I consider myself a Type-B person. Laid back. Relaxed. Too cool for school.
In my dreams.
But when I wake up, I am a nervous, anxious, middle-aged lady always trying too hard.
And full of fears.
Among the things I fear (and you can find more here):
Firecrackers (I like fireworks though – but not the kind that are just horrid ear-splitting noise, that you also know will blow someone’s fingers off)
Eating weird food – and I define ‘weird’ broadly, like sushi and calamari (and jello – it’s a texture thing)
Dobermans (with good reason)
The part of flying where you hit the ground and scream down the runway
Talking to strangers
Watching my husband (or anyone) use a chainsaw
But when I go on vacation, I find my brain calming down, my nerves unjangling.
And all those billions of little fears falling away.
And I get brave. Really brave.
We just came back from six days in Jamaica.
The last time we vacationed, I did incredibly brave things. Like standing up in a Land Rover and riding a jet-ski. And I had a beer at ten in the morning. And I almost touched a snake.
I rode a horse!
This may be totally unexciting to you, but I only rode a horse once before, and it was not exactly a success for either of us.
But this time was great. I actually had two different horses. The first guy was named Clumsy, which didn’t bode well, but I managed. Clumsy must have sensed my nervousness, and he was not thrilled. He kept cranking his head around and giving me dirty looks. The guide rode over and told me that sometimes Clumsy gets a little ornery, and I should just loosen the reins and let him be boss. I don’t think in general that is very good advice for horsemanship, but I gladly let Clumsy be the boss of me, since I didn’t want to be the meal of him.
And the second horse! Wow! His name was Dark Star. He was energetic but gentle at the same time. And he had a crush on me. I could feel it. We had a swim together.
And that’s not all!
My husband (who can out-worry me under the table any day of the week) and I played Tarzan and Jane. Yes, we swung through the trees in the jungles of Jamaica. Zip-line! We truly did. My husband checked my harness about seven hundred times, and I still wasn’t sure until the very last moment that I could actually step off that platform. But once I did – I knew I was meant to be a swinger. Here’s how much I liked it: I didn’t even care that I was dressed like an idiot.
Literally. A Swinger.
Back to my last post, where I said I wanted to go a clothing-optional beach and avail myself of the option?
(And I may write about it eventually. When I stop blushing.)
I’m taking a little time off, but I don’t want to take a chance that you’d forget me, so here is a repeat from three years ago.
But it’s still true – except for the 61 part. Now I’m 64.
And more than ready.
I’M FINALLY READY
In the winter of my junior year of college, the brief phenomenon known as Streaking streaked through our campus. Boys in thick work boots and wool hats and nothing else ran by the women’s dorms every evening.
One night, a dozen boys staged a relay. We watched from our windows as they ran by in one-minute intervals. We cheered like mad for each one, and didn’t mind that they could all have been just one guy – they were interchangeable in their blue-skinned sameness.
About an hour later the gaggle of them reconvened (dressed) to holler from the yard that it was the girls’ turn.
We discussed this both laughingly and seriously, and decided that we would stage a different kind of show. An exhibition rather than a run. Yes, we were classy girls.
Because the exhibitionists would be coming out of our own dorm, and because they wouldn’t be a bouncy blur, we were a little more worried about anonymity than the boys. So my roommate donated a mardi gras mask and her long velvet cape. It was a two-act show – first a blonde and then a brunette went out. Each girl walked slowly to the middle of the snowy yard, and then dramatically opened the cape.
The boys applauded with profound appreciation.
I won’t identify the girls, except to say that neither was me.
Fourteen years later, I was an up-and-coming young executive (and thirty-five is STILL young; so shut up) – in desperate need of a little vacation. I just needed to take a short break from the long days and cold winter.
I had two problems – I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go with me, and I couldn’t get a last-minute reservation at any of the good resorts.
A tourist-agent friend solved both my issues. She made me a reservation at Club Med in Haiti. Club Med was still the hot-spot resort – but Haiti wasn’t exactly top-tier. And Club Med would assign me a roommate, so I would have someone built-in to have my meals with.
After a ride in a scary old plane and an even scarier bus trip through unimaginably ugly towns, I arrived for a long weekend at a resort in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
The weather was gorgeous, the beach was perfect, and my roommate turned out to be a very nice woman my own age. Not so bad.
