“I don’t know how to ‘rate’ how I’m feeling. I don’t even f*@%ing want to be here.”
Seven heads shot up and stared at the redheaded woman in our circle. A few of us giggled nervously.
“You all have these cool projects you’re presenting, and I just don’t know what I’m doing here.”
Alyssa’s eyes watered and inwardly, we all applauded. Finally. An honest answer.
In an uncharacteristically social moment a few months earlier, I had accepted a friend’s invitation to a “Vegan Creatives” 5-day retreat on Cape Cod.
“I want to get a bunch of my vegan artist friends together to talk about our projects and brainstorm,” Shawna, the retreat mastermind, had explained. She and I had met the prior summer at my Masters program residency, where she had graciously overlooked my penchant for public urination.
Much like the cold sweats I experience when interviewing narcissists for school assignments, as the retreat neared, I began to shvitz. What was I thinking? I didn’t know the hostess or anyone going. Sure, I had my thesis project to present, but I was also in the throes of writing said thesis. Could I handle any more stress?
“JUST GO,” I told myself for the 9,000th time. “It’ll be good for you.”
Arrive at guest house. Meet three-legged, one-eyed dog and attractive vegans #1-7. Eat colorful food and receive unicorn name. Grow concerned that I seem to be having…what’s the word…fun. No. That can’t be it.
Convince Alyssa she too is having, well, whatever these feelings are. Begin stroking each other’s hair. Watch Tracy feed pet bee sugar water. Try to take photo without Dakota wearing a bowl. Unsuccessful.
Eat more colorful food, voluntarily touch beach garbage, and reevaluate entire existence. Can I vote using new unicorn name?
Learn that not only do new best friends save animals, sing, write, paint, cook, act, travel, scale mountains, rollerblade with bubbles and have kickass blogs, but the hostess, Allison Argo, has won half a dozen Emmys. Attempt to steal one.
Say goodbye. Ugly cry.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tuck my Emmy into bed.
Yesterday I had to interview someone for a grad school assignment.
Emphasis on “had” to.
Assignments like this send me, a 36-year-old introvert, into a cold sweat before the semester even begins. Especially when I land an interview with someone who has a very fancy title in a sector with which I am very unfamiliar.
I immediately took to Google. This man and I were from nearby towns and he was, I soon learned, just a few years older. We undoubtedly had acquaintances in common, changing the whole tenor of the interview. I found him on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube…I suddenly knew way too much about him before even meeting, reminiscent of my prolific dating days.
“Just chill out,” I told myself. “At least it’s not a date!”
Except it totally was. Coffee shop, late afternoon, two people with an agenda…
As soon as my interview subject -let’s call him Ted- arrived, he stuck out his hand and said,
“Hi Jessica, nice to meet you.”
Did he just say Jessica? We’d exchanged at least five emails prior to meeting. Perhaps I should rethink my signature.
He had the Book of Mormon-meets-Quasi-Casual-First-Date look down pat: pressed checkered button-down and perfectly coiffed hair, complemented by fitted slacks with matching belt and shoes.
“You know, I just came from the same coffee shop in [a nearby town],” he said, walking towards the counter. “I was meeting Mr. Mucky Pants from the Board. We had so much to discuss, I didn’t even get to have coffee.”
And thus began a 90-minute, name-drop-laden autobiography in which Ted was the unsung hero.
Beginning in 6th grade.
I managed to ask two of my eight questions.
Midway through, he veered -unprovoked- into his personal life, detailing his recent divorce.
“I’m a really happy guy,” he said repeatedly, with a razor sharp edge to his voice. “I played the role of the guy who tried to fix everything. I have a really long fuse, you know. But get this…”
Ted went on to describe his ex-wife’s grievances, and then how wonderfully everything worked out for him, because:
“I’m a really likable guy. I mean, really. I’m so easy to like.”
“Jury’s still out,” I replied before I could stop myself.
He plowed ahead, telling me about the amazing woman he’d met shortly thereafter, and I wondered how I’d ever get us back on track. He leaned across the table, his hands dangerously close to my Central Perk-sized latte. I angled back in my chair, legs crossed, my pen hovering over a small notepad. My heart rate picked up. The flashbacks came in nauseating waves.
…The guy who showed me YouTube clips where he surgically removed his big toenails…
…The guy who wanted to hook up because he and his wife were “on a break”…
…The guy who told me he only dated “German girls”…
…The guy who said his mother made him “scared of sex”…
“So the next day, Ms. Fancy Drawers called and said she RECOMMENDED me to the Board.”
I snapped back into the moment. Ted was still going.
“This woman has met the president and the pope, you know? Yeah so that was exactly 17 years ago today. That’s right. I was sitting in her office, seeing smoke across the Hudson.”
