An Essay About That Time I Was Chubby

I was browsing Twitter the other night on the train ride home because I couldn’t muster up enough strength in my eyelids to read actual literature–which I carry as an accessory in case I do manage to summon the required inner strength or if I need a conversation starter–and I landed on a headline that was very obviously designed to be clickbait, but I clicked anyway. The (very brief) article was about a woman named Brooke Birmingham, who you may have heard of already since she’s a member of the female triad popping up all over the digital space (sorry) this week. (The other two are Monica Lewinsky, because she’s “breaking her silence,” which I don’t think is as much silence as it is irrelevance, and Shailene Woodley, who everyone’s mad at for saying she’s not a feminist, at the same time overlooking the fact that she was born in the 1990s.)

Anyway, of the three, the only one I even slightly care two clicks about is Brooke Birmingham. Brooke lost a buttload of weight, which in more precise technical terms is about as much as the body weight of your average male barista. She’s blogged about her weight-loss journey for all 170 pounds  of it–as suggested by the hyperlinked word “blogged” in the article I was reading–and was contacted by Shape magazine to be featured in a story because they, like most people and institutions in this country, just go crazy over people getting thin–almost as much as they go crazy over people getting engaged, married, pregnant, or a new job title. I’m looking at you, LinkedIn.

If you’re into looking good, but more in a fitnessy-type way than a makeupy-fashiony way (a la Glamour, let’s say), then you probably have read or at least opened an issue of Shape, and are therefore plenty familiar with its contents. (Opening it once, even briefly, is all it takes to intimately know and understand it.) But if you aren’t into that sort of thing–snacks involving almond butter and arm exercises you can do at your desk with a pair of light weights, for example–I commend you but will not let you go through life any longer without knowing what Shape is all about:

Shape is a magazine that tells you what snacks (involving almond butter) to eat and what kind of arm exercises to do (at your desk) with a pair of light weights.

I know this because I once subscribed to Shape during a period in my life when I was both super into fitness and (presumably) super into throwing money away on something that takes two minutes to read and contains nothing that can’t be Googled during a slow day at work for free.

But back to Brooke. Brooke loses 170 pounds, is all set to be featured in this irrelevant but somewhat successful magazine, and as one of the final stages in the editorial process, the writer of the story asks her to send in an “After” photo to show off her new slim and trim figure. Brooke sends one of herself in a bikini because that’s what After photos look like–we’ve seen the Hydroxy Cut commercials. The writer, however, rejects it and asks that she send another of herself with more clothes on, citing Shape’s editorial policy to use only photos of the Weight-Loss Story women in short-sleeved tees. (I’m paraphrasing, but I call bullshit on that. Shape has since attempted to distance itself from this writer, making it clear that she’s freelance–a kind of dirty term in the publishing world that often implies shame, inferiority, at least three roommates, and ramen–and spouted off things that are not in line with Shape’s actual policies or editorial decisions. I’m paraphrasing, but I also call bullshit on that.)

So then this picture of Brooke in her fairly modest two-piece (as far as two-piece bathing suits go) is leaked or, more likely, just purposefully sent out into the digi-sphere, and right away all is made clear. If you were already aware of everything I’ve been going on about this entire time, then you probably already know this part too: Brooke, 170 pounds thinner Brooke, has a lot of excess skin–because that’s what happens when you lose a lot of weight. Some of your skin simply has nowhere to go; it becomes orphan skin. Because of this, Brooke’s stomach is not taut and chiseled neatly into six sections. It is sagging, wrinkled, and laced with stretch marks. It is not the picture of weight loss that we’re used to seeing, and it does not tell the story that we like to hear and believe and tell ourselves about losing lots of weight–not because it’s not accurate, but for the very reason it is. I know this firsthand, and this is the part where things get personal and maybe a little deep.

When I was 17, I made the courageous decision to stop eating ice cream on graham crackers every night. (I’m making light of it, but really, that happened.) I was a chub and had been for most of my life, but with college looming in the not-so-distant future, a future abundant with possibility and adventure, I knew somewhere in my adolescent psyche that I wouldn’t do half of the things I wanted to do with my life if I remained as fat as I was. (For the record, I still feel the sting of the word “fat,” but I don’t think there’s an adequate synonym to use in its place, which will be a talking point at the next party I go to, surely). I don’t mean that being fat prevents a person from living a fulfilling life; that isn’t and will never be true. But it would have prevented me. I’m not saying that’s something to be proud of, because it probably isn’t (though recognizing it might be). But that’s how it was and, if I’m being honest, still is.

In any case, I cooled it with the ice cream/graham cracker combo (clean since ’03!) and started doing my mom’s step aerobics VHS after school. The step aerobics were led by a man with a blonde mullet in shiny nylon spandex; I persevered in spite of it. When I went away to college, I upgraded to the campus gym, which remains to this day one of the scariest places I’ve ever been but also one of the most empowering. It became a kind of after-school hangout, especially since my roommate made our tiny dorm smell like feet and spent a lot of time talking loudly on the phone to someone named Jared. Also, there was a guy that I saw in the gym every day (except Sunday–hungover prob) who became known among my friends as Gym Guy.

