Friday, December 31, 2010

Warm Memories of the Holiday Season, Bagel Fairy-Style

Of all New Year's Eves I've had in recent years, this is probably the greatest. I have the day off work and one of the first two-day weekends in months, so unlike in previous years when I had nearly a month off school and lazed around watching VH1 all day, this time I really appreciate the time off.

And what was the worst New Year's, you ask? No, it does not involve some sordid tale of hookers, blow, and cops (that was actually 1994 and the second best New Year's Eve I ever had). It was two years ago, when I went with my dad, stepmom and boyfriend at the time to my sister's house in North Carolina. The actual New Year's itself was fine (other than the vomit-covered toilet I was forced to pee in at a rest stop en route), and the weekend was perfectly pleasant.

However, upon returning to my apartment a few days later and going up to my room, I discovered that all my clutter on the floor had been shoved to one side. When I asked my roommate who had been in there and why, she informed me that eight people had slept at our place after their New Year's party so they wouldn't drink and drive, and that three of them had crashed in my bed. The explanation for my stuff having been moved was simply that it would have been disastrous to send drunk people up there with all the clutter everywhere. Clearly, it was inconsiderate of me not to leave my room up to hotel standards in case it was decided without consulting me that three strangers were to sleep there.

Actually, they weren't really strangers. I'd met them before, and they were perfectly nice people - a polyamorous married couple who shared a girlfriend. So then I quit worrying about whether or not any of my stuff had been tampered with and instead stripped my sheets and scrambled for my detergent and bleach.

The best New Year's of my whole life, though, was probably the one to which I owe my life: on the wee hours of the morning of the 1st of January, 1986, I was conceived. Happy New Year indeed.

Happy 2011 to all visitors, readers, and trolls. Be safe and have threesomes (if that's your bag), but preferably in your own beds.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Missing in Action (or, Missing. Inaction.)

For all two of you who read:

My apologies for the long absence. I had a couple of post ideas, but never sat down to write them. Then, things came up. I attempted a novel (and failed - again) and spent nearly twenty hours in a car around Thanksgiving, among other things.

I've wanted to post, but I don't have it in me. Life is too heavy. I'm sorry.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Life Lessons and Hail Marys

This week was a relatively pleasant one at both jobs, so I dare not spoil it by fishing for negativity. Instead, I would like to share a warning with you: be careful about what's on your iPod, mp3 player, or computer when sharing with others. I don't say this because I care about your security, but because you might wind up very embarrassed if you're not vigilant.

A co-worker of mine synched his iPod with another co-worker's. The co-worker on the receiving end of the iPod synch now has hours of his pornographic videos, much to the first co-worker's chagrin and embarrassment.

The lesson here: unless you want the entire staff at your job to know you like to watch videos of young men sodomizing each other to the soundtrack of Schubert's Ave Maria, do be careful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh, THAT'S What My Carpet Looks Like...

I hate cleaning. I really, really hate it.

Actually, cleaning is tolerable. I can scrub a toilet or mop a floor once in a while (sure as hell nearly broke my back deck scrubbing the dining room floor at my job for a year as a closer), but it's the organizing that I can't stand. I take off my work clothes and leave them on the floor. I don't fold and put away my laundry much of the time. Papers accumulate in haphazard piles next to my bed. I just don't care to keep things tidy, and by the time I actually feel like doing anything about the clutter, it's an hours-long task.

It may seem simple to an organized person that I should just put things away right at the time I'm done with them. And when it comes to laundry and other items that have a clear place, I agree. It's the rest of the junk that I have; no matter how much time I try to think of clever ways to organize, label, or arrange things, it just never turns out right. Then I get mad, then I just start throwing things into random boxes anyway.

Today I decided to make use of all my old shoe boxes. I had one for electronics, one for jewelry, one for cards and stationery, etc. But then there was still random shit everywhere. Like, where the fuck am I supposed to put ski goggles the guy from two relationships ago bought me for my foray onto the bunny hill? Or that old padlock for which I swear I have the combination written down somewhere? Or that busted up magic wand from my Tinkerbell costume?

I can't ever believe it. I get annoyed with myself for letting the clutter get that bad, then again for being unable to throw things away. Then I question how and why I acquired so much clutter in the first place, what that says about me, and whether or not I would be able to live without most of it. I think about how far away we've gone from basic needs of food, water, and shelter, and how appalling it is that some people in the world still go without one or more of these things while I try to figure out what to do with fifteen years' worth of writing utensils.

I really, really hate cleaning.

I have needed to for months, but I finally got around to actually picking up because my landlord is coming over tomorrow to remove our window air conditioner (I imagine the same will happen when he has to return in the spring, as my mess will no doubt have returned by then). I've been putting it off like nobody's business, and this weekend got so worked up over whether cleaning would take away from noveling time and vice versa that I just didn't get anything done at all.

Today, however, I wrote 1,700 words while at work AND cleaned once I got home. And while I'm still around 13,000 words behind where I should be (I have 12,000-ish at this point and should have 25,000 by mid-month), at least the damn room is clean and I have one less concern standing between me and 50,000. And I now have a clutter free, relaxing space to write. Behold:

Before

After

Now, about that novel...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pimp My Blog

I've been trying to figure out how to get more readers, and after consulting my blog stats I had an idea. The most traffic that ever reaches this blog comes from Google image searches of Kim Kardashian that eventually lead to this post, therefore all I need to do to get more page hits is to bring in perverts and simpletons from all over the internet. Then, once their appetites for funny or titillating pictures have been satisfied, they will think to themselves,

"Hey, I just now realized I really enjoy reading about customer fuckwads; in fact, I'd rather spend the rest of the afternoon reading about them than look for boobalicious pictures of halfwit celebrities. I think I'm gonna bookmark the Bagel Fairy and make sure I can have as much life wisdom imparted onto me as possible!"

Clearly, this is genius because visitors=readers. Behold your sampling of Things People Like to Find on the Internet, and then watch as the new readers start rolling in. (Oh, and if they happen to be Anonymous trolls, then bring it, bitches.)

PUPPIES!



KITTENS!



PEOPLE GETTING INJURED!



EXPLOSIONS!



ASIANS!



BOOBS!



CARS!



CARS AND BOOBS!



Yup. Genius.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Permission to Say "I Don't"

I got the idea for this post from a very odd place: Christian talk radio. (Or, at least, it's strange for me, as I am a staunch follower of the Church of I Don't Know and You Don't, Either.)

I was on my way to my second interview for my current job and couldn't find anything to calm my nerves. Sometimes I'll get hooked on random talk radio as I flip through the stations, and this includes the religious kind. Not surprisingly, I often disagree with what I hear, but this particular talk had a message that I felt was pretty universal: the idea that we can't be everything, all at once.

A guest author was talking about how we tend to focus on what we "do" do (Friends moment!), will try to do, or should do, and overload ourselves with expectations. She then provided her "I don't" list: ways in which she demonstrates that she is, in fact, human, and that she has limitations. (It's a deceptively simple concept, but I doubt I'm the only one frustrated by my insistence that I should know and be good at everything.) So I decided, especially after an entire summer spent worrying about all my weaknesses and whether they would keep me from having a real career, that it was time to give myself permission to not do and be certain things.

And then they started talking about how this all applies to Jesus and I (literally) tuned out, but it's a good message nonetheless.

I don’t like cake.

It’s not that I don’t have a sweet tooth — I eat enough ice cream to make up for the lack of cake in my life — but I just don’t think cake is that good. I liked it when I was little, when I would lick the frosting off and give the rest to my dad to eat.

The reason I have to give myself “permission” for this is because not liking cake causes a lot of socially awkward situations. People love bringing cake to events, and because most people are into it they expect everyone to drool and fall all over themselves with excitement at the prospect of eating their delicious store-bought cake. So I have two options when someone inevitably notices: A.) pretend to like it and cut myself a "retard piece," as my uncle once critiqued at my birthday, or 2.) announce sheepishly I don't care for cake and invite scorn.

I don’t read pretentious literary journals or listen to contemporary art music.

I tried to get into the highly academic, highly pretentious writing and contemporary music when I was nearing the end of college — I really did. I believed that, in order for my work to be worth anything, I had to love and understand this art, too. Then I realized that I had caused myself so much anxiety trying to tolerate everything I was “supposed” to be reading and watching and listening to that I had stopped creating or enjoying art at all. And that even if my reading tastes were to devolve into an addiction to something like the Shopaholic series (which, thankfully, they have not), at least I was reading.

So when I think something will be interesting or fun, I will read/write/consume it. Occasionally I feel guilty that I would rather tear through another historical fiction novel (read: glorified Harlequin romance) than Ulysses, but I have realized that getting through Ulysses will not get me any closer to being the artist I want to be unless I want to write like James Joyce. Every bit of information one ever takes in informs one’s creative output, but it is a collective effort. I can’t say that I will read it or not read it, but I will no longer punish myself if I ultimately choose not to.

