On the Pole/Off the Pole

Source: Colin Knowles via Wikimedia Commons

You know how it’s every parent’s worst nightmare that their daughter will hit the pole? Well, not my parents; they weren’t of an opinion one way or the other. But someone’s parents feared that potential outcome.

I couldn’t personally dance with a stripper pole. With my germaphobia? That piece of metal is the same as any surface on a subway train. How can you put your hands on that right after Trixie’s vulva gave it a good scrubbing?

Plus, I’ve got a whole host of other conditions that would keep me from this profession, like plantar fasciitis, spinal disc herniation, and lack of stamina, not to mention I’m a prude and the only tips that would interest me are chocolate bars. 

While I do love chocolate, the unsanitary combination of foodstuffs and hanky panky has never held any appeal for me. With all that hair and bodily secretions added into the mix…That’s a hard pass.

All of this is to say, it’s lucky for my parents that the pole isn’t calling my name no matter how lacking my childhood was. Thank God for neuroses, amirite?

Herding Cats Has Got Nothing on Herding Toddlers

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We’re all familiar with the phrase “herding cats,” oft used in the business world to describe a difficult group to manage.

As the parent of a toddler, I submit we change this phrase to “herding toddlers.” Even a single toddler is nigh impossible to manage.

I’ll solve your cat problem right now: simply walk in front of the group of cats holding a stinky fish. They’ll immediately fall into line and follow wherever you go. Easy peasy.

Anyone who has tried to get a toddler dressed, convince them to eat, keep them on a schedule, get them to sleep, or care about your priorities knows how tedious, infuriating, and thankless it is.

Why do I have to tell my daughter 50 times per meal to “keep eating”? Why doesn’t she just want to eat, godammit? How about when it’s 40 degrees outside and she insists on wearing a princess dress, then complains about how cold she is? She also wants to wear her least sensible footwear to the playground and then can’t get good footing on the jungle gym because of those flimsy Mary Janes. She conveniently forgets the daily bedtime routine we follow to help her wind down and get ready to sleep. Etc, etc, etc.

I must apologize for my rant. At breakfast this morning as I pleaded with my daughter to just eat her meal for the love of God, I thought ‘I’m going to have to be carted away to the mental asylum.’ And you know what? I can’t wait! 

This is the very definition of insanity, people — doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. To raise a child is to have insanity become your norm.

There’s no fish stinky enough to pull these toddlers into line. What worked yesterday won’t work today. And you can’t make bribes be your MO forever, because you’ll raise a child with unrealistic expectations, and worse, someone who no one else will find lovable.

I’d accept the challenge of herding cats over toddlers any day. And if anyone out there has found the magic bullet to motivate toddlers into compliance, please — enlighten me!

More $s for More Zs

In support of the power nap

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I wish the power nap — or better yet, the afternoon siesta — was part of the American culture. I know some tech companies have nap pods onsite, but the concept of napping really isn’t celebrated in this country. It’s a shame.

Capped at thirty minutes, the power nap isn’t quite sufficient for me. It may work for some. I read that you should drink espresso or coffee immediately prior to a thirty-minute nap, after which you are guaranteed to rise feeling more energetic than if you hadn’t taken the caffeine. Unfortunately, since caffeine doesn’t work on me, I can’t confirm whether this approach works. 

I prefer the siesta, which provides for 1–2 hours of relaxing. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee the business world embracing a two-hour daily nap. 

While there is some data to back up the case for naps boosting productivity, I can’t personally vouch for whether it does. I do know that me being sleepy certainly doesn’t help.

If I ever find myself in a position of having to take on a second job, it’ll be as a live advertisement for a mattress store. I once saw a young man wearing a twin sized mattress dancing on the corner of a shopping plaza. He wasn’t crazy — he was working to bring customers into the nearby store. It was fantastic. That appeals to me because I could just lay down for a nap whenever I want. And still be advertising the store!