I nodded and scribbled in my notepad while Ted talked about how hard 9/11 had been for him, personally, on the very day of his esteemed new role.
“Do you have kids?”
Wha…did he just ask ME a question?
“No,” I replied, sitting up straight. “But I do have a d–”
“Well, I have two,” he said. “You need to show kids that THEY’RE IN CONTROL of how they react to everything. You know? Shit happens.”
“Thank you again for your time,” I said when he finally paused to take another sip of his artisan cold brew. I also gave silent thanks to the Merciless Parking Meter Gods who brought this interviewdate torture to a close.
“I just hope I’m always this accessible,” Ted replied.
I hightailed it to my car, and for the next hour, trembled in the corner of my apartment, staring down the Ghost of First Dates Past.
I shuddered as I thought about how Ted embodied every other horrifying first date I’d had over the past few years. The ones where I’d laugh and nod, asking question after question, arriving home exhausted and disappointed, my vocal chords atrophying from lack of use. I’d take off my make-up and high heels, picking peacock feathers off my dress – the same dress I’d second-guessed every day for a week.
I poured myself a pity glass of wine, just like I did back then, and remembered where I was four years ago.
Newly divorced. Like Ted.
Living alone for the first time in my life. Like Ted.
Starting a new job. Like Ted.
Craaap, I thought. Ted is ME. For a split second, it all came rushing back. I had been so scared. Sad. Self-absorbed. God. I wouldn’t pay to go back there.
And the tremors finally subsided.
Maybe I’ll give him a pass this time. What do you think?
“It’s fine, especially if you’re not looking for anything serious.”
My eyes darted back and forth between two women, a friend and a fellow partygoer, having one of those conversations that went from ‘Nice to meet you’ to ‘I’ve been in therapy for eight years’ in 7.6 seconds.
Frequenting such upstanding apps as eHarmony and Match had resulted in stories like this. And this. Annnnd this.
“Oh really? You would like the guy I just met a couple of months ago. Caramel skin, dark hair, green eyes…”
“Why didn’t you like him?”
“Too young for me, but he’s perfect for you.”
I watched the conversation between my friend and a complete stranger unfold, wondering if it would outlast the Prosecco supply.
“I’ll see if I can find his number.”
I blinked. Hang on. What just happened here? A stranger we’d met an hour ago was giving my friend the number of a stranger SHE met three months ago and… My head started to spin, not unlike when my girlfriends plan things.
Then I started to wonder… Was this really any less creepy than swiping your finger across a stranger’s likeness to indicate that you might want to share awkward conversation and unlimited breadsticks? Was this, in fact, a far more appropriate vetting system?
The next morning, the woman from the party called my friend.
“Hey, it’s Stranger Lady from last night! Great news! I found Stranger Guy’s number!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, my friend texted Stranger Guy with a few cute lines and a couple of photos of herself.
What do you think? Should we create an app for this?
“When you’re a kid, age matters a lot,” Babs, my mom, said the other day. We were lounging on her living room sofa killing time before her friends, Dick and Fern, came over for dinner.
Hang on. What’s that? You think I’m lying about their names being Dick and Fern? Would I lie about something like that? Babs even gave me permission to use their real names in this post! (Then again, Babs also gave me permission to paint my aunt’s house as a surprise gift…)
Dick and Fern have been friends with my parents since before bottled water was a thing.
“You know. If you’re seven and the neighbors are ten it’s a huge deal,” Babs went on. “Then you get into your 20s and it really doesn’t matter at all.”
She took a gulp of wine.
“Then it starts to matter again.”
She paused and gave me a look.
“Dick and Fern are a few years older than us so they’re in their 70s now,” Babs said. “And just look at this.” She whipped out her phone and showed me the text message that Fern had just sent.
“Late because of rain! At least she finally got a smart phone this year,” Babs went on. “Before that she was doing the texting where you had to hit the number keys over and over!”
“Yeah,” I replied. “It also seems like there’s get-off-my-lawn-seventy and I-AM-JUST-GETTING-STARTED-B*TCH-SEVENTY.”
This, of course, got me thinking of my own friendships. Had there ever been an age gap that suddenly became too pronounced? Is there ever a “cut off” when you can no longer relate, whether it’s on a surface level with cultural references, or emotionally based on various life stages?
So far, at 36, age has never been an issue in my friendships, though it’s still certainly bittersweet when they fade for other reasons: Distance, difference of opinion, or interests in chipmunks and priorities that no longer align.
My advice to Babs? Might as well stick it out. At least you’ll get to tell your favorite stories over and over.