I don’t cook much.

I'm not good at cooking. I don't like cooking. I like the idea of buying interesting foods and whipping up something amazing, but I will never be that person. A salad, sandwich, or box of mac 'n' cheese is fine by me.

I don’t watch/read the news religiously.

There was another phase I went through in recent years. Some time during high school I discovered I was capable of watching the news, digesting the information, and forming opinions about the things I saw. Reading the news made me feel informed and worthwhile, and I scrambled for information. I started watching the news and reading the New York Times website nearly every day — not always because I always wanted to, but because I wanted to be prepared to demonstrate my knowledge. Everybody else in the world seemed to know more than I did. But it was also then that I realized that differing political views could ignite bitter debate and unspeakable hatred among people.

Now, I read news magazines at book stores, but only if the mood strikes me. I try not to force it. The balancing act between being information-obsessed and avoiding ignorance is a difficult one, but I am trying. And I’m trying not to punish myself so much over it.

I don’t do handiwork/repairs myself.

I hate being defined by gender stereotypes and don't like to admit that I fall under many of them, including but not limited to interest in the arts, shitty sense of direction, laughable athletic ability, chronic passivity, right-brained intuition, and total dependence on men to do anything mechanical.

I don't know how to change my own oil, don't remember how to change a flat tire, and have no idea what that light and awful grinding sound means. I don't understand electricity or plumbing. If you open a tool box in front of me I will glaze over. I hate that I have to have people do things for me and that I have to take a guy with me to the tire place so someone who knows what they're talking about will be there; it's embarrassing.

Still, I can't force natural abilities on myself. The best I can do is learn what I can and hire people to do the rest.

I don't like sports.

I'm tired of dealing with drunken idiots and limited parking because of them. I have no interest in painting myself and going out with tens of thousands of other people to watch people jumping on top of one another, throwing and/or catching objects, or hitting things with sticks. I realize I look like a sourpuss to people who live for it, but I'd just rather stay home.

I don’t make the right decision all the time.

Really, no one does - it's just hard to accept this sometimes.

I don’t feel comfortable having everything organized.

I'm a total slob. I don't want to be, but I am. I admit that I get fed up with my own messes and eventually do huge cleanings, and wish I could be more organized. Still, I can't stand spotless houses. Clean is good, but it doesn't look lived in if everything's shut away in a drawer or labeled container. And if that's what it takes to be grown up and respectable, then I'm not up for it.

I don’t give money to people on the street.

If there were any real guarantee that people asking for money had really fallen on hard times and needed a little help, I would open up my wallet all the time. But I'm sick of dealing with the same liars who change their "I'm from out of town, everything happened to me, woe is me..." stories each week. I even see them come in at my job - again, the same people who always claim to need "change for the bus" or have a sister with cancer or have starving children at home, but never seem to go anywhere. Nice, gullible people inevitably give them money, which only feeds their sense of entitlement. So I just don't trust anybody on the street anymore, and I've stopped caring about how much money is in my wallet or whether or not I look like a compassionate human for refusing them.

I don’t like fashion.

Let me be clear: I care how I look, and I try to find clothes that suit me. But Vogue is boring. Fashion shows are boring. I don't care what ridiculous getup a bleach-blond queen draped onto some 19-year-old waif in New York. I will never spend my entire paycheck on a piece of fabric to sling over my shoulder just because someone sewed a name on it that certain people arbitrarily decided was important. Other people can do all that, but I am no less of a woman if I don't.

I don't dream of marrying.

I don't reject the possibility of a wedding, life partner, or children in my future. They're all just incredibly low on my priority list at this time. I believe I will change enough in the next five years that there is no possible way I could choose a life mate now, nor do I believe that children will fulfill me.

I don’t like my body.

I realize it's become a trope of American society for women to be unhappy with their bodies, but that's no reason to act like I'm a sulky teenager fishing for a compliment just because I express dissatisfaction with mine. There's simply no way to reverse that many years of insecurity, which came from so many sources; nor is it fair to say that I'm immature because I can't just "let it go" right away. And as much as I'd love to be happy in my own skin, I can't be until I stop believing there's far too much of it.

I don't feel happy all the time.

We're often taught to accept everything, and that we're ungrateful if we don't behave as if everything in life is a blessing. Sometimes life just plain sucks, and while others in the world suffer exponentially more than I, I can only speak for - and respond to - my own experiences.

What are you going to give yourself permission to NOT do, think, be, or say today?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Anonymous, I've Been Waiting for You

You really know you've hit the blogging big time when you get your first nasty comment from good ol' Anonymous. Anonymous, for those of you who don’t know, is a self-appointed expert on everything, who leaves comments on articles and/or blogs. (S)he knows everything about you, your life, and the situation you’re describing; and, claiming to have read your entire blog and understood the point of it, Anonymous has generously come to share his/her opinion about why you’re a horrible person.

Anonymous either A.) takes everything literally and has no sense of humor, or 2.) sees him/herself reflected somewhere in the blogger’s words and doesn’t like having him/herself reflected back. (S)he is not above name-calling all the while accusing you of immaturity, taking your words out of context to prove how you take situations out of context, and displaying faux sincerity by saying (s)he hopes you will change. Upon wrapping up his/her arguments about why you and your blog are a scourge on society, Anonymous then hopes to degrade you to the point of humiliation by asserting that, based on what you write in your blog, you have no love, friends, or joy in your life.

Of course, Anonymous will never reveal his/her identity, blog, or online persona, preferring to hide under the cloak of anonymity while the rest of us dare to share our opinions openly. After having used up all that time attacking people on the internet, after all, who really has time do deal with any resulting repercussions?

Blog Stats

Those of you who have blogs are aware of the stats feature Blogger now has, and let me say it is fantastic for the narcissists among us.

According to Blogger, my post about Kim Kardashian generated the most hits, most likely because the pictures I used came up in image searches for people trolling for glimpses of KK's boobies. My post on cougars comes in second.

The blog which has directed the largest number of people to this one belongs to The Bartender (thank you!). Facebook used to be the site that brought the most readers to me because I linked the URL on my profile, but I removed that once I got a new job.

Most of the keyword searches have some combination of Is This Desire, Bagel Fairy, or Prose Therapy in them because my friends and family can never remember the URL and are too embarrassed by me to ever bookmark this page. A few keyword searches such as "blogspot gloryhole," "cougar young men lawn boy," "douchey rich people comments," and (my favorite) "female tight wads can't afford dick and gas money" have also brought people to my rantings and ruminations.

Most of my readers, not surprisingly, are American, and some are British. Canadians, Australians, Chinese, Slovenian, Ukranian, Indian, and Spanish users of the interwebz have also stumbled in from time to time.

My frequency of visits climbed from the time I began writing in May and peaked in October, likely (and hopefully) because I have had less time and have been posting less.

Most important to me, however, are those of you who read, comment, get the point, and support what I'm doing here. Thanks for reading, thanks for having my back, and thanks for making me laugh.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Please go away. I'm NaNo-ing.

I might be a little scarce over the next month (right…as if I haven’t been scarce enough already lately). I will be writing a novel.

‘A novel? Are you out of your goddamn mind? You think you’re going to do that working six days a week, when you couldn’t even do it working part time?’

Yes, a novel. Yes, I’m out of my goddamn mind. Yes, I really believe I will do it this time.

Allow me to explain. NaNoWriMo.org (National Novel Writing Month) is all about getting its millions of participants to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. They do it in November because no one wants to go outside then anyway, and they do it in a month to light a fire under our asses. You write 50,000 words in order to “win.” Technically, you don’t win anything concrete, but you can claim the title of novelist.

I’ve tried it before, and failed so hard it was embarrassing. But I really do feel something is different this year. I think it was spending the entire summer broke and feeling like I had absolutely nothing, and once I got to the point of feeling like I had nothing, I felt like I might as well try anything. Being in that position helps you sort out your life and really think about what’s important, because when time is money and you have none of the latter, you’re willing to give all of the former to anything that might improve things.

Now that things have balanced out a bit, I’m ready to fully commit. Because I have so little time to kill anymore, I’m prepared to really do something I feel will be useful. I also think I’m better about focusing less on what happens if and when my work gets published, and how much money I can potentially make.

50,000 words a month. 1,667 words a day. Can I do it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Hope You're Still Reading...

...because I haven't really been writing. I'm sorry about that - it has literally been coming down to the decision to either sleep or write the last few days, and the former wins every time. I'm sure my unwillingness to sacrifice my slumber makes me a poser in the writing world - because, you know, we have to suffer as gratuitously as possible in order to gain recognition and improve our craft. But seeing as it's nearly 10:30 at the moment, I don't really give a shit. It's bed time. Waking up at 4 a.m. five days a week for a year ruined staying up late for me.

