Tag Archives: childhood

ladies, shave your legs b/c you never know when you might end up in the ER

in our quest to become responsible senior citizens, holly and i went to bed on friday at like 9pm. there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to tell you that, as it will ruin my “street cred,” but honestly? i don’t know if i actually have any “street cred” other than wearing black all the time and let’s face it: you can wear black even on a good night’s sleep so i guess i actually don’t even care.

so we get into bed, take out our dentures (psych!), turn on the tube and…my left leg gets all tingly. like pins & needles, but ever so slightly, from my toes up to my knee. soon, my left arm–from my elbow to my fingers–gets tingly, too. this sort of thing happened to me once years ago, and i’ve since heard it can be a painless migraine-type thing. since i’m a migraine sufferer, i didn’t think too much of it. but then my left cheek started feeling weird.

i told holly, who immediately asked me if i wanted to go to the ER.

“ew, no,” i said, grossed out.

a baltimore city ER on a friday night? i pictured people with knives sticking out of their foreheads. no thanks, i thought.

i figured i was just being neurotic and was imagining the feeling in my cheek anyway. i told holly i was going to sleep, would probably be better in the morning and that she was giving me anxiety by bringing up the ER and it was only making me tingle worse. we put on “something borrowed” for the gazillionth time (OMG GREAT MOVIE) and i fell into a deep sleep, despite the helicopters overhead and tumbleweave rustling by.

we woke up and i was better. in fact, i forgot i even felt weird the night before. but by around 9:45am, the feeling was back–and stronger. and it really was in my cheek–and behind my eye and the left half of my tongue, too. despite my apprehensiveness googling medical stuff (i only trust NIH, the mayo clinic and webmd), i googled something like “painless migraine numbness on one side of body” and found this.

while reading the symptoms i was experiencing aloud to holly, it was like there was a delay between my brain and my mouth. like i had just taken half a low-dose xanax (on my way, for example, to san francisco, where i would wear a sparkly chico’s holiday sweater to nicole’s pre-wedding party in…october). all joking aside, that’s when i really started to worry. i told holly i wanted to go to the ER after all.

baltimore may be dirty and dangerous, but it’s chock full of great hospitals.  we decided on hopkins because, well, it’s hopkins. if there was something wrong, they’d find it.

as soon as i told the registration lady my symptoms, things started happening–quickly. before i knew it, i was in a wheelchair with a blood pressure cuff on my arm. then i was being pushed through back hallways and finally through a stainless steel swinging door into a bright room that looked…gosh it looked a lot like an operating room, i thought. this…suddenly felt a lot like the movies. and not in a good way. in a really really scary way.

a team of doctors and nurses were waiting for me, and i was told to get on a gurney. suddenly lights were being shined in my eyes, and i was being asked question after question. a gruff woman strapped my right arm with one of those rubber blood test bands that freak me out so badly.

“wait! wait!” i told her. “I’M NOT READY FOR A BLOOD TEST WAIT JUST GIVE ME A MINUTE.”

“ma’am! MA’AM, you need to stop moving. YOU NEED TO PUT YOUR ARM DOWN NOW MA’AM. PUT. YOUR. ARM. DOWN.”

holly was on my left side. panic-striken, i looked in her big brown eyes for support. she usually smiles at me while i’m getting my blood drawn (*thump* sorry i just fainted as i wrote that) and distracts me with something funny and touches my hair and says you’re doing great, babe, nothing to worry about. but this time all i saw in her eyes was…worry. panic, even. and she started to cry.

“babe! babe you’ve got to tell me something funny. keep it together, honey! I NEED YOU. TO TELL ME. SOMETHING. FUNNY. TO KEEP. ME. FROM. FAINTING.”

“babe, i’ve…got nothing funny to say. there’s nothing funny!”

i’m getting really really scared at this point because, i know you won’t believe this, but out of the two of us, holly’s the one that keeps it together.

while i’m begging her to make me laugh, the doctors and nurses are all asking us questions: when did the symptoms start? what exactly do they feel like? has this happened before? and on and on and on. and Nurse Gruffy McGruff is still taking blood. then she ties another damn rubber band on me and sticks me with an IV. then she instructs me to take off my shirt and my bra (the nerve!) and i’m handed a gown.

it dawns on me: holy shit. this is the stroke unit. they think i’m having a stroke.

after a lot more questions and some neurological tests, they decided that i wasn’t having a stroke–or at least not the kind that necessitates immediate treatment. so they took me down, on the gurney, to the main ER area. and this is where the baltimore city fun started.

no rooms were available so they put us in the hallway. this nice nurse brings holly  a chair. and we sit. and sit. and sit. we sat in the johns hopkins ER hallway for a total of almost 12 hours. and at some point–i can’t even tell you how long we’d been there–we hear an ambulance call in over some sort of speaker system saying some guy had just overdosed, they’d probably need to call security and etc.

holly and i looked at each other.

“can’t they put us somewhere else?” i asked. “i don’t want to be here for this.”

“i don’t think there’s anywhere else they can put us, honey. otherwise we wouldn’t be in the hallway.”

“don’t get snarky,” i told her.

“i’m not getting snarky.”

