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When I was a very small kid, my parents inadvertently took us to a drive-in theater to see a porno. It was the 70s. This was back when you had to call a hotline to find out what movies were playing at a given cinema, and the recorded voice would read each movie title followed by the show times. They probably also read the MPAA rating, but it’s pretty obvious that, if they did, my parents ignored that part. So off we all went to see a double feature of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Pinocchio.” Unfortunately, they were quite possibly these movies: “Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy” and “Pinocchio” (the tagline of which is the title of this post). I’d like to say that our family left immediately after my parents discovered the mistake. But nope. We lingered a little too long and I saw a little too much.

Later, as we were driving away, I remember seeing a policeman standing outside the concession building, enjoying the movie. Not averting his eyes or arresting people for watching something dirty and sinful. (I was being raised Catholic. And American. That’s two strikes against a healthy attitude toward sex.) I remember pointing and saying, “Ooooo! The policeman is watching!” But in my attempt to “tell on him” to someone, I found that no one in the car actually cared. Back then, I was under the impression that cops were like priests–agents of god who were there to tell you when you were doing something wrong. In my naivete, I thought all role-model-type adults were like that: teachers, fire fighters, military men and women, and the President. All were agents of god. And possibly celibate.

It would be years before I outgrew this notion. Not many years, mind you. But still, it took more than just a glimpse of a policeman at a porn screening for it to hit me: people are human, sex isn’t dirty, and no one should be “told on” if they’re simply doing something that adults enjoy doing. With experience and a tiny bit of maturity, that particular brand of naivete disappeared.

Other brands still linger, however, and I find myself wondering why, for example, the media cares so much about Anthony Weiner’s junk shot. David tells me it’s a political game, and yet here I am, still hoping that people will focus their energies on things that really matter and that the media will start treating its audience like intelligent people. So, nope, I haven’t come that far after all. I’ve only gone from expecting everyone to behave like angels to expecting everyone to behave like grown-ups. And as we all know, that’s just ludicrous.

I am a Liberal, but not really a bleeding-heart Liberal. Do you know why? (Confession time.) I’m pretty hard-hearted when it comes to beggars. It’s terrible. I wasn’t raised this way. My parents give money to beggars all the time, even when I don’t expect them to. When a beggar calls out to them and I think, “Oh that girl looks like a college student preying on unsuspecting tourists,” my dad will still dig into his pocket and hand her some change. So I don’t know how I came to develop this attitude toward people I’d normally want to help.

Perhaps I can trace it back to that time that a homeless guy verbally abused me at a Hollywood bus stop. Just the day before that happened, I gave this guy money because he said he just needed 25 cents to get a burrito across the street. I wasn’t making any money at the time, being a full-time student at UCLA, and having recently passed out from hunger myself a few times. But I gave him more than he asked for. Then, the very next morning, he was yelling at no one in particular, walking toward the bus stop where I was waiting. I recognized him and we happened to make eye-contact. And then he went right for me, screaming at me for…something. I don’t know. The Vietnam War. We were surrounded by other people, and no one said or did anything. I never felt so alone and so attacked. (I realize I’m lucky enough that this is the worst attack I’ve personally faced in my life.) Anyway, I cried for days.

The guy was ill, no question. But I didn’t fucking care. And, honestly, I’m not sure how much I care even now. I came to the conclusion that homeless people can be assholes, just like everyone else. And now I find myself trying to assess which beggars are “deserving” and which ones aren’t, which ones sound honest and which ones’ stories sound like bullshit. When I
hear a beggar god-blessing people all over the place, I tend to withhold. It’s petty, I know. But I just kind of hate that.

There’s a guy I see all the time on the train whose spiel goes something like, “Please god, if anyone has food, please god, I need something to eat. It’s all my fault. Please god, give me something so I can get dinner. Please god. It’s all my fault.” Over and over with the “please gods.” I hate this guy. He has the most annoying voice—filled more with anger than desperation—and he runs through the train, yelling about how it’s all his fault, but give him some food anyway! I never give this guy anything because I hate his voice, and I’ve seen him on and off for years now. Years. So if he really believes that “it’s all [his] fault,” he doesn’t seem willing to do anything about it.

