I’m Bad at Vacations! And Other Laments

Summer is coming to an end, folks! Overall, mine was pretty good, though I could have done with less rain and more fireflies.

I mentioned previously that Marc and I celebrated our three-year anniversary this year. We decided to commemorate this milestone with a trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario. Not only was this my first time to Canada, it was our first real trip together, just the two of us. We’ve been a lot of places over the past three years, but never had we taken a vacation to just kick back and enjoy each other’s company.

It turns out we’re not really “kick back” kind of people. Who knew?

So we get to our hotel, and the first thing we realize is that we have the kitschiest hotel room in history, complete with crazy, patterned wallpaper and Gone with the Wind memorabilia. Man would I love to climb inside that decorator’s mind. But by far, the most interesting thing was the heart-shaped Jacuzzi smack-dab in the middle of the room. Yes, you read that correctly: heart-shaped Jacuzzi. Here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure:

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When we booked the sweetheart package, I don’t think we realized how literal it was. I was just in it for the included wine and box of chocolate!

Whilst after the six-hour drive, climbing right into that tub was tempting, we were eager to start doing things, to have experiences dammit! After all, this was one of the natural wonders of the world. We decided to start off the with famous boat ride through the falls.  Our burst of energy guided us seamlessly toward the boat. We bought our tickets, put on our ponchos, and boarded the vessel no problem. And as we got soaked in the beautiful majesty of the Falls, families trying to push us out of the way in order to get the perfect selfies, we felt tranquil, at peace, bathed in the mystery and beauty of nature. It was glorious!

Then we got off the boat. And wondered, “WTF do we do now?”

We looked around the main area and quickly realized we were in the tourist trap to end all tourist traps. We were surrounded by arcades, mini-golf, those ever-disappointing simulation rides. None of it exactly screamed, “Romantic getaway.” Ultimately, I was getting hangry, so we decided to grab something to eat. In addition to a tub and some caramel chews, our romance package came with some very romantic coupons to the Outback Steakhouse, TGI Friday’s, and IHop. We chose the Outback so I could have the pleasure of a blooming onion and Marc could have the pleasure of sleeping next to me after a blooming onion.

We sat down in a booth at the Outback, grateful for air conditioning and for the promise of food, when we made the painful discovery that tourist trap restaurants came with tourist trap prices. Our coupon was good for $20 off the bill when you ordered two entrées. Which we thought was pretty good for the Outback. Turns out, a Niagara Falls Outback entrée was at least $40. Even with the exchange rate, that was a tad expensive. We’re both a bit anxious about money, and while we might have thrown caution to the wind at another restaurant, the audacity of the Outback charging $40 for a chicken Caesar salad just made us angry. It was the principle of the thing! We ate our blooming onion and drank our watered-down drinks in annoyed, tired silence, and then left, hopeful to find a better way to close our evening.

We wandered around aimlessly for awhile, on sidewalks, across parking lots, over bridges, waiting for the inspiration to strike us. My fitness app said we walked over six miles. We tried a casino and quickly found out we don’t like to gamble. After losing $10 at the slots in about as many minutes, we realized we probably weren’t going to experience the same adrenaline rush as those around us, who had clearly arrived at this casino anywhere from several hours to twenty-two years ago. We decided to call it a night and walk back to the hotel. At least there was still time to fulfill my dream of having a glass of wine in that bathtub.

Here’s the thing: I love baths. I love sitting in a nice, warm bath until I get all pruney. And then I love adding in more hot water and continuing to shrivel up until I look like that guy in Indiana Jones after he drinks from the wrong cup. I don’t get a bath experience very often, however, because the opportunity rarely presents itself to me. After a long day of unsureness, I thought a bath might be a gateway to embracing the vacation spirit.

So we go back to the room and I put on the Jacuzzi and climbed in, glass of wine in hand. As I felt the calm, warm water brush over my ankles, I finally felt relaxed and at ease.

But then, it came time to sit down.

Suddenly, all I could think about was how many people had been in that tub. Easily, this entire hotel was designed in the 70s when people were doing a lot of acid. That’s four decades of stray bums in this tub. And even though it looked perfectly clean, was it really clean enough? What if I got a fatal disease? That would teach me to enjoy myself!

