Support Me in the 2012 NYC Kidney Walk! 

I’m walking in this year’s NYC Kidney Walk. Check out the link for my personal story and why this is so important to me.

All donations are tax-deductible. I’m almost at my goal, but I could use a little extra help. Even if you only have a dollar to spare–it’s still something and it will still help me towards my goal.

I will also send out personalized, hand-written thank you cards to everyone who donates, no matter what the amount. (I know, that may seem rather insignificant, but I want to at least give something personal to those who have opened their hearts and helped out in any way.)

And even if you don’t have the means to donate–I completely understand! But take the time to read up on the foundation and the importance of Kidney Disease Awareness. Maybe share what you’ve learned about it too. Knowledge is power.

Thanks to everyone in advance <3.

Politeness Politics

September 19, 2012

I consider myself to be a very polite person. I always say “thank you” when someone holds the door for me, or picks up something I’ve dropped. I greet everyone with a friendly smile and a “hello” or a wave. I’m always sure to apologize if I ever bump into someone. Basically, I consider myself adept at following the customs of everyday niceties. There are people out there who are quite inept at these simple things, but I’ll save that for another discussion.

What I’m here today to discuss is this: what are the barriers of politeness? I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been in situations where it’s hard to discern when your politeness has gone too far–when you’ve held your smile for just a moment too long, you’ve laughed just a little too obviously loud at a not-funny joke, or when–and this is the absolute worst of all–other people don’t actually SEE your niceness.

My whole life I’ve worked 9-5 jobs. (Ok, that’s not true, I haven’t worked 9-5 jobs my ENTIRE life, don’t allow me to trick you into thinking that, as an infant, I sat behind a desk and made Excel spreadsheets and took phone calls for presidents and treasurer. See how polite I am? Who else would have pointed that out?) Since I’ve been in the “workforce” I’ve held 9-5 jobs. (That’s better!) Most people’s blood would curdle at the mere thought of that, but I’ve managed pretty well. If anything the hard part, more than the mundane aspect of most of them, was the having to exchange niceties with people to an almost painful degree. Now, I must mention, that at my current job I’m surrounded by co-workers who are not only ridiculously nice and polite, but are also genuinely hilarious and fun to be around. So, every topic presented from this point forth is in regards to prior jobs and prior employers. (And no, this isn’t just a nicety to save face, but the actual, God’s honest truth.)

For example, at all prior jobs there was always the “funny guy,” the “comedian,” the “jokester” who was there to intervene and bring some fun and exuberance to the otherwise stuffy atmosphere–usually of some high rank, who was, more often than not, not very funny. For example, when I was younger I would occasionally accompany my mom to her job.  As I got older, I’d help with different tasks here and there, filing, watering plants–you know, the important stuff. But early on I would usually sit by her desk with some pencils and highlighters and create art. My “art” during this time frame was mainly comprised of poorly drawn fictitious pop music groups that I would create. I’d mainly base them off of the Spice Girls, but with new bands like S Club 7 out, I realized that there was no limit to how many members my music groups could have! Spice Girls have five members, S Club 7 has seven (if you really wanted to count the dudes in the group, that is) but GIRLZ has eight! Every member would have a different outfit that would accentuate her individual personality, all would have fun names and nicknames, and they would all be British. And they’d have songs too, I guess, I never really got around to that aspect of it. Actually, I’d never really get around to completing most of those drawings since I’d usually only be working with about five highlighters and wouldn’t have different colors for the other members. Eventually, I grew out of the girl group phase and, having hardly any artistic skill, the time had come for me to start helping out at work with more important tasks. And so, I was upgraded from pop music artisan to data entry. Once proficiently skilled at this, I found myself part-time employed at my mom’s job dealing with scanning and even more data entry with the occasional bonus of stuffing envelopes. It didn’t bother me–it was busy work but for a sixteen year old with a new cash flow, it was a joy. Well, the work aspect of it, that is…

Something that I’ve noticed in time is that if an old Italian man thinks a joke is funny, you will hear that same joke every time you see that man for as long as possible. When I’d join my mother at work occasionally after school as a child her boss would come over to me and say “heh, I see you brought your mother to work today.” I, as a girl of about 9 or 10, found this joke pretty funny, and so, I laughed both heartily and politely. And it was because of this that I heard that same joke every time I would see this man, right up to and including when I was 16 and working there every day. I would hear it every. single. day. This was one of those moments where I really had to sit down and start thinking things over. Do I keep laughing every time he says it? Do I allow him to think it’s still funny after all these years? Do I tone down my laughter ever so much each day so he finally gets the hint and we can walk away from this without ever mentioning it again? Do I just not laugh at all anymore and stop it abruptly? Something needs to be done–but what? I eventually decided to keep laughing every time because he was the one who was in charge of my paycheck.

