Awkward Trip to Mars

Are we %@#& there yet?!

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rather than astronauts and scientists, I propose that it be the world’s most despised inhabitants that are selected for passage to Mars.

Every person across the globe would get to cast a vote for the twenty worst offenders — think those who are dangerous, rabble rousers, or just plain annoying.

I’m not naming any names. That is for the world to decide. What I am asserting is that Earth would be a better place without certain individuals.

There would be no media coverage of the journey; all communication would be severed. The Martians would have no access to their social media accounts for the duration of their lives, and no means to send messages back to Earth.

In space, no one can hear you tweet.

The only downfall to this arrangement is the missed opportunity for the greatest reality show of all time. The chance to see the interactions between the Martians during their journey and when they reach their biodome. Imagine narcissistic, bigoted, selfish individuals fighting for the top bunk, the best rations, the most time in the bathroom, etc. Hilarity would ensure. And surely, so would violence, but this is what makes it so compelling!

Astronauts undergo rigorous psychological testing to ensure they can co-exist in cramped spaces with the same people for long durations. But this group of misfits will comically lack the patience, tolerance, self-introspection and all other necessary qualities to co-exist peacefully and productively.

In ten years’ time, we would look in on them from afar, in much the same way you observe an ant colony in a clear container. You can see them, but they aren’t aware of your presence. We would be interested in knowing how they have gotten on, but, like God, will decline to intervene regardless of circumstances.

Should this plan to relocate the world’s most despised inhabitants to Mars prove too costly or difficult to enforce, here is my alternate suggestion: that this same group of people be placed under house arrest at Kevin Spacey’s residence.

Big Fork, Little Fork

The mysteries of dining etiquette

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I am nouveau riche. And by “new” I mean I’m on the more recent end of evolving from an ape to a human and by “wealthy” I mean I’ve got more than just a banana and fleas. In addition to walking fully upright, my bragging rights include having a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and a meal on my plate.

My upbringing was lacking enough to compel my former manager, who is British, to teach me the correct way to use a fork and knife. I’d grown up shoveling food into my mouth with a fork’s tines turned upward – like a scoop – and using the edge of that very same fork to cut food up into smaller bits. Who needs a knife?

The British way has you flip the fork over so that the tines face downward. My colleague then used her knife to push food onto the fork. So, that’s how you strategically stab bits of food with a fork, huh?

When done with a meal, etiquette dictates that you place your fork and knife in the shape of an X on the plate to indicate completion. Again with the tines facing downward, so that no one gets impaled when the server whisks the plate and silverware back to the kitchen.

Whenever I go to a fancy restaurant, I see a big fork, a small fork, and a knife lined up next to my plate. Sometimes there are even more utensils. I use the small fork to eat my appetizer. Afterward, I try to hide that ideal-sized fork under my napkin – which is still resting on the table and not across my lap. This move never fools the server, who inevitably finds my preferred fork and absconds with it, forcing me to eat my entree with a comically oversized fork clearly meant for a giant. I feel like I’ve got baby hands trying to wield that heavy utensil. I’m burning calories just lifting it.

This is how my imposter syndrome ceases being a private worry and publicly betrays me. Anyone from an upscale background can tell, just by sharing a meal with me, that I am recently descended from proto-human ape creatures.

When I eat in front of my colleagues – or anyone British – I use the etiquette I was taught. But in the privacy of my home, where no one is the wiser, I choose to eat with a spoon. Just like you see in prison movies. This beats an upturned fork, being the closest thing to an actual shovel. It’s all about efficiency.

Now if I could just get rid of these darn fleas…

Good Animals Gone Bad

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On our recent family trip to Hawaii, I planned an excursion to an animal sanctuary. I convinced the proprietor to permit my 3.5-year-old on the property, despite the minimum guest age being seven. I assured the hippie who answered the phone that my daughter poses no harm to animals.

At the start of the tour, we saw cats, deer, and ducks. It was in the pig pen when things took a turn for the worse. 

The hippie tour guide welcomed each visitor to place a snack in front of Mr. Pig. He, being two hundred pounds, was collapsed on the ground. When he smelled food, he labored to his feet and began munching. I was told I could pet him, and I approached cautiously with my daughter off to my side.

Mr. Pig did not want to be bothered. He whipped his head against my offending arm and propelled me backward with his snout. I yelped and hustled out of his space with my daughter in front of me.

“Oh, he probably doesn’t want to be touched while he’s eating,” the hippie tour guide said, unhelpfully. You think?