“Do you think they’ll have coffee?” my sister asked, peering over the edge of a wide toll bridge that would take us past the Hudson River towards a small town in central New York state.
“I was just thinking the same thing!” I said, slapping the steering wheel. “We’ll have to ask as soon as we check in.”
After a two and a half hour car ride from our hometown in New Jersey, we arrived at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York on Friday afternoon, leaving plenty of time to have dinner before our weekend workshop began at 8:00pm.
Omega is a nonprofit, mission-driven, and donor-supported educational organization. For more than 40 years we’ve been a pioneer in holistic studies – helping people and organizations integrate personal growth and social change, moving beyond ‘the way it is’ toward ‘the way it can be.'” –Omega Institute website
We wound through bumpy, forest-lined roads until we pulled into the main driveway. A tan, golden-locked young man greeted us with an easy smile and glazed-over eyes.
“Hey there! Staying here or are you a commuter?”
“Commuter,” I replied.
“Right on. You can go ahead and park in either of these two rows. Have a good one.”
When we’d spot him later that evening, we’d find him still perched at his station, but holding a guitar. We parked the car in the gravel lot and joined a long line in front of a building at the main entrance.
Eventually receiving welcome instructions and a map, we moseyed uphill towards the dining hall.
“I feel like I’m in Dirty Dancing,” I said, gazing at the casually dressed men and women wandering through Omega’s plentiful cabins and gardens. There was something serene about the timeless energy surrounding us. Or maybe it was just the lack of wifi.
As calm and quiet as the campus seemed, the institute was fully booked for the weekend and the food hall was hopping, hundreds of people lined up at the (mostly) vegan buffet.
Commuters like us (we were staying at an off-campus AirBnB) had to pay a mandatory $110 “commuter fee” on top of the workshop registration fee in order to enjoy the food and campus amenities. (Coffee, the staff assured us at registration, would be available in the morning, along with milks made of everything from hemp to rainbows.)
We filled our plates and fruitlessly searched for the vodka station balanced our cups awkwardly as we tried to find a table outside.
All of the tables outside were large enough to accommodate at least eight people; luckily, I’d spotted the phrase “communal dining” in the brochure and had spent the prior two weeks practicing my fake niceties.
“What workshop are you here for?” I asked the man across from me, wondering how many chanterelle mushrooms I could shove into my mouth between questions.
“Psychic Detective,” he replied, spearing a chickpea and giving me the kind of bright-eyed, smiling response usually reserved for preschool teachers and cannibals. “How about you?”
I inhaled dramatically before replying with jazz hands, “Your Spirit Guides Await!”
He nodded as if I’d just said “the sky is blue” and we went on to cover all of the other usual platitudes for the next hour before finding an excuse to leave. The question he never asked, and that I imagine you’re wondering at this stage:
What the f&@% are you doing here?”
I blame meditation. After just a few short months of daily meditation, my sister and I found ourselves exploring other metaphysical curiosities, from oracle cards to crystals to chakra-balancing. Poking around these avenues ignited a spark in both of us that felt too intriguing to ignore.
With time to spare before our workshop began, my sister and I made our way down the hill towards the community lake, passing several people lounging in hammocks. We plopped down in two empty chaise lounges by the water and watched a few kayakers drift lazily in the distance. One of the staff members raked the sand in front of the water for a solid fifteen minutes, a concentrated frown on her face.
“Do you think she misunderstood the term ‘Reiki’?” I asked at one point.
My sister rolled her eyes at my pun and answered, “Do you think people take the kayaks out just to smoke pot?”
Neither of our questions were answered because we spent the rest of the weekend sitting barefoot in a small, brightly lit room with one instructor and eighteen strangers, meditating and channeling spirit guides, angels, and for one unlucky classmate not used to a plant-based diet, farts.
Elizabeth Harper, a walking fairy our instructor, explained in a lilting British accent that we all have one main spirit guide with us throughout our lives, along with one main guardian angel, but you might have other spirit guides with you for specific life events or goals. You can tap into these all-knowing, all-loving energy forces at any time, most especially through meditation. I would tell you more, but apparently I can make a lot of money offering this kind of instruction.
So, did I receive any meaningful guidance or insight throughout the weekend? Yes.
Did one of my spirit guides look like Zac Efron? Yes. Did I love not stressing about finding vegan food to eat? Yes. Did I mention the farter every chance I got? Yes. Would I go back?
I admit it, Chipmunks. I’m slipping. Between working full-time, embarking on a 130+ hour practicum project, writing a Masters thesis, and designing a new website (…stay tuned!), I’m starting to crack. I’m even getting other people to write posts for me.
On the upside, this post totally wrote itself.
