26 1 / 2013
1) Emily arrives at Penn Station at 8:20 AM on a Saturday morning en route to Washington DC to visit two of her dearest friends, Mark and Patty. The last time she woke up this early on a Saturday was over a decade ago on the morning of her bat mitzvah. This was because she couldn’t sleep well with her hair in such a tight updo. Emily is at Penn Station 45 minutes before her train’s departure. She is surprisingly, alarmingly early because she is so eager to see Mark and Patty, who will find this highly amusing since they will remember how she regularly showed up to brunch in college 30-40 minutes late and sans some semi-significant article of clothing.
2) Emily waits on line to board Amtrak with hundreds of others. She scores an all-precious row to herself and is seated in front of a lovely, super WASPy couple that keep talking to their daughter on their cellphone about how to unwrap the new skis they just sent her. The WASP father’s phone plays “There She Goes” every time his daughter calls. Emily is both impressed with his knowledge of 1990s pop music and touched by his fatherly affection. She wonders what song her father would choose as his ringtone for her if he could first figure out how to stop fucking pocket-dialing her all the time.
3) The train stops. We are told “we are delayed indefinitely.” Anyone who has taken any mode of transportations can vouch for the fact that these are the worst words you can hear. The absence of details should kill all sense of optimism.
4) Another announcement: “We are delated due to police activity.” This may actually be the worst thing for a person with intense paranoia regarding terrorist attacks on modes of transportation to hear. Emily calls her mother, somehow convinced that the lovely Sharon Shire in Westchester can find a way to move a train stuck between Trenton and Philadelphia.
5) Emily’s mother is just as concerned, if not more…probably more, that police activity means there is a terrorist/robber loose on the train. Emily has visions of old timey Westerns with robber running loose on trains shooting women in bordello outfits. All popping noises terribly frighten Emily, and she is very scared. She sticks her fingers in her ears.
6) At the same time, Sharon has helpfully googled all the Megabus options from Philadelphia to Washington DC, in the unlikely case her daughter is not attacked by train robbers.
7) Another announcement: “We have struck either a trespasser or an animal.” Amendment: this is actually the worst thing you can hear on a mode of transportation.
8) Emily and WASP wife decide to go buy coffee and snacks because they are told “we are still delayed indefinitely.” Emily prays that it is an animal and not a “trespasser” that has been hit.The Amtrak serviceman in the cafe cart is very cavalier at the thought a human being has been hit and says “it happens all the time.” Swell.
9) Emily buys the last fruit cup much to the chagrin of the skinny blonde Southern lady behind her in line who orders a greek yogurt instead. Emily also buys a large coffee and an overpriced bag of pretzels because she is assuming she’ll be on this train until kingdom come. After once being removed off an Amtrak regional to Boston because of icy patches on the track, Emily was left crying and begging strangers in the New Haven train station to help her lost, non-driver-licensed soul. She is ready to beg for transportation in Philadelphia and knows the opportunity for nutritional satiation may be limited just when she needs the most energy.
10) Emily arrives with WASP wife back to the seats. WASP husband has been kindly watching the belongings while struggling to figure out how to play Angrybirds on his iPad.
11) Ironically, at that moment there is another announcement; the train struck a bird and can proceed without a full police investigation. Emily is sad for the bird and also mildly surprised, as she thought a winged, flying creature would be the last to be hit by a train. WASP woman was convinced the train had hit a deer, as they had run in front of her car “many times,” presumably while running errands in Greenwich, CT in her black BMW SUV.
12) With a renewed sense of how precious life is and prioritizing the important things, Emily immediately texts Mark that she will happily arrive in DC and that she would like a Mimosa waiting for her at brunch.
15 8 / 2012
I hang my head in shame as I type this first sentence. Dear reader (I’m not even pretending there are multiple ones of you out there anymore; hi, Mom) my only defense is that this would have been completed at least a fortnight sooner if not for the residual guilt that kept me from writing a return post. Like searching for a library book that’s accrued the equivalent of a mortgage in overdue fees, the longer I waited to begin this endeavor, the more daunting it seemed. And as anyone who reads this blog knows, Emily Suzanne Shire is not one of those do-gooding, go-getters who enjoys such rigorous tasks. Everyone’s Everest is relative; if I could watch UK Skins in bed, eat wasabi almonds, and somehow avoid financial and social destitution, I would be plenty satiated.
But then like a slap on the back from Apollo himself, I was hit with the urge to write. Rather, I was hit in the lower back with a hardshell eyeglass case, which I, admittedly, deserved after hurling a remote control at my younger brother in our hotel room. Though my brother and I are both well passed the age when tantrums and battery are socially acceptable/not considered a crime, there’s nothing like a family vacation to induce one’s social and mental regression.
Even though none of us enjoy them, the Shires keep taking family vacations for unclear and mysterious reasons, *cough* DAD *cough.* We travel with the spontaneity of young cosmopolitan lovers, never booking a hotel less than 12 hours before hitting the road. This is less out of a passion for whirlwind sojourns and more about the Battle Royale over our destination that begins several months in advance. Around March, my father will announce that he wants us all to go to the Galapagos or on a Kenyan safari this coming summer. Four forks drops, one person in our geographically-challenged clan asks where the Galapagos are located, and my mother’s eyes go red. We are the Shires, not the Swiss Family Robinson, we angrily tell him, and return to our takeout Chinese food.
