Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In Search of a Nice Jewish Boy

Let me preface this post with a critically important disclaimer:
- I went against my will.

- I'm morally opposed to these kinds of social encounters.
- I went against my will.
- I was dragged there. I'd venture to say that I was kidnapped.

The Matzo Ball: The largest, annual Jewish singles event, held every Christmas Eve in five major cities in the US (five too many).

I embarked on this journey of Jewish ecstasy with my sister and some of her friends. We arrived at the club and headed straight to the bathroom; Julie's bladder, never in passive mode, but always ruling her life and mine. Inside the bathroom, her friend commented that people in the club looked much older than us.

"Don't worry, I was here last year. Trust me, it gets better," someone says.

Ok, it seems as though we have a repeat offender on our hands. “To the bar,” I say, my senses aching to be numbed. I looked at the female bartender, and if estrogen could speak, she heard my calling to "make it strong, Sister."

My own sister, a "spacious" dancer - that said for her tendency to take up more space than the average person when dancing - managed to accidentally slap me across the face and obstruct the delicate tissues of my eye with a pronounced dance move. She then apologized profusely and started kissing me in the immediate (very immediate) eye area, which I'm sure didn't appear awkward at all to the crowd of people and certainly didn’t help my minor trauma. Her band-aid approach was almost as uncomfortable as when someone kisses you right on the ear and permanently diminishes your hearing ability.

Soon after this "bitch-slap" episode, a guy came over to me and said, "Woah! Are you ok?? I saw that slap from all the way over there."

Me: "Yeah, yeah I'm fine," I said smiling, trying not to cry, wondering if my cornea would ever be the same.

He stuck around, and so begins the story of how the only Asian in this club filled with hundreds of people tried to pick me up.

So we're talking, I think I'm blinking excessively, and then he says, "I need to tell you something."

Lay it on me, buddy.

Him: "I'm not really Jewish," with a shrug of his shoulders.

S-H-O-C-K-E-R. Lo mein, shlo mein. Wonton, shmonton. No big deal, karate kid.

He asked my name. Then I asked his.

Him: "David."

Sneaky bastard. You can't come to a Jewish party with that name and not have either:
- a hook nose;
- a woman in your life who answers to Bubbie; or
- a sporadic craving for kugel.

You just CAN'T.

Your first name is Wang, Ching, or Ding. Your last name is Wong, Chung, or Dong. Pick one of the aforementioned options, any combination will work, and do it faster than I can say "egg foo young."

I managed to escape. The party (pain) continued.

I was sitting down, waiting for my sister to come out of the bathroom. Story of my life. No more than three seconds after my tushi hit the bench, a dorky, Jewish vulture boy swooped down.

He stretched his arm in front of me, revealing a rolled sleeve cuff and said, "Do you prefer cuffs rolled up or down?" (while giving a head nod and raising one eyebrow).
Well, this is one I haven't heard before.

Now, I'm no stranger to attention from sources you'd NEVER want to receive it from.

For example: 11th grade Law Studies class trip to the Broward Country Correctional Facility. I was all the rage among the prisoners in Cell Block B. Hand gestures and beckoning like nothing I'd ever seen before (or since).

Getting back to the bird of prey before me, who has already started pecking away. I say, with a 'are u fucking kidding me' look on my face, "Ummm....I don't really know."

Scavenger: "Oh come on, you have to have a preference."

A preference? Sure. 5'10", dark hair, good teeth, funny, thoughtful, smart, European if we're really talking ideal - and after tonight, a NON-Jew. A Catholic. Very Catholic. Roman Catholic. Someone who would demand that our future children be baptized and have that stuff smudged on their forehead on a random Wednesday. Basically, a far cry (and I think I might at this point) from you. I spot my sister and, like a bird whose wings have just been unclipped, fly over to her.

Please scroll up to the disclaimer at the top and re-read it.

Later on...
Wait, is that my sister dancing on stage? It's not just Christmas Eve anymore, it's Armageddon. Yup, the world is coming to an end.

What else, what else?

Oh you know, walking through the bar, you get:
- Single? You single?
- Hey you...ya single?
- Mmmmph! girl, what up?

Luckily, in dire need of a bang trim, I couldn't see everything that was going on.

The night ended with a Portuguese, self-proclaimed non-Jew asking for my number, saying he came looking for a good Jewish wife. Ummm...go to hell. And while you're at it, take the shirt cuff schmuck with you.

For those friends who plan on visiting me, please be advised that I now attend church every Sunday. You can sleep in while I'm out hailing my new girl Mary.

Merrily yours,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Sparkling Schnoz Gone Awry

My conservative, older (but less mature), straight-laced sister shocked the family when she got her nose pierced. For its 1.5 month life-span, that little diamond stud was like the fifth member of our nuclear family. Sadly, an abcess (small bump filled with fluid next to the stud, only visible when staring at her nose from close range) formed, and together as a family we went to get the nose ring removed.

When we walked in to the piercing/tattoo parlor, it was as if the Partridge Family had rolled in. The "artist" behind the counter said, "Can I help you, folks???" My sister approached the counter and said that she had her nose pierced, there's a bump, and did he see it?

"Fuck yo! I see it."

Great, we're all in agreement here. He then proceeded to examine the nose ring and accompanying abcess from many angles, mainly underneath. The man instructed my sister to look up so he could "get a look atch’ ya jewelry." Dutifully, my sister raised her head up high. Good girl, very good girl.

He then called over his colleague who would actually remove the nose ring. There emerged an extremely large (wide) man, 5 ft tall, possessing 15 gold teeth. He was clad in G.I. Joe print pants and wore a baseball hat to the side. He told my sister that, for a charge, he could remove her piercing.

She said, "Ok, but is there gonna be a massive hole??" Massive, Sister? Do you have a bull ring piercing or a dainty little stud??

My sister followed him to the back of the store, but he told my mom and I that for insurance reasons, we couldn’t go with her. We just wanted to hold her hand. Apparently, no can do.

So, we waited in an area that thus took on the feel of a waiting room. I looked at the options for tattoos decorating the walls, my mom sat quietly in her oversized, down winter jacket on a bench, and my dad paced back and forth (is she getting a piercing out or delivering his first grandchild?)

From the back, we heard something reminiscent of the "are we there yet" complaint cycle. My sister repeatedly asked, "Is it out yet??"

I counted about eight instances of her asking if she'd have a huge hole in her nose when it was gone. Yeah, it's called a nostril.

As he twisted the ring out, she cried.

Twist, whimper, twist, tear, twist....

All the while, he tried to appease my sister’s angst by calling her “sweetheart” and asking distracting questions, like a doctor giving a small child a shot. “What grade are you in?”

She was 26 at the time.

When my sister emerged from the back, she stood before us looking vulnerable, with three q-tips sticking out from her nostril.

Sister: "Mommy...it bled."