Next, we visited two massive free range male turkeys. We were told one of them was okay with having his feathers stroked, but that he tended to attack men. Sure enough, he pecked at my husband’s legs. Mr. Turkey hadn’t even asked us our pronouns, so how did he know how we identify?

Finally, it was in the goat pen when all hell broke loose. The hippie tour guide led us through a gated channel that had us — and the goats — leaving the main pen to some other unseen area where she said there would be snacks to feed the goats.

We sensed the goats’ impatience. One of them — a massive, brown, bristly-haired creature we were told was half goat, half sheep (whuh??)—had its creepy horizontal pupils trained on us. Without provocation, it repeatedly lunged in our direction.

The tour guide placed herself between that unholy hybrid and her guests, desperately trying to use her frail torso and arms to propel the hulking creature down the path.

With our focus on the trail ahead, none of us noticed the black and white goat keeping pace at our side. It suddenly bucked its head into my husband’s knee. He cried out in pain and surprise. The goat had rammed him so hard, it knocked my husband out of his flip flops!

At that point my daughter began to scream hysterically. With my husband limping, I lifted my daughter as high up my body as I could. She continued screaming anyway, her pitch rising each time a goat looked at us.

Screw these homeless animals, I thought. We’re not going to survive this tour!

I told the guide we wanted out. What’s the quickest way out of the goat pen I demanded to know.

“The goats know there are snacks at the end of this walk,” she said. “We’re moving too slowly for them so they’re trying to herd us along.”

But you’re the one setting the pace, lady! If you know these goats are a menace to society, why’d you put us in close proximity?

“So, how do we get out of the pen?” I asked again, my panic mounting.

“They’re just trying to tell us to move faster,” she repeated, still physically struggling to force the demon shoat into leaving us alone.

Are you saying there’s no way out of this horror movie? my thoughts screamed.

After completing the excruciatingly long walk to an exit gate, we obtained our freedom. We slunk back to our car, outraged and embarrassed.

When my husband later checked into a local urgent care, he found he was not the first but the second goat injury of the day.

This is why, when people ask me if I’m a cat person or a dog person, I’m like, “Neither! I’m a wildlife-outside-in-nature-taking-care-of-itself kind of person!”

Eating My Feelings

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I want to donate a kidney, just for the weight loss. 

I’ve gained 30 pounds since the birth of my daughter 3 years ago, which is more than I gained during pregnancy. It kills me to know that this food baby won’t be birthed, leaving me with a beach ready body.

(Let’s be real: I am always beach ready. It’s everyone else’s eyes that aren’t).

I support body positivity. I really do. Just not for myself. My belly doesn’t lie flat anymore when I’m on my back. Whenever I’m in motion it jiggles, like a bowlful of jelly. My fat cells get claustrophobic in Spanx. I have a panic attack every time I try to squeeze myself into those ridiculous outfits, so that’s not an option.

I want to be hooked up to a liposuction machine that’s pulling fat out while I stuff cheesecake into my mouth.

If I don’t eat my feelings, what else am I supposed to do with them, pray tell?

I complained to my younger, thinner sister about my weight. She goes, “Have you tried anorexia?” 

Oh, yes. I would like to, but that simply doesn’t work for a food motivated individual. The second I think to myself, “I’m never going to eat again! Food is not going control me anymore!” I remember the half dozen chocolate chip cookies I picked up from the bakery. I can’t let those go to waste! 

“How about bulimia?” my sister says. 

Believe me, I would love that! That is the perfect solution for me. Unfortunately, no matter how far I stick my finger down my throat, my body is not giving up its last meal.

I’ve tried therapy, diet pills, smoothies, cutting out bread, everything! Everything except exercise, that is. It’s exhausting worrying about weight issues. I think I need another cookie.

Dr. Feelgood

Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are two different types of drivers in the world: those who speed, God bless ’em, and those who drive like they’re on their way to the proctologist. Like they really don’t want to get where they’re going.

Not me though. I love going to the proctologist! Any specialist will do: dentist, dermatologist, gynecologist. For the duration of that 15-minute appointment the doctor is obligated — under oath — to care about me and my well-being. The fact that this is a paid transaction makes it no less special.

Sign me up for a colonoscopy. Get on up in there, Doc! As long as their attention is on me, and only me, I love it. Can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet attention. Even if the spotlight is pointed at my rear end, at least I’m in the spotlight. No matter how painful or inconvenient a procedure may be, I am speeding to that appointment. Because I can’t wait to get me some of that good one-on-one attention.

The pandemic was really hard for me.

