You and your milk

Did you know that I’m on a one woman campaign to drive the cafeteria staff at my office crazy? Well, I am. My cunning plan is to destroy their sanity by ordering a carton of milk every day, and nothing else.

Oh, I know it’s not much of a plan. It’s just a little thing. But you know, sometimes you don’t have to do very much to accomplish great results. First the cafeteria, then my office, then the world. As we don’t have a radio station to take over, I suppose I’ll have to commandeer the P.A. system.

But for now, I’m stuck in phase one. Every day, rain or shine, I go down to the cafeteria, take a carton of skim milk out of the freezer, plunk down 79 cents and go on my merry way. Or would do so, if it weren’t for the fact that in addition to the aforementioned 79 cents, each and every carton of milk apparently also costs a conversation. It’s the same conversation, and I have it every day.

CASHIER: “Just the milk?”

ME: “Yes. Just the milk.”

CASHIER: (Shaking head sadly.) “You and your milk. Don’t you eat anything else?”

ME: “Yes. I do. I bring my lunch from home. But I can’t bring the milk, you see.”

CASHIER: “I don’t believe you. How much do you weigh?”

ME: “About a buck twenty-five.”

CASHIER: “I don’t believe you. What size are your pants?”

ME: “Small.”

CASHIER: (Shaking head sadly.) “You’re so tiny.”

ME: “My Mom smoked when she was pregnant. She didn’t know. It was the ’70s. There wasn’t even any ultrasound yet. Oscar the Grouch was orange. It was a different world.”

Okay, I didn’t say that last part. But honestly. What am I supposed to say to them? What if I were fat? Would they be like, “Thank GOD you’re only having that milk?”Grrr.


Genuine american mutt-type person

One of the things that annoys me about living in Boston (and there are only a few of them, relative to the many things that delight me about living in Boston) is that everyone here thinks that they’re Irish.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone, by the way, lest you think I’m lobbing stones from the porch of my glass house, especially around St. Paddy’s Day, when I can generally be found running through the streets of South Boston with a plastic cup of beer in each hand, wearing an entirely green outfit and screaming various mispronounced gaelic expressions. At a certain point in the day, if I don’t know the actual gaelic expression, I’ll just make something up that sounds guttural and dirty, and scream that. But I digress.

My point is that I am not Irish, and neither, most likely, are you. I am american. I know I’m american, because I have very white teeth, love hamburgers, and have a murky grasp of geography and global politics. I have both a gym membership and frequent flyer miles at my local bar. That’s America, baby. We don’t do nuthin’ halfway.

However, because I’m vaguely redheaded and have a pointed chin and freckles, I’m often drawn into discussions with the local chapter of the Hiberian Society at parties and such, and it’s kind of annoying.

“Well, Hubley, you’re Irish,” someone will say, prior to launching into a list of “Irish” peoples’ supposed attributes.

“No. I was born in Newton.”

“You know what I mean. Where are you from, you know, originally?”

“Um. Newton?”


“Okay, well, let’s see. In 2047 B.C.E., my ancestors crossed the land bridge. It was cold, and they had only animal skins to warm them…”

At this point, people usually roll their eyes and run off to find someone else to talk to.But seriously, the fact that some of my ancestors are from County Tyrone doesn’t mean anything. It’s been like a hundred years since anyone in my family lived in the Old Country — or is that “Auld Country?” — and I don’t think it counts.

A couple years ago, my family was actually in Ireland on vacation, and we stopped, as you do, at a sweater shop somewhere in Galway. My hair was very red at the time, and going crazy from the humidity. I looked like I should be standing on a wind-whipped moor, painted blue, wearing a kilt and drinking the blood of my dead out the skull of mine enemy. But anyway. The shopkeeper, who was fairly reserved as most real Irish people are, kept watching me as I tried on sweaters and looked at post cards and did other touristy things. I figured she was afraid I might lift something, so I didn’t pay much attention. Finally, when I went to the register to pay for my purchases, she told me why she was watching me.

