Category Archives: Gratuitous swearing

When “spa treatment” actually means “octogenarian orgy”

I was recently in California for a best friend’s wedding.  She is the final woman in my college posse (a.k.a the WINOS), to stop having sex get married, and we thought it would be fitting for the five of us to have a girls day together, going to the spa and chilling out before the big day arrived.

A couple of weeks before the wedding I was on the spa’s website to check out which overpriced facial or massage I’d be signing up for, and I happened upon something in the brochure called the “Kuyam Experience”.  Anything that has a noun or verb followed by “experience” or “adventure” is usually something one should pay close attention to. I learned this the hard way years ago and yet.

I think to save space they were as vague in the description of Kuyam as they could possibly be. It said something about doing a Native American ritual and clay and steam and inhalation therapy were involved or something and you could do it alone or in a ‘private party’.  It was $75/person, which was about 50% less expensive than anything else they had to offer, so I mean, clearly the WINOS needed to consider this. It was the only thing we could all do together. Now, we aren’t very touchy-feely, kissy- huggy, or grab-each-other’s-boobs-and-asses kind of bunch.  We keep our hands to ourselves, our clothes on and we enjoy drinking a shit ton of wine together and laughing.  Sometimes we discuss the sex we aren’t having since we bore our litters, but mostly we debate important things we’ve read in trade journals such as “Us Weekly” and “O”. So something so new-agey was a laugh-fest just waiting to happen.  This experience would provide a host of future inside jokes and the timing couldn’t be better. Our friend was about to get knocked up married — this would get rid of any edge she might be feeling. It would be like therapy. Fun therapy.  I loved thinking about how great it would be.  Almost as great as dressing my 13 month old like this for Halloween. (Note to reader:  Halloween 2011 comes round only once. You can never get it back.  And Mr. T pities the fool who waits till 2012.)

So anyway, I book the thing and we all fly to California for the wedding weekend and the first day is the big spa day. Over breakfast, we had a long debate about whether or not we’re all supposed to wear bathing suits to this thing or not and then someone joked that we might all have to get naked and rub clay on one another.  Yeah, right. Like we’d spend the day before our friend gets married having a Native American orgy/porn sleep over party.   That is the last thing that the Kuyam Experience is about.  I mean, if that was what it was, wouldn’t consuming massive amounts of alcohol and peyote be part of it too?

I assured the group that was is not what Kuyam was, as if I had any idea what it actually was. A little voice in my gut screamed, “Shit – what if it is?!” If it were, which it is not, it would take our friendship to a level of excruciating awkwardness that we might never be able to overcome.  Like when Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie kissed that one time.  Ugh.  That just sent shivers up my spine. I am so sorry to have to have had to bring that into your consciousness, but I’m telling you, it’s a worthy comparison.

So, I love the WINOS with all of my heart, but I like them fully clothed. I’ll be damned if I’m paying $75 to feel relaxed as my naked best friends rub fucking mud all over my pasty naked muffin top.  I laughed then, because us all getting naked together in a room while we spread mud on ourselves is the most ridiculous thing that could happen to the WINOS.  I mean, probably the Kuyam was something where we’ll probably be in…robes…and the clay is probably for us to put on…our faces…or something.  I think we’re just supposed to sit there and meditate and listen to the Native American chanting.  None of this weird naked group rubbing shit.  That would be crazy.

So we check in to the spa and we didn’t need bathing suits – they give us those little wrappy things to put around yourself that cover your boobs and your ass. Which I take as a good sign.  Things are on track.  But a red flag shoots up when I notice that the other spa patrons in the locker room seem to be wandering around naked and carrying on their business like they weren’t. Here’s the thing: I like the spa as much as anyone, but I do not find it necessary to prance around the locker room completely naked, bending over to blow dry my hair as I start up a conversation with a random naked stranger vigorously rubbing her ass with lotion, and act as though we were both dressed and discussing the weather at the grocery store.  Apparently in Ojai California, that is exactly what people think the spa is for.  This is why I live in Chicago.  We don’t play that way.

But whatever. I’m not in Chicago. I am relaxing at a spa in California. I decided to spend as little time as possible in the nudist colony locker room and waited until they led the five of us up to our private Kuyam Experience.  Now, here is the thing: where I am from, “private” means that just the group you signed up with will be present. I thought this was a pretty universal interpretation, but I clearly know nothing about California.  Apparently, in California, a “private” Kuyam Experience means you, your friends and three other strange naked ladies you don’t know who appear to be close to million years old, and really creep you the fuck out.  That was a little “cultural difference” that would have been nice to know when I thought this was a good idea.

The room was really a big sauna, so it was super hot in there. I wasn’t sure if it was the heat that made me want to pass out, or the random old naked chicks. We took the other five seats that were left and they provided us all with a small, cold face towel. I noticed that most of the WINOS immediately covered their faces. Probably to cover up their shock, terror and tears. Maybe I’m projecting. That is exactly what I had to do.  I had unknowingly led our group to our first orgy and it was going to be with octogenarian strangers.  Thank God we didn’t bring the camera.

So the Kuyam Experience begins.  The spa lady tells us to relax and listen while she plays a recording of a Native American man talking so it seems all spiritual.  He starts off by saying that “Kuyam is best done while naked….” and I’m like, “Really pervert? Shit. We’re on some amateur porn site right now, aren’t we? This is why it was so cheap. Mother fucker.” So now there is all this pressure to take off our spa wraps and get naked and my worst fears are all coming true.

I’m sure the WINOS look awesome naked, but I like my friends best when their cooches are tucked away out of my direct line of sight.  So I began a silent prayer: “Dear God, please don’t make me look at my friends’ coochies. Amen.”

We’re then instructed to start rubbing the three colors of clay they gave us on every square inch of our naked selves.  But as I’ve said, I am not getting naked.  Even if I weren’t so immature about being naked with all my best friends, there were very practical reasons for my unwillingness to just throw off my wrap. I haven’t had a wax since before my first kid was born.  It’s like giving somebody 5 minutes notice that they are supposed to host a garden party on wild prairie land.  I hope that is all the explaining I need to do on this topic.  So I vow to leave my wrap thing on and  I’m trying to rub the shit all over like he is saying, but it’s hard to do with one hand trying to hold up my little wrappy thing so that my cooch is covered and no nip is hanging out.

While I’m struggling to maintain my dignity (and heterosexuality), one of the old ladies stands up and goes over to the other lady across from her who I then realize is not old. She is probably our age, but her hands and feet are all (congenitally?) deformed so this is not an easy task for her. I’m not going to lie, this also raises the weirdness factor. And then I realize this is a mother-daughter duo. SHUT. UP.  I am trying not to watch this, but the naked mother and daughter are now standing up, rubbing each other with the clay and one of them has her ass in my friend’s face.  And then she turns around and suddenly there are coochies at eye level. Somebody tipped them off about the Kuyam because they had fresh Brazilians. “Aww fuck. Seriously? Do I really have to watch these two baldies rub each other down?” No. I threw the towel over my face and tried to stay conscious so I wouldn’t drop my own wrap and scar my friends for life.

I closed my eyes and tried to focus on not hyperventilating.  Well, and getting the fucking clay on my ass where it was supposed to go without getting naked because I wasn’t completely sure the mother / daughter duo wasn’t going to ask for my damn help. I was grateful that the other WINOS decided to fight the good fight and keep their hands and vaginas to themselves.

I’m not really sure what happened next. Maybe I did actually lose consciousness. Or maybe I had a psychotic break and now instead of having just one alter ego, I have another.  I just don’t remember anything else until I heard the spa lady saying we could leave. But I had fucking dry clay all over my body, my wrap, my face towel.  They told us there were showers in the next room. I scurried to get up and out of there.  But they forgot to mention that you have to walk past a chamber where hoses come out of the walls and spray you the length of your body.  You sort of have to be naked for this part.  FUUUUUCK.

All of that work and it came down to this.  You know what? Fuck it. I dropped the wrap, ran through the hoses and found a shower stall. The water was heavenly warm. I got the shit off of me.  A robe was waiting for me outside. I snuggled into it, quickly left the shower room and tea and private balcony awaited.  Minutes later, all eight of us lounged in our robes in the warm California air talking about “US Weekly” and “O” as if we hadn’t just lost our faith in God.

Maybe one day the WINOS will talk about Kuyam together again, but I think for now we’ll just leave that for our therapists.

Wine snob

I started a new job in June. When you’re thinking about taking a new job, you think about the actual work involved and what they are going to pay you and if there is free food, but all that goes out the window on your first day when you realize you’re the new kid and you have no friends at this place.  So I was pretty pumped to get an invitation  from one of my new co-workers regarding a wine party at her house.  She said all we had to do is bring our favorite bottle of red.  I felt like that was a sign from God that I had finally arrived in the right place because red wine and I are closer than Jada and Marc Anthony were last week. Red wine is my fucking specialty.