What do you mean, I can’t leave the house?! I’ll get COVID?! Oh, COVID won’t do at all. Then you have to quarantine, in your bedroom, alone. I can’t be socially isolated…from doctors.

I had a miscarriage three weeks into an unplanned pregnancy and couldn’t go to the doctor. It was in the spring of 2020, and unless you’d been shot, nobody was going to the emergency room. I had a perfectly valid reason to see a doctor, and I missed out on the opportunity.

I underwent a hysterectomy last year. Best six weeks of my life! I was in the surgery center for most of the day, then home on short term disability. I was constantly receiving flowers and family members were waiting on me hand and foot. Then, I got to go back for an in-person checkup, plus a telehealth checkup after that. Best six weeks of my life. I highly recommend it!

Though, I don’t recommend what preceded it. I had a condition known as “pelvic organ prolapse” where my reproductive organs were falling out of the birth canal. It was like a Tetris game gone wrong. All the blocks had been put in the wrong places, and with nowhere else to stack anything, it was Game Over!

That’s what you get after pushing out a 9-lb baby that has nooo interest in being born. My daughter ripped the ceiling down with her, left claw marks along the sides of my uterus. She was like a cat when you bring it to the clinic in a carrier. It’s all claws and big black eyes in there.

When you’re preparing to give birth, people take joy in saying: “Ooh, you’re gonna poop on the table!” Yeah? And guess what — somebody is gonna get paid to wipe my ass! And not grimace or complain while doing it! That’s some top-notch service right there.

I’ve heard many people complain that they don’t like “the smell” of a hospital. That’s the smell of success, man! If I’m in the hospital, that means I’ve hit the big time. There will be teams of doctors and nurses attending to me. (I have to be conscious though — that’s the only way I can enjoy it.)

But eventually, you run out of reasons to see the doctor. It’s such a shame.

I’m listed as an organ donor on my driver’s license. I’d like to donate a kidney now, just for the weight loss. Sadly, when they harvest my usable parts I won’t be alive to enjoy the attention.

People take joy in saying, “Ooh, you’re gonna soil yourself when you die!” Yes. But unfortunately, I won’t be there to enjoy it.

And my funeral — oh, I’m so disappointed I won’t be there to enjoy my funeral. Death won’t do at all. Then you’re six feet underground, alone, socially isolated for all eternity.

For now, I’ll just keep avoiding apples, because I don’t want to keep the doctor away.

OKStupid

The dating app for settling

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“You’ve searched for the best! Now try the rest!”

When you’re ready to settle down, you have to settle. Because all the best ones are already taken already.

It’s finally time to accept a date with that guy who is shirtless in his profile photo, standing by the weight set at a gym, smoking a cigar, pointing at his bros, and holding a fish he caught.

Don’t be discouraged by the algorithm’s estimate of there being only a 5% relevant match between you and New Beau — the bare minimum based on the fact that you’re both human. Over time you’ll learn to accept each other’s flaws. 

His profile may say things like, “I don’t date no fat chicks,” or “what’s your bank account number?” You may get the impression that he cares more about hanging out at a sports bar with his bros than spending quality time with a significant other. You may find his casual wardrobe lacking. You may feel like smacking that smug, carefree half grin off his face. 

But look at the bright side — you’ll have a date to your cousin’s wedding. Someone to open jars for you and smash house spiders into oblivion. New Beau can hold your hair back while you vomit into the toilet after binge drinking. (Oh, who are we kidding — you’ll be holding his hair back while he’s vomiting.)

We stand behind our guarantee that someone is better than no one. So, give us a try! You may be pleasantly surprised. At the very least, it’ll give your fingers something to do as you swipe left when you don’t have anything better going on.

The Lowdown on NYC

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I am the type of New Yorker real New Yorkers love to hate: I was a transplant to begin with, and as soon as the pandemic got too hot, I bounced. Then I did the worst thing imaginable: bought a house in NJ. Living across the river is sacrilege to the most devoted New Yorkers.

But while I may live in the suburbs now, it’s not like I’m driving around in a minivan with soccer balls in the trunk and heroine hidden in the glove compartment.

A few months after relocating to Hell’s Kitchen from Seattle back in 2016, I was approached by a monk in a saffron robe as I walked the High Line. He headed straight for me and my big, goofy smile. He took my hand in his. I felt honored that a monk wanted to interact with me.

Then he deftly slipped a beaded bracelet onto my wrist and asked for a “donation.” I had only a single dollar on me, which I forked over. It was humiliating having so little cash on me and to have been hornswoggled by a monk. The ploy certainly hadn’t been worth his efforts that time around.

