Monday, March 27, 2006

A Birthday Present for my Future Mother In Law

me: I’d really like to get your mother something for her birthday. I was thinking of sending her flowers. Do you think she'd like flowers?

: Never send an old Chinese woman flowers. The only time the Chinese send flowers is when someone dies.

me: Ew. Well, what about a box of really good chocolates?

spiceboy: She doesn't have much of a sweet tooth.

me: Okay, but she's turning 70 and I want to give her a token of my affection. What do you think she'd really really like?

spiceboy: A grandson.

me: Oh my god!

spiceboy: Sorry—that’s probably what she’d really like.

me: How about a nice handbag instead?

: Yeah, that would work, too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Donut Dilemma

This morning, my boss called all of the editors in my department into her office and offered us donuts. I came to work today armed with Greek yogurt and grapes specifically to protect myself against such temptations, but when your boss offers you a donut, what do you do?

You TAKE THE DONUT, right?


So I took a damn donut and I nibbled it politely while making small talk with my coworkers. Actually, I’m lying. I attempted to nibble it politely, but what I actually did was drop a huge hunk of it onto the floor, causing crumbs and powdered sugar to fly everywhere. Then I spilled coffee on my leg. Whatever. I’m clumsy.

My plan was to take the donut back to my office, dispose of it without offending my boss, and return to my lovely and healthful breakfast of grapes and yogurt. And that’s exactly what I did. Except now that I’ve tasted the sugary perfection of the donut, my grapes and yogurt seem lackluster by comparison. And even though I tossed the donut into my trash can, I can still smell it.

It smells good.

It smells so good that even though I’m sitting at my desk, looking for all the world like a responsible employee doing her responsible job, I'm seriously contemplating reaching into my trash can and pulling the donut back out and nibbling on it some more. I mean, there’s a brand new trash bag in there and I haven’t thrown anything away except some papers. And paper is clean, right?

Oh, god, I’m so gross.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Playing Hooky

In college, my younger sister and I often played hooky on warm spring days. We would skip our boring astronomy class and head over to our favorite tiny little coffee shop on South Bouquet Street in Pittsburgh, where we laughed and talked and smoked too many Camel Lights.

Some days, we walked through the streets of Oakland, snaking our way through Pitt and CMU campuses, around Phipps Conservatory and the bridge nearby—I can’t remember the name of it now. How can I not remember that?

Other days, we rode our bikes near the Cathedral of Learning, racing down the grassy hills like we did when we were little girls. I remember how the sun felt on my skin, I remember the pretty blooming flowers and the ugly, garbagey streets.

I remember how, in college, the possibility of summer crackled in the air like electricity.

Today, when I left my office building on my lunch break, something about the sunlight and the warmth reminded me of those days, and I stood on the crowded sidewalk for a long moment, in my respectable black pumps, my conservative skirt, and my ridiculous control top pantyhose, and I lifted my face to the sky.

I thought of my old brown clogs—the ones I wore all through college. What ever happened to them? I thought of my bicycle—chained in the tool shed behind my apartment building. I can’t remember the last time I rode it. And finally, I thought of my sister—my dearest friend—living far away in Portland, OR. I thought about how, if she lived nearby, I probably would have called her today, and asked her to play hooky with me. And I know she would have come without a second thought.

I love you, Drazzy. Come play hooky with me soon.

Monday, March 20, 2006

This is What a Relationship Looks Like from the Inside:

spiceboy: Hey!

me: What?

spiceboy: Come here, I’ve got a present for you.

me: Ooh, really? What is it?

spiceboy: (farts really loud)

me:(shaking head in disbelief): You’re so sick.

spiceboy (laughing hysterically): I can’t believe you fall for that every time.

me: Me, either.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

When The Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie...

It's 3 am and I can't sleep. Well, I was sleeping, but now I'm wide awake, alternately reading a book and pacing the apartment, which takes three steps. Well, I'm exaggerating a little bit. It actually takes five steps.