“by the way, why couldn’t you just have said one funny thing while that beast was drawing my blood?? just one thing! i was this close to fainting! you couldn’t have told me a joke??”

“babe. i was scared. how could i have told you anything funny? what kind of joke could i have possibly told you?”

“oh i don’t know! how about: what’s invisible and smells like worms?! BIRD FARTS. bird farts, babe! that would have been a great one! remember we heard it the other day?!”

“yes i remember! but there’s no way i could have remembered it at that moment.”

“i know,” i said quietly, trying to avoid thinking about the prickly needle in my arm and wondering when i might eat the peanut butter sandwich i packed before we left home. yes, i really did pack a peanut butter sandwich before we left the house. who knows when we’d even eat next?? i mean, they don’t feed you in the ER, do they? i had no idea and hell if i was going to be left stranded without food.

thankfully, i ate half my sandwich and had some time to digest before they brought in Over McDosey. we knew he was on his way in because we heard him screaming. 

“oh jesus,” holly said, watching. “he’s coming this way. right behind you. don’t turn around.”

“HELP ME HELP ME HELP MEEEEEEEEEE!” he shouted as they pushed him down the hall.

i watched holly’s face, her eyes bulging, as his voice grew louder and louder.

“drugs are bad, babe!” i whispered, probably too loudly. “DRUGS ARE BAD.”

our luck being, well, our luck, they put Overdose–no, actually, let’s call him Speedball, because according to the paramedic that brought him in, that’s what he took, some kind of combo of methadone, cocaine and prescription pills–in the room right next to my head.

a line of nurses filed into his room carrying a tremendous amount of bedpans. more bedpans than i had ever seen in my life at one time.

“he said his stomach really hurts,” the paramedic told the nurse next to us.

“IT’ COMIN OUTTA ME!” he shouted. “OH IT’S COMIN OUTTA ME!!!!! UHHHGGGGGGG!!!! HELP HELP HELP ME IT’S ALL COMIN OUT!!!!”

“holy shit, babe,” i said. “what the in HELL. we can’t stay here! i don’t want to be near this!”

holly, at this point, was nearly gagging. with her t-shirt over her nose and mouth, she helped me up from the gurney and we walked to the other side of the ER’s nursing station, as far away from Speedball as possible.

and that’s when we saw him: someone we recognized.

now, around our neighborhood here in southeast baltimore, we have an array of characters, some more unsavory than others, and we have private nicknames for them.

Jerry the Drunk
Janet the Drunk
Raspy-Voiced Unemployed Dry Waller Drunk Guy That Lives at Jerry’s
Guy That Drinks From Jerry’s Hose
Hooker We Thought Was Pregnant But Just Turned Out to be Bloated
Steelers Fan That Beat Her Teenager With a Cane in Front of our House
Blond-Haired Hooker
Hoops The Hooker
Big Bubba the Drugdealer

and then there’s the best one of all: Feral Cat Guy, named such because he actually looks like a feral cat. he has chunks of hair missing and is just…dirty. it’s like he’s the druggie, adult version of pigpen. we once heard jerry, janet, all the hookers and the raspy-voiced unemployed dry waller drunk guy shouting at him:

“get lost! you smell! YOU STINK!”

“honey,” holly whispered to me as we cowered in the corner, holding our breath trying to ignore Speedball’s screams. “is that…it couldn’t be…”

“FERAL CAT GUY,” we said simultaneously.

“Feral Cat Guy is here at the ER? with us?” i said. “oh you have got to be kidding me.”

he was skulking around the doorway of his room trying to get the nurses’ attention, any nurse at all. asking for some sort of medication. it looked like he had been, well, it looked like he had been in a cat fight, actually. i kind of couldn’t believe it. here we were, on a saturday afternoon, with Feral Cat Guy, for hours and hours. and i’m not even wearing a bra. wonderful.

the nice nurses set up a little station for us in our new corner of the ER, with a gurney and blanket for me and a chair for holly. and that’s where we sat. and sat. and sat.

eventually Speedball was wheeled out by security to go night-night, one guy holding his arms and another holding his legs. we tried avoiding Feral Cat Guy’s stare, lest he recognize us from the neighborhood, which we didn’t think he did.

eventually it was unavoidable: holly had to walk past him to get her phone, which was charging near the nursing station.

“Feral Cat Guy just talked to me,” she said when she got back.

“huh?”

“yeah. he said, ‘hey homie, you got the time?'”

“he called you HOMIE?! what is this, 1996?”

“yeah. i know. seriously.”

more hours went by. then transport came to take me for an MRI. i hate MRIs. i’ve gotten a bunch of them, but it’d been a while and i was out of practice. holly came along, and as we walked (well technically i was being wheeled) i prayed i wouldn’t have a panic attack while i was in “the tube,” as i call it.

we arrive and the techs tell me i can listen to music. in fact, i can choose whatever i’d like, as they have pandora. i tell them frank sinatra.

