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?
Upon starting as an Administrative Assistant at a manufacturing plant in New York, I was given a tour of the long building by the fifty-something head Administrator. She had short auburn curls, wore wire rimmed glasses, and kept her lips tightly pursed as though everything big or small, alive or inanimate, tested her patience. Slight of figure, she dressed like a 1960’s high society woman in sheath dresses with three quarters sleeves and matching flats.
The tour wrapped up in the kitchen, where the Administrator beckoned to the sink laden with used coffee mugs.
“You are to wash anything left here by other employees.” I thought she was joking, but her pursed lips told otherwise. Employees were supposed to wash their own mugs and store them upside down on the drying rack, but didn’t, and evidently it was my problem.
“Now, where to keep your mug,” the Administrator wondered aloud, as she tapped her rosebud mouth with her pointer figure and scanned the kitchen.
Why not the drying rack, same as everyone else’s? I wondered.
There was no space in the entire kitchen to store my coffee mug, determined the Administrator.
“Follow me,” she said, holding the mug I’d brought from home far from her body as though carrying a bag of dog doo.
I followed her obediently as she zigged and zagged, got up on her tiptoes and crouched down low, looking for a good storage option somewhere in the building. Aside from the room where products were made, literally the rest of the property was designed for storage of said products.
I found myself standing with the Administrator in the reception office’s single-occupant bathroom.
“Ah!” she exclaimed exuberantly. “Here we go!”
Beneath the sink was a cupboard, which the Administrator opened. She hinged forward and set my mug on the top shelf, just above the stockpile of toilet paper. Closing the cupboard doors, she rose with her pink lips upturned in a prim smile. One more crisis averted, one more battle won, one more feat accomplished.
I frowned at the cupboard, then at the Administrator’s back as she left the bathroom.
I’d rather just keep it in my hand, thanks! I wanted to call after her.
After all, what was the plan for when another employee beat me to the bathroom with a newspaper tucked under their arm? Would I knock on the door and ask the occupant to please pass me the mug from the cupboard?
I never touched the mug again, needless to say. It’s probably still in that cupboard, collecting dust and spiders.
When you grow up, kid, you can be anything you want to be.
Except for an astronaut.
Every child born since humankind first entered space has wished to be in zero G. It is not a unique dream.
There are 332,624,742 people in the U.S., of which only 365 achieved careers as astronauts with NASA. Those are odds of just .0001%.
In other words, you’re more likely to win the lottery and get struck by lightning.
For starters, NASA expects you to have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Almost every candidate has at least one advanced degree; many of them have multiple PhDs.
Becoming a graduate of the Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program or its equivalent in the Air Force is about the only way you can hope to get in without multiple advanced degrees.
I realize this is all merely jargon to you at the moment. Suffice to say, with hard work, time, and money, you could potentially earn such lofty degrees. But making it past all the other hurdles will be progressively more unlikely.
· You must pass a rigorous NASA space physical and psychological evaluation. Let’s be honest, kid — you’re not going to pass. You break crayons and flail around on the floor when you can’t have what you want.
· You must be comfortable living in cramped, confined quarters with the same people for an entire mission. You can’t even handle a two-hour road trip with your siblings without squabbling. In a spacecraft, when Joe farts, you’ll know; and that stink will hang around until the air systems clear it out — which can take a while. When you cry, because you miss Mommy and Daddy back on Earth, your crewmates will tell you to stop damaging the incredibly expensive equipment with your salty tears.
· You’ll eat often-bland meals out of a pouch, the same ones over and over. We all know what a picky eater you are — you only want cornflakes and gummies. The good nutritionists at NASA will ensure you are eating a balanced, healthy diet while you’re up there, which means gummies will be few and far between. Cornflakes are a big no-no — imagine the damage those crispy flakes with their ridged edges could do to the equipment!