If I’m being honest, the life of a sloth or a koala really appeals to me. Any of those creatures that subsist on a diet of leaves and therefore lack the energy to be awake for more than 2–3 hours a day. 

My body’s internal clock is broken. Always has been. Circadian rhythms don’t apply to me. I’m most productive from 10 PM — 1 AM, which basically leaves me with comedy as the only viable career option. But my job — which pays the bills — is a typical 9–5 sort of thing. Time may be relative…but it’s also fixed when you work a day job. I just wish those jazzy circadian rhythms would put me to sleep on time.

Rising Like a Phoenix

But sleepy as a sloth

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When I was 18, the thought of turning 40 was the worst thing I could imagine. But then I reached 40, and now even that is in my rearview mirror. So, while it doesn’t feel cool to be in my 40s, there’s only one alternative: the grave. Guess I’ll take this then!

Don’t you hate it when you’re filling out a demographics form and you realize that you’ve jumped into the next age bracket? 45–54?! C’mon! Couldn’t they break it down into two-year options? 45–47 I don’t feel so bad about. But 45–54?! Fifty is so old! But it still beats the alternative.

Here are the two benefits I’ve discovered to being over the hill: I’ve got a few more bucks and I’m all out of Fs. No more Fs to give. I spent all of those in my 20s and 30s, and I gotta say, it feels good to be in the red.

If a friend asks me to go to a dance club, I’m like, “No. Sorry, not sorry.” If my husband asks me to go see a band play? That’s a hard pass. I am so over standing for hours in a hot, crowded room that wreaks of sweat and hot dog farts while my ear drums take a beating. I finally feel confident stating what I want and do not want, and if anyone has a problem with it, oh well!

I feel like I’m turning into the person I was always meant to be. Especially after reading an inspirational quote that I really took to heart: “Do something every day that scares you.”

Hence, my midlife crisis is less of a crisis and more a series of dares. Starting a new job and trying standup comedy are at the top of the list. Next up: fight a bear!

Unfortunately, one of my goals just isn’t possible for another 10 years. Why do I have to wait until I’m 55 to move into an assisted living facility? I want assisted living now! They should be cool with able-bodied middle agers taking up residency in their apartment complex. I don’t want to wait until I’m so old and frail I can’t enjoy having my life be assisted.

Let the young and fit carry my groceries upstairs, cook me dinner, and feed me. I’ll delegate everything I possibly can. I’m not too proud to accept help. 

I’ve been self-sufficient since I was 16 years old. I’ve been working since I was a teenager. I’m tired! In my case, 45 is the new 60…

From Luddite to Tech Wizard

In five short years

Photo courtesy of the author

No one would have foreseen me going into the tech field, least of all me. This was not a straight path.

In high school I signed up for “Keyboarding” because I wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Turns out, it was a touch-typing class. I was like, “Guys, the typewriter is going the way of the dinosaur. No one needs to know how to type!”

Not only was I oblivious to computers becoming a thing, but I was also slow to learn the technology. Especially since I’m not into porn, and cats arrived on the scene much later.

I recall asking my husband what an external hard drive was. He said, “It’s a hard drive…that’s external. What’s not to understand?”

I answered his question with a question: “What’s a hard drive?”

~~~

When I was in ninth grade, I told my father I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. I wasn’t interested in getting entangled in marriage or reproduction or the world at all. I just wanted to be married to the Lord. You know, a typical fourteen-year-old’s fantasy.

“You’d have to be Catholic,” my father said.

Aw, man! There’s always a catch. I’m not any type of Christian, so it wouldn’t even be a relevant stretch for me to become a Catholic nun.

Why can’t there be a generic convent? One that’s not connected with any particular religion. 

“We celebrate all Gods here! Or none of them! You’re welcome even if you’re an atheist who just feels like wearing a nun’s habit and working in a garden or scrubbing floors all day.”

