Friday, July 29, 2005

Two Standoffs—One Lunch Hour

Women are officially nuts---myself included. I just wasted a quarter of my lunch hour in two separate poop standoffs. I don’t know how men behave in public bathrooms, but women usually don’t like to poop when there are other women in the bathroom—especially the work bathroom. Therefore, common protocol is for the pooper to sit and wait for the other people to leave the bathroom so that they can poop in peace and not inflict their smell on anyone else. This also allows the pooper to leave the bathroom anonymously without being recognized for their dirty deed.

So I left for lunch, but had to stop by the bathroom on my way out. I had a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and nature was calling. I had just gotten sat down and comfortable when two other women walked in. Damn it! So I sat there and waited patiently until they did their business and left. Finally—solitude. But just as they left, another woman walked in and sat down in the stall right beside me. She pulled down her pants and sat down, but.....she didn’t make a sound. It soon became obvious that she had to poop too. I coughed. I dug around in my purse. I did everything I could think of to act like I wasn't there to poop. And then I started to get pissed. Who the hell did she think she was? I was obviously there first. She should be the one to leave. So there we a poop standoff. Who would leave? Who would stay? Or would we both just suck it up and poop at the same time?

I waited for a couple of minutes, but then looked at my watch and realized that my precious lunch hour minutes were rapidly ticking away. So I caved, and decided to wait till after lunch.

I went to Kroger and had one of their fabulous vegetarian sushi rolls for lunch and returned to the office with ten minutes to spare—just enough time to squeeze in a relaxing bathroom visit. I went to a different bathroom this time, hoping for better luck. But just as I sat down, I heard the creaking of the bathroom door and the clicking of high heels. Not again, I thought. A woman walked in and sat down in the other stall. She finished peeing and still sat there. No flush, no wiping, no pulling up of pants. Foiled again! Another standoff! But this time, I was determined not to give in. I put on my best John Wayne expression and readied for battle. I think a tumble weed blew across the bathroom floor. We both sat there for a few minutes, feeling each other out, and then......I just let it go. Ahhh.....sweet release. She promptly got up and left, stomping her little high heels all the way out.

Victory was mine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

This morning I realized that I have been working for almost 15 years now. FIFTEEN YEARS OF CONTRIBUTING TO THE CAPITALIST MACHINE!! I got my first full time babysitting job the summer I turned 13 and never looked back. When I turned 15 I got a job working at Arby’s in the mall. Now THAT was a fun job—the smell of roast beef in the morning...mixing the cheddar cheese sauce...scraping an inch thick layer of french fry grease off my face when I got home. Then when I turned 16, I got a job working for a tee shirt shop on campus. I spent half of my pathetic high school years cutting out Greek letters to sew on sorority and fraternity shirts. After a few weeks I could tell you what sorority a girl was in simply by looking at her hair and handbag. (This is why I went to Georgetown--no frats or sororities)

Next came bartending and ass kissing in Hollywood. And of course now I'm a cube dwelling number cruncher. No wonder I’m so burned out. Another five years and I’ll be ready for the rocking chair. And yet, I really don’t have much to show for all those years of hard work. I’m still in debt up to my armpits and don’t have a title with a “vice” or "senior" in it yet.

I know I shouldn't let that get to me-- especially since I have always cared more about helping others than suceeding in business. But it gets to me anyway. I can't help but think that I should be doing something much more important and lucrative than I am now. I hold myself to an impossibly high standard.

After some quiet introspection and a few hundred glasses of wine, I think I’ve figured out why. At first I thought it was because that’s what everyone expected of me. I was that annoying kid who was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in school. I was Attorney General of Girls’ State and a delegate to Girls’ Nation. I was involved in student government. I was pretty much the embodiment of Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Election” except that I smoked weed and drank Boone's on the weekends. So naturally, everyone expected me to end up as a lawyer or politician or CEO or something like that. But as it turns out, I really don’t like working for the man and money isn’t really very important to me. This combination doesn’t really bode well for success in typical business environments. So why should I care? Why do I have this nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "you know so and so is a lawyer now"? Especially since I pretty much gave a big “fuck you” to everyone else’s expectations of me a long time ago. I’ve realized it goes much deeper than other people's expectations or even my own expectations. I think it boils down to a childhood insecurity.