I watched as the monk moved on, pulled a smart phone from a pocket in his robe, and started checking his updates. Unless he had the Dalai Lama on speed dial, I’m pretty sure a monk shouldn’t have that kind of technology.

Over the next few months, I became aware that Manhattan is crawling with monks handing out bracelets…to tourists. I couldn’t believe I’d been taken in, when I was supposed to at least be pretending to have street smarts.

My husband always tells me, “Be cool, Angie; be cool.”

But “not playing it cool” is my middle name!

I refused to take the subway by myself for the first twelve months for fear of getting lost (despite knowing the city is on a grid).

Whenever I’m in the city I like to play a game: guess the source of that water trickling along the curb. Guess that odor. Guess whether that excrement on the sidewalk was left by a human or a dog. What was the nature of that mystery water that just dripped onto my head? Did it qualify as sexual harassment when that homeless man called me a ‘natural beauty’ or was it just the nicest compliment I’ve ever received? Why does this street wreak of marijuana when there’s no one around?

A New Yorker will happily give you directions. They’ll also call you an asshole for slowing them down on the subway staircase because you chose to carry your massive suitcase instead of taking the urine-permeated elevator that’s probably out of order anyway. They’re also willing to scold you for any other action that may be inconveniencing them.

New York is a weird place to be pregnant.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, women become sensitive to odors. Not a good time to be living in a city renowned for its stench and filth.

My husband would come to bed after a shower, and I would recoil from the smell of his hair.

“What? It’s unscented shampoo,” he’d say.

“I beg to differ!” I’d say, as I smushed my face into my pillow to block out all smells.

If the odor of unscented shampoo didn’t sit well with me, how was I going to make it through my day in a city of 8 million people that has all the smells?

I recall riding in a Lyft — which itself wreaked of air freshener — and opening the window to stick my head out so that I didn’t get too carsick. We passed piles of garbage on the sidewalk — hot garbage — cigarette smoking pedestrians, dogs whizzing on every surface, you name it. I probably turned 10 shades of green before reaching my destination. When you get out of a car or off a bus, you have to watch where you put your feet because there’s often a trickle of garbage water rushing by at the edge of the curb. You never know where it came from, and you don’t want to. The worst is when shops blast the sidewalk out front with bleach water, so your nose is assaulted with the pungent odor of bleach and urine at the same time.

It felt like the whole city was out to prank me.

By the end of the pregnancy, after gaining twenty-five pounds, I could barely get myself out of an underground train station any longer. There are always 50 stairs to climb, and each time I was like, “This is it; this is the staircase that does me in.” I felt ready to have a heart attack by the time I reached the last step. If my husband was with me, he’d plaster both his hands on my rearend to push me up the stairs, which was both necessary and humiliating.

After my daughter arrived, I suffered post-partum depression for a year. I was in crisis for several months. I used to walk down the streets of NYC with tears streaming down my face. Even when I was on the way to my favorite coffee shop! Nobody looked twice. New Yorkers have seen twenty weirder things on their commute to work than a crying pedestrian, and another twenty on their way home.

But no trial was harder than trying to breathe in a city that’s got carts selling nuts on one corner and hot dogs on another, human and/or dog excrement on the sidewalk, and piles of both bagged and loose garbage as far as the eye can see. Anyone who has ever been to NYC knows that Marilyn Monroe would never have danced over a grate with hot, stinky subway station air blasting up through it — they used a fan to create that effect.

You need a fan there. Better yet, a gas mask.

Hello depression, my old friend

Photo courtesy of the author

Have you ever met someone who has never been depressed? They tell you they don’t know what that feels like.

That doesn’t make sense to me.

Didn’t you have a childhood? Didn’t you go to school? Don’t you have a family?!

You’re telling me you’ve never been depressed? I don’t even know how to work with that. That’s just bragging, in my opinion.

Depression is my dearest friend. We go way back. S/he’s always there for me, in good times and bad; always got my back. I can count on s/him to be there when times are tough. Even now that I’m on anti-depressants, s/he’s still standing over in the corner waving.

Nowadays, it seems like everybody is on anti-depressants. If the majority of humanity is depressed, maybe that’s just our natural state? Maybe cavemen and women were depressed. (In fact, I’d bet on it!) Perhaps we’re all meant to be drifting around sluggishly, not feeling motivated to invade other parts of the world. We should just all be in it together instead of trying to fight it, you know? Embrace that dear, loyal friend.

If you don’t have depression, what have you got?

P.S. – Is it weird that I’m writing this from Hawaii?

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!