But I promise, for those of you who care (all 23 of you, according to my "official" list), I have a shit ton to write (read: complain) about. I even devoted a whole hour I to my list of topics. In true dorky English major fashion, it contains underlined categories with neatly lined-up bullet points and dashes underneath.

Anyway, I promise I'm writing. It's coming. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Blog Just Acquired Dozens of Additional Followers...Sort Of...

After some waffling I decided to copy and paste the text from this entire post, word for word, into the little "contact us" thingy on Bar Louie's web site. Naturally, I signed with a fake name.

I got this reply from their manager:

Dear Laetitia [imagine my surprise upon seeing this name after forgetting I'd used it],

First, I would like to apologize for the recent service you experienced at our establishment on the evening of Tuesday, October 12, the service you received was completely unacceptable. However, I would also like to extend gratitude for you sending an email allowing this situation to be brought to my attention; customer feedback is an invaluable tool to improve our business. There were many mistakes that were made that night and the improper handling by the manager on duty at that time, only made those mistakes worse. I would like to invite you back into our establishment for another meal, on us, and hopefully we can make this situation right. We will have your name on file for a $50 visit to accommodate an evening for you and a guest. Also, we will be discussing your email, not only as a management team, but with the entire service staff, as well. Once again, we appreciate you feedback.

Sincerely,

Typhie McPhoid [what the hell - I'll just make up everyone's name today!]

General Manager

Bar Louie

[Not to be outdone, I replied thusly:]

Typhie,

Thanks for your reply. I wanted to clarify that I published that blog post on October 6, so my boyfriend and I actually went to BL on Tuesday the 5th. I felt it necessary to let you know so that innocent employees who worked on the 12th don't get blamed for something that happened on the 5th - there was some lag time between that post and my contacting you, obviously.

That said, I would also like to thank you for your offer. However, I will have to decline. I've been in food service too long to feel comfortable accepting free food just for complaining. In any case, my name isn't even Laetitia.

Thanks,

Bagel Fairy [and I really did sign it this way]

I wonder what it says about my vanity that I'm absolutely thrilled that so many people will read/hear my original e-mail. In fact, I believe this will be my first public reading!

Too bad I won't be there to bask in my glory.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Other Side of the Counter: Bar Louie Sucks and Marcella's Rocks

Last night I experienced the most appalling service I ever have at a restaurant in my life.

Being in food service, I am especially forgiving of mistakes as a customer. I know rushes are shitty when you're understaffed, that it sucks when you're trying to keep everyone happy when the people making the food are behind, and that servers are human and make mistakes. I consistently tip 15-20% and rarely complain.

But last night nearly became my first dine-and-dash. G and I went to dinner at the downtown Bar Louie, where they do a dollar burger night on Tuesdays. Not surprisingly, this place is very busy on such nights. We looked for a table for a while before spotting one on the landing between the upstairs and downstairs and sat down.

Then, we waited, for over thirty minutes. (And I actually know this because I had to put money in a meter. I point this out because most customers who unjustifiably bitch about wait times say they were waiting "twenty minutes"--regardless of whether it was two or nineteen--because it sounds long but not unbelievably so.) The server who was serving the upstairs trotted right by us no less than half a dozen times. Any attempt to flag her down would have been futile she angled her body away from our table and avoided eye contact. Do you know anyone who doesn't sense when she's being stared down by four angry eyes? I don't. However, if her vacant expression indicates anything, she doesn't seem to sense much.

We watched the servers run around downstairs. Drinks, appetizers, and burgers made their way to tables as G and I continued to bitch to each other and fiddle with our napkins. Finally, G walked down to the bar asking a guy for a manager, and the bro replied that there wasn't one (really?). So the guy summoned someone else behind the bar to act as manager, and my boyfriend asked if it was serve yourself as well as seat yourself.

The "manager" (or whoever the hell he was, since the employees seemed to have no clue who was in charge--perhaps this is the problem?) told a server, who was in the middle of cashing out a bunch of checks, to come take care of us. G pointed her out to me after returning to the table--she was one of the downstairs servers, already being run ragged by all her regular tables and one giant case of Birthday Entitlement Fever (thank you, Bitter Waiter).

She came up to the table, sweaty and apologetic, and I immediately felt sorry for her because she really did seem to feel bad about forgetting our table. She loses some points for rushing off after we ordered drinks before we could have the chance to tell her we were ready for food (I think half an hour is long enough even for us indecisive folk), but otherwise she was one of the only workers who didn't piss me off. Plus, she took the appetizer ($9 worth of teeny tiny dumplings) off our bill.

It was only then that the guy running clean glasses to the bar upstairs (who had already done so twice without even a glance at us, mind you) checked on us and made sure we'd been helped. And it was only after I stood at the bar for a couple of minutes trying to make eye contact with one of the bartenders that someone gave me change for a dollar so I could put more quarters in the meter (which I wouldn't have had to do if these people didn't have their heads so far up their asses).

We ate - finally - and I paid and tipped the server 15% because there's no reason she shouldn't make a living just because she slipped up. If it were anyone else, though, I wouldn't have bothered.

Although the service was especially bad last night, it's never been stellar. Apparently the heavily made-up/mini-skirt wearing waitresses, toned bartenders, "hip young professional" clientele and funky decor are all supposed to distract the customer from BL's vapid, neglectful staff. Don't believe me? Look at their website and tell me what you think they're all about.

Seriously, people. Customers are the collective responsibility of the staff. It doesn't matter who's assigned to which section. It doesn't matter who's doing all the work and who's picking up all the slack. (Well, it does, but that discussion belongs in the manager's office - if you know who your manager is.) There is absolutely no excuse for walking around with your eyes fixated on the floor and hoping someone else will deal with the angry-looking Italian guy at the bar.

I wish to contrast this experience with one I had Marcella's about nine months ago. I learned (as part of the brainwashing training that was my own food service experience) the statistic that customers are a bazillion times more likely to report a bad service experience than a good one, and that made me hate customers even more want to report good experiences as well as bad ones.

After being seated one evening, my two friends and I waited just long enough to notice no one was helping us before someone came up to ask if anyone was taking care of us. Let's start keeping score.

Checking on Bored-Looking Customers With Empty Tables, Even When They're Seated in Another Section

M's: 1
BL: 0

We said we hadn't been served yet, and she apologized profusely and asked what she could get us.

Accepting Responsibility and Acting Without Outsourcing Problem to Someone Else

M's: 2
BL: 0

Our server came eventually, also profusely apologizing. She admitted she had simply forgotten about us.

Apologizing and Owning Up to Mistakes

M's: 3
BL: 1 (the girl who eventually served us did, at least, do this)

They comped our wine and appetizer, to which I certainly did not object but seemed like an over-the-top gesture just the same.

Offering to Make It Up to the Customer

M's: 4
BL: 1.5 (she only took off the appetizer when G asked to be compensated)

The staff were all friendly and attentive the rest of the meal, and checked in on us often in spite of the full dining room.

Everyone Does His/Her Part

M's: 5
BL: 1.5

Guess where I'm choosing for my downtown dining from now on? Might as well go with the better service, considering dinner at BL on their "cheap" night (sans appetizer, no less) costs nearly as much as a full meal with wine at Marcella's.

Plus, I'm pretty sure Marcella's has a manager.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Reasons I Feel Old Today

1. I'm 24 today, and now in my mid-twenties.
2. I'm more content laying in bed like I am at this moment than going out.
3. I'm grateful for the time alone, of which I have had very little lately. I have no interest in planning a party.
4. I lay and listened to music today, some of which was 20 years old.
5. I will be spending any birthday money I receive on groceries and gas.
6. My back hurts, and has hurt every day for the last ten years.
7. I'm starting to measure time in chunks of years (decades, etc.) rather than single years or grades in school.
8. I fell asleep at 10 last night.
9. Two things I want very badly right now: coffee and NPR.
10. There's plenty I would like to do right now but I'm too tired to do any of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Will You Still Love Me Even If I Talk About Happy Things?

As I mentioned previously, I got a new job in an office, which started today.

I was super excited. Finally, a break. Finally, a step up--a small one, but a step nonetheless. Finally, advancement prospects beyond "moving up" to miserable cafe manager (blech). Finally, I'm not the sad old-timer on staff (except one day a week at my now part-time gig, but whatever). I'm going to be moving from site to site and working in different clients' offices, so the scenery will change.