My parents never had money and I was always embarrassed because of it. I always felt like a second class citizen. We were on the free lunch program in elementary school. We had to move in with my grandmother for a while. My mom had to work fast food jobs at night a time or two to make ends meet. We never really had the money for designer clothes. But I did a damn good job of pretending like we did. I hung out with all of the right people, but I still never quite fit in. There was always something missing. I could pretend all I wanted, but everyone knew. Rich people tend to have a sixth sense for sniffing out poor people. My boyfriend's parents didn't approve of me. They even called me "white trash." I spent a lot of time being embarrassed in school.

I guess I always expected to get my revenge on all those mean rich people by becoming fabulously wealthy and successful. I would show them. I may not have been from a wealthy family, but one day I would be because I was smart. Intelligence was the only card in my hand, so I had best use it to my advantage. I always vowed that one day I’d be wealthier than they ever were and then they'd all be sorry. (Why I thought they would even care, I don't know) So much for that idea. I know that sounds kind of sad and pathetic.

The funny thing is, my parents could have made money if they wanted to. They were both very smart people. But they committed themselves to trying to make a difference in the world instead. And somehow, they passed that "do gooder" gene on to me and I haven't been able to shake it yet in favor of pure materialistic desire. (damn them and their altruistic ways) But you know what? I suppose I'm better for it. I'm better because I'm not afraid of being poor. I've been poor and happy at the same time. It's not so bad. And because I'm not afraid of being poor I can take a risks. I can take off to California on a whim or quit my job to become a writer. After all, the best revenge is living well, right? Now if I could just convince myself of that.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Permanent Footprints

I want to live in the world of ideas,
the only place where permanence exists.

But every time I lose myself
in its sea of question marks,
I am reminded of my humanity,
of my body slowly rotting away,
and my urge to eat,
and procreate,
and move my bowels.

I pretend that my words
will be immortal,
but they too shall pass.

I want to step in Siddartha’s river
and make the transient water halt.
But I am no Moses.
Nirvana is beyond my grasp.

I want to leave footprints,
to enact a profound change,
but as I walk down the beach,
the tide comes in and washes them away,
erasing my very existence.

I try to convince myself
that it is not the footprints that matter,
but only the beautiful walk on the beach.

But I cannot purge this toxic needto be important and remembered.

The Prozac Happy Housewife

I wasn't allowed to watch much TV when I was little, (it was Satan's tool) but there was one episode of The Flintstones that I remember quite vividly. Wilma was such a wonderful cook that she got a job hosting a television show called “The Happy Housewife.” After a while, Wilma became so busy doing the television show, that she didn’t have time to cook dinner for Fred or clean the house. Fred got angry, and Wilma eventually quit because she felt bad for not cooking and cleaning for Fred. At the end of the episode, Wilma brings Fred a huge steak and presents it to him like he's a king. And then Wilma stands over him with a shit eating grin on her face because cooking and cleaning for her man is so fulfilling. But what I really remember most about the episode was the theme song to Wilma’s cooking show. It went, “Make your hubby happy. Keep your hubby happy. Cause if your hubby’s happy, you’ll be happy too.” I went around singing that song as a little girl like a June Cleaver drone. How fucked up is that???

I'm glad none of it sank in. I'm a total slob and I hate to cook. Guess I'll just have to make my "hubby happy" in other ways. (I'm thinking porn and margaritas, maybe?)

Lube Job

Right now, piled up on my pool table (which also doubles as a catch all for bills, purses, dog toys, etc.) is a stack of letters from my health insurance company. The stack grows higher each and every day. I think it might soon require its own zip code. Every day there is a new letter and a new excuse. Since I began working at my firm in January, I have been to the doctor about six times. I wasn’t feeling well. I was having heart palpitations and my thyroid was enlarged, so my doctor wanted me to have an ultrasound of the thyroid and cardio pulmonary testing. A blood test also revealed that I had a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which I had a shot for. (I am fine though, by the way) Thus far, my health insurance company has not paid for a single visit. I have received six separate letters stating that they are “taking additional time to review the visit to determine if a pre-existing condition was present.” I have also sent in tons of forms to release my medical records. Meanwhile, my doctor’s office keeps calling ME because my health care company is a dead beat.

