For Halloween, I decided to dress up as a short, neurotic Jewish girl. A brilliant disguise! No one will ever guess it’s me!
In reality, I love Halloween because it reminds me of simpler times and candy and fall and friends and childhood, but I’m too old and tired to participate in most of its supporting activities. Which is depressing, like almost everything.
But I did sport my amazeballs CREEP IT REAL tee, because when else can I legitimately wear such a thing in public? And I had the Munsters’ theme song stuck in my head all day. And I composed this brief and silly blog post after seeing Mama Kat’s Halloween-themed “This or That” questionnaire.
Candy: chocolate or fruit-flavored? I take candy very seriously, so I need some additional information in order to properly answer this. Like, is said chocolate a Zagnut or Zero Bar? If so, gag me with a spoon and fork over the cherry-flavored shit. Also, is it basic American chocolate (good) or fancy ass 200% cacao dark chocolate flavored with saffron, sea salt, or anything else you’d buy at a Moroccan spice market (totally inappropriate)? Assuming it’s not one of these aforementioned confectionery abominations, I’d obviously go with chocolate. But I certainly wouldn’t kick a few Skittles or those cute little packs of two Starbursts out of bed.
Witches or vampires? Given my Eastern European roots and love of a deep red / goth-adjacent lip, I generally feel more comfortable with vampires. Sure, a vampire will probably go in for the kill before the night is over, but some of them are pretty hot, and who doesn’t keep garlic and stakes lying around? Besides, broom flying would definitely give me motion sickness and I’d never be able to fit a cauldron in the apartment. Note: I stand with the Salem witches. #thecrucible
Trick or treat? My friend told me about an office prank in which an employee sneaks into his boss’s office, hides a few raw shrimp in the base of the desk chair, then waits with bated breath for the untraceable stench of rotting shellfish to start driving the boss crazy. I find this hilarious, but I’d still go with treat.
Halloween party or scary movie? This is a tough one. It really depends on the party’s location, host, and guest list, and on the movie. Please say “Human Centipede,” please say “Human Centipede …”
Skeletons or zombies? Skeletons, because it’s always wise for someone who frequently dispenses medical advice to brush up on human anatomy.
Trick-or-treating or handing out candy? Why would I give away candy when I could be given candy?
Hay ride or corn maze? Hay ride, because I’m lazy and it’s less claustrophobic.
Bats or black cats? Black cats, because they’re awesome, I have one as an aunt, and also, everyone knows that bats=rabies.
There’s nothing to get excited about anymore. Except Liz Lemon.
When I was young and stoopid(er than I am now), it seemed daily life was full of poignant things to write about. By hand, in college-ruled notebooks. Would I barf from eating those Pringles so soon after returning from Friendly’s? Was I the only person on earth whose hair was immune to Elnett? What would happen when Jan and Lew noticed I had added a third hole to my left earlobe? Did Doc Martens come in size 5 1/2? Whhhhhhhhhy did that douche who sat behind me in English class not love me, and why did I care? You see. Material a-plenty.
Now it’s not so easy. I don’t even know why, because I basically worry about the adult version of the same things. But this blog is dusty. The novel I’ll never finish has been 40 mediocre pages long for two years. I keep reminding myself that the actors I’ve mentally cast in the big screen adaptation are about to age out of their theoretical roles, but I’m still mentally paralyzed. Besides, now that I’ve moved from notebooks to bloggery, it’s all public – and anything I’d logically think to write about would cause a hefty number of people to file restraining orders and/or stop speaking to me. So in desperation, as you may know, I sometimes turn to the interweb and the array of writing prompts it offers, from places like Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.
Among her latest batch of prompts was this one: “List 10 things that make you feel excited.”
What is this word, “excited?” You mean excited like, “agitated?” Excited like, “I’m so excited with rage that Imma* punch you in the balls?” What else COULD it mean?
What’s that? Some people actually get excited about GOOD things?! Come on. You don’t expect me to believe that load of crap do you? I mean please. That’s absurd. Clearly I need to move on to the next prompt.
That one turned out to be, “You know you’re a mom when …”
My eyes went back to the first prompt and suddenly the bold words of one Barney Stinson came into my head: “Challenge accepted.”
So can I do it?
10 Non-Everyday Things That Fill Me With a Faint Hint of Excitement
The first hot day of summer and the first cold day of winter, because they mean a new season and a new atmosphere are upon us, and that today will be at least a tiny bit different from yesterday.