~~~

I learned my way around a computer little by little. Typed a few school papers, started blogging in 2006, took a class on Web design. But I was never the early adopter; I remained at the back of the pack. I think I was the last person in America to get a cell phone that didn’t have physical buttons for each letter of the alphabet.

I just love how they’re called smart phones, but we use them for the dumbest stuff.

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Swipe, swipe. Dr. Google: “What does gonorrhea look like…not because I have it, I’m just curious.” We’re melting our brains watching videos on TikTok, playing mindless games, pretending to text while we’re waiting for our friend to show up.

~~~

All of this is to say, I didn’t plan to go into the tech field. I’ll point to my English degree to back up that statement. Why am I telling you about this? Because you can’t be what you can’t see (said Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund).

Ironically, my only reference for the tech world was Office Space, which I saw in the theater in 1999, long before I knew what a hard drive was. Then I found myself working for a motherboard manufacturer — in an administrative function — without fully comprehending at first what role this particular piece of plastic and metal played inside a computer.

AND THAT’S HOW I BECAME A TECH WIZARD. I’LL TELL YOU MORE ABOUT IT AS SOON AS I CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO TURN OFF CAPS.

Creepy Crawlies

Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you live in the burbs, you live with bugs.

When I resided on the 48th floor of an apartment building in Manhattan, I saw nary a bug. Not so much as a spider hiding out in the corner. If I had ever actually seen a ladybug, I would have thrown it a miniature parade, for it would have been a hero making it up that high up in a such a densely populated city. The odds of its survival are something like .000000001%. [This is, of course, not taking into consideration the cockroach, which has a ratio of 125:1 human throughout the five boroughs.]

But in a house, it’s a different matter altogether. There is a Boschian nightmare of bugs swarming and storming my front door each night. I made the mistake of gazing out the window for too long one evening. All manner of insectum disgustum were gathered along the archway.

For a second, it appeared to be a super fun bug party. But then I got savvy to the particular movements of each bug, walking on their freakish stick legs at a New York City pace. I know that purposeful gait. They weren’t partying. Each bug was out to eat the next sized down bug. I didn’t stay to watch the carnage. I can’t bear how insects eat each other alive, gripping their writhing prey, using pincers to rip off chunks of exoskeleton and gooey thorax insides.

The circle of life is Hell, people!

Another unrelated idiosyncrasy to life in the suburbs is that the town dictates what you can and can’t put into the garbage. Your own garbage. For instance, you’re not allowed to dispose of leaf litter or broken branches in your garbage can. You’re supposed to pile it at the curb and live with this eyesore for a month until a specialized truck comes to pick it up.

But this is just going to attract more bugs. Piles of rotting plant matter are a haven for creepy crawlies.

To secretly dispose of your yard waste, I recommend layering it inside your garbage bag like a common serial killer. First, put your bathroom trash at the bottom, then a bit of yard waste, then your kitchen trash, then some more yard waste, and top it all off with dirty diapers or anything else disgusting enough to hide your clever workaround. You don’t want the town snitch snitching on you.

The circle of life is Hell, people!

Lost in Thought

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I took a personality test that asked me, “Do you tend to get lost in your thoughts when hiking in the woods?”

I was like, “Duh!” If you’re not lost in thought while lost in the woods, then what the hell are you doing? 

The nature of this question is freaking me out. It implies that there’s something unusual about me getting lost in my thoughts. This phenomenon apparently doesn’t happen to everyone.

So — what, then? You’re telling me you’ve just got a tranquil, empty mind? You have structured thoughts? You solve math equations? What! What am I missing!

Seriously — what is going on in everyone else’s mind that I’m not aware of? Because I’m always lost in thought — whether I’m driving, shopping, showering, taking care of my kid, pretending to listen while someone tells me about the dream they had last night, looking out the window at work, and so on. I thought that was the human experience! Am I alone in this?

I forget what I was just talking about. 

Here’s a list of words I never want to hear again:

COVID
Woke
Bespoke
Podcast
Pop-up

Also, while I just read the word “monkeypox” for the first time like two weeks ago, my first response upon reading it was, “NO! Just, no! Get the hell out of here with that shit!”

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I believe COVID exists. I got all my shots, I wore a mask, I socially distanced. But I say no to monkeypox! Seriously. Cut it out, guys. I’m not interested in hearing about the next trend in diseases.

I forget what I was just talking about.

You know when else my mind wanders is when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, on a flight, riding a bicycle, in a boat, sitting around a conference table, and tying my shoe.

In fact, the only time I’m not lost in thought is when I’m headed to the cookie store. Then and only then do I have laser sharp focus on the task at hand.

Rando in NJ

Antithesis to Emily in Paris

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’m watching an episode of Emily in Paris on Netflix when I discover I’ve got sticky onion jam smeared under my chin from my sandwich at lunch half an hour ago. I’m wearing an $8 Target t-shirt with denim shorts, and I’ve got bags under my eyes from being so tired.