My mom, still seated (thank God), had her hand over her mouth, and shook her head side to side. Dad - still pacing.

My mom paid the man, and on the way out said, "Aaron, I tipped him. He was a nice boy."

Driving home, it was quiet in the car, aside from a few scattered murmurings from my sister:

"Maybe I'll get the other side pierced."

"I felt so liberated with the piercing."

"I feel like half a woman now." Story of my life.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mom, Dad…Meet Someone Special

I brought someone home for Thanksgiving; someone to meet my parents. I’ve never brought anyone home to meet my family in the traditional sense. My dad is prone to giving noogies, my mom has self-diagnosed social anxiety disorder, and my sister is most certainly the 8th wonder of the world.

Though it wasn’t a member of the male species (Why? Because 3 out of 10 men in DC are gay and I don’t encounter the other 7 elusive beings), I still experienced the same apprehension and nerves I imagine people mull over when they bring someone (whom they’re sleeping with) home to meet their family.

I coached my parents on what they could and could not say, on handshakes versus hugs (hug…always hug), and to speak as slowly as possible. Putting the brakes on speech was imperative as the thus far mysterious turkey eater I brought home was Meiling, a student I teach English to as a volunteer. Meiling is from Beijing and is spending a year at the Embassy of China teaching Chinese to diplomats’ children.

A few weeks ago, Meiling had a confusing purchase issue at Ann Taylor and thought she was charged twice. I went with her to rectify what turned out to not be a double charge, and then we went out for lunch, only to learn that it was Meiling’s first visit to a restaurant in the four months she had been living in DC.

That is not ok. Not one bit. Not to a foodie or a lover of travel who believes you understand a new culture and country by way of your palette. I then made a promise to myself that I would try to show Meiling as much of the stars and stripes as I could between now and her departure (the thought of which makes me oh so sad).

Our next excursion was a Friday night at the movies to see Lars and the Real Girl. Meiling didn’t understand but a few words of the movie, though as she got off the metro train, she said she would remember the night for the rest of her life. I’m such a ladies man. Silent victory cheer.

What would a stay in the US be without a Thanksgiving celebration? Off to Baltimore, MD we go.

I met Meiling at the metro station between the embassy and my stu-stu studio so we could travel to Maryland and meet up with my sister, Julie, who would then drive us to Baltimore. On the metro ride, I taught Meiling my parents’ names. First names. She seemed floored by the concept of calling them Ellie and Aaron. I assured her that they were laid back kids and this is how they would want it to be. Meiling wrote down their names (including how to pronounce them) and kept repeating to herself, “El-E, Air-own, El-E, Air-own.” This made me giggle.

Meiling then showed me a gift she brought for my parents (she’s doing all the right things…why is she not a male who worships me?) It was a beautiful stringed craft of the animals associated with the Chinese lunar calendar. She pointed to each of the 12 animals, telling me what they were. When she got to one of the animals, she said, “Chicken? Hen?...Cock! Cock!” Then she nodded intently, satisfied that she thought of the right term, and continued on. I nearly lost it. Fast forward to her giving the gift to my parents, only eliminating the words “chicken” and “hen” from her presentation.

My sister picked up Meiling and I from the metro station. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts so I could get an egg-n-cheese croissant sandwich (had to miss breakfast to catch a Thanksgiving charity yoga class) and Julie could get a chocolate glazed donut.

For the 50 minute drive to Baltimore, Meiling peered out the car window smiling, non-stop. Sweet, sweet thing she is.

We arrived, and I think all felt nervous on the elevator ride up to my parents’ fourth floor condo. Dad opened the door. Meiling said, “Hi Air-own!” and shook his hand. She shook his hand…pitter, patter. Mom and Meiling hugged. Way to follow directions, Mom.

We all sat around while the turkey basted and the side dishes cooked. There was conversation and some awkward moments of silence, as to be expected. My sister then thought it a good idea to pull out old yearbooks and show Meiling embarrassing photos of me. This is so what happens in the movies. And because I cautioned my family to speak slowly, Julie said, “Look at how faaaaaaaAaaaat Jackie was.” Thanks. At least the bulk is in the past.

When Meiling looked at my sister’s senior year picture, she said, “Joo-lee, you look thin there.” You get my drift? She started it.

I wanted Meiling to get in the holiday spirit, so I handed her a bag of marshmallows and let her loose with the sweet potatoes.

Meiling topping the sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

The surface of the dish was covered (it later melted over the edges and Meiling thought she made a big mistake). There were still marshmallows left in the bag, so I told Meiling to try one.

Yeah, I was her first marshmallow.

She seemed concerned and questioned if it had to be cooked before eaten. Nope, I assured her as I stuffed one in my mouth. Meiling followed suit. “Sweeeeet,” she said with half a marshmallow sticking out of her mouth.

Meiling liked taking photos of my mom cooking.

The dinner went well, and Meiling was excited (read: jumping up and down) at being able to take photos with the family throughout the night.

At one point, my mom was in the kitchen and I poked my head in to ask, “Mom? Do you like her?” with the hopefulness of a girl who’s brought home the man she thinks she wants to marry.

“Jackie…yes. She’s just lovely.” I smiled and bashfully went back to the dinner table, but not before turning back to ask, “Mom? Do you think she’s pretty?”

“Oh, Sweetie...she’s beautiful!” Score.

Meiling prepping the pumpkin pie.

Meiling learning how to use whipped cream.

My family and I were heading to Connecticut early the next morning, so we couldn’t have a Meiling slumber party. My mom and I took her to the train station after dinner. I went into the station with her and insisted on buying the ticket. Meiling almost decked me. Don’t ruffle my feminist (or volunteer) feathers.

I waited with her on the platform until her train arrived to make sure she got on ok. “Call me when you get back to the embassy, ok?”

“Ok, you no worry,” Meiling said.

I got in the car and my mom and I spent the ride back talking about how great Meiling is.

“Mom, can we adopt her?”

Mom: “Jackie, she’s 28 and she’s married.”


Meiling called to let me know she arrived home, mentioning that she loved my parents and she loved Julie. In the words of my grandpa, “What am I, chopped liver?” Story of my life.

On the ride to Connecticut, I announced, “I miss Meiling.”

“Me too,” said my mom.

“Dad, do you miss her?”

“Sure,” said my dad.


That one was sleeping. As soon as you put her in the car it has the same effect as when she was an infant.

So, do you think we’ll last?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Build-A-Bear/Get Your Tubes Tied

If I wasn’t celibate by default before visiting the Build-A-Bear Workshop, I certainly would have taken a vow of celibacy after the recent experience at an unbearable store. While visiting family in Connecticut, I took my seven year old cousin Alyssa (sweeter than honey) to said store for a customized teddy bear.

I had never been to a store that would make me crave sterility. It’s fun; try it if you get a chance. And by fun, I mean a blister on your inner eyelid would seem like an amusement park ride.