Similarly, the promise of a massive blizzard that may result in the office closing, for its novelty and reminder of youth. And because junk food eaten in extreme weather conditions doesn’t count. Nor does junk food eaten after extreme weather conditions because it would be a terrible travesty to let it go to waste. Or, for that matter, junk food eaten before extreme weather conditions to make sure it’s safe for consumption.
A jam-packed schedule of urban adventures with the Communettes (or as millennials might say, “my squad”), to destinations including but not limited to Russian nightclubs (whence comes the name “Communettes”); burlesque supper clubs (my burlesque name, in case you were wondering, is Andromeda Muscle Strain); ancient bath houses; nail art emporia; Tim Burton-themed bars; circus side shows (see Item 5); and other not-as-sordid-as-they-sound locales. You know who you are, Communettes. Come back to me!
Duran Duran concerts, because nothing is more life-affirming than singing and dancing like an asshole to Rio live while you ogle an aging but gorgeous bass player.
The Coney Island Circus Sideshow, because one of the snakes there makes me feel real loved and I myself love the smell of lighter fluid in the morning. (That’s a fire eating/Apocalypse Now joke and I find it hilarious.) Also, very few things compare to the sight of stomach slime glistening on a freshly swallowed sword.
The virgin wear of new boots, lipstick, or jeans, all of which will be perfect for approximately 36 hours, at which point someone else will walk by wearing a version that is “better” in some way that can’t be articulated
Reunions/visits/trips with people I love but haven’t seen in eons (most notably my lil sis, my Texans, my aforementioned Communettes)
A completely empty New York Times crossword puzzle on a page that’s in pristine condition, paired with Wite-Out and a satisfying rollerball pen. Similarly, a brand new pack of multi-colored Sharpies/Flair pens/smelly markers.
The exact moment of touch down on the runway at a new airport. But only that one moment, because a nanosecond later, panic sets in about whether or not it’s safe to drink the water wherever I’ve just landed.
AND A BONUS NUMBER 11 … FINISHING THIS BLOG POST!
*Please note first-ever use of “Imma,” perhaps incorrectly.
I don’t usually have the attention span or intellect for any of the fiction (or non-fiction, for that matter) in the New Yorker. Plus, I’m threatened by the success of its writers. Plus, I have Netflix. But over the summer I did find this “tragic micro fiction” column quite chuckle-worthy. Now, I may be too stoopid to understand what the term really means, but I personally interpret “tragic micro fiction” as shrunken stories – written with dramatic flair – about day-to-day annoyances that are minor on the scale of things but can still drive you bat shit crazy. Someone posted about the column this week and reminded me of its greatness. So, unable to think of anything else to write about here, I attempted to craft my own tragic micro fiction, based on “micro tragedies” that have befallen my friends and me over the years. Note: names have been changed to protect the guilty.
He was very cute and they seemed to hit it off. Then he ordered kale.
Lynn was intrigued to see seven missed calls from the same number. It was a telemarketer.
The injury was too severe; there was nothing more they could do. Nicky Rabbit was going to lose his leg.
A local family reported him missing after he failed to return home. Last seen at show-and-tell, the pink teddy bear’s body was never recovered.
The boots were on sale, but came only in whole sizes.
Was it really melasma, she wondered? Or did she need to start tweezing in better light?
She attempted to show off her Spanish skills by asking the delivery man his name. Pedro was startled to hear her profess her love for him.
Aileen noticed too late that her new glasses were adorned with a tiny Peanuts logo at the left temple.
In reality, only certain LensCrafters could actually custom craft your eyeglasses in about an hour.
It was all starting to make sense: the green jelly bean was spearmint, not lime.
Evidence suggested someone had eaten corn the night before.
Karen couldn’t see out of her left eye, and the stabbing pain was unbearable. The side of her face was covered in a black soot-like substance. If only she hadn’t poked herself with the mascara wand.
The office candy bowl was filled to the top with grape Jolly Ranchers and three fun-sized Twix wrappers.
And Susan knew at that moment she would never eat creamy Italian dressing again.
Melanie asked for a trim. The hairstylist heard “chin-length bob.”
She had wanted her name, in German class, to be “Sabine.” Frau Schickelheimer assigned her “Hildegard.”
For Thanksgiving, Stacey asked her mother to bring cheese and crackers. Later, she wrapped the untouched seven-layer bean dip in tin foil.
Suddenly, she remembered that Chicago was an hour behind New York.
Outerwear was the one category not eligible for free two-day shipping.