So far, I have paid $960 in insurance premiums. I have also paid $180 in co-pays. My employer has paid an additional $960 for my insurance premiums. Therefore, the total amount of money paid on my behalf was $2,100 (and counting). The total cost of service was $2,077. We could easily have just paid that money directly to the doctor and been better off. Instead, my weasel-ass insurance company would like for me to pay $2,100 to them and still pay for the doctor visits despite the fact that this WAS NOT a pre-existing condition. It is hardly a “condition” at all. What makes it worse is that I don’t even have good benefits. I have a $2,000 deductible! This is insane!

When my mother became seriously ill, her insurance company dropped her immediately, claiming they hadn’t received her payment on time (which was total bullshit). She had to fight for four months, while she was gravely ill, to have her insurance reinstated. Even after it was reinstated, my father was still saddled with tons of medical bills after she died.

Let me tell you friends, we are in a health care CRISIS in this country. And yet our government refuses to do anything but drop to their knees to fellate the huge health care companies. Our health care costs are so out of control we spend nearly twice as much per person as other developed countries and still leave a sixth of our population uninsured. The only thing our government has done regarding health care is to make it harder for people who have had health catastrophes to declare bankruptcy. (thereby making it a threesome with the credit card companies)

Here’s the sad thing—my husband and I aren’t even poor. We’re middle class and still can’t afford our health insurance. How the hell do we expect poor people to? Guess my only option for now is to bend over. Can anyone recommend a good lubricant? Perhaps something in a nice strawberry flavor???

Monday, July 25, 2005

Depends on What?

I was just at the grocery store on my lunch hour. The man in front of me in line was probably about sixty years old or so. The contents of his basket were: one case of beer, two cases of Depends, and seven packs of Virginia Slims.

I don't know what this guy has planned for the afternoon, but I want in on it.

Rapture (not the Blondie kind)

It’s Monday morning and I’m exhausted. I’m always exhausted on Monday morning. I’ve already bathed my eyes in Visine twice today, but I still look like I’ve been smoking weed all night. Chronic insomnia has always been a fixture in my life, but Sunday nights are the worst. I don’t know if it’s the impending doom of going back to work or latent guilt for not attending church that day. Or maybe it’s the green light on my smoke detector, which haunts me like it did Gatsby, teasing me with what I have yet to achieve in life. I toss and turn all night looking at that damn light while my husband sleeps peacefully beside me.

My Sunday night insomnia began when I was little. My father was a Pentecostal preacher. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Pentecostal religion, they’re the ones who speak in tongues and dance around like mad men in church but don’t drink or dance or listen to rock-n-roll (otherwise known as Satan’s soundtrack). Growing up, I had to attend church at least three times a week, sometimes more. My sisters and I were not allowed to watch television or listen to secular music. The only movies that my family ever watched were religious movies about the rapture. Usually these movies were shown at church on Sunday nights. The movies were always about someone who got left behind and had to endure the post-apocalyptic environment. They would get horrible boils on their skin and wouldn’t be able to find food, and the beast was always chasing them. One of the characters even got decapitated in one of the movies. They terrified me. Who would show that to a five-year-old? It’s no wonder I always had nightmares about them. And the nightmares were always the same.

First, my room would start to shake. I would jolt up in bed and run into my parents’ bedroom, but their bed would be empty. Then I would run to my sisters’ bedrooms and find them empty as well. I would then run out into the yard and watch as my family floated away, leaving me behind in my sinful ways to face the boils, beast, and decapitation. I would wake up sweating through my strawberry shortcake pajamas and quietly peek in my parents’ room, just to make sure that they were still there.

Is it any wonder that I developed insomnia? Even as a small child I would toss and turn, fearing death and the rapture. I would lie in bed praying quietly out of fear that I accidentally had a sinful thought. Fear was a staple in my life. My religion was not one of peace and love but of fear, judgment and terror. I was not taught to act a certain way because it was the right thing to do, but rather I was terrified into submission. The indoctrination was that strong and that powerful. It has shaped every facet of my being. Every pore of my existence has been permeated by existential thoughts and fears.

My husband, on the other hand, was not raised in a religious environment. His family never attended church. Sundays were for watching football and hanging out by the pool with family. Bedtime was a time for fairy tales, not horror movies. He slept soundly at night then as he does now. His family members are wonderful, caring people with a strong sense of right and wrong. And yet, I can’t help but wonder how many times they’ve stayed awake at night questioning the meaning of life and the nature of the divine. My guess would be not many. At times I envy the peace he seems to enjoy, but I’m not so sure that peace didn’t come at the cost of ignoring the ultimate questions.