“I wish I could have a picture of you in my sweaters for my advertisements,” she said, shaking her head. “You’re exactly what americans think Irish people look like.”

This is exactly what I’m talking about.

The Waitress Story

No matter what else happens to me, I hope that I never, ever have to wait tables again.

It’s all wrong for my temperment, which is socially extroverted and vocationally introverted. Also, I like to believe the best of people, and working with the public will turn you into a misanthrope faster than just about anything, short of going to prison or joining a political campaign.

I’ve been to college now, and they let me write little things and edit little things and waiting tables seems a long way off — the way nightmares seem a long way off when you’ve woken up and remembered the logic of reality. But once, oh once, I was a waitress.

Here’s a story:

The man with the super fake smile had three kids with him. Either they weren’t all his kids, or else he wasn’t usually in charge of them, because he treated them the way you’d treat an especially clever dog, or a child actor from TV. He seemed disappointed when they drooled, annoyed when they weren’t cute. His clothes were non-descript, the uniform of someone with a job like the one I have now, only ten years ago when there were dress codes. His clothes would never fade under the flourescent lights of his office, and he was getting a little fat now around the middle as he crept closer to 40.

Super Fake Guy smiled and smiled at me, and called me by my name, which I hated, reading it off my nametag each time, which was worse than if he’d remembered it.

“Jen, darlin, when you get a sec, would you bring us some more chocolate milk?”

And one of the kids would scream, “STRAWBERRY!”

And he’d say, “Sorry, Jen, except for Stephen’s milk, he’ll have strawberry, won’t you, Stephen? Thank you, Jen. You’re a peach.”

At that point in my shift, I was manifestly not a peach. I was a sweaty, tired teenager who smelled like maple syrup and frustration, sexual and otherwise. I did not want to be there right then. Or ever.

The evening wore on. Super Fake took up one of my tables for two hours with his brats, who changed their orders multiple times and spilled things like kids do. They took all the jellies out of their jelly caddies and opened up all the sugars and made designs with salt on the table tops. None of this really bothered me all that much.

What bothered me was when I gave the bill to Super Fake, and he held up a finger.

“Excuse me there, Jen,” he said. “We have a problem.”


“Yes. Can you tell me why it is, Jen, that the kids’ burgers were two dollars and mine was six?”

“Um. Because they’re kids’ burgers?”

“Jen. Jen. Jen Jen Jen. Jennie. They weren’t all that much smaller, Jen? Were they, Jen? They were almost the same size. Jen, here’s what I wonder. I wonder, Jen, if we can charge the same for my burger as theirs. Make ’em all two dollars. What do you say, Jen?”

“I say, I can’t do that. It’s a franchise. The prices are set in Omaha or something.”

“Six dollars is a lot for a burger, Jen.”

“I’m sorry. That’s just what they cost, sir.” I held out a menu, and pointed. “It says it on the menu.”

“Okay, Jen. Thanks for your time, Jen. I really appreciate it–” I left before he could ruin my name for me anymore.

A short while later, he and the kids trooped out, and I waved goodbye and he waved goodbye, and I went over to clean off his table. There, on the check, right by the circled amount reading “$20.03” was a fifty cent tip.I snapped. Motherfucker. No one abuses my name and patience and then leaves me fifty cents. Jeebus.

I went out into the parking lot, where he was loading the kids into his minivan. “Excuse me, sir,” I held out the quarters. “Was there a problem with the service?”

He looked surprised. “Well, um, no…Jen…”

“Because you seem to have left me fifty cents on a twenty dollar check.”

“Well, I was very disappointed that we couldn’t do something about the prices, Jen, to be honest…”

“You were disappointed? YOU WERE DISAPPOINTED? Try buying books for school on fifty cent tips and see how disappointed you are. You know what?” I hucked the quarters at his minivan. He flinched. They bounced off the glass a foot from his head and landed on the pavement with a merry tinkle. “You obviously need this a lot more than I do.”

And I turned on my heel and went in.