Liz smiled at the famous screenwriter who was settling into his airplane seat, then made her way back to the last row in Coach.
Unbeknownst to them, Uber did not serve suburban Trenton.
VIP tickets were still available, but only for American Express cardholders.
Snooping through her boyfriend’s medicine cabinet, Leigh discovered a small bottle of Just for Blondes shampoo. Her hair was brown.
The “special surprise” promised on the children’s menu turned out to be a side of fruit.
One had to be very careful, she reminded herself, to type in the SEARCH field and not the STATUS field when stalking on Facebook.
The lipstick color did not, in fact, look good on everyone.
Some dogs, they learned the hard way, simply could not be trusted on the bed.
Beneath the absurdly cute, fuzzy exterior lurked the dark soul of a canine chew toy serial killer.
But “ankle-length” meant different things to different people.
It became obvious, after a few sips, that this was anything but Diet Coke.
An unsettling crunch in the molar region indicated that the Bit o’Honey was not as fresh as Erica had initially thought.
Perhaps, in the end, she could not do anything she put her mind to.
I recognize this will come as a huge shock to you, but my personality might lean eeeeeeever so slightly towards the obsessive. Just a teeny bit. Really, it’s sometimes alarming hardly a thing at all.
Over the years, I have oft turned that obsessiveness inward (or outward, as the case may be), honing in on one or more physical attribute and then losing sleep over the flaws I perceived said attribute to possess. (I maintain that I am an excellent assessor of attributes, but others may disagree.) Pre-braces, it was my overbite, which earned me the nickname “Bucky.” Starting in 7th grade and still in certain jeans, it was the pear shape of my short legs and their uncanny resemblance to riding jodhpurs like those pictured here.
In high school, college, my 20s, and still on a humid day, it was my hair, aka “the Jewfro” aka the “Rat’s Nest” aka the “Chia Head” aka “Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich.” Let me assure you: there are few first world problems more agonizing than being a teenager in New Jersey in the 80s and having hair so thick and Brillo-esque that no hairspray known to man could hold or tame it (see The Hand of Oz).
There was also my nose of illusion – round from the front, rhinoplasty-worthy from the side. The mismatched shape of my eyes, which made them looked slightly crossed. The melasma moustache that caused manicurists all over Manhattan to ask if I might also need a lip wax then mutter something in Korean. The list goes on.
Most recently, it was my eyebrows. I obsessed over their shape (non-existant); the eight different directions in which they grew; their uneven density from 30+ years of overzealous plucking. I tried tweezing in varied lighting. I tried waxing, threading, brow gel, clear mascara, lip balm, and Vaseline. Once, in a weak moment, I tried black pencil. And it turns out I’m pretty good at recreating Tim Curry’s Rocky Horror look.
Then my savvy friend Carrie told me about a mythical figure who runs a “brow bar” near our office. The woman – let’s call her Olga – styles the brows of many a celebrity, exclusively via old school tweezer. She is known for identifying the exact shape your personal brows are meant to have, and for tending to each patron herself. Granted, there was some risk involved – most notably, ending up with a 1998 micro-brow or, even worse, half a brow. But still, if a pair of wine-lovin’ morning talk show hosts trusted Olga, how bad could she be? Besides, the obsession was starting to become painful. I could no longer sit back (with my magnifying mirror) and do nothing.
And so, I headed cautiously to the “bar,” a bright, appealing, and surprisingly un-menacing studio with a shabby chic feel. Olga was pleasant, with an indeterminate Eastern European accent and pretty damn good brows. Immediately, she identified exactly the problems I listed above, validating my belief that I am in fact an excellent attribute assessor. I felt virtually nothing as she tweezed strategically – no pain, no twitching, nothing. It was quite remarkable actually.
When she was done, I couldn’t believe what I saw in the mirror. I had significantly less cash, but I had an arch, goddamnit! My brows were fabulous!
For about 18 hours.
Olga had neglected to mention that one needed to remain awake for the entire four-to-six weeks between visits, and it had certainly not occurred to me that sleep would undo her masterpiece. But alas, it did. And no matter how I moved the brow brush, tried to flatten my eyebrows into place, or followed the directions in a series of YouTube videos, I could not get them to look even remotely close to how they’d looked the day before.
So now, on top of having to obsess about my eyebrows themselves, I have to also obsess about how stupid I was to think I could have normal eyebrows. I think it may be time to move on to my bulbous big toes.
