Sunday, February 28, 2010

But I still can`t eat everything I want

posted Thu, 15 Dec 2005

We had to have boot camp inside yesterday because it was raining. At first, we were excited – a chance to get in out of the cold!

Little did we know that Tony would make us regret our joy. (Remorse our joy? Don’t you feel regret for things you didn’t do and remorse for things you did?)

Tell me you’d be able to do pushups when someone else in class yells back to Tony, “I got nowhere else to go, sir!” after he gets in her face about not working hard enough. (As if I could do pushups anyhow.)

Well, anyhow. The gym had all sorts of nifty toys that Tony put to evil use. Like light. He saw what we were doing and forced us to actually work, that meanie. He made us do ladders on the basketball court. I had never done ladders on land, but I remembered what they were from swim team in high school and I had a pretty good idea of how they might translate onto dry land.

Darned if I wasn’t right. We started on the sideline, ran to the middle, touched the ground, sprinted back to the side, ran to the other sideline, touched it, sprinted back, touched, sprinted to the middle, touched, sprinted to the side, touched, sprinted to the far side, touched, and repeated ad nauseum.

And I do mean ad nauseum. Every time I think I might be approaching getting into something approaching decent shape, I am reminded that no, I am not, that if this country’s liberty depended on my ability to sprint, we would be under the control of the communists in about two minutes. So thank the armed forces for your liberty, not me.

Then he found the heavy bars he could use as rifles. He made us each grab one, although he said we couldn’t take the pink ones. I thought he was just making a fashion statement, but then I learned that the pink ones were the lightest. The blues were the next lightest at 12 pounds.

Twelve pounds might not sound like much, but try holding it over your head with both hands while you jog around a basketball court a few times. Heck, try holding it just in front of you while you jog around a gym. A few boot campers are military vets. I heard them muttering under their breath that they thought they’d never thought they would ever have to #%*&#%@ do this sort of #$(@*$#@@#$ thing again in their #$(*#$@#$ lives.

The only reason I didn’t drop my bar – I mean my rifle – is I didn’t want to be yelled at and I didn’t want to be a quitter. Yes, I am a wee bit competitive. In the light, everyone can see you.

But I can hardly walk today. Pride can kill you. Or at least make you sore.

Those vegetarians are imperialist agents of the Yanquis

posted Wed, 14 Dec 2005

A colleague and I went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch today where I had the always-interesting experience of watching someone try to order a vegetarian meal. Latinos don’t do vegetarian.

Now this is no gentrified Mexican restaurant. This is one of those geniwine pure Mexican restaurants that serves Mexicans, not gringos. I have always been the only gringo in the place any time I have been there. It’s hard to find the place, being as it’s tucked in behind a Burger King and all. When I go, there are vatos out front working on their cars. Inside, there are announcements (in Spanish) about how to send money home. English is rarely heard.

The Last Supper fresco in the cathedral in Cuzco shows Jesus and the disciples eating cuy (aka as guinea pig). It’s a delicacy in that part of the world. It’s not a vegetarian meal. Jesus was not a vegetarian.

When Patrick and I got to the counter, I realized that there was not a single item on the menu that did not include meat. I asked the attendant what she could make for a vegetarian. We had the whole conversation in Spanish, but I couldn’t remember the word for “beans,” which put me at a significant disadvantage for talking about a meatless meal in a Mexican restaurant. I finally remembered the Chilean word – “porotos” – but that’s not the one Mexicans use – “frijoles.”

She thought and thought, but could come up with nothing. The owner came up and more discussion ensued. “Anything – just make any of your dishes, just without meat!” I said. “How about a burrito without meat?” Remember, I still can’t think of the word for beans. I wanted to say, “Make a bean burrito,” but I couldn’t think of how to say it. I would say I was having a blonde moment, but I haven’t been blonde for years.

The owner said dramatically, “I have never been presented with this sort of challenge!”

It sounded a lot better in Spanish.

We switched to English when he realized I was a gringo. Then Patrick said just to make a burrito with everything in it but the meat. The owner said, “Of course! Yes, that will work!”

When I emerged from the ladies’ room, he was quizzing Patrick as to the reason for his vegetarianism. “I have never had a vegetarian in the restaurant,” he explained, as if a spaceman had dropped into the store. Patrick explained that when he was in the navy, he got sick of the bad meat he’d had to eat on the ship and that he just didn’t eat it any more. He didn’t eat fish because his dad had been in the fishing business and he was sick of seafood from a childhood of having to eat that.

The owner shook his head and said, “In Mexico, if there’s not meat, it’s not a meal.”

I`d rather take a casserole

posted Tue, 13 Dec 2005

I had to do something really, really hard today. I didn’t want to do it.

I had to make a condolence call – an in-person one to express my sympathies for a death.

It would have been so much easier to take food. After my father's death, I understood why people show up with lasagne and cake after a tragedy. It's not silly. It's comforting.

Sure, I can write a condolence note. I don’t like doing it but it is something that Must Be Done and One Does It out of respect for the feelings of others.

And I have told people at a wake or visitation that I am sorry to hear of the death of a loved one. But I have never gone to someone’s home to tell her I am sorry to know of a death.

I almost didn’t do it. I didn’t learn about Jim’s death until yesterday, even though he died at the end of September. I knew he had cancer – we had to change the annual alumni party in June at the last minute from Jim and Gayle’s house to another location because of his surgery. We’ve been having it at their house for four years now.

When I called in August to see how he was doing, they still didn’t have a solid diagnosis. When I was in Houston in November, I saw Ann, who is the alumni coordinator who works with us. She asked how Jim was doing. I told her I would find out. It took me a few weeks to get around to it. I called last week and left a message – didn’t hear anything back. Then Ann sent me an email yesterday – she had seen the list of recent alumni deaths – Jim’s name was on it.

Oh crap. And here I had just left a message: “Just checking to see how Jim is doing!”

So I got out my little monogrammed notecards and addressed and stamped an envelope in preparation to write a condolence note. As I was driving home at lunch today to let in the furnace repair guy, though, I realized that I couldn’t merely send a note. Jim and Gayle’s house is only three blocks south of mine. There was no reason for me not to deliver the message in person. Except, of course, I had already addressed and stamped the envelope. Now it would go to waste. Yes, I was that desperate for reasons not to have to see Gayle’s pain.

“Get over it!” I snapped to myself. “Since when do you get to be immune from the human experience? How damn cold do you have to be to mail your sympathies to someone who lives less than the distance of a football field away?”

Can you tell that I like to keep my emotional arms-length from people? Actually, you probably can, as writing is my preferred medium of communication.

But I steeled myself and went to Gayle’s house. I told myself not to cry but of course burst into tears as soon as she opened the door. And of course she burst into tears, too.

It wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be, but it wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination. We each went through several Kleenexes. I don’t want to do this again, but I will if I must. I sure don’t want to get good at it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

If only I could use my power for good

posted Mon, 12 Dec 2005

There was a message on my work voicemail today: “CF, this is Steve Jones. We met several months ago at M’town Chocolates. I never called because I lost your card but I just found it. I’ll call you next week. Maybe we can have a drink together.”

That call sent chills of fear down my spine. I never wanted to give my card to that guy! I was waiting for 15 boxes of chocolate to be wrapped (chocolate to send to the folks in the factories) and this guy and I fell into conversation. Well, heck, I’ll talk to anyone if I’m bored. He was nice enough. Dressed in a suit, which is something I always like to see, as I hate business casual. Middle-aged. (Although according the Kenyan guy on Holly B’s site, I am an elderly white lady myself.)

We talked about our mutual love of chocolate. He told me about how he had bicycled across Europe when he was in his 20s, sampling chocolate along the way. It was a nice conversation. I was not flirting!

He asked where I worked. I told him. He told me he was a lawyer, handed me his card. I made some joke about keeping it in case I needed my one phone call in the middle of the night.

When I saw his name, I almost asked if he was my friend Nancy Jones’ dad. Instead, I asked if he was related to her. I didn’t want to insult him. Now I wish I had.

Then he asked for my card.

I hesitated.

Was he asking for my phone number? What should I do? I am not accustomed to men asking for my phone number. In fact, I think it’s happened maybe two or three times my entire life. What are you supposed to do if the man asking for your number is not a man in whom you are interested?

My sister, the man magnet, is a pro at this. She would have known exactly how to handle the situation. “Oh, I don’t have any,” she would have said breezily.

Somehow, I think this guy would have had a comeback. “Let me write your number on one of my cards,” he would have replied.

But Jenny’s trick to that is to transpose a few digits. “That way, they think they just wrote the number down wrong and their feelings don’t get hurt,” she explains.

But with a sinking feeling, I gave him my card. I didn’t want to go out with this guy!

He never called. As days passed and the risk grew less, my relief grew. Whew! Off the hook!

Now we are in December, four months later. Crap! What to do? Now I have a serious honey and I really don’t want to have a drink with this guy. Even if I didn’t have SH, I wouldn’t want to have a drink with this guy.