So there I stood, panicking in water that was quickly turning cold. You can do this, I told myself, You can have it all! After all, I knew I was being totally irrational. No tub is perfectly clean, and exposure to new bacteria is good for you! With a deep breath, I forced myself to sit, grimacing as my legs, arms, and back made contact with the hard, red porcelain.

“Want me to turn on the jets for you?” Marc asked. I nodded, thinking then it would feel more like a hot tub and it would help to not see the inside. He flipped the switch…

Cue the most powerful jets in all of history. These jets could have taken me to Hawaii and back in minutes. I felt like I was going to take off. I struggled to find a comfortable position, but the only thing that seemed to work was to try and float on top of the water, like a plastic bag on the ocean (Use canvas, folks!).

“Turn them off!” I pleaded, “Please, turn them off!”

“I don’t think I can,” Marc replied, staring at the dial on the wall. They were on a timer. I stared at the ceiling and waited for death.

I spent the rest of the evening reading horror stories about hotel tub diseases on the internet while Marc watched TV.

We gradually got the hang of vacationing as the trip progressed. We went wine tasting, to a chocolate factory, played mini-golf, ate ice cream, watched fireworks, and found a better restaurant that had a man with a handle-bar mustache teaching kids about science. I even got back in the tub on the second night! Plus, any time I get to spend with Marc is a gift in and of itself.

Still, we continue to laugh about that first day of our first vacation and all of the stress of our making that came with it.

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J. Awkward Prufrock Loses Her Wisdom…Teeth

Well, I had my wisdom teeth out last week. It’s been a pretty smooth recovery so far but boy was I nervous beforehand!

You know how some people are innately afraid of dental work? Uncomfortable by the idea of being poked, prodded, drilled, sliced, and diced? I’m one of those people who is terrified of sleeping through all of that!

The idea of being sedated gives me a full-on panic attack. The thought of being pumped full of unfamiliar drugs that take away my ability to control my own body really just gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’m also pretty cranky when I’m groggy and I just wanted to be able to get up from the chair, drive myself home, and carry on with my life. While I wasn’t exactly looking forward to being awake through my extractions, I knew it was the best option for my peace of mind.

“Not exactly looking forward” and “peace” are kind terms here. Poor Marc. The day before the procedure, every time I looked at him, I just started crying. That is because he is the only person in the world with whom I can be that open about my nerves, neuroses, and fears. But it couldn’t have been good for his psyche to have his girlfriend break down in tears at the sight of him. I love you, honey!

When I arrived at the oral surgeon’s office, I knew there was no turning back. It would be rude to leave and my parents didn’t raise me to be rude. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest, I thought it was going to just explode out of me, say, “Fuck this,” belch loudly, and ride on out of there on a tiny motorcycle. Which would have been really awkward as then I would have had to go through the whole procedure with a hole in my chest.

Everyone from the start was super nice to me; they really wanted to make sure I was comfortable. If anyone in Philly has a hankering for some oral surgery, please consider Penn Family Dental Practice.

The nurse recognized that I was in some distress (my blood pressure and resting heart rate probably resembled those of a warthog in heat) and she recommended nitrous to calm me down. Not only would it help with my anxiety, but it would give me the added pleasure of paying them an extra $60! Honestly, I was ready to try anything short of full-on sedation at this point.

So they strapped this weird thing over my nose and just told me to take deep breaths. I did, as those were pretty easy directions to follow. After a few minutes, the resident asked me I felt anything. Truly, I thought I didn’t until I opened my mouth to say so. My voice sounded far away and my head started clouding. Any true awareness I had about my immediate surroundings just went away. I didn’t care about anything. At one point, the surgeon said, “We’re going to have to slice your gum,” and as I felt the pressure of the scalpel in my mouth, I just thought, “That’s cooooooooolllll, man.” They asked me if I was okay several times because I was just staring blankly at the ceiling.

My hands felt heavy and I kept opening and closing them, I think to make sure they didn’t fall off. I just kept thinking, “I have hands.” If I didn’t have a large, foam block in my mouth, I probably would have asked the doctors if they, too, had hands.

