It’s so hot, I’m going bald. Thought you’d like to know.
I think my arm is broken. I wrenched it out of the socket when I was attempting to move some stuff around in my storage space, and it definitely does not feel right. Then again, if I concentrate hard enough, I can imagine that I’ve sustained almost any type of injury. For instance, a few years ago, I went to my doctor and told her that I thought I had a groin injury. She looked at me very seriously and said, “Well, I just hope you check yourself regularly for testicular cancer … you fool.”
I’m really not sure what non-hypochondriacs do for entertainment.
OK, considering that my last two posts were about my eyebrows and my pants, it’s kind of silly that I’m about to pick on people for vanity. However, I don’t intend to let that stop me.
In the course of my Internet stalking — you know the drill: you start with Google, go to Friendster, then to MySpace, and so on — I recently discovered two friends of mine from college who are currently claiming to be 26 years old. One neglected to change her high school information, which made it appear as though she had graduated from high school when she was 16.
I can understand getting nervous around your birthday, or worrying about clocks both biological and career, but c’mon. Lying about your age? What are we, celebrities now? What’s next? Botox? I swear to you that if I find out that anyone I went to school with has already had cosmetic surgery to stave off the ravages of time, that I will out them in this space. Especially if it’s me. I’ll tell you all about it, then.
(Brief aside: A short time ago, my friend Brian asked me if I’d had breast reduction surgery. I used to be about 30 pounds heavier, and therefore, was larger in the chestral region. I assured him that I had not had any surgery, that I had, in fact, gotten smaller everywhere. When he looked unconvinced, I said, “Brian, how long have you known me? If I’d had breast reduction surgery, don’t you think I would have told you all about it, in nauseating detail?” That convinced him.)
Anyway, I vote for honesty on the age issue. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve managed to make it this far without being murdered by a customer service representative. Let’s celebrate our years! Who’s with me?
OK, just me then. No big.
Next week, I will move to a new apartment and start a new job all in the space of, oh, about 48 hours. I have a lot to get done, and not much time to do it in. I should be extremely freaked out, but I’m not. Mostly, I’m concerned about what I’ll wear to work.
You see, I haven’t had any kind of a dress code for years. My last job distributed the dress code with the employee handbook on the first day of work. It read: “Employees are encouraged to wear clothing.” That was it. That was the whole dress code. So as long as my lady parts were covered, so was I.
My new job seems pretty relaxed about dress codes, too, but it’s in New York. Since my only work experience in New York so far has been working from home, and since New York is, on the whole, dressier than my hometown of Boston, I’m a little concerned. I think it might be a bad idea, for instance, to show up at work wearing a vomit-stained “Daubach is my daddy” t-shirt and a paint-spattered Red Sox cap.
So today, I went shopping. Please understand that I go shopping with the same joy and zest that I reserve for getting a Pap smear. I do not like shopping. I’ve never liked it. What I like is stuff. There’s a paucity of actual stuff-getting in the whole shopping experience, if you ask me. Mostly, it seems like you just kind of stand around in one line or another, waiting to feel bad about your body and then pay a whole bunch of money you don’t have to buy some clothes you might well despise next week. Also, in three months the weather will be wrong for your outfit, and by the time the weather cycles back around to where it needs to be in order for you to wear your fetching new pants, they will be out of style.
I once told my friend David in college that I was waiting for the Future of Fashion to arrive. I had it in my head that someday we would all shave our noggins and wear one-piece zip-up jumpsuits just like they do in science fiction movies, and then I would never have to worry about what I was wearing ever again. David said, “You are such a lesbian,” which wasn’t fair at all, because I know plenty of lesbians who have tons of fashion sense. I like boys and I can’t dress myself without help. Stereotypes hurt us all, David. If you’re reading this, I want you to remember that.
Anyway, I am now the proud owner of two pairs of grown-up person work pants and a shirt with buttons on it, as well as some cute sandals that do not completely reduce my feet to hamburger, and I’m feeling much better.
I’ve let a few things slide lately, because I’ve been so busy. My eyebrows are probably not the most earth-shatteringly important item on that list, but you have to trust me when I tell you that it’s better if I stay on top of them. I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and if I’d been wearing a beard and making a stern expression, I would have looked just like my Dad doing his Sean Connery impression. Needless to say, I shrieked and started digging through the medicine cabinet for the tweezers.
