at the passersby.

My patch was flesh colored, which now that I think about it, might have been worse than channeling good ol’ Captain Hook. It pretty much matched my skin color and was plastered over my left eye and worn in hideous combination with oversize 80’s wire-rimmed glasses. I bet from afar it looked like I didn’t even have a left eyeball, just some super creepy stretched skin cavity where a normal 9 year olds eyeball should have been. And I walked around like this, day and night (that’s right, I had to even sleep in this ocular bandaid), possibly oblivious to the horrified looks of small children. Or just blind to them because they were always on my left side.

I endured an entire summer of this superficial deformity. I can only imagine the kind of traumatic, self loathing inspired poetry this inspired at the time. (That’s right, 9 year old poetry. Also nerdy). And now my left eye is only slightly worse than my right with proper lense correction. My family was kind enough to avoid any photographs during this short phase of my life so that it’s memory lurks only in the disgruntled recesses of my brain. It’s so much easier to laugh about when the off-balance, one-eyed raccoon tan line fades.

Scoliosis

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 5th grade. This was after several embarrassing moments in the gym locker room where some stocky, fuzzygendered nurse would ask me to lean over the dressing bench while he/she ran a prehistoric plastic tool down my spine. For everyone else it was a quick, painless swipe. But for me…there was always this dramatic arm movement when he/she swished around the curves of my rogue vertebrae. Then there would be sighing, and retrying, as if on the 3rd attempt each spindly, spinal piece would suddenly jump to attention and back in line.

What followed was quarterly trips to the Orthopedic Surgeon so that they could slap lead magnets over my ovaries and x-ray my thoracic curvature for changes. My spine was a lazy piece o’ poo. Slumping in not just one spot, but two! Making a sinking, slimy ‘S’ pattern on my back that, later in life, prompted my mother—irritated already by the 90’s trend of backless tops—to point out that I “didn’t really have a pretty back”. (Sorry mom, hate to throw you under the bus here, but that comment has been the source of much laughter between your two eldest daughters throughout the years).

I had nightmares that I’d end up like Joan Cusack. A clunky, rigid human being who creaked her way through life, carrying an oil can just like the Tinman in case of rain. It’s possible these were the only months of my existance that I paid any attention to posture. I sat straight up, poised and proper through every reading, writing and hebrew school studies class I had. The completely slumped, side-shifted, kicked-back-gangster position I’m adopting currently in my chair as I type will clue you in that I managed to scrape by without the brace. However, if you happen to catch a glimpse of my back you can easily see where it goes astray. Just glad I managed to dodge that iron bullet.

Swing Choir

Now, the first of my two pushes towards nerdvana were out of my hands. Just random lumps of coal in my genetic stocking. But this third piece? All of my own making. When I turned 13 and entered 7th grade, something inside of me called out for, The Jazz Square! Three Part Harmony! Acappella Christmas Carols! and Awkward Middle School Choreography!

I tried out and, oh joy, joined a group of gangly bumpkins ready to sway their way through a bunch of boring show tunes. And as if just being a part of this song squad wasn’t enough, I somehow managed to get stuck in the soprano section. Have you heard me sing karaoke? I can rock a mean Just Like Jesse James, but those high notes are A STRETCH. So how could I have possibly ended up singing One Tin Soldier at the top of my lungs, at the top of the music scale? It must have sounded like someone was chasing a potbelly pig the entire performance the way I was squealing out those notes.

Thankfully that year, my weekend choir performances at the local retirement home were offset by a constant stream of Bar and Bat Mitzva parties on Saturday nights. While this may sound like it belongs in the geek bucket, it was actually a place to eat, drink (soda), and dance the night away with boys. Albeit they were the adolescent, hairy sort, but better than nothing. And I found that I’d rather belt out every word to Baby Got Back than Circle Of Life, which led to dumping swing choir the following year. Though, there may, or may not, be a video on my facebook page that some crazy ex-swing choir mate tagged me in. We’re dancing with hightops on our hands. Enjoy.

I’d like to be clear that I in no way mean to offend the glorious land of nerddom. I could have flourished there just as happily as anywhere. I’m just intrigued by the slight forces that ushered me away from the world of dungeons and dragons, and into one of busch light in basements. Maybe that’s why I’ve always had kind of an affinity for the loveable geek? The answer to why many of my crushes over the years had a couple of dorktastic qualities themselves. I consider it an honor that I was able to straddle the fence between spouting Shakespearean sonnets on stage, and playing Beer By Albertsons with the cool, older kids.

And now, what’s nerdy is cool, and all the lines are blurred and preconceived notions should be left at the door. And I’ll work hard to make sure that, whatever my child enjoys doing as he grows up, that I strive to embarrass him as much as possible along the way. Maybe he’ll develop a love for the foghorn, or realize early on that studying cell particles is his thing, or take up yodeling. Or, you know that lone boy in the ballet recital who’s dressed as a crab while all the other girls are mermaids? That might be my kid.

I’ll never be sorry for the path I’ve traveled thus far. It’s all just a part of Choose Your Own Adventure, right? But dude, I’m pretty happy that I don’t have an eyepatch on right now.