Gym Guy was not like how you’re imagining him. He was not meaty or muscly. He didn’t even really look like an athlete. He was just a tall, thin, regular-looking guy with glasses who always wore a navy blue t-shirt and long black shorts and would run at a leisurely pace on the treadmill for, by my calculation (via peripheral vision), no fewer than 8 miles. Every day. He made it look so easy and relaxing, and I found myself choosing the treadmill next to him or behind him so that I could watch–not in a sexual way (not even vaguely), but in an inspirational, Olympic athlete way. He became my unknowing informal trainer. I wanted to be able to run as far and for as long as Gym Guy and then, like him, look totally chillax afterwards and strut away like nothing happened.

January 1, 2006 was the first day I ran on the treadmill. It was probably only for a mile or two but it felt like 1,000 and made me feel like a million-plus bucks. Six-and-a-half years later, I ran my first (and currently only) half-marathon. I was also about 115 pounds lighter than I had been when I started back in the step aerobics era. But since that loss happened pretty slowly over the course of a half-decade or more, it never felt that monumental to me. It also happened during some of the most formative years of my life, so it was very much central to who I was–and am. I didn’t much think about it; it just was.

And there’s another side to this too. Even though I had lost over 100 pounds (at my thinnest I was 120 pounds down, but things happen–desk jobs, nachos, etc.), I still didn’t feel great about myself. Outwardly I looked good, even better than good, especially to people who had known me at my heaviest. But my body wasn’t pretty; at least I didn’t think so. I had “orphan” excess skin–not too much, but enough to stand in the way of some of my more shallow desires like, oh, wearing a bikini, just to pull one out of the air. To this day, the last time I wore a stomach-bearing swimsuit was the summer of 1992, and even then I felt like I didn’t quite have the physique to pull it off.

After the joy of each milestone–fitting into a single-digit size, watching my prom dress billow around me like an oversized Snuggie when I tried it on several years later, running a 9-minute mile–the same old feeling of grossness and shame would set in after awhile and feed like a parasite on my self-esteem. I was frustrated with myself and occasionally–more often than I’d like to admit–disgusted. On paper, I had done everything right; I ate kale and similarly obnoxious healthy stuff, I cut out most of the bad, I exercised in an often overly devoted manner, combining cardio and strength-training like all the gurus said. And yet I hadn’t won. I didn’t have the perfect body. I didn’t have a beautiful body. I didn’t even have a just-okay body. I was a failure. I was ugly.

I wish I could write here that those feelings are behind me now. They aren’t, and I feel a little ashamed about that because the more self-aware and emotionally intelligent part of me knows that there’s nothing ugly about me. And besides that, “ugly” is an entirely made-up concept. Nothing can be ugly on its own. And yet it’s one thing to understand this on an intellectual level, and quite another to live and think as though I know it’s true, to apply it to my everyday life–particularly when that everyday life exists within a culture that is so hyperconscious of bodies and so obsessed with ideas about beauty and non-beauty.

Which brings me back to Brooke Birmingham and the now infamous rejected-by-Shape photo. When I saw her picture the other day, my inner voice shouted something at me that I’ve always known but never really took to heart. Seeing her standing there smiling proudly made me realize what I, no one else–not magazines like Shape, not Victoria’s Secret billboards, not society at large (though they probably didn’t help)–have been depriving myself of all these years. I’ve never celebrated or even lightly patted myself on the back for what I did for myself. I’ve never taken time to appreciate the fact that I’ve probably warded off a handful of health problems (at least for now) that I may have gotten sooner had I stayed on the ice cream/graham cracker path. I’ve never allowed myself to see Pretty (of the Unassuming Sort) Me, because I’ve always been so fixated on what I saw as the ugly parts, even when it was–and is–those imperfections that tell a story that is actually kind of wonderful, and also important, integral to who I am. All these years I’ve been depriving myself of peace and the freedom to truly enjoy my life. To like myself.

These are all things I should probably be spouting off to a therapist instead of a blog. But I wanted to talk about Brooke Birmingham in a way that seemed right and honest to me. Really, I don’t care all that much about the Shape (freelance) writer (initially) rejecting her picture. We know why that happened, and it sucks. People suck and society sucks and notions of beauty suck and that probably won’t ever change. But I do care about Brooke’s pride and positivity, her confidence and disregard for everything women have been told about what they should look like, and the guts it took to send in that photo, even if she doesn’t realize it. This might be something that only someone who has dealt or is dealing with significant weight issues can truly understand, but it was really important for me to see that picture.

That’s not to say I feel “beautiful” now. I don’t, and I probably won’t tomorrow or the next day or even a few months from now. But I know now that I need to try to get there. After seeing Brooke, I looked down at my own self and thought, for the first time in maybe ever, “So what? It’s just skin.” And it’s mine.

That Moment When

Have you ever been somewhere, anywhere–a grocery store, the subway, Subway, etc.–and there’s an individual who, for whatever reason, you just automatically, instinctually dislike? They aren’t doing anything in particular that might conceivably be called bothersome to you or anyone else. They appear to be a rational, reasonable, perfectly unoffensive human being. They might be saying normal human being things. And for a moment or two, you wonder if you’re a terrible human being for not liking them when you don’t even know–

When suddenly, before you can even finish the thought (hence the dramatically interrupted sentence signaled by the em dash above), he or she does something that confirms every unfavorable feeling you (seemingly) unjustifiably harbored? And then you feel gloriously vindicated, absolved, and downright smug that your intuition is so spot-on?