My own father – a physician and man of science who spends his days treating critically ill patients at a world-renowned medical center – could not pick a pasta strainer out of a kitchenware line-up and would rather buy a whole new set of unmentionables than figure out how to do laundry. Once and only once did Lew do the grocery shopping when we were little (at the Kings in Garwood). Needless to say, we left with $100 worth of Pringles, Chips Ahoy, Tastykakes, Cookie Crisp cereal and bubble gum-flavored Kissing Potion, a very delicious rollerball lip gloss. Most. Awesome. Supermarket. Trip. Ever.
In short, Lew is a great man who is not such a great help to my mother. As such, I witnessed — on many a childhood weekend — a meltdown during Jan’s Saturday morning cleaning process. I would start to hear angry but unintelligible muttering whilst eating my bowl of Honeycombs. The volume would increase and Jan would start naming random New Jersey countrymen who didn’t get their hands in hot water because they were pritzas. (Pronounced “preet-zuhs.” I don’t know what this Yiddish word really means, but Jan and Grandma Ethel used it as a derogatory term for women who were thin, pretty and/or rich). Soon she’d be full-fledged yelling about the lack of help she had around the house, referring to herself as “Tillie the Toiler.” Meanwhile, “Tillie the Toiler” was actually a smokin’ hot cartoon office worker and part-time model who, according to Wikipedia, had no trouble finding men to escort her around town. Some would argue that Tillie was even a pritza.
The whole thing was most unfortunate.
But I was used to it, and assumed that all households functioned like this. So when Keith and I moved in together, I was shocked to learn I was wrong: not all men drove their wives to faux Tillie the Toilerhood. If I start emptying the dishwasher, Keith feels guilty and immediately comes to help. Sometimes he even does it before I get out of bed. He also does his own laundry, irons from time to time and assists with fitted sheet folding. And by far the most helpful contribution Keith makes is food shopping. He says he finds it satisfying. I give him a list, he adds to it as needed, then heads to the store and calls me if he has any questions. Rather cutely, he then presents me with the groceries and eagerly waits for me to approve his purchases, which I always do.
Last week, one of the items on the list was iceberg lettuce. When I took it out of the bag, it felt really heavy and was so big I had to clear a shelf in the refrigerator to accommodate it. Keith looked very proud. The next eve, I went to prepare our salad. The lettuce was freakishly hard to cut. Its leaves seemed thick and rubbery and as I struggled to get the knife through them, the mysterious scent of Brussels sprouts wafted up to my nose. At first, I attributed the cutting difficulty to a sudden onset palsy that was obviously causing me to lose muscle control. The smell had to be a side effect – didn’t stroke survivors report experiencing strange aro… wait a minute. This wasn’t palsy. This was CABBAGE!
Frick on a leafy green stick.
I jumped away from the counter immediately, afraid that even the slightest contact with it would cause global thermo-gastrointestinal disaster.
Keith apologized profusely, but I told him it was an honest mistake and not to worry. Iceberg and cabbage bear an uncanny resemblance and really, only a seasoned shopper and vegetable-chopper would easily recognize the difference. Frozen green beans to the rescue.
This week, I put zucchini on the list. Keith handed me the bag, which also seemed heavier than it should have. A quick look inside revealed what appeared to be three ginormous … and purple … zucchini. Or, as you might know them, EGGPLANT.
There would be no roasted zucchini with olive oil and breadcrumbs for dinner that night. I knew Keith would feel terrible if I told him, but I also knew he’d feel bad if I just left the purple “zucchini” I’d requested rotting in the refrigerator. So I did what any good wife would do. I made a lifetime supply of mediocre eggplant parmesan. And baba ganoush. And ratatouille (sans zucchini).
Keith is an amazing husband (especially for letting me make fun of him in this post) and never, ever causes me to refer to myself as Tillie the Toiler or to anyone else as a pritza. But no man is perfect – and clearly, he needs a bit of tutelage in the produce department. Perhaps I am at fault here – perhaps I failed him by not preparing him better for the world of supermarketry.
Please do not be alarmed if, when you click on the links within this post, you suddenly hear the irksome music of a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial.
With Monday’s writing prompts, the guru Mama Kat directed her followers to this nifty template that, when completed, yields an “I Am” poem. What exactly is an “I Am” poem, you ask? Read on!
There were a lot of different ways this could have gone – hilarious, melodramatic, flowery, rhyming – but I didn’t think too much about my answers. I just filled in the template with the first things that came to mind, then did some minor linguistic plastic surgery.