The whole thing was over before I could even begin discovering my toes. Suddenly, the surgeon took the tools out of my mouth, threw the last tooth up and down in his hand, and said, “Not bad for my first time.” Hahahahahahaha, what a good joke. That…that was a joke, right?

That’s the weird thing about it, I suppose. I spent all that time getting worked up over nothing. The mouth full of gauze and the numb tongue are far worse than the actual extraction itself (especially if you have nitrous). Plus, for several days after, you get to engage in the ice cream and pasta diet! And it’s highly recommended that you don’t exercise. Well, what’s left to do but hang out on your couch, binge-watch Riverdale, and wonder why you’re watching Riverdale?

My mouth still hurts, but it’s getting better. Soon I will have pretzels once more!

So if you still need to have your wisdom teeth out, just know that the absolute worst part of the whole thing is the nervousness you might experience beforehand. And hey, maybe they’ll let you keep the teeth! They didn’t offer me mine, but if they had, I would have worn one around my neck and mailed the others to my enemies (Yes, I’m looking at you, boy who called me a puny fat head in the fourth grade).

 

Living in Awkward Sin

Last year, I celebrated Marc’s and my two-year anniversary with a post on how we met. It seemed appropriate for our three-year anniversary to post about our first year of living together.

A lot of people have asked me about this—the adjustment of moving in together. Was I nervous? What if it didn’t work out? How would we navigate all this new stuff?

The main thing I can say about living with Marc is we are confused and disturbed as to why an adult hasn’t checked in on us.

Every relationship is different, but one year of living with Marc has confirmed what I always believed: I could have moved in with him after our second date, and everything would have been fine. Living with Marc is really just living with me, except with more whimsy. Like me living with me in a cartoon, where John Denver songs are constantly playing and I have many animal friends.

Okay, perhaps it isn’t that whimsical. That sounds like a bad ‘shroom trip. But the adjustment wasn’t major for me. Our relationship is one of those that simultaneously feels like three years, three days, thirty years, and three-hundred years. It seemed like a lot of people expected me to say I felt pressured to constantly look cute and to pretend I don’t burp. That is not us, nor has it ever been. I am many things, but cute is hardly one of them, and demure, even less so. Quirky might be a better adjective. Or weird. Or concerning. You decide!

That said, a few things are different. A few things that may help prepare you if you, too, are considering living in awkward sin.

-At first, it will seem like you’re playing House.

 I remember the first night we were together in our apartment and I went outside to tell him dinner was ready. And it was just so freaking surreal. It was like I was coming out of my Fisher Price play house to tell my friend/husband, who we drew a mustache on for authenticity. It eventually all becomes routine but in the beginning, you feel like you’re watching the family-friendly sitcom version of your life.

-You realize how many strange noises you make throughout the day.

 It’s natural to be a bit more self-conscious, a little more hesitant. I was afraid to get up in the middle of the night because Marc is such a light sleeper (contrary to myself, who could sleep through Gilbert Gottfried arguing about politics with the MGM lion while Transformers 3 plays in the background). Through that extra self-consciousness, you learn things about yourself. Apparently every emotion I have manifests itself in an other-worldly noise. Whooooeeee means I’m happy, awgawgawg means I’m sad, bleeeehhhh means I’m experiencing ennui, boooooooppppmmmmm means I’m nervous. I never really noticed before. Now we just make noises at each other all day, having whole conversations in shuckshahhas and pffffftttttsss.

-You’ll want to cook because you’re cooking for someone else.

 When I was just feeding myself, dinner consisted of hummus and pita chips or a microwavable bag of steamed broccoli. I don’t find the idea of making myself a nice meal compelling. But I want us to lead a nice, long, healthy life of making weird noises, so I have taken to making actual meals. Granted, 90% are some combination of beans and rice. The fiber keeps us young!

-You’ll become comfortable…too comfortable.

 We’ve always been comfortable sharing things about ourselves with each other, but since moving in together, there’s been a lot of, “Can you check this weird bump?” and, “Can you shine this flashlight into my mouth?”

 -You’ll rant more now that someone is there to listen.