The prep cook Sophie came out of the kitchen. “You on break?” she asked.

“No. But you probably better fire me. I just threw a customer’s lousy fifty cent tip at his minivan.”

Sophie took her cigarette out of the hole where one of her lower teeth used to be, and exhaled a giant blue plume of smoke. “Good. Bet he fucking deserved it. You want a blintz?”

Okay, so the company was sometimes good, even if the customers weren’t.

Stranger than fiction and other cliches

One of the reasons that I’ve stopped writing fiction and started nattering on about my actual life is that so much weird shit keeps happening to me. It seems a shame to waste all that effort actually making stuff up when I can just report on the real events and get a laugh out of it. So I’m lazy. What do you want from me?

Friday night was so weird, however, that it’s taken me four days to process it enough to turn it into an actual entry. And I’m still not at all confident that I’ll do the story justice. But anyway, here goes.

Friday night, my cousin Rolfe, my friend Meredith and I decided to go see the Dresden Dolls. The Dresden Dolls are my favorite band in the whole wide world. They call themselves “Brechtian Punk Cabaret”, they’re sexy and twisted, and they’re from Boston. I mean, really. What I am supposed to do? Clearly, I’ll have to have a million of Amanda Palmer’s babies.

In the hopes of inspiring Amanda Palmer to allow me to have her babies, or, okay, just because I’m an attention whore, I decided to wear almost no shirt at all to the show. Specifically, I wore this bustier thingie that put the twins on full display. So keep that in mind, before you go shaking your head at anyone’s behavior subsequent; really, I asked for it.

Rolfe drove us to the show in his car. (Excuse me: In his Camaro. How much do I love that my cousin makes a hundred thousand dollars a year more than I do, and went out and bought himself a Camaro as soon as he graduated from Law School? It’s a really nice Camaro, but still. You can take the boy out of Illinois, etc.)

When we got there, the first thing we saw was my friend Rod loitering around outside looking simultaneously shifty and elated.

“Look, there’s Rod,” Meredith said, just as he disappeared into the Paradise Lounge. “He looks weird.”

“He always looks weird.”

“But he looks … happy.”

“Really? Okay, that is weird.”

When we got our tickets and retired to the Lounge to wait for our band to come on, we found out why. Rod was sitting at a table in the middle of the Paradise Lounge with our other friend Matt and a four foot tall African-American midget in a red patent leather cowboy hat and matching boots.

We of course took the table right next to them.

The dwarf got up and ambled over — and I mean, ambled. As he was shortly to explain, he was from Texas, and walked with the appropriate swagger.

“I’m Tiny the Terrible,” he said, extending a hand and staring right at my chest, “And you are a fine looking woman.”

“Oh, er, thanks,” I said. “It’s, um, nice to meet you.”

He bit his fist and stared some more. “Mmm, mmm, MMM. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but those are some lovely, lovely boobs.”

“Oh, ha ha. No, um, that’s–“

“I mean, really lovely. In fact, you’re pretty good looking altogether. Are you in the movie?”

The movie. Rod’s movie. I flashed back to six months ago, when Rod showed me his script and I gave him the following editorial advice, “It’s really good, Rod, but you’re never going to find a four-foot-tall midget who can ride a motorcycle.”

I looked at Rod and mouthed the word, “Motorcycle?”

He pounded the table, tears in his eyes. “HE HAS HIS OWN!”

Tiny took my hand. “You should be in the movie. You’re almost as good looking as me. I mean it! You have nice eyes, you have nice lips. Your nose is okay. You’re gonna have to let that hair down, though, to cover up those ears.”

I looked desperately at Rolfe, who appeared transfixed.

“Let me ask you this,” crooned Tiny. “How old are you?”


“28. And you ain’t married?”

I shook my head.

“But you have kids.”

I shook my head again.

Tiny looked horrified. “28 and you ain’t got no kids? Man oh man oh man. If you were my woman, I’d have knocked you up five times already.”

“HE HAS SIX KIDS” Rod said, his voice strangled with mirth.