This party would give me a chance to introduce BD to all my new co-workers and in turn, I would get to meet their spouses.  I always hate when you know someone at work forever and you’ve never met their spouse.  Because really, there is nothing more interesting and shocking to me on God’s green earth than meeting your co-workers’ spouses. Well, and that Charlie Sheen continues to find crazies to have his children.

I always create this detailed idea in my mind about what my coworkers’ spouses look like.  Dudes that I would have dated when I was single I imagine with really hot, cool wives.  Dudes that I are d-bags? They have super ugly, dumpy wives.  And the cool women I work with have hot hubbies and the bitchy ones have gay husbands.  Unfortunately, my track record on guessing what someone’s spouse is like is about as good as Kirstie Allie’s on staying away from ice cream.  Suffice to say there are a lot of clown couples in this world. But these type of parties generally have me sitting back and marveling to myself (before two glasses of wine) about how on earth some total zero landed his wife and then after two glasses I marvel to my colleagues about it. Needless to say, I have had my fair share of CLMs (career limiting moves) at parties such as these.

But I’m pretty pumped for this party because BD and I will have to go into the city for this one, which is like a bona fide, full-on real date like the kind we had before we produced our litter.  I mean, the babysitter is going to have to stay until after 10pm. After 10 pm!  I’m going to miss the beginning of Saturday Night Live! Aww, yeah. Big pimpin’ baby.

I need to take this seriously. The wine choice is paramount. The instructions were to “bring your favorite bottle of red”.  I felt some pressure. I mean, I drink a half bottle of red wine every damn night. And that is kind of an expensive and time consuming habit, because I’m kind of particular about the alcohol I imbibe. I have spent hours in agonizing over wine choices at the liquor store – finding good ones under $15 is an art. An art! (which, fortunately, I have mastered).

While we’re on that subject: let me just tell the 12 of you who read this whole Internet that those $9.99 bottles with the Kangaroo on them? Are shit. You already know that, right? When people bring that to my house as a hostess gift I want to just smash it on the doorstep the second I see it.  Not out of anger, but just because I could kill two birds with one stone: my dehydrated hydrangeas would finally be watered and I could quickly and safely dispose of that toxic waste before my children were exposed.   The issue is that you can’t even re-gift the shit, because as a wine snob, I sure as hell am not going to give that to someone I actually like and/or respect.  So really, the only thing that kind of wine is good for is donating to the crazy homeless alcoholics who hang out at the local food pantry along with my expired garbanzo beans to find someone who can really appreciate that shit together, or smashing it on my doorstep as soon as it is presented by people who clearly hate me.  Or don’t know me at all. Cue the Weepies.

But back to the momentous situation at hand: my wine selection. I’m terrified if everybody brings their favorite bottle, that might mean that we drink them in some sort of order and if I actually bring my favorite I’ll become pretty surly if it’s like the bottle people drink after they are already smashed and they don’t know what the hell they are doing.  On the other hand, if I just bring my everyday go-to $13.99 bottle, I might look like I’m unsophisticated and don’t really know the difference between the wine you get drunk on every night versus the wine you get drunk on on your anniversary.

So I discussed with BD and he suggested the bottle of wine we always ordered at our favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago (word up, Via Veneto).  It cost $65 there, but its only about $25 in real life at the liquor store.  I liked his idea.  The wine had some sentimental cache for us, plus if we would routinely pay $65 for it, it had to be insanely great, right?  The decision was made and I was okay with it.  It’s an awesome wine, but not too expensive so if it gets opened last, I’m not going to shed tears all over the place. Not like I would if I had brought my true fave and people didn’t bow down and worship it like Bobby loves Whitney. So we went with it – the David Bruce Petite Sirah — the very wine I happen to be guzzling sipping as I write this.

The big night arrives. I dress up our wine. Well, as much as I’m capable of dressing up anything. It had a paper bag on it. It was a sparkly purple one with some bling that I felt was a nice nod to Martha Stewart and Jay-Z together. I found it in a drawer somewhere and wondered if perhaps the Artist Formerly known as Prince had once presented me with a hostess gift? Not sure.  Anyway, that is about as crafty as I get,  so it was kind of a big deal for me.  We show up and I’m still a tad nervous because I’ve only worked with these people a month and I don’t know what they’re really like.  They seem pretty cool at work. Maybe a little too intense for my taste,  but good people nonetheless.

So we get there a half hour “late”, but we were the first people there, so right off the bat? Dorks.  So much for being fashionable.  Then the hostess tells us to write our name on the bottle and then to wrap it in a plain paper bag. Well, maybe this is for the best because I’m starting to really regret my sparkly purple bag. The sooner it disappears, the better.  I’m totally back in junior high with a fucking Timex and Lee mom jeans when everyone else has Guess and Swatch.

I’m shaken from my insecurity by the news that at this party, we’re having a blind tasting where everyone submits their wine and they all look the same in the paper bags and then we rate each bottle.  PLUS, we put $5 in a pot and then whoever wins for best wine wins the pot.  And I can’t stand to lose. I don’t care what the competition is (well, except if it involves running, swimming, biking or all three) — I’m going to fucking win.  You know, this was almost unfair.  I mean, I am the queen of wine and even though I didn’t bring my favorite, we brought a fucking contender. Surely some ass clown will bring the stupid $9.99 wine referenced above, and even those who don’t will likely bring a terrible bottle because nobody has the sophisticated taste for red wine that I have so carefully honed the last 15 years.

So an hour later, the place is packed and for once in my life, everybody’s spouse matches. They all turn out to be kind of awesome and beautiful and there are no clown couples to be found.  Because OMG, now I work with normal people.  Wait. *Love has an a-ha moment* If they aren’t clowns, could this mean that they too might know something about wine? Something more than I do with my infinite wine wisdom? I start to feel a twinge of anxiety. I will not be beat at my own game!  But I make the best of it. Maybe I’ll discover an even better bottle than the one I brought.

Yeah, right.  Mine will win.

The wine tasting begins.  There are eight bottles to judge.  I immediately try to figure out which bottle is mine, so I can rate it the highest. But I can’t figure it out just by looking at them. The bottles are too dressed up. Damn. Cheating is not going to work.

I don’t know if you’ve actually done this before, but tasting eight different reds in the span of a half hour is highly int(r)oxicating. I consider myself kind of a heavy weight given my daily wine consumption, but at the end of that exercise I was loaded. I could barely see the rating sheet, let alone figure out on a scale from 1 to 5 what my rating was.  So I decided the best route was to cheat off BD’s paper.  Our tastes on wine are the same, so that is a no brainer.  He would recognize our wine and give it a 5.  And I would copy him since I was too drunk to figure out what the hell I was doing.  And we would win.

So I glanced over there after about my 3rd or 4th wine rating and something was awry.  Every wine I gave a high rating, he gave a low rating. I mean, WTF? We share a bottle of wine every night. Surely we should agree on the quality of the wine before us? Right?  Maybe BD’s ‘2’ was actually a ‘5’ he wrote backwards because he is drunk too. Or maybe that was me.

So I couldn’t cheat off that bastard because he wasn’t keeping it real like me.  So I had to do my best to drink each wine, figure out which one was mine, and judge all the others poorly which is really a lot to ask after three or four glasses, I promise you.

So everybody finishes and we turn our sheets in and I’m pretty damn confident that although I’m drunker than I should be, the wine will stand on its own.   At the very least I’m not going to embarrass myself.  So the hostess starts by naming the 6 bottles of wine that did not win…or lose.  Of course, we weren’t in that category because our wine was the winner and I was going to win the coveted Wine God crown. Wait? Was there a crown up for grabs, because in my state of mind at the time, I really felt that wearing a crown for the rest of the party would be an appropriate reward.

Finally they get through all the yada yada yada bullshit and the glory that was all mine was about to be announced. The only problem? The two wines left – the winner and the loser — I rated a 3.  But that didn’t really make sense because I rated the wine I brought a 5.  And so did BD, I’m sure. Or didn’t we? Something had gone wrong. Very wrong.

This wasn’t adding up, even in my embarrassing drunkeness. What could have happened here? How could we both handicap our own superior wine?  Surely a bottle I rated a shitty 3 in my infinite wine wisdom isn’t the winner….or the loser. I gave out 1’s pretty freely too.  What is happening here? Am I this sloppy drunk? Why is everybody talking slow? I wonder why Oprah named her dog Sadie? Oooh. That guy’s wife has shiny earrings….