Alyssa and I entered the store hand-in-hand (I love me a cute cousin) and met our first nemesis – a long line comprised of consumer culture loyalists. My 4.0 GPA past did not need to be revived on this journey into bear headquarters, as bold signs hanging from the ceiling guided us on a step-by-step process from unstuffed animal to diminished bank account. All of these navigational pointers were separated by smaller signs that read, “Give Hugs.” Right.

Alyssa spotted (read: picked up and hugged tightly, smiling ear to ear) an unstuffed dog and I commended her on her fiscal selection - $12.

As we slowly progressed in line, we were taunted by other unstuffed options in bins lining the wall we grazed along. Alyssa quickly fell out of love with the unstuffed dog and rebounded with a $20 unstuffed polar bear.

“You know,” I said, “if you get the dog instead of the polar bear, you can get an extra accessory (they dress these crazy gimmicks).”

Alyssa heeded my subtle wisdom, but it wasn’t long before she revealed to me that she just looooooved the polar bear. As you wish. Your dad’s paying, so who am I to really push you in either direction. Financially minded older cousins rain on children’s parades.

I called my mom who was browsing in Chico’s, an establishment that ensures a woman’s right to wear reversible clothing. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I believe the words “rescue me” came across clearly, because she showed up shortly thereafter. My mom looked at me and my deer in the headlights gaze and said, “Oh, Honey…” She rubbed my back and then said she was going to see if anything was on sale at The Gap. “Mom…….”
Next stop was a station where you could select a heartbeat for your unstuffed animal, pulsations ranging from $3 - $8. Some beats allow the owner to record their voice on the device that promises life (total crock).

I didn’t even have to say anything. Sharp Alyssa told me that she could live with the complimentary non-beating heart that comes with each animal at a later station.

As we waited to approach the next station, I looked around at all of the stuffed animals on shelves around the Build-A-Bear Workshop – some wild, some tame – and seriously considered becoming a vegetarian. There were ponies in pink suede boots that bore a disturbing resemblance to Ugz footwear, a monkey dressed like Mrs. Claus, and a sheep in denim pants and a silver plush ski jacket. How would you feel?

While we were there, a birthday party was taking place, the finality of which included a processional of the kids holding their newly stuffed (and fluffed, and dressed) bears on top of their heads repeating in unison, in a monotone voice, “Look at my bear. Look at my bear.” Over and over again. What is this, the Hitler youth brigade?

Alyssa and I then made it to the most desirable destination, the place where unstuffed animals come as close to life as fabric allows. Alyssa played a role in the physical expansion of her new polar bear friend by pressing a foot lever that sent stuffing material shooting into the toy.

We weren’t done though; we had to collect our complimentary heart. We couldn’t just place the heart into the polar bear. No no. We had to endure a “heart ceremony.” The woman operating the stuffing machine told Alyssa to rub the heart on her tummy so the polar bear never goes hungry, to rub it on her forehead so it should be wise – oops, Alyssa dropped the heart on the floor – continue on with rubbing the heart on different parts of her face for noble reasons as older cousin is horrified of the lapse in sanitation and fears a rash.
Heart ceremony complete, and in it goes.
This is the station for primping your now stuffed animal and making sure it looks its best. At this point my 27 year old sister joined us – nothing left to consider at Banana Republic – and advised Alyssa to not fluff too hard because the stitching could come undone. Poor kid now prone to family neuroses. Story of my life.

My sister aptly captured what any chemically balanced person would have desired in such circumstances. “I need a Xanax.”
Dress a polar bear because its own skin isn’t capable of keeping it warm in Connecticut. The polar bear must have a gold jacket complete with a hood and an evening bag. These suckers get a wardrobe that I’m envious of. So not fair.

Just before approaching the register, Alyssa and her polar bear sat down at a computer to register the waste of money and give it a name, the “pawfect” name.

As Snowball was being rung up, Alyssa grabbed a big cardboard house for him to go in. “Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. “Does that cost extra??”

At least we ended on a happy $40 note. Did I mention that I love my cousin tremendously?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Darks, Whites, and Wounds

Who gets injured doing laundry? I did, and I’ll have a scar to prove it. I cut the side of my left hand on my laundry basket, an unassuming white plastic object that turned on me. One of the cut-outs encircling the basket had a (razor) sharp edge and my epidermis took a beating.

I stood next to washers #13 and #14 (oh how city life mirrors the college dorm) bleeding and wondering how I’d ever be able to take care of a family when I couldn’t even defend myself against a stationary, lifeless piece of plastic.

While most would be quick to head back to their apartment to clean the cut (profound scrape), I experienced a contemplative paralysis, wondering if the accumulation of such domestically disastrous scenarios accenting my past (i.e. leaving on the gas stove, neglecting to dust anything above arms reach) would render me unfit to bear offspring. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have baby fever. Not in the least. Not one iota. I just like to think about things well in advance. I’m an anticipatory fiend. Story of my life.

The wound is really tender, highly sensitive to sleeves during the putting on and taking off of clothes (leaving me debating whether I can just wear my PJ shirt to the office). It’s also a 2-part wound (when can something associated with me not be complex?) that looks like a semi-colon (;). This makes the grammarian in me smile and think that if I must be scarred, at least the indelible marking bears resemblance to something meaningful to an aspiring writer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tipping Point

The tips of my fingers are a window into the winter version of my soul – yeah, it’s seasonal. Do you have a problem with that?

Since the temperature dipped below an acceptable number by native Floridian standards, I’ve taken to wearing fingerless gloves. Not so much fingerless as fingertipless – my knuckles and the area up to the next joint are shielded from my arch nemesis: WIND. The finger portions above are left to fen for themselves. Sink or swim. Freeze or remain thawed. Stiffen or wiggle.

And I’m a nail biter. Story of my life.

Entering my third winter in the land of Washingtonians, I’m taking a more calculated approach to easing into the chilly season. In the past, at the first sign of cold temperatures, I jumped into my thermal underwear – top and bottom. I wore thermals under everything and on every occasion. Wearing skirts and dresses was out of the question. With the new trend in leggings, this winter could be different. I’m not making any promises.

As DC solidifies as “home” and Florida feels more like a word in my vocabulary than a part of my identity, I want to fully live up to my Northerner shoes (boots). Fully = no more crying during the winter; no more self-imposed Seasonal Affective Disorder; no more using the hair dryer as a warm-up tool; no more sleeping in a sleeping bag under my down comforter.

Starting the season with exposed fingertips is my personal cheer of, “I think I can! I think I can! I’ll show you!” Not sure who “you” is.

Fingertipless gloves are also a practical choice, enabling me to retrieve my metro card and apartment keys without having to take off gloves and expose the entirety of my hand to the risk of becoming wind-chapped.

What was my point in writing this? Story of my life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Suitors Take Note

If you’re going to love me, you should be aware (and accepting) of the following:

I take a really long time choosing fruits and vegetables in the produce section of the supermarket.