You are probably shaking your head no.

In any case, this happened to me today at approximately 8:56 am on the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central Station. There was this guy, presumably of college age, wearing a seersucker blazer and Vans (I made sure to take note of this illogical outfit choice to, you know, reinforce my stance here). He was telling his friend, who was in a business suit that looked too adult on his lankiness, that he was going to be “so late” to his class, which was law-related and in a lecture hall that was apparently intimidatingly crowded. He’d be disturbing all 435 of his classmates, he explained, guffawing, as I wondered if 435 was the actual number or a lawyer joke referring to Congress. It was probably at this point that I decided I didn’t like him and was trying to figure out exactly what it was about him that made this so, and if my not liking him meant I was an inherently mean-spirited and judgmental son of a bee sting, when the Moment happened. The Moment that proved my instincts right, and thus made the world make sense once more: this guy, this twenty-something-old law student in the seersucker blazer, turned his head to the left and sneezed big and proud into the over-populated subway car. I imagined microscopic residue raining down on all of us as I shot him a death scowl that went unnoticed.

So, I was right. That’s my whole point.

Tuesday Report

Dear World,

It’s only 7:20 a.m., and I already have two complaints.

1. After getting out of the shower about 40 minutes ago, there was a loud clap of thunder that startled me and turned my fingers to sticks of butter, which then spilled most of the contents of a $35 bottle of Moroccan hair oil. I know this is the definition of “first world problems,” but if your hair and credit card bill looked like mine do, you’d be upset too.

2. When I came to this blog to write down the above, dancing in my right sidebar was an ad for Adecco, the company I blame for my year of poverty. Thanks for nothing, you nincompoops. Now get off my blog.

Love,

Colleen

Life Lately, According to My Drafts Folder

Every so often when I’m sitting at my desk editing test questions for America’s youth and feeling drunk with power, an idea about what to write in here will come to me, and so as not to lose that little glimmering nugget of inspiration, I will quickly jot it down in an email and save it to my Drafts folder. Naturally, I never actually take the time to turn these ideas into developed pieces of writing, and as a result, my Drafts folder starts to look and feel really unwieldy:

Drafts (921)

Full disclosure? I’m not going to turn any of them into blog posts. I’m just not, and I think it’s time I admit this to myself, clean out my oppressively long Drafts folder, and mentally start anew. Still, I thought I owed it to this blog to at least let it know what it’s missing out on. So in no particular order and without attention to grammar or punctuation, I’ve listed some below. Editor’s notes and explanations are provided in bracketed italics.

Highlights From My Drafts (a.k.a Inspiration) Folder, Volume 1.

  • Where did my collar bone go? [Ed. Note: Can’t see it so much anymore. Really demoralizing.]
  • Local man hasn’t exercised in two years out of consideration for his downstairs neighbors [Ed. Note: Ask me about this and you won’t be sorry. In general I am not a funny person, but I have my moments and this idea proves it.]
  • Blowing nose like she’s trying to push a cork out of it [Ed. Note: I don’t remember what this is about and maybe I should be grateful for that.]
  • Starbucks changed their oatmeal ingredients? Is this real or some SoHo Starbucks absurdity? If latter, SoHo needs to get off high horse and give back brown sugar. If former, I hate Starbucks.  [Ed. Note: But seriously, if they’re going to replace brown sugar with agave syrup shit then what’s the point?]
  • My car . . . [Ed. Note: . . . ]
  • I’m sick of having to do a dance to get a job in this town [Ed. Note: Not meant literally, but interesting concept for a performance art piece, maybe.]
  • Never-ending NY winter, my body is crapping out [Ed. Note: I think I was referring again to my broken clump of hair, which I’ve written about here before because I’m not rational enough to realize that broken hair is neither a trauma nor a symptom of an incurable disease.
  • Plot holes in Harry Potter: how do they know math since all of their classes are on magic??? [Ed. Note: Got you, J.K. Rowling.]
  • Questions about Harry Potter: is it a socioeconomic commentary? Focus is on wizard skills, college education is for stupid Muggles who don’t know any better! [Ed. Note: This is one dissertation that academia should want written.]
  • I don’t like when people refer to things as “spaces” that aren’t actually concrete spaces, like “digital space” or “health care space.” [Ed. Note: Rampant trend on LinkedIn.]
  • I’m going to start using dial-up AOL again to get back at social media. [Ed. Note: Boom!]
  • The only two things I remember about that interview are the phone call from her mom and the hard-boiled egg on her desk. [Ed. Note: Rest of story to be published in my memoirs, forthcoming, 2044]
  • Course catalog: Beyonce Studies? [Ed. Note: It’s only a matter of time until this dream becomes reality, and to that I say, you’re welcome, college students everywhere.]

So there you have them. Blog posts that will never be written. Stay tuned for Volume 2 (inevitable), as well as what I’m planning on being a very dramatic, emotional piece on my three-month journey with Harry Potter: #sobbyoverdobby.