I suddenly come home to another human everyday, which means he gets to hear all about every driver who pissed me off, every person who irked me, up to that little old lady who said, “Thank you,” so snidely! You never realize how much you have bottled up from your day until you can just throw it all out there. Sorry, love.

-There’s more singing and dancing.

When we’re not making whale noises, we are usually making up songs. Sometimes those songs are just shouting the other’s name to the melodies of the Les Mis soundtrack. Sometimes they are creative interpretations of Tracy Chapman’s greatest hits. Sometimes to avoid doing an actual workout, we will just start dancing. Essentially our apartment is just one giant Fringe rehearsal space.

-You’ll fight.

 There’s definitely a bit more bickering when you’re around each other all the time. We’ve never been fighters. But sometimes his answers to ridiculous and arbitrary Would You Rather questions are just…wrong…and he needs to know that!

You’ll still miss them.

 Even though we spend every evening and weekend together now, I still spend my whole day just waiting to get home so I can hang out with him. Even if hanging out just means sitting on our computers in silence, everything is better when he’s there.

 I spent a good portion of my life making sure I never needed anybody. I have wanted to have people in my life, certainly, for their wonderful company. But I never wanted to feel like I couldn’t function if those people weren’t there anymore. I can honestly say I need Marc, on an emotional and spiritual level. He is an extension of myself. A better, smarter, funnier extension, but an extension nonetheless. That is both terrifying and exhilarating.

I am the luckiest.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

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It’s Really Unattractive When…

Welcome to the newest episode of, “What I Should Have Said Was…”

I’ve been thinking a lot about pet peeves. For instance, I’ve gotten a lot of flack in my life about being a loud eater. People have rolled their eyes and whispered about me (or audibly complained) as I chewed my food at an apparently deafening volume. Well, I’m so sorry that’s bothering you, I really am, but telling someone to eat differently is like telling them to walk or breathe or sleep differently. It’s not a switch I can just turn on and off. As I reflected on this, I think I realized that pet peeves might be my pet peeve.

And also, jerks. Jerks are my pet peeve.

You ever have someone tell you that it’s really unattractive when you do something? Perhaps a friend or family member or a lover themselves. Not things like, “You were really rude to that server,” unattractive. But for doing simple, human things?

I’ve always thought it’s good to work on oneself. The older I get, the more I think that working on oneself is about harnessing the conviction to know who you are and what you want, and less about listening to the jerks. But when I was younger, I always listened to the jerks. I consumed that jerk feedback like it was delicious jerk chicken (loudly, apparently). This is where my actor training kicked in. I had a part to play, the part of lovuhhhh. And I wanted them to like me, to really like me!

I’ve always been told I take direction well. But it’s impossible to keep track of all of this! Eventually my options became either join the robothood or set this list on fire with a maniacal life and thunderous applause from my live studio audience.

So, for this post, I thought about some of the best, “It’s really unattractive…” comments I’ve gotten in the past. Some I took to heart; most I was just timid about. For the sake of catharsis, I am including the response I like to think I would give these days. Oh, beautiful hindsight!

It’s really unattractive when you get so clingy.
Well, it’s really unattractive when you act like I don’t deserve your time and attention.

It’s really unattractive when you don’t shave.
Well, it’s really unattractive that you want me to be as smooth as an eight-year-old. And it’s really unattractive that you think you can govern my hair.

It’s really unattractive that you dye your hair.
…It’s really unattractive that you think you can govern my hair.

It’s really unattractive that you’re a brunette.
IT’S REALLY UNATTRACTIVE THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN GOVERN MY HAIR.

It’s really unattractive when you drink.
It’s really unattractive when you try to control what I do with my time.

It’s really unattractive that you’re friends with so many guys.
It’s really unattractive that you check out every single woman who walks by.

It’s really unattractive when you act so apathetic.
It’s really unattractive that you and the rest of the world have told me not to have feelings.

It’s really unattractive when you wear makeup.
It’s really unattractive that you think you can govern my face.

It’s really unattractive that you watch so much TV.
It’s really unattractive that I have to resort to fictional characters to fulfill my emotional needs. You’re nothing next to Ben Wyatt.

Any readers out there have an, “It’s really unattractive…” moment? What did you say or wish you’d have said? I would love to hear from you.