I find supermarkets to be cathartic. I love roaming the aisles mid-day. If a stock boy checks me out, all the better.

When I get back from a trip, I have to unpack immediately.

I sometimes eat half a box of cereal late at night. Sometimes twice in the same week. It’s always high fiber varieties. No fruit loops for me.

I’m not a good swimmer.

I tweeze my eyebrows daily.

I think food tastes better when it’s shared.

I begin yawning at 11:00 pm

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Sometimes I want to go to bed early just so I can wake up and have breakfast.

I think Rod Stewart is the sexiest man alive. People magazine slights him every year.

I’m annoying to trail at a salad bar. If there is a bin of tri-colored peppers, I’ll pick out the red ones.

One of my biggest fears in life is a food allergy.

I hate cats; I think they’re over-sized rats.

Growing up, I wanted to be a gift-wrapper at Macy’s.

I feel spiritual on my hot pink yoga mat.

My dad calls me “Jack” because he was vying for a son.

I was President of the National Honor Society in high school, as well as the President of the National Junior Honor Society in middle school.

I feel beautiful in a shower cap.

The back to school section at Target thrills me.

I don’t like wine. I think it’s pretentious.

I prefer sparkling water to flat.

I have the appetite of a 300 lb. man.

I still think there’s potential for me to grow taller.

I think that harmless lies of convenience are perfectly fine.

I didn’t go to my senior prom.

I’m an emotional eater.

I carry an umbrella, travel-sized lint brush, and mouthwash with me at all times.

I don’t watch TV except for The Today Show. There’s no better way to start the day than with Matt Lauer.

I once dressed up as The Macho Man Randy Savage for Halloween.

Trail mix haunts me. Story of my life.

I have to get each pair of pants I buy hemmed.

I love going to the movies solo.

I think my soul is European.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hair Mercy

On more days than not, I carry around the mild worry that I’m misunderstood in certain situations (did I seem defensive when yet another project was delegated to me?), that I’ve said too much in a spoken exchange (like when my boss’s son asked how I liked my new job and I replied that I liked it very much, followed by, “but would I tell you if I didn’t like it considering that your dad is paying my rent?), or that I come across as pushy or too opinionated – case in point unfolds…

Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You” captures the sentiment I reserve for Lonnie, my hair stylist during college. Since I tossed my cap in the air (but I didn’t really), I haven’t found anyone who can tame my locks with such artistry. Stylists from Brussels to Baltimore are inhibited hair technicians – they ain’t even stylists.

One disappointing haircut after another has freed me from my did-I-step-on-someone’s-toes mindset. By this I mean that I have no qualms about telling those armed with scissors exactly how I want my hair cut.

Razor – No.

Thinning shears – Go for it.

Chunky layers – Do and die.

Chiseled – You better.

Ishmael was the most recent bachelor in the search for my follicles’ “the one.” The book was great. The hair stylist - so-so.

When he said that he was finished, I questioned whether my revised mane was piece-E enough and if there was still too much weight in it.

“No. I fixed the problem.”

Oh, I had a problem apparently.

We went back and forth but the man wouldn’t budge, and since he had a sharp object in a hand planted firmly on his hip, I begrudgingly said “ok ok.”

When I was paying for my unfulfilled service, the receptionist told me that Ishmael cuts her hair and the hairs of her sister. He has an amazing touch and somehow the hair grows back an inch very soon.

Great, so I’m going to need another f’ing haircut in two weeks. Story of my life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Honeydew Gooder

Now that my new job affords me a better quality of living, I figure I should start purchasing the pre-sliced fruit containers at Whole Foods. “She works hard for the money…so hard for the money,” sends my hips a-sway in the produce section (not aisles) of aforementioned over-priced grocery establishment.

“What’ll it be today, big spender?” I think to myself. I eye the honeydew and consider it a fiscally responsible choice. Change moves slowly for me. The 3-berry mixture? I’m doing well, but not that kind of well. That’s downright extravagant.

I put the honeydew in my cart and roll onward, leaving residual feelings of “I’ve arrived” behind me, along with the woman weighing her organic grapes – a creature caught between the haves and the have-nots. Suckerrrrr.

The next day, the day following my purchase ridden with affluence, I came home to my apartment building where someone mans the front desk 24 hours a day. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

Front-desk-person o’ the moment, LaShawna, is a sweet woman who always holds my keys behind the desk when I go for a run. I’ve been told they’re not supposed to do this. Perhaps this is a marker of my expanding VIP status. Yeah.

LaShawna tells me she’s not feeling well and has had a headache for two days. I wanted to help her, and my gut inquiry was whether her braids might be too tight. I caught myself before asking (phew) and more appropriately questioned if she eats during her 4:00 – 11:00 pm shift?

“No, not really.”

By golly, I’ve got it; she’s got a hunger headache. Before I even realize what I’m saying, I offer LaShawna the contents of my refrigerator, namely yogurt and honeydew.

She nods when I say “honeydew,” as if there is nothing on Earth she wants more. I walk toward my apartment, carrying the heavy thought of, “what have I done?”

I can afford to better nourish myself, but charity was not something I had prepared myself for. Did I mention that I hadn’t even sampled the honeydew yet? Story of my life.

I eyed the clear plastic container and decided to eat a few pieces before making my non-tax-deductible donation.

She’ll need a utensil, it occurred to me. I don’t have plasticware. All I’ve got is my great-grandmother’s silverware. At this moment, I decided that honeydew could be classified as “finger food.”

I brought the honeydew to LaShawna and on the walk back to my melon-less apartment, I eyed myself in the lobby mirror and thought, “you done good, kid.”

The next night, LaShawna told me that she was feeling better and really liked the “melondew.”

Oh, honey.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New York Plate of Mind

I spent the weekend in New York City (when is it appropriate to call it Manhattan?) determined to satisfy my palate during the 36 hours I masqueraded as a pseudo-New Yorker. I embarked on this caloric journey with a friend, beginning with the precise selection of a morning muffin at Union Station in DC around 8:10 am.

There were two muffin joints to choose from and I had a hunch that the muffins were made by the same muffinista. When I’m not immersed in my full-time job, I play detective and read too much into things, mostly of the edible variety. Friend and I each decided on a coffee-cake muffin (no sharing when it comes to muffs). It took nearly every fiber of my being not to reach into the muffin repository (unassuming white paper bag sans muffin shop logo) as I waited to board the Amtrak bound for “the city” (as seems to be the cool way to refer to the locale that’s not the capital of New York State.)

I so should have taken a nibble because what I found while on board the train would have compelled me to purchase another muffin of a different variety. Important to note that while I rarely discriminate when it comes to muffins, I do not enjoy the flavor blueberry. As I watched friend rip off the top of her muffin (yeah, she’s one of those), I was initially delighted at the sight of dark circular muffin insertions I wrongly thought to be raisins. They weren’t raisins – oh no they weren’t. BLUEBERRIES were in my coffee-cake muffin. Story of my life.