Well, this much was clear: when we were crowned the winners, it would be sort of a hollow victory,  given that the most either of us could muster for our favorite wine was a stupid 3.  This wine we paid $65 for on a pretty regular basis. I mean, what wine did I give a 5 to then?

The winner was announced. That guy’s wife still had shiny earrings.  And as expected, we were…not the winner.  Wait – what? We were the losers? Indeed. THE. LOSERS.  I mean, out of eight red wines, we LOST. And you know why? Because we both gave our favorite fucking bottle of red wine a ‘meh’ rating of 3.

The world hasn’t really been the same since then.  It’s like how you remember where you were when the Challenger blew up.  And when the Twin Towers fell.  I’ll never forget this moment when my wine was voted WORST WINE EVER AT THIS PARTICULAR PARTY WHERE  I WAS TRYING TO IMPRESS MY NEW COWORKERS AND THEIR GOOD LOOKING SPOUSES WITH MY WINE PROWESS AND EXPERTISE BECAUSE I’M A WINE SNOB, DAMMIT.  The fall out has been kind of horrific, as you might imagine.

I’ve learned a couple of things: first, I realize that my husband and I have completely different tastes in red wine. I don’t even think he likes red wine.  Our entire relationship has been built on lies and deceit. So there is that. Second, fuck you David Bruce Petit Sirah.  Third, shiny earrings can be super distracting at a serious wine tasting fiesta. Fourth, I lost. No money. Just shame and heartache. And PTSD if you must know.  I can’t look at a bottle of red wine any more and not question whether I can tell whether or not it sucks or rocks.

Even though I don’t deserve it, I don’t know how not to be a wine snob.  I still say affirmations each morning to myself about how awesome I am at identifying the best red wines in the land, but I kind of know deep down I’m just a self-righteous asshole who knows just about nothing about anything I pretend to know something about, giving me and Rick Perry more in common than I’m comfortable with.

No more fucking wine parties for me.

Bitch, Pleeze!

Here is the link an interview that my sister sent today with that bitch person who “lived Oprah” for the year and then wrote a book about it. You need to watch it. It’s like 5 minutes of the worst TV I think I’ve ever seen.

Have you watched it yet? Yeah, now you know why I am understandably incensed about this on multiple levels.

A) That should have been my idea because I live Oprah anyway.

B) How dare she question Oprah’s taste in footwear?

C) If that bitch bought everything Oprah told her to, it would add up to a lot more than $4700.  So she cheated.

D) Oprah made her do good for others, like provide books to female felons and save a cat’s life – what’s not to love? What sort of ingrate bites the hand that feeds the world?

E) Finally, when has Oprah ever ruined any normal person’s marriage or sex life? Well….I take that back. Forget point E.

F) She said people view Oprah like their BFF in a way which suggested that somehow that was crazy.  I didn’t dedicate my life to making Oprah realize I’m her soul mate so this dumb broad could come along and ridicule me.  I swear if I ever see her on the street, I’m going to give her a really mean look. Like, seriously mean. And then I’ll report her whereabouts to Gayle, and you can bet Gayle will give her the beat down she deserves.

That is all I’m going to say about this topic, which has wounded my soul very deeply.  If she can’t see Oprah for the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent spiritual healer and teacher who wears really good shoes most days, then she clearly doesn’t understand her subject matter and should be revealed to the world as the charlatan she is. You know who she reminds me of? Debbie Mathers. Eminem’s mom. When she made up that song about him to get rich just because she was mad that he has spent most of his professional life telling stories about how she was the worst mother of all time. I just don’t like when other people try to get famous off the back of someone with the Awesome in them.

I just hope when Eminem isn’t on the phone getting drug counseling from Elton John, he’ll reach out to Oprah to provide some support.

And I would ask that my loyal readers, though none of you like Oprah, light up your cell phones, wave them slowly in the air and watch Eminem’s “Cleaning out my Closet” video I’ve provided access to here:

Now you have just a little taste of the rage I have and the angry poetry that I’m about to write about this woman and her dumb book and send to Oprah and her producers in a beautiful laminated album. If you have any worthy submissions, I will consider them, but they have to be really good. I mean, really Oprah-worthy.

“That’s it. I’m done!” (Ben Affleck, Boiler Room)

Love’s PhD Trilogy: Exodus

***if you are new to the trilogy, it started here.

Despite my grand illusions of who professors actually are and what they actually do (like screw around with undergrads and smoke pipes), my PhD experience wasn’t really all that I had hoped for. I liked all of my classes and I was doing fine, but the stress of having an advisor like Professor Dragon and the feeling that I would be railroaded into a field of study I didn’t even like became overwhelming. Not to mention that I was pretty sure that BD was probably getting tired of being a single father and I heard once that if your husband isn’t sleeping with you, he is likely sleeping with someone else. And I didn’t want him taking up with the cleaning lady because she wore thongs and I didn’t.

So we decided to take a romantic getaway to Napa. Because it would be nice to see each other and talk about something other than how Professor Dragon hates me or how I have to work the weekend or asking him to tell me stories about our son that was in bed by the time I got home. There were many days when I thought I had probably made a huge miscalculation about my fitness for academia, but I kind of suck at admitting when I’m wrong. And I’d already sunk almost two years into the thing, and I knew I was smart enough, so I just felt like there was no going back.

But thank God we were going to a place that was relatively warm and had wine, in abundance. I was so stoked to just drink wine all day, get loaded, have lots of conjugal relations and sleep in. It would be a great escape for three days and then it would be back to the salt mine. But we weren’t going to talk about my work this trip. We were just going to keep it light and have fun.

So off we went. Normally, I wouldn’t comment on the plane ride, because they are generally pretty boring.  Whenever we fly together, we always buy the aisle and the window in particular row, hoping nobody will buy the middle seat. I’m shocked how often this works. But alas, on this trip, some old dude did buy the middle seat, and I offered him the window and I took the middle so I could sit next to BD. The only thing more annoying than the person who buys the fucking middle seat is the person who wants to chat throughout the flight. I do my best not to ever talk to anyone ever on any plane because chances are that you will either fall in love with them or be stuck talking to them for the WHOLE FLIGHT about their god awful boring ass job or family (at least these are the only two scenarios that have ever played out in my life). Since I was already married, the first scenario would have been super awkward with BD sitting on the other side of me, which only left the latter option. And this was going to be a four hour flight, so I sure as hell wasn’t going to open up the lines of communication.

To tell you the truth, I have no idea how Old Balls Who Bought The Middle Seat managed to get me to respond to him. Perhaps he offered me a Take 5 or maybe it was a million dollars? I feel like those are the only two reasons I would decide to start talking to a stranger at the beginning of a fucking transcontinental flight. It was probably a Take 5 bar, because if it were a million dollars, I would remember that more vividly. But anyway, he started talking to me. I’m guessing after he gave me the Take 5 he said something really compelling like, “So….what brings you to San Francisco?” to which I would have rolled my eyes but felt obliged to reply through my very full mouth with teeth covered in chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel, caramel: “Spring break”.  Opening him up to asking where I went to school. And I look like I’m about 22 and this makes me salty sometimes because I really want to be taken seriously so badly that I went to get a PhD and I feel like I have to prove I’m old, so I said “I’m studying for my P.H.D. At [prestigious univeristy].” I thought this clever retort would make me sound super smart and important and he would look at me in awe and figure out how god damn important I was and shut the hell up and let me finish the candy bar that I feel sure he must have given me to talk to him in the first place.

“Oh yeah? What are you getting your PhD in?”. Fuck. Here we go.

“Marketing.”

“Oh. That’s a really growing area in business schools.” Love’s right eyebrow shoots up. Whaaat? He knows something about this? “I’m a business professor at [not a university I’d ever heard of] in Michigan. Boy, I remember my PhD days. What are you doing your dissertation on?”

“Um. I don’t really know yet. I’m just finishing up the coursework.”

“Ha! So you don’t even know what work is yet.”

“What?” He looks at BD and then at me.

“You guys have kids yet?”

“Yes. One. A two year old boy.”

“You ever see him?”

Suddenly the stale, recirculated air leaves the cabin and I feel like I just got sucker punched.
“Um. Well, its hard, but I mean, we make it work.”

“Ha!” He leans over me, taps BD on the knee and says to him, “If you think you don’t see her now, just wait until she starts her dissertation!”

I think BD was probably mad that I wound up talking to this guy, but it was too late now and we were both listening. So I said, “Finishing your dissertation was hard on you?”

“Brutal! Oh it took me a long time. That’s about the time I got hooked on amphetamines and started really abusing alcohol. It took me until I got tenure to realize I had a problem. That’s a lot of years. Actually that’s why I’m going out to San Francisco — to visit my AA sponsor. I’ve been clean for 12 years.”

“Um. Oh. Congratulations?”