In light of all these good times I present to you the following:

Reasons I Felt Happy and Grown Up Today

1. When my alarm went off, it was light out.
2. I wore pinstripe pants, an oxford-style shirt, and heels, and my hair was down--no visor, apron, or tennis shoes with dried mayonnaise globs on them were involved.
3. I got to enjoy NPR and coffee during the sunny commute.
4. I met dozens of people today, all most of whom smiled at me and none of whom attempted to order a sandwich. There were no customers, registers, dining rooms, dishes to wash, or ovens going off.
5. The manager at my training site went to the same school I did and studied music.
6. Several people asked me about school and when I graduated, and none of them asked, "So what are you going to do now?" or, "You still work here?"
7. There is a such thing as downtime, and when it happens I'm allowed to read or use e-mail. My bosses will be doing this too, and therefore will not be breathing down my neck about "standing around" because I haven't moved in the last five seconds or give me petty cleaning tasks to milk my paid time.
8. I get an hour for lunch--no "I'll give you 30 minutes if we're dead" or "my sales and labor are good so I'm not doing breaks today" bullshit.
9. None of my co-workers called off citing mysterious illnesses an hour after their shift was supposed to start or appeared to be drunk, high, or hungover on the job.
10. I'll go to work tomorrow at 8 and leave at 5. I will do this again on Thursday, and then on Friday. I will, under no circumstances, be working in the office this weekend.

With all the positive change, however, two caveats must be noted.

1. All the locations have been given different dress codes, and while many are business casual the rest will require me to wear a polo--a work fashion I cannot seem to escape.
2. I found myself taking in the familiar odor of balsamic dressing, realizing that one of the office managers upstairs had food catered from the cafe where I work. This place may never leave me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I got an award!

So there's this thing going around on the blogs in which the writer nominates ten Blogs of Substance, and my blog got linked as part of Queen of the Rant's list. So now I am supposed to

A.) thank the blogger who gave it to me,
2.) sum up my blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience using five words, and
D.) pass it on to ten other blogs which I feel have real substance.

So, first of all - thank you, Queen, for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I appreciate the nomination very much, as it has linked me with some more great bloggers and helped me fantasize I'm important.

My Five Words

I love to complain, bitch.

My 10 Blogs

1. The Bitchy Waiter was the first disgruntled food-service worker blog I started reading when I joined Blogger, and continues to be one of my favorites.

2. The Bitter Waiter is like The Bitchy Waiter's pissed off, more cynical older brother. His writing is funny as shit too, and he's even angrier and more customer-focused.

3. I found The Bartender through The Bitchy Waiter. I love reading her blog because, as if customers aren't douchey enough sober, she has plenty of outlandish stories to share about what happens when they drink themselves into oblivion.

4. DragonFlies and Cocktails is the blog of a friend of mine whom I have known for over three years now - we were on a study abroad program together. She writes about everything from her newest favorite music to the insecurities many of us have about life.

5. Am I a kiss-ass if I give the award back to the person who gave it to me? Relationship Rant is a great read. She shares about her own relationship as well as questions people send her, and it is one of those blogs where the comments are as interesting as the content.

6. I just discovered Happy Dying Sun recently and am enjoying reading it so much that I think I'll steal the 30 letters idea from her. Stay tuned.

7. If you want to read something that's laugh-out-loud, piss-your-pants funny, go visit Red Means Go. Not only is this woman funny in words, but she draws the most amazing pictures. Who knew looking for jobs could be so hilarious?

8. The name The Ranter's Box says it all. And, unlike me, she never rants about the same thing twice!

9. My eating and exercise habits are pretty shitty. Good thing there are people who actually make an effort in their own lives and try to help the rest of us, too. Written by one of my fellow indentured servants bridesmaids at my sister's wedding, The Lifestyle Diet entertains AND informs.

10. Grace Undressed got me hooked on Blogger. I found her blog by accident one day about a year and a half ago, and read three years' worth of posts on her experience as a stripper in a matter of weeks. Although she now writes on a private blog to which her old readers now subscribe (including yours truly), the original blog is still there and she updates every once in a while. No matter how you feel about the sex industry, you'll see it and its workers differently after reading this.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Other Ways I Express Myself

Sweat pants are soooo not cute. Luckily, stylish and classy college-aged girls all across America have solved this problem by making sure they only purchase sweat pants and athletic shorts that have something written on their cute little derrieres.

I am pleased to announce that I have now jumped on the pink posterior bandwagon, thanks to iron-on letters. I'm so proud of these that I might take the green letters and spell out Pink on my workout pants.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar? How About a Byline?

Yesterday's post brought me this comment from an anonymous reader:

Be weary. I've heard Demand Studios isn't quite as they advertise: http://www.frogenyozurt.com/2010/03/the-truth-about-demand-studios/

I want to discuss this, because I have been reading quite a bit about DS and similar "content mills" and such, and opinions seem to be mixed. Whichever side they end up taking, though, people seem to be pretty passionate about their view.

I've sifted through nearly a dozen blog posts and articles (including the one the commenter linked for me), and the debate basically comes down to this: people who are for DS swear they could make a decent living, that it jump-started their careers, and that they are better writers because of it; people who are against it say it isn't worth it to write articles given the time and effort involved, that DS doesn't advertise accurately, and that anyone who wants to be a freelance writer should just find other work.

Although I have only been at this for a few days and cannot legitimately speak for the experience of trying to make a living off DS (they give you a limit of three articles when you first start, and two were accepted with no re-writes while the third is still in review), I can see both sides of the argument.

On one hand, it is true that if you do the math, DS doesn't seem worth it in terms of making a living. A lot of the writers who posted comments to the articles about it complained that, unless you're a machine and can churn out four articles in an hour or two, you're making peanuts. At a rate of $15 for most articles, you're pretty much earning minimum wage if you spend more than an hour researching or writing the material. A few exclaimed, "You might as well get a minimum-wage job for that rate!"

Here's my thing, though: I already did that. I started at the cafe two years ago, working part-time for minimum wage. I have had a few raises since then, but after all that time my take-home pay is still less than minimum wage if you factor in taxes and the benefits I was able to get as a store opener. When thinking of money, I'm trying not to look at it in terms of the pay per hour. I just got paid yesterday - my last paycheck before rent is due - and realized with horror that I will come up short for my share of the rent because I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago. So basically I have the option of writing a few articles or borrowing $30 from my poor boyfriend. At this point, I don't care how much I'm making per hour to produce these articles; I just need to write enough to provide for myself. And, given that I haven't been able to find another job yet and don't have the option to work overtime at the one I have, this is about the last resort before borrowing money and/or turning tricks on the street. (Friends and family: I know some of you would rather I turn tricks than hit you up for money, while others would rather the opposite happen; I assure you I don't plan on doing either.)

As readers of my blog you all know I've been trying like hell to find another job, so the argument that I need to "just find another job" is moot. The point I'm trying to make is just that, for me, anything is worth it right now since I have no other way of generating income.

Writers have also attacked DS's credibility and said that writing for them is useless in terms of one's writing career because no one in the business takes it seriously. Again, to explain where I'm coming from, I'm going to use Erin O'Brien's McDonald's analogy. If writing for DS is like working in fast food, then I know I'm at the very bottom of the writing hierarchy. I would be silly to think that writing for them would make me super successful and famous, just as it would be unrealistic to expect to pay a mortgage flipping burgers. But the idea is that it's a start. Many people work at McDonald's because they have no other job prospects, training, experience, or education, and hope to either eventually move up in the company or get enough experience to get a better job in the service industry or elsewhere.

In my case, I'm fresh out of college and have no professional writing experience. Just as a brand new worker with no relevant experience and/or education can't walk into an office downtown and score a CEO position, I cannot realistically expect that anyone would hire me to write for their magazine, newsletter, etc. based on my credentials. I find that, as I'm reading these comments from experienced writers snubbing DS, they seem to exclude those of us who are just starting out and/or broke. They are real freelance writers and can afford to bash DS from their fancy writing desks while sipping $5 lattes.

I'm basically doing now what they likely once did as brand-new journalists and copy editors working third shift in thankless positions for small newspapers, except I have more freedom from writing on my own time and can hold down a stable job while doing it. Yes, I do hope one day to write for national publication of some kind and make a living as a writer, but I can't pretend it'll happen tomorrow. I have to do this now, then maybe something a little higher-paying and respected, and then something better after that until I can get where I want to be. I'm willing and ready to put in the time, and am grateful for the practice. Perhaps this sounds naive coming from someone who hasn't slaved away for decades in the spirit-breaking world of writing, but at least I am willing to work hard and know that getting to "the top" is neither possible for many nor easy for anyone.

The other people who tend to whine about DS sound like they actually believed some of the exaggerated claims about the money they could make. Allow me another analogy: you know those ads for canvassing/sales jobs that tell you you *could* make up to $923,483,029,875,098,090,198 per month? Well, any reasonable person realizes that that is the absolute maximum. In order to make that much you would need to sleep about two hours a week and work the remaining 168, and on top of that succeed in every sale you attempt. Some people don't get that, and then cry and stamp their feet and call that job a "scam" because they didn't make $923,483,029,875,098,090,198 sitting on their asses.