On the other hand, I have sometimes given money to the one-handed basketball coach who says, “If you don’t have any change, I will accept a smile.” I dislike smiles being demanded of me, but he’s not an asshole about it. So even though he, too, has been around for years and is always god-blessing people, I will give something when I feel like it.

This evening, however, the “all my fault” guy came on the train with his booming, aggressive voice. He started at one end of the car and was making his way to my end, screaming for food, please god. I had just come from dinner with a friend, a bag of leftovers sitting on my lap. My appetite has been non-existent since the cleanse, so I had barely touched my dinner. I was going to give it to David, but surely David wouldn’t mind if the food went to someone in need, right? Just as I was about to turn to him and say something, the train comes to a stop and the guy mutters, “Fucking useless. I hope you all get fucked in the ass by niggers.” And then, just before he alights the train, he looks at me and says, “goddamn gook.” So I flipped him off.

Y’all. I flipped off a homeless guy.

There’s no helping me now. I feel justified in my judgmental attitude toward beggars. Usually, I relish in being right. But really, just this once, I sort of wanted to be wrong.

The Cleanse

Today is the second to last day of a cleanse that David and I are doing. I can’t remember why we decided to do this. When our yoga teacher mentioned it the first time, I thought nothing of it. “Remove toxins from your body blah blah blah. Weight loss blah blah.” Whatever. But I am highly suggestible, so it was only a matter of time before I’d agree to do something stupid.

At the end of our last class (it was a four-week beginner’s course), David and I were suddenly agreeing that we’d do it. Not only do we both have a lot of weight to lose (having gained about 20 to 30 pounds each since moving here), we’ve been consuming nothing but crap for the past few months. Ever since I started my job, I’ve been snacking on junk food all day at my desk and drinking three or four cups of coffee a day. I seriously needed to detox.

Unfortunately, this cleanse is actually run as a multi-level marketing business, so it’s hard to find any information about it online that wasn’t written by someone trying to sell you something.  So I want to be careful about sounding just like the beginning of a crazy testimonial. I’m honestly not trying to sell it to anyone. I’m writing about it now because I want to remember this later.

The company calls it a “healthy cleanse” because, unlike the Master Cleanse, you do get to eat one meal a day. But on most days you take organic meal-replacement shakes and supplements so that your body still gets the necessary nutrients. Honestly, I’m not sure how it’s all that different from a Slim Fast diet made better with vitamin/mineral supplements.  After five days of shakes and solid food, you do a fast for two days. They give you this gnarly liquid to drink every four hours. It tastes like overly sweet apple juice with cough medicine, and it makes my lips a little numb. In the hours between the drinks, you’re allowed one snack. There are “official” snacks that you can buy from the company and they are chalky and gross. But you could replace them with an organic apple or six almonds (total for the day). Since I read that the creator of the program didn’t really account for people eating more than the official snacks, that’s pretty much all we eat on cleanse days. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it “right,” even though we don’t completely believe their claims. Might as well throw ourselves into it so that we can criticize it fairly when it all goes south.

On our first shake day, I bombarded David with text messages about how freakishly hungry I was, and how the shakes and snacks were shitty. He wasn’t faring much better. I read online that people grow to love the shakes when their bodies become less toxic, but concluded that their reaction was a little like Stockholm Syndrome. When you’re starving and the only thing that relieves the pain is a bland shake, you start to associate that shake with happiness, and thus come to convince yourself that you actually like it. But, uh, yeah, after two weeks of this, I’ve been brainwashed into liking the shakes. I’m still not sold on the “snacks” and the cleanse liquid. But yum, shakes. When this is all over (tomorrow’s the last day), I’d actually like to incorporate the shakes into my regular diet. They’re more filling and versatile than any number of crappy foods I usually have for breakfast. Plus I love not having to think about putting together three nutritious meals a day when I’m trying to lose weight. Yes, I’m that lazy.