Haiti was not a vacation destination for Americans. Including me and my new just-for-the-weekend friend, there were six of us. The other eighty guests were French nationals.
There is a difference between French women and American women. An American woman will show off her body if it is beautiful. To a French woman, her body just IS beautiful. The French women at Club Med wore bikini bottoms only. All the women: the old, the young, the skinny, the voluptuous.
I was mesmerized. Mesmerized by women walking on the beach, lounging by the pool. One young mother played with her children, read paperbacks, and chatted – with her parents. She was all but naked… in front of her father. Her mother was also nearly naked, and read her magazine with her breasts comfortably drooping against her round belly. I could hardly imagine it. These ladies bared their breasts like breasts were something natural.
On my last evening in Haiti, I went down to the beach, dropped my bikini top, and ran into the water. I was French!
Of course, there was no one there, and I redressed as quickly as I could.
It’s been forty years since I didn’t walk out naked for some enthusiastic college boys.
It’s been twenty-six years since I almost got naked on a Haitian beach.
I see now that these moments would not have changed my life.
I want a do-over.
I’m sixty-one. Before I’m seventy I want to go to a clothing-optional beach, and avail myself of the option. I’m not going to worry about whether my body is something I’m proud of. I’m proud of it because it’s mine. I’m French.
I am greatly amused (when I am not greatly annoyed) by the Humblebrag, and the subset that I have classified the Bummerbrag.
Yes, people love to sound humble. It doesn’t matter if they are secretly boasting, if it’s just a modest, self-effacing little brag.
And I’ve noticed yet another branch of demurely-wrapped arrogance.
The Job Interview Weakness.
Did you ever notice that when a job interviewer asks a candidate “What’s your greatest weakness?” that the answer is much closer to a virtue than a fault?
Perhaps EXACTLY like a virtue?
“I’m too trusting.”
“I’m too stubborn. When I am faced with a problem I won’t stop until I find the solution.”
“I’m too self-effacing. I let others take credit for my ideas.”
“I’m such a perfectionist.”
“I put in too many hours at the office, and I find myself at the end of the year with all my vacation time.”
“I hate to see someone struggle. I will stop and help others no matter how busy I am.”
I never liked playing that game. So although I am just chock full of virtues I could pretend were faults, I always tried to give a real weakness in answering that job interview question.
However, I made sure my weakness didn’t have anything to do with the job.
I usually said, “Weakness? Well, I can’t really carry a tune.”
Weirdly, I never got the job.
But don’t you just wish someone would tell you what their REAL on-the-job weaknesses?
Think what an accurate impression you’d have about work life with these guys:
“I sometimes lash out at my co-workers for no reason.”
“I don’t have the patience to proof my work, so I make a lot of careless errors.”
“I’m late three times a week.”
“I hate pressure and deadlines. I usually wait until the last minute and then ask for an extension.”
“I need to check my text messages at least every minute.”
“I cry once a week.”
Yeah, we have lots of co-workers who got the job, but instead of answering,
“I’m too hard on myself” –
They should have been honest and said,
“I don’t always remember to flush.”
We’re all guilty of it.
Oh, Okay. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
You NEVER do it.
Only me and just about everyone I know (except you).
The term I think has gone out of favor – even the Twitter account has been inactive for the past two years. But that doesn’t mean Humblebrags have gone away.
No – we still try to disguise our brags with some phony humility.
Here’s a few Oldies-But-Goodies from Twitter:
Now I love self-deprecating humor. You should never take yourself too seriously. But there is a huge difference between self-deprecating humor and the Humblebrag.
“My driver’s license lists parallel-parking as a restriction.”
“My parking is a disaster. The DMV required my Mercedes package to include Parking-Assist.”
And I’ve noticed lately that the Humblebrag has a subcategory that seems to be increasingly ubiquitous.
It’s the statement I like to call
The Bummerbrag happens when folks pretend to complain. But their complaint is really one ginormous gloat.
I won’t say I’ve never done it myself. Why just the other day I caught myself moaning about marketing my novel. “Why do I have to sell, sell, sell? I just want to do what I do best: Write.”