So he is going to call next week. Or maybe he left the message Friday afternoon when I cut out early and he meant this week. Rats. If I can just avoid all local calls – let them go to voicemail and then return the ones I want – until the end of the year – actually, until I stop working out of the office, which will be December 20 – I might be able to avoid this situation altogether. Can you say “chicken?”

Transition this, baby

posted Tue, 06 Dec 2005

So my boss tells my colleague, Frank, to ask me what my transition plan is.

That is, what have I done to arrange for other people to take over my work once I am gone.

You know, the work that is so insignificant that my job doesn’t need to exist.

Deconstructed, this means that I am supposed to identify the persons to do my work.

Tell them they are now in charge of it. (Because I have so much power now that I am a lame duck.)

Train them.

Oh yeah.

I’ll get right on it.

Go outside and play

posted Sat, 26 Nov 2005

It's time to indulge in my favorite hobby -- talking about how children are being raised incorrectly. (Reared? I'm not sure of the proper usage of those words, unlike compose and comprise. I've heard you raise tomatoes and rear children, but the American College Dictionary allows us to raise children. I have no doubt, however, about "comprise" and "compose," although the rest of the world, including my local newspaper, does. The United States comprises 50 states. It is not "is comprised of" 50 states. OK? "Comprise" means "consists of." Everyone got that? Good.)

Back to children. Yes, I know I have no children. Some people would say that means my opinion about how children should be reared should not be valid.

Leigh said, "Zack, did you know that Miss Class Factotum didn't even have a TV when she was a little girl? Can you imagine that? She had to entertain herself!" He was unimpressed and, apparently, unmotivated.
Photo credit: The Big Factotum

Hogwash. Does a doctor have to have cancer to know how to treat it? Does a veterinarian have to be a horse to know how to treat one? My advantage over both of these is that I have actually been a child.

At Thanksgiving, one of the several children -- let's call him "Zack" -- was watching some kids' show on the TV in the living room. Leigh noticed the adults in the room were not enchanted with the show. As hostess, she has the responsibility to make sure all her guests are entertained. She changed the channel to a football game. Immediately, the men perked up. She and I went into the kitchen, where she worried that she might not have done the right thing. Of course she had -- It's Thanksgiving and adults get precedence over children. It's simple.

Zack's mother carried him into the kitchen. Zack, who is seven, looked like that cat in Charlie Brown -- he was draped over his mother's arms as if he had no bones.

"Is there another TV in the house where Zack could watch cartoons?" she asked.

"I'm sorry," Leigh said, "but that's the only TV."

"Do you maybe have some children's DVDs he could watch on his portable DVD player?" she asked.

Meanwhile, Zack continued to whine and pout.

Leigh went into the living room to look. She pulled out Lawrence of Arabia. "How about this?" she asked.

"Leigh!" I said. "That's not a children's movie!"

"Oh," she said. "I've never watched it."

Zack spent the entire afternoon crying and whining in his mother's arms while the other children -- his age -- played in the back yard with a friendly German shepherd who was thrilled to have kids around. There was also a baby of 11 months who is just starting to walk, an adult who was happy to draw cars and monsters and tell stories, a grandpa who can recite very cool poems ("The Cremation of Sam Magee") and a three-story house with front and back stairs, a gazebo, two stone lions on the front porch and all sorts of nooks and crannies. It's a pretty sad day when the only thing that this kid could think of to entertain himself was TV. It's really sad that the mother probably knew this and didn't come prepared. It's really, really sad that she indulges this behavior at all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Eat mor chikin

posted Wed, 23 Nov 2005

My first job out of college, I worked for Prudential Insurance. At Thanksgiving and at Christmas, everyone got either a turkey or a ham. If you didn’t want either of those, you got $25.

When I worked at Ryder, if you didn’t want the Christmas turkey, you could have a gift certificate for a complete meal at Boston Market.

Cheap, cheap, cheap. But then, there is no money, is there? Unless we are buying corporate jets and paying raises to the CEO and the top executives who are the ones making the tough decisions to get rid of people and sell the company’s assets and profitable businesses so they can focus on the unprofitable ones in bad industry segments. They will continue to run them as they have been run for the past 50 years and then wonder why they don’t make money.

Yesterday at Consolidated Buggy Whips, someone dropped a coupon on my desk for a

Free Chick-fil-A Entrée Salad
with purchase of medium beverage

In related news, I finally read my severance agreement. Pretty reasonable, but I lose all my 8,000 stock options on my last day. This would be sad news if they were actually worth anything.

Their value as of today?


Some of the exercise prices are almost twice today’s stock price.

So I will exercise all my options (well, the few that are worth more than the paper they are printed on -- ha ha). After taxes and broker fees, I will come out maybe $800 ahead. If I had exercised them a year ago, I would have made several thousand dollars, but I didn’t need the cash and had no idea our CEO, who took a 14% raise right before the stock plummeted 35% (because his pay was lower than other CEO pay – yes, and CBW performance stank, too), could make this company do any worse.

Ah, I am so glad to be escaping.

I`m a Theory X -- or is it Theory Y? -- kinda gal

posted Wed, 23 Nov 2005

How sad is this?

Last week, a guy in the IT help center, Mark, really helped me out of a jam. We were having a huge problem that was affecting the factories (as in they couldn’t take orders) and Mark is the one who figured it out and fixed it. It took him over six hours and he worked through lunch and late.

Then we had more big problems on Monday – and on Tuesday – and today. The guy I usually work with is out on medical leave until the end of the month, so Mark has had to learn a new system and then solve all these weird problems. He’s been great.

As is my wont, I sent Mark a little token of my appreciation. Yes, I know he is just doing his job, but people don’t work just for money. They also work for a sense of accomplishment and to be appreciated. It doesn’t hurt to thank someone for doing his job. I’m grateful for the hard work he did.

I didn’t think he would want a tiara, which is what I usually send the customer service reps as a reward for great work. I’ve met Mark in person and he didn’t strike me as the tiara-wearing type. So I FedEx’d him a small box of chocolates and a Blockbuster Video gift card along with a handwritten note telling him how much I appreciated what he had done.

He called me this morning to thank me.

He was astonished.

“No one does this!” he said.

“I do,” I said.

“No!” he insisted. “You don’t understand. No one has ever done this for me before. Ever. This is so nice. Thank you!”

He sighed. “I think they are getting rid of the wrong people.”

In which I drop the other shoe myself

posted Wed, 16 Nov 2005

Today, I withdrew my application for the job in the other division.

I had already checked with my HR guy to make sure that this would not affect my severance.

It took me a year and a half to find a job after I finished my stint in the Peace Corps. Despite five years in corporate America, an MBA from a top 20 school and great results with my Peace Corps project, I think recruiters saw “Peace Corps” and expected this. (And then I ended up in corporate finance. Ugh.)

I was completely straight with him. I told him that I did not want to work for Consolidated Buggy Whips any more and that I was afraid that despite my history of disastrous interviews, I would actually be offered this job. What could I do?

He told me he would call me back in a few minutes.

Three minutes later, he did just that. “Off the record,” he said, “withdraw your application. I’ll send you your paperwork today.”

Not a single person I have spoken to at CBW has said, “You’re making a big mistake by leaving! You should really try to get that other job. You’ll regret it!” Several people have said they envy me.

I will get 16 weeks of severance pay and full target bonus. That’s more bonus than anyone employed will get. The total comes out to about six months’ pay. My division has even cancelled the Christmas party. Does not bode well for annual bonus.

I don’t know what will happen to my stock options, but considering none of them are worth anything – not even a penny, I guess the point is moot. When I got my first set of options, my mom asked, “Why would you pay more to buy stock from the company when you could get it cheaper on the open market?”

Yeah, well, it’s not supposed to work that way.

I am pretty confident I will find another job soon and won’t suffer much in the process. The last time I was in this situation, after I had returned to the States from the Peace Corps, I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t have any money, and my dad was dying from cancer. This time, I have a house that is close to paid for, I have plenty of money in the bank, and no one I love is even sick.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It`s really not a big surprise that I`m single at 42

posted Wed, 16 Nov 2005

The Bodacious Red-headed Pediatrician (aka the Cheese Guy's girl) informed me that telling a guy he can be my Plan B is not good form.

I thought I was being pretty nice under the circumstances!

If I were like this, I would get used to telling men “no.” Or, I suppose, “yes.” But I was taken by surprise. Really, I was. I did not want to embarrass this guy or hurt his feelings. Uff da.

The circumstances were that several of us at the reunion were talking and somehow Gomez came up, probably in my attempt to make my life seem glamorous and exciting rather than empty and meaningless.

You know – I am about to be unemployed, I’m not in an exciting profession, I haven’t accomplished anything of significance. I had to throw something in there. I don’t even remember what I said. Probably tossed off a casual, “Oh, when I was in Paris in September with my Moroccan lover.”