I haven’t weighed myself since Monday, so I have no idea if this is really an effective weight-loss plan, but I do feel a lot better. I don’t feel the need to eat all the time, and I don’t feel like I’m starving all the time, like I did when I tried Weight Watchers. I think my face looks less bloated. And it doesn’t feel anything like deprivation to me, though David may tell you different. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of testimonials in which people claimed to have more energy, and I can’t say I feel the same. Besides yoga once or twice a week and the occasional lunchtime walk, I haven’t found it in me to do any exercise even though the plan specifies 20 minutes a day. (I’m normally a fast walker though, so does the trip to and from the train station count? Fifteen minutes each? No? Okay.)

Really, the only days I feel hungry are these cleanse/fasting days. But this weekend is a lot easier than last weekend, when I forced myself to take naps in between cleanse drinks so that I wouldn’t think about food. Today? Meh. You know how sometimes you feel like you could eat, but you’re not craving anything so you just don’t bother? That’s me today. Tomorrow may be another story.

Anyway, that’s my cleanse tale. On Monday, we will undo some of our good work when we go to the last day of City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Festival. And then we will undo the rest of our good work on Saturday when we celebrate our sixth anniversary by stuffing our faces at Trattoria l’incontro. But until then, I want to freeze this point in time when I’m actually feeling good and planning to continue mostly healthy habits. It may not last, but this is the difference I was aiming for when I decided to spend time each week trying new things.

Yeah, no one reads this anymore…possibly because there’s nothing to read. But I felt an urge to update today because, well, I have a day off from work and nothing but housework to do. I spit on housework.

I got a job. Hurray! It was an awkward situation because, when they made me the offer, I was waiting for a second interview for another job that I wanted more. It was in California, and it was for a smallish Internet company that I think still has great potential. But, of course, I didn’t get that job. I got the one in New York. And the whole mess left me feeling less excited about my new prospect than I would have if the CA job had never reared its tempting head. But the job I have now? It’s awesome. The people are great–very smart, very friendly, and very good at what they do. They’re inspiring. The company has been around for centuries, based in the UK, and there may be opportunities for me to travel there and to South and Central America every once in a while. What’s more, if this is the path I want to go with my career, I could have a long relationship with this company, or, even if I don’t, they’d still look great on my resume. Almost no one I told about the California company had heard of it.

So why was my new job a mere second choice? Winter in New York. Every winter we spend here is one that I hope will be our last. I can’t take the snow and the freezing-fucking-cold every year. The walk to and from the subway station is fraught with dangers, be they slippery sidewalks or walls of snow yellowed with dog pee. Once so far, we’ve had freezing rain, and it felt like it took twenty minutes to walk the block from our apartment to the main road…where we missed the bus. So we had to slide slowly toward the subway station, passing about ten blocks in our inadequate snow boots, and managing not to break any bones. Since not all of the ice had melted away, we had to do the same thing the next day.

On Friday, we had nice, sunny weather, and I spent my lunch hour walking along the Hudson river, catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, and getting some Vitamin D with lunchtime joggers. But today? More snow. On my day off. Kill me.

So while I should be thrilled to be working in a great place with wonderful people, there’s still some bitterness in here at that Pasadena job that never happened. Life could be so much easier in the sunshine. But instead, I’m stuck here with thundersnow in the winter, gigantic roaches in the summer, and the potential for a bedbug infestation should we decide to move to a warmer apartment. Damn you, Pasadena. Damn you to New York.

The Talk

I got a voicemail message from my mom tonight, “Jennifer, call me. I have something to tell you.” Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it; but now my parents are of an age where a message like that could cause me to worry. Earlier this year, the call came from my brother that my dad had collapsed and was in the hospital. He’s fine now, but why is my dad collapsing? A little later in the year, my uncle passed away, and I declared that no more people-I-care-about were allowed to die.