“Thanks. Yeah, oh God I remember those days!! How could I forget? I was married back then too. But we got divorced right after I got my first job. I can’t blame her. I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Plus, I was never around. She left me for a guy at her gym. But I can’t blame her.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, I could already picture BD and I re-enacting this whole conversation as we snorted wine out our noses from laughing at how inappropriate the conversation was. On the other hand, holy shit.

“Well, I’m sure it will be fine.” I said, totally NOT sure it would be.

“Yes. I’m sure it will. It takes a really strong person to be married to an academic. We’re a rare breed. A lot of stress – very cut throat. It’s hard to think about anything else when you’re trying to publish and get tenure. It doesn’t end with the dissertation. You’re fooling yourself if you think it does. The stress. It just doesn’t end. You know, I used to teach at [prestigious university] but I took the job where I’m at now just to get out of the rat race. It’s the only way I could stay sober. And then I met a nice lady and got remarried now and life is pretty sweet.”

That’s about the time when BD and I asked the stewardess for two little Jack Daniels bottles and a diet Coke. It probably wasn’t that respectful to our new friend, the talky-talky-jaded-alcoholic-recovering-drug addict-oversharing business professor Old Balls sitting next to us, but the stuff he was saying was scaring the shit out me, and the only coping mechanism that always works is drinking myself into a stupor. Oh wait….shit. Was I going to be an alcoholic soon too? I have never done amphetamines that I’m aware of, but was I just a dissertation away from that and a divorce too? I mean FUCK. I was already miserable. Was it only going to get worse?

So I told the guy I was really happy for his sobriety and I hope he had a good time in San Francisco, but I really needed to sleep because I hadn’t done that in a while. And as I was switching on my iPod to drown in my self-defeating thoughts, he says, “Ha!…Get your sleep! Do it now while you still can! They don’t just give PhDs away at [your university]!”

Eh. Heh heh? Shut up shut up shut up shut up, Old Balls! I never should have taken candy from a stranger. Here is this living, breathing person sitting next to me basically embodying my every fear in the world about what I was doing. Of all the fucking flights on all the fucking days, this mother fucker is the guy who sits next to me.

But wait…was this a sign? Was this my angel punching me in the face so that I would finally listen to what she’d been telling me for months? I can’t quit! Can I? Should I? I mean, what the fuck am I doing? I could get a great job with my MBA – I don’t need this to have a job. I don’t really need this for anything, except to stroke my obnoxious ego. If I keep going down this road, I’m going to be fucking miserable as a professor. I don’t like to do experiments! I like thinking of questions, but I’d rather have someone else tell me the answer. I don’t like doing lit reviews! I don’t like writing and re-writing the same damn paper 653 times just so some other PhD asshole can tear me a new one. I think I might like teaching, but I’ve never done it and maybe I would suck or I would hate that too. What the fuck am I DOING?

That is what was going through my head for the last two hours of the flight. But BD was going to kill me if I told him I wanted to quit. We had invested too much. So we got to our hotel and then went out to a Chevy’s or something like that for lunch and just as the nachos came, we looked at each other and BD said, “So that dude? On the plane? What did you think of that?”
“Um. Interesting, I guess.” I tried to be coy.
“I mean, what the fuck?” he said.
“Yeah.” I said. Silence.
We looked each other in the eyes for the first time in I don’t know how long.
Then I said it. “I can’t do this. I need to be done with this.”
To which, to my shock and relief and delight he replied, “I agree.”

And that was that. It was over. Thanks Old Balls!! We decided by the time the check came that I only had a quarter left to finish up classes and that I should do that and get the hell out of dodge. Just be ABD (all but dissertation). Forever.

We talked about the possibilities in our new life: we could have another kid! And financial security! And stay in Chicago! And have sex once in a while! And time at the park with our little boy that wasn’t full of guilt and tension! We could be free.  Free at last.  I didn’t realize how miserable I was until I could imagine what freedom from the anxiety and stress would feel like.

And that, my Internet friends, is the story of how I became a PhD school dropout.

**********If your eyes are tired or you’re bored, you should stop here, but for those of you hanging on every word, there is a shocking epilogue I just can’t leave out:

When I got back to school the following week, I announced my decision to my cohort. They thought I went crazy. They tried to tell me it was just miserable because Professor Dragon was mean, and maybe I should just get another advisor. But I knew it wasn’t her. Sure, she wasn’t an easy person to deal with, but it was me. I just wasn’t built to be an academic. Most of the other people in my cohort are. They’re the genuine article. Me? I’m something else. I’m a smart-ass, potty mouth blogger/US Weekly subscriber/Oprah Winfrey stalker. That’s my niche. That’s what I’m REALLY good at.

Word of my decision traveled fast and even Professor Bourbon – all the way from his new University – gave me a call to encourage me not to give up. He conceded that the academic world was full of assholes, but that it also had its bright spots. He told me if I could just hang in there and get the PhD, he’d give me a job and we could work together again, with normal people. Because he was only hiring people who were cool. But as tempting as that was, I know he is also the genuine article. Somebody born to be an academic. I was just faking it and he’d know it and then one day he would stop having me into his lair for chats because I was unproductive and I would lose the respect of a person who I loved to death. So I was resolved. I had to quit.

But I also had to tell Professor Dragon before she found out from someone else. I was at once completely ecstatic and scared to death of telling her I was quitting. I felt like when I told her, her head might spin 720 degrees and then she would shoot fire out of her eyes and nose and my hair would be totally singed off and that would suck for me in job interviews. I’m no Sinead.  At the same time, whatever she did, whatever she said, it just didn’t matter anymore. Because I was free.

So I go into her office with some flame retardant clothes and our conversation begins to take the normal course where she starts off kind of like she cares whats going on in my life, but then she’ll explain its only because she is trying to understand why I suck so bad. So I told her that I had a great vacation and I decided that academia wasn’t for me and that I was going to finish up my classes and finish being her research assistant and I was leaving the program in June. I was going to get a job. Probably back in sales. Thanks for everything, yada, yada, yada.

To which she replies, completely calmly, “Don’t be silly. You just came back from vacation and you’re thinking strange. Now go edit this paper, because I’m not satisfied with the lit review.  I don’t want to hear another word about this until you’ve had some time to think.”

Um. I just quit. It wasn’t a question. It was a fact. But I was quickly shoo’d out of her office and I got back to the PhD room where my cohort was waiting. I think they were as surprised as I was that I emerged from her office with hair and no visible third-degree burns.  “WHAT DID SHE SAY!?” I had to explain that though I had quit in no uncertain terms, in Professor Dragon’s world, I had simply said something crazy and that was probably the direct result of sunshine on vacation, or because I’m a moron, and if I just got used to the flourescent lighting of the business building again, I might come to my senses. Basically, she did this neat move where I tried to quit, but she didn’t really let me. There is very little drama, or satisfaction, in that.

So I worked for her for another three months. We did not discuss my pending departure. In the meantime, I filled out all the necessary paperwork to drop out and they were kind enough to give me another Masters degree as a parting gift. It’s no PhD, but two Masters degrees are cool. I could live with that.

A week before leaving, I finally reminded Professor Dragon that I was leaving. She told me that she wished I would reconsider, but she understood. And THEN — wait for it —- she planned. a fucking. party. for me. I shit you not. She pulled out all the stops and ordered in great Chinese and desserts and everything.  It was a feast the likes of which mine graduate student eyes had never seen, except for when they were recruiting the top PhD talent and we could come in later for the leftovers. Not only that, but it was a complete surprise to me. She kept asking me to come in to get some papers one day and I was like oh hellz no! and she kept insisting and I kept coming up with excuses until she was finally like “Fine. I am having a party in your honor today for all the hard work you’ve done. I hope you can come.” The fuck? And it gets even better – at the party she gets up and gives a short speech to all professors and students who came wherein, with tears streaming down her face, she said I was a wonderful person and student and that she would really miss me and that I could come back any time if I changed my mind.  I felt like somehow the time-space continuum bended and I found myself in an alternate universe called “opposite day”.

I had no idea until that point that she didn’t think I was the very worst student that she’d ever worked with in her entire life and that I hadn’t totally dishonored her by quitting. But she was more than cool on that last day, and I salute her, for throwing me a party after chasing me out of a profession I was never cut out for anyway. I have forgiven her for being from Hong Kong and showing me the kind of Chinese love that in an American context is generally experienced as torture. Now we’re tight. We still talk occasionally and I have nothing but love for her.

After that I got a job, my first son started understanding what a “mom” was, along came Baby #2 and BD and I are still married and I’m pretty sure I’m not technically an alcoholic. In other words:

THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

If you actually read this whole post and this whole quadlogy , you deserve a medal. Or a Masters degree of some sort.  You might even want to consider a PhD….