“old blue eyes it is,” the male tech said.

the techs, a man and a woman, take me in and i say i’m scared. the lady tells me it’ll be fine and instructs me on how to use this little squeeze device to notify them if i’m having a problem.

i close my eyes and they cover them with a cloth. then they put this weird grate thingy over my face. i feel the MRI table move backwards and even though my eyes are closed and covered, i feel the space close in. it takes me about two minutes to let go of the lady’s hand. i’m suddenly paralyzed with fear–40+ minutes in this MRI tube and what will they find in my brain??

i tell the techs i’m ready, and they leave. my heart is racing. i try to remind myself that they’re just outside. in a few moments, the music starts. the sound of sinatra’s voice is comforting. then a home depot commercial comes on and i feel irritated. home depot ruins everything. then more music. i’m shaking like a leaf. the machine is pounding and i imagine magnetic waves slicing through my brain.

i take a deep belly breath and imagine dancing with holly in our living room, as we often do, with comcast’s “singers & swing” cable radio station on. i imagine the soft feel of her cheek next to mine, the warmth of her arms around my body.

“i love you, honey,” she says.

“i love you, too,” i say, swaying to the music.

suddenly i imagine us folding sheets together, matching up the corners, holly teasing me, telling me, “stop walking towards me, babe! walk back, go back.”

“i can’t help it!” i tell her. “i just want to be near you.” and then we laugh.

i imagine us chopping vegetables at the island in our kitchen. well, i kind of suck at chopping vegetables, so i decide i’m peeling potatoes, that i can do.

“this is called a mirepoix,” holly says, pushing the onions, carrots and celery into a hot sauté pan. the mixture begins to sizzle and our first floor starts to smell like the start of something delicious.

i snap out of my revelry and realize i’m still in the MRI tube. i start to panic. i take another deep breath and instead imagine us on our bed. we’re lying on our cool, white bedspread. our windows are open and the ceiling fan is on.

i think of my dear, late grandmother.  i’m in middle school running up her apartment building’s stairwell with my bookbag on. i’m climbing up the stairs two by two, i’m so excited to see her. i open the stairway door and i’m in her dimly lit hallway. she’s cooked for me, i can smell it. it’s chicken soup or stew, i’m not sure, but it smells warm and delicious and i’m hungry. i’m at her door, i ring the bell. she opens the door and i wrap my arms around her. oh jessie, i’m so happy to see you! she says. you’re the apple of my eye, you’ve always been the apple of my eye. she steps back and sings me this little old-timey song she used to sing to me all the time and we dance together.

i can’t give you any-thing but loooove, baby. that’s the only thing i’m thinkin of, baby…

my eyes well up with tears. grandma, i think, whispering to her in my mind. please don’t let anything be wrong with me.

the machine shakes my entire body and i force myself to imagine holly and i in our living room again. we switch between dancing and folding sheets and cooking dinner until the lady tech announces over my earphones, “you’re all done, jessica. you did great. we’ll be right in.”

transport comes back to take holly and i back down to the ER. we’re there, back in our corner, i don’t know how much longer, hours and hours, and finally a neurologist comes to speak to us. she says my MRIs and CT scan looked great, and that i didn’t have a stroke. holly and i breathe out. everything will be fine, i think.

she does a full neurological exam on me and says she’d like to admit me–something about my reflexes being jumpy and she’s concerned that my left cheek was somewhat numb to her touch. my stomach sinks. i’ve never stayed overnight at a hospital.

we ask her why and she says she wants to do more MRIs, this time of my spine, to rule other things out. i ask her what other things? she says let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and just see what the MRIs say. i look at holly and suddenly i’m scared again.

finally, around 11:30pm–nearly 12 hours since we arrived at the ER–we’re taken to a room on the ninth floor in the neurological unit. everyone is so nice it blows me away. they bring holly a cot and pajamas and we both fall asleep watching, yup, you guessed it, “something borrowed,” until the nurse comes in at 4:15am to take me down for more MRIs.

trasport is waiting for me with a wheelchair. i start shaking again and this time i can’t stop.

“i love you, honey,” holly says as they wheel me out. “you’ll be fine.” but i know she’s freaking out inside. she’s been crying on and off all day.

i get down to the MRI area. the lights are low and it’s silent except for the hum of the equipment. the same male tech is there, but the lady’s gone. the buzzer rings and a new patient comes in. it’s a woman–she looks like she’s been in an accident or beat up or had a stroke or something equally terrible. she asks for water and throws up off and on while i wait in my wheelchair in front of the MRI room. i know it sounds terrible, but i’m relieved my back is to her. i read the warnings on the door over and over again to pass the time while i try to keep myself in check.

another patient comes in. he’s on a bed and i find out he’s just had a stroke. i remind myself just how lucky i am. things could be a whole lot worse, i tell myself. but i continue to shake.

i go through the same routine again. my earphones are on and sinatra’s being piped in. i imagine all those comforting everyday things that kept me calm the last time: dancing…folding laundry…cooking dinner…a cool breeze as holly and i lie on our bed.

the tech comes back in and puts dye–“contrast” it’s called–in my IV. six more minutes, he tells me. i’m covered with sweat. i can do this. i can do this. and then i’m done. it’s over. soon i’m back in my room next to holly. we squeeze each other’s hands and the sun rises over the city. we sit up and try to see our house in the distance. i want to be there more than anything. i never knew i could ache for our neighborhood like this. i just want to be home, healthy. folding sheets. dancing with holly. in our bed together, not in this hospital.

a nurse comes in to draw more blood, and this time holly’s able to distract me and make me laugh. she leaves at 7am to get a shower at home and change her clothes.