Meat, Mormons, and My Broken Clump of Hair: A Lenten Meditation

I’ve known for a long time that my relationship with religion is fraught at best. I don’t know how or why or at what point this happened, but here is an example of how our complicated relations are manifested most currently:

This past Wednesday–Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which for priests is the equivalent of the Christmas season–I overheard coworkers discussing the Catholic Church’s Lenten dietary restrictions. It was a little painful for me because they were trying to make sense of these restrictions, which is probably one of the top five least productive things one can do. I wanted to tell them as much but refrained because a) it’s dangerous to talk religion at work, especially when you are a freelancer, and b) I had a stuffy nose and talking would require removing my carefully positioned wad of tissues from my face. (That is actually the real reason.) Anyway, as one of my colleagues was explaining that afternoon, the Church prohibits eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. The non-Catholics in the room were aghast. (On the contrary, mostly every Catholic I’ve ever known has either not questioned or hasn’t cared enough to question this rule–but a quick dip into Google will tell you that its origins lie in customs of the early Middle Ages rather than spiritual convictions. But that’s besides the point.)

The point is what went through my head when another coworker contended that Catholics are allowed to eat capybara, which happens to be the world’s largest rodent and, therefore, definitely a creature whose physiological makeup is meat. It would seem, then, that the Church was being contradictory, everyone else retaliated with a tone of “Haha, ridiculous!” Scowling behind the walls of my cubicle, I immediately performed a cursory Internet search of this capybara nonsense, and my suspicions were confirmed: Hundreds of years ago, in response to the pleading of missionaries, the Church issued a special dispensation to allow Catholics in Venezuela, where capybara has apparently always been popular fare, to continue eating the rodent during Lent, thereby preventing mass starvation. The powers-that-be in Rome bent the laws of biology a bit and classified capybara as a fish on the grounds that they swim a lot.* (Fair.) So, I thought as I shook my head, it’s not like the Catholic Church had a special vendetta against capybara–they were being deliberately, selectively inconsistent in their lawmaking in order to save the lives of an entire population of converts that bolstered their power in the region! It was the right thing to do! Jeez. (His nickname.)

Approximately four hours later on that first Lenten eve, I went home and heated up a container of leftover meat-infused chili and ate all of it, scraping out every nook and cranny of the tupperware with Tostitos. Ten feet away, my mom played Bingo on her iPad, oblivious to her daughter’s sin. “I don’t care,” I mumbled quietly to my boyfriend through a mouthful of tortilla chip and chili, “It’s a baseless, made-up rule and the doctor said I need to eat more red meat.” I don’t think it would be an irrelevant digression to explain here that several hours earlier, I had discovered a small clump of hair on the side of my head that was noticeably and considerably shorter than the rest–probably half the length. I realized that one of my oft-repeated nightmares, and something my doctor had, in fact, warned me about three years prior during my bidecadal checkup, was coming true: breakage. The lethal combination of iron deficiency and aggressive amounts of heat applied to my frizzy mane on a daily basis had finally reached its apex–and in my mind, the only antidote was more red meat starting that very day and not a day later. I also really like my mom’s chili.

Of course, there are countless things wrong with my logic (or lack thereof) in the situations described above. In a six-hour window, I had felt protective of the Church’s rather arbitrary conception and implementation of canon law, and then rejected it on the grounds that it was arbitrary, and then tried to use this intellectual rejection to serve my own vanity. That’s what I mean when I say that my relationship with religion is messed up and impossible to articulate because I’m not even sure what it is. And this leads me to another religious subplot that has been playing out in my life for the past several months: my friendship (I will call it that for lack of a better word) with Mormon missionaries.

It started over the summer when the local missionaries in my boyfriend’s Brooklyn neighborhood texted him to say they were new to the area and to please let him know if he needed any assistance with anything, ever! (Brief aside: It would probably be helpful to note that my boyfriend is an ex-Mormon, but the Church still has his records.) He politely informed them that he didn’t consider himself Mormon anymore, but that his girlfriend (that’s me!) might be interested in learning about the church. (That was true.) And so it began. For a few months we met with the missionaries, two bubbly, exceedingly friendly blonde girls, on a weekly basis, and they would do their best to teach me about God, who they call Heavenly Father and believe is our literal father in that he made us in the old-fashioned way with the help of a celestial woman, Heavenly Mother. (I never got the details on Heavenly Mother and I chose not to press the issue because the whole idea creeped me out a little. I also didn’t bother telling the missionaries that, as a child, I was uncomfortable referring to God as “Father” because I felt like it undermined my real dad. But anyway. )

From the beginning, I was honest with the missionaries about my true intentions–I didn’t want to convert, I only wanted to learn their history and beliefs. Since I was little, I’ve been fascinated by “subcultures,” I guess you could say; when I was eight or so, I read nothing but books on the Amish for months. The Mormon story is a very compelling one, mostly because Joseph Smith sounds nuts in ways both good and bad, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. (I mean it in a way you might call someone on the Olympic skeleton team “nuts,” for instance.) Aside from that, learning about Mormons would be, in effect, getting inside my boyfriend’s head and thus one step closer to legilimency.**