Cheers!

Love’s PhD trilogy: Genesis (also, Why it’s just “Mrs.” instead of “Dr.”)

This is the story of how I was almost a doctor. Not the kind that actually helps people, but the kind that everybody listens to, because if you have PhD at the end of your name, people think you are an authority on any and all subjects.  Which is kind of my dream.  To have everybody listen to me and feel like I have some credibility, even if I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Do you know they give out PhD’s in marketing? They do.  I suppose a PhD in physics is probably higher on the totem pole than marketing, but I’m pretty sure you can’t have ADD and get a PhD in physics. I think you need to have Asperger’s for that.  So I’m S.O.L (does everybody learn that acronym from their dad at age 6?).  So marketing seemed like a reasonable alternative. Plus, after you get a PhD in anything, you’re a PhD. Nobody knows or cares after you get a PhD  what it is in, so I figured I could kind of be like Dr. Phil.  He has a PhD, albeit probably from an online university, but nobody questions his credentials any more. So what if it’s in marketing? I’d be Dr. Love and suddenly, the editors at O would be busting down my door begging me to write a monthly column. But instead, Oprah found Dr. Berman, PhD, a hot blond who loves to talk about sex and suddenly my dreams are shattered.

But I digress. Here is the story:

So I’m in this job that is kind of boring. And the people I work with are really nice, good people, but I had the suspicion that they weren’t as intellectually superior as I was.  So to stave off my boredom, I decided to go back to school part-time because my company would pay for it.  But it had to be something relevant to my job, which only gave me a single choice, which was MBA school.  So luckily I live in a city that has about 6 trillion universities/colleges that offer part-time MBAs.  But going to just any MBA school would have been too easy and wouldn’t have inflated my ego to the levels I crave.  I had to pick one that was prestigious and where I would meet a lot of intellectuals so I could have an intelligent conversation about the current events I read about in US Weekly.  And I am very lucky, because the top two MBA schools in the U.S. are right here in Chicago.

One has a reputation for being really fun and one has a reputation for being really not fun. So it was a really hard decision, but I eventually settled on fun.  I took the GMAT to prove to myself and the admissions group that I was as brilliant as I fancied myself.  I didn’t get a perfect score, but there is math on that test instead of celebrity trivia, so it doesn’t really test true genius. But I did alright. So I applied to the part-time program and they let me in and it lived up to its reputation. I was having a good time.  The people I was going to school with were very smart – maybe some were smarter than me — which then made me feel kind of average and inadequate, but that was probably good, because sometimes I need to be taken down a notch.

So while I’m in MBA school I decide that I need to get into health care sales, so I could do something that helps people and still make lots of money. (Please stop laughing — I was just very naive at that point. Who knew the health care industry is even shadier than the financial sector?).  So in order to network my way into the health care industry, I go to this health care conference being held by my business school.  And they have CEOs from some of the top pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on this panel discussing sales strategy and management,  and the conversation is being led by this professor at my business school.  He keeps throwing out pretty good questions and the executives answer but they always finish up their answers by looking at the professor expectantly, like they needed his approval for what they just said.

And then it hits me.

OMG. I should be a professor. I want to get paid for thinking about whatever I want to think about!!  I want to facilitate discussions between people who work for a living and I’ll be the big PhD at the table who everybody listens to and respects even though all I do is teach a class here and there and maybe write some books and get quoted in the New York Times every other day. Yes! It is my calling. I’ve found my life’s work!! Elation!

I was a newlywed at the time. My husband asked me to marry him a couple of weeks before I started my MBA adventure. I have to assume he thought that I would pull my own weight in our marriage at least financially because I was going to a great school and that should guarantee me a solid place in the career world, right?  Maybe he could be a house husband if he felt like it because I would be making wads of cash as I scurried quickly up the corporate ladder. Because I was the very definition of a future baller and we’d be big pimpin’ (spending Gs).  So I run home from this conference and I announce to BD that I am going to be a business professor. Fuck sales. Fuck working for a living. It was so simple! Why hadn’t I thought of it before!! I’m going to be a professor. And now I could finally earn the right to wear cardigan sweaters with little patches on the elbows and start smoking a pipe. I already had the scholarly specs. All I had to do was get a PhD and how hard could that be, especially with me being such a genius and everything?

So that night I shattered BD’s illusion of having a responsible, rich, hard-working, baller wife.  I told him I was going to finish my MBA and apply to the PhD program.  I wasn’t really sure what PhD school was about, but it couldn’t be that different from MBA school, right? I mean, I knew what the 4 Ps of marketing were, so I was practically halfway there.  And in the PhD program, you don’t have to pay tuition and they even give you a stipend to live on while you think all your deep thoughts.  See?! They were already paying me to do what I loved doing anyway, which was being a geek and tricking people into thinking I wasn’t as clueless as I was and collecting degrees that I could hang in my future big office with leather chairs and floor to ceiling bookcases.

Since the PhD program wouldn’t cost anything and I would actually be bringing home some money, BD got on board and supported the decision.  So I quit my job and started going to school full-time so I could finish the MBA faster.  Of course, that blew up the whole plan where my employer pays for my education. I actually had to pay them back for everything so far and then shell out the money for the rest of the MBA, but no matter! I was on a mission. An intellectual journey. And what is money anyway? Bah! It is clearly only important to the bourgeois as a method to keep the peasants in their place (or something like that. All you need to remember is that I used the term “bourgeois” in a very dismissive and authoritative way, which is very academic of me, don’t you think?) As you can see, I was already starting to ask the deep questions required of a professor.

When you have a dream, you have to go for it, right? So now I just had to get into the PhD program. The odds were kind of bad. They accepted 8 people a year and there were probably close to a thousand applicants. And some of them were from China, where I think you need to know how to solve Rubik’s cubes in 14 moves, in 10 seconds or less just to pass 6th grade.  And they can do some fucking mad math, even without being Aspergers.  And all I have is ADD and a dream.

But when Love wants something, Love gets it.

That fall,  about six months after my epiphany at the healthcare conference,  I started MBA full-time and I started getting busy applying to the PhD program for the following fall.  Apparently that wasn’t the only thing I was getting busy at, because that’s also when I got preggers.  Awesome.

Another very well thought out plan by Love is put into motion…

Part II, Numbers is up next…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t know if I’ll get back before Christmas….so if I don’t, Merry Whatever-you-might-celebrate-at-the-end-of-December!

The time in Australia when I almost got murdered by drunk wild boar hunters – The Finale.

In this final episode, I eventually get to the part about my almost-murder by the drunk Australian wild boar hunters. Let’s recap:

I am too drunk to know to say “no” to participating in the “Outback Rainforest Adventure” during my visit to the Great Barrier Reef in Part I, then the tour guide rips off his clothes and goes swimming in a rainforest waterfall pool in an Australian flag Speedo and I get all hot and bothered by it in Part II, and that was just the first day of this whole unfortunate trip.

I really want to remember every last activity we did the whole three days because they all sucked in their own way and because I revel in complaining, and it would be fun to tell you all about them in detail. But I only remember the very worst moments.  So I’ll just have to stick to those for the finale of my Outback adventure tale.

Okay, so the second day starts and Dundee herds all of our hungover asses into the Outbackmobile (this is the new name for our vehicle – since I can’t really describe what it was) and he tells us that we’ll be leaving the rainforest and entering the Outback. I was delighted to be leaving the rainforest behind, because I thought my chances of survival were significantly greater the further we got from all of the poisonous small things that wanted to kill me in the rainforest. But I wasn’t sure about the whole Outback thing. The closest I had been to the Outback prior to this was the Steakhouse, which, let me tell you is as beautiful to me as Oprah herself. I mean, you can order thick, fat steaks and pick them up in a drive thru after 20 minutes? Fucking genius.

So I had high hopes for this thing they called the Outback. Perhaps there would be cute kangaroos throwing colorful boomerangs around that happy Aboriginals dot-painted especially for them. Oh, and an old Aboriginal dude playing the didgeridoo while the koalas sat in a tree unobtrusively eating leaves or sleeping. That would captivate me for about 5 minutes, which is a very long time for me, so it looked like a ray of sunshine was in my future.

That is not what the Outback is like.  The Outback is possibly the most boring landscape in the entire universe. I’m a Midwestern girl, so I thought soybean fields were about as boring as a landscape could get, but no. The Australian Outback is the worst. Even the desert beats the Outback, because it’s all mystical and stuff and there are cliffs and canyons for you to fall off of, so it packs in some drama too.

Not the Steakhouse

See what I mean?