Meanwhile, Emily is having another fabulous day walking about Paris. She’s rail thin, wears expensive couture, and is always in heels with perfect makeup and hair. Yet, Emily is referred to as “basic” by a French designer. If she’s basic, then what the hell am I?

I’ve been known to watch movies just for their filming locations, such as Eat, Pray, Love. Which is why I’m now watching this show, which I understand has received quite some backlash, especially from the French. I totally get why. But I’m going to keep watching anyway, to live vicariously through this character who lingers at cafes and drifts around with a perpetual smile on her face. The scenery alone makes it worth my time.

The show is such a far cry from my reality as a middle aged, muffin-topped suburbanite that I welcome it with the desperation of a thirsty person being handed a cup of ice water.

Most of my shame as a pudgy plain Jane is generated in my car, where I regularly pig out, which means I’ve had all kinds of atrocities occur on the dash, on the seats, on the steering wheel, and even the seatbelt.

Cream cheese is the worst offender. Every time I chow down on a toasted everything bagel, the cream cheese gets smeared all over. And of course, I have to have a cup of coffee with my bagel, which drips and sloshes all over my clothes and the upholstery.

Yesterday I ate a chocolate dipped ice cream bar while driving. The ice cream started melting down onto my hand, and as the chocolate coating cracked apart that started melting as well. Pretty soon I had one hand completely out of commission. Meanwhile, I had to use the back of my other hand to wipe melted chocolate from around my mouth. I didn’t have any napkins in the car, and even if there had been, I didn’t have a hand free to grab one.

If a police officer had pulled me over right then, he’d have looked at my childishly grubby hands and been like, “What in tarnation is going on here?”

“Well, Sir,” I’d say, “I just murdered an ice cream bar. Actually, two. You don’t happen to have any Wet Wipes on you, do you?”

You would never see this scene on Emily in Paris.

So, binge-watching season one of this rom-com it is! Just to tune out the shame.

The Real Reason Behind the Fall of Icarus

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Let me get this straight, Icarus — we’re to believe that you were smart enough to design a way to fly of your own volition, but stupid enough to fly “too close” to the sun?

Uh-uh. I’m not buying that story. Something else went down. A mistake so foolish and easily avoided that you decided to blame the sun.

Do you know how far away the sun is, Icarus? Well, I don’t either, but I do know it’s far enough that you would die of old age long before its heat melted your fake wings. And that’s provided you’re wearing a space suit. If not, you would die of myriad other causes first, such as lack of oxygen, freezing temperatures, and all those other factors human bodies don’t like.

Hold up — you flew nude? Weren’t you concerned about your nether regions? You should have worn armor. Shorts and a t-shirt. A toga at the very least. You could have crashed into a tree and broken your ding-a-ling.

No risk mitigation was considered at all, clearly. If you had earned your Project Management Professional certification, you would have thought ahead and made accommodations to correct for anticipated risks.

Even if you’re not good at math or physics, and even if you don’t realize how very far away the sun is from Earth, all you needed to understand the risks posed to wax wings was to witness the world’s most ubiquitous fail when the scoop of ice cream falls off a small child’s sugar cone and lands in a mushy mess on the sidewalk.

Here’s what I believe really went down: you were flying up, up into the sky, when suddenly, you found yourself facing off against a dignity-stealing bee. The bee is rushing you, trying to sting your face, your bare torso, your easily accessible backside. You’re swatting at it like mad, trying to knock it off course. But this bee is determined. They always are.

“Off with you, you damn-ed bee!” you shout, but it refuses to comply.

Your flight path is suffering due to the erratic swatting. You’re dodging left and right, regretting that you left your clothes at home, because your ding-a-ling — as your lowest hanging body part — is now your Achilles heel. You’re realizing how terribly, terribly vulnerable you are. To a fuzzy little bee, no less!

You’re sweating profusely as you thrash back and forth. With the last swat, your wings are coming apart. You fall back to Earth, where your father comes to collect you.

“My son! My son!” Daedalus cries.

“The sun! It was the sun!” are your last words.

You can’t have “Brought down by a bee” carved on your tombstone. That’s just shameful. But if it was the all-powerful sun, a massive ball of plasma upwards of 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (or 5.778 Kelvin, in case you want a data point that you can’t possibly compare to anything else you know), you’ll die a hero.

“At least he tried!” is what the public will say.

Whereas if they knew about the bee…

“Well, that was just dumb,” they’d say, shaking their heads.

So, you leave everyone to suspect the sun. But they’re also left wondering why you didn’t wear clothes. Seeing someone’s nether regions, both straining and dangling at the same time, as they slowly lift over your head and into the sky just isn’t a good look for anyone.

Gaslit by Toddlers and Robots

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After my 3.5-year-old used the toilet and flushed, I instructed her to wash her hands.

“Why?” she said. “I didn’t touch anything.”

“You just touched the toilet handle,” I said.

She responded, without missing a beat: “It’s an automatic toilet.”

My overly confident child thought she could convince me that we have fancy, self-flushing toilets. I think I’d have noticed that nice perk!