As that obnoxious comment was coming out of my mouth, I thought: “Bummerbrag.”
You have permission to make fun of me (behind my back is more fun) when I say or write something that pretentious. Just say what I said to myself: “Yeah, your accomplishment is such a burden.”
So now that I’ve ridiculed myself and invited you to do the same, I’d also like to ridicule a few Bummerbrags I’ve seen lately:
“Ugh. My market has decided not to deliver on the only day I can wait at home for the delivery.”
Oh, it must be awful to be too busy to buy food.
“Oh no. I just got back from my last business trip, and I find out my company has scheduled me to give yet another presentation, this time in Spain. I’m exhausted.”
Oh dear. An all-expense-paid trip to Europe is just horrid.
“The capital gains tax this year is killing me.”
I’m so sorry that your investments made so much money.
“Mom dilemma. Penelope and Parker are both getting awards the same day on opposite sides of town.”
I’ve met your kids. They’re getting Darwin awards.
My old cat is driving us crazy.
She was our neighbor’s cat. But our neighbor had some personal issues, and somehow her little kitten got lost in the shuffle. Cats are not like dogs. So often, dogs are loyal even to mean or neglectful owners. Cats are more like, “Oh you’re too busy for me? I’m outta here.”
And so she was. Outta there, that is. A seven-month-old kitten came over from two doors down. We brought her home. She came back. We brought her home. She came back. We brought her home. She beat us back to the door.
We kept her.
Her name is Snickers. I’ve never liked that name. I liked Audrey. But she was already named, and even though she was more than ready to join our family, we only changed her last name. Snickers Roman.
Snickers was tiny. And she stayed tiny. At her biggest, she has never weighed much more than six pounds. But she has the attitude of a lion. Here she is on the roof of our garage – age twelve.
Snickers probably should have been named Snoopy. She loves roofs. And trees and ladders.
She loves people. She runs to the door when the doorbell rings. Our other two cats head in the opposite direction. Snickers also likes to visit. Before we moved, we had lots of neighbors. She liked to explore everyone’s house. One day our neighbor Lil heard noises in the attic. When her husband got home from work, she told him that a squirrel must have gotten in. He climbed up into the attic, saw a pair of big eyes, and said, “I think that’s the Roman’s cat.” And it was. Lil did not know how Snickers got into the house, never mind the attic.
Snickers hates dogs. And birds. And deer. And also cats. Yeah, she’s not much of a cat person. She’s a very bad sibling to her sister and brother. She hits first and asks questions later.
I adore her. She’s pretty and she’s fearless. That’s a combination I admire.
But she’s nearly eighteen now. Like lots of old ladies, she has gotten even smaller. She’s about five pounds. And it appears that her little body isn’t really absorbing nutrients very well any more. Because as tiny as she is, she’s starving all the time.
And she tells us about it. Loudly.
Snickers has a new habit. She screams. It’s impressive – the decibels that come out of her little body. It’s not a meow. It’s not even a lion’s roar. It’s a scream. A human scream. It’s ‘The Shining’ meets ‘Psycho’.
And when is Snickers hungriest?
This is not like a spoiled kid having a tantrum.
Wait, I take that back.
This is exactly like a spoiled kid having a tantrum.
The difference is that she doesn’t tire herself out and give up.
No. She can scream an amazingly long time.
So we stumble out of bed and open a can and stumble back to bed. We take turns. My husband has more turns than me.
So yesterday at 4:00 AM, I woke up with the need to pee. I am a 64-year-old lady with a bladder the size of a Nic-L-Nip. Remember those?
I usually get up to pee at 2:00 AM. So making it till four was an accomplishment. But then again, it was an accomplishment I needed to take care of really soon.
But I lay in bed several extra minutes, just wondering. Can I get up and pee quietly enough so I don’t wake Snickers? Will she start to scream? Will I have to maneuver the stairs in my sleepy state and open that smelly can? Isn’t it my husband’s turn?
We love our pets and our lives revolve around them.
But come on. Do I have to wet the bed because I’m afraid to wake the cat?
P.S. You can still buy the Kindle edition of my “best-selling” (#5 in Humorous Literary Fiction for ONE WHOLE DAY!) novel JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED for only 99 cents (through Fri Mar 13)… here’s the link!