So anyway, Dundee drives us into a landscape much like this one above and stopped the Outbackmobile in all of this nonsense and we had to go have a “look-see”. This is what Dundee called it when we were about to get out of the vehicle and wander around aimlessly. I hated look-sees. You would just walk around and get sweaty and look at dirt and a bush here and there and be like “wow. a fucking bush. awesome. where the fuck are the koalas I was led to believe Australia was rife with?” Dundee was animated. To him, this was all fucking awesome. Again, he was so like the Croc Hunter. He was jumping around with his machete bouncing up and down on his hip pointing out these huge ant hills and animatedly explaining how exactly the ants make them. He’d get down on his hands and knees and ogle the ants’ handiwork. I mean these things were about a foot or two off the ground, which is hella bigger than the ones you find on suburban sidewalks so I guess they were impressive compared to that, but they weren’t the fucking pyramids or anything. Dundee seemed to think they were the work of the gods.  Really? I mean, it’s a fucking two foot hill in the middle of nowhere. And plus, there aren’t any ants or termites or whatever crawling all over them, which was good, but creates too little drama to make me care.  I never got the five minutes of captivation I was so looking forward to.

So we had a day long look-see in the Outback and all we saw were these ant hills all over the place. And there was a little rocky hill thing we climbed too. And by “we”, I mean everybody else. It looked pointless to me. And maybe like it would cause me to sweat more than I was comfortable with. So I just sat at the bottom rolling my eyes and being annoying and scanning the horizon for killer koalas or at least some boxing kangaroos. No luck.

Okay, so then it starts getting dark and Dundee brings us back to the Outbackmobile and he declares that this is where we’ll camp tonight! Ummm – surely you jest? There aren’t any tents in the back of the mobile! How are we going to camp? Dundee informs me happily that we’re “sleeping under the stars – didn’t you read it in the brochure, Love?” No I didn’t fucking read it in the brochure.  I think we established if I had, I would be at a club chugging a Strongbow instead of in the middle of BFE with a Speedo-clad, machete-carrying, Steve Irwinesque tour guide.

And, even if I had read the brochure, aren’t there supposed to be tents? No. We were going to sleep in “swags”, which are kind of like sleeping bags, except instead of being soft and snuggly, they are made of heavy duty canvas and they are kind of shaped like coffins and you’re supposed to zip up your damn head inside them. And that is where I am supposed to fucking sleep. I mean, he didn’t even put a tarp down under the swag. It was like, unroll the swag and just put it on any dirty dusty spot and get in. Oh, and by the way, they don’t breathe at all, so get naked or you’ll probably sweat to death. The FUCK? Dundee was all about getting naked. And in places where a multitude of insects could claim any of your orifices as their own swag. Um. No thanks.

So this is where I have a little mental breakdown. There is no toilet. No shower. No bed. No alcohol. No McDonalds. Nobody, for miles, except us and Dundee. And I’m completely freaked out because I am sure that something or someone is going to attack me as I sleep. I mean, everybody knows that dingoes eat babies in Australia. So whats to stop them from trying to eat my arm? And how unnatural is it for people to just sleep outside under the stars? Are you kidding me? That’s the whole reason we fucking evolved – so that we could live in cool urban lofts with central air and skylights so we could see the stars in our temperature controlled, insect and psycho-free abodes. Why do so many people have such a huge problem with the great indoors?!  Who was going to keep me safe?!

Dundee’s machete. Thats who.  At least that was what he was telling me while I was on my knees screaming to God and tearing at my greasy hair. His machete was pretty big. And by now I was convinced he wasn’t going to kill me, though I was sure that he wanted to. Many times. He told me that he had some chocolate if I would just come back to the fire he built so we could have dinner and tell stories. It was blantantly clear I wasn’t the first hysterical woman he had talked off the ledge.  I was hungry. And I needed chocolate. So in tears, I returned to my friends and the British couple and we sat around a fire as Dundee cooked our dinner. I was still ruminating about how maybe I should spend more time sober so I wouldn’t agree to these insane “adventures” ever again, when suddenly from very far away, we saw headlights.  In the middle of the Outback. We were nowhere near a road. I thought that perhaps God had heard my prayer and sent Ed McMahon with an oversized check to deliver me from this hell. I started jumping up and down, elated. I was sure that I was being saved. It was the only logical explanation of what could be happening.

Dundee looked very concerned. That bastard wants to see me suffer, I told myself. He’s pissed Ed McMahon found me all the way out here. The tenacity of the Prize Patrol in this case was impressive. Those guys just wouldn’t be deterred once they found their winner, even though she is sitting in the middle of the fucking Outback. It was really very moving.  But, then again… We were kind of far away from civilization. And I didn’t know if satellite would reliably work that far away from civilization and it wasn’t really prime time in the US yet, so if they did it now most Americans would miss my glorious moment.  Plus, it would be really expensive to bring Ed’s makeup person all the way into the Outback. Maybe it wasn’t Ed.

The headlights were making zig zags all over the place, but seemed generally headed in our direction.  Now is a good time to remind you that at that time, cell phones came packed in briefcases and were used by about .8% of the population. We had no communication channels to civilization, so whatever was going to happen was going to happen without the benefit of 911. Dundee got up and started pacing. He told us to be quiet and not to talk to whoever it was and he then turned on the Outbackmobile and shined the headlights in the direction of the speeding vehicle that was barreling toward us, presumably so they wouldn’t run us over.

We started to panic a little. Our normally jovial Dundee broke out in a sweat. Apparently this part wasn’t in the brochure. Who the hell was in that car, and what the hell were they doing driving around in the Outback at night?  The headlights keep coming closer and we kind of all huddle together having no idea what to expect, but my hopes of it being the Prize Patrol were diminishing every second the lights came closer. No way Ed McMahon would drive that fast and erratically. Only somebody completely tanked could be driving.

Let me say it again. Only somebody completely tanked could be driving. Aw fuck. Lindsay Lohan was only 10 then. So who the hell was this?  The truck was upon us and our campfire within two minutes. Probably less. Dundee continued to pace nervously, and he took his machete off his belt in anticipation.  We did not have to wait long to find out who was driving. Two men, who I can only describe as extremely hillbilly-esque (they had no teeth – I swear to God), half rolled, half fell out of their jeep. But their messy dismount from the jeep did not affect their ability to hold their rifles.  At first they appeared to be very happy drunks.  They were laughing and wheezing and wanted to know who we were and what we were doing.  Dundee said we were having a look-see and camping.  He inquired about what they were doing.  I couldn’t understand a damn word they said, but I found out later they were looking for wild boars. They were wild boar hunters. Wild. Boar. Hunters.

Ummm….whaaat? Nobody said anything about the possibility of wild boar, let alone their hunters. They wanted to know if we had beer.  Believe me, fellas – if there were any beer, you would find it all coursing through my veins. Instead, I had more than my share of adrenaline flowing through them at that point.  Drunk hillbillies with guns scare me.

Two of my friends on the trip were from New York and LA, and they are whispering that we’re all going to die.  They were pretty sure that these guys were going to open fire at any moment.  I found it pretty ironic that the whole time we were in Australia, the Aussies would ask my friend from LA whether it was safe to go out on the streets in LA because of all of the drive by shootings. Hollywood makes LA look like the killing fields.  They thought Chicago was probably safe because the mob only killed everybody back during prohibition. We thought it was hysterical. But now the tables were turned and three chicks from LA, NYC and Chicago respectively were never more frightened than when faced with random drunk wild boar hunters.

You know how they say you get a “fight or flight” reflex in a situation like this? Now I know I’m a flight person. My goal was to get shot dead running away because there was no way in hell I was going to get myself raped by those two mother fuckers and then killed. Nope. I decided that I much preferred to get killed right away. I told my friends I’d take the first bullet. You know, for the team.

A heated argument seemed to erupt between Dundee and the hunters. They wanted to sit with us and be friends, but Dundee told them they weren’t really invited. Their initial joviality faded and then they seemed to be telling Dundee something along the lines of “Well see, we have guns and you only have a machete”. A pretty solid argument for how sloshed they were. But Dundee kept them talking and at a semi-safe distance from us.  Then one of my friends declared “They’ll kill Dundee first. And then they’ll rape us all and kill us. We’re so dead.” We looked at the guys we came with and asked them if they were going to stand for this. Like maybe they should back Dundee up or something. You know, act like men. They said the hell if they were going to get into the fray. Those guys were big, dumb, drunk and armed. I think their plan for escape was to run while we were getting raped. Pussies.

As Dundee and the hunters argued I was able to reframe the whole situation and kept thinking about whether it would be worse to be shot dead by these guys or to sleep under the stars in that coffin/swag thing. I was leaning toward the former (I seriously was) when suddenly the guys got back in their truck and peeled off into the night.  Wait. What? I was still alive and unraped? Whoa. That was heavy. Dundee came back and told us who they were and what they wanted. He wound up having to buy them off with some of our food. Good thing for me that Dundee was such a skilled negotiator, because if they had asked for one of the women,  I would’ve been the first one Dundee gave away.