I’d run into this situation plenty more times in my life, and I still occasionally find myself holding a laugh or a smile for just a pinch too long (ever turn away from someone and have to re-adjust your facial muscles to stop the polite grin from expanding further so you don’t end up looking like an even more demented Cheshire Cat? It’s not as fun as it sounds, trust me.) But I’ve also run into another predicament: when people don’t see your random acts of politeness and how to handle it accordingly. Ok, I’m not saying I act nice just to get people to notice, nor is that the only reason anyone should be polite. However, there are moments when the other person seeing your kindness or generosity is that dividing line between being cool with them, and them thinking you’re a complete and total asshat. Like if you tip a bartender or barista (a substantial tip, too) right as they turn their backs so they don’t notice and you then you have to hope they won’t take it out on you the fact that they just spent five minutes making your extra-foamy latte or Harvey Wallbanger when they could have been flirting with a much more attractive patron or customer because hey, college is expensive and you try getting up at 5 am or working until 5 am before or after classes just for money to spend on books you’d need sexual release sometime, too.

So, to avoid a spitty drink further down the road (that ain’t just foam on that latte, bub) you WANT them to notice your kindness. Because a job well done deserves a tip, and only people without souls or spare change would not leave one. But now you’ve left them the last of your change and they didn’t notice. What do you do?  Do you try to get their attention and let them know? Do you wait until their looking and hover your hand over their tip cup so they see? Do you George Costanza it and actually TAKE the money out just to put it back in? I don’t know, it’s up to you. I don’t really know the answer to any of these questions that I’ve posed, because I still run into these problems daily which is why I don’t like going out much.

Basically, I’m no good at social interactions, is what I’m saying. But hey–BLOG!

Though, there is one thing I DO know: if things don’t pan out in my life and current work situation, I’ll be more than willing to fake laughter for money. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again!

There will never again be a party quite like that of an S Club party.

As my last post stated, I was part of this awesome thing called The Worst! That the fine, fine author of Fine Fine Music, Cassie J. Sneider, put together. (For more information on that, well, check out my last post!) It was the first time I had ever done anything quite like it, and it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I got to share the stage with some amazingly talented people and put myself out there in ways I hadn’t thought possible before. Of course, I was overly nervous, read to fast and stammered over most of my words, as to be expected, but I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with that. So, I thought I’d share the story I read for all of you fine, fine readers out there. Hope you enjoy, and don’t worry–I’m fully aware of how weird I am. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Worst: Bad Habits a.k.a. The Worst New Millennium i.e. Puberty & Paranoia.

As an only child living in an apartment building devoid of any (normal) children my age, I was often left to my own devices to create entertainment. My building consisted mainly of older women, who I greatly enjoyed the company of, and actually preferred to any of the kids that lived nearby. There was only one girl around my age who lived in the next apartment over who I would occasionally play with. Her name was Nicole – at least that’s what we’ll call her for the sake of this story because I can’t recall her real name. I never really liked or trusted Nicole. My last straw was when we were at our complex’s park and she persuaded me to play on the tire swing with her. I, at the tender age of seven, had a love/hate relationship with the mythical tire swing. I appreciated the use of found items to create a fun, spinny ride. However, on the flip side, I was afraid of being stuck in one, forever slowly spinning until I would inevitably slide through the middle and drown in my own pool of tears.