Thank you again, Mama Kat, for your inspiration!
I am funny but anxious.
I wonder why I am wired this way.
I hear a cherry ice cream smile.
I see where I went wrong.
I want to live without the doom cloud stalking me.
I am funny but anxious.
I pretend I am the much-applauded guest of a late night talk show host.
I feel an amoeba crawling in my eye.
I touch the past, one of the few things I can always reach.
I worry about losing the people I love.
I cry when I think about what might happen and also what might not happen.
I am funny but anxious.
I understand the appeal of other places.
I say most things are not that simple.
I dream there is no clean bathroom.
I try to be nice.
I hope someone discovers the untapped brilliance that is me.
I am funny but anxious.
First of all, I promised I’d dedicate this post to Keith, who goes to sleep much earlier than I do and is quite cute.
I also must admit that I am double-fisting between WordPress and the last NBC episode of Medium (which will reappear on CBS this fall).It’s not right, I know. But I desperately need to find out the fate of the du Bois family and Allison’s brain tumor. I also desperately need to share this brief tale, as there will never be a more appropriate occasion.
Side note/spoiler alert: the tumor is benign, but Allison is in a coma after suffering a stroke during surgery.
A little more than 15 years ago, in the frigid winter of 1994, I was a college senior in baggy, used Levi’s, dark brown lipstick and Doc Martens. I had spent the last four years surrounded by short, stocky, dark-haired, middle class Jewish boys in backwards baseball caps who wanted no part of me. (I’ve always suspected things would have gone a different way if my boobs had been more reminiscent of a Hungarian shtetl peasant’s, but what can ya do?) The unrequited loves of my college life had graduated the year before, and I lacked diversion. I couldn’t stand being there anymore but was terrified of the real world, I lived with the knowledge that Jan thought I was fat, I couldn’t sleep, I was depressed, and my friends had had it with me. Good times.
But there was one lone light in my life. We met during a bout of insomnia, when I turned on the little pink TV my grandma had scored when she opened a checking account. He made me laugh. He introduced me to people I’d never otherwise have met. He was an underdog, just like me. Physically, he couldn’t have looked more different from the people around me. He was nine years older than me, 6’4, with red hair, freckles and pasty skin. He was, as someone famous once said, the least Jewish-looking person you could imagine. But he’d gone to Harvard, he was the son of a doctor and a lawyer, and his little brother had gone to the prom with my friend Lauren.
His name was Conan O’Brien, and I seemed to be the only person in the world who thought he was funny. Rumors of cancellation swirled around me, and I felt a certain kinship — he was the celebrity equivalent of me. Smart, lovable and misunderstood. He just needed more time! People mocked me when I told them I found his wit chuckle-worthy, much as they mocked me at the height of my Duran Duran obsession. On our spring break that year, Kiki, Wendy, Jen, Lisa and I were fortunate enough to attend a Late Night taping. I was very concerned beforehand that we wouldn’t be able to get tickets. The NBC page laughed when I expressed this concern and told me they’d been PAYING people to sit in the studio audience and clap on cue.
In June of that year I went again, and this time, actually got to shake hands with and talk to the giant comedic genius.
“I went to school in Boston too,” I said, sure that he’d find this FASCINATING and a sign of our soulmate-hood.
This prompted Conan to ask me if I was Irish, and I wondered briefly how someone who’d gone to Harvard could look at ME and pose such a silly question.
The first and only thing I could think to say was this: “No, but I use Irish Spring soap.”
Not surprisingly, this did not compel him to get down on one knee and propose.
“You’re my idol,” I blurted out.
And even Conan himself could only reply with, “Please. Let’s not get crazy here.”
No one thought he’d make it. But I believed in him. I knew he could do it. And tonight, Conan O’Brien has become the 5th host of the Tonight Show — the loftiest position in post-prime time television. This is one small step for a dork, and one giant step for dork-kind. I’m kvellin’ like Magellin’.
But you should know that in addition to feeling certain I’d one day be an O’Brien, I also fantasized about being discovered by Conan. So I decided to send him some of my brilliantly comedic writing samples. Except of course that I had none, so I had to be crafty.
There was no time to develop full-fledged sketches or sit-com scripts; I’d have to convey my unparalleled genius some other way. I remembered a brain game I’d once played at camp. It involved the penning of a poem or song containing 26 words, in alphabetical order. The fate of my comedy writing career lay with this gem of a plan, executed with a Macintosh SE and dot matrix printer, late one night in Waltham, MA. I think we all know what the fate of my comedy writing career turned out to be. But this, ladies and gentlemen, is my 1994 alphabetical Ode to Conan — mailed to Rockefeller Center, signed for by someone in the mailroom and never seen again until right this minute.