“i don’t want to leave you,” she says.

“it’s ok,” i tell her. “i’m not going anywhere. i’ll see you soon.”

i lay alone, trying to fall back asleep but i can’t. i flip the channels on tv over and over again. breakfast comes in and it’s pretty gross: eggs (powdered?) and cream of wheat (??) and…overly sweet blueberry coffee cake. and coffee. i gulp the coffee and before i know, holly’s back, looking adorable in her UB sweatshirt and her comfy, loose-fitting yoga pants i always steal. i feel so happy i could cry.

“honey! you’re back! you look so cute.” i can’t stop smiling. just looking at her makes me feel like i’ve slipped into a hot bath.

she walks over, crawls on my bed, puts her head on my chest, curls up and starts to cry.

“honey…what’s…what’s wrong? honeybear, don’t cry. i’m ok. i’m ok.”

she lifts her head and looks in my eyes.

“i hated being at home without you,” she says. “i couldn’t stand it. i’m gonna be a better spouse. i’m gonna…i’m gonna do more dishes. i’m gonna clean up more. i’m gonna be better.”

she starts to cry again and i shoosh her and tell her she’s a wonderful spouse, to not be ridiculous. but i know what she’s really saying: i am so worried about you and i don’t want to say it out loud. i don’t want to say what i’m worried about. i’ve never had to imagine you not in my life before. we’ve never had a scare like this. i want you to be around forever. and i’m so sorry if i haven’t been everything you’ve needed because you’re everything to me.

i hold her and she calms down. soon we’ve found a movie to watch: tyler perry’s “i can do bad all by myself.” little-known fact: holly loves emotional african-american comedy-dramas (dramadies?) and now i love them, too.

by the end, they’re singing in the church and i’m bawling, covered in goosebumps.

“oh these tyler perry movies get me every time,” i whimper, wiping my eyes. “i’m starting to think i’m part african-american.”

we laugh and soon there’s a knock at the door. the head neurologist and two residents file in. they introduce themselves, and the doctor says he has good news: everything checked out just fine. i didn’t have lesions on my spine and i don’t have MS or any number of things they thought i might. i breathe out deeply. i had no idea i was even a candidate for something like that. no wonder the neurologist in the ER didn’t want to answer all my questions.

he does a neurological exam on me. i groan inside when he asks me to take my legs out from under the blanket.

“just a disclaimer,” i say. “it’s not like i knew i’d be here so my legs aren’t…well, being that i’m of eastern european descent, i pretty much have to shave them every four days, so, uh, yeah.”

they all laugh. not a problem, he says. after the exam, he says the neuroradiologist just needs to confirm that everything is ok. and then i’ll be released. i feel like jumping out of my bed and clicking my heels together.

after everyone leaves, holly and i look at each other. i put my hand in hers and she wraps her fingers around mine. there’s so much to say but we don’t need to say much. she climbs up in my bed and wraps her arms around me.

i tell her about all the things i imagined while i was in the MRI tube.

“it’s funny, i thought about all the most mundane things,” i say. “even folding sheets with you. after a while i was like, how many sheets can we fold? i just want to get out of this damn tube!”

we laugh more and watch tv, talking about this and that until lunch comes. holly’s finally able to eat a little (she was so nervous she was barely able to drink water). a couple hours later, the neurologist and the residents are back with the official word–the neuroradiologist examined my MRIs and agreed: i was in good shape. what i experienced was what was called a “migraine variant.” i’d be going home soon.

the relief we felt was…indescribable. unfortunately, there’s nothing like a health scare to make you realize how lucky you are. lucky to be healthy. lucky to have your spouse. lucky to see the sun shine another day. or feel the rain on your face. i don’t care how cheesy that sounds, it’s true.

when we got back to our house sunday night, i was so thankful. thankful to see everything. all the rowhomes, their formstone saturated by rain. the wet sidewalks. even the mini liquor bottles in our tree pit and the doggone puffs of tumbleweave. i’d probably even be happy to see Feral Cat Guy skulking around somewhere.

i was home. i was healthy. we were together. it was an ordinary day in every sense of the word, but to me it was extraordinary. even though it was only 8pm, we were exhausted. we took showers, got into our pajamas and climbed into bed. we turned on the tube. i cracked my window and the fresh air blew in. just what i imagined during my MRI. only this wasn’t something i needed to conjure up in my imagination, i thought. this was real. we were here. i cuddled up to holly and fell into a deep sleep, feeling lucky, so completely and totally lucky, and awoke, still grateful.

……

i want to send a special thank you to ms. jennifer weiner–my literary idol and #1 new york times bestselling author–for reading, loving and retweeting my last post to her 43,000+ twitter followers. you are fabulous.

to all my new readers (and there’s lots of you now!), welcome! things are not usually this emotional around here, but it’s good to get a good cry in once in a while. and listening to cyndi lauper’s “true colors” on repeat doesn’t always work. nor does watching the last five minutes of “pretty woman” because you get to a certain age when you realize hookers are never that pretty and she really did deserve more than $3,000 for that week.