So anyway, we’re in this tire swing and I asked her not to leave me alone in there. She rolled her eyes and told me she wouldn’t. The next thing I know, we’re spinning wildly with reckless abandon, when I notice her slip under my legs and through the hole in the middle. Once out, she laughed at me and ran off to undoubtedly cause more mischief on the monkey bars. I cried out to my grandmother for help, but she was unable to get away from Nicole’s mother, who was listing all of the health benefits of chain-smoking and her total adoration of Camel cigarettes (a list she was still exploring five minutes later when I finally, slowly wriggled myself out of the tire swing to safety.) If there’s one thing I will remember for the rest of my life about that woman, it was her penchant for chain-smoking, often blowing smoke in mine, her own children, and anyone she happened to be talking to’s faces. Also, I vividly remember her awesomely ‘80s Farah Fawcett meets Hulk Hogan winged mullet. And her love of windbreakers. Ok, so maybe I actually remember more about her than her daughter, but again, I had more exposure to adults than children at this point in time. But this isn’t about the worst childhood friends or neighbors; it’s about what happens when you isolate yourself in your own, private world. This tire swing incident was just the moment when I decided that the best company to keep was my own.

For the next few years, my time would usually be spent playing with Barbies, reading Cam Jansen novels, watching TV or doing chores with my grandmother. My favorite of the latter was laundry day. A trip to the Laundromat always felt like an adventure. On a summer day I’d marvel at the clothes spinning round and round, wishing I could be in there with them as if it were some kind of crazy water park ride. However, I hated the drying process. It took far too long for my liking and wasn’t nearly as fun to watch. So, while waiting for clothes to dry, I would occupy myself the way any kid my age would:  by fully immersing myself in every tabloid the Laundromat’s seated waiting area had to offer. Star and the National Enquirer were not only idle fodder to pass time with, but instead became required reading material. I mean, how could I NOT want to know about the Dixie Chicks Divorce Shocker?  Just waiting for laundry day wasn’t enough, I had to go out and buy them, too. But every time I reached for an issue of Star on the CVS magazine rack, I couldn’t help but notice the more eye-catching headlines staring back at me: “BAT BOY ON THE LOOSE!” “LIZARD HORROR” “GIANT CLAM KILLS WOMAN!” My mind yearned to know more. I picked up the Sun magazine and set out for answers.

It also happened to be a great time for the “suspend disbelief” tabloids (a phrase I did not yet understand), what with the year 2000 quickly approaching and all of the Y2K madness. Tabloid covers depicted various archaic prophecies, along with new-found Nostradamus warnings: “Year 2000 computer bug will turn machine against man!” “Hundreds of planes will fall out of the sky!” “Cars will stop dead in their tracks!” “Nuclear missiles will launch themselves!” Who cared about the everyday freaks and mutant animals when the end times were upon us? I couldn’t buy a pack of cherry pull & peel Twizzlers from the supermarket without being swarmed by images of the apocalypse. With even the regular news mentioning computer doom, I began to question whether or not I would ever live to see my 12th year. I decided it was time to get some answers, and maybe even find solace in something, and so I looked to the Bible. The Good Book itself. I opened up to an arbitrary page in the Book of Revelation and read:

“I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black sackcloth made of hair and the whole moon became like blood; and the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

I slammed the holy book shut and hid it behind our collection of Mark Twain books we had on display on our TV stand, above all the Disney and rom-com VHS tapes. Thoughts of every image of Armageddon ever depicted in those tabloids flooded my mind. What if they were right? Maybe that Nostradamus guy is on to something. It’s exactly like the Good Book says, the year 2000 will hit, all the computers of the world will reset back to the year 1900, and instead of blasting us back in time on a whirlwind adventure through history, the moon and stars will explode and the world will be set ablaze by earthquakes everywhere. Suddenly, nothing and nowhere felt safe to me anymore. I dreaded my 6th grade religion class, for fear the class would veer into the territory of discussing Judgment Day. I couldn’t enjoy a grilled cheese and bacon at the diner without thinking of the street outside splitting apart. A trip to the circus in the city was overshadowed by thoughts of buildings tumbling and elephants losing it and trampling everyone in their midst. Even when New Year’s Eve came and went without the world exploding all around us, I was still suddenly made aware of an inevitable end I had not ever thought of before. Not just the world’s end, but my own mortality as well; and so came the nights of sleeplessness and 3 AM panic attacks.