And it seems clear to everyone but my father that we will not be going to the Galapagos or Kenya. Yet, about eight weeks will pass and my father will come back from the library with Frommer’s books on these exotic locales; this is when the negotiations begin. My normally lax father begins guilting out all of us like a mother from a Philip Roth novel, but with less subtlety. He reminds us how hard he works, how many times he’s taken us (Matt and Ethan) to Yankee games, how many times he’s picked our drunk asses up from the train station (Emily). Simultaneously, my father selectively ignores my mother’s steel refusal to fly to these ridiculous locales on her own, let alone with her belligerent and easily-sunburned progeny in tow.
My father tends to offer a national park: if we must deny him his tropical, exotic dream, at the very least we must relent and explore domestic wonders. However, even my father knows this is just as unreasonable; if there is one thing his immediate family hates with a fiery pit in our stomachs it’s national parks! We’ve done Acadia, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and let me tell you, there are two kinds of families in this world: ones that think it’s super fun and cool to see a buffalo standing outside your door and one’s that do not. As if I had to spell it out, we are the latter, or more specifically, we have animal control on speed dial.
In absolute fairness to my father, we are not the easiest family with which to travel. Like his ability to ice skate and his commitment to reading every plaque in a museum, my father’s wanderlust skipped over his sons and daughter. In theory, we all love to travel and see new places; we just have a lot of difficulty getting there.
Brothers, I’ll take the bullet on this one and just elaborate on why I suck at traveling. Your combined kvetchiness, dislike of heat, and former pension for throwing up on planes, trains, and automobiles will not be further mentioned. You see, I am fairly petrified of flying. When we take off and land, I pray more than I do on the High Holidays combined. Yes, I have considered taking medication-and my equally calm mother recommended I shouldn’t consume anything to dilute my cognizance “in case I’m given orders and need to stay alert.”
For these reasons, we usually end up settling on some locale in New England: we can drive there easily (“we” is a loose term considering my father is the only person in my family who can drive on highways), we have plenty of options for last minute hotel bookings, and we can enjoy the Dairy Queens that are painfully absent in the tri-state area for ungodly reasons. Unfortunately, all of the Blizzard shakes beyond the Bourne Bridge can’t change the simple fact that my family is not built for travel. Like a rabid Tasmanian devil, we spun in and out of the quaint New England tranquility of our hotel, leaving behind a trail of broken sofa beds, clogged toilets, and several frightened maids and bellhops in our wake.
I’ll save the logistical details for my next post. I’d just like to end this one by saying, Dad, if you’re reading this, I am truly grateful to have a father that wants to take us to beautiful places and show us the world. You’re hardworking and dedicated; you deserve a wonderful vacation, so I don’t know why the hell you would want to bring the rest of us along.
10 5 / 2012
Dear reader, as always I am ready with an excuse for the absence of new posts. Last time, I blamed a Jewish holiday and here I am again, almost a month later, ready to justify my writing hiatus. A related side note, “hiatus” is such a wonderfully grown-up sounding word for “that period when I watched ‘Call Me Maybe’ on YouTube 16 times in a row.” Actually, though, I have a slightly more legitimate excuse this time (really, Emily, more legitimate than blaming unleavened bread for your inability to type?).
You see, dear reader, I’ve embarked on an endeavor more emotionally-fraught and physically-exhausting than a Shire family vacation to Yosemite and with just as many encounters with frightening critters to boot. I have begun to search for an apartment in New York City.
Cue the shocked awes from friends and loved ones who likely never expected me to actually move out. Well, neither did I, but the plan of waiting until Jon Hamm/Derek Jeter asked for my hand in marriage and swept me off to a honeymoon mansion isn’t panning out. So, I’ve got to put my big girl pants on and start the house hunt.
This process is a long-time coming. I know myself well enough to acknowledge that I am a creature of habit and that for all of my complaining, and there’s enough of it to bust through a sound-proof basement, I love being home with my family. I love that there’s an endless supply of Cliff bars and always someone with whom I can watch The Colbert Report. In college, I used to speak to my parents for almost an hour every night; moving home has significantly reduced our risk of developing brain cancer and our cell phone bill (don’t you love how I say “our” when I’m not paying it. But, every birdie has got to leave the nest, and more importantly, I am tired of running into the mothers of schoolmates at the gym. I need to be in a city where I can be anonymous (because no other twenty-something Jew from Westchester moves into New York City).
Unfortunately, finding a compatible apartment in New York City is only slightly easier than trying to find a compatible boy—-and apartments don’t buy you Jack and Cokes, so it is a significantly less pleasant process.
Using Craigslist, which I am doing despite my mother’s conviction that this will lead to my demise at the hands of a psychopathic pervert, is not dissimilar from using OkCupid. about which my mother feels likewise. Both involve parties scanning an array of possibilities, checking out profiles without any sense of commitment or attachment, and trying to decide whether to send an email to check them out. Above all, they share the underlying common ideology of being absolutely free, which means you’re drawing from only the finest pool of applicants. Yup, both sites pretty much embody “you get what you pay for.”
Speaking of which, on Craigslist, there is the occasional listing for an apartment that is completely rent-free. However, as anyone who has contracted food poisoning from complimentary deli pickles knows, there is no such thing as a free meal. As someone who has led a largely sheltered suburban life, there is an odd novelty to these advertisements that somehow count as barely legal prostitution. Frankly, I worry more about the solicitors because any girl who responds to an ad to live in Times Square with “an exotic man of foreign decent” (yup, spelled exactly like that) has got to be just over the psychopath border.
My favorite of these ads was one that read “Free room for a trouble-free woman.” I must admit there is something tempting about the offer when you’re looking at a gym locker on Avenue C that costs $1600 a month. Unfortunately, I would wager there is no woman at least in the Tri-State area who is farther away from fitting that description than I am. In fact, my Native American name is “More Trouble Than She’s Worth.”