However, the missionaries took my intentions just as that–intentions, which are, by definition, fluid and subject to change. As the weeks wore on, it became clear to me that they weren’t going to take my alleged lack of spiritual interest lying down. And to be fair, maybe I did have some spiritual interest–just not the kind that would result in baptism, which I’ve discovered firsthand is the goal of any missionary even if they claim otherwise (their stated objective is “to invite others to consider the truthfulness of the message they share”).  In any case, every time we met, the missionaries would ask me to pray or ask if I had prayed or ask how I prayed, all questions I was unable to answer in a satisfactory way. I knew I was at once confounding and frustrating (mostly frustrating) to them. I thought they’d eventually give up. They didn’t. They haven’t.

The last time I met with the missionaries was shortly before Thanksgiving. Both girls have since been transferred elsewhere to work their goodhearted magic in other boroughs. But I continue to get texts from the new missionaries, one of whom I met only once, briefly. (The other I’ve never met.) They remind me about church, they invite me to baptisms and other events (“linger longers,” for example, which stretch a three-hour Sunday ordeal into a five-hour one), they offer to give me lessons on salvation via Skype. (This is a savvy tactic on their end, but alas, my web cam is broken and now I will never get it fixed so that I don’t have to lie about it.) I’ve turned them down on all occasions, but not because I don’t appreciate their efforts. I do appreciate them, and I even understand them; at the most practical level, they wouldn’t be doing their job if they just let me go without a fight.

I wonder, though–about them and about me. Mostly me. The missionaries believe, presumably, that since I am a decent person (or at least the appearance of one), I’ll change and become Mormon if I just pray with a sincere heart and desire to know the “truth.” And I wonder what made me a person who is so completely uninterested in doing that. Similarly, I wonder why I resist so many things proclaimed by Catholicism, the religion with which I was raised, including but not limited to the Lenten meat abstention rule. That rule in particular is ridiculously easy to follow, especially if you compare it to the dietary laws of other religions, some of which sound downright mean. Let’s take the Mormons, since I’m already talking about them: they can’t drink any of my favorite beverages–coffee, tea, margaritas, etc. And I don’t even like meat. One would think I’d just go with it and shut up. I should shut up.

I don’t know. What I do know is that the most spiritual book I’ve read lately is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I think Patronuses are angels and I hope the truth is Dumbledore. Think about it.

And I’ll leave you with that.

 

 

 

 

 

* There’s a good chance I misunderstood the capybara dispensation, so don’t take any of what I said as gospel (word play!).

** My first-ever Harry Potter allusion

Chillin’ in ma crib; subtitle: Sick Days in the Time of Obama

Hangin in ma crib

 

 

 

 

 

This is me just chillin’ in ma crib circa 1987. (As a professional proofreader–I know–I feel it’s my responsibility to let you know that I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a comma before “circa,” so I’m leaving it out in the spirit of throwing caution to the wind.) Like the me pictured in the above photo, 27-year-old me has also been chillin’ in my crib for the past five days; and also like the me pictured in the above photo, 27-year-old me is not enthused.

Before I get into the gritty tale, let me provide some essential background info:

  • I have not been sick, really sick, in over a decade. The last time was when I came down with “mono” my senior year of high school, and I put “mono” in quotes like that because it wasn’t even real mono, it was the residue of mono. Like, the doctor actually said, “You don’t have mono right now, but you had it at some point fairly recently. Now get out of my office.” Just kidding about the last part–but it would have been fitting because I really had no business having a doctor’s appointment seeing as how I was still averaging one Coffee Coolatta a day and I’m pretty sure I ate Burger King at least one time. I took a week off from school anyway. You know, to avoid exposing my peers to the dormant virus lurking inside my person.
  • The last time I was sort of sick was Valentine’s Day 2012. I had received a Groupon offer for fried chicken and knitting classes that morning (not important to the story) and started feeling woozy at work around lunch time. I took off, drove home in silence with fingers gripping the steering wheel in nausea and despair, and then collapsed in my bed fully clothed. My Valentine’s Day night was spent listening to The Long Island Medium marathon with my eyes closed. I felt completely fine the next day, which is why I always took this for a symbolic, Gilbert & Gubar-type illness rather than a physiological lapse in immune defenses.
  • I am a germophobe, or at least a selective germophobe. I don’t leave my house without hand sanitizer and, if I’m being honest about it, I’m not even that keen on sharing a toilet seat with my family members. But it is what it is I guess.

And despite this outstanding track record of health and germophobic paranoia–

When my alarm went off at 5:30 AM on Wednesday morning, I felt a little weird. It wasn’t a clearly defined “sick” kind of weird, though. It felt more like indigestion, which I immediately attributed to the “Very Green Juice” from Trader Joe’s that is notorious for making my stomach feel like I have tiny little Lilliputians using the inner lining of my stomach as a punching bag. (You’ve been warned.) But to make an otherwise-boring-story-that-I-could-draw-out short, I ended up fainting–“How 19th century of you,” my best friend texted back with empathy–in my hallway, which understandably freaked out my parents, brother, and dog, who had been initially pissed off because I was late letting her out for her morning poop. Also, being the basketcase hypochondriac I am, I immediately thought I had some kind of terminal illness. This, as it turned out, is not the case.