I asked if maybe it would be best for us to drive to a hotel. Dundee said we’d be fine. Those guys weren’t coming back. Yeah, right. With all these naked coeds in swags? They’re totally coming back to rape us. I lobbied for us to forfeit our adventure and hightail it to Cairns. Dundee wouldn’t hear of it. He was back to his old self. Gleeful in my misery.

Eventually I had to get into the swag. But first I had a few questions for Dundee:

What if it rains? It won’t rain.

It doesn’t rain here? What if a pack of wild boar comes? No worries.

What about all those ants that built those big pyramid things? There won’t be many insects. Just get in. And take your clothes off or you’ll die of heat.

The hell if I was going to get naked. I had never had crabs and hell if I was going to get them from a “night under the stars” in a cheap swag in the Australian Outback.  I zipped myself in and the gross BO smell was overwhelming, and as promised, it was hot as hell, so I opened it just a little for some air. And I fell asleep.

Only to be awakened in the early hours of the next day by a very large drop of water which fell on my forehead. The fuck? And then another one.

“DO. NOT. TELL ME IT IS. RAINING. ON MY HEAD.” I said this as loudly as humanly possible, without having it turn into a shriek.  Oh yes. It was raining. My declaration woke the rest of the group.  I quickly unzipped the swag to sit up and start bitching more, when my eyes focused on two, no three, no FOOURRR!!! ant-like things that were bigger than a baby’s arm crawling on top of my swag. “HO-LY-SHIIIIIT!”

“I hate it here! I hate Australia! I hate you, Dundee! This is ridiculous. Get me the fuck out of here! You said it didn’t rain? What the fuck is it doing right now? We almost get shot last night and now there is some sort of fucking flash flood in the Outback and these fucking ants want to eat me. I HATE YOOOOUUUU! I hate this! ALL of this! I have never been more miserable in my entire life!” (If this story ever gets made into a movie, only Meryl could handle this complex character. Only she has the power to accurately convey the powerful rawness and the depth of my soul at that poignant moment.)

Dundee shrugged and smiled and said that we should fold our swags up and get in the Outbackmobile.  He was going to take us to a horse farm, then an Aboriginal village and then we were going to a pub. And then we were going back to Cairns. You know when you are fighting for your life, like you fall into any icy river, and your body conserves all the blood and gives it to your heart and lungs and brain and you have this intense focus to stay alive? Thankfully that is what happened to me in that very moment! My survival instincts finally kicked in and my brain focused on the word “pub” and I lived. Thank God Almighty. I lived.

It rained all morning.

The horse farm? Smelled like shit. Like I suppose most horse farms do.

The aboriginal village? Um, it was like going to the projects. We got to hang out with people who hate white people for ruining everything for them and then making them paint boomerangs and didgeridoos so that they could get some money from us so they could use the money to go back to being drunk again.  Awesome.

The pub? Glorious. And I kicked Dundee’s ass at darts. It felt good to be back in my element.

And then we got on with the rest of our vacation. And I lived to tell the tale.

SO…now you know what not to do in Australia.

You’re welcome.

Leadership school dropout

Over my 30-odd years on this planet, I have amassed a wondrous pile of stories that I love to retell over and over. And I have a whole arsenal that is waiting in the wings for me to spit out on to this blog.  However, the old stories will have to wait as I record for you a brand-spanking-new story delivered to me on a platter yesterday, courtesy of the HR geniuses at my esteemed company and the crazy-ass woman they hired to help mold me into the next top model corporate leader of the future.

GAH! That is the only logical place to start.

Okay, so I wouldn’t consider myself the best employee in the world. I’m kind of a smart ass and I checked out mentally months ago, but if I learned anything from Office Space, it is that as soon as you just don’t care anymore, your career will take off in ways you never knew possible.

So I get an email on Monday from my manager that says that the powers that be had identified me as a woman with high management potential and, as a reward, they wanted to send me to a “professional development seminar series for business women”.  I was kind of shocked and surprised by the distinction since I thought that I had pissed enough people off that they would not want to give me any kind of reward for what they would call my bad attitude and general disregard for the B.S. they hand out in large, inedible chunks each day.

However, on paper I am a wet dream for the The Man because I went to top schools, earned top grades and impressive degrees and I sell a lot of shit, which is my official job. Somehow I manage to help my clients spend millions on the company’s crap stuff — and not just because I’m their walking, talking “hot librarian” fantasy. (I’m actually not lying about this – you wouldn’t believe how much my glasses, coupled with a quick and dirty wit,  turn old dudes on. I mean, its enough to make them completely not notice I don’t have boobs).

But day-to-day, I’m the antithesis of a corporate citizen, since I generally make it my other job to counsel coworkers I like to leave the company. I send them job postings all the time.  Because I think they could do better. We all could.  This recession has brought out the worst in corporate America, or at least in my corporate ghetto, and most days I just want to puke that I’m part of it. They kind of treat their employees like beaten dogs, but I don’t quit because I like going to Banana Republic and having Leonardo, my gay BR sales associate, dress me up in today’s latest fashions. Because I can’t dress myself and if I were unemployed, I’d be a big hot mess. I make a pretty good living for someone who mostly just sarcastically mocks all of the corporate drone bullshit while protecting my customers from my company and making my coworkers laugh.

So anyway, I should have surmised that this “opportunity” to go to this “professional development” seminar for “high potential” women was a boondoggle when I got invited on a Monday and it took place on a Thursday. I mean, shouldn’t high potential leaders have stuff on their calendars a few days out that would stop them from spending the morning at this thing? Well, I didn’t. Not really, because I was able to use my powers of persuasion to extricate myself from yet another fruitless corporate exercise scheduled for that day so I was free to learn how to develop my leadership potential.

I’m not really sure how to explain what happened when I showed up to this thing.  It was SO. BAD. that it will be hard to convince anyone on the planet that this actually happened. I am physically wracked with convulsions as I recall this Thursday.  I can usually laugh at anything, but this one was so totally fucking unbelievable that the fetal position is really the only safe, appropriate response. But – I have a blog, and for my own sake — my own truth — I must tell the story of what happened to me and the other inmates high potential talent held captive in a room for four hours while some random woman gave us her take on what “leadership” is.  Please have patience as take off the straight jacket and collect my thoughts.

Okay, so the only information I had on this seminar was that we have to meet four times a year for four hours each time. We have to read books and network and do all kinds of stuff that corporate people value.  And we’re going to meet all these other beaten dogs women from other big corporate goliaths that we can get to know and just network the hell out of each other and steal away talent when necessary. I guess. I’m an introvert, so I’m not really into meeting random people and talking about meaningless subjects, and you already know I don’t like other women that much either, but for all I knew, one of Oprah’s producers may be at one of these things and then I could give her my “elevator pitch” – another darling of corporate training programs – about how Oprah and I are soul mates and she could hook me up.   And I don’t hate all women – I love the smart sarcastic ones, so I was thinking maybe some of them may have been included in this thing too? I would be able to figure out who they were because when they inevitably play those stupid “ice breaker” games, we would probably collide in our desperate dash for the door and we could hide in the bathroom together swapping 30 Rock quotes.

So I show up and find myself in a smallish conference room with a very big table, that apparently we’re all going to sit around.  There was seating for 15, but barely enough room to walk since the table filled the room. There was a woman at the head of the table that kind of looked like Cruella DeVille. Except she wasn’t wearing a Dalmatian stole, thank god. I think it was fox. And she wasn’t smoking a cigarette through one of those long plastic things either. Probably because it was a no smoking zone,  but I was sure she’d bust one out at break time.  I guessed she was our “facilitator” and the founder of this company that was going to be professionally developing me for the next year.  AWESOME.

Okay, so we were told to show up at 8am. It’s about 8:15 and most people seem to be there, because it STARTED AT 8, and then she says “the seminar actually starts at 8:30, but you can’t tell people who or else they’ll be late. So I always tell people to come a half hour earlier than they are needed – and look! It worked!” Oh! So I busted my ass to get there on time and didn’t feed my children that morning because I had to be somewhere so damn early when really, I wasn’t “needed” for an extra half hour. Thanks, bitch.  I started wondering if I could take her in a cage match (and I totally could). She proceeded to say that as leaders we have to anticipate that people can’t follow directions and work around it, just as she had just done. So in other words, we’re fucking idiots that can’t follow directions. Hmm.