I do not entertain some Carrie Bradshaw fantasy that I can spend a half an hour a week writing for my famous column and then spend the rest of my time galavanting around the city, having lunch with my friends (who also never seem to work), having sex, and charging designer heels to my platinum credit card. In my experience thus far, DS has never made any false promises of such a life. They tell you up front you can do really well with them, but only if you work very quickly and write according to their standards every time. And, from everything I've read that compares DS with other so-called "content farms," they are among the most reliable because they pay a flat fee for the whole article (instead of per page view) and pay consistently and on time.

So, in summary, I will continue to write for DS indefinitely because:

A.) I've found that it is not a scam,

2.) I can make SOME (if not a lot) of money off my efforts, and

D.) because I have no other immediate means of getting my writing out in the professional world.

It may not be ideal, but at least I'm not touching strangers' genitals in dark alleys for cash. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kim Kardashian Got Me a Job

As I have previously mentioned, I have been looking for a new job since I graduated college over a year ago (some times more diligently than others - this is one of those "more diligent" times). Ever since I started to drown in my student loan debt and bills, I realized that the perfect job just wasn't going to fall in my lap. Of course I had realized this before, but I also finally realized I could not afford to wait any longer, trying to hold out for something with benefits and didn't involve talking to customers. So I would just have to settle for whatever second job I could get and/or continue looking for a better full-time job than I have.

Enter Demand Studios, employers of the writers for websites like eHow and Answerbag. I had heard of web content sites (referred to less nicely as "content farms") like this before but heard they weren't very profitable for writers. I read about this particular employer on Ohio writer Erin O'Brien's blog - actually, the article was for the L.A. Times, but of course the blog linked to it - in which she talked at length about all the reasons it wasn't worth it to write for these sites.

But, of course, Erin O'Brien and other writers with columns, careers, and accolades on their resumes besides "Absolutely Miserable Slicer of Bagels and Ass-Kisser of Total Douche Bags" have the luxury of turning up their nose at what they view as slaving away for The (Writing) Man.

"It's like working at McDonald's," O'Brien said to her husband, of writing for Demand Studios, "but for writers."

While that was probably meant to turn me off from wanting to write for them, the comment was actually encouraging. I have no writing experience on my resume. None. And I want to be a writer. Ha. I've spent the last year or so trying to figure out how the hell I would even acquire a good writing sample to show to someone, let alone be hired anywhere to write professionally. So when Ms. O'Brien invoked the image of McDonald's, I thought,

"Right, McDonald's - the place where you go to work for minimum wage when you have nothing else on your resume!"

I applied. And because I didn't have a "real" writing sample, because they gave no guidelines for the application, and because it was late and I just submitted the thing as an afterthought, I sent them the material from this post - sans profanity.

Guess what? They hired me. I'm a "real" writer. I have a second job (not the most lucrative, I'll admit, but it works), and I can start building a portfolio. I have submitted three articles so far; one has been approved, another was re-written and re-submitted, and the third is still pending review.

Holy shit. My name will be on the internet. (You may be shocked to learn this, but it is NOT Bagel Fairy. Sorry.)

In other job news, I haven't heard anything about that job for which I interviewed three weeks ago (not surprising since the position I was supposed to fill wasn't even available anymore and he didn't know if anything would open up anywhere). However, I did have an interview today for a better food service job. My friend, who works the front desk at a hotel downtown, hooked me up with info for a lead position at the cafe there. I'd be in charge, make more money, and work nights instead of days. I think the interview went pretty well and that I have a good shot at it, although I had to go straight from work to there and my shirt looked a bit wrinkly. (If I get this job and not the job for which I agonized over ironing my shirt for the interview, I am never ironing anything again because it is clearly pointless.)

Probably more noteworthy than my interview outfit, however, was my makeup. I have worn makeup precisely twice since my sister's wedding in April, and very few times over the last year. I used to wear a full face (concealer, foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, mascara, etc.) every day in high school. I continued on this path when I started college for about one week of classes. Then one day I kind of realized that makeup wouldn't just turn me into a knockout, so what was the point? I didn't want to be one of those fat girls who caked on eyeliner in the vain hope of distracting myself from being unhappy with my body. So I would wear it to go out, and that was it.

Now I almost never wear it, so it was no surprise that everyone at work took a double take. The reactions and ensuing conversations from those who noticed were all about the same.

"Wow, you're wearing makeup - you look pretty! I mean, um, it's not that you weren't before..."

And then we would get all awkward and change the subject.

One conversation went like this.

Him: Whoa, what's with the eyeliner? Is that last night's makeup?
Me: No. Does it look that bad?
Him: No, it's just that you never wear that. Were you out a little late last night?
Me: No. I must have done a terrible job if you think it's from last night.
Him: So, you did it this morning? Like, at 4?
Me: Yeah.
Him: God, I don't understand girls. Why they-
Me: I wanted to look halfway decent because I have an interview today! Jesus-
Him: I have an interview today!

All I can say is that I really, really hope I get this (or some other) job soon. And you can bet that I'll start wearing eyeliner so this never happens again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Not as Good as "Sh*t My Dad Says," But It'll Do

My family, like lots of families, say really bizarre things. I often lament that I cannot adequately describe the dynamic without going into in-depth character studies.

This year, however, I found a shortcut: write down all the weird shit that people say. So here are the quotes from the family vacation, unattributed and out of context.

They range from awkward body humor...


-I'm the sauce fatass.

-You'd better not be burping up intestinal gas. If you are, then there's a problem.

-My ass has natural buoyancy. Wouldn't it be neat if you could get Styrofoam implants?

-I have a tail.

-The best guy bonding moments occur in the bathroom when taking a crap or while taking a shower.

...to awkward sex humor (why is this the largest category?)...

-Did you take over my balls when I was gone?
-Please don’t ask me that question again.

-That’s funny. All I can see is her butt.

-I'm horny. I want to get laid. I'm going to go to church.

-Keep that sperm to yourself, yo.

-Do you want to do a foursome?

-Mom, where should I put my tramp stamp?

-Let's all get naked and let her paint us.

-Since you're the ho, you can put that one on your thigh.

-She's got a black man on her boob!
-Probably wouldn't be the first time.

-Do you have any men on you?

-I still looking at Playboy bunnies. I just don't remember why.

-[My daughter]'s a tart.

-It's better than a commemorative condom.

-I was wondering why you were floating with that thing attached to your noodle.

...to just plain awkward...

-Just let me slap on some deodorant and I’ll be ready to go to dinner.
-Oh, so that means you DO have deodorant?
-He means MY deodorant.
-What? It’s Secret - it’s strong enough for a man, but made for me.

-[While holding very large, sharp, menacing-looking grilling tongs] If you need to walk through the streets of Harlem, just take these grill tools.

-This person likes to chop up dead cows.

-It's not bad. Like, not skunky.

...to horribly un-P.C.and/or insulting.

-She looks sad in this picture. Probably because she knows she has cancer.

-There's, um, a holiday. For blacks. Around Christmas.

-I'm pretty sure your mom has a mullet.

-She went to the hospital a couple of years ago. Apparently the devil had thought it was time, but God didn't want her either.

I think I will make this a yearly tradition.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reflections and Sentimentality and Shit

I'm on vacation with my dad's side of the family. We have taken a beach vacation every summer but two since before I was born (literally - my mom went to Myrtle Beach while eight months pregnant with me), and even though the dynamic has changed quite a bit there are a myriad things that are the same.

We still rent a property - either a condo or house - each day journeying to the beach before lunch and relaxing in the pool until it is time to shower for the evening. We still stagger getting out of bed; my sister usually wakes up first and gets out to the beach by mid-morning, admonishing the rest of us to enjoy more of the day, while the last person (typically my dad) sleeps until at least noon. We eat at the same Japanese steakhouse each year and evaluate how full of personality the chef is compared to the guy from last year. My dad, uncle, and grandpa still argue over obscure rules in the board games we play until they are red in the face, as well as compare distance, gas mileage, and travel time (to nearly the exact minute) for the car trips down. We make a huge grocery store trip the first night of arrival and stock up on sugar cereal and ice cream bars, certain that we have everything, and then go to the store at least once more during the week.

Much has changed, for all the sameness. There used to be nine of us: my grandparents, my dad and mom, my uncle and his wife, and my cousin, sister, and me. Now, two divorces, one marriage, one death, and two remarriages later, there are eleven of us: my grandpa, my dad and stepmom with her two kids, my uncle and his second wife, and my cousin, sister, brother-in-law, and me.