And it only gets worse when you live with me. I am notorious among my roommates and family members for 20 minute-long showers, never properly loading the dishwasher, and, oh yeah, having really loud, snot-running-down-my-face emotional breakdowns. As my brother Ethan said, “Why would anyone want to live with you?” So true, Ethan, so true. I’ve concluded that whatever dowry my parents were planning to offer a suitable mate must be presented, instead, to whichever Craigslister is willing to take me in.
What, Mom and Dad? You tell me now there is no dowry? That the 529 is specifically for educational purposes and not bribing the star of Mad Men/the Yankees’ shortstop to marry me? Oh well, thanks a lot for blowing my dowry on a liberal arts education. You threw your money behind the wrong horse on that one.
So, maybe if I keep my fingers-crossed, I’ll come across an ad for a not-so-trouble-free woman. Until then, if anyone hears of a fabulous place in the West Village, right near a subway stop, with a 24-hour security guard, a laundry room, and rent that won’t force me to turn into the world’s worst hooker (yeah, worse than that hot dog one), you know to send the info my way.
24 4 / 2012
As almost any spiritually-bankrupt American Jew will tell you, Passover seders can be pretty long and boring. It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re reliving the exodus from Egypt, but most of the time you’re just trying to look alive in case your Uncle from Secaucus calls on you to read about the four sons or your cousin from Great Neck throws matzo farfel at you. Many American Jews rely on the Maxwell House haggadahs (Passover booklets) because it was determined many moons ago that a company that manufactures mediocre coffee should also be responsible for our spiritual guidance. These haggadahs make a lot of references to someone named Rabbi Gamliel who we don’t really speak of ever again and rely on retelling the story of Passover in grammatically incorrect old English, all of which is why seders are pretty painstakingly dull.
However, as you could probably guess from my previous posts, nothing done in the Shire house is ever dull; quite the opposite, it’s usually abrupt and filled with so much agitation you could vomit. In theory, my family’s seders should be very relaxing because it is a relatively small crowd of my grandparents and my mom’s sister’s family. We’re so close that everyone can be themselves, which, actually, is the negative version of a blessing in disguise. Without some outsider to force us to pretend to be normal, any principle of civility has lost hold and all hell has the potential to break loose.
Before the people can break loose, though, the furniture usually does. My family doesn’t really throw away anything. My mother and I share a belief that you never know when something might come in handy in the future, which is why I can’t force myself to throw away a pair of heels with a broken arch that I bought the summer before my bat mitzvah because they could possibly be of use if I … decide I want an easy way to purposefully sprain my ankle.
The day of the first seder, I helped my mother set up a folding table that was admittedly “iffy,” having caved in one Rosh Hashanah. As I struggled to figure out how to kick out the legs, I realized the woman in the directions looked ridiculously akin to June Cleaver and that there was a strong possibility this folding table was older than my mother. In the spirit of Passover, we decided to throw caution to the wind and put our faith in the Almighty. We also decided to willfully ignore the fact that my brothers and I are about as delicate as elephants that have done a few too many Jager bombs (BTW, would you not love to see an elephant do Jager bombs? PLEASE email me if this YouTube vodeo exists). Thus, it was really of no great surprise when the table collapsed as my brother Matt reached for a pre-Four Questions bottle of seltzer. I’m going to assume it was Elijah the Prophet’s way of telling the Shires it was time to go to Costco and spring for a new folding table.
There’s nothing like a table caving in on the grandchildren to break the mood of reverence at a seder, but a close second is my dad reading jokes that his Jewish middle-age co-workers emailed him. The adults seemed to get a kick out of the Shecky Green-style of humor about how hard it is to digest matzah, but that kind of subtle comedy is wasted on the under 18 crowd, especially when they’re both starving and embarrassed by their parents, a toxic combination if there ever were one.
And that’s not to say there weren’t plenty of times when the children acted like embarrassments, too. I don’t think it was my parents’ proudest moment watching their son elbow an 11 year old girl to snatch the afikomen. (BTW, don’t know what the afikomen is? The quick explanation is that we hide a piece of matzo in our homes because the Almighty commanded us to suffer rodent problems in exchange for our freedom.) In all seriousness, the real significance of the afikomen is that the child who finds it gets $10. The Klan would have a field deal watching the children in my family search for the afikomen; they’re swearing, tripping, and shoving all in the name of the Almighty dollar. By the end, the grandkids are foaming at the mouth and resembling a WWF match with at least two people in a headlock and the finder dancing on the others’ backs. Like the Thanksgiving touch football game, I’ve abstained from participation the last few years due to health concerns.
However, I endured a new and far more humiliating Passover tradition this year thanks to my grandma. A fun fact about my grandmother: she can find a ritual that will remind everyone that “Emily is STILL single” for almost every Jewish holiday. Near the end of the seder, there’s a part where you open the door for Elijah, the prophet who walked the earth thousands of years ago (yeah, religion is weird; get of our backs, atheists, you already know you’re cooler than we are). Although I was struggling to move in the cheap-ass peep toe heels I bought at Payless three years ago, my grandma insisted that I be the one to walk unassisted to open the door. She never explained why this tradition is supposed lead to marriage, but I assume it involves my wedding to a ghost prophet, which would be totally fun, but we’d never have any good photos to submit to the Sunday Styles.
My family made it through the rest of Passover like the old pros that we are, eating Manishewitz-mix chocolate cake every night along with copious amounts of fried matzo (yup, that tastes about as good as it sounds). As I discussed before, we spend the eights days of not being able to eat bread by eating everything else in our freakin’ site; marshmallows, macaroons, matzo kugel are all fair game, and if it isn’t nailed down, it goes down the hatch. Of course, this kind of reckless abandon has its cost, but I am going to brush off the extra pounds and the inability to button my jeans as the price for freedom.