What I should do right now is crawl into bed, turn off all of the lights, and count backward from 100--my sure fire get to sleep trick.

But all I can think about is pizza.

Big, gooey, warm pepperoni pizza from the place down the street. The place that delivers until 4 am.

It's so tempting. I could order the pizza, drag my fluffy down comforter out to the futon, and gorge myself on carbs and The Food Network .


Except it's 3 am and I'm not twenty-one years old anymore. Responsible adults with responsible adult metabolisms do not order pepperoni pizzas in the middle of the night and eat them while sitting on their futons, wrapped in down comforters. they?


Well, maybe just this once.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Dentist's Office

Today I had an appointment to see my dentist, Dr. Mohamed. Though I've never had a traumatic dental experience, going to the dentist always causes me a great deal of anxiety.

On the outside, I look like a normal, redheaded woman patiently flipping through Gourmet magazine and waiting for her appointment. But inside my head, it's a whole different story.

Thoughts I had while in the waiting room...

I hope this doesn’t hurt.

It shouldn’t hurt, right?

It'll be fine-- calm down. People have cavities filled every day.

But what if he was wrong and it’s more than a cavity? What if it’s a root canal or something worse? I’m not mentally prepared for anything more than a cavity. Oh, god, please let it only be a cavity.

What if I have to pee while he’s drilling? Maybe I should pee now. But I don’t have to pee now. I just peed before I left work.

Thoughts I had while in the dentist’s chair...

Dr. Mohamed is so nice. I love him.

Sure, he seems nice, but what if he’s a crazy sadistic dentist, like Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors?

The Novocain needle always hurts like a bitch.

What if he doesn’t shoot me up with enough Novocain and I can feel him drilling?

What if he hits a nerve while he’s drilling and it’s a really important nerve and it paralyzes my face?

My tongue feels swollen. What if I have some freakish reaction to the Novocain and my tongue wells up and I choke on my own tongue in the dentist’s chair?

Does Dr. Mohamed know CPR?

He’s getting the drill ready but I can still feel my face. I can still feel my face! Oh, god help me.

Ah—he’s drilling. Ah! Ah!

Oh. That’s not bad at all. I can’t even feel anything.

But now I have to pee.

I'm drooling all over myself. How gross is that?

Oooh—all done! That didn’t hurt at all.

Dr. Mohamed is so nice. I love him.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Little Bit of Pittsburgh

I often think of this passage on the first warm days of spring, and the first hot days of summer--and when I'm missing home terribly.

I went outside to rest and smoke at the top of the twenty six fissured concrete steps that drew close to my door. To the left, the Terrace, the kids and happy Schnauzers running there; to the right and all before me, the maze of tumbling stables and garages...

Along the tops of the garages ran apartments like mine, spindly creepers in their windows, various musics from radios coming through the wire screens. The late sun was still the major fact of the day, setting the parked cars around me to creak, heating the metal banister against my bare neck. A warm breeze carried dinner smells and birdsong across the neighborhood, ran lightly over my sweaty face, and stirred the hair along my arms. Four years of familiarity and unconcern with Pittsburgh had turned suddenly to arousal and love, and I hugged myself.

--excerpted from The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Extra Special PMS Advantage Diet

As we all know, the onset of PMS can bring great pain and suffering not only to the woman experiencing it, but also to those around her, including but not limited to: Friends, future husbands, store clerks, innocent pedestrians, and unsuspecting family members who call to say hello.

While most women dread the onset of PMS, I have decided that if I have to suffer through it, I might as well try to make the best of it. Therefore, I have devised a plan that will allow me to get through my PMS as painlessly as possible, while taking advantage of some of the things I love the most but rarely allow myself to indulge in. And today, Dear Readers, I share that plan with you.

Obviously, you can alter the diet plan to suit your own tastes/needs/schedule. The important thing is that you indulge in something that makes you feel good, in a place where your violent mood swings and carb cravings can unfold naturally and away from the scrutiny of others.