Being the Middle Child

All the middle children out there, can I get a what-what?

If one were to pose this question in a crowded room, the eyes of all the middle children would light up like fireflies in the night, each one attempting to bark the loudest what-what in the bunch. Their moment had finally come, their time to shine. And it wouldn’t even matter, because as they turn to face their parents, feeling like they will finally get the approval they so desperately crave, it will turn out that their parents were in the bathroom and missed the whole thing.

I have two brothers. One is two years older than me. He sings like Sinatra with perfect pitch to match, and my mother never misses an opportunity to mention that he aced his kindergarten entrance exams. The other is six years younger than me, and he’s really funny. Like you’re still thinking about how freaking clever that was two years later kind of funny. Then there’s me, in the middle. I am the girl. My defining personality trait is girl.

And I am SUCH a middle child.

By that, I mean I’m a perfectionist. My whole life, I’ve wanted to be the “most” something. Even if it did end up being the most painstaking or the most easily offended. I can’t always let things go easily. I am twenty-seven, and when I visited my family last weekend, someone attributed this vaguely funny line I’d said many years ago to my younger brother. Because he’s the funny one so he must have said the funny thing. Makes sense. This is not a problem on any scale; it doesn’t mean jack. But guys, I WAS SO SENSITIVE ABOUT IT! I wanted to climb on the roof and yell until I bled.

When I found out I was going to be a big sister, I was pretty excited. But that excitement wasn’t really reflected in those around me: you know, people spouting worldly wisdom about what it means to be a big sister. Instead, I would get statements about being the middle child. People would try to convince me that being the middle child is great. “Like the cream in the middle of the Oreo cookie,” they always said, “the best part.”

Couldn’t help but notice no one felt the need to convince my older brother with similes! No one was telling him being the oldest was like fine wine or something.

Because of this, I felt like I had to figure out what it meant to be the middle child, philosophically. I would ask my parents, I would ask God, what was this plight that had been bestowed upon me? Why had I been chosen?

As with all questions, I turned to TV for my answers. I started off with Family Matters and Happy Days: shows where the middle child started off as the protagonist, and then they realized two children made for better comedy. Abruptly, one child was gone and the middle was not the middle anymore. Not off to a great start!

But then, you’ve got your Jan Bradys, your Stephanie Tanners, your Cory Matthews…s. I saw myself in these characters: their unsureness, their constant searching for their special talent and place in the universe, their lack of star quality. That was ME!

This only made my searching fiercer, my need to overachieve more real. Surely, there was something out there for me, something that would make me special. I imagined everything, from figure-skating to shot-put to a genius-level IQ. Maybe teaching animals how to play chess. Ballroom dance. I think sometimes I created such a vivid imaginary life for myself that it almost started to seem real.

I just took a minute off from writing to unpack that loaded-ass statement. Guys, that’s why I wanted to be an actress. It’s all starting to make sense now! Thank you, blog!

Sometimes it takes a couple decades of life experience to realize that the middle may just be exactly where you belong. After all, it is the most awkwardly stigmatized birth order. There’s a lot of cool stuff about being in the middle, perhaps even cooler than Oreo cream. There’s vision, independence, originality! There’s a power to the middle (as long as you ignore Jenga principles).

And as Sue Heck, my favorite TV middle child, said in her series finale, “The middle is the best place to be. You’ve got love on both sides.”

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This picture would be better if I were actually in the middle, but my siblings and I only take a picture roughly once every seven years. 

 

An Update from J. Awkward Prufrock

Well, I did it. I became a master. Of what, I am unsure. But I have it on paper and everything! Or I will. Right now I have more of a fancy folder with an IOU inside.

Thank you very much to both of my readers for your patience as I completed this process. Indeed, I am planning to dedicate more time to this blog and am brainstorming topics for future posts. I am also searching for full-time employment. My special skills include sitting quietly for a long time and chanting when asked. If you know of any field besides the monkhood at which I could excel, please let me know.

Truthfully, I thought I would be bored by now. I handed in my last final two weeks ago. Turns out, there are plenty of things out there that can fill my time. We live in an exciting world, full of things to distract us from creating a legacy or effecting change. Have any of you heard of this show called Game of Thrones? It’s really good. Sure hope nothing bad happens to the main characters.