21 4 / 2012
Dearest readers, although I’ve been known to Chatty-Cathy my way through middle school chorus concerts, national war monuments, and High Holiday services, I cannot seem to force anything coherent out of my mouth…or, more accurately, my fingers. For the past two days, I have alternated between staring at my blank computer screen and looking over my shoulder to make sure a coworker doesn’t rat me out for being on gmail (BTW, this back-and-forth glancing gesture is not unlike what I’ve been instructed to do when attempting a three-point turn). In spite of falling just shy of self-induced whiplash, all I can think is that I truly do not know how to start this post. With that kind of combination of ambivalence, ambiguity, and lack of mental energy, you know this is going to be a doozy!
The past few weeks have been a bit bananas, in no small part because of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Now, to be fair, Passover ended almost a week ago, so some good old Emily-laziness is to blame. Also, there is no “real” reason why Passover should have impeded my writing, although, I am suspicious of the side effects of matzo, the unleavened bread made of sawdust and ground Styrofoam (Think I’m kidding about the ingredients? If you haven’t been inside a matzo factory, you have absolutely no way to prove otherwise).
However, the whole preparation for Passover can flip your system into a different gear. Jews are known for being a touch neurotic (thank you Sigmund Freud and Woody Allen), but we seem like we’re just a few pushpins away from voodooism when you get into the nitty-gritty of our rituals. BTW, there could not be a WORSE time for me to make a “Jews have creepy rituals” joke than in the context of Passover because of the whole blood libel thing that led to the persecution of Jews for hundreds of years! Okay, so our rituals aren’t that weird (just wanted to clarify in the highly unlikely case Mel Gibson is reading).
Actually, I think it’s just my own family’s rituals that are weird. We’re a strange hybrid of observance and laxity that reaches a fever pitch when it comes to Passover. In theory, Jews are supposed to rid their homes of all leavened products and change their dishes and cutlery for Passover. In reality, the vast majority of American Jews maybe give up bread for the eight days … or at least the first two seders . . . and muffins don’t count as bread!
My family changes all of our dishes and cutlery, which means we (my mom) unloads two dozens cardboard boxes that for some reason we store next to a boiler that smells like Elizabeth, NJ. At the same time, we don’t technically throw out all of the leavened products. Instead, we put giant tablecloths over them and tape our drawers, which seem totally normal to our friends and do not at all resemble a high-security state mental hospital that prohibits sharp objects.
There are also a bunch of rules that I don’t have time to explain here/I don’t actually understand that keep you from eating a lot of other random stuff that aren’t leavened products. On the Nutty Religions Scale, when you explain to someone you can’t eat rice during Passover because your ancestors are from Russia and Eastern European trade routes centuries ago may have allowed for the mixing of leavened products and rice, you sound less nutty than the angry Christians with posters and fliers lining the Time Square subway stop more so than people who see Jesus’s face in potato chips and grilled cheese.
In addition to those dietary rules, for some reason thousands of years ago the rabbis determined that it would be a REALLY good idea to not only tell people to stop eating their favorite bread products, but to also force them into a confined space with their relatives to follow a long and intricate ceremony that involved eating salt water and horseradish. Really, rabbis, would a holiday with bunny rabbits or pastel-colored eggs hidden in a backyard kill you?
30 3 / 2012
Dear reader, I’d like to take a few moments to get a little preachy and PSA-ish on you: nothing in life is as important as good friends… okay, maybe family, but I’ve already scrapped every gem out of that diamond mine of dysfunction. Also, Passover is coming up, so G-d knows, quite literally, I’ll be writing about familial issues again soon.
In all seriousness, though, friends fill a special void in your life when your soul is lost in worry. There are times I’m convinced my writing prospects peaked with an unsuccessful expose of who pulled the fire alarm at Scarsdale High. There are times I’m worried I’ll never have an OkCupid date with someone who’s taller than I am and that any potential progeny will resemble members of the Lollipop Guild.
Reader, let me give you some advice for when you’re having these existential concerns. DO NOT speak to your parents. They will either:
a) get even more worried than you, then make you annoyed that they have no faith in you, which will lead to a fight about how no one respects your personal right to your Pad Thai leftovers.
b) tell you you’re great and have a bright future ahead of you, which we all know is bullshit.
The people you go to in these moments of life-crisis dread are friends.
Why? Well for one, if you’ve had even the most mundane of American college experiences, your friends have probably seen you at your very worst. You may break down and cry in front of your family (as I do, almost daily). However, some of my close friends have seen me at moments when my family either would have committed me to a mental health facility or disowned me. If they had been around that time I blacked out on a toilet in formal wear and started swaying and cursing like the creepy girl in The Exorcist, they probably would have done both. Instead, my friends kept their cool, made sure I was hydrated, and closed my legs so I didn’t inadvertently flash (almost) anyone.
Not for nothing am I waxing so poetically on friendship. I’m in a bit of a honeymoon mindset after a weekend reunion with college friends in Washington DC. Yes, I managed to spare a weekend in my suburban cave to visit the nation’s capital! Although I probably should have been more awed by our federal machinations and national monuments, my two main takeaways of the city were:
1) Pay an extra 5 cents for every Safeway grocery bag? That is environmentally brilliant, but I can only carry so many cartons of ice cream and jugs of $8 wine with my two little hands.
2) Wow! There’s no vomit or other bodily fluids on the subway. No wonder they can get away with carpeting.