To maximize the overall effects of The Extra Special PMS Advantage Diet, be sure to adhere closely to the following instructions:

1. Sequester yourself in your apartment. If you share an apartment or house, sequester yourself in a room where you will remain undisturbed.
2. Put on your comfiest pajamas
3. Have at least 1 celeb gossip magazine on hand (US Weekly or similar)
4. Have at least 1 chick lit novel on hand (or several of your favorite chick movies)


Hunk of stale French bread
1 cup coffee, extra cream
1 large bottle Fiji water


1 vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting from Buttercup Bakery
1 glass whole milk
1 large serving baked macaroni and cheese
1 large bottle Fiji water


1 red velvet cupcake from Buttercup Bakery
1 glass whole milk
Any leftover macaroni and cheese from lunch
1 glass red wine
1 large bottle Fiji water

The cupcake/mac and cheese combination helps satisfy the salty/sweet cravings.

The cupcake is sugary and tasty and lovely. You could also substitute cookie dough if that's your thing. The milk cuts the sweetness of the cupcake. Only whole milk is acceptable here. There's no need to skimp. And the mac and cheese--well, it's just carb-tastic goodness.

The water is absolutely necessary to reduce bloat and stomach upset. I prefer Fiji because it has a crisp, clean taste, with an almost sweet finish. Yes, it's a bit more expensive than your typical water, but The Extra Special PMS Advntage Diet is all about indulgence, so don't be afraid to treat yourself. And the red wine, according to the French, is good for your heart. And what's more important than your heart?

It is my hope that the next time you feel the onset of PMS and your hormones go into a kamikaze spin cycle, you will employ the principles of The Extra Special PMS Advantage Diet and you will enjoy yourself.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Understanding the SubTEXT

Call me when UR done.

This is the text message I just sent to a friend.

Did I really just use UR?

I feel so dirty right now.

I have to admit, ever since I bought a new, fancy-pantsy cell phone, I’ve been seduced by this text messaging/picture mail stuff. In fact, just the other night, I may have cajoled a slightly drunk spiceboy into putting on a pair of yellow sweatpants with the word pink spelled out across the ass, snapped a picture of him w/ my camera phone, and promptly mailed it off to a friend, along with a text message.

Sorry, spiceboy.


When I’m texting, which is not often, I usually try to construct messages that resemble written English and not hieroglyphics. But the more I do it, the more impatient I get. After all, text messaging is so cumbersome, and the only way you can really use it quickly and efficiently is to forsake all of the rules of grammar and spelling and just go for it.

As an editor, I don’t think I can abide by this method any longer. I just can’t become part of a world in which great becomes gr8 and you are becomes UR. As impatient as I am to get my point across, I just can’t join a technological phenomenon that’s based on spelling things incorrectly.

Call me a fuddy duddy. Call me a Luddite. Call me a nerd. I am all of those things, and that’s okay. I owe it all to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hall. She was tough as nails, and very proper. She always used to say things like, If at first you don’t succeed, try try again and Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and Good students have good posture, so sit up straight!

Mrs. Hall was a stickler for proper spelling and grammar, and she harbored a particular hatred for the word ain’t.

“It’s not a word and you shouldn’t use it,” she would often say, pausing in the middle of a lesson at the blackboard and brandishing her piece of white chalk at the class like a wand, or a sword.

When she would turn back to the chalkboard, the boys would make their voices high and mocking and say: Ain’t ain’t a word so I ain’t going to say it. Then they would dissolve into giggles.

Mrs. Hall was not amused.

In the here and now, ain’t has a permanent place in the American Heritage Dictionary (though many English teachers don't accept this) and even third graders are adept at text messaging. I have to wonder if they’re out there right now, giggling and sending this message back and forth to one another during class:

8nt 8nt a wrd & I 8nt gonna say it!