I know it won’t last, but OMG!
Amazon is offering the Kindle version of my novel, “Just What I Always Wanted” for just 99 cents through Friday.
And what a success!!!!
I made their best-sellers’ list in the category Humorous Literary Fiction – a category I didn’t even know existed. But what the hell! BEST SELLER in any category is a thrill for me!! And I’m in GREAT company. Liane Moriarty, Nick Hornby, Mark Haddon. Nancy Roman. Holy Shit!
If you haven’t bought my book yet, and you have a Kindle, here’s the link!
Excuse me while I faint. You can revive me with a glass of cabernet.
Once in a while I read about someone who is accused of some crime, and as a result is under house arrest.
My first reaction is:
I love staying home. As I write this, it is Saturday afternoon, and I could go out and do a dozen nice things. But I am sitting in my den (which my husband calls The Room With The TV) alternating between my computer and my book and my snack – and really, who could ask for more?
But once in a while we all must leave the house.
And this week my husband and I made our annual pilgrimage to New York City.
I actually like New York. I like it in the summer. But we always seem to go in March. It is not a pleasant time to walk around New York. This year was particularly bad. Bitter cold and snowy – with slippery sidewalks and slushy curbs and everyone else hogging all the cabs.
Well, to say we hardly ever leave our home is an understatement. It is not exactly a big trip to go from Connecticut to New York. But I go so seldom, that as soon as we crossed the state border, Gmail and Twitter immediately shut me off with messages that some evildoer was trying to access my account.
This couldn’t possibly be you, the internet declared, because this usage was detected 59 MILES from your HOME!
But it was really us. We arrived at Grand Central Terminal, which is my favorite building in the whole world. Not that I have seen very many buildings in the whole world. But I think even world travelers must think that Grand Central is pretty special. It is so nice we can eat and shop there and we never really have to go out to the actual slushy messy street. And the ceiling has a constellation too, so you are almost outside anyway.
We were totally exhausted after such a long trip… 59 miles to the train station after all, and then that long one hour and twenty-five minutes train ride… I mean, who wouldn’t be exhausted from that kind of crazy travel? So we ate at Grand Central, shopped a bit (at Grand Central) and then checked into the hotel.
We prepared for a wonderful restful night – a true recuperation from our grueling wearying trip.
Only THE NOISE!!!
We have owls at home. We can hear them sometimes calling, “Whooo? Whoo?” in their mournful tones.
But what is with the honking cabs? They aren’t calling “Whooo? Whoo?” –
They are yelling:
“WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!”
All frigging night!
There is no end to the honking, beeping, tooting. Fast, slow, high-pitched, wailing, bellowing.
All for no reason I can fathom. The streets are wide, flat, straight. What are all those cabs screaming about? Will the other cab drivers create an extra lane for you if you scream loud enough?
My town is quiet. My town is civilized. My town is polite. Why just two weeks ago, I had an actual occasion that warranted that I beep my horn as warning. Only it had been so long since I had last honked, that I couldn’t remember where the damn horn was located. By the time I found it, the threat had passed.
My husband and I did not sleep at all. It was like Grand Central Station at the hotel.
Actually it was Grand Central Station.
We stayed at the Hyatt, right there at the terminal.
Thank God I am home.
By the way: This week, Amazon is offering the Kindle version of my novel, “Just What I Always Wanted” for only 99 cents. You too can stay in your nice quiet home and read. You’ll thank me.
My company and I are working on my retirement. The management – now that they have passed through the denial stage – are hoping for a nice smooth transition. In the best scenario, they identify my successor, and then I stay on, gradually reducing my hours as the new Controller takes on my responsibilities.
I have gained a lot of knowledge of the company specifically and of business in general over the years. It is satisfying to see that my company recognizes that, and wants me to pass on what I have learned.
But in thinking about all this knowledge acquired over more than forty years of work, I realize that there is so much more I can share.
Sure, forecasting skills and pricing theory and generally accepted accounting principles are important.
But I know a whole lot of other useful shit.
Like Business Meetings.
Business meeting are unavoidable and for the most part, awful.
But here’s a few tips that will help you survive the dreaded Business Meeting.