And this was just the beginning of a very long and now hazy day spent sleeping in the fetal position, throwing up in the fetal position, and yes, cursing Obama in the fetal position because there’s a $200 doctor’s bill in the mail with my name on it all so a qualified healthcare professional could assure me that I was not, in fact, dying, and so that I could throw up in that qualified healthcare professional’s garbage pail. 

I won’t fill this post with Obamacare vitriol because I know how that story goes. In 2002–2003 I earned myself a lot of mean-spirited DeadJournal comments due to my take on drilling in ANWR (a hot-button issue back then, especially among the 16-year-old demographic), so I will not make the same mistake twice. But I will say that if this was, say, three months ago, I would not have a $200 doctor’s bill, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, I probably wouldn’t have even gotten sick in the first place. You heard it here first, Fox & Friends–and for the right price, my story could be your new morning cause.

But I digress. The key point of this post is that I have not left my house in five days and I have exhausted all of my media outlets and, as a result, have gone a bit crazy. A couple days ago I even watched an hour-long podcast on my laptop, which is ridiculous because not only do I hate watching anything on my laptop, I also don’t listen to podcasts, much less watch them. But I did that. I succumbed to that. I also spent three hours on a Tumblr called “Old Loves,” which blew my mind way more than I thought it would because Kim Kardashian and Nick Cannon? And Bill Maher and anyone?

Another inexplicable thing that happened is that last night, when I finally got my appetite back, my boyfriend asked if there was anything he could pick up for dinner on his way over. And I, the girl who tries to stick to elitist foods like kale and Greek yogurt and niche, overpriced snacks that shouldn’t even be sold in the first place (like “seaweed chips”), and I, the girl who is supposed to be on a strict-bordering-on-irresponsible bridesmaid diet, only wanted Wendy’s. “Maybe get me one of everything,” I said. “A burger, plain though. Maybe a chicken sandwich too, and chicken nuggets, and I guess throw in a salad just because I should throw my body a bone. But not a salad with just vegetables, because the thought of eating just vegetables makes me nauseous. It has to have another ingredient in it. Oh, and a Frosty. The Frosty is the most important thing. And the burger. And fries.”

He showed up to my door 45 minutes and 22 dollars later: “Here’s your bouquet of burgers.” (He also brought me an actual bouquet because he’s a sweet, thoughtful boyfriend and not because I told him, “If you don’t bring flowers I’m not letting you in.” And suddenly I feel like nothing I’ve written in this post portrays me in a positive light.)

So, needless to say, the few days I’ve spent cooped up in my bedroom watching the same episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and sipping Gatorade has been a life-altering experience, and not just because I’m $200 poorer for no good reason (I’m going to keep reiterating that point just in case Tucker Carlson happens to stumble upon this blog). It’s made me appreciate what I’m about to do today (go to Target for a new toothbrush because my old one has norovirus on it) and tomorrow (go to work and make back all the money I’ve lost while camping out in my bedchamber like a rabid animal in a cave, because that’s what I imagine is in caves).

Also, I’m not sure if this a coincidence or not, but my hair has never looked better.

A Blog Post Has Never Been More Necessary Than Right Now

Something glorious, positively glorious, happened this weekend. Before you start wondering what this something is, let me tell you what it is not:

  • It is not me seeing Waiting for Godot with Vince Vaughn. Of course, he does not know we saw it together, as he was seated across the aisle. But for a brief moment our eyes met and I furrowed my brow at him and he quickly looked away, and I felt a little bad but also happy because Vince Vaughn saw me! However mentally disturbed it may appear in his mind’s eye, he knows this face exists! (Also, I told Billy Crudup, “Really loved the show!” and he replied, “Good.” We might do a Panera dinner later in the week.)
  • It is not the puppy Budweiser commercial. In general I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of using innocent puppies to sell alcohol, especially the kind that tastes like feet, but in this case I’ll excuse it because that puppy is all kinds of adorable. God shouldn’t have even made a puppy that cute. Too emotionally exhausting to look at.
  • It is not my 90s-nostalgia-inducing haircut. My haircut was a glorious thing in theory, as it was meant to be a symbol of the sassiness that is to come in 2014, but a few errors in judgment led to the atrocity that is now seated very comfortably on my head. It’s fine. It’s whatever. It’s completely okay that my boyfriend just played Wilson Phillips from the bathroom and then followed it up with the text, “This song is dedicated to your haircut.”

No, the glorious thing that happened was something even better, something long-awaited and beautiful and the culmination of so many years of AIM conversations, pictures of Clark Gable, hanging out in Dunkin Donuts on weekend nights, dieting for the wrong reasons, “boy territory,” sushi dinners, 100 things to do with a leftover hotdog, and everything in between: my best friend got engaged.

There’s nothing I can say that will accurately convey how much love I feel in my heart right now and how excited I am for all the wonderful things that are to come, so I won’t even try. Instead I will share a short excerpt from a letter Mary wrote to me at the end of 2009, which was the first year we decided to write each other Christmas letters and read them over lunch at the Olive Garden:

“I…have successfully completed a year of relationship bliss with John. As you know, he is one of my long-time crushes…who miraculously ended up being a pretty darn good boyfriend pick.” 