I do my own eyebrows, because I’ve seen one too many waxing accidents, because my eyebrows are kind of a weird shape, due to a bar-related injury from some years ago, and because I am cheap. Generally, this works out just fine. I get to keep a few hairs over each eye and all the money in my wallet (both dollars). Sometimes, though, things don’t work out and I take too much, or more from one brow than the other, and I wind up looking like kewpie doll.
The bald brow look doesn’t even bother me as much as the possibility of winding up lopsided. A couple years ago, I plucked my eyebrows unevenly and didn’t realize I’d done it until I was at dinner with my mother and she stopped mid-sentence and said, “Are your eyebrows uneven?”
A few tears and blusterings later, she said, “OK, OK, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I just … thought you should know. I don’t know why I said anything at all.”
“I don’t know why you did, either,” I said, through gritted teeth. “When you know how crazy I am.”
So, my point is, I’m a little crazy about my eyebrows. And, you know, just in general.
A few of my twelve readers have written to tell me how sorry they are that I have had such a rotten experience at their favorite store, Target, and rereading my previous entry, I can see how they would’ve gotten the impression that the store was to blame. But in actual fact, it’s my credit card company, not Target, that screwed up. Target is awesome and I love it so much I might marry it. At the very least, my mother will definitely be sending that cashier a Christmas card. (“Such a nice lady. And I thought she looked tired, too, but I could tell that she really liked us.”)
I’m whiling away the last of my retirement in Boston, but I’m not resting, oh no. I’m organizing things and calling people and making lists. Most of all, I am spending an outrageous amount of money.
Yesterday, for example, Ma Smash and I went to Target, where I spent $360 on things that I swear I used to own. When the number popped up on cash register, I felt my knees buckle.
“Oh my God,” I whispered. “How is that even possible?”
“Oh, that’s what it costs to move anywhere,” Ma said. “$360. Remember? When we moved you into Roslindale, it cost $360. Every time I sent one of you kids to college: $360. It’s the magic number. I’ve never been able to figure it out.”
“I’m going to throw up.”
“Oh, you’ll be fine.” She ran a finger over the four-hundred pound shelving unit I’d just purchased. “Now, how to think you’re going to get this up three flights of stairs? Are you going to use the laundry cart? I know: Make one of your guy friends do it.”
“Yeah, maybe. They tend to disappear when there’s actual physical labor on the agenda. Is there a problem?” This last to the cashier, who was looking at my credit card like it had an expiration date of yesterday and “Osama bin Laden” printed in the name space.
“I have to call,” she said wearily.
“Why? Is there something wrong with my card?”
She held up a finger and spoke into the phone. “Yes, I’ve got Ms. Hubley here. Would you like to speak to her? Yes, right here. OK, hang on.” She covered the mouthpiece and said, “Can I see your ID?”
Here’s where I started to get really nervous. See, I take a terrible picture, particularly for license photos. My ID photo doesn’t so much look like me as it does my retarded toothless Appalachian cousin Thelma Stump. In fact, I like to think of myself as this person when I’m in my cups or otherwise feeling stupid. Who lost my keys? Thelma Stump. Who lost my Netflix? Thelma Stump. Who forgot to update the blog for four days? Thelma has a drinking problem. Also a chromosome deficiency. It’s not her fault.
The cashier took my ID and flicked it right back to me over the counter without a look. But it was too late. Now I was worrying. My credit card was going to be declined. My credit history, previously so spotless and exemplary, had been hijacked by some feckless Jennifer Hurley or Hubbard or Hubler, and she and her crack-addicted boyfriend were taking my financial history on a cross-country killing spree.
“OK, here she is.” The cashier handed me the phone.
“Hello, Ms. Hubley, how are you today?”
“Well, honestly, I’m a little annoyed. What’s the problem, here?”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Hubley, I have a security hold on your card.”
“And that means…?”
“It means I’ll have to ask you just a few questions, and then I’ll transfer you to another department to complete the process. Now, what is the full name on your card?”
“Jennifer L. Hubley.”
“And what is your mother’s maiden name?”
“[Wouldn't you like to know, you pesky credit card thieves. Ha! Your boyfriend will have to get his crack from some other source!]“
“And how old will you be on your next birthday?”
Pause. A short exhale which might have been a laugh. “OK, Ms. Hubley, I’m going to transfer you to another line.”
At this point, “The Girl From Ipanema” actually started playing on the phone. I looked at the cashier and my mother, who were peering at me expectantly.