The closest I came to traditional sightseeing was when my lovely host and dear friend Mark (see? I mentioned you by name) pointed out the Jefferson Memorial, and I said “You know, when it’s lit up red, it kind of looks like an infected penis.”
Luckily, because Mark is a good friend, he knows to take my inane comments in stride and to just keep me moving forward. Literally. Y’all know I get super lost, which is why Mark and my college roommate/ best digestion issues-confidante Andrea decided to surprise me by meeting me at the subway stop. I, of course, promptly blew by them wondering what the deal was with the two assholes laughing at me. After an awkward ten seconds longer than it would take a normal person, I realized who they were.
We proceeded to the nearest authentic watering hole, a Tex-Mex bar with $7 margaritas. Amendment: $7 margaritas on the rocks, $9 for frozen margaritas, which annoyed me at first, but then I decided it was worth the extra two dollars to help fill the childhood void caused by my parents’ ban on slushies.
We kind of drank our way through the weekend, but at a really classily slow pace, so I can’t say there were any drunken adventures. Plus, rainy weather is a total buzzkill. It is even more of a buzzkill when you’ve stepped into a muddy (at least I pray that’s what it was) porta-potty outside of RFK stadium.
It was there that two of my other college roommates, Tian and Patty, joined our little brew crew for ShamrockFest, the third largest national St. Patrick’s Day festival. Not unlike the best of biting hangovers, ShamrockFest managed to squeeze out the last bits of Guinness-soaked fun even after the actual holiday was over. Eventually, with one fraction of Irish heritage among the five of us, we gave up and petered out early. We were going to try to fight the good fight, defy our collective penchant for staying in and watching Steel Magnolias. It was game over, though, as soon as Patty and Tian suggested making mulled wine and I suggested changing into pants with elastic waistbands.
That’s great thing about a weekend with good friends. You don’t have to stay out at a party or pretend to like something. You can sit in silence and not feel awkward (the true test of a strong relationship in my mind). You don’t worry about eating all of their Tostitos and salsa (sorry, Mark) or rolling over them in your sleep (sorry, Andrea; sorry, Mark) or making them stay out late because you cannot imagine why you wouldn’t want falafel at 1:30 AM (sorry, Mark; sorry, Patty; sorry, Tian).
Then again, you know what? Love means never having to say you’re sorry, and what my friends and I have is the best kind of love: the non-biological, non-romantic, non-physical kind. It’s the kind of love that will tell you point-blank when you need to get your eyebrows waxed, but will still love you and your unibrow even when you don’t.
22 3 / 2012
Dear readers, I am tired and old, so I am going to make this post short and sweet.
Now, anyone who has ever shared a bathroom with me knows that nothing I do is “short and sweet.” My family’s ceiling is peeling like the dry skin of a teenager on Acutane (trust me, I’ve been there) thanks to my inability to shower in under fifteen minutes, and I shudder to think of how many women have suffered UTIs due to the random misfortune of falling behind me in a restroom line. Heck, anyone who’s read my blog knows I meander, and not like a cute, grandma spinning a yarn type a way, but rather, like a deranged, hyperactive kindergarten class bunny that you’re forced to chase through your backyard.
However, I am starting to feel more like the grandma spinning a yarn as I sense my age is catching up to me. That may not be the right expression for a 22 year old. If my age was really catching up to me, I’d be spending more time forging drunken relationships in Murray Hill and caring about The Hunger Games than popping Tums and complaining about how frigid it always is. Alas, in case you couldn’t tell from previous posts regarding my struggles with technology and love of TLC reality programming, I’m an old soul. Or at least a middle-aged soul.
Unlike my attempts with most of my character defects, I am not even going to try to irrationally blame this on moving back home to the suburbs. I was well aware of this trait in college. You don’t exactly feel like a spry, young thing when you pass out on your couch before midnight after drinking a vodka Red Bull.
Hell, the middle-ager has been lurking in me since I was but a young lass. Remember when Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek were really popular? Well, I don’t because I was too busy watching Frasier after my bath. Let me tell you, references to Cheers spin-offs do not make you the most popular gal on the little league team. While most adolescents gamely stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning at slumber parties, I was the first to crumble at around 11. But for the grace of god did my friends choose not to prey on the naive heavy sleeper with acts of lewd facial drawings or dunking my hands in warm water.
Not that it takes much to make me have to pee. You see, even more than my middle age mentality, I have a middle age body. I don’t have to dye the gray yet. The menopause mustache has not yet arrived, though the waxers at Beauty Mania would care to differ on that one. My skin is as wrinkle free as someone who developed a stress-related ulcer in ninth grade’s could be.
However, on the inside, I bear all the hallmarks of an over-the-hill physiological system. As mentioned, I have the bladder of an octogenarian. I should pay Starbucks rent for all the time I have spent in their facilities—-and without buying a drop of coffee (yeah, I’m that kind of person; in my defense, the coffee just feeds the bathroom cycle!). I give myself 3-5 years before I am wearing Depends for extended car rides.
Now, I know many young people-and yes, especially my XX peers-are known for their copious bathroom trips, but there are other bodily-related issues that make me feel like an old fogie. By the way, the fact that I just used the expression “old fogie” has officially proved that I am one. As extra evidence, I’m including a non-exhaustive compilation of my elderly persons’ health issues, otherwise known as “List of personal qualities that I will NEVER mention in an OKCupid profile.”
For one, I have a trick knee. As if it weren’t bad enough watching senior citizens jog briskly on treadmills as I cling for dear life, it turns out I can’t even run while gripping with two hands. I haven’t even made it through half an episode of “Chopped” before I am vigorously massaging my kneecap and wishing I had some extra IcyHot on me.