And, as it turns out, a pretty darn good husband pick too. (I knew it this whole time. Really, I did!) So cheers and so many hugs to two of the most wonderful people I know who(m?) I love dearly and who were truly made for each other. (I knew it this whole time. Really, I did!) I’m just so excited for everything. Happy! Love! Wedding!

About My Ignored Reply to a Craigslist Ad

I’ve taken to re-editing my old papers from grad school. I think this is my way of trying to “get back on the saddle” (or is it “the horse”?) after someone, presumably a man, ignored my reply to his Craigslist ad for a qualified professional to edit an article on urinary tract infections. (Forgive me for my somewhat sexist assumption. If you had seen the ad, the truth would be plain.) I edited the hell out of that thing (really, urinery track infection?) and have been greeted with nothing but silence in turn. Soul-crushing, existential-crisis-inducing silence.

It’s not like I expected an instantaneous reply extolling me as a wordsmith, exactly. There are, of course, plenty of people out there in the world who, like me, check Craigslist on a daily basis looking for quick opportunities to professionally degrade themselves, and who are perfectly capable of editing short articles on urinary tract infections. That’s the thing about editing, and maybe most other jobs too. Not everyone can be a really good editor (I do not make any claims to this title, though my work on an exposé of ionized water, copyright 2011, will dazzle you), but a lot of people can be just-okay editors and somehow, and somewhat unjustly, coast through life and bring in the Benjamins* without ever knowing, truly knowing, the rules of comma placement. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that I’m in the midst of confronting the harsh reality that my edited article on urinary tract infections was not a standout piece worthy of formal recognition via a check made out in my name for $45. And I’m not really sure where I go from here.

So this is why on 9 A.M. on a Saturday morning I opened my desk drawer, pulled out a file labeled “Grad Skool Stuff Zzzz,” and started reading the letter on top, which is dated 2010 and starts off with, “Dear Colleen Day, I offer the following comments with a view to helping a fine article become a truly important one.” I never took this editor’s advice, mostly because at the time it was in my best interest to put all my efforts towards finding paid employment rather than revising a 10,000-word essay on the “eschatological concerns” of Irish Catholic fiction. (That sentence would make every professor I’ve ever had weep. Also, if you’re wondering what “eschatological” means, you can stop wondering because I just looked it up and it’s not important.) But I can’t help but think, what if I had gone in that unpractical, seemingly fruitless direction? Where would I be now? Would I be clicking on ads that say “WANTED: PERSONAL ASISTANT/TYPIST!!!!”? (For what it’s worth, I’m an excellent typist.) The answer is probably still “yes,” but it’s impossible to know for sure.

So maybe I’ll delve into my scholarly pursuits of yesteryear and re-learn how to use words like “foment” (page 7) and “diasporic” (page 11) and produce a piece of writing that probably at least 11 or 12 people would read. It will be an intellectual and literary exercise, a way of proving to myself and to every Craigslist ad I’ve ever replied to that I am capable, and smart, and that I know my way around Thesaurus.com like a boss. I will pick up right where I left off, as though I’m still a fairly energetic, hopeful 23-year-old whose world is her oyster and who believes in untangling the mysteries of the Irish Catholic mind through the study of literature.

But first I’ve just gotta reply to this ad for a gaming/hip-hop blogger.

*Alternatively: greenbacks, bread, hundies, Kraft singles, stacks, scrilla, cabbage (not very common).**

**I googled “slang terms for money” while conducting research for my hip-hop blogger application.

Live From My Bedroom, It’s 2014

I had sort of halfheartedly planned to write a kind of “New Year’s reflection” here, but on the last day of 2013 I was in Las Vegas putting more effort into shopping for a festive, Las-Vegas-appropriate, yet modest party shirt* than on turning inward to self-examine; and on the first day of 2014 I was still in Las Vegas and still didn’t do any reflecting because I was too busy sleeping, sitting, and finally, sleeping again. And now it’s 19 days later and the only thing I’ve really thought long and hard about in recent weeks is how to tactfully word a long letter to Obama in protest of my new monthly premium.

I have (just now), however, compiled a short, unimpressive list of things I’d like to do this year because I’m 27 and I feel my life slipping away since I have to take fiber pills now and can no longer fit into $9 jeans. This list is also inspired by a rather dismal 2013 spent lamenting my lack of financial freedom and clear career path–as well as the fact that I have to use a screwdriver to get my car out of park–instead of appreciating what I do have: good health, a job, and a screwdriver, for starters.

What I Plan to Do in 2014 to Make Up for What I Did Not Do in 2013 and Probably the All the Other Years Before That, Too:

1. Read the Harry Potter series. Because I think knowing what a “Dementor” is will free me from the social isolation and alienation I so often feel.

2. Save money (yes, I am putting this after Harry Potter). Recently it was pointed out to me that saving $20 a week works out to over $1,000 a year. “Oh, whoa,” I said, since, as a rule, I don’t really bother with math. But now that I know the math, I also know this means I’ll have to cut back on my H&M scarf purchases. Consider it done.