OK. I wouldn’t have said “lover,” Mom. Really. I would have said, “Moroccan guy I hold hands with.”

(Knowing that your mother and all her friends read your blog puts certain constraints on what you write.)

But saying something like that would have given me a certain mysterious, worldly air, don’t you think?

Well, I thought.

So there was this guy, Randall, who had been hanging around me and my former roommates the night before. I had spoken to him briefly. Nice guy. I thought no more of it.

Randall was in this group of people on Saturday night when I mentioned Gomez. He asked me how often Gomez and I saw each other.

I hesitated. Wasn’t this question a little personal? But then, I was the one who had opened this line of questioning. It was my own stupid fault. “When we met in August and then in September,” I answered. “But we talk every day.” I was a bit defensive. I was also a bit confused about why he cared.

Turned out that Randall works in the movie business. I was intrigued.

“You probably get this question all the time, so please forgive me,” I said, “but do you get to see all the movies when they come out?”

“Yes!” he said. “Ditch this guy and come with me. I can give you movies. What can you offer this guy?” (I think he was a bit tipsy. Maybe rolling drunk? I hope so, because I don’t want him to remember this encounter. I also suspect he meant to say, "What can this guy do for you?")

I was startled. How was I supposed to answer this? On the one hand, I was flattered and impressed with his directness, but on the other, I wasn’t interested.

I am very unaccustomed to men paying attention to me or propositioning me – I guess that was a proposition, even if it was a joke. Point is, I didn’t have a flirty response at the tip of my tongue because I am not at all used to this sort of banter.

I cast about desperately for a response that would be a nice way to say “no” and still let him save face in front of everyone.

Apparently, telling him, “If things don’t work out with this guy in Morocco, you can be my Plan B,” did not meet that criteria.

Sigh. My dad was right. I should have become a nun.

Together again

This is the party where I sort of met SH. He walked into the party with our mutual friend Pete. I waved and said hi to Pete and SH waved back. I said, "I wasn't saying 'h'' to you. I was saying 'hi' to Pete and Julie." Yeah. Manners.

posted Sat, 12 Nov 2005

I love class reunions. Love them. I have to admit that the reasons I love them are petty, shallow and vain. It’s because I was fat in college and am not fat now. And that time has worked in the opposite way on some of my classmates. Pathetic, isn’t it? Yes, I am suitably chastened now and ashamed of my behavior. Let’s move on, shall we?

Last night was the first big party for the Rice University class of 1985. Not that the turnout was so huge. I don’t know what it’s like for other schools, but Rice does not – or did not, when I was there – have a particularly active or activist population.

Maybe it has something to do with the football team. Maybe if you have a focal point around which to rally, you have a more loyal, enthusiastic student body. But our football has never been a point – more of an undifferentiated mass. It’s hard to get excited about a team that shared the longest losing streak in Division 1 football with Northwestern – and then lost to Northwestern.

So of a class of about 500, maybe 100 people came to the party. There are probably that many Rice alumni from our class in Houston alone! Or within driving distance of Houston. That’s OK. The ones who showed up were mostly pretty neat people.

Only – who were they?

Some of them looked ten years older than the rest of us. I walked in and saw these bald men and thought we were in the wrong party. I am so glad that everyone had nametags because I would not have been able to identify people without them.

Even with the nametags, I was having trouble. I knew the name, but darnit, how did I know the person? Was it from a class? Had I sat next to him at dinner every night for three years? Had I kissed him once? Or twice? Or more? This could be a problem.

One woman introduced herself to me. “Hello, I’m Diane. You look familiar to me.”

“I’m CF,” I said. “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you.”

“I was in Weiss,” she said.

“Lovett,” I replied.

“So what are you doing these days?” she asked.

I sighed, having answered this question already a dozen times. “I haven’t made partner. I haven’t published a book. I’m not a doctor or a professor. I have accomplished nothing of significance since I graduated and I am about to be unemployed.”

Her eyes lit up. “My sister! Me neither!” She gestured toward my dress and shoes. “But your outfit is stunning and you are gorgeous! Let’s talk!”

Three funerals, no weddings

posted Mon, 07 Nov 2005

My postman, Lawrence, always stops for a little chat on Saturdays. He’s a great guy, although he really doesn’t need to go through so much effort to deliver all the junk mail that is still sent to my old address around the corner. There’s a reason I didn’t give my new address to the public radio station when I moved four years ago.

But anyway. Lawrence’s grandmother died two weeks ago. The funeral was last Saturday. We have compared notes about the differences between Baptist and Catholic funerals and post-funeral activities. Apparently, there is no beer at Baptist funerals.

I asked him how it went this Saturday.

“Oh, my uncle tried to get into the back of the hearse with the casket,” he said as he shook his head.

“Is that the custom with Southern Baptist funerals?” I asked. I don’t know how things go with black Southern Baptists. Maybe that’s how they’re done. Maybe you ride in the back of the hearse.

“No, no, no. He’s one of the ones who’s feeling guilty because he didn’t do right for her while she was alive. I had to pull him back. I was right there because I was one of the pallbearers.”

I commiserated. “Oh well. Everyone’s got weird relatives. At my dad’s funeral lunch, someone hit on my sister and me. Then that same person hit on us again at my grandmother’s funeral lunch this January!”

Lawrence laughed. “That’s pretty bad!”

I continued. “Think about it. Someone’s gotta claim Jeffrey Dahmer. How would you like to be his relative?”

“I guess my uncle isn’t so bad after all,” Lawrence said.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Speak French to me my darling, Part 72

Yet another embarrassing post about Gomez and his controlling behavior and how I put up with it. Don't worry. The Gomez posts are almost over because in four days, I meet SH at our 20-year college reunion. I don't blog about it because I don't want my mom to know yet, but I do stop writing about Gomez because he is HISTORY.

posted Mon, 07 Nov 2005

I have gotten angry with Gomez only three times since I met him. (Of course, I haven’t known him that long…)

The first was on our first date when he assumed that just because I was American, I was going to put out. Or maybe just because of his many charms. Who knows why? Moroccan mamas throw their daughters at him all the time. He is considered quite the catch in Rabat circles. Women call him all the time and ask him how he’s doing, hinting around. I ask him how he handles that. “Oh, I pretend that I am stupid, that I do not know why they are calling me,” he said. Hmm. So they really do know why we call asking them silly things.

Second time I got upset was when he got all didactic and lecturey telling me how the US economic and social system worked and why on earth were those people in New Orleans so poor and how could this happen in the United States? The United States that thought it should be running everything else in the world and it couldn’t even fix its own problems? (We very carefully avoid discussing US foreign policy. That is what has kept the number of our disagreements low.)

I wanted to rebut what he was saying with the story of my uncle Hugh, who is married to my mother’s sister, Mary Ann. Hugh came to the US with less than nothing – he owed money for his plane ticket here – but has managed to build a ranch and a business and put four children through college and is doing just fine, thank you very much. If he can do this, he who at ten years old ran west over the Prussian hills away from the Russian Army, why can’t someone born in this country with all this country has to offer make it?

But I couldn’t because Gomez does get a bit lecturey, so I rolled my eyes until he finished and then told him that just because he had a PhD and had grown up with more advantages than I had did not make him any smarter than I and that I think I knew the system in my own country better than he and that I would thank him not to treat me as one of his students, thank you very much.

The third time was this weekend. He calls me at least once a day, but I had not heard from him since Wednesday. He didn’t call, he didn’t email. I didn’t know if he was alive or dead. I didn’t know if something had happened to his little boy or someone else in his family. I didn’t know what was going on.

By yesterday, I had gone from “he’s dead” to “he’s decided he doesn’t like me any more but instead of telling me, he’s just never going to call me anymore.”

By the time he finally called me this morning, I’d worked up a head of steam.

Put this in perspective. This is the guy who when I was five minutes late returning to the apartment in Paris (OK, ten) the two times we went our separate ways for the afternoon was absolutely beside himself.

“Where were you? I was so worried! I didn’t know where you were! How could I find you if you were lost? You don’t know Paris! In Rabat, if you were late, I knew you were with Megan and Steve, so I did not worry. But this is different! What if something had happened to you? You don’t have a cellphone. I don’t have a way to reach you. Oh, I have been so worried!”

I of course am thinking, 3:00, 3:10 – whatever. He’s from Africa, he must run on African time, which I think is like Southern time.

But no! He runs on Midwestern time – at least, he expects me to run on Midwestern time. And now that I think about it, for anything he has done with me, he has been on time or early.

So when he is asking me where I am, what if I get lost, telling me he has been so worried, I don’t think it’s a good idea to mention 1) I’ve been to Paris four times before, or 2) I managed to make it all the way from Chile to the United States by myself without getting lost. Besides, it’s kind of nice to have someone worry about me and think that maybe I am not so tough that I don’t need worrying about. It’s actually a novelty. I should have said these things. I should have said, "Oh for crying out loud. I speak French. I've been to Paris. I know my way around. Leave me alone." But I didn't. For dumb.