This condition may or may not be related to my weak ankles and corn-ridden feet. My grandmother and mother instilled in me the value of sensible shoes. I am probably the only girl who wore orthopedics to her bat mitzvah because her grandmother feared she’d topple over on the bimah. Well, lo and behold, before I could ever afford Sex and the City shoes, my feet are ruined. Forget platform pumps or Jimmy Choos. I can’t even wear flats. Instead, I wear Anne Klein oxfords that seem to scream “Hello, I have three children, love Fifty Shades of Grey, and live in Massapequa.”
I was just about to start writing another paragraph on my bad back (oh, what four years of high school textbooks will do to a pubescent girl’s spine!), but then I realized I needed to stop the kvetching. Vey iz mir, even I, who lives in a house where medically-related complaints are the focus of most of our dinner conversations, know my limits. I may be an old soul, but I am not such an alta kocker yet that I don’t know when to put a kibosh on the complaints. So, dear reader, I am going to sign off here, pop a little Pepto for my tummy, and rest my weary bones.
07 3 / 2012
Dearest of dear readers, I cannot begin to convey how truly sorry I am that it has taken me such an unjustifiably long time to write another post, especially since so much of that time was spent watching episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and drinking Caramel-flavored vodka.
I know I made a New Year’s resolution not to start any of my posts with an apology, but just as with my other goal of doing Pilates every night, the uniquely dulling chill of February broke my will. My octogenarian ankles and calf muscles’ tendency to Charley Horse didn’t help, either.
February was a shaky month for my mental and physical stability. As my last post indicated, Valentine’s Day marks a trying time of year for yours truly. The overwhelming sadness and boxes of Russell Stover usually leave me incapacitated for one to two weeks. Then, as fate would have it, just as I was crawling out of my Valentine’s hibernation, non-chocolate-related illness struck my weary bones. So sick was I that I had to pay not one, but two visits to my pediatrician.
By the way, in case you were wondering, being a 22 year old and going to a pediatrician is as precious as it sounds. You get to stand in the waiting room with your arms crossed because you’re too afraid to touch or sit on anything the sneezy toddler with the crayon up his nose has been near while simultaneously realizing that all of the other patients are young enough to be your grandchildren by Appalachian standards. The silver lining is that the nurses are far more understanding when you hysterically cry at the sight of shots and/or butterfly needles. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think grown-up doctors would have enough patience nor Justin Bieber stickers to medically cope with me.
Really, though, even illness is a cop-out because it truly does not take that much physical energy to write. Writers generally fall somewhere just above middle-aged CPAs on a physical fitness test, so unless you’ve broken all ten of your fingers, there’s no good reason not to write. As my fifth grade teacher would say, “No excuses! And work on that long division, you blithering idiots!”
Unfortunately, I am so good at making excuses and letting myself off of the hook for things. (Why, yes, Emily it is absolutely imperative you watch another episode of Cupcake Wars). However, there is one thing I am committing to for 2012. I’ve told family and friends, but I am stating it here to reaffirm my dedication: I am going to get my driver’s license.
Being 22 years old and not being able to drive is only slightly better than being 22 years old and seeing a pediatrician. My top three biggest issues with not having a license are: 1) you’re completely dependent on the kindness of your parents and friends to get you places; forget about ever feeling like a remotely competent human adult 2) you lose a boatload of money on cabs-conversely, you get to become friends with cab drivers, 3) you have to carry around your passport if you want to get into a bar; in case this was not completely obvious, alcohol and pocket-sized government forms of identification are a TERRIBLE mix.
In my defense (see? more excuses), I descend from a long maternal line of female non-drivers; we’re three generations of anti-feminist car jokes.
Let’s start with Grandma Hazel. Her husband, a World War II navigator who guided plans with failing engines over the Atlantic and safely landed them outside of Nazi territory, tried super hard to teach her how to drive, but to no avail. Grandma Hazel claims she was very close to passing her exam, but sped up and got nervous at the end because she really needed to go to the bathroom. I pretty much believe this, since the weak bladder has been passed down my maternal line, as well.
Then, there is my mom, who can actually drive, but prefers almost any activity less excruciating than a double root canal to the act of driving. My mother spent the first twenty some odd years of her life residing in places where she had no need for driving. Then, in 1987, she persuaded my dad that they should ditch their apartment in the Village and move to the suburbs (and what a swell idea that was) and her public transportation world caved in on her.
She was a trooper, navigating the suburbs without the ability to drive and with two kids in a tow-and let the record state these were two kids that did not like walking! I don’t know if this is the official straw that broke the camel’s back, and thereby paralyzed her last form of non-automobile transportation, but not being able to drive my dad to the ER when he fell down our stairs and broke his wrist was a likely factor in her learning to drive.
And learn she did! She practiced with my father and her father, and she passed the road test. Yet, while New York State has faith in her driving abilities, she does not. My mother drives really well, but driving with her is like taking out a loan from Bank of America; there are lots of restrictions and hidden fees. She does not drive on highways, outside of Southern Westchester, or in parking garages. If you want to go to the mall, be prepared to park at least two kilometers away and hoof it.
By the way, I am in absolutely no position to judge; she’s the one I am most dependent on for lifts. I’m just happy she’ll get me within vision of the mall.
I was able to scrape by through high school and college without driving (how? by having no sense of personal dignity and groveling for rides from any manner of acquaintances). However, now that I am back home, learning to drive seems like a necessity.