Now that I am getting older we’re starting to think about having a family. And something inside of me is hesitant. I think this hesitancy comes from not knowing exactly what to teach my children. I certainly don’t want to bring them up the way I was raised. But on the other hand, I do want them to thoughtfully consider their souls. How do you teach a child about subtle shades of gray in a world consumed with blacks and whites? How can I teach them about maybes without confusing the hell out them? It has taken me a quarter of a century to even begin to figure out what I believe--how am I supposed to teach it to a child? Is there a middle road between the highways of fear and apathy? If there is, I fear it is a road less traveled, and I wish someone would give me a map.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Mo Money, Mo Problems

(N.B. The comic above is from Pearls Before Swine by Stephen Pastis. He's amazing)

I don’t think I have mentioned this before, but I work at an accounting firm. The firm I work for specializes in tax, wealth preservation, trust, and estate services for very high net worth individuals. In other words, we help filthy rich bastards keep every penny they possibly can. And our clients are rich--filthy, stinking rich.

For the most part, my job isn’t too bad. The people I work with are nice, and most of our clients are pretty cordial. Sure, they may occasionally demand that we deduct their botox injections and plastic surgeries as medical expenses, but most of the time, they’re friendly.

But this week I have been working on two specific projects that are really making my stomach churn.

First, one of our clients is currently revising his will. I have been assigned to work with the lawyers to make the necessary changes. This guy has laid out how every single dollar he’s ever made will be spent for fifty years after his death. He has everything set up into trusts so he can control everything from the grave. His wife gets a certain monthly allowance, which she has no control over (the allowance goes down once she is eligible for social security—wouldn’t want her getting too uppity). He has also designated what can and can’t be sold from his estate. Another provision allows his wife to buy the house she has lived in for the past 20 years from the trust for a certain dollar amount. What is wrong with this man? What the hell is wrong with just leaving your wife and kids your money? Do we really need to make it this hard? Does he not trust his family? Oh wait--I forgot--it’s about taxes, right? He doesn’t want to pay any taxes on his estate. Heaven forbid he has to pay his fucking taxes like the rest of us poor slobs. I pity this man. No, strike that—I pity his wife.

Second, another of our clients is going through a divorce. Divorces are always a ton of fun, but they’re especially fun when shit loads of cash are involved. So my job this week has been to go through all of his past investment bank statements and separate out stocks that were community property from stocks that were his separate property. That way we can determine the exact dollar amount he has to pay. (There is only one stock that is separate—a stock his mommy gave him) Is it really necessary to account for every single dollar earned and spent in a divorce—especially when you have so many of them? Supposedly, their divorce is an amicable one, so why can’t they just say, “good enough” and be done with it? The amount of money they will spend on the attorneys and accountants to separate out every single dollar will surely be more than they would have gained by accounting for every red cent.

People are greedy bastards and their priorities are totally out of whack. Working here makes me not even want to be rich. But if I ever am, I’m leaving every last dime to charity when I die. My kids will be so’s gonna be sweet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Infinite Questions

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to live the questions themselves. ... Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
---Rainer Maria Rilke

Last night as I was driving home, I passed an old man walking down the street. He was quite feeble and walked very slowly, clinging tightly to a nurse who kept him from falling down. His back was so hunched that he was only capable of looking down at the sidewalk. What a horrible state to live in, I thought--to be unable to look up at the sky. But he shuffled resolutely down the street anyway in a futile attempt at exercise. I quickly drove past him and tried to forget about him. I turned on the radio. “Love Shack” was playing. But I couldn’t forget him. He kept invading my thoughts. I wondered if he had a family and if they ever came to visit him. I wondered what he did for a living in his younger years. I wondered if he was satisfied with the life he had led. Maybe he was a great father. Maybe he had been a firefighter and saved lives. Maybe he had been a soldier and fought valiantly for our country. Or maybe he had a desk job like me and worked for 40 years crunching numbers before being ushered out the door with a gold watch and a cake.