“I’m going to jail,” I announced. “Because my credit card has been stolen by dangerous felons and soon my whole tragic life story will be on one of my favorite true crime shows, which I will not be able to watch because they don’t have cable in the pokey.”
The cashier rolled her eyes.
“Oh, they have cable in the pokey,” my mother said. “So what’s going on now?”
“I’m waiting for another person to come on and ask me a bunch of stupid questions.”
The cashier pointed at the person behind us in line. “You might want to go to another register,” she said. “This is going to be awhile.”
“If we’d known this was going to happen, we would’ve brought you a lunch!” Ma Smash said to the cashier.
The cashier tried out a smile. Dust blew out from the unused corners of her mouth.
“Can we get you a cold drink or something?”
Now, at this point, I should tell you two things. The first is that I was fully in the grip of The Rage. This comes upon me suddenly in situations where I am confronted by incompetence, and it does not feel great. It feels like Bluto in the old Popeye cartoons, when his vision went all red and the veins stood out on his neck. It feels like I might finally, finally snap.
The other is that my mother is the Nicest Woman in North America. She’s this way by nature, and because of the way she was raised, and also because she’s a nurse, which means that she’s more than human, can tolerate any type of human behavior and leaves no footprints in sand nor snow. Once, when I was in school, she asked me why I didn’t want to go to nursing school. I said that I didn’t have the patience to deal with people who weren’t nice to me. Specifically, I mentioned an incident when a patient, who was confused, had hit her and given her a black eye.
“Oh, the poor little thing,” she said. “She was confused and elderly and scared. She didn’t really know what she was doing.”
“She gave you a black eye! A black eye! I would have punched that old bitch in the head.”
She paused. “So maybe you shouldn’t become a nurse, then.”
So anyway, she wasn’t kidding when she offered to get the cashier a drink. Soon, my mother and the cashier were swapping child-rearing stories, and I was muttering incoherently into the phone and rolling my eyes like a spooked racehorse.
“Both my babies are away from me now,” Ma told the cashier. “Her sister is married to a serviceman, and they’re out in Tacoma. Well, she’s out in Tacoma. My little John is in Iraq right now.”
The cashier nodded sympathetically. She was leaning on the counter in a relaxed manner. “That’s so hard,” she said. “You know, my husband was in the army and we moved all the time. All the time.”
“This is ridiculous!” I said. “RIDICULOUS! Why is there a security hold on my card? I pay them. I PAY THEM ALL THE TIME. THEY HAVE ALL MY MONEY. DO THEY NEED MY SANITY, TOO? IS THAT IT? WILL THEY NOT BE HAPPY UNTIL I HAVE NOTHING LEFT?”
“Her father has a temper,” My mother explained.
“My husband has a temper, and all the kids do too. Such a shame.”
“I’m going to go crazy. No: I’m going to cancel my card. IF I’D KNOWN IT WAS GOING TO BE THIS HARD I WOULD HAVE PAID CASH.”
“Don’t do anything drastic,” My mother advised.
I thought about taking the phone and banging it on the counter, like they do in the movies.
“Hello, Ms. Hubley, are you there?”
“Oh, yes, I’m here.”
“How are you today, ma’am?”
“I am going insane.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that, ma’am. Now, I have just a few questions for you, and then we can clear this up. Are you a first, or a second?”
“I’m a GIRL. A GIRL. Do you know many “seconds” who are female?”
“I understand, Ms. Hubley. Now, if you could just clear up the matter of your address, which you changed last week…”
“Are you kidding me? You put a hold on my card because I CHANGED MY ADDRESS? Does no one ever move at your company? You know that we live in America, right? I don’t have to, like, get a special permit from the government to move house. I just need to give a scummy broker a lot of money.”
“Thank you, Ms. Hubley. I am reauthorizing your card, and I thank you for your patronage.”
“Not for long, you won’t be thanking me.”
She hung up the phone.
“OK, all set,” I told the cashier.
She looked at me sadly. “Did she hang up the phone? Cuz I need an authorization code for this.”
“You are kidding me. OK, you know what? I am going to pay cash. You can still use my ATM card, right?”
Eventually, I was able to purchase my goods and services and get free of Target, which I had begun to fear would be my new home.
“I am canceling my card,” I told my Mom.
“That’s a good idea, honey.”
“And then I am going to tell all of my friends to do the same.”
“That’s a good idea, honey.”