Unfortunately, I’ve tried learning to drive in the past. A person of average, baseline driving capacity could have passed the road test at least two to three times with all the hours and lessons of practicing I’ve had. However, when it comes to driving, I am all thumbs. Literally. Please, get out of my way if you see me attempting a three-point turn. Years of terrifying driving experiences have also taught me that I am really, really bad at guestimating spaces. My visual-spatial skills are just not all there.
G-d bless my father. He is the only bloodline relative who will get in a vehicle with me at the wheel. He’s seen me manage to straddle three head-on parking spaces and nearly killed us both at a blind turn, and yet he keeps telling me I don’t need anymore lessons. Then again, this may have less to do with his faith in me than his efforts to cut his losses on paying for over five years of driving instruction.
As I am making what is hopefully my final stab at getting my license, I am trying to channel my father’s inner calm, patience, and ability to parallel park. Dad, if I ever pass the New York State road test, you get the first ride-and I totally understand if you want to take a pass on that offer.
14 2 / 2012
“Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope you’re doing something fun with your loved ones to honor and cherish this remarkably wonderful day, be it your friends, family, or a SPECIAL someone!”
Is exactly what I would write, if I had fallen down our outside stairs and impaled my frontal lobe on the tip of the Tetanus-inducing rusty banister, while simultaneously doing whip-its.
Shocked that I don’t love Valentine’s Day? Maybe I should switch that icon from Sally Brown to Lucy van Pelt to convey the frustrated, bitter single girl sentiment a little more clearly or, better yet, Peppermint Patty-wouldn’t that set tongues wagging? (See previous post on purchasing a black iPhone to read more about my younger brother’s suspicion that I’m a lesbian). I have not enjoyed Valentine’s Day since I was in third grade. Mrs. Absgarten’s class had a completely awesome internationally-themed party in honor of the 1998 Nagano Olympics, and it was the last year before I reached that painful stage of self-awareness that forced me to realize that I looked absolutely nothing like Michelle from Full House.
In a few moments, I will elaborate on my ire towards the “holiday,” a term I use VERY loosely (I’m going to have to note that both National Popcorn and Penguin Awareness Day are two celebrations thus far in the 2012 calendar year alone that are more deserving of the title of “holiday”). But first, I’d like to take a few swings at all these reasons why people usually hate Valentine’s Day.
One reason many people complain about Valentine’s Day is because it promotes commercialism, corrupting a loving, pure, romantic holiday with greed and profit. These are likely the people who make the same materialism lament come Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other holiday that Duane Reade carries decorations for six to eight weeks too early.
To those people, I say go move to an organic agricultural cooperative in Portland, leave the heart-shaped Russell Stover boxes for me, and shut the hell up! Look, I love Free to Be…You and Me as much as (or way freakin’ more) than the next person, and my Hippie tendencies run pretty deep for a person born less than a month before the fall of Communism. But, dude, wake up and smell the Folger’s coffee and while you’re at it, pop a Xanax (or in my house, a boatload of Benadryl).
What harm ever came from a few boxes of mass-produced Looney Tunes Valentine’s cards… except to the workers in Indonesia being paid four cents a day. Okay, the workers have my sympathy, but not you, annoying people who like to complain about commercialism! Do you realize you’re the living, non-ironic embodiment of “Stuff White People Like”? You hate the little boxes of Sweethearts and Hallmark cards? Why don’t you lament the fact that you can’t speak another language while you’re at it? I want the record to state that I am NOT in this camp and that I adore all boxed pharmacy chocolates, regardless of the shape or holiday.
Another and far more annoying reason that people complain about Valentine’s Day is because they think it is silly to have one single, arbitrary day for romantic gestures when this should be practiced throughout the whole year. 99% of the time these are smug couples that love holding hands and walking together slowly, particularly when this involves blocking the entire width of the stairs for exiting the subway station and crushing you against a hipster who doesn’t believe in deodorant. To them, I simply say I hope you have a lifetime of love that endures even through that case of the Syph, over which, I am sure, you can manage to bond and grow.
Whew, now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, I can get to the meat and potatoes of why I hate Valentine’s Day. It may sound odd, but the thing I so dislike as a single person on Valentine’s Day is having to pretend to be really nonchalant about the day. There is a surprisingly narrow range of emotions you’re allowed to display on Valentine’s Day if you’re a single person in the presence of non-single people, even the ones that aren’t total d-bags like the couples described in the above paragraph.
On Valentine’s Day, you need to be as independent and self-confident in your singleness, which many women are. Just be certain you’re wearing your “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” t-shirt to make sure everyone else around you doesn’t shoot pitying glances. This includes sending a message to friends and relatives who genuinely love and care about you; in fact, it is especially in their presence that you need to seem fine and dandy.
You see, they are the ones who are going to be most on the lookout for your feeling a tad despondent or forlorn on this day, ready to catch any signals to cheer you up. They may have incredibly kind intentions, but it often ends up feeling patronizing. So, even if you want to make Valentine’s a fun day with some girly drinking of Andre to playfully drown your single sorrows, you will not only be branded the jilted, bitter girl, but people will sorry for you, too.
I genuinely don’t want people feeling bad for me because I don’t have a date on Valentine’s Day. I have so many actual struggles that I would much rather cause others’ pity. My frightening lack of depth-perception makes it impossible for me to head-on park and pass the New York State roadtest. I can’t eat a bowl of oatmeal without spilling and making my clothes look like they came out of the Monica Lewinsky collection. By all means, empathize with these challenges I face and try to raise my spirits!