Off to a bad start.

My next caloric intake was a $4.50 slice of Florentine pizza, infused with spinach, feta, and ricotta cheese. Quite tasty.

Next stop: Alice’s Tea Cup, a what-will-probably-take-on-Serendipity-notoriety tea shop known for its scones. I don’t appreciate the 2-scone minimum order. “You can’t just get one?” I thought to myself repeatedly, with a perplexed look on my face as I hoped for a footnote on the menu noting that yes, Washington transplants named Jackie could indeed just order one scone.

I’ll have the peanut butter-banana and almond joy sconeS and a pot of tea (for just me – and I’m a coffee drinker). Why? Because there is a minimum order of $10 per person on the weekends. There went any suspicion that this city was a place for bargains.

Next digestive activity involved glazed cashews from one of the HOT NUTS stands located on every other corner in New York City. Let me note that these nuts (HOT) were purchased after a subway snafu (wrong direction) en route to a broadway show, where friend and I arrived exactly at the 8:00 pm showtime; we wanted nuts (HOT ones) to munch on, and the imminent dimming of the theatre lights was not going to stop us. I ran from the HOT NUTS stand to the theatre without regard for pulsing beings in my way, provoking grazers in Time Square to call out, “What the hell/fuck?”

Following the show, friend and I craved falafel and stumbled upon (I always trip, no matter where I am) fried chick peas in a not so fine establishment on a questionable street – but the falafel maker did wear a paper hat to protect the frying chick peas from any loose locks. Phew.

Then I contemplated an ice cream cone from McDonald’s (I am my mother’s daughter), but friend didn’t seem into it and my thighs thanked her in the morning.

The morning brought a lovely brunch with a childhood friend. More importantly (no offense childhood buddy), the morning bestowed upon my life a mimosa, a basil and goat cheese egg scramble over sourdough with roasted tomatoes and asparagus (goat cheese not detectable….grrr), and a slice of pear pecan crumbcake (thank god no blueberries found their way in).

A new trend in frozen yogurt embellished my afternoon in “The Village” (I think that’s where it was?).

By 5:00 I was really in need of bottled water. Not just water – bottled, folks. Thank you cart vendor on the outskirts of Central Park.

My weekend in New York City culminated with dinner somewhere on Columbia and 83rd, at a cute order-at-the-counter (my favorite style) neighborhood bakery/café. Hello quiche. When do I ever eat quiche? Well, when I’m in a city that sometimes (when people, when??) takes the name of Manhattan. A chocolate chocolate chip cookie to go and friend and I were off to Penn Station.

As for what transpired between bites, does it even matter?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Day 2 of the respite between the former bane of my existence (first job out of college) and the onset of my new lip-lock with employment. The best part about not working – staying up late. Really late. So late that you are awake during the transition from one day to the next.

I’ve introduced muffins into my cage-free week. I love muffins; they call to me. And with the excusable feeling that I’m on vacation, I’m enjoying muffins without the guilt typically felt from the consumption of cake (that’s really all it is) for breakfast. Yesterday’s muffin was titled “Zucchini Bread Muffin” in the grab-it-yourself bakery at Whole Foods. How could anything be bad for you at Whole Foods, anyway? This morning’s oat bran muffin, purchased and enjoyed on the spot, was from a local café. The thing was loaded with whole grains and nutrients. Who am I kidding – I should have had two.

As I was nibbling on my oat bran muffin and sipping a soy café au lait, one after the other so as not to multi-task with food, save for dipping muffin pieces into the coffee, I read The Late Bloomer’s Revolution, a borrowed read from my sister. I was reckless in my consumption of oats and words, and muffin crumbs fell into the crease between pages 46 – 47. Story of my life.

“[Expletive!]” I muttered to myself, thinking that my sister was going to kill me. Did I mention that named book was also resting in a pool of soy infused caffeine just moments before, when I attempted to squeeze myself into a chair sandwiched between the table and a ‘slippery when wet’ floor sign. The sign wouldn’t budge, so my au lait took a fall. Better it than me.

Yesterday, Day 1 of unemployment, began with a Baptiste yoga class in Georgetown. Then, my sweaty self and plum colored yoga mat went shopping in the pretentious commercial district that is Georgetown. I anticipated a relaxing shopping atmosphere in contrast to a tourist-ridden Saturday spent browsing in Anthropologie. The shops were mainly empty, and while I didn’t have to concern myself with knocking over anyone (except maybe a mannequin) with the plum colored yoga mat slung across my back, I did have to contend with profoundly annoying salespeople.

I don’t like to be approached when shopping; I don’t like it one bit. It’s like a movie – please don’t speak to me during the show, not even the previews; I’ll explain what happened when the lights have come back on. Though, if I have a question, I feel completely justified to pose an inquiry with my movie companion, unless I’m cinematizing solo (best thing ever).

I almost became violent in the GAP. Five people greeted me and three wanted to start a fitting room for me. Why can’t I just hold my things? I just held my body suspended in chatturanga countless times in a room heated to 95 degrees. Dude – I can handle my own khakis.

On the way back to the Dupont Metro station, I ran into a co-worker who said that between me, her, “and the lamppost” she had just gone on a job interview. She then went into a monologue about her gripes with the company, motivations for wanting to leave, and other tidbits I would have paid money to not have to listen to. My first day of freedom and I’m locked into a visit with a former prisoner mate. What did I ever do to you (‘you’ could be a multitude of people/spirits)?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An Ode to 23

It’s been one week since I turned 24 years old, friends (many) and lovers (not a one). No longer of an age that falls in the odd number category, I’m left wondering if I can still lay claim to feeling “odd” at times. My soul is European, so I don’t always mesh with mainstream circumstances – not that that’s my goal. Did you know that I went on a yoga vacation? Me, myself, and my yoga mat.

24 just has this serious/my-head-is straight-on-my-shoulders/I don’t emotionally eat overtone. Well I’m a new member of the 24 and over club, and I’m playful/my-head-was-tilted-toward-my-right-shoulder-squeezing-a-phone-while-I-typed-at-work-for-two-hours-today/I’m eating obscene amounts of granola (story of my life) as I birth this momentary memoir.

Does 24 suit someone who calls her mom on her lunch hour and says that she doesn’t know what to eat for lunch and what does she (mom) suggest?

Would someone who is “even” still argue with her older sister about who sits in the front seat when they’re spending the day with their mom? I swear she starts, though.

Back in the good old days when I was 23 (sigh for seven days ago), I felt like the healthy two year distance from 25 was a validation of my widespread confusion over grad school, meals, selecting produce at the grocery store, and deciding if playing on a kickball league was really something I wanted. Now that I’m itching closer to 25 with each passing day (making a squeamish face), maybe I’ve got to use speaker phone at the risk of upsetting my skull’s posture while multi-tasking at the office and perhaps I should alert the manager at Trader Joe’s that I am not to be allowed to purchase anything suitable for consumption on a hike (trail mix, granola, the like).