· In space, there’s no privacy for pooping. You must train on Earth how to use the space toilet. There may even be a camera involved, pointing right at your business end, to see if you’re doing it right. If you’re terrified you’ll fall into the potty, just wait ’til you try these acrobatics in space.
· You’ll lose your lunch! Did you know that most astronauts get sick their first day in space? Zero G confuses your body. After all, it was designed for life on Earth! You will feel nauseous and vomit repeatedly until your body adjusts. It’s not the thrill of being on a merry-go-round; rather, you are subjected to significant pressure followed by discombobulating weightlessness.
· It’s dark! In the black void of space, no nightlight is going to ease your fears about a monster lurking under the bed.
So, please — stop dreaming, kid, and set your sights on something more realistic. A career that doesn’t involve putting Earth in your rearview mirror.
What’s that you say — President is your next choice? Well, the decreasing odds of achieving that position is a story for another day.
Following is a list of fifteen professions I gave serious consideration to, in order of increasing risk of peril, and the reasons why I didn’t pursue them.
Why: I like the idea of uniforms. Not the khakis and polo shirts of big box stores, adorned with plastic name tags, but cool black and white robes. I’d never have to worry about what to wear today or how to style my hair. I’d spend my days wandering around the remote convent and cloisters, everyone speaking in hushed tones.
Why not: The fact that I’m not Catholic is a pretty big hurdle.
Why: I can do this from anywhere, in pajamas.
Why not: “I’m going to write the next great American novel!” is a lot of people’s famous last words.
Why: Gazing out ocean-view windows in $1,000-night hotel rooms I otherwise couldn’t afford combined with seeing the immediate and tangible results of my work effort is appealing.
Why not: Requires cleaning toilets.
Real estate agent
Why: It’s almost like I live in a mansion myself, I’m spending so much time showing the property.
Why not: I couldn’t sell a glass of cold water to a person lost in the desert.
Why: Getting to be creative on someone else’s dime. A little of this and a little of that, and voila! The space is transformed.
Why not: My desire for everything to be in shades of purple will be hotly contested.
Why: Spending all my time in a dimly lit room with pleasant-smelling candles and Enya playing softly on the radio…Need I say more?
Why not: Requires touching strangers who are dressed only in their underwear.
Why: Wearing a blazer and speaking from a lectern about John Keats and Iambic pentameter all day.
Why not: Harvard wouldn’t have me (see article below).
Why: Working one on one to help a client overcome grief, while sitting on comfortable furniture.
Why not: Too much math required to earn the degree (I was an English major, after all).
Why: I’d really enjoy the prestige of having someone bring me coffee on set every day.
Why not: Unlikely to win an Oscar.
Why: Lights, camera, applause! The wonderful sound of people laughing.
Why not: My stage fright compounded by the terrible sound of people booing makes this a non-starter.
Waffle food truck owner
Why: All the waffles I can eat!
Why not: Requires early hours when I would rather be sleeping.
Why: Garnishing dishes with radish roses and microgreens, laying pastry dough latticework across the tops of pies, and dispensing nutritional advice. All in a celebrity’s magnificent kitchen, with every cooking device sold by Williams Sonoma gracing the marble countertops.
Why not: Unlikely to be hired by Oprah.
Why: I’d be outside all day, in amazing landscapes, breathing the fresh air, helping lost hikers find their way, and stopping to smell the roses.
Why not: Must pass a fitness test and be prepared to fight off ornery mountain lions.
Why: Those glamorous purple uniforms on Delta, of course!
Why not: Serving in heels thirty thousand feet in the air, I would trip in the aisle and spill hot coffee on customers.
Why: The thing I love about food rations is that you get it all upfront. I imagine myself opening the treehouse pantry and scanning the stacked soup cans and next to them the equally large cache of chocolate bars. I’d dine in peaceful solitude, gazing upon a dense forest, a pervasive silence blanketing the world around me.
Why not: Wait—what if there was actually a fire? FIRE!