But despite the declaration I still worried as I took the train home from David’s show tonight. I can’t call when I’m in transit because I can’t give her the attention she’d need if it were bad news. It could be anything. My mom had a cancer scare earlier this year. Did it turn out to be cancer after all?  Did my dad collapse again? Have another heart problem? Did someone else die? Please-oh-please let it be something stupid, like that my cousin found my blog and was really angry about that last post. I just had a nice, long chat with my parents a couple of days ago, so it had to be something big for them to call me again so soon.

By the time I got home, I decided that it could only be one of two things:

1) My mom probably has cancer.

2) My parents won the lottery.

I closed the door, took my place on the couch, took a deep breath and called.  And do you know what it was? She wanted to tell me how to have a baby. On Sunday, we talked more than we ever did about the possibility of David and I having kids (which wasn’t even that much), so I guess she has been thinking about it a lot since then. I had flashbacks to my pre-adolescence, when my mom drew diagrams of the uterus, got very clinical about intercourse, and said words like “discharge” with her cute accent.  But man, did she ever get descriptive about what positions David and I should use, and how we should languish in bed afterward instead of getting up and walking around. “Don’t go for a walk,” she insisted. She told me what I should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins and minerals I should be taking, and how to time sex after my period. I sort of shut down during the conversation, it was all so awkward.

But the good news is that my mom doesn’t have cancer and no one else has died yet. Woo hoo!

Killing Me Slowly

My cousin’s Facebook status updates are killing me. Shut up about your “hubby” and your baby, damn it! I think I wouldn’t be as filled with annoyance if she managed to spell out the word “husband” more often. “Hubby” is such a stupid word, and it sounds like you’re infantilizing a grown-freaking-human-being. But also? OK, I’ll admit it. I think I’m so fucking exhausted, and have been working my ass off for so many years now, that a new envy of stay-at-home moms is eating away at me. And the reasonable part of me knows that it’s not easy to raise a child, and it’s definitely not a walk in the park to have to hang out with one all day (let alone a few of them), tending to their every need every second of their waking hours, all the while not having any adult conversations for weeks at a time. But the unreasonable part of me thinks their lives are easier than mine. It’s a luxury to be able to raise your kids yourself, instead of relying on daycare or a willing relative. Stay-at-home moms have the option not to work because someone else is supporting them, their job description includes cooking and cleaning (which they’d do anyway if they didn’t have kids), and our moms did all that in addition to holding down full-time jobs, so why the hell are people trying to convince me that I need to respect their lifestyle of relative luxury?

I blame Facebook. Hardly any of their status updates say things like “Had to clean up vomit/random urine today.” No, it’s usually about taking the baby out for a stroll and eating ice cream in the middle of the day. I forgot to take into account the possibility that the ones who are too busy to even shower won’t have the time or inclination to update their Facebook status, or that people don’t always like to share mundane things. It’d be like me writing, “Had to eat a Boca burger for dinner because I’m too fucking busy to think.” Who the fuck would want to read that?

So, OK, I’m going to try to find peace with this whole business of stay-at-home moms. I’ll even give them a pass for all of that toilet-training nonsense that they insist on sharing with the world.  We’re all still feeling our way through life, and I shouldn’t belittle the massive responsibility of raising another human being, because I’ve never done it, and I probably don’t have it in me to ever try.

But I still declare war on the word “hubby.” And anyone with a nanny is fair game.

My Fault, I’m Female.

It’s a blog of (sometimes funny) anecdotes from women around the world who have experienced sexism at work, school, home…everywhere, basically. Just as people like to tell themselves that racism isn’t really a problem anymore, many are in denial about the persistence of sexism in today’s world. And, oh please, sexism in major Western cities? Gone. It’s apparently something you only get in Third World countries and the Middle East.

But all you have to do is read the Metafilter thread where I found this link to see that it really is everywhere. Metafilter, whose membership is largely filled with very open-minded people, returns to its Boys Club roots in that thread. Plenty of comments suggest that the women are just exaggerating or taking things the wrong way. Even when women commenters chime in that, from their experiences, these anecdotes really seem completely plausible, the men aren’t convinced because it never happened to them…which is kind of the point. Why that doesn’t sink in is anyone’s guess.

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