At Banter, Conan’s Deft. Educated Finely, Graduated Harvard. Imparts Jokes. Kismet! Letterman Moves, Now O’Brien Presides. Quipping Richter, Sidekick. Throw Us, Very Witty Xanthrocroid, Your Zeal.
In an effort to fuel my blogging momentum, I shall now share a brief New York tale for the “What is WRONG With People?!” files. This morning, in a rare moment of mass transportation luck, I was able to get a solo seat on the 86th Street crosstown bus. This is highly unusual, as the bus is often jam-packed during rush hour. Furthermore, it was a particular blessing today, because I was feeling a bit self-loathing and it meant that the unfairly gorgeous Israeli girl I see every time I ride that bus – the one with the unfairly perfect body and unfairly ginormous Tiffany engagement ring – would be out of my line of vision. I could pretend that my jeans were not ridiculously tight and that my under-eye circles did not really make me look like I had recently used a Sharpie to craft decorative half-moons on my face.
Somewhere after Second Avenue, a woman began invading my personal space as she stood in the aisle, freakishly close to my seat. There was no real reason she needed to do that, but people are odd, so I didn’t think that much of it. She wasn’t old – I’m guessing mid-50s – and had no obvious physical handicaps, and I didn’t think to offer her my seat. I fully admit that this might have been rude, but it was not deliberate – I truly just didn’t think to do it, for whatever reason.
About a nanosecond after I realized she was giving me the evil eye and that I probably should have offered her my seat, I heard a very cute little boy – approximately three and toting a sandwich bag full of toy trucks – tell his nanny that he was quite tired and wished he could sit down. Again, I’m not sure why, but I did tell the little boy he could have my seat since I was getting off at the next stop. He thanked me in the kind of voice I’d give one of my stuffed animals and I knew it was the right thing to do.
But before I could even stand fully upright, the space invader dove into the seat with incredible speed, knocking me off balance and mortifying everyone who saw what happened. She’d heard me tell the little boy he could have the seat. She could SEE that he was just a little boy! She literally stole the seat from him. The surrounding bus riders all called her names and conveyed their disdain for her action. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her face, because I feared she’d say something really mean and my whole day would be ruined. Mostly, I just felt bad for the little boy, who probably didn’t understand why I’d told him he could sit down when in fact, he could not.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get an even better seat in a minute,” I said, and then was very happy when a man much older than the space invader stood up and instructed the little boy to take his newly vacated spot. I continued to feel appalled for the duration of my subway ride downtown to 23rd Street. I snapped out of it only when my boss called to tell me he was picking up Krispy Kremes for our impending trade show meeting.
Each year, for her annual “well-woman” visit, Jan still sees the very same doctor who delivered me. I am always surprised to learn that Doc Baker, of “Little House” fame, is not part of his practice. I’m also always alarmed when I realize that it’s obviously legal to practice medicine well into your 100s. But anyway, much like Jan, I am loyal to my long-time gynecologist, Dr. A. Because I generally see Dr. A roughly once a year, and because these visits inevitably conjure thoughts of child-bearing, I often find myself taking stock of my life while there.
I first met Dr. A in 1996, when I was young, innocent and still hopeful that I’d get married and become a mother before the chances of having a kid with Down’s Syndrome octupled. In the early years of my relationship with Dr. A, I didn’t really pay much attention to pregnant women surrounding me in his waiting room. Their lives were about to suck, as far as I was concerned, and I was just glad I wasn’t them.
I remember once Dr. A walked into the exam room and apologized for being late.
“I had to tell a patient she wasn’t pregnant,” he said.
“Wow. PHEW! Right? Dodged a bullet with that one!” I replied, feeling incredibly relieved on behalf of the unknown patient in question.
“You know,” he informed me, “Some people actually WANT to get pregnant.”
A few second passed as I attempted to process this news.
COME ON! You expect me to believe that?! Sheesh.
Actively wanting to be pregnant was such a foreign concept to me at the time that I literally could not fathom such a possibility.