My mind drifted to the older people in my life. I thought of my grandmothers, who are still active and vibrant in their eighties. And I thought of my grandfather and how he wasted away in his bed, crying softly and begging for death. I remembered visiting my great grandmother in the hospital and seeing that she had soiled her sheets. And she just laid there in her own excrement, completely incoherent, unable to even know what was happening to her. And, of course, I thought of my mother, and the pain of watching her waste away. She seemed so old at such a young age.

I sighed heavily as I slipped into melancholy. I get that way sometimes. I have slowly realized why we are so obsessed with youth in this culture. We often cannot stand to be around older people or sick people because they remind us of our own mortality. Being around an old person is like looking death in the face. Death is inevitable. Age is inevitable. We know this, but we are very good at ignoring it. We flood ourselves with articles on how to stay young, as if that was possible. When I saw that old man, I was forced to recognize that barring any tragedies, I would soon be old and feeble too. I might even be hunch backed or incontinent.

I wish I could have talked to him. I wish I could have asked him if he was afraid like I am. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he is convinced that when he dies there will be a mansion in heaven with streets of gold waiting for him. As for me, I’m not so sure. I’m not sure there even is a heaven. I try to talk myself into it on a daily basis, but I never manage to convince myself completely. I can’t turn off the logic. And I guess that’s what scares me. I’ve been trying to figure is all out for a while now, but I always end up with more questions than answers. Although, who am I to think that I will be the one who figures out the meaning of life?

I guess I just have to live the questions for now and hope that I will have the courage to live my way into the answer. I hope to have the courage to age gracefully and healthily and to never stop asking the questions, no matter how scary they are.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Confessions of a blonde, hip-hop dancing, movie spoiler

This weekend was a weekend of self-discovery. I have realized a few things about myself this weekend and they are as follows:

***I am, and will always be a blonde. I came to this realization at the hair salon on Saturday after getting some kick ass highlights. Sure, I experimented with going natural for a while. I was even a brunette for a few months out in LA. But somehow I just keep coming back to blonde. So now I have officially submitted to the blonde. It is useless for me to try to be anything else. Resistance is futile.

***I will never be a professional hip-hop dancer. My dreams of touring with Justin Timberlake as a back-up dancer have officially come to an end. On Saturday morning I went to a hip-hop class at this dance studio called “Planet Funk.” The instructor was a hip dude who wore baggy jeans, a wife-beater under an unbuttoned shirt, and a wiggity wiggity whack trucker hat tilted ever so slightly a la Kevin Federline. I didn’t have a problem keeping up with the choreography. In fact, I was one of the quickest learners in the class. But it just didn’t look the same when I did it. I just looked so goofy and so very very white. I think I may have even snuck in a white man’s overbite. Oh well, I’m still going back next week. Maybe soul can be learned. Don’t count me out yet, J.T.

***I am a hopeless movie spoiler. If there is a logical inconsistency in a movie, I have to point it out. I know it’s annoying, but I just can’t help myself. It bothers me. We went to see a movie on Friday night and there was a scene in one of the previews where a woman with a tracheotomy drinks wine and the wine squirts out of the hole in her neck. Everyone in the movie theater thought this was just hilarious except for me. I had to point out that the trachea and esophagus are separate tubes and foodstuffs that are consumed could not come out of a tracheotomy hole unless the person had inhaled them. If they were not separate tubes then the food we ate would end up in our lungs. I was told to shut up. I don’t mean to do it, but I just can’t help it. Why can’t people make movies that aren’t stupid?

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Beginning

I swore I'd never become a blogger and yet here I am. I've never been one to do what's trendy. I fought capri pants to the bitter end before finally caving and buying some. Even now I cringe as I type the word "blog." It's just such an ugly word and sounds so horrible. I don't know who came up with it, but I think we should start some sort of internet revolution to delete that term from popular culture and replace it with something more palatable like ijournal or ediary, or anything that doesn't sound like something you cough up after a night of smoking hand rolled cigarettes.

In addition to the auditory aversion I have to the word "blog," I also figured that anything I could possibly have to say had already been said by someone else a million times over, so why bother. I'm not particularly funny, or witty, or knowledgeable on any one subject. I probably won't have any breaking news to report. And yet, somewhere in my mind I still hold out hope that I can one day come up with a truly original thought. Besides, where else, other than Craigslist, can I complain anonymously about numerous subjects without fear of reciprocity?

So here we go, internet world, let the blogging fun begin...