But, if Valentine’s is the one day when people cart out the tea and sympathy, it is hard not to feel like you’re missing something and, more importantly, you should rectify that missing thing NOW. Maybe you’re already a headstrong, confident woman who is happy exactly with how things are; maybe you’re not. You’re going to want to avoid unwanted pity in either of those cases, which means you’re going to have to waver somewhere between casual and perky.
But not too perky. If you’re running around handing out Hershey kisses to everyone at your office and dressing in pink and red, you seem a) like an eight year old high on helium and cotton candy and b) deluded, as if you’re trying to cover up for something. I hate to admit it, but I, too, find it hard not to be suspicious of someone who just LOVES Valentine’s Day in a pure, unadulterated way.
I just read an interview with the author of The Catholic Girls’ Survival Guide for the Single Years. She suggests throwing a Valentine’s party for the neighborhood children because it’s hard feeling depressed when you’re watching little girls in pretty dresses sip cocoa. This seems both a little creepy and a lot pathetic and not wholly unexpected for a religious guide to enjoying being single. It also hits at the issue that zealous love and planning for Valentine’s Day is a sign of overcompensating and distracting yourself,. It can be emotionally difficult to pull it off, and even if you can, it’s still pretty obvious what you’re doing and will trigger the same cycle of pity described above.
My single ladies, I guess we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. So, screw it. Pretend you’re Gloria Steinem, cry in the fetal position, or pour yourself a glass of wine. I’ve done all three in the past hour.
08 2 / 2012
Dear reader, if you’ve been kind enough to travel along with me on this blogging journey, two things have probably become obvious: 1) I don’t proofread for typos well and 2) maintaining my privacy is not high on my list of priorities. It’s certainly well below avoiding confrontations with giant rodents. I would not be writing to you in the first place if not for the simple fact that I am a Chatty Cathy with a big fat mouth that’s a little too willing to disclose the first thought that hops into my head, which 99% of the time is about food, random odors, or how awesome it would be to birth Derek Jeter’s children.
If loose lips sink ships, then that Costa Concordia thing was totally me and not the skeezy conductor. Too soon to make mediocre jokes about it? Damn it! Well, see, I’m shooting off my mouth again.
If my friends from college are reading this post, I can picture them nodding along in understanding, remembering the Emily who would waltz into the dining hall and happily announce she wasn’t wear any panties because she was out of clean pairs. They’ll recall the lass who couldn’t wait to be asked a probing question in Truth or Dare, sitting herself just a tad too hard on the old college futon and snapping the wooden legs with the force of her derriere, a tale she then shared with her academic adviser later that week.
For better or for worse, I am particularly loose lipped when I’m writing, or as the great Carrie Bradshaw would say “emotionally slutty.” I couldn’t help but wonder… nope, not copping to a Sex and the City cliche yet!… well, actually, I really can’t help but wonder if there’s something about not having actual face-to-face contact that enables me (and many others) to disclose over the internet things that go in the “not even appropriate to share on a third date” category.
A quick run through of the things I have revealed on this blog; aside from the general concerns regarding unemployment, body issues, and slowly wrinkling into Little Edie of Grey Gardens (of the 1975 documentary, not the 2009 HBO special), I’ve discussed incidents of horrifying drunkeness, my weak bladder, my willingness to let my younger brother freeze barefoot outside our home, and my love of Glee.
It’s all well and good if I want to tarnish my own reputation and thwart all potential for future babysitting jobs (yup, I know I harp on babysitting-take that as a reflection of my financial/social state). However, I’ve come to realize that I have been exposing a few other folks along the way, namely the two people who gave me life, and the two people most likely to be kidney matches. Kudos to me for exploiting those precious and potentially life-saving familial relations for the sake of a few pithy comments!
In all honesty, I’ve felt a little uneasy writing about my family for a while now. That was not my initial plan when I started this blog, but a few things make it difficult not to write about them. For one, now that I am living at home, they are the people with whom I spend a large chunk of my time, so they’re inevitably going to pop up in a post. For another, if you had a younger brother with a penchant for Ebonics and a father who almost killed you changing a light fixture, you’d write about them, too. Just as it says in Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Every Brady Bunch family is super boring, but every funny/neurotic family is funny/neurotic in its own way. BTW, Mom and Dad, please take note that I am quoting Tolstoy; even though I still can’t correctly read a Metro-North train schedule, I’m finding a way to put that expensive college education to use.
On that note, Mom, Dad, my two little future kidney donors, I want to apologize. Most likely, only 25% of the Shire clan is reading this, but I still want to use this time to say I’m sorry for taking permission carte blanche to write about us. I’m even sorrier that I may not be using “carte blanche” correctly and am further sullying the family name. Most of all, I am sorry because, whether it has sunken in or not, you’ve taught me to value privacy. This goes beyond the fact that my father always instructed me not to disclose my social security number on College Board exams because its “none of their freakin’ business,” or that when I wrote a complaint letter about my fifth grade teacher, it wasn’t enough not to sign it anonymously; my mother wanted to copy it over in different handwriting, lest they perform a graphology exam or match it to my ELA test booklet (Ironically, as a result of my grandmother’s pride in how eloquent a complainer I was, the letter was never submitted and is in safekeeping in her apartment).
My family has taught me how to appreciate and love trustworthy people, the ones you can expose the truly devastating, embarrassing, vulnerable things about yourself to, things even worse than admitting you cried during Disney’s Tarzan and had to pee six times during the course of it. Thus, I hope they are not too offended and will forgive me if the elastic waistband around my sense of discretion snaps, and I share a little too much.
Fingers-crossed they will. Because when I do fully evolve into batty and bald Little Edie, I’m relying on them to subtly hide me in the guest bedroom and tell the neighbors I’ve moved to Boca.