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part one: my big fat jersey high school reunion

i invented post-its, bee-otch!

ok so i posted a million years ago that we were about to embark on weddingpalooza 2011 (three weddings! three states! one day! click here for background) and now that we’re back in town, post-honeymoon, post-holiday, i’m ready to break it down for you, despite the fact that i’m tempted to divorce holly’s ass in multiple states for many reasons including but not limited to:

1. her inability to throw used tissues from her side of the bed into the trash when she has a cold–which she does now, which she continues to remind me of by saying, “baaaaabe. i’m sick. make me tea.”

2. the fact that she continues to butt-dial every single contact in her phone, since she refuses to carry it anywhere but her pocket, like a five-year-old. or my purse. and hello, i don’t want to carry her phone all the time, esp bc it’s always dinging with email notifications from kohl’s, bed, bath & beyond, bath & body works, every single deal-of-the-day and who the hell knows what else bc she signs up for everything while i’m grumpy and sign up for nothing and mark everything as spam.

anyway, there were many stops and much adventure on our wedding blitz. in the interest of time, space & procrastination (yours, not mine; i’ve heard from more than a few of you that lunch at 11:30 is a top workday procrastination station and you know i live to make you happy) i’ll be breaking it down into a few parts, starting with:

1. my high school reunion, i.e. we’re gonna party like it’s 1996.

saturday, november 12th, late afternoon

my high school reunion is in a few hours. while copywriting is a perfectly respectable career, i’ve decided i’m telling everyone i invented post-its.

when we get to the hotel in Livingston, NJ (hometown of my longtime fave chelsea handler WHADDUP CHELSEA! love ya! call me!), the lobby looks like a wanna-be jersey housewives convention. it’s noisy, crowded and smells like a variety of overbearing perfumes–like the mall. or a synagogue function. or perfumania. i wonder what the commotion is all about. is there a hairspray-and-mousse giveaway? eyeliner rally?

holly joins me in the check-in line and i discreetly point out a couple women in leather pants and hooker heels pushing baby carriages. i assure her that yes, this  really is where i come from. this is the land, these are the people, that nurtured my first 17 years on earth. so, really, the daily jeggings, frosty lipstick and occasional chico’s holiday sweater isn’t all that bad considering what i was up against.

a couple hours later we come back to the lobby area for the reunion. luckily the mascara convention is over, and i suddenly see a bunch of people that i think i recognize that i think recognize me. thanks to facebook, i get some names right. this one nice girl, i don’t even know how i remember her name. when i get it right, i feel an immediate sense of pride. i see her again later and get her name wrong bc it’s not actually her, it’s her identical twin. shit! twins! i think.

we walk into Ballroom B or whatever, and it’s pretty fancy. candles, centerpieces, real silver. the whole nine yards. we immediately realize we’re severely underdressed since we’re in jeans & sweaters while all the girls are pretty much in, uh, gowns.

“did we miss the memo?” holly asks me.

i told her there was no memo. just a facebook event page. someone inquired about “dress code,” and i enthusiastically wrote on the wall “jean chic!” since i suggested it, i figured that’s what we ought to go with. brilliant, i know.

“whatever,” i say, suddenly aware just how snug my jeggings really are. and that maybe my boobs look too big in my sweater. “we’re gay. everyone probably expected us to show up in bad pleated chinos, brown boat shoes–the kind with the white stitching and the two-tone laces–and unfortunate plaid flannels. tucked in. oh, and brown belts, also with white stitching. so i actually think we look great. plus i’m wearing my nine west reptile high heels. and jeggings plus high heels equals fancy. so we’re good.”

“well i’m not wearing jeggings. or heels,” holly says quietly.

“you’re fine,” i tell her. “you’re wearing black boots. that have small heels. plus your sweater is black. plus your jeans are dark. plus this is my high school reunion and i don’t even care.”

holly was definitely the hit of the evening, as many of my old classmates already felt like they knew her from this blog. on my way back from the ladies room, i made eye contact with this one guy and figured it’d be rude not to stop and say hello even tho i really wasn’t all too sure who he was.

“hi!” i say. “dave, right?”

“no, rob,” he says. “dave’s my brother,” and he points to the guy sitting next to him. his twin. shit! another pair of identical twins?! what class of approx 144 has two friggin sets of identical twins??

lovely gals that i wish i’d spent more time with in high school tell me stories of fun things we did or funny things i said or did and i realize holy crap, i don’t remember anything about high school. it’s kind of frightening how much of a blank i’m drawing. later on, i realize that, while other people had no idea, high school as a closeted teen was so horrifically painful for me that i think i just left and never looked back.

i tell people about our “wedding blitz” plans for that tuesday, and everyone is so excited. i get hoarse from catching up with people, answering everyone’s questions about our weddings and our life in baltimore. i love that i can finally stand proud with my partner of 10+ years by my side. i love that all my self-doubt is so far in the past. i love that i finally learned how to put a damn arch in my eyebrows b/c dang! i needed a makeover! HOLLA!

a jersey girl goes to under armour

aside from my early tomboyish years (before my muscles had been warped by absorbing years of frosty lipstick & elizabeth arden green tea perfume), i would have to classify myself as a fairly unathletic person.