1. Bring two pens. The probability that your pen will quit rises in direct proportion to the importance of the meeting.
2. Make sure you have a nice notebook. Preferably leather. Besides, you will look smart if you take notes. Underline. That looks cool.
3. Have a response prepared for when you are not really listening. Because when your mind wanders, that is the most likely moment that your boss will ask you a question. Here’s a good all-around comment for those moments: “I have seen some research on that. I’ll see if I can dig it up.”
4. Sit facing the clock. Looking at your watch is very obvious. But not half so obvious as needing to turn around to see how slowly the time is moving. It it’s right in front of you, clock-watching is much easier.
5, Bring coffee. You will need it. But sip slowly and carefully. You don’t want to always be the first one to ask for a bathroom break.
6.. Food. Sometimes there will be food at this meeting. Only nibble on the neatest of tidbits. Although it makes you look healthy to pick fruit, only eat grapes or cut fruit that you can eat with a spoon or fork. No sticky fingers. NEVER choose an apple or a banana. You lose all credibility if you’ve got a banana peel or apple core sitting by your intelligent sophisticated notebook. Absolutely forbidden: Powdered donuts.
7. Always have a tissue handy. There is no such thing as a dry sneeze in an important meeting. There is some kind of perverse law that if you sneeze in a meeting, you will get a handful of snot. You will need to be very subtle about wiping your snot-filled hand. Practice this at home. You’ll need it.
I’m sure there are more tips that will help you in your business-meeting-filled career. I think I’ve seen some research on that. Let me see if I can dig it up.
I read the other day about a person having an inappropriate case of the giggles. And oh my, a memory jumped up and yelled, “You despicable person, you!”
You – in this case – meaning:
Do you remember the old Mary Tyler Moore episode about Chuckles the Clown? The station’s resident clown was the grand marshall of the circus parade. He wore his Peter Peanut costume, and in a bizarre twist of fate, was shelled to death by a rogue elephant. All the guys at the studio could not resist making terrible jokes, and Mary was appalled at their lack of decorum. Of course, their laughs had played out by the time of the funeral, and they were properly respectful, and it was Mary herself who came down with uncontrollable, ill-timed laughter.
That episode was one of the funniest things I had ever seen on TV.
Until of course I had a similar experience.
At least the occasion wasn’t tragic. I have that excuse, at least.
It was 1986, and I was working in the cable television business. I was based in Connecticut and my boss, Rick, the regional Finance V.P., was based in Virginia. I liked working for him very much. (and not only because it is sweet to have a boss 324 miles away.) He was an intelligent man with impeccable manners. Incidentally, he had a stutter.
We were interviewing companies in order to change credit card processors. Rick came up from Virginia. A very nice man came in from Omaha to pitch his organization’s service. He was smart and friendly and well-prepared. He also had a stutter.
There were six of us in the meeting. We had no conference room in our offices, so we had just pulled chairs around in a circle in the largest office. I sat between my boss and Jim, the credit card company sales rep.
The meeting was productive and cordial, but gradually I became aware that the more that Rick and Jim talked, the more they seemed to have some kind of synergistic effect on their respective stutters. It was almost as if each man’s stutter encouraged the other’s.
Rick had difficulty with W. “W-w-w-when w-w-will w-w-we sign the contract?”
And with Jim, he stumbled over B. “B-b-but b-b-both of us can b-b-buy some time.”
Sitting between them, I listened to these two smart, nice gentlemen:
I liked and respected these guys. I have stutterers in my own family. It’s fine. It never bothers me. And I am a good polite person.
It happened anyway.
I was overcome with the giggles.
I tapped my foot. I covered my mouth and pretended to yawn. I pinched myself. scribbled in my notebook.
I coughed. My shoulders shook.
Eventually, I started to cry.
“E-e-e-excuse me,” I managed to stammer (yeah, it’s catchy). “I have something in my eye.”
And I ran to the ladies’ room and laughed myself silly. Then I composed myself and rejoined the meeting.
A few days later, I was out for a drink with a co-worker who was also at the meeting.
“Did you find it hard to sit in that meeting, and not laugh?” I asked.
“NO!” My friend said, horrified. “OF COURSE NOT! What is wrong with you?”
Oh, I am a terrible person.
“A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”