3. Go to a museum or something like that. A part of me used to really like museums, or at least one museum in particular that I can think of. In high school, my friends and I had this weird sort of affinity with the Chinese Scholar’s Garden at the Met, and a handful of times we took the train into The City to walk around the place and make fun of really valuable and historically significant artifacts and works of art. (We also went to the Met because of our creepy fascination with one of the cashiers in the cafeteria, but I can’t get into that here, now or ever.) I was reminded of how much fun this was when, while looking through my own Facebook pictures on a (clearly) slow Saturday afternoon, I saw that one of the first-ever tagged photos of me is this:

bust

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to think that these days I waste my weekend afternoons on things like reorganizing my underwear drawer, researching the job market in Denmark, and doing unnecessarily long and ineffective ab workouts (I’m talking to you, Tony Horton) when I should really be experiencing the histories and mysteries of ancient worlds and filling my head with knowledge that will help me shout out the answer before the contestants on Jeopardy!

Let’s go to a freaking museum. Only maybe this time try not to be so irreverent about it. Maybe.

4. Make more money. People say that money isn’t everything, and of course they’re right. Still, money is something, and any person who denies that probably has so much money that they’ve forgotten how it works. I don’t want to be rich, because I think being rich leads to things like rehab or, worse, wearing fur vests and leather pants to the dentist like it’s normal. So I don’t need or want a lot of money, just a reasonable amount so that I can move out of my childhood bedroom before I’m 30 and occasionally get brunch in Brooklyn at one of those Brooklyny brunchy places and not feel completely destitute afterwards. That’s all.

5. Acquire a skill that will enable #4.  As I write this, I have exactly zero lucrative skills (that I know of). And despite what so many editorials in The Atlantic will tell you, I have yet to come across a single employer who gives a poop about “critical thinkers”  and “self-motivated, lifelong learners,” which is more or less the extent of what I offer. But 2014 is the year I change that. I don’t know how, exactly; I haven’t thought much about it until just now because it’s boring to think about. HTML? Is that a thing still?

6. Stop dwelling on those two months in 2009 when I could fit into a size 4. It’s not going to happen again. It just isn’t. I was still a student in 2009 and could work out for two hours a day and eat fruit for lunch because there was no need to catch a “second wind” at 3 p.m. It wasn’t a real size 4 anyway; it was a New York & Company size 4. And it isn’t going to happen again. It just isn’t.

7. Drink more tea. Because I want to be one of those people who drink tea.

8. See more a movies. I don’t see many movies–not because I don’t like movies, but because movies are just getting really long, right? But there have been times in my life, like last night for instance**, when I’ve seen a movie that just tears your heart apart and then puts it back together and hugs it, and you feel like your life just became a little different. And even if you stop thinking about it the next day, or the next week, or the next month, and even if you never think about it again, breaking out into heaving sobs (or, alternatively, pittling a little bit from laughing) in the darkness of a movie theater is actually quite a lovely thing because it means you felt connected to something that someone else, a bunch of strangers, created. You got it, and it got you. And in a world besot by Two and a Half Men and Vanderpump Rules, sometimes we need that.

9. Rekindle my fizzling relationship with New York City. Like many, many people from all over the world and every single female who watched Felicity as an adolescent, I always felt pulled towards New York City. I wanted to go to school there, work there, live there. But then I started commuting there for work last year, and it quickly became the worst place on earth. I spent the latter half of 2013 resenting all the wealthy SoHoians with nothing better to do with their time than crowd the streets with their oversized shopping bags; the aggressive, grumpy commuters pouring into and out of Penn Station and shoving past me on the escalator in a way that suggests an escalator is not, as is my understanding, meant for standing still as you escalate; and whichever executive at Dean & Deluca decided $7 is a reasonable price to pay for a granola bar. But at some point in the past few weeks, and prompted by what I don’t know, I realized how very sad this is. Sure, New York City is an overrated and frequently overwhelmingly awful place, but some day when I’m not here anymore and working as a cocktail waitress at a Las Vegas casino, I’m going to miss it. More than that, I’m going to regret spending so much time hating it instead of relishing the fact that I’m living like at least 35 percent of my 12-year-old self’s dream just by being here. So 2014 is going to be the year that I learn to re-like New York City and make the most of its virtues (so much unreasonable footwear!) and vices (have to walk so many places in unreasonable footwear!).

I was just about to end the list there and sign off, but I realized I left out probably the most important one of all: 10. I want to write more–maybe in this blog and maybe not in this blog. Because even if I’m not very good or interesting or funny, writing has always made me feel most like myself. It can also be a lot of fun, especially if you have some time to kill between when you wake up and when your boyfriend wakes up (such as right now). And if 2013 felt weird to me, which I’m pretty sure it did, it was because I wasn’t doing this enough, just chatting with myself. It feels nice.

So I’m going to end this now so I can get out there, and you know, L-I-V-E (read: go to Target because I need some Skintimate), but I’ll be back. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but I’ll be back.

 

*Such a shirt does not exist.

**This is my official endorsement of Her. So good that I was still crying during my post-movie pee.