I’m sure that Mrs. Hall is long gone from my old elementary school in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. She might even be long gone from this earth. But wherever she is, I’m sure of one thing:

She is not amused.

As of today, I'm jumping off of the texting bandwagon. From now on, it’s back to conversational basics for me.


Monday, March 06, 2006

When East Side Girl Met spiceboy, Part Two: Eating With Chopsticks

Click here for Part One

(Winter, 2001)

It was late on a Friday night. spiceboy and I sat at a table in a packed Chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh’s North Oakland.

The mood was rowdy, and the air was fragrant with garlic and ginger. All around us, Asian students laughed, joked, drank tea, and visited at each other’s tables. The thumping of music and voices drifted in from a back room. I scanned the crowd, looking for anyone I might know, but there was no one.

A waitress approached us, slapping a pot of tea on the table and handing spiceboy a menu written entirely in thick black Chinese characters. She then addressed him in Chinese, throwing only the most cursory glance in my direction. Even though I had been working for spiceboy’s restaurant for nearly three years, I’d never really heard him speak Chinese before. He gestured to the menu, his voice rising and falling in staccato-like syllables as he pointed to one item, then another, then another. His voice sounded different somehow. Deeper. It was a side of him I hadn’t known existed. But I had been seeing a lot of things differently about him lately.

At the table next to us, a group of Indonesian girls chattered to one another--a nonstop, rapid-fire stream of vowels and consonants. They tossed their shiny black hair over their shoulders, exposing the beautiful, dusky skin of their faces, which seemed even duskier around their jaw lines and their eyes.

My own hair was still pulled back into a greasy ponytail from my dinner shift at Spice World. I imagined for a moment that if I freed it from its barrette, it would swing forward around my face in a glossy curtain, like the girls' at the next table. But my hair was not thick, dark, or straight. It was red and fine, and I knew that if I took it down, it would fall in a clump onto the nape of my neck and stay there, like a snarled ball of yarn.

spiceboy filled my teacup, then his. While he poured, he explained that in Chinese culture, if you want more tea, you should tap your finger on the table. He demonstrated, tapping his index finger against the tatty tablecloth. His nails were rather long, and there was a faded burn mark along the side of his thumb, just at the knuckle. On the fourth finger of his right hand was a gold band. I asked him where he got it.

“My mother gave it to me for Chinese New Year,” he said. “To keep me out of trouble.”

We stared at each other for a long moment. He lifted his teacup to his lips and slurped loudly. I placed my napkin on my lap and fingered the plastic chopsticks in front of me. There were no forks on our table. I glanced around, and saw that there were no forks anywhere. This made me nervous.

spiceboy noticed me noticing. “Do you want me to ask the waitress for a fork?” he asked.

“No. I’m fine.”

The waitress reappeared, covering our table with plates, bowls, and platters. I had grown up with Chinese food from quickie takeout joints—General Tso’s Chicken. Beef and Broccoli. Won Ton Soup. But this spread was unlike any Chinese food I’d seen before. There were no garish pink sauces, no hunks of battered, fried mystery meat. Instead, the colors reminded me of lush green forests and tall brown mountains.

spiceboy dove in with his chopsticks, lifting the food first onto my plate, then his. He took great care with his task, explaining the food to me as he put it on my plate, and I could see how important this was to him—giving food, sharing food, eating food.

The dishes were earthy, glistening, fragrant. There was tofu with large braised black mushrooms, coated in a silky looking brown sauce. There was a whole fish, head and all, steamed in ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. There were snowy white mounds of rice. There was also a plate filled with vegetables, steamed to a deep emerald color.

spiceboy lifted some of the greens onto my plate, then onto his own. “It’s do miu,” he said, deftly snagging a piece with his chopsticks and lifting it to his mouth. “Chinese pea shoots. Try it. It’s great.”