I extracted my hand from Tiny’s. “Oh, gee whiz. Thanks. But I’m all set. With the kids.”

Tiny shook his head in disbelief. “28 and no kids.” He whistled and climbed back up on his bar stool. “I don’t believe it.”

I’m wondering if Tiny has been talking to my mother.

The dreams

The worst part about insomnia, other than the fear that you’ll go insane and start babbling and crying in front of your coworkers, or fall asleep at the wheel and hit a toddler being pushed along in its carriage by a nun, or that you’ll really never never sleep again and thus will die of overtiredness and worse yet, look really old by the time that happens, because check out these eyebags … Jesus. Where was I?

Okay. Let’s start again. Last night I had insomnia. This happens to me quite a bit, especially when I’m getting lots of writing done, so I should have been expecting it. I wasn’t though, cuz you never are. You always think it’s over.

The worst part of last night’s insomnia was that I slept a little. That sounds better, I know, than not sleeping at all, and there is something to be said for getting at least a little sleep. Your body doesn’t feel quite so sore and sandy and alien the next morning, for sure. However, when you have insomnia and sleep a little, you have to contend with the dreams.

Last night, I dreamt that I was crawling along the driveway of a cottage my family used to rent on the Cape. Why was I crawling? I don’t know. That’s just what I was supposed to do in this particular dream. Unfortunately, I was being pursued by a rat. Pursued is not the right word. There was a rat crawling around on the driveway, where I was also crawling, and I kept trying to get away from him, even though he wasn’t chasing me. Finally, he sort of looked at me like, oh wait, I’m supposed to chase you, and then he walked stiffly over to me like a kid rigorously adhering to the blocking his director has laid out for the school play, and bit me on the hand. And I thought, fer cry-sake, I can’t even make characters behave naturally in a dream. And I was totally disgusted with myself. And also a little worried that I might have typhoid from the rat bite.

Fortunately, my dream Mom was still my actual Mom, i.e. a nurse, so when she told me not to worry about it, I just washed it off and left the cottage to go wander around the parking garage at Logan Airport, which was right next door. I wandered around barefoot for awhile until a fat lady in an actual mumu told me to put on some shoes or I’d hurt my feet. I sat on a big metal box that was part of some venting system in order to put on my flipflops, and the fat lady stood beside me and leaned her meaty arms on the box and smiled sweetly at me and said, “You know what your problem is, right?”

And I said, yeah, I did.

And she said, “Well, then, you better stop it, don’t you think?”

I shrugged.

“It’s not too hard,” she said, patting my knee. “You just have to stop freaking yourself out so much. You can do it! You’re a big brave girl!”I kind of love that fat lady. I don’t care if I made her up.

An open letter to the girlfriends of my guy friends (who are no longer speaking to me)

Hello, there. How are you? I don’t know if you recognize my name at all, but I’m that girl Jen that your fella’s always talking about. Yes, that one. Funny isn’t it? I’m actually pretty short. I do have a bit of a tummy. If I’m squinting at you, it’s because I can’t actually see all that well, and my contact lens is rolling up under my eyelid like a cranky window-shade.

You may notice that my socks don’t match, and that these pants are in fact out of style. I’m not very fashionable. My hair’s kinda frizzy. I know he’s described me as cute, but boys don’t know, do they? He was just looking at my boobs.

Which he doesn’t like as much as your boobs, by the way. No, listen: he doesn’t. It’s just that he’s never actually seen mine, you know, naked. Mine are new boobs, do you understand? And therefore strange and exotic, like Zebras or honest politicians. It’s not that he’d like to have sex with me, it’s just that he’d like to have sex with me. It makes sense if you think about it long enough, I swear.

This is not to say that I don’t think I’m attractive — don’t get me wrong. On days when I don’t think I’m disgusting, I think I’m about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. (I’m an air sign. I don’t have to explain myself.) But I guarantee you that you are cuter than me.