I started to think of ways my own body could betray me. I couldn’t understand the tickle in my throat that would cause me to dry heave and panic every night. Suddenly, I felt everything else going wrong with my body, too. I became worried that my blinking was not up to snuff, and so I’d over-blink to ensure that my eyelids were in fact still functional. In my manic, eye-fluttering bouts, I’d cause some of my longer eyelashes to fold in on themselves in the corner of my eye, which just led to yet more paranoia. What if all my eyelashes follow suit and I’m left an eyelash-less freak? I’d make the cover of Sun: “GIRL WITH NO EYELASHES TERRORIZES SUBURBAN NY CITY!” Other young, lonely, panic-stricken girls would follow my lead until we’d form some eyelash-lacking gang of miscreants, wreaking havoc all over Westchester County. Which might have actually been pretty cool, but highly improbable. No, I’d probably just be the weird girl in my class (even more so than I already was), staring longingly at everyone without any eye protection from dirt and debris, which would then just gather in my eyeballs until I’d eventually lose those, too.

So, to prevent any eyelash-related incidents from occurring, I’d find myself playing with my lashes, often resulting in pulling many out, to which I’d then wish upon for no end times in sight. And more eyelashes. And to maybe meet Matthew Lawrence (this was when he was more popular than Joey because of Boy Meets World and all). I’d then make my way up and pick at my eyebrows, too, because, why not? I became obsessed with the minute, utterly fascinated by hair and skin follicles. The eczema I’d developed between my fingers became a playground. I’d pick and chip away at the skin until my desk was covered with dead, white skin. Then, I’d move on to my head, picking away at my scalp, flooding my black top science class desk with a snowstorm of dandruff or dry skin. On a particularly balmy day, I’d have a cascade of both. Then, I’d press my finger over the scattered white pieces, clumping them all together, just to release them and see them fall upon the black again. I neither knew nor cared if people were looking. When I was doing it, it allowed me to spend a few minutes in my own dead-skin bubble; my own private snow globe of dandruff and dry skin.

As much care as I had of how everyone viewed me at every point in the day vanished. My brain was shut off to everything but my own obsession. The end of the world, war, why my crush refused to dance with me at the most recent birthday party at the Girl Scout cabin – I was numb to all of it for just those few moments of the day. The years following would throw at both myself and the world some hurdles that would have seemed impossible to get through before. But I did it. And as time went on, and I found myself entering my teenage years, as awkward as I still was, I found different ways to cope with intimidating situations. I would occupy my time with other people, and going different places and encountering those ever-dreaded high school problems that every teenager must face. And so, I started to slowly leave those little quirks behind. Interpersonal relationships, music, reading, writing…they all became better stress relievers for me. And even when some of those, namely the first, became stress-inducers, I still managed to avoid resorting to picking.

My skin started to heal even on the coldest or driest of days. I found myself looking for adventure and travel as opposed to dreading it. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when an emotionally disturbed new student with no eyebrows or eyelashes who was perpetually laughed at will only be there for a few months until she’s kicked out for threatening another student. And it won’t be until years later when I find out that those “habits” I had may have had more to them than I thought. A few months ago I watched an episode of a show on TLC called “Obsessed.” In this one particular episode, a girl nervously and obsessively picked out the roots of her hair until she was completely bald on one side of her head. In another, a woman feared earthquakes and death and would exhibit signs of paranoia every evening.  It’s not until this point that I realize that all of those compulsions I displayed could have in my later years classified me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Sure, I’m probably trivializing the term in even stating this, but whether or not I had OCD, I definitely had fears inside me that I couldn’t outright tackle. I also realize that for many, these compulsions aren’t something that can just be “kicked” without professional help, especially in adults. And I’m also not saying that I’m completely devoid of any worry now, or that every time the news reminds us of war, violence, natural disasters, Lindsay Lohan or all of those signs of the end times that my stomach doesn’t sink even the tiniest bit. Nor am I saying that when I sit at my all-black desk at work I don’t have to fight the urge to flood it with white—but I have gotten better at repressing those urges. What I have realized, though, is that the world is always going to remind you of the worst. But it’s up to you to not let it get the best of you. There’s a life to be lived instead of just an end to be feared. I’ve also realized that as long as I have a good dandruff shampoo, a luscious-lash mascara and bottle of Cortizone, I’m going to be just fine. At least until December 20th of this year, then all bets are off.