Back to this morning. He’d sent me an email telling me that his internet had been out and had finally been repaired. So I was waiting.

He calls.

He apologizes for not being able to call me the past few days and explains.

I tell him I have been worried sick. “You could have been dead! I didn’t know! Why didn’t you call me on the regular phone?”

“We have been on holiday – the end of Ramadan. I have been coming to the hotel every day to see if it is fixed just to call you. But then the time diff…”

“So call my work number and leave a voicemail! Or call Megan and ask her to send an email! I didn’t know if you were in the hospital or if something had happened to Rali.” I went on and on. Oh, I was so mad. I didn’t mention the part about his deciding he didn’t like me any more. No need to mention that little insecurity, n’est ce pas? (Is that how you write it? I know how to say it, but my written French, she is not so good.)

Once I got that off my chest (not that I have any to spare) and he agreed to my terms (“Yes, of course I will call you next time or I will have Megan send you an email. Mon amour, I miss you, I miss you terribly, I cannot tell you how much I miss you, it has been unbearable not to talk to you….”), I got over my mad. It really helps to have someone speak French to you when you’re angry, which must be why French used to be the language of diplomacy and why countries surrender in it.

He really is a nice guy. I got all mad at him and instead of getting mad back at me, he just – let me be mad. Hmm. I’m not used to that. I’m not used to being allowed to be mad. I like this guy.

Yes. I am mortified that I ever wrote this. Don't worry. It's over.

At least the CEO got a big raise

posted Thu, 20 Oct 2005

In other news, my employer has decided it can live without me.

Well. Not without me, exactly.

As I was walking home from the mechanic’s yesterday, a drunk said, “Can I ask you a question?” I snapped, “If you’re going to ask for money, don’t bother. I just lost my job. And it’s my birthday and I didn’t get a single birthday card, not even from my mother.” I wanted to rant further and tell him that if he wanted money, he should get a job like the rest of us, but then I realized that pretty soon, I wouldn’t have a job.

Without my position. My position has been eliminated.

I knew this was coming. I am on a project team to implement a new system. Eventually, this system will be implemented and the need for my job will be gone.

However, my boss and his boss decided my work here was done, even though the project is nowhere near finished.

And really, they’re right. The big strategic part of what I am doing, the identification of the problem, the design of the solution, the project plan, and the majority of the implementation – the parts I’m really good at – are done. Now it’s just the maintenance and the piddly details, which, really, are the parts I hate. These parts can be done by someone at a much lower level – and salary – than I am.

My boss and his boss are trying to find me another position within the company, but considering that the CEO announced a 20% reduction in salaried headcount three days before I was told I was redundant, I am not holding my breath.

What’s interesting is how other people here have reacted to the news. My immediate co-workers are stunned. They easily see themselves in my place. One guy has even accepted a job with another company. He said it was my being laid off that pushed him to the decision, even though he has been with this company for 14 years – his entire career.

Most are sympathetic and shocked. But others – some more – how shall I say it? – career conscious and on the way up – have not even acknowledged my situation and indeed have begun to distance themselves from me. It’s really interesting. People I thought were my friends (only a few, mind you) are now rather standoffish. I have become a political liability.

This job loss is not all bad. I have been needing to get away from this company for a long time (like almost since I started working here). I won’t starve. At least, not right away. (And even a ten-pound starvation wouldn’t be so bad.) I live in fear that something like this will happen, so I don’t live anywhere near my means. Most of my money goes in the bank. But I hate the uncertainty of a murky future and I really hate the process of looking for a new job. Ick.

Making hay

posted Fri, 07 Oct 2005

All week, I prayed for rain. I could lie and say I wanted it for the farmers, but I’m really not that noble. You’d think that I, who broke droughts in three Latin American countries, would still have the power to make rain, but apparently, it works only when I don’t want it, like when I am traveling in Bolivia, Ecuador and, most recently, Paris.

Why did I want rain, you ask?

It would thrill any woman to return home to this sight.

Because my front yard was overgrown and nasty and I did not want to mow it, but neither did I want to incur the further wrath of my neighbors, although I don’t care if my across-the-street neighbors are upset because they leave their trash can on the sidewalk all the time, even though it makes them look like total white trash and they are violating the city ordinance that requires you to not put your trash can out until after 5:00 p.m. the day before trash pickup.

They are trust fund brats who live off his daddy’s money so I guess they don’t care if they get fined. Their next-door neighbors have had to put in double-paned windows because TFBs leave their dog out to bark all night while they (TFBs) party. Next-door neighbors, who have jobs so need their sleep have had to suffer from the noise.

But I digress.

My yard was nasty and overgrown because I left it unattended while I was on vacation. I wanted it to rain not so the grass would grow even more but so I would have a good excuse not to mow it.

But rain it did not, so I was forced to consider mowing. My next hope was that I would return home to a miracle. Unmarried men, listen up because I am about to tell you something important.

Flowers and chocolates are really nice and should not be forgotten, but if you really want to sweep a woman off her feet, mow her lawn.

Yes. Sounds crazy, I know, but you will definitely impress her and get her attention.

There is almost nothing the single woman dreads more at the end of a long day at work than the thought of having to go home and cut the grass. Sure, it was fun for the first year of home ownership, but it has become a pain in the neck now.

If you have time, you can even trim the hedges and paint the trim, but mowing is a good start. You will reap the benefits from this, I promise.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just a spoonful of sugar

Oh you guys I am mortified that I ever wrote these words. I am even more mortified that I ever thought it was a good idea to spend a week with this guy. I should have fled to a pension after Day 1 with Gomez. A week in Paris and what did we do? He drank and slept and went to his bank and The Gap (three times). Two bottles of wine a day. He didn't want to go to Versailles or the Champs Elysees. ("I've done all that before. It's boring.") He didn't want to go out to eat. Because we were staying in his cousin's apartment, we had to do all the cleaning.

Mistake, mistake, mistake. I know, I own it. Maybe I should blame it all on an addiction.

posted Mon, 03 Oct 2005

If there is ever a revolution in Morocco and Gomez and his family lose everything, he will be OK. In addition to his entrepreneurial sense, he has the gene for cleaning. I can see it now – he will create an empire as the male Martha Stewart.

He was very quick to warn me the first time he washed the dishes and set the table that he does not do this at home. “I hire people to do this for me. At home, I do not lift a finger. Do not get a wrong picture of me,” he said.

Gomez already has an eye for design. He could be the Straight Eye for the Straight Guy. But what do you expect from a man who polishes his shoes every morning? Or who looked around at the people in the Metro and sniffed, “It’s like some of these people have never heard of soap and water.”

He persisted all week in telling me this until I finally asked, exasperated, exactly how he thought this made him any different from other men. Having maids who clean up after him keeps his house from being a pigsty. But not cleaning up after himself does not make him different from most men.

After lunch the second day, I said I hoped Salima had a vacuum cleaner because those crusty French baguettes were leaving crumbs on the carpet. Ten minutes later, when I emerged from the bathroom, he was vacuuming. Wow! Such initiative! I was impressed. I praised him profusely, as this is the way to get men to continue to doing housework, even though it’s unfair that we women do this sort of stuff every day and never get a word of thanks, no we don’t, do we, but this is just the way life is, so we deal with it.

“If my mother could see me,” he sighed as he shook his head.

Yesterday, we did a full cleaning of the apartment before we left. Actually, by midweek, I had started doing some real cleaning just because I couldn’t stand it. Yes, I know it is a grave insult to clean another woman’s house without her invitation. What you are really doing is saying, “You are a lousy housekeeper,” but really, such was the case.

I did a thorough cleaning of the kitchen and the bathroom, using flavored vinegar for the mirrors, sinks and fixtures because I couldn’t find proper cleaning supplies. It smelled like salad but looked great. When Gomez walked into the bathroom, he gasped and exclaimed, “It sparkles!”

When Gomez lost his shoehorn, I found it under the bed. When I told him that’s where it was – I refused to reach under there for it because the dust was so thick – he looked and said, “That’s what it gets like when someone doesn’t live in an apartment for a few months, right? I’ll vacuum it later.” (Salima was ordered back to Morocco a few months ago to find a husband – her parents decided she has played around enough – but she keeps the apartment for when she goes to Paris. Yes. I know. Different world entirely.)

I just nodded and said, “Uh huh” even though I was thinking, “No, that’s what it gets like when someone doesn’t off her lazy butt and clean under the bed for a year.

So yesterday, when we were doing the final cleaning – washing towels, etc, Gomez got out the vacuum cleaner again. That’s when I learned this was the first time in his life he has ever used a vacuum cleaner! His cousin Ayisha, whom I met on Thursday, and I had talked about the dishes and other chores. “Oh, he’s totally spoiled,” she told me. But I didn’t realize he had never in his life held a vacuum cleaner in his hands.