1. You find yourself posting things like this to Facebook:
2. You Could Give the 3 Stooges a Run for Their Money
I have spilled not one, not two, not three, but FOUR dinners in the past few weeks. First, there were the freshly grilled veggie burgers that flew out of the container and down the stairs, making friends with all of my stinky workout shoes. Then there was the bag holding popcorn kernels that gave up on life just as I was about to dump its contents into a pot. And let’s not forget the tray of vegetables that took a detour from the grill to the house via the grass on Mother’s Day.
The crowning jewel was a tray of general Tso’s tofu, smothered in bright, red sauce, gleefully leaping from the confines of my plate and landing all over my gray living room carpet. I’m still finding sticky sauce in fun places, like underneath the dog’s bowls.
I would have recreated some of these moments for the photo op, but I promised Uncle Jesse I’d stop scaring him.
3. You Can’t Even Select the Right Address On Amazon
I’ve now sent a grand total of three packages to my parents’ house this month. Luckily nothing too embarrassing. Like ‘stache bleach.
Now that I think about it, I’ve also gone to the grocery store and walked away with everything but the one thing I really needed, lost or misplaced an umbrella, a phone charger, a water bottle top, a child, and even ordered a Redbox movie and tried to pick it up at the wrong location.
Oh, and I asked the woman at DSW Shoe Warehouse last weekend why my gift cards weren’t working.
4. You Mistake Someone for a Different Person…and They Look Nothing Alike
The other day my sister texted and said, “Come meet Joe and I at the pizza place!”
“Give me a few,” I replied. “I need to put on pants and stop crying over my nonexistent love life a really sh*tty Netflix movie.”
I greeted my sister and Joe fifteen minutes later, and after we chatted for a while, Joe said, “Oh, what’s your thesis about?”
I tried to cover up my confused expression. Hadn’t we just discussed this a few weeks ago over drinks in my sister’s yard when we first met? Was my project that boring? I bit my tongue and simply explained it again.
It wasn’t until the next day that my sister cleared up the confusion.
“Um… we had drinks with Chris in the yard. Wait. Wait. You thought Joe was Chris? They don’t even look alike!” she sputtered, breaking into hysterics.
“It was dark!” I tried to defend myself.
While she got her ab workout for the week, I realized, “Huh. That explains why only one of them had an accent.”
And the number one sign you’re losing it…
5. Halfway through writing this post, you realize you wrote a post with the same title six years ago.
I hope you’ll share some of your own ‘losing it’ stories so I don’t feel so alone.
Have you ever stumbled upon a Facebook post and thought, “I’m going to need a lot more information”?
This is precisely what happened to me (again) two weeks ago when I read an alarming update from my friend, Robin. Rather than fill you in on the details, I thought I’d let the wonderful woman herself handle the job!
Let’s all give a warm welcome to Robin (and her four-year-old son, who plays a…surprising…role in this tale)!
How does a day that started off normal end with a trip to the doctors, tweezers, and California Raisins?
Let’s start from the beginning…
Baby carrier in tow, I walk into my four year old’s classroom. He is peeing in the toilet, door wide open, a content look on his face – you do you, buddy! By the time I grab his bag, he has finished his business and I notice something on his ear.
In typical mom fashion, I lick my thumb and go to wipe his ear.
“Ow!” he winces.
Well, this can’t be good…
I lean in and take a closer look.
There is something IN HIS EAR.
Instant panic. Is it a bug? Is it poop (he was just in the bathroom)? Is it some other foreign object with which I am less familiar? I grab his hand and leave.
Sitting in the car I’m thinking, “What the actual f*ck is in your ear?” and I am not getting any straight answers. He is clearly exercising his right to plead the fifth. I call the pediatrician, who closes at 4:00, and hope they answer. They answer! I tear out of the parking lot, grilling this poor kid the whole way.
It took the entire drive to the office to get the full story. Apparently a little girl (who will not be named) was eating…wait for it….RAISINS at lunch and decided to put some in his ear. While listening I am wondering, Were you a willing participant in all this? Did she assault you? Should I tell the school? What the f*ck does a parent do in this situation? Also, note to this young lady with the raisins: not the way to make friends!
Once inside the office the panic begins to subside. Luckily we have an amazing pediatrician who was willing to see us right away and calmly removed said RAISIN from William’s ear…all while providing a teachable moment in a stern doctor voice.
The whole drive home, after the raisin extraction, I was thinking to myself what is the name of that cartoon…with the raisins who play instruments…they are in a band?…
Robin, I believe you’re referring to the Emmy Award-winning band, The California Raisins, who catapulted to popularity in the mid-1980s.
Now that things have settled down, I think you and your son can both enjoy (and hear) a trip down memory lane…
Any other surprising social media post-spottings out there?