We need more space, more food, and more beds. There are more middle-aged people than before, though the kids have all come of age; cursing and dirty jokes are permissable (and, in fact, somewhat encouraged). We cook in the house most nights and only go out on two, instead of every night. There is less of an emphasis on picking activities together and more on finding what one truly wants to do and inviting only the interested people along. I don't plan my outfits for every night anymore - I just show up with a few things to keep me entertained and know that that is sufficient.

I now pour rum in the Cokes I drink by the pool and order steak at the Japanese steakhouse instead of my old staple of shrimp. I still douse my food in yum-yum sauce, but at least think for a moment of the calories I am adding to the carb-fest that is already marinated in soy sauce and soaked in butter. I can still enjoy the food but find myself noticing the grime buildup on the walls, wondering how much the cooks make in tips, and evaluating the douchiness of the family at the table next to mine ("I was supposed to get the large sashimi and he was supposed to get the small! Oh, he has the small? Oh, okay! No, you can eat that one, Jim. It's fine!").

Then there is the island on which we stay, Hilton Head. The beach used to be my Shangri-la, a playground of pool toys and junk food every night after dinner. As a teenager it became more of a disruption of my "real" summer, but as it has returned as a welcome break from real life (thanks to the drudgery of full-time employment), the magic is gone. Just like the Japanese steakhouse is no longer the exotically authentic experience I once naively believed it to be, Hilton Head appears as nothing more than a tourist trap lacking any real culture or life of its own - a lame pseudo-paradise catering to doughy Midwesterners who think of any place with an ocean nearby as an unattainable Nirvana. (As it turns out, Nirvana costs money and time off work.)

What has also come with the vacations with family, however, is a renewed appreciation for the time to spend with them - time which is becoming more scarce - and for the fortune by which I came across the opportunity to even take a beach vacation every year. Growing up means I have to see and notice more, but that also means I get to see more. It means I can enjoy myself and indulge in pool time, but even more importantly can know that I'm loved and cared for by those around me. I knew all this before, of course, but had not yet met enough people who didn't have these things in order to realize what it really meant.

Once again, I am trying to evaluate what I lack as well as what I have in life, and I am finding more of the latter than the former - an attitude calibration, if you will. And while I am grateful for being on vacation for all the reasons mentioned above, perhaps the most important is that I got just enough time away from complaining about my job to realize it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dear Sir or Madam: I am a grownup.

I have a job interview tomorrow - my first face-to-face interview, for anything, since graduating college nearly fourteen months ago.

Today I reached into boxes and dusty closets for my grownup interview clothes, makeup, and iron. I have not taken a second look at the clothes since I bought them (no need when the closest I have come to getting a job thus far is one phone interview with an HR woman in Florida somewhere). I have not applied makeup in four months - since my sister’s wedding, in fact, for which I was the maid of honor - and ironing my clothes today marked the first time I had ever ironed anything.

While it may be pathetic that I have never used an iron, I never had occasion to. Every job I have had thus far has involved one of the following: my normal, day-to-day clothes or my current food-service uniform of polo shirt and khakis. And considering I wear low-maintenance clothes and lack an eye for detail to begin with, the dryer takes care of about as much wrinkle removal I would ever need in order to be satisfied. I almost considered not ironing the clothes, as the shirt has a bunch of pleats under the seam that kind of blends in with any stray wrinkles, and the pants were about 90% wrinkle-free. But then I reconsidered, and then the resultant thoughts brought on an intense mental argument I had with myself, as if I were a cartoon with a devil talking to me from one shoulder and an angel in a business suit countering on the other.

Devil: Maybe I can get away with not ironing the shirt. It doesn’t look bad. Maybe the collar. I mean, I wouldn’t notice that.

Angel: You lazy asshole. Of course you need to iron the goddamn shirt. You can’t go by what you would notice. What if the interviewer is an insane neat freak who picks lint off his wife’s blouses and couldn’t get past a sloppy collar? You have nothing to gain from not ironing the shirt, and everything to gain from looking reasonably presentable. Those wrinkles could make or break your career!

D: Jesus. Lay off, drama queen. I’ll iron the shirt, but you’re making an awfully big deal out of something someone with a GED and light computer skills qualifies for.

A: What’s with the attitude? What if you go in there with an “anyone can do this job” outlook and the interviewer picks up on it and decides you think you’re too good for it? Besides, *how* many interviews have you had in the last year?

D: Well-

A: Exactly.

D: Quit getting me so worked up over it. If anything, that will show on my face. I don’t want to come off as a caffeinated spazz or over-eager brown-nose.

A: Any more than you want to look like a lazy, directionless college grad with no real ambition?

D: Dickhead.

A: Tool.

…and on and on they went as I smoothed the wrinkles out of the collar on the towel-covered dresser/makeshift ironing board.

I told my boyfriend I was nervous and dreading the interview. He, like every other guy I have ever dated, does not feel exceedingly uncomfortable in interview situations and cannot justify my anxiety.

“Just talk to them,” he said with a shrug.

“But I have to sell myself. I mean, you know, not sell myself…” He got the point.

He held out his hand, palm facing down, and told me to shake it. I grabbed it and gave it a firm shake, like I was taught to do in sixth grade by my Language Arts teacher when receiving a plaque at Honors Night. He shook his head.

Apparently, some in the corporate world will hold their hand parallel to the floor to show dominance, and one is supposed to take the hand from underneath, gently rotate the superior’s hand 90 degrees, and shake. I have never heard of this, but he had an internship at one of New York’s largest ad agencies, and that is what he learned there. He qualified with the admission that my interviewer would probably not do this, but he wanted me to be aware of it.

Unfortunately, this mini-lesson did pretty much the opposite of make me feel calmer or more prepared. It seems there is an endless list of little things employers will look upon favorably or use against candidates, or maybe I have been reading too many articles and accepting too much advice from too many sources. I thought of the tip I heard about corporate interviewing when food is involved, for example: taste the steak before adding salt and pepper, so as not to show over-impulsiveness or disrespect to the restaurant and/or provider of the meal. While I don’t believe I will be applying for any jobs fancy enough to involve fine dining at the interview any time soon, my frustration remains at hearing such “helpful“ little tidbits. Does the manner of one’s consumption of beef tenderloin signify who they really are? (Readers, this is a rhetorical question.)

The application, interview, and hiring processes appear, paradoxically, rigidly straightforward and arbitrarily subjective at the same time. Given what I have seen, heard, and read, it seems that access to good jobs (one’s capabilities of performing at said good job notwithstanding) is a secret club into which only the “right” people are allowed - that is, those who have somehow come into contact with successful individuals (family, classmates, etc.) with such pearls of wisdom to impart. It must also be said that I come from a white, English-speaking middle-class family, where we spoke with “proper” grammar in a dialect with which most potential employers are comfortable, and that I attended college and got career advice from dozens of professors and counselors. If I already have that much of a leg up in spite of feeling clueless, imagine the exponentially higher chances of someone whose father happens to be an attorney or executive, and who has therefore learned to emulate ideal characteristics for those careers.

I don’t want to get overly political or stray too far from the subject at hand, but to summarize how I feel about this whole trying-to-get-a-job thing: meritocracy is bullshit. While this does not signify my lack of willingness to use whatever advantages I have (and believe me, I am glad to know the difference between “good” and “well” and have successful, put-together friends and family members to guide me), I can’t help but look around and wonder whether drive, education, ability, socioeconomic status, and success are always as positively correlated as some are content to let the world believe. I will likely continue to ruminate on this as I attempt to cobble together some sort of career in the next few years.

Anyway, back to being scared shitless over one little interview. It’s incredibly sad that I’m so passive and terrified of people I consider authority figures, such that I’m already intimidated by someone I haven’t even met yet. I keep repeating all the things I know intellectually to be true: that this is just one person on one day, that it is an opportunity for practice, that one, ten, or a thousand rejections mean nothing once one person finally says yes. This is the angel inside of me talking; (s)he is rational, patient, and optimistic. But the devill - that irresponsible, idle, self-loathing creature - is still screaming all the reasons I can and likely will fail.

I wish they would both leave my head. I find the angel incredibly annoying, and I am not superstitious enough to believe in those simplistic “positive thinking” platitudes. Conversely, that devil is a real asswipe. If they would both just shut up for five minutes, maybe I could concentrate on being myself and convincing this dude that my face is the one he wants to see every morning.

I even plan to put on the makeup (gasp!) to prove it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

RRRAAAWWWWWRRRRRRRRR

After I discovered the existence of Cougar Life, a dating site on which Women of A Certain Age can search for young male playthings (referred to as "cubs"), I made a fake profile immediately. I had to know what kinds of men went on there, and what kinds of women they were after. I also hoped to stumble across a profile of someone I actually knew, just because I'm a nosy asshole.