Then he impressed me even further. He grabbed a rag and started to dust. And not half-hearted dusting, either. He dusted the piano, the TV, the coffee table – he was a man with a mission. He looked at the candle holder on the table and said with dismay, “I just cleaned this yesterday and now it’s dirty again!”

He claims that this week was just for fun – that this cleaning was just a game to him. But I think he has the gene…

Lost in Translation

posted Wed, 28 Sep 2005

“The French women, even the women of a certain age, all get buttocks in their lips,” Gomez told me.

“They what?” I replied in astonishment.

“You know – buttocks – to make their lips fat.” He puckered his lips in emphasis.

“BO-tox!” I laughed. “BO-tox.”


posted Wed, 28 Sep 2005

I have started the list. It’s short and the items are easy, because really, Gomez doesn’t have much that needs to be fixed.

Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. All women do this. This is the list of things to be fixed about a man if the relationship goes anywhere. I still don’t know if things will go anywhere with Gomez, but if they do, we’ll need to make just a few minor, teeny corrections. Nothing major – just things like no TV during meals, quitting smoking, getting in shape – easy stuff.

Every man can be improved with just a little work.

He already has the basics mastered – the stuff that can’t be fixed for love or money: he’s tidy, he’s nice to everyone, he’s even-tempered, he’s generous, he holds doors open, he is practical about money. Easy to be a cheap-ass jerk when you've never had to earn a penny of what you spend.

I don’t think we would ever agree on US foreign policy and he thinks he knows more about US social issues and poverty in New Orleans than I do just because he used to be an economist and advisor to the World Bank, but just because he knows the numbers does not mean he knows the social pathologies behind the numbers. (Can you tell we argued about this last night?)

He's almost just right.

Oh I was sooooooo wrong. Soooooo wrong. He took me out to eat twice. Once to lunch, once with some friends of his who did speak English but decided it was too much trouble, so the three of them spoke French all night. My French is basic. So I was left out of the conversation. Plus there was the little part about everyone in the restaurant was smoking like chimneys, including the people next to me who went through - I joke not - an entire pack of cigarettes in an hour.

The friends drove us to the restaurant and offered to take us back to the apartment, but Gomez said no, they could drop us off two blocks away. I pointed out that I was wearing high heels and would like to be dropped off at the apartment. The friends said OK, but Gomez said, No, no! At the traffic circle was fine! I said really, I would rather not walk in these heels, but Gomez did not want to trouble his friends to drive TWO EXTRA BLOCKS.

Oh I was AN IDIOT.

Monday, February 22, 2010

French revolution

Why are we at the supermarket, you ask? Because Gomez does not want to go out to eat. IN PARIS. No, he gets sooooo tired of eating out. Because he is in the hotel business, you see. He wants to eat in. So we eat in. At lunch, he drinks a bottle of wine. Then he puts on his PJs and takes a nap all afternoon. Then we go to his bank. Or The Gap. Then we eat supper. In the apartment. With a bottle of wine. I do not drink. We are IN PARIS. I PUT UP WITH THIS.

How stupid was I?

posted Tue, 27 Sep 2005

So what exactly do the French have against consumers? Nothing is designed for the efficiency of the user. Nothing.

Charles de Gaulle Airport is designed for – well, I used to think it was optimized for the efficiency of operations, but now I don’t even think that any more. It’s sure not designed with the passenger in mind.

When you arrive, you park several hundred yards away from the terminal. You wait on the plane for a shuttle bus, which then takes you to Immigration and Customs (you have to climb up stairs for that, so forget it if you arrive in a wheelchair).

Once you are done there, you are on your own trying to find transport into the city. The signage is awful. The information people have no information. You have to walk forever to get to where you want.

When you walk into a shop in Paris, if the clerks are busy, they will ignore you. Not even an acknowledgement. Eye contact would be good. “Hello” and indication that you will be served when it is your turn would be better.

At the supermarket last night, there were 12 people in the express checkout line. Only three other lines were open. This was peak hours – everyone was just getting off work. Perhaps they could have opened other lines? You think?

If I were running this country….

Same planet, different worlds

Yes, yes, yes. I know I was AN IDIOT. I know, I know, I know. I IRONED HIS SHIRTS? Please.

posted Tue, 27 Sep 2005

We are staying in Salima’s apartment, which is nice because we do not have to go out to eat all the time (because we have a kitchen). There is a little grocery store just down the street and we have stocked up. Lots of bread and cheese, which is my usual fare when I am in Europe.

So after our first meal, Gomez and I cleared the table and did the dishes, which seemed very normal to me. But he laughed and said, “Oh, the things I do for you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“At home, I never lift a glass or wash a dish. I pay people to do that for me. I have a maid who does that. I mean, I am not exploiting her; but…”

I shrugged. “If I were paying someone to do that work, I wouldn’t do it myself, either.”

The next day, I commented that we were going to need to vacuum because we had left bread crumbs on the floor. When I got out of the shower, Gomez was vacuuming. He shook his head and said, “My mother would not believe this!”

I am doing him the extreme favor of ironing his shirts. (I did tell him that when he visits me in the US, he should bring jeans and sweaters, not suits and ties.) Extreme because I don’t even iron for myself. I hate ironing that much. I just don’t buy clothes that need ironing. I told him I hate ironing and I am only doing this because I like him.

“But if I knew how to iron, I would iron for you,” he said. “You do it so well! It’s like you have a PhD in ironing! You iron better than my maid.”

“Gee, thanks. You don’t need to flatter me. I’ve already said I would do it,” I answered dryly. “By the way, most women don’t really want to be known for their ironing skills.”

He was genuinely puzzled. “But I think it’s nice that you can do things for yourself and don’t need other people to do things for you.”

Is this like all cats are gray in the dark?

posted Tue, 27 Sep 2005

There is a new truth universally acknowledged: the thing that makes all men alike is not their yearning for liberty or their Y chromosome.

It is that they all ask their female companions to hold their items in their (the women’s) purses.

The City of Light

I couldn’t believe it! Here we were – in Paris – the most romantic city on earth – strolling on the sidewalk – and Gomez whispers not some sweet nothing but, “Would you put my cellphone in your purse?”

Why don’t men just get their own purses? I was on a business trip once when my boss gave me his cellphone to put in my purse – then forgot about it. It was in my purse all night. I would have loved to explain to his wife why I was answering the phone if she had called with some emergency.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Diary of a crazy white woman

Oh you guys. Again. Here I am. Mortified. Pure-D mortified. I took the stuff for Gomez. $115 worth of boy's clothes. And gave him the receipt. And waited. Waited. Waited. He wouldn't repay me. I finally had to ask him for the money. Oh yes, he said absent mindedly. I guess it was just pocket change to him. He who went to college with a servant and a Mercedes. Not pocket change to me. Rich people. Honestly. I never should have dated him. Never.

posted Thu, 22 Sep 2005

I cannot believe that tomorrow, I will get on a plane to Paris to spend nine days with a man I just met a month ago.

I am not the kind of person to act that impulsively and irrationally.

Does she look like the kind of girl who would turn into a two-bag, five-shoe, go to Paris with a man she just met grown up?
Photo credit: The Big Factotum

I am the kind of person who gets upset that her grocery store has moved the sugar from one aisle to another.

When I met my last boyfriend, we emailed for two and a half weeks (we met on before we met in person – in a public place, of course. We had been talking for an hour before I told him my real name.

I didn’t give him my home phone number until after our second date.

I still wasn’t sure he wasn’t an axe murderer.

Don’t worry – he wasn’t. He turned out to be a wonderful guy. But I am a very cautious person – that’s the point I am trying to convey. I am not the sort of person who just ups and skips across the ocean to spend a week with a man she barely knows. Oh! And uses most of the rest of her vacation for the year to do it!

But as I have been getting ready for this trip, the women who have gotten the quick version of this story have loved it. It’s like a fairy tale. A friend of my mom’s who reads this site emailed her this morning. “Are you worried about CF?” she asked. “Are you excited? I’m excited!”

When I got my tickets, I originally had an eight-hour layover in Amsterdam on the way to Paris. I called Northwest and asked what would happen if I just took the train to Paris from Amsterdam, thus avoiding the long layover and getting me to Paris at 3:00 p.m instead of 8:00 p.m. Would I still be able to get on the plane home from Paris?

No! the ticket agent told me. My ticket would become invalid.

Well, rats. I asked her what she suggested.

She said I really needed to rebook, getting a ticket that stopped in Amsterdam.

I was worried that I would lose the seat, which I got with frequent flier miles, altogether. As I thought out loud, my story spilled out. She became intrigued. No, she became involved. She wanted to help me. Without charging me a change fee, she rebooked my ticket for me – routing me through Detroit instead and getting me to Paris at 11:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 p.m. with almost the same departure time from M’town.

“Please send me a note and let me know how things turn out, OK?” she asked.

Absolutely! I have already written a letter to the CEO of Northwest telling him what great service she gave me.