Okay, so 8:25 rolls around and she wants everyone to introduce themselves.  Say our name and who we work for and what our job is.  Easy enough. But then she tells us that many women have trouble with this.  We need to speak slowly and clearly and loudly enough so everyone can hear us.  Really? Because as top talent at our companies, this never would have occurred to us and we’ve never done such a unique and bizarre activity before, like introducing ourselves.

With that hurdle behind us, she starts to rattle off the “rules” about our seminar. We are expected to listen to others. To participate. We have to do our homework. We must conduct ourselves professionally. We have to go to these networking events her company does. No exceptions. She gave us a book, but we don’t have to read it.  She wants us to read another one she wants us to buy for the next class. She will hold phone calls every month from 8 to 8:30 where we will “talk about whatever is relevant”. They may last 5 minutes or 30. It just depends on what people want to share.  Whaaaat?! It kind of sounds like I just got brought to the orphanage with a locket around my neck from my company and Miss Hannigan was laying down the law. I did not see an impromptu performance of Hard-Knock Life coming, but I thought I would begin humming it, just to see if I had any comrades in the room.  Not so much.

Okay, so then she gets to the heart of the matter – women as leaders:

“As women, its very hard for us to be leaders in business because we are so much more emotional than men.  One thing you absolutely cannot do – that I do not recommend – is crying at work.  We’ve ALL been there. We’ve ALL cried at work before. Raise your hands if you’ve cried at work.” None of the ashen faces of women around the room raise their hands. “Well, I know its embarrassing to admit, but if you want to get ahead, you have to stop crying at work.” Ummmmm…. “Have any of you ever seen a MAN cry at work? If you have, raise your hand. Exactly.  His career would be over. But you can get away with it because you’re female, but people will stop taking you seriously.”  Ummm….Whaaaaat?!  Okay. There has been a mistake. This woman was supposed to be heading up the red table in my son’s kindergarten class. Yeah, I’m pretty sure there is a mix-up. But nobody gets up to leave. And neither do I. Maybe this will get better…?

“You know why we as women are disadvantaged? It was because as little girls we were raised to be in the home with our mothers — cooking, sewing, taking care of our siblings — while the boys were doing things outside the home like playing sports and making decisions on their own.  So when women get to work outside the home, it’s often hard for us to speak up and make our own decisions and realize that the corporate world is a game that we need to play because we just never learned that when we were little. Only the boys did, so they know more than we do and we have to work harder to learn that stuff.”  GAH! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? I think Cruella may be a little two-thousand-and-late. 1572 called and they want their school marm back.

“Along these lines, you have to learn to stay neutral at all times at work. Don’t be one of those women who is always happy. And don’t be someone who is always crying. Don’t let your emotion show. Because you know what? People don’t care about all of your drama. They care about themselves. And if you’re always talking about yourself and your problems, nobody wants to hear it.  But the people who get ahead in this world –and as women, we’re good at this — are people who ask other people questions about themselves. If you do that, people will think you care about them. And nobody at work does this. You can really stand out if you do.  I mean, think about it. When is the last time someone at work asked you a question about yourself?”

One participant looks around baffled and says, “Yesterday…?” and everyone murmurs and nods. Cruella isn’t convinced. She says, “Well, that is very rare. You must have some very nice working conditions with companies that are ahead of the times. Most people don’t care about you and don’t want to know what is happening in your life.  But that’s really what people want, so you have to be the one person in your company who does that.  I know we have some sales people here. They are probably much farther along at doing this than the rest of you. But we’re going to practice now.  We’re going to go around in a circle and you’re going to turn to the person on your right, shake her hand, introduce yourself and ask her a question.  The other person isn’t going to answer, because the answer doesn’t really matter.  We’re just trying to get you used to knowing how to ask another person a question.”  Someone asks if we all have to come up with a different question and if the question has to be business related.  “No. You can use the same question as someone else. I just want to teach you how to ask a question about someone when you meet them.   After this, we’re going to go around again and then the person can answer with a short answer and then that person has to ask a question back.”  By golly! This kind of strenuous mental activity was really wearing me and the other ladies down. I mean, however could I think of a question so quickly to ask the person next to me? And then answer a question and ask one too? All together!?  Gee, was she asking us to start a conversation with another person? Isn’t this more Level 2 training? I mean, it’s only our first day of training.

Even though I was sweating bullets along with all of the other MBAs and lawyers and executives in the class, we all somehow managed to ask the person next to us a question without anyone bursting into tears. Amazingly. Cruella was delighted and so pleased. She sees why we were hand selected for her seminar and she decided we could move on to the next exercise.

She asked us to name leaders we admire and she was going to write them on the board. I was first. And you know who I said. Cruella:  “Oprah… Yes… Some think she is a leader.” Some, mother fucker?! I almost jumped across the table and strangled her wrinkly throat. SOME?! More like EVERYONE. Don’t talk smack about Oprah or you’re going to get jacked. So she writes Oprah on the board, correctly, and then says “Did I spell that right?”  Yes. “Oh, because it looks so funny written down like that.” For fuck’s sake.  “Anybody else?” Someone asks if they have to be famous. “No. They can be people at your company if you want”. So somebody is like, “Debbie Smith.” and then someone says “Eric Johnson” or whatever the hell and nobody else in the room knows these people, but I’m sure they are probably the people who hired this demented woman from 1572 to teach us about leadership.  So then somebody suggests the mayor of Chicago. (This took place the day before the IOC bitch slapped Chicago for the 2016 games). Cruella writes, “Mayer Daily” on the board. Ummm….

Okay, I need to just put this out there – I cannot tolerate when people misspell stuff. It’s a mammoth pet peeve. I’m a nerd and I expect that if you’re going to get up to a board in front of people and write something, it sure as hell better be spelled right.  I mean, maybe she is dyslexic or something, but then don’t fucking write on the board. Delegate, bitch. Seriously.  But I digress.

MAYER DAILY?

If this seminar took place in Alabama, I might be able to let this slide. But we live in fucking Chicago. He has been mayor for 21 years. He and his shenanigans are detailed in the paper every. single. day. I had to hold myself back from running up to the board, punching her in the teeth and spelling it right. I don’t know if she spelled all the other people’s names right since I don’t have any clue who the fuck they are, but I guess it was really a miracle she got Oprah right, so I just started my deep breathing exercises, so I didn’t lose my shit in front of my new band of brothers sisters.

So then she says, “now that we have our list of leaders, lets talk about the traits that we admire in them.” People suggested traits, and she recorded them on the white board. Here is a partial list of what she wrote:

  • influncial
  • motavated
  • intigrity
  • smart
  • compasion
  • power
  • love to what do

You get the gist. I feel a panic attack coming on. How did I get here? When is Ashton going to come in and tell me I’ve been Punk’d? Because if it isn’t soon, I’m going to have a fucking heart attack.  And if this thing has the power to kill our company’s burgeoning woman leaders, preventing us from becoming the future Commander and Chief, you can bet HR, OSHA  and the ACLU are going to hear about it from me. I take workplace safety and discrimination very seriously.

It is at this point in the seminar that I blacked out. I really can’t remember anything except floating above my body and kind of watching the horror show unfold. I saw lips moving, but I couldn’t make out the words. I think I may have split into several different personalities at that point as a coping mechanism.  But the young 5 year old girl personality named Cassie that was born told me later that Cruella asked if anyone in the room ever read the New York Times because she thought it was a really “neat” paper because it had stories from all over the world in it!  She said we might want to look into it one day so we would have more to talk about with our male colleagues, because chances are that they read it, and it would make us sound very smart. Apparently you can read it even on the Internet.

At some point, I saw my body walk out of the room. And go into the bathroom and light myself on fire wet my face. And get in my car. And drive away. On auto-pilot. I woke up at McDonalds. Only an Extra Value Meal #2 could begin to bring me back into my own body again. And then I went back to my office and told my boss what took place, trying not to hyperventilate.  She thought I was shitting her. No. I am dead serious. Serious as cancer, something both she and I probably have and don’t even know it right now.  Louise Hay (one of Oprah’s esteemed guests, of course) says that if you get cancer it’s because you have some resentment you haven’t let go of, which is why I probably only have a few months to live.  But the bright side is that if I die next month then I wouldn’t have to go back there again. I told her I couldn’t live another minute if I have to complete the program and that I quit.  NO WAY I was going back there.  I was already recognizing the signs of PTSD.

And, God love my manager, she got me out of it. She made me tell HR about the whole ordeal. It was at that point they revealed that we got this leadership series “free” with our corporate sponsorship of Cruella’s company. So I was fucking Punk’d.

HR – 1. Love – 0.

I am a leadership school dropout.  But now I need a fifth of vodka and some major therapy.

Cruella has her own damn business and is the biggest fucking idiot on the planet. And I’m a “high potential” corporate drone working for The Man and getting Punk’d by HR. I’m the fucking idiot. FUCK.