If anyone asks my age, I think I’m apt to say that I “just turned 24…like really recently.” For how long can that be an honest statement?

And when does the quarter-life crises set in? Is it right at 25, or can I look forward to anxiety and dissatisfaction during the months leading up to 25?

Even numbers are a bitch; they just are.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Strawberry Locks Forever

My AOL screen name, conceived of soon after becoming a double-digit youngster, includes the word “blondy” to capture the natural hair pigmentation of my locks from childhood through high school. As soon as I turned 18, my roots decided to darken and I turned to foil. Yeah. Yeah, I did.

The past six years have included experimentation with highlights – some thin and subtle and others chunky and side-stepping boldness.

New job, new hair, new beginnings – my motto for the summer of 2007.

Poignant, no?

I’ve been contemplating a rendezvous between my crown and shades of red for some time now (my grandpa only dates red-haired women), and I thought that with a new job on my horizon (and a failing dating life), I was ready to go ruddy.

My grandpa often proposed marriage to me as a kid.

“What do you say we go to Vegas, Jackie baby?”

I’d laugh and say that I wasn’t ready and he was silly. Boy was I a dumbass.

Had I known the dark shades of dating, I would have enthusiastically accepted and changed my hair color way sooner.

And we’re red…

Four days after my hair changed color (via an obscene amount of money), my grandpa was to arrive for a visit (damn I plan well). We were to spend my birthday together - worthwhile usage of the ever-prized PTO. Grandpa didn’t feel well and cancelled his visit.

“Mom, wait a second…did you tell him I’m a red head (strawberry blonde) now??”

I don’t get it; I’m finally ready to commit and he gets cold feet. Story of my life.

I want to say that the switch from blonde to a shade o’ red or any darker hue is indicative of maturity, good character, individuality, a step on the salon pathway less traveled – and that the switch from dark hair to blonde is easy, customary, exuding the familiarity of the red/white/blue striped rotating cylinder typical of barber shop storefronts. (How soon one forgets where she came from.)

People with strawberry pigmented locks are mysterious creatures poised for creativity and capable of anything – attempting to seduce their own grandfather, publishing books, leaving footprints all over the world, and helping others to find peace in their own circumstances (contemplating an MSW one day) – or at least I hope so (I’ll let you know in a while.)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Love in Translation

I volunteer as an English teacher (no training) for non-native speakers. This summer, I’m leading a book club (Tuesdays With Morrie) on Tuesday evenings. Don’t you just love when things turn out like so?

My summer camp counselor habits, namely playing favorites, are also characteristic of my teacher self. If you saw hombre (Brazilian student I like a whole lot), you’d understand. He’s a tall, painfully attractive, quadri-lingual beauty with a soccer player’s physique (he plays) and an ability to make me question if I need knee replacement surgery.

During this past Tuesday night’s class, I instructed the students to partner up for an activity. There were seven in attendance, so I advertised my availability to be someone’s partner – “Who wants me?”

“I want you,” says hombre.

Yes, I need new knees and a back brace if I’m to remain vertical.

The activity involved making a timeline and noting pivotal life events from birth through the present that shaped who they are today, in an attempt to demonstrate Morrie’s belief that you are every age up to your own; a 78 year old man still has parts of his 5 year old self intact inside.

Ok, then this evening I’m unearthing my boy crazy adolescent self with a surplus of hormones. Not to much the story of my life.

When hombre reached age 25 on his timeline, I noted, “you beat me,” as that evening I was two days shy of turning 24.

He said that we were 10 years apart – a healthy distance, I affirm in my head. Hombre also said that I was the same age as his younger sister.

Ohhh no. Don’t do that to me. Don’t put me in the little sister category; I’m your teacher and I can tell you what to do. If only “Kiss me now” was an appropriate pedagogical command.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cold Nuts

If you know me, you know I have a proclivity for eating peanut butter out of the jar, annihilating the plastic treasure chest in just two sittings, sometimes within the same day. Yeah, I know I’m ill.

I give myself breaks between ransacked jars, thinking two months is enough time to heal and I won’t consume the next jar as rapidly. Here looms over my head the saying, “You’re only kidding yourself.”

Sometimes I tell myself that when consuming the crunchy variety (really the only way peanut butter should be made; as in, there’s no chocolate other than dark) to just eat the crunchy parts and avoid the butter. That turns my wrist and forearm into a sticky mess, as I wipe the excess butter on the jar’s rim and then get into trouble as I dig in to violate the jar’s bottom.
Story of my life.

I write this vignette with a jar of peanut butter to my left. All natural peanut butter. The kind that has to be refrigerated after opening. I didn’t think cold peanut butter would be tempting. Once again, “You’re only kidding yourself” resonates loudly and visibly (I think I just got peanut butter on my keyboard. Story of my life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nilla Fare

I’m 23 11/12 and I found myself eating Nilla Wafers out of the box nearing midnight during a recent visit home to my parents house.

I haven’t eaten these since preschool (or have I?), yet now, 20 11/12 years later, I’m comforted by these unassuming, delicious (trust me) treats amidst my what should I do with my life angst, as if the taste of childhood could revive that magical Disney feeling that blanketed my youth.

My mom stood nearby washing dishes in a 100% cotton, knee-length pajama shirt. I wore a similar one of hers (different color, different pattern); I pack as little as possible for visits home, mitigating the packing anxiety experienced by a lover of travel.

And then I saw myself as a daughter again. In my DC life, I’m a volunteer, resistant young professional, yogi, studio renter, aspiring freelancer, student at times, a friend. In creating this life unto me, I forgot what it was like to berate my dad for not putting the seat down, call out to my mom from the shower because I forgot a towel, be woken by someone and not by my cell phone.

I went on auto pilot – sitting in the back seat of a car that took me places I didn’t navigate to; walking around sans purse (wallet, metro card, travel size lint brush); eating food from the fridge I had no role in purchasing; sleeping in a bed I didn’t make, yet somehow the comforter found its way home in time for the next night’s rest.

Our Saturday night out included pizza, followed by a large frappaccino unintentionally shared three ways. Family is a blended approach to life. Then a stop at a book store where I picked something out, handing it off to my mom to buy while I continued to browse in the minutes before the store closed. In childlike fashion, I was the only one who got a toy.

In this digression to dependency, I wondered (and worried) how I would find my way back to the holistic pistol I seemed to be less than 48 hours before.

Nilla Wafers – talk about food for thought.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Spinning My Wheels

I spent the weekend in Baltimore for no reason other than to purchase a bicycle. I'd say bike but I'm trying to maintain a serious overtone for why I'd spend a weekend in a completely de-charmed place known as "Charm City."

Mom and Dad, I love you. (Egg and sperm providers reside in Baltimore.)