I am a cougar of sorts in real life. I am nearing my 24th birthday, but my boyfriend is still too young to drink. Plus, my sister, who is nearly four years older than I, is married to a guy who is a week younger than I am. And finally, my mom is married to a man six years her junior. We often joke that we're a family, or a "pack" of cougs, if you will.

I put on my profile that I was blond, 36, and single - none of which is true. I had thought about creating a full profile, complete with a real persona, but I had neither the time nor energy to do that.I felt kind of guilty about lying, but at least I did not respond to any of the messages I got and, of course, had no intention of pursuing any members on the site. I browsed the profiles of those who messaged me as well as a few other local dudes, and found only a couple of interesting things (unless faceless 20-year-olds revealing their midsections counts as "interesting"):

1. Several of the men who messaged "me" - the 36-year-old blond me, that is - were nearly "my" age or older. (If the whole point is young men and older women, shouldn't these guys be going for the 50+ crowd?)

2. I got a high volume of responses in spite of my having only a basic (read: free) profile, no picture, and virtually no information - but the cubs were still all over "me" (umm...can we say DESPERATE?).

Due to those two facts I had a sampling of men I would automatically weed out if I were actually taking the site seriously, all of whom came off as "spread myself super thin so that I send everyone a really general message and hopefully get more responses back" types of guys.

So, after reading the occasional messages I got (at times with much amusement), I decided to delete my profile permanently.

When I got to the final stage, Cougar Life asked me for a reason for junking the account. I wrote the following:

My husband found out I had a profile on here, and he was like, MEGA PISSED. Kept saying something about me "cuckolding" him. Really, I think he is just self-conscious about the size about his manhood, but it seems that most of the site's members are as well anyway.

Oh well, back to the cougar den. Guess it was fun to dream. Maybe I'll go for the neighbor's lawn boy.


Given that this 36-year-old blond (heretofore referred as "Statutory Stacey") is my creation and therefore part of my fictional tale to render as I see fit, I have decided that she did in fact go for the lawn boy, and the cub was all over it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

On Being Pale and Hyphenated

Between my sophomore and junior year of college I did a literature study abroad program at the University of Greenwich in London, England. I kept a meticulous travel journal about mostly factual or mundane things, but one day I reflected on what it actually meant to go to England as someone with ancestors who emigrated from there. What follows is an adaptation of what I wrote. I did not date the entry, though it would have fallen between July 22 and July 28, 2007 - just over three years ago.

I arrived in London not knowing the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom. I knew nothing about Greenwich except that the Prime Meridian made it the “center of the world,” and that I had relatives from somewhere in this country. I sought my “roots,” finding them scattered. I searched for exoticism in every blade of grass and summer breeze. I found McDonald’s.

I did not have to seek the relevance this or any other place, for my country seemed to insist on its import even outside of its own borders; while exploring my European origins I found America vomiting all over the world. America felt too young for me to claim her as my own, and to escape the guilt over her ugliness I clung to Europe, desirous of finding her real truth.

Saying I was American wasn’t enough when I filled out the application for the school. Saying I was white wasn’t enough. I had to own what had come before that, and that meant checking ‘other’ and using many nationalities separated by hyphens and finishing with -American. I have never been othered.

I wonder why the Essex family, who only account for a quarter of my heritage, left this place. I think about the Irish O’Neals and the great famine and the shame of their Irishness that quietly annihilated the ‘O’; I wonder who the German Hammonds were or why my Norwegian great-grandmother, Mina, journeyed across an ocean to live her adult life in an Iowa farm town. Finally, I want to know the stories that were never recorded, or simply rendered historically insignificant because they were not godly or rich or heroic enough to be told.

The documentation of marriages, deaths, and legitimate children born don’t matter. Percentages - 40% of this nationality, 8.27% of this tribe - miss the point. So does allowing my Americanness to define me: worrying my loud voice and rolls of fat fulfill a stereotype, defensively explaining to a store clerk that I can in fact locate Europe on a map, being too terrified to order at a French restaurant. It is also pointless to try to feel the past via osmosis from the bones of those who are, by varying degrees, my ancestors.

A clairvoyant told me to go to London, for according to him I had had past lives there - as a writer, a painter, and a missionary, among other things. I would feel “at home there,” he said. But as I stood on English soil and tried to feel things that I could claim, I realized that the lives of those people before me - whether technically lived by my actual soul and reincarnated into the present or experienced by predecessors - were mine.

These things, in some small way, live inside of me. All the gardens and graves - and the shame and heavy choices - have been paved over whether or not I claim the new land. But I will, and indeed must, for there is no singular “homeland” entity anymore - not for me, and nor for today’s other hyphenated Americans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rock Bottom, or Rock Climbing?

I drove to the gas station from work today, my low fuel light on below the gauge, and spent just under $14 putting gas in the car. Doing the math on the way home, I calculated that that would leave about $1.22 for the next two weeks after rent.

At 7:30 p.m. I rode my bike down to the cosmetology school near where I work. They were doing free haircuts for a charity event, and had been able to squeeze me in for a 7:45 appointment. Just yesterday I had been looking at my hair in the mirror, contemplating the need for a new cut, then scolding myself for even imagining being able to afford such frivolity before, say, November. Then, early this morning, a woman from the salon came to my job and handed me one of the first glossy fliers I didn't immediately trash.

The student was distracted and dying to get out of there, constantly slapping me in the eye with the handfuls of wet hair gliding through her fingers as she looked around and zoned out, but the cut looked great and she made a real effort to show interest. I had been blessed with a near-graduate rather than a newbie with a shaky hand.

I left the salon. I went to my work to get a drink, thankful the managers are generous with the employee food and drink policy and don't make a stink if we come in off-duty and get a fountain drink. Walking with my bike, I sipped caffeine-free Diet Pepsi and felt my shiny hair blow in the wind behind me. Then there was a feeling: happy.

I have spent the better part of the last few days feeling sorry for myself. Having a tight budget is okay; living paycheck-to-paycheck makes the expense of existing seem impossibly demanding.

But as I sipped that drink I remembered that it was free, as was the haircut. I thought of the bagel and cream cheese I had for breakfast followed by the salad and sandwich for lunch, both of which were free because I am a full-time opener. I thought of the caramel latte I made for myself and the bottled water I guzzled this morning during my shift, which managers don't fuss over either even though we're *technically* supposed to pay for bottled and espresso drinks.

If I had paid for all those things today I would have spent $39.53, but because of the decisions I have made and because I am in this time and this place and under these circumstances, I did not have to spend a dime on any of it. I felt okay and provided for, and I realized life really is not that bad.

Also, I found $7 in the back pocket of the dirty jeans I had put on that I had forgotten about. So now I have $8.22, plus the change in my wallet (wow, that's like...SO close to double digits!).

And, when I got home and ascended the stairs, the air-conditioning was on full-blast and a handsome Italian guy was waiting to give me a hug and kiss hello and tell me he had been thinking about me today.

I'm a closet optimist and don't like to talk about it often. I prefer cynicism and bitter, sardonic skepticism. But still, knowing that one's situation will improve - even without knowing with certainty when or by what means - is the difference between utter despair and cathartic melancholy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Parents Just Don't Understand...Anything

A mom and her high-school-aged son came to the register at lunch. The mom ordered her food, I confirmed it, and then the son started to order his. He looked at the ingredients to see what he didn't want on his sandwich. He had started to tell me he didn't want tomatoes, but the mom interjected, "No onions," which don't even come on that sandwich. She repeated the "no tomato" part in case I couldn't translate the native tongue of the exotic High School Boy, and then informed me her son would want "just lettuce," as if I couldn't figure out that taking away the only other vegetable on the sandwich would be equivalent to lettuce only. I repeated his order, choosing as I always do only to acknowledge the person to whom the food will belong. I said the "no tomato" part and she barked, "No onions!" a second time. Now I did make eye contact, gently reminding her that the sandwich already comes without onions. She just said, "Oh," as if she had been indifferent the whole time.

Contrast that with an order I took at breakfast. A mom came in with her daughter, who looked about five or six. They decided what they wanted and talked it over together, but to my surprise the mom ordered her bagel and coffee and then the girl ordered her own food, asking me politely,

"May I please have a cinnamon bagel and an apple juice?"

Then, when I rang up the total, the girl handed me her mom's credit card. I thought the whole thing was cute - an exercise in grownup-dom. Then, even more adorably, the girl came back after they had sat down and bought a newspaper. She may even be able to read some of it. I want the mom from the lunch order to meet the mom from the breakfast order.

It never ceases to amaze me how many parents with teenage or grown children still feel their precious offspring shouldn't have to do simple things like place a lunch order by themselves. Then, those same parents wonder why their children hate them, are reviled at school, and cannot advance in life due to their lack of social skills. The poor kid even TRIED to order his own food, and his mom just had to try to take control somehow.