~~~

Have you seen those self-cleaning public toilets? I first saw them installed on Seattle sidewalks.

It’s a single toilet inside a capsule. You insert a quarter, the door slides open, you do your business, and when you exit, hot water and bleach are blasted over every surface to disinfect it.

I’ve never used one myself, because I am terrified about getting stuck inside when the wash cycle kicks off.

But it’s a pretty ingenious way to keep an unsanitary place slightly more sanitary.

I need my house to do that each time I leave. Domesticity is not my cup of tea. I’m so not interested in dusting, mending, decorating, whatnot.

My parents were some of the hardest working people on the planet. They ran their own bakery, worked odd hours, raised five children, and always managed to keep the house clean with a fresh cooked meal on the table. How did this apple fall so far from the tree? I guess as a kid watching my parents work their asses off, I decided, “This is gonna have to skip a generation.”

I bought an expensive robot vacuum to outsource some of my work. Turns out, it does precisely the half-assed job I would have done. The sales pitch was that this state-of-the-art machine makes two passes over each section of floor, and if it discovers an especially dirty area, it will go around in a spiral until it has cleaned every last bit of mess off the floor. Yeah – not by a long shot!

Instead, it moves as though going through a corn maze, while blasting right on past crumbs and dirt. It’s like, “I didn’t see that.” Then, it keeps getting stuck under the edges of furniture, and there is nothing more pathetic than watching a flat, round robot panic: “Eh, eh, eh!” When it has decided that the job is done, it races back to its platform to empty and recharge.

I’m like, “Uh-uh! Where do you think you’re going?! You’re not done, Mister!”

(I realize I have already written a story about said robot, but it’s killing me that I was hornswoggled into paying hundreds of dollars for this thing!)

Did you know that a robot is on par with a three-year-old’s ability to gaslight others?