Girlfriends of my guy friends, it’s true. You’re universally lovely. You’re all tall and thin and tanned, like you’re waiting for your real outfit, which is a tennis dress, and these business clothes are just to keep you warm in your subzero office, where you work diligently at impressive careers. Girlfriends of my guy friends, your hair is straight and healthy and often blonde, all of which terms describe the rest of your personalities as well. You are fit, and don’t smoke. You are sweet, and don’t snark. In every conceivable way, you are the Maryann to my Ginger, and let me assure you, guys really want Maryann. (Ginger actually had terrible legs. True story. That’s why she wore those long dresses. But I digress.)

I even like you, girlfriend. I truly do. I see why my buddy likes you so much. You’ve been really good for him, making him go to the doctor and not drink so much and be nicer to people. Thanks for telling him that I don’t want to watch him light his farts. He wouldn’t listen to me. It was a lonely, stinky world before you arrived. Please don’t dump him.

I speak of you positively, even when I think you’re being a bitch. I understand what a pain in the ass he is, believe me, and I give you full props for putting up with him. I tell him to buy you flowers, and apologize, and stop being a jackass.

In exchange for all of this, I ask only one thing: Please don’t make your boyfriend stop being friends with me. This has got to stop. I am not a man stealer, and if I were, I would have scooped him up before you got here, when he was all drunk and crying and puking all over the place after his last girlfriend dumped him. Oh wait, no I wouldn’t, because that’s gross. Do you see? I’m not interested. Just stop giving him a rash of shit about hanging out with me, and all will be well, I swear.

Thanks, and best regards,

Jennie Smash, best friend of your boyfriend

Can I bum a smoke?

I want people to like me, often to a desperate degree. That, and the fact that I am moody as hell and entirely unpredictable are major reasons why I’m the world famous sex goddess you know today.

But despite my craving for approval and adoration, I am all done giving out cigarettes. For reals, unless you bum them back to me, or habitually feed and water me (Isaac and Cathy, I’m looking in your direction), just forget about asking me for smokes from now on. I’ve had it.

The last straw broke at the BBQ this weekend, when at least three full-time, half-a-pack-a-day type smokers showed up with NO CIGARETTES AT ALL. How does that happen? Are you retarded? You smoke. You need to carry cigarettes. I don’t want to be gross or anything, but this seems to me quite similar to running around completely unfettered with menstrual supplies during the most rambunctious days of one’s flow. It can happen, sure, but it’s just not something that should become a habit.

Worse yet, the BBQ came after several straight days of partying, at which I was, as usual, the only one with cigarettes, despite above, etc. No, no, this is worse, actually: Did you know that I don’t smoke every day anymore? Well, I don’t. If you only see me at parties, you wouldn’t know this, but I go days and days without smoking. Which is why it pains me particularly to lose three-quarters of a pack of smokes to other people. I don’t even get to have any, it seems.

My friend Sarah has a great method of dealing with habitual cigarette bummers. She asks them if they have a light. If they do, they get a smoke. If they don’t, they don’t need one all that badly, or else they’d be in the habit of carrying matches. I think this is brilliant.

I was less brilliant at the BBQ.

“Do you have a cigarette?” Someone asked.

“Yes,” I said, smiling sweetly.

“Um, may I have one?”

“No,” I said, still smiling.

“C’mon. You’re kidding.”

“Oh, no, I’m not kidding. Not at all. See, I only have three cigarettes left for the week, because everyone tore right through two packs of mine this weekend. So, while I have cigarettes, they’re for me. They’re mine. Mine, do you hear me, you goddamn hippie? Get a job, if you want some smokes. Buy them yourself. These are mine, and I know that they’re mine, because I still have a handful of nickels leftover from the fucking ten dollar bill I gave the cashier at Lil Peach. These are mine. They have ‘Jen Hubley’ printed in big sparkly letters on the barrel of each smoke right above the little camel. These. Are. Mine.”

“Jesus Christ. Okay. They’re yours. Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Do you have your period, or something?”

“Yes. Actually … do you have a tampon?”