My inner hippie has been beating her drum to the tune of "You Spin Me Right Round Baby Right Round," while my inner badass has developed a craving for disturbing pedestrians, namely my inevitable and imminent proclivity for riding my new bicycle on D.C. sidewalks.

I ventured into the Performance Bicycle shop and found myself in a pronunciation war zone. Where's a speech pathologist when you need one most? Baltimore locals (affectionately, Baltimorons) interchange the letters "T" and "D" and sometimes forget the letter "I" altogether. When a local utters his city of origin, "Baldmore," the listener whose ears bear such phonetic fallacies wonders whether the speaker has a speech impediment or is simply (literally) stating his preference for additional baldness.

Grammarians not so much, but knowledgeable bicycle salespeople Baltimore does have. And their patience for a big city gal with a lot of questions and no certainty for anything but the bicycle's color - endless.

The first question posed was whether I wanted a unisex bicycle or a "ladies" bicycle. I guess I left my feminist badge at home because they didn't initially perceive my "I prefer to have platonic crushes on amazing women than date half-broken men" philosophy.

My 5'2" frame was better suited to the "ladies" bicycle, though, as swinging my leg over the equality bicycle proved difficult. Perhaps it was my attire. Who wears Diesel jeans to test ride a new bicycle? Story of my life.

As the very tattooed salesman rang up my new bicycle, helmet, pump, carry-on pouch, heavy duty (at least 6 lbs.) lock, and kickstand (can you believe they charge an extra 8 bucks for that?), I calculated that if I ride to work 35 times and avoid metro fare, I'll break even. August - you're my month.

A final lesson in how to lock up the bicycle ended on a sour note, for me at least. These crazy linguists want me to remove the front wheel in order to lock it up with the back wheel and bicycle frame. Did I buy the top of the line lock with an extension cord or not? Can't it wrap around the frame, through both wheels, and around the pole?

Stacy (men with female names...oh, brother) seems to think not. As he gently demonstrated the psychotic removal of the front wheel, beginning with the separation of the brakes wire from this bolt of sorts, he told me I was then going to do some subsequent crazy maneuver, to which I fiercely shook my head no, in a very Sally Field "Not Without My Daughter" manner.

I won't do it Stacy; I just won't.

After the three hour ordeal, my mom informed me that she's, "bought cars in less time." Yeah, and you live in Baltimore. I'd trust your judgment as much as I'd trust my ability to remove the front tire and then connect it again to the bicycle.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sho(e)o, Corporate. Sho(e)o!

I’ve been straddling the corporate dress code policy since the sun set on May, namely with a certain pair of shoes that could be criminal between the hours of 9 – 5. Or, if you’re me, 8:30 – 4:30 (I know, it does rock). These sandals resemble flip flops in that they have two black leather straps emanating from between my big and pointer toes, making a pronounced “V” across my foot.

Have I ever mentioned that I think my feet are lovely? Possibly my best physical feature. Quite the opposite of my nose.

The base of the sandals appears rubber-like and khaki in color. I’m all about comfort, and these shoes offer me the cushioning I so adore. They also look pretty casual, save the silver buckle on the strap facing the outside world, co-workers and fellow rule breakers alike. I’m safe if silver’s in the picture, right? It’s like I’m wearing jewels on my feet; what’s defiant about sterling?

The Vice President of Human Resources sent out a mass email two days ago to remind us captives that there indeed is a summer dress code – no spaghetti straps, no mini-skirts, no long shorts, and no flip flops.

What’s the point in living then?

I attempt to take the professionalism up a notch today with a pair of closed-toe pointy black heels; backless – am I a partial badass or am I not? I feel that false sense of being “on” that an additional two inches can offer a petite thing such as me-self. My on-top-of-the-world feeling soon fades as my feet begin to hurt like hell and the onset of a blister is as certain as my tendency to eat jars of peanut butter in two sittings or less.

Every time I click “print” it’s like I’m slitting my own throat, having to then walk around the corner to retrieve the pain provoking documents from the printer. Then comes the real challenge – delivering something to a co-worker on another floor (stairs enter the equation). I stand up and my knees splay outward, resisting their role to support me on this mission of a check request submission. I feel like Hank Azaria’s character in the movie The Birdcage, Agador. Story of my life.

You can do this, Jackie. You can.

No, I can’t. Or it’s that I won’t.

Sojourner Truth’s voice rings in my head as I think, “And ain’t I a woman?”

Am I? I know I’m not a girl, but a full-fledged woman?? I feel like that entity is defined by features and experiences I can’t lay claim to yet: distinguishable cheekbones, not the rounded baby face I have; smile lines framing the mouth, not the smooth skin around mine; a few broken hearts to my one; and financially independent, not on the family cell phone plan (for this I am so grateful).

A woman can wear heels all day, from her front door to the metro, on the metro and off to work, all day in the office, and back home – maybe stopping at a happy hour on the way. I wear a most well-supported sandal (<3 Mephisto) to and from the office, work shoes resting in my yoga bag, and then only put those on when standing on carpeted terrain outside my cubicle. While in the cubicle, I’m barefoot.

Yeah, you heard me. Free as a bird.

I can’t even sit like a lady. I’m in half lotus all day. Screw that side-saddle nonsense. I can’t fight the urge to be comfortable, natural, mimicking the good old days in the womb. I even found myself sitting Indian style on a bar stool (I’ve got good balance) at this classy bar across the street from a music hall where Duke Ellington used to play. Duke would understand.

A woman can tolerate high-waisted dress pants - pleated, lined, and dare I say with cuffs. I sometimes have these moments on my lunch hour where I’m walking and suddenly feel like I’m a little kid trying on my mom’s clothes; the garments feel too big, even stolen from another person’s life.

It’s then that I want nothing more than to be out of these clothes, these collared button down shirts and dress pants that feel suffocating in their looseness and itchy despite being 100% cotton.

Yes, the person who doesn’t even wear a bikini wants to be naked right in the middle of Dupont Circle. I’m a hypocrite with the best of intentions.

Is it possible to get a restraining order against corporate America? If I can’t avoid it for all reasons pointing to rent, can corporate America please avoid me? It can just forget that I exist, leave me out of its will.

She can have these clothes back, this woman. She can have her pointy, high heeled shoes and her seat at the conference room table. She can look at me with cobwebs near the corners of her eyes and wrinkles around her mouth that concealer can’t help, thinking this kid in her early 20s needs to get a grip if she wants to “make it,” especially if she wants to be offered a credit card at Ann Taylor.

You know what, lady? I’m pulling out of this one. My feet won’t walk this pre-paved professional path with grooves for heels to rest in. I’ve got pedorthic sandals and a penchant for having my feet on the chair. I feel alive in a racerback tank top and capable of changing the world dressed in pajama pants.

“Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner (Jackie) ain't got nothing more to say.”