Yesterday, I ran to the Gap to do some shopping for Gomez’s little boy, who is seven. Gomez had mentioned that he wanted us to go to the Gap in Paris to shop for his son, which just sounded so funny to me – to be in Paris and shop at the Gap. When he said that, I remembered being in the Gap in London and noticing how expensive everything was there compared to US Gap prices. I asked if he wanted me to pick some things up here. Sure, he said – he would reimburse me for whatever I got.

So the saleslady and I spent Gomez’s money – which was a lot of fun – on cute little boy clothes, trying to figure out what the weather is like in Morocco in the winter. As she was ringing me up, she asked what was taking me to Paris. I told her the story and her face lit up.

“Oh!” she sighed. “Oh, that sounds wonderful! I hope that works out for you!”

So I am acting completely out of character living out this fairy tale fantasy and I am doing it with two suitcases, which is another thing I have never done before. When I went to Morocco for twice the amount of time, I took only one bag and half of it was filled with Henry’s swim diapers. When I backpacked across Latin America for ten weeks, I had, well, a backpack. You know, what I could carry on my back.

This time, I am taking two bags (OK, one of them has Rali’s stuff in it). I am taking five, yes that is five pairs of shoes. Five. Five five five five five pairs of shoes. I have never in my life gone on a five-shoe vacation before. Actually, I guess six if you include what I will be wearing on my feet.

My goodness what has become of me?

Beauty Shop

posted Tue, 20 Sep 2005

I just had my hair cut and even though I get on a plane for vacation in less than 72 hours, I have not taken the scissors to my hair myself.

I think this shows great personal growth since the last time right before I left on vacation.

The last time in my life I had long hair. And it didn’t even look that good. My mom was right – I should have let her trim an inch or two off the ends.
Photo credit: The Big Factotum

I think it also shows an awareness of the fact that I do not wish to be fired by my hairdresser, although getting a new hairdresser would solve that pesky problem of sharing one with my friend Mary, who has now scooped me twice on my own gossip with Geri.

She tattled on me last month on my home haircut when I was so worried about being chewed out for cutting my own hair.

Then today, I was going to drop the bomb on Geri about my trip to Paris to see Gomez.


I walked in at 4:30. (Yes, I left work early. Anyone who is counting my hours can be happy that I had my butt at my desk at 7:30 and worked straight through until 4:00. That is 8 ½ hours, thank you very much.)

Geri was quite casual, although she did tell me she thought my stories about the trip were hilarious – I had printed out all my posts about Morocco. (She doesn’t have a computer – can you imagine???)

I was getting all ready to tell her about the Paris trip – giving the proper build up – when she blurted out, “So you’re leaving for Paris on Friday? Omigosh that is SO COOL!”

My jaw dropped. “How did you know?”

“Mary was in here earlier. She told me.”

Well damn. I told Mary on Sunday. The salon is closed on Monday. The window of opportunity was not too big here.

“But I wanted to tell you,” I said.

“Well, honey,” Geri consoled me, “You did tell me about Mary’s biopsy.”

“Yes, but that was different,” I whined. “Besides, I thought you already knew.”

“Nope. When she told me about it today, I had to keep a perfectly straight face and pretend I didn’t know.”

Oh! But she didn’t have to pretend she didn’t know with my news. That is unfair.

The thrill of the hunt

Yes, I am mortified that I ever dated Gomez now. Mortified. I never should have gone out with him a second time. Not after our first octopus date. But this is a full-disclosure blog, warts and all. So yes, I meet Gomez in Paris. For a disastrous week. And I STILL keep dating him.

posted Sat, 17 Sep 2005

So on Monday, Gomez called and asked if I wanted to meet him in Paris for ten days at the end of September. We could stay with his cousin – she lives by the Eiffel Tower.

Do I want to spend ten days in Paris?? With Gomez??

The Red Shoes are going to Paris for sure.


We had talked about going there in mid-October, but his plans had changed and this worked with his little boy’s school schedule better.

But – could I take the time off from work? Could I get a plane ticket for a decent fare, especially on such short notice? I scrambled and looked and managed, amazingly enough, as I have not done this in almost 15 years, to redeem frequent flier miles. Good thing, as a ticket would have cost me almost $1,000, and I don’t think I like him that much.

Well, maybe I do. Ten days in Paris will go a long way to giving me that information. But I’d rather get it for free.

I’ve been so busy at work I haven’t even had time to tell my mom I’m going.

Mom. I’m going to Paris next Friday. You’ll be able to reach me through my work email, because I have to take my computer. The guy who usually backs me up will be out – he and his wife are expecting their first baby next week.

So. But the really big deal is not that I get to spend ten days in Paris with someone who has turned out to be a really neat guy – well, yes, that is the really big deal – but the second big deal is that I realized as soon as I had my ticket that I had nothing to wear.

You know what that meant.

A pilgrimage to the Junior League Thrift Shop. Holly B, I know you love Target, and I think it’s a great place, too, but you need to find the JL Thrift Shops in the DC area. If Target is church, the JL Thrift Shop is heaven.

I managed to get out of work a little bit early yesterday so I could get there before they closed.

One of the beauties of the Thrift Shop is that there is a real sisterhood there. Once you are in the store, of course. I don’t tell anyone who is my size about it. But it’s at the Thrift Shop that I learned about Topamax, the wonder drug that has not only prevented my used-to-be daily sinus headache/migraines for the past six months but has also helped me drop ten pounds.

Other shoppers have handed me clothes that they have thought would look good on me. Usually, they are right.

Yesterday, a woman handed me The Dress. The Dress that I will take with me to Paris (along with the three skirts, two sweaters, one pair of pants, and eight trash novels – all for $41).

“Try this,” she urged. “You look good in pink. It’s silk. It’s Betsey Johnson.” (A designer I would never pay retail prices for – but I would pay $10 thrift shop prices for.)

It didn’t look that great on the hanger, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I tried it on and everyone around gasped.

“You have to get it!” they said, including the one lady to whom I had just told the story of the insane, crazy, out-of-character trip I was about to undertake.

“That’s the dress you need to wear in Paris,” she said. “That’s the dress for the kind of adventure you are going to have.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let`s talk about sex

posted Mon, 12 Sep 2005

Nope, not that kind of sex. My mom reads this site. You guys should know better than that by now!

I’m talking about the kind of sex they put on forms. You know – where you check “M” or “F.” Or where you used to check. Now they put “gender” instead.

“Gender” isn’t sex. Gender is about nouns in Spanish. Although I never have understood why a table is feminine and a problem is masculine.

Well, actually, I do sort of get that second one. (Joke, guys! Joke!)

But why doesn’t anyone want to identify “male” and “female” as being sexes any more? You know, that you are born a certain way. Yep, that’s a boy, all right. And that one’s a girl!

(Yes, yes, yes, I know that in certain rare cases, they just can’t tell. In an issue of Esquire or some magazine like that a few months ago, there was a short article about a guy who has never left the US because s/he is intersex and doesn’t know what to put on his passport. Technically, s/he could choose to go one way or another, but has decided not to.)

Why do they want it to be “gender?” A “social construct?”

Oh. Wait. I think I am beginning to understand. It’s the post-modernists, isn’t it? Or whoever – the deconstructionists. The ones who believe that nothing is hardwired. That all is environomental – it’s all nurture and no nature. That we are all blank slates.

(And that evil doesn’t really exist, but I am not going to go there. I am going more in the direction of if we dress all babies in green and yellow, we will never have war and no one will ever want to paint her toenails.)

If we are not born male or female, then we are made to be male or female. All those “characteristics” that put us into a particular “gender” construct are “externally” imposed.

These people are nuts! Have they never watched toddlers at play? Even my most ardent feminist friends had to change their minds about this part of their dogma once they had baby boys and those boys took Barbie dolls and turned them into guns.

The other thing they do on these forms is ask for race.

What did my race have to do with taking a night class in Portuguese through the Miami-Dade adult education program? I tried leaving the space blank, but they refused to take my money until I filled it in.

Yes, I know that’s crazy.

So I wrote “human.”

And that’s what I have put ever since.


I found out later that this guy was still living with his ex-wife. In the same house! But Sally thinks I should have kept dating him! Or lunching him?! Even though he hadn't even taken me on one single real date? Or told me he was LIVING WITH HIS EX-WIFE?

I don't think so.

posted Sat, 10 Sep 2005

My friend Sally at work is mad at me. She is the one who brokered a setup between me and this guy at work. Said guy and I went out a few times, but when I returned from vacation, I told him that I would not be going out with him any more.

Sally told me that I have broken his heart and couldn’t I have kept going out with him even though I have met someone else?

Don’t be cruel.

Well, no.

I have never been able to divide my affections like that.

But also – not to diminish my own appeal – but how could I break someone’s heart after going out to lunch with him only a few times?

We went out to lunch.

That’s right – to lunch – four times over a seven-week period. No evening dates. Two phone calls at work. Some emails, many instant messages.

I had told the guy – who is a very nice guy – that I was not looking for a serious relationship and that all I wanted was someone to hang out with – someone to go to the movies with, to go out to eat with.