It’s not that I didn’t or don’t like kids. I happen to be quite fond of them and some are even fond of me as well. It’s just that the whole thing scared the bejesus out of me. Pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding filled me with an almost unbearable sense of anxiety. I certainly did not see anything beautiful about pregnancy, between the weight gain and the excessive gas and the puking and the “cankles” and the pooping on the delivery room table. I knew about post-partum depression and the toll kids could take on a marriage. I envisioned my theoretical husband losing all interest in me and my 400-pound body, turning instead to his nubile, boob-implanted secretary whose name was always Tiffany or Heather. I knew there were no fewer than 10 bazillion things that could go wrong. And I really, really, really questioned my own parenting ability. What if my child turned out like me?! I shuddered to think. How could I risk doing that to someone?
People told me that I was going to be a great mother one day, and that my lack of enthusiasm was just the fear talking. I hoped this was true, because what kind of horrible, selfish, sociopathic person didn’t want kids? Jan told me repeatedly that if it was such a horrible ordeal, no one would do it. I wasn’t convinced that she herself would have done it if she’d known what a disappointment I’d turn out to be, so this was not particularly comforting.
But the tide began to turn on October 23, 2004. That was the day Sloth dragged me to Bumblefuck, Michigan, where a litter of champion-sired Wheaten terrier puppies had been born six weeks earlier. I agreed to go ONLY because Sloth promised me we’d just be surveying the options. I can’t believe I fell for that bullshit. Once a Wheaten puppy licks your face, you’re doomed.
Ollie could not have been a bigger pain in the ass. There were many, many times (usually after the destruction of a pair of costly shoes and/or the eighth indoor pee incident of the day) I really wasn’t sure I could keep him. But at the same time, I felt a kind of love for Ollie I had never before experienced. No matter what he did, ate, tore up or peed on, I could not stay mad at him. When other dogs stole his toys or refused to play with him, I wanted to cry. When other dogs sniffed his nether regions, I was ecstatic that he’d made friends. When he was sick, I drove him by myself to the vet, through the ghettos of South Philly, without batting an eyelash. I went out of my way to patronize supermarkets that carried Frosty Paws. I told endless stories about the cute things he’d done. I truly believed he was the cutest dog in the history of dogs. I created an email address for him (firstname.lastname@example.org); he corresponded with Jan, Dave, Howie and Jamie on a regular basis. I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I threw him a first birthday party. He and his canine friends – Howie, LuLu and Dolly – all wore little hats. I’m in no way equating a dog to a human baby, but the point is, for the first time, I finally started to get it. There was a reason everyone did it. There was a flip-side.
A few months after we adopted Ollie, my friend DB called to tell me she was pregnant. I expected to feel the same way I had for many years when friends shared news like this: Oh well. Another one bites the dust. I was shocked to feel something completely unfamiliar to me instead: happiness for her, and a faint hint of jealousy.
Friday morning at Dr. A’s office, I saw an attractive couple come out of the exam room holding a sonogram print-out. They admired the image for a few minutes and then attempted to find a time slot during which they could both be available for some high-tech, supersonic follow-up test. They pulled out their Blackberries and took turns posing different dates, unable to agree on anything until long after the baby’s due date.
At first I found this mockable. Then I picked up some of the helpful pamphlets for expectant mothers and read about such fascinating things as chorionic villus sampling, second trimester terminations, the potentially lethal H.E.L.L.P Syndrome, cord blood, eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and a host of other issues not all that relevant to someone who was not weeks away from giving birth.
What a relief, I thought. I am SO glad I’m not dealing with all this stuff.
But suddenly I found myself getting teary.
What the hell? Eek. I guess the smell of my aging, rotting eggs is irritating my eyes.
Of course, that wasn’t exactly the allergen. It was this realization: I still worry a lot about all the scary things. But I worry more that I’ll never have a real reason to worry about them.
For the past two weeks, a particularly virulent strain of insomnia has plagued me. If you must know, I didn’t fall asleep until 5 a.m. last night. I’ve battled insomnia on and off throughout my life, and I’ve found that long-term exhaustion intensifies all my anxieties, fears and concerns. For a few nights, I lay awake obsessing over the fact that I could very well have fatal familial insomnia, one of the most fascinating genetic diseases I’ve ever read about. It didn’t matter that there was virtually no way in hell that anyone in my family of Eastern European peasant, mule-owning Jews had ever even come in contact with — much less done the nasty with — a member of the one family (Italian royalty, I should add) whose blood carries this horrid disease.