I've seen worse than this, like the time a woman ordered a whole grain bagel on behalf of her son and, when I turned to him to ask if he wanted cream cheese and he said yes, she had to add,

"Reduced fat, please."

Good God, people. It's time to let the kiddies grow up.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rock Bottom

"This song is dedicated to all the happy people
All the happy people who have real nice lives
And who have no idea what it's like to be broke as fuck."

-Eminem

I am utterly, ridiculously, frighteningly broke. I have been before; I can count at least half a dozen times during my college career that my checking account hovered somewhere between $0 and $1 between paydays. I was in school and financial aid was taking care of tuition, but I still had to pay living expenses, and working 15-20 hours a week (and sometimes fewer than that) was not conducive to paying bills and still having extra spending money. While this was certainly never a fun predicament, at least I was never in debt.

Then I graduated. Student loan repayments hovered in the near future, but I was able to get full-time hours at my job and hoped I could find a new one that would pay me even more. Then, when I had no place to live at the end of August, I moved in with my mom and stepdad. With no rent or extra bills to pay, I was able to live happily with an account balance that always stayed in the four-figure range. I was even able to afford a trip to visit my friend, who was then living in Greece, that fall and have plenty to spare.

I had all these crazy ideas. I could start a mini-market account, take another trip abroad, or even buy a new car. I was proud of myself; I had never been able to hang onto money like this. I had never felt so free.

Taken at a coffee shop in Greece, the kind of place where worrying about anything was nearly impossible

Around Christmas (it really is a cruel joke that lenders give you a six-month grace period, which usually makes the first payments fall during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year), I got my first bill. Actually, it was my first two bills - I had taken out both private and government loans. I paid them with no problem. Each month thereafter I continued to pay them on time, and even though I knew they were eating up half my income I still had money left over, and for this I was proud and felt accomplished and responsible.

I decided to move out and live in my own place again. I did the math - everything worked out okay, and though money would be tight for a while, I was still hopeful I would get another job. Allow me another badly-rendered visual aide to give you an idea of where I was by this point:



We paid my landlord the deposit, then the pro-rated rent (we moved in the middle of June), and the July rent in less than a month’s time. We also bought a new wireless router, groceries, and other items for the apartment. Before long, I had reached the due date for my next private loan payment and did not have even half the money to pay it.

I have been called a lot of different things in my life, but “delinquent” is perhaps one of the most shameful.

Have you ever watched Judge Judy at two in the afternoon? All the commercials are aimed at unemployed losers.

Are you tens of thousands of dollars in debt because you bought a bunch of shit you couldn’t afford? IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT AT ALL!!!!!!! Let us lower your monthly payments so that you think your problems are over while we fuck you in the ass with our interest rates that you’ll still be trying to pay off when you’re 82.

I used to look down on the people those commercials target. Then I found myself home at two in the afternoon watching Judge Judy - because I have no cable and there’s nothing else on - shitting a brick over whether or not I would ever be able to pay all this back. I feel like That Guy - or, in other words, a total piece of shit.

Delinquent is scary enough, but the other D word which shan’t be mentioned here looms around the corner if I can‘t get caught up in the next couple of months.

As with many situations, friends and family are happy to contribute advice, encouragement, and similar “look, I can relate” tales of money woes. Sometimes I’m happy to hear them because I don’t feel so alone, and other times I drive myself crazy comparing my situation to others’. Well, so-and-so does have more debt, as they pointed out, but they chose to go to a private school and I didn‘t. And they also make more money than I do. But they were smarter about putting money in savings than I was. But I never had any extra money to save…and so forth.

I’m trying to remember that my circumstances could be (and, really, they are for many) so much worse. I’m trying not to dwell on it or feel too sorry for myself; it’s just hard feeling this stuck. It’s hard to watch all of my wages melt away the second I acquire them, and to be left questioning whether or not my education was really much of an investment. It’s hard not to resent the fact that many of my friends and former classmates didn’t have to pay for their own education and now get to either gallivant around the world or buy cars and nice apartments with the money they get from their jobs.

In spite of the gloomy situation, I have hope that I will figure this out. My original plan was to get a new full-time job that paid better, but that’s just not in the cards for me (see this post for that story). Hopefully I can get a second part-time job instead, though I don’t relish the prospect of working two service jobs, since that is likely what I will end up doing. At least in that case I would have more bitching material!

I’m not asking for help, advice, or even for the reader to feel bad for me, as it is no one‘s doing but mine that I am in the situation in which I find myself. I just needed to vent and wallow in self-pity for a little bit. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crack babies and porn art models, Craigslist is here to help YOU!

I have applied for dozens of jobs since I graduated college over a year ago, scouring every resource from companies' websites to word-of-mouth to Craigslist.

Yes, Craigslist. That is how desperate I am. I can't knock it too much because I did find an apartment and a boyfriend there on different occasions, and even though the relationship is now over and I'm living with my new boyfriend in the apartment owned by the cheapest landlord EVER, I am not dead and have not had my identity stolen so I would say I have had relative success with the site.

Still, I know that over half of these employment "opportunities" will end up being pyramid schemes or credit scams. But I remain hopeful and always faithful in my ability to avoid obviously shady and too-good-to-be-true deals.

Some, posters, however, insult my intelligence. I received the following e-mail today:


Thankyou for your resume.

I am forming a small team of dedicated professionals who will assist our foundation to become established and functional.

The foundation is for abandoned and very sick babies.(alcohol syndrome and crack)

Unfortunately I have lost my funding and would need volunteer services until funding is re-established.

After that all the team would be paid in the six figures on a long term basis.

Call me on 614 *** **** if you would like to be part of this team

Sincerely

John


A few things:

1.) This is for a supposed "grant writing" job, and the guy can't even write. To be fair, that might explain why he NEEDS the writer, but still.

2.) As if it is not fucked up enough that he refused to name the organization in the ad, he is equally as vague in the e-mail responding to my "I am interested to hear more about your organization blah blah blah ass kiss" e-mail. And to make up for the lack of information he simply tells me that the org. helps infants with fetal alcohol syndrome and drug addiction, hoping that I will assume he is legit based on that fact alone.

3.) He says he has no money to pay me right now but will suddenly be able to pay me a six-figure salary when...well, I guess he did not say when and how the funds will materialize. But they totally will, I'm sure, because non-profit organizations are just doing fantastically in this economy right now. It sure is a good thing that the few wealthy people left are also generous and sympathetic toward the impoverished, as rich people are known to be. So if I take this job I'm sure I'll be making bank. Some day.

Another promising prospect:

painting/drawing model (near east side)

I am a young, professional artist looking for a model for 3 hour drawing sessions. You do not need prior experience. I am looking for someone who really likes art, but you need not know anything about it. I am looking for someone who is willing to work with me on projects, but I am not looking for someone with a repertoire of poses.

The ideal candidate would be pretty, young (18-25), athletic or skinny. I would like someone who is willing to listen and cooperate. I am, more than anything, interested in someone who will evoke interest. I am in desperate need of a muse.

I can pay 40/3hr. We would begin with a seated, clothed pose, but long term I want someone comfortable with their nudity.

If you are interested:
Please email me your name, a picture, and a short bit about why this interests you. don't be shy or anything. It's okay if you just want $40. Whatever. I am only in people who tell me what they think, even if it's a lot of mysterious crap I don't understand. Really, just be upfront. I will respond with images of my work, but I will say I am skillful with a pencil and have done many life size figure sculptures, etc.

This could be a long term appointment.


Or this one:

wanted: nude female models (harrisburg pike, columbus)

i am a local photographer looking to add some erotic photo's to my portfolio. i currently do not have any and would like to expand my portfolio versatility. so if your looking for some erotic photo's for your lover or are looking to start a portfolio or add to some pics to an existing one, contact me to set up a day and time to do a shoot. the shoot is a time for cd shoot. i have a private make shift studio and it will take app. 3 to 4 hrs to do shoot.


I could also go for these, but seeing as I have neither the petite frame the first guy seeks nor the need for "erotic photo's for my lover" I will have to pass. I sure wish I could help out these "skillful with a pencil" struggling artists who are looking to build their portfolios - after all, they need their practice photographing young, hot women because that is what art is about. Hopefully someone steps up.

In the meantime, here is what I have to offer.

Twenty-three-year-old college graduate seeks a job that involves the following: sitting in a dark room. Two hour lunch breaks, paid vacations, a six-figure salary, and benefits are to be included.

This job will involve none of the following: greeting customers, answering phones, or generally talking to anyone. There are also to be no checklists, standing up, or shifts that begin before 10 a.m.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Bagel Fairy