“Do miu,” I repeated. The words felt clunky in my mouth, but not as clunky as the chopsticks felt in my hand. They were long, thick, and slippery, and every time I attempted to pick up a piece of do miu, the chopsticks crossed and the vegetables fell back onto my plate, splashing sauce onto the tablecloth.

spiceboy ate with both an ease and an urgency I’d never noticed in him before. He deftly maneuvered his chopsticks, grabbing pieces of mushrooms, vegetables and rice and lifting them easily to his mouth.

I tried mimicking the movements of spiceboy’s chopsticks with little success. No matter how many times I tried, my do miu kept plopping back onto my plate. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the Indonesian girls at the next table watching me. She murmured something to her friend, who jerked her head in my direction and giggled.

At the same moment, our waitress reappeared and, quicker than a flash, placed a fork on the table.

When he does not want to answer a question, when he’s had enough of a conversation, or when he’s gracefully ignoring an uncomfortable situation, spiceboy is capable of making his face perfectly blank. The planes of his cheeks tighten. His eyes become hooded. His lips form a straight line. It’s like pulling down a shade-- all of the usual roundness of his features gives way to smooth, clean lines.

He affected this face as he eyed the fork, which sat there between us, the unspoken symbol of our many differences. The fork was a dividing line between the person I had been and the person I would become.

I laid down my chopsticks, balancing them across the edge of my plate, just as I’d seen spiceboy do. I flicked a grain of rice from my shirt sleeve. I took a sip of bitter, tepid tea from my tiny teacup.

The noise of the restaurant swelled up up up—laughter, music, the clinking of serving spoons on plates. The consonants and vowels and nouns and verbs and prepositions of many different languages floated all around me—a crazy alphabet soup I could not understand.

I was totally out of my element. I was an outsider looking in. I was the lone fork in a drawer full of chopsticks. It was both thrilling and frightening.

I picked up my fork, speared a piece of do miu, and lifted it to my mouth.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More Novocain, Please

Today I had to go to the dentist to have a cavity filled. I am an incredibly big baby when it comes to such matters, and while my very sweet and very patient dentist, Dr. Mohamed, drilled the hell out of my tooth, I hunkered down in the chair, gripping the arm rests for dear life and mewling like a sick cat.

My noisemaking was so disturbing that Dr. Mohamed had to stop halfway through the process and shoot me up with more Novocain just to quiet me down. The kind dental assistant, in between handing the doctor his many evil drills, patted my hand and said my name in a reassuring way that at once comforted me and made me feel like I was about five years old.

I have to get a grip. I understand this.

Well, I thought as I hopped the 6 train back to the office, my face swollen from the drilling and the drugs, at least this is the worst thing that will happen to me today.

Then I checked my email.

There, in my inbox, was an innocuous-looking message from the party rental place I’m dealing with for the wedding. They had promised to send over the final rental contract and pricing today.

I clicked the email open with my right hand, using my left hand to support the left side of my face, which, after the double dose of Novocain, felt as though it was about to slide off of my skull and land in a nasty skin puddle on the floor.

But once I opened the email, my jaw hit the floor anyway.

Who knew that renting tables and chairs and dishes would cost so much?

Or wine glasses?

Or linens?

I mean, they’re FUCKING LINENS, people!

If I really wanted to fritter away my hard-earned paycheck on something completely useless, why would I want to spend it on red linen napkins that my wedding guests will end up blowing their noses in, when for the same price I could buy these glorious shoes:

Or this cute puppy:

Anyway. I frantically scanned through pages and pages of price lists and small print, through itemization charts and bullshit “damage waiver fees,” searching for the total price.

I finally found it, at the very bottom of the contract, right next to the dotted line upon which I was expected to sign my life away.

The total price stood out in bold, mocking me from the computer screen. I stared at it hard. If this were a movie, the camera would have zoomed in, blurring out everything except the final price.

Then, clutching my Novocain-filled face, I hunkered down in my chair for the second time today, gripping the arm rests for dear life and mewling like a sick cat.