“And then I am going to hunt down everyone from the CEO to the call center manager and give them all flying wedgies.”
“That’s a good idea, honey.”
Sometimes I think my Mom isn’t listening to me.
In other news, I am still captain of the fifth grade Safety Patrol at Broadmeadow Elementary School in Needham, Massachusetts.
I had horrible insomnia last night, so I decided to spend the afternoon with about 30 nine-year-old kids. Cuz that’s a spectacular idea when you’re overtired.
My friend Gina teaches an after school program in Cambridge. A lot of the kids in her program are the children of Harvard professors and other smarties. They’re more interesting than most adults. Still, I was nervous going over to the playground to meet them. I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out with kids, and the last time I was on a playground, I was eighteen and smuggling a forty.
I was a little early meeting Gina, so I called my brother-in-law Steve from a bench across the street from the park. It was pretty hard to carry on a conversation, as kiddie parks are kinda loud. Put it this way: the kids might’ve been having fun, but they sounded like they were being murdered.
“Are you at a playground?” he asked, almost immediately.
“Yup. I’m meeting my friend Gina.”
“So where are you?”
“Across the street.”
“Dude. You’re just sitting on a bench across the street from a playground? Are you looking at the playground?”
“You look so sketchy right now. You know that, right? Like the biggest, biggest pervert.”
Which only put a name to the feeling of unease I’d been experiencing. Maybe it’s the aftermath of the Michael Jackson trial, but it feels totally creepy to be hanging around a playground if you don’t have children of your own and aren’t an accredited teacher.
Finally, Gina showed up and I got off the phone and went over and met the kids. As soon as I had, I felt better. Especially when I met Noah, the Knock Knock Joke Guy. Noah was about eight years old, very solemn, especially when it came to his jokes. Apparently, he knew thousands of them. I only heard a few. This was his favorite:
“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”
“Noah? I have never been more glad of anything.”
He cocked his head to one side. I had a weird moment, where I realized that he was imitating his Dad, who was a professor at the school, Gina had told me. It was a very grown-up, professiorial sort of gesture. I half expected him to call me “Miss Hubley” and demand that I make a sound argument on some point or other. Instead, he said, “Now you go.”
“You tell a joke.”
“Oh, man. You know, I’m kinda old. We don’t really tell jokes so much, at our age. We mostly tell funny stories.”
So Noah told me a few more of his jokes. And then he told me some of his scary stories. By this time, I had decided that going to visit 30 or so kids on two hours of sleep was actually one of the best ideas I’d ever had, and I’d further decided to become Noah’s best friend and possibly to sue for custody, if it could be arranged.
After an hour or so, it was time for the kids and Gina to go back into the classroom, so I said my goodbyes and headed out. Noah opened the gate for me, after shooing several other kids away first. “This way, Jen,” he said, indicating the exit with his palm, like his father showing out guests at a dinner party.
“Thank you, Noah,” I said.
“Thank you so much for coming,” he said, gravely.
Boy, oh boy, am I ever getting soft in my old age: I actually feel sorry for Neal Pollack.
I’ve never been able to stand Neal Pollack — or, I should say, his persona. Mostly, I didn’t like that he didn’t seem to take anything seriously, especially his own work. Everything was in quotes with this guy, like he was a “writer” who “wrote stories” and then “read” them to “people.”
I prefer it when people believe in what they’re doing and admit it. When people are too focused on their fame, I tend to wonder whether they like the actual writing part at all. If being successful is the point, why not get a real job? It’s far easier to make your mark in banking, I’d think. I mean, assuming that you’re better at math than I am, or look really good in a suit.
As obnoxious as I find the whole Greatest Living Writer routine, well … I can kind of understand where the impulse came from. It’s not like there are hoards of publicists waiting in the wings to help new writers promote their work. I did my very first interview ever the other day (and who knows if any of it will see print, so I won’t bother telling you where and with whom), and I definitely tried to be as witty and quote-worthy as possible, in the hopes that I’d get more ink out of it. You kinda feel like a douche, but what are you supposed to do?
At the moment, it seems kind of cruel to pick on Neal Pollack. He’s apparently having all kinds of financial troubles and people are ragging him about his parenting skills and Dave Eggers has dumped him. And I’m not really qualified to criticize him, anyway, since I’ve only read his essays, not his books. I’ve never wanted to, because his schtick was so grating. Here’s something for all of us would-be writers to think about, though: If he’d been less irritating, would we have heard of him at all?