Friday, June 22, 2007

Yoga Speak - Jackie as Granola

"There is great strength in letting go to realize that our actual needs are few and that our journeys are many."

I considered it an opportune time to read over my Kripula Yoga and Health Center reservation details while waiting in line to check in at the Southwest Airways ticket counter. I then saw that my shuttle arrangements from Albany International (now flies to Canada) Airport to the yoga center was booked for June 15th. Date that I am standing in line – June 14th.

The syllables comprising “Ohhhh shit…” reverberated in my head, out of my mouth, and among the surrounding people in line. Yes, some yogis do use foul language. I’m working on it.

Following my cursing purge, I immediately phone Mom, in typical rectify-a-situation fashion.

Mom: Hello?
Granola: Mom?
Mom: What’s wrong?
Granola: [insert reservation snafu here]
Mom: Why didn’t you read over the confirmation earlier?
Granola’s thoughts: Excellent time to renege, Mom. Let’s dwell on what could have been.
Granola: Can you please turn on the computer and get me their number off the web site?

Mom pulls through.

Just after 8:00 am, I call Kripalu and use the “0” trick to get a real person before working hours. Damn I’m good.

“Hi this is Justin. Thanks for calling Kripalu.”
Granola: Hi Justin – this is Jackie (as if he should know who I am).
I convey the scheduling dilemma, and Justin says that he will get me on today’s shuttle, but the computers are down so can he have my number to call back when he’s secured the shuttle switch.

I haven’t even arrived and a nice sounding fellow is already asking for my number. Things are looking up.

Granola: My flight is at 9:30 am, so please try to call me before then.
(Have I become slightly bossy?)

Not a half hour goes by when my phone rings.
Granola: Hello?
Potential weekend beau: Hi Jackie, it’s Justin from Kripalu.
I try to ignore the “from Kripalu” in an attempt to separate business from pleasure.

Justin confirms that he’s secured a seat for me on today’s shuttle. I thank him and fight the urge to ask how I’ll know it’s him when I arrive.

I board the plane with a cluster of people also relegated to Boarding Group C. I spot an empty seat in the emergency exit row and all 5’2” of me feels justified to staking claim.

The stewardess reviews the exit row obligations and policies with me and other ample-leg-room seekers (all extremely tall men). We’re asked if we can execute the duties in the event of an emergency landing. I can hover in chaturanga just as long as the next yogi. I think we’re fine here.

My flight lands, and at the designated pick-up time, I find Bob holding a sign that reads “Kripalu.” He tells me I’m the only one, the car is outside, but he has to go to the bathroom (I prefer “loo”) first. The car is a black Cadillac with black leather interior. This is not very yoga, I think to myself. I was expecting a beat-up, vintage VW van, not the yoga celebrity treatment reserved for the likes of Shiva Rea or Rodney Yee.

Bob and I talked the entire ride, across the Massachusetts state line and despite my attempts to sleep. His girlfriend is a nurse, and sometimes she uses a computer at work.

We arrive, and Bob tells me that he’ll see me on Sunday. See and talk to me is more the truth.

I approach the check-in desk, state my name, and a guy named Jesse says that he’s the one who spoke to me on the phone. My hearing has really taken a nosedive. Jesse resembled a mountain man. I bet Justin would have been better looking.

Not to ruin the ending, but I loved everything about Kripalu except the yoga classes – story of my life.

I stay in dorm accommodations, open-door-no-room-key style, and luck out with a five person room, as many had 20-25 beds – a setup where women become snore patrol officers, so I hear.

After a delicious dinner in the cafeteria (where each morning breakfast is chewed in silence), I attend the orientation session for first-time Kripalu visitors. The forever student in me loves this feature, and feels like her youth is being handed back to her. (I turn 24 on August 9th and I am really not ok with that.) Imagine that I am the sole member of the audience - me and John T., head of Guest Services. John T. opts to not use his PowerPoint, thinking that a casual conversation is more in order. I get straight to the point, asking a slew of questions about the live here for free in exchange for work volunteer option, an alternative experience I’m still contemplating. Read: I’ve become incapable of making a decision these days.

Later that night, I visit the Jacuzzi for a nice start to my vacation – separate facilities for men and women. As I enter the Jacuzzi room, I notice that the only thing distinguishing me from the four other women a-whirl is a bathing suit. A tankini. Mine. Author’s note: they were naked.

Once a prude always a prude? I thought I had gotten over this. But really, how was I to have known?

Two nights later, I go to the Jacuzzi room clad in a white towel (to be hung on one of the towel bars just inside the door), after which I’d reveal that I too could play this game. I possess a strong take-a-look-at-me-now feeling as I turn around (towel free) to a whirlpool that is completely empty. When? When will it be easy?

My vacation days begin with early morning sub-par yoga, followed by breakfast (illegal amounts of granola consumed), then a 2-hour guided hike in the nearby mountains (with poles – handy props, kids). Afternoons include more mediocre yoga, reading, lying by a lake, eating the celebrated Kripalu chocolate chip cookies, an evening with sunset kayaking or a Thai-Shiatsu massage workshop.

Enter my soul, and please watch your step -
My inner hippie finds her forum to play – a platform that supports her desire to be clean, yet not immaculate; a place where clothes are functional and fashion is of no importance; a pace of existing that is indulgent but not the least bit wasteful.

I think my capacity to be a minimalist has a depth I’ve yet to explore, the deepness of which may even shock the sole explorer (moi). Just before coming to Kripalu, I was out to dinner and overheard two brides-to-be, around my age, discussing tablecloths, whether servers should wear gloves, and how they already despised their soon to be in-laws. I felt like another species, knowing that I don’t even want a wedding. A partner, yes. Pomp and circumstance, not at all.

I work among many a diamond toting woman – they shimmer and I shiver, thinking of the travels that could be had with the same money for a status symbol that perpetuates that game with the Jones’ family. I also feel wrong about the opportunity to marry when gay people can’t in most places. And this is why I think I need to be living off of berries in a developing country with Rod Stewart, trying to dig a well so people can have running water.
Ok, you can leave now. Thanks for stopping by.

I meet Bill on one of my hikes, an approaching senior citizen from Boca Raton. “Bill, I’m a Gator,” I reveal. Bill chuckles and so begins a dialogue about his imminent retirement, the urge to be done with a lifestyle of stress and deadlines, but the confusion of what to do next – feeling paralyzed by all of the options, wondering if he’ll be missing out on one thing if he chooses another, trying to maximize the gain and do a little bit of everything.

I nearly stop in my tracks; here’s a person almost three times my age and he’s just echoed my exact sentiments. So, it doesn’t end? As badly as I’ve been searching for which direction to head next, it’s becoming clear that the never ending research paper on your identity and purpose requires a consistent re-write, as having the final draft at 23 would likely make the next 23 less intriguing, and the 23 after that totally boring.

And I thought I came here in search of answers.