For a few more nights, I obsessed about instant messages I’d sent at the office. What if my boss had been paying my so-called work friends to entrap me? What if their snide comments were only meant to lure me into making even snider comments, which were then printed out and handed in to upper management? On other nights, the 70s-infused theme song of Swingtown refused to stop coming into my head while I tried to slumber; thoughts of those mysterious little holes in my t-shirts drove me crazy; and/or the sound of the air conditioner kept me up.
Then, inevitably, came the nights when I reviewed every mistake I’d made in my life, starting with the selection of red Buster Brown lace-ups instead of the brown leather Mary Jane-type shoes in 1976. My nocturnal regretting also included trading a “Virginia is for Lovers” reflector sticker for four Butter Rum Life-Savers in 1981; never getting to say goodbye to Ollie; spending money to see “Opportunity Knocks”; leather Keds; eating a Pizza Hut individual pan pizza before getting on that one flight from Boston to Newark; choosing the wrong college; choosing the wrong graduate program; choosing the wrong first job; sliding downhill from there; and just generally failing to do anything right, ever.
All this brought back a particularly regrettable incident in December of 1996. I had decided that I loved Pete Sampras a few months earlier after being completely moved by his public barfage at the U.S. Open that year. At the time, I was working as the editor of a dinky, now-defunct magazine for military wives, and as such was able to secure press credentials for use at a benefit tennis tournament at Madison Square Garden. My future husband P. Sampras, along with Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and John McEnroe, was playing to raise money for the Tim and Tom Gullikson Foundation and brain cancer patients; the press credentials meant I could partake of the press conference beforehand. I arrived early and managed to secure a front-row seat. It was my first (and only) celebrity-related press conference, and in addition to being the only female in attendance, I appeared to be the only “reporter” not employed at a major newspaper or sports magazine. P. Sampras and co. were on a first-name basis with all the inquiring journalists. While they swapped private jokes and referenced famous tennis matches going back to the 70s, I tried to figure out why THE HELL I had thought it was a good idea to wear ill-fitting and too-light Gap jeans, a hideously colored Norwegian print sweater and the ugliest square-toe boots ever manufactured.
Even though I was hardly the world’s leading tennis expert, it was hard not to be awed by the close-up sight of P, A, J and J. I spent a few seconds just staring at each of them. When I landed on P, I thought for a nanosecond that he might be looking at me. This struck me as ridiculously unlikely, but still …
I conducted a test — I looked down at my sham of a reporter’s notebook for a minute, then back up.
FRICK ON A TOP-SEEDED STICK! PETE SAMPRAS IS CHECKING ME OUT IN MY ILL-FITTING GAP JEANS!
If cell phones had existed back then, I would have sent a big, fat “OMFG” to everyone I knew.
I forced myself to raise an arm and come up with an entree into the King of Swing’s life. When I did, P. Sampras called on me and SMILED. Did I mention that Pete Sampras smiled at me?
Miraculously able to speak, I asked them if they’d consider making this benefit an annual event if it proved successful. (They would, but never did.)
A few minutes later, the press conference wrapped up, and I found myself a smidge surprised that P. Sampras had not stood up and said, “Now I have a question for YOU. Will you marry me?”
Alas, it was probably for the best, I thought, as sooner or later, he would have seen me attempt to play tennis and any relationship we had would quickly have come to its demise. Sigh. (One more thing to regret: my refusal to continue tennis lessons in 1986.)
I filed out of the room with the real journalists and bent down in the hallway to re-organize my bag.
When I stood up, P. Sampras was standing right in front of me.
OMFG. OMFG. OMFG.
He smiled and said, “Hi. Pete Sampras. Nice to meet you.”
OMFG. OMFG. OMFG.
Now, there were any number of logical responses I could have given. For one thing, I could have, oh, I don’t know, SAID HI BACK TO HIM. I could have introduced myself. I could have given him my card. I could have told him how much I liked watching him play and/or what a great idea this benefit was. But did I say any of those things? DID I SAY ANYTHING AT ALL?! No. In fact, I’m not even sure I smiled. I can only remember emitting some kind of unintelligble, Chris Farley-esque sound and being completely paralyzed. While I can imagine how much of an absolute moron I must have looked like to him, I prefer not to.
And so, P. Sampras and I went our separate ways, he to the court and me to the stands. I would meet John McEnroe two more times, at his gallery in Soho, and I would pass Jim Courier several times on the streets of Manhattan. But P. Sampras and I would not cross paths again. Twelve years later, the leggy blonde actress Brigitte Wilson sleeps with my husband in a Los Angeles mansion. OMFG. I HAVE to get some Ambien.