i mean, i can catch a ball. and i’m a damn good walker. and sometimes i run when we’re walking back to our house after 10pm and we hear footsteps behind us. but honestly? aside from the occasional yoga session—which usually annoy me b/c of poses called “corpse,” “cat,” “cow,” oh and let’s not forget my favorite, “happy baby,” which is just another way of saying “unhappy adult”—i’m not so into sports. which is why it’s so incredibly, fantastically ironic that i wound up contracting (as an SEO web copywriter) at under armour for august/sept./part of october.

yes, folks, that’s where i was. i know you thought i was, hell, i don’t know where the hell you thought i was. but you probably wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that i was at under armour.

i had a lot of fun there. in fact, after a few weeks of writing about staying cool, dry & light on and off the field, i felt inspired to be athletic. so i started climbing the stairs in my jeggings to the e-commerce floor. then one day when i was feeling exceptionally inspired, i drop-kicked the lock closed in one of the ladies bathroom stalls.

(have you ever thought about all the germs on those locks?? ppl touch them after they use the toilet but before they wash their hands. whatever, if you touch them, it’s your business, but don’t try to high-five me or use my computer afterwards)

anyway, as soon as i kicked it, i heard a rip. not just a baby rip. i’m talkin big-poppa/granddaddy rip. rrrrrrrrrrip.

it was…my pants. the entire crotch of my american eagle black jeggings split down the middle–like, up to my butt. like a cartoon. this is what i get for karate kicking the lock closed, i thought as i stood dumbfounded in the stall.

looking in the mirror proved it was every bit as bad as i thought i was.

i felt helpless. like the time i was listening to phonics records in my elementary school library and peed my pants (probably bc i didn’t know where the bathroom was–hello this is important  information for a newbie 5-year-old library-goer. it was my first time alone down there!). i didn’t even know i peed my pants until this really nice second-grade teacher lady asked me if i had to go to the bathroom and did i want to go to the nurse so she could call my mom to drop off another pair of pants for me. i was like, why do i need another pair of pants?

what i’m trying to say is that i felt pretty ridiculous, at under armour w/my black jeggings split down the middle. i was about to miss my boat [yes, i took a boat (a water taxi) to work–i’ll need to tell you about that next time] home so i thought fast and called my project manager, who was off-site at the time.

“renee,” i whispered. “i have a…a problem. a girl problem.”

“what, what is it?” she asked. tampon emergency, she probably thought.

“i…i split my pants. down the middle. can i tie the jacket hanging over your chair around my waist and give it to you tomorrow?”

“oh my gosh, totally,” she breathed out. “i didn’t know what you were gonna say, but yes, sure!”

yeah, luckily she didn’t ask how i ripped them down the middle. but she was incredibly cool to let me borrow her jacket even tho she’s like a size zero and the jacket arms barely tied around my jewish birthing hips. so i caught my boat and then holly picked me up on the other side of the water and wanted to go out for pizza.

“but babe,” i said. “my pants are split down the middle.”

“it’s ok, honey. the jacket covers it up. let’s get pizza.”

honestly, the pizza wasn’t worth me worrying that my butt was two to three inches of microfleece away from being exposed to all of fells point but “marriage is about compromise” so we got the darn pizza and then ate it on our roof while we listened to the sweet sounds of baltimore, like helicopters flying three feet above our heads and hookers fighting at jerry’s house.

so that was me at under armour. i have to say that the past 2.5 months have been some of the most ridiculous yet. there was an earthquake. my mom learned how to text. holly began using my health & beauty aids (HBAs) as household tools. i got high on xanax and took a flight to san francisco for nicole‘s wedding. and one time i almost fainted.

to top things off, we now have rogue, psycho mice, so we called shumakers animal control b/c i saw the owner (dave) standing in the middle of the woods in his tv commercial and figured, hell, if this dude can catch raccoons and coyotes, he can sure as hell deal with these crafty sonsofbitches mice.

i’m starting to feel like this is karma is for giving my hamster “baths” in middle school and then drying her with a hair dryer. in my defense, she looked really cute with her fur puffing out and hello, i kept the blow dryer on cool–what do you think i am, some kind of monster?

talk to you soon! aren’t you so happy i’m back? xxo!

my modern love essay that the new york times didn’t publish

i know, i know. i kind of suck b/c i haven’t been blogging lately and you’re sick of seeing that androgynous goth person staring at you every time you visit to see if i’ve updated. (in all honesty: not a clue if that’s a man or a woman.)

i’ve been so busy working (pbbbbt! work! i know, right?!!) that i’m going to cheat and in lieu of one of my typically ridiculous entries, i’m going to share my modern love essay recently submitted to and politely and promptly rejected by the new york times. not a huge surprise they didn’t publish it, as i’m sure they get about a trillion submissions a month, but a bummer nonetheless.

the great thing is that essays like this don’t go to waste when you have a blog. so i am self-publishing my essay. please enjoy all the capital letters and proper punctuation and i promise i’ll be back soon…

You’re Gonna Meet a Prince(ss) 

Throughout my youth and adolescence, my grandmother predicted three things:

1. If I ate any more than 10 grapes (red or green, didn’t matter), I would get a “bellyache.” (This wasn’t just me, either. This was all people.)