But Sally told me he had been interested in me for a long time, so of course that was interesting to me, especially as I had always found him attractive but had thought he was married.

But I thought I had made it clear that I didn’t want anything serious.

Well. It soon became clear to me that he did want something serious. And it soon also became clear to me that no matter how much time I spent with him, I would never be interested in something serious with him, even though I still like and respect him and want nothing but the best for him. Some things you know very soon.

So when I returned from vacation, I told him I had met someone else and that I would not be seeing him any more.

Sally thinks I should have kept seeing him, even though I have become involved with someone else and even though I know I will never want anything serious with him.

I think it is cruel to lead someone on that way.

Bluestockings and red sox

posted Thu, 08 Sep 2005

Socks and stockings. That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

You probably think I’m nuts. “What on earth is she going to say about socks and stockings that could be in any possible way entertaining?” you are asking yourself.

My friend Anita was convinced her children needed to be exposed to a lot of germs to make them healthy. In a restaurant once, Michelle kept throwing her pacifier on the floor. I was a little shocked that Anita dusted it off and handed it back to Michelle. Michelle is now a beautiful, healthy teenager, so I guess Anita was right.

Well, wait and see, I tell you. Wait and see.

Socks first.

So I am in Target, one of my most favorite places in the world to shop after the Junior League Thrift Shop and eBay, looking for athletic socks because the socks I bought eight years ago when I finally got a job after Peace Corps and had a little bit of money have given up the ghost and it’s time for new ones.

Yes, my socks last for eight years. I come from thrifty – some might say frugal, nay, even tight – people. That’s OK. My mortgage will be paid off in seven years (that’s eight years early) and I will be debt free before I am 50 with a decent bank account and will never be a burden on society. Can you say the same? And I have flood insurance, thank you very much.

Anyhow. I am looking for new socks to wear with my running/be abused by the mean Marine drill instructor shoes (said instructor is, I must say, getting me into the best shape of my adult life) and I notice a new feature in socks. Or maybe it’s an old one but as I have not been in the sock market for the past eight years, I have not noticed.

Anti-bacterial socks.

That’s right.

Anti-bacterial socks.

Perhaps you have heard of this kind of socks and this is old news (I guess that’s an oxymoron), but I have not heard of anti-bacterial socks.

What I want to know is why such a feature would be necessary in a sock. Or socks.

I myself am in the habit of washing my socks after one wearing. I am also in the habit of bathing daily. So I am puzzled as to why a sock would need a built-in self-cleaning mechanism.

Maybe for someone who is away from regular laundry facilities, like someone on an extended hike, or deployed in Iraq, this would be useful and would be worth the extra $3 a pair. But the average customer shopping at the women’s section in Target for footie athletic socks doesn’t really meet that demographic, does she? I mean, you don’t see many unwashed or about to be unwashed women shopping in Target. We’re usually a pretty peppy middle-class bunch. A clean peppy middle-class bunch.

Ah. There’s the rub. A bunch of overzealous, overscrubbing, paranoid, dingoes-got-my-baby, staph-fearing bunch. I just figured it out. See, this is why I will never make a million in marketing. I am too darn practical. “What sort of idiot would spend money on that?” is my first, second and last reaction.

Now stockings. At lunch, I ran to TJMaxx to load up on pantyhose. The cashier told me she couldn’t wear pantyhose because they “cut her off.” Women, you know what I’m talking about here. The same reason my mama told me not to wear underpants to bed.

Anyhow. She told me she wears thigh-highs instead. These are garterless. I was intrigued. I had never heard of such a thing. This sounds very practical. If you get a run, you don’t lose an entire pair of hose. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t make pantyhose that are pretty and runproof? Where are our priorities as a nation?

She locked her register and we went back to the stocking section. They didn’t have any in stock, but she showed me the brand that makes the thigh highs.

“The truck is coming in tomorrow,” she promised. “I always buy them when I see them. You need to get you some.”

I think I will.

Friday, February 19, 2010

If only I were Baptist*

posted Wed, 07 Sep 2005

When your boss invites you to a party at his house after work, it’s not really a party.

It’s work.

And you don’t get to decline if you really care about your career.

I so do not want to go to this stupid party! Actually, it’s not even my boss who is having it – it’s someone else who shall go unnamed, but someone who actually has more power than my boss. My boss goes along with everything this guy wants.

This person thought that sending everyone an email directing us to a website where we could download a certificate of thanks for our “hard work so far” was an appropriate way to recognize us.

I felt recognized.

* Because this party was on a Wednesday night and in Memphis on Wednesday night, the Baptists go to church.

We deliver for you, but only when it`s convenient for us

posted Mon, 29 Aug 2005

This is the letter I am going to send to the postmaster in the town where my grandmother lives. As you can see, I am not happy with his performance. I have written before about this subject. BTW, there are 800 people in this town. Not one stoplight.

Postmaster John Gessler
Dorchester, WI 54425

August 29, 2005

Dear Postmaster Gessler,

I am writing to ask you to fulfill your mission of delivering the mail rather than looking for reasons not to deliver it.

I just had another letter I had sent to my grandmother, Helen J, returned to me because “the forwarding order had expired.”

Well, yes, I suppose it has. But come on. Just how many Helen Js are there in Dorchester who used to have PO Box 144?

Yes, I should be more careful writing the address. But when you have been using the same address for 30 years, you get in the habit. Actually, I used to be able to write just her name and “Dorchester, WI, 54425” and my letters would reach her. Different postmistress. Different attitude.

Don’t you think you could cut some slack for a little old lady who doesn’t get to walk to the post office any more to pick up her mail? That’s the only reason she’s having it delivered to the house. It’s killing her to do it.

My postman brings me the mail sent to my old address and it’s been over four years since I moved. That forwarding order has long expired. I know it can be done. And I know that there are a lot more people on his route than there are in all of Dorchester. He just cares about his customers.

I will send my grandmother a new forwarding order so you’ll have all your paperwork. That way, if any of her 24 grandchildren or seven children and their spouses or any other relative or friend who lives out of town accidentally writes the PO box that she has used for the past 30 years on a letter, she’ll get it right away. When widows reach the age of 93 and live alone, they tend to find a disproportionate amount of joy in things like letters from family and friends.

Apparently, you can deliver through rain and sleet and snow, but not through a tiny bit of bureaucracy.


Class Factotum

posted Sat, 20 Aug 2005

For the past year, I have been hoping to meet a really rich man with poor vision who wants to marry a 41-year-old spinster with chubby thighs so I wouldn’t have to go through this big SAP conversion at work because I fear it is going to be a complete disaster. Not so much because of what I am doing, because my team and I are doing an incredible job, but because what really needs to happen to make all this work is for the business to be run completely differently and that, I am afraid, is going to be very, very difficult.

As a backup plan, I have thrown my resume onto (I got an email the other day from a woman asking me to apply a job as her administrative assistant. I wrote back and suggested she modify her program to screen out resumes with “MBA,” saying that perhaps in a job market with only 5% unemployment, anyone with an advanced degree would not be interested in making her travel arrangements and sending her faxes for $24,000 a year. I have not heard back from her. Odd.)

Maybe I should get a job as a maid first, and then meet the rich man. That’s how it seems to work traditionally.

Now I have another reason to want to be a kept woman. Remember I had to fire my cleaning lady? And have not been able to find a replacement? OK, well, I have not been looking because after three cleaning ladies in five years, I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to find someone who is going to do the job I expect – that is, what I would do if I were cleaning the house myself.

So this morning, I vacuumed the floors, dusted the baseboards, polished the furniture, cleaned the bathroom – all the big stuff. Then this afternoon, I spilled a glass of water on the floor. I ran to the bathroom for a towel (the towel can be washed, Mom – I’d rather do that than let the floors warp while I run to the basement for a rag), wiped up the floor – and the towel was filthy. Filthy.

You know what this means, don’t you? Besides the fact that vacuuming alone does not get a wood floor clean.

It means that sooner or later, someone is going to have to mop the floor to get it really clean.

Unfortunately, I think that someone will have to be me.

But if I can find that rich guy in time, I can have servants! And never have to clean my own house again!

Isn’t there a website for women looking for sugar daddies? Where is it? I need it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More power!!! or, When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail

posted Fri, 19 Aug 2005

Never again will these words cross my lips: “Oh, I don’t need that much power. My yard/project/house isn’t that big.”

I have been a fool. A big fool, I tell you.

I left work early today because the server crashed or something really, really awful happened and oh dear, we couldn’t get onto the network, which meant no email, no access to anything. I mean nothing. All my work is on the E: drive (or somewhere like that). They make us put it there so they can back it up every night. Don’t save it on your hard drive, they warn us.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

After a few minutes of waiting to see if it would come back up – I kept hitting F9 as if that would really make a difference, I announced I had better things to do and I left. I really cannot work if I do not have access to email or the network. Promise.

So I came home and decided to get an early start on my chores so I could spend tomorrow indulging in the movies. The grass really needed to be cut, so I got the Toro weedeater out of the basement. It was only puttering along. I thought it might be my extension cord. The frayed part needed to be re-wrapped with duct tape, so I did that. But it continued to be slow. I know that electricity doesn’t get slow. I did get an ‘A’ in physics, even if it was self-paced and not real physics. Then I noticed the smoke coming from the motor and the weird smell.

Rats. The motor was burning out.

One of the things I miss the most from living in Chile is that you can get things fixed. I even noticed it in Morocco. The strap on my sandal broke. Here, I can get a shoe repaired, but I have to leave it with the cobbler for a week and it will cost me $10. In Rabat, it was done the same day and cost $1.

I can’t imagine where I would go in M’town to have a weedeater repaired. I still haven’t found someone who will sharpen the blades on my lawnmower. I’ve been looking for three years.

So it was off to Home Depot, the only public place I will go looking like a total slob. I was in the middle of a project – no time to shower and change just to get dirty and sweaty again.

I didn’t want another Toro. My gosh – that one was only two years old. The salesman showed me a Black and Decker. It was the model I’d turned down the last time – I didn’t need 14” trim! My goodness! I have a tiny lawn! I cut my grass with a weedeater! How much power do I need?

But it was this or the Toro. I was in a hurry. I didn’t feel like spending a lot of time.

I took it.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Can I tell you how wonderful it is to have a lot of power in your hands?

This is why men get excited about power tools!

This is the big deal!

Compared to the Black and Decker, the Toro was like cutting the grass using manicure scissors – one blade at a time.

I’m never going back. Now that I have tasted of macho, it’s maximum power for me. Give me that shot of testosterone, straight up.

Does she or doesn`t she?

posted Mon, 15 Aug 2005

Apparently, Clairol Natural Instincts #22 Cinaberry Medium Auburn Brown is the shade of red that is red enough that people will notice that my hair has changed color.

Last year, I dyed my hair red and no one noticed. My hairdresser said she wanted everyone to notice me and not my hair, but my feeling is that if I am going to spend $100 for someone to do something to my hair (these are not big-city prices – multiply by three if you live someplace with a population greater than one million), then by golly, everyone better notice the hair.

My shower looked like someone had been murdered in it. Well, it had looked like that for a brief moment until I had washed the walls down. A little bit of hair dye goes a long way on white tile.

And me, of course.

So this Saturday morning, when I awoke at 6:00 a.m. against my will, jet-lagged and tired and wanting to return to sleep but oh, no, I couldn’t because the sun was up and my farmer’s genes won’t let me sleep once the sun is in the sky because there is work to be done – cows to be milked, fields to be plowed, hay to be baled. Actually, once the sun is up, the cows should already have been milked so I am already behind. I should be ashamed of my lazy self.

No way was I able to fall back asleep. Genetically impossible, although my brother has managed to overcome his heritage. He can sleep until noon. Maybe he uses drugs. I don’t know.

Anyhow, I was so tired. I had stayed up late the past couple up nights seeing and wondering about Gomez, whom I am still not sure about. Was he setting me up in some elaborate joke or is he serious? He said he wants to visit me in M’town – that he can’t wait to see me again – that he wants me to meet him in Montreal on his next trip home from China. He took me to the airport and waited until I had to go into the gate. Said all sorts of nice things in French and kept his hands to himself after I made it clear that I was not going to be one of his floozies. Claimed he really liked me. So what’s the deal? I don’t know. We’ll see. If nothing else, I had a great time with him while I was in Morocco.

The point is, Saturday morning, I was not thinking clearly. So what did I do? I decided to color my hair! Yes! Appearance-changing decisions should always be made on no sleep and on an empty stomach!

Off to Walgreen’s I went for the necessary supplies. An hour later, I was a bonafide redhead.

This time, people have noticed. As in men. The people who usually don’t notice changes to hair. Remember, I have been gone for two weeks. They should barely remember my name, much less the color of my hair. I walked into work this morning and a colleague (a guy) said, “Your hair is red!” That was pretty much the reaction I got all day. Fortunately, it has been followed with, “I like it!”

This is good, because it distracts them from the bad haircut I gave myself before I left on vacation. That won’t get fixed until next week when I have my next appointment with Geri – and I have to explain why my hair is in such bad shape. Maybe I’ll put her on the defensive by saying I told her it wasn’t short enough after she cut it last time.

Queuing theory

posted Sun, 14 Aug 2005

What is the proper line etiquette at the dry cleaner when there are still spots on the item you have picked up?

Do you get to cut back in line?

The woman behind the rude woman and I speculated that Rude Woman was really a New Yorker in southern clothing. If Scarlett O’Hara had been in a hurry, she would have figured out a way to charm everyone around her. “Oh, Ah do declayah,” she would have said. “Do y’all mahnd if Ah just rush in heah real quick? Ah do hate to impose, but Ah have a sick baby at home and the stables are on fire and well, y’all know it’s just been one of those days!”

I think so, but you don’t have to agree with me, although I think you should.

My position is this: My transaction as a customer is not complete until I am satisfied and have walked out of the store.

Let me ‘splain.

I bought a suit on eBay. The jacket had a stain on it that the dry cleaner has not only failed to remove but has made worse. I have tried to pick up said jacket four times now, only to have to hand it right back to the clerk. It’s become a little ritual. But when I pick it up, if there is someone in line behind me, I step aside to examine it so the next person can drop off her clothes. I don’t need to impede the flow of business. The idea is, though, that once that person is done, I step back into line. Simple, right?

So yesterday, I tried to take my blue silk jacket home. No luck. I picked it up, stepped aside, and, sure enough, they had removed some spots but created some new ones. (Yes, I am going to take it to a different cleaner next week.)

But when the lady behind me was through dropping off her clothes and I attempted to step back into line, the next woman in line wouldn’t let me in.

“Excuse me,” I said politely, “but I am not through with my transaction.”

“Yes you are,” she said. “You picked up your jacket. You’re done. You need to go to the back of the line. Besides,” she added, “I have to get to work.”

I was so surprised at her rudeness – in a southern accent, no less – that I said, “Well, be rude, then!” (Yes, I know I was being rude just by saying that. I lost a lot of moral high ground there.)

“No, you be rude,” Rude Woman snapped.

So I stood and watched her – she, in a rush to get to work, dressed in jeans with frayed hems and a baseball hat – while she dropped off and picked up her things. I stared at her hard while I laughed inside. She stared straight ahead.

Yeah, I was rude by telling her she was rude. But I was right on principle and she knew it. Why else would she have said she had to get to work? If the principle of my allegedly being through was enough, then the appeal to her time being more important than mine would have been unnecessary.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It`s like - like - Jumbo Shrimp!

posted Sat, 13 Aug 2005

I forgot to mention my political conversation with the Lebanese guy. As I may have mentioned, I am conservative on many issues. But on some issues, I am liberal. It depends on the issue.

So we talked about domestic and international subjects. He told me that if he were American, he would probably vote Democrat, mostly because he does not like the Republican foreign policy on Israel. Big surprise there.

As we were getting off the plane in Paris, he said, with surprise, “You know, you sound like a Democrat! But you say you’re a conservative! But you’re so smart! How can you be so intellectual and be a conservative? You sound like a Democrat on so many issues!”

I rolled my eyes and said dryly. “You know, it is possible to be both intelligent and conservative at the same time.”

Hey baby -- do you live around here?

posted Sat, 13 Aug 2005

On the flight from Rabat to Paris, I sat next to this Lebanese guy who lived in Paris for a while, then in Canada for nine years and now in Rabat. He is 27. We had some interesting conversation about politics and about how he picks up women in Rabat.

Morocco is a Muslim country, although there are Catholic churches all over the place – remember, the French managed to finagle their way into running things for a while. So even though it is Muslim, it is not as Muslim as say, Saudi Arabia. In Morocco, you can buy condoms, beer and pork in the grocery store – that would never happen in Saudi.

This is not exactly how the women in Rabat dress (the ones who do cover themselves – some wear Western clothes on the street), but you get the idea. Just because they are covered doesn’t mean they don’t put out. These are women in a small mountain village.

At the same time, though, as far as I could tell, you don’t have singles bars or bars at all. Even the cafés are segregated. The men sit together at the tables on the sidewalks. You don’t see women sitting out there (unless you saw me and Megan).

Even the grocery stores are not someplace where you could pick up someone – shopping is a family affair. Mom, dad and the kids all go to the store together, which is nice in a certain way, but which takes any efficiency out of shopping.

I asked the Lebanese guy where one goes to meet women in Rabat. No singles bars, not in the cafés, not at the mosque (men and women worship separately).

Oh, it’s easy! he told me. If I see a pretty girl when I’m driving, I ask her if she needs a ride home. She sees me. I have a decent car – I’m reasonably attractive. She accepts. I take her home, get her number, it goes from there. Moroccan girls are – accommodating.