I cannot hide from productivity forever, though. This post is my first step toward my next chapter. It’s not about anything in particular. Just letting you know that I’m not dead yet; I’m alive, well, and perhaps more cynical than ever before (thanks grad school!).

Until next time, awkward on, dear friends!

Censor? I Don’t Even Know Her!

So lately, I’ve been doing some light research for a podcast on young adult media I’d like to start (“Hey YA!” Coming as soon as I stop fantasizing about being a podcaster and actually learn how to produce one. See you in 2055!).

I’ve found some pretty interesting information so far, but the most intriguing has been around banned books.

There is a part of me that understands I am not a parent yet and therefore cannot totally empathize with that experience. I think I can get why a parent might want to shield their children from violence or nihilism or scary things that most likely won’t hurt them, but boy will they think about those things as they grow into their anxiety!

But, does that make it go away?

When you look at the top ten banned books of 2017 on the ALA’s website, you can see the top reasons why that book was banned. You want to know why these books are banned? It’s not for violence or nihilism or “So you’re afraid your neighbor’s a cannibal.” The top reasons these books are banned are profanity, LGBTQ content, and sexual content. And banned doesn’t just mean banned from a household, it means a whole district or town—an entire community that has been denied access to a book.

I am not sure how one can successfully censor anything these days with so much information readily available (literally) at our fingertips. But there’s a real danger with banning books, even if it is symbolic. Banning books creates an apathetic society. Banning books is banning ideas; banning books is banning questions. Where there are no questions, there is no freedom.

I don’t even know where to begin with the LGBTQ stuff. I’m just gonna throw out there that if a kid can get through long division, they are probably capable of understanding that Joey has two dads.

And if the parents’ problems are with profanity and sex, they don’t need to be protecting their children from books.

They need to protect them from the bus.

Any curse word, any sex act, anything that could be considered amoral or depraved, I learned about it on the bus. The school bus is a wild, unstoppable conglomerate of all the things that would make grandma turn red.

The first time I ever gave the middle finger was on the bus, when I was six-years-old. Two boys who sat in the back came over to my seat in the humble front, where I’m certain I was staring at the leather in front of me in silence.

“Hey, mute, stick this finger up,” One of them said, and pointed to his middle finger.

I did it. Probably because I’d never read a book about the middle finger and thus I had no frame of reference. I was a lemming in a censored world.

“Oooooohhhhhh shit (see?), you are so busted.” They said and returned to their seats.

When we got to school that day, the two boys immediately told our teacher that I had given them the middle finger, just loud enough that the classmates in the front row would know. Word had circulated to the entire class by the time the teacher told me to come to her desk, beckoning me with those long, fake, blood red nails of the 90s.

The journey up to her desk was like being an inmate on death row. Backs turned to me; woeful cries of, “I trusted you!” echoed dramatically through the air; my best and only friend gasped and shook her head in disbelief. Many crayon drawings were crafted about that day: the finger heard ‘round the world.

Mind you, at that point, I still had no idea what it meant. It would be another year before I even learned the F word on the bus.

The teacher pulled me aside and tried to chide me quietly, but since the room was in a state of shocked silence, I’m sure everyone heard. Her adult son was visiting the classroom that day and I could hear him giggling at my circumstances. Great, I thought, now I’ll never get a job!

 “Jillian, that was not a very nice thing to do,” Mrs. Something-or-Other said. “That’s not something a person should ever do, especially a pretty girl like you.”

And the moral of the story is GUYS! SHE THOUGHT I WAS PRETTY!

No, no, that can’t be right. The moral of the story is I never gave the middle finger again. Except when I’m driving or when people annoy me.

That’s a little thin. Perhaps the moral is I don’t really know anything.

Maybe this is what I’m trying to say: you can’t protect people from anything. Not really. All we can do is listen and learn and work through things. And books and stories and art are our best gateways to learning about each other, whether they make you uncomfortable or not.

Besides let’s face it, these kids are going to grow up and profoundly disagree with their parents on everything anyway. My kids are going to read this one day and think, “Goodness gracious mother was perverse. How about another round of golf before we head back to Wall Street?”