2. I’d meet and marry a prince. A “Jewish prince,” she declared, despite my argument that Jewish princes hadn’t existed for at least a couple thousand years, if they ever existed at all.

3. That using a blow dryer every day would ruin my hair.

Which do you think turned out to be true? (I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with fruit or princes.)

When she died nearly 11 years ago (she was 91, I was 21; “A babe in the woods,” she’d say), I probably had never eaten more than 10 grapes at any one time, and I was still on the fence about the hairdryer thing. But even in high school, I secretly knew in my heart of hearts that the prince she predicted I’d meet might actually turn out to be a princess. And who knows if she’d even be Jewish.

Losing my grandmother was devastating to me. Our coffee klatsch of two was now a coffee klatsch of one. I had lost my best friend.

Who would I have toasted bagels and lox with? Who would I call at midnight just to say hi? And now that she was in heaven, what would she think of the fact that her granddaughter was a rainbow flag-waving homosexual? Surely she would find out (after she hit the Heavenly Diner all-you-can-eat cheese Danish/macaroni salad/pickles and smoked fish buffet, of course).

I tried not to focus on what she’d think, and kept my head down and focused as a young community reporter in suburban Washington, D.C.

And then it happened: I met my princess. I met Holly.

It was an unusually hot April night in downtown Washington. We were both wallflowers at ladies night at a gay bar on 17th Street. Soon we were talking outside. She wrote her email address on a square napkin in blue ink. I emailed her a week later. She wasn’t Jewish. I went out with her anyway. I mean, how long could it really last?

That was 10 years ago.

Since then, we’ve been married twice (once “unlawfully,” once lawfully—both times in Washington, just up the street from where we met in 2001). We bought, gutted and renovated a boarded-up crackhouse in southeast Baltimore, which we now call home. Our life is one big adventure. I love her more than life itself.

While Holly never had the pleasure of meeting my walker-pushing, hell-raising, unfiltered Pall Mall-smoking grandma, I’ve kept her a part of our lives by reminiscing almost daily about our times together. Sometimes I’ll even call someone a bastard (“bas-tid” in Grandma’s Jersey-ese) in her memory. Usually behind their back, but not always. This would have made her incredibly proud.

I don’t wonder anymore what she’d think of the fact that I’m gay. She wouldn’t care. I don’t wonder what she’d think of Holly. She’d absolutely adore her.

My grandmother had four younger brothers. My 90-year-old Great Uncle Ben was the baby of the Leibowitz clan, and is the last sibling standing. He’s become like a grandfather to both Holly and I. He’s been our biggest supporter, and was up front and center—fresh off the plane from Fort Lauderdale—at our legal wedding in Washington in March 2010.

He is the male incarnation of my grandma—kind, funny, generous and always ready with a dismissive “ah-who-the-hell-needs-‘em” hand wave to anyone who does me wrong. I love him so much my eyes fill with tears when we’re together. We both do. And he loves us back.

Holly met him for the first time in August 2009, and he gave her a huge bear hug from his couch.

“My new niece!” he announced, holding her hand, his eyes shining with delight.

He took my parents, Holly and I out to eat that first evening. As he and I walked into the restaurant, he paused—his wheelie walker (the kind with the breaks) and south Florida humidity between us—and turned to me.

“Are you happy? Does she make you happy?” he asked, touching my hand.

“Yes,” I said, tears in my eyes. “Yes, she does.”

“Well, that’s all that matters. If someone doesn’t like it, they can go to hell,” he said. “Let’s eat.”

And with that, I knew. It wasn’t just Uncle Ben speaking. It was Grandma, too.

I’d like to think it was more than serendipity that brought Holly and I together that warm April night 10 years ago.

“That one,” I imagine Grandma saying from her regular booth at the Heavenly Diner, her mouth full of potato salad and beets and everything else she loved from Jersey diner salad bars that I couldn’t stand as a kid.

“She needs to meet that one,” she said, pointing down at Holly. “That’s the one. They’re going to have a wonderful life together.”

And we really do have a wonderful life together. I have my coffee klatsch of two again. Sometimes, when we’re lucky enough to all be together, it’s even a coffee klatsch of three—me, Holly and Uncle Ben.

more bad decisions: i watched “the mummy” last night and now i’m totally freaked out.

"you look just like my ex-girlfriend who's been dead for 3,000 years and whom i miss terribly! kiss me!" "no! i don't! eww! get the hell away from me!"

you have your good decisions (vegetables) and your bad decisions (doughnuts/fried vegetables/french fries). i pride myself on good decision making (many vegetables, very few doughnuts, moderate-to-low fries) but last night i really tanked when i decided to watch “the mummy.”

we all know my ability to tolerate horror movies, even when they’re really faux-horror-pseudo-lesbo horror movies. (i.e. i have absolutely no tolerance and scream like a little girl). i’m sure holly would have stepped in and told me to change the channel, you’re going to scare yourself, especially at night, etc. etc. but she was on the phone. game on, i thought. i live to be unsupervised.

i kind of always wanted to see it. besides being a closet sinatra fan and “today” show Superfan (i’ll get to that later this week), i am also a lifelong ancient egypt nerd. as in: my very first book report (4th grade) was on mummification. (i wonder what my teacher thought when i explained what canopy jars are for? hint: storage for mummy guts for use in the afterlife. she never liked me. had her for 5th grade, too. i’m sure she was thrilled.)

so when it was on while i was doing dishes last night, i was like, what the hell, let’s see what this mummy movie is all about.

i missed the beginning but i think what happened was that these egyptologists found an ancient book of spells or something, read one out loud and awakened the beast, who was basically an angry-ass mummy that really missed his old girlfriend who was used as a human sacrifice at some point. i have no idea. but that’s what it seemed like.

he goes around killing everyone, awakening the ancient dead and sucking the life force out of the other egyptologists so he can get stronger. he also opens his mouth reaaaalllly wide, screams and creates sandstorms. oh and he brings these ancient cockroaches back to life that eat and kill people. nice!

i mean, it was pretty cheesy, but also pretty freaky and of course i couldn’t stop watching it. during the last 10 minutes holly got control of the remote and kept switching to “army wives” during the commercials and i was like BABE! WHAT THE HELL! I WANT TO FINISH WATCHING THE MOVIE!

she kept insisting that “she knew when the commercials would end and she would turn it back.” but i was like, “YOU HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN WATCHING THIS EPISODE OF ‘ARMY WIVES.’ WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU WANT TO WATCH THE LAST FIVE MINUTES OF IT?!”

to which she responded: “I DON’T KNOW! I JUST DO!”

(and yes, we have turned into the costanzas and now shout all of our conversations.)

she eventually relented and we watched, in awed silence, perhaps the worst commercial known to man (thanks, next day floors! note: this is low-budget baltimore at its finest, folks. welcome to our world), at which point holly turned to me and started complaining that you see? we didn’t have to change it yet. at which point i elbowed her in the mouth (in my mind) and told her to hush up, i needed to get ready for the final minutes of the movie.

so yeah, the end is how you’d expect: they kill the zombie mummies, save the girl, say another spell and grumpypants gets sucked into the ancient egyptian underworld. then the antiquity-filled tomb collapses, they get out in the nick of time, etc.

then i went to bed scared of my own shadow, holly said “you see? i told you you shouldn’t have watched it” and i had to sit thru a special encore of “army wives” anyway, during which i sighed heavily and kept bugging holly to turn it down. her response was, of course, that she watched my dumbbutt mummy movie and now i was going to have to deal with “army wives.”

there is no moral to this story. just that a) the lady in the mummy is really pretty b) mummies probably have really bad breath and c) i’m totally going to have to see “the mummy returns.”

it gets better

i’ve been tossing around the idea of posting my written contribution to dan savage’s it gets better project for a while now. my reservations about participating in the project are the same that kept me in the closet–namely fear, shame and embarrassment. all the same things that lgbt youth are feeling so intensely–especially after cruel, vicious bullying at the hands of their peers–that they’re killing themselves in shocking numbers.

i kept thinking: i want to share my story. i want lgbt teens these days to have a better experience coming out than i did. i want to help them feel a sense of hope that i never did. so they can see thru the despair, shame, sadness, hopelessness, fear, depression and head-spinning confusion they may be feeling right now and fully realize that, as the project mission states, “love and happiness can be a reality in their future.”

it’s been embarrassment that’s held me back. after all, as my blog readers, i don’t want you to view me as anything other than put together, funny, fun-loving, well-adjusted. happy. and i am all of those things. but i didn’t want to tell you about the hurt and heartache i had coming out. b/c i’ll tell you the truth: i gave myself such a hard time about being gay when i was younger, i am ashamed. but i shouldn’t be. b/c i see now it didn’t need to be that way. it doesn’t need to be that way. i want to keep it from being that way for teens and young people out there that are in the same predicament i was.

so i’ve finally decided to suck it up and take one for the team. if my story can save the life of just one teen, even just help save the sanity of a young person out there, or make them see that yes, they can have a normal life. more than that, they can have a happy life. then it’s worth it. so for once, i’m not going to joke around, and i’m going to tell my story.

if you’re a regular reader of this blog, or you know me personally, you already know that i grew up in a small town in northern new jersey about 25 miles outside new york city. i’m also jewish, not just culturally so, but i actually care about being jewish and have a firm belief in G-d.

i’ve also always been, as my late grandfather used to say about me as a toddler, “an arch individualist.” i cut my own bangs when i was 3. i asked for an atari for my birthday when everyone else was getting nintendos. i wrote elementary school fan letters (written in cursive pencil) to jon bon jovi beginning with “dear mr. jovi.” i’ve always done my own thing, and, luckily, was always encouraged to do so by my parents.

“different” was always ok. but by the time middle school hit, i’d say seventh grade, something started creeping up my spine and settled uncomfortably in my brain. it made me feel different in a new, uncomfortable way. it was a question without an answer, something so foreign to me as an 12-year-old in 1990, that i couldn’t even think about it.

am i gay? a voice whispered quietly. i didn’t even truly know what “gay” was. there was no “will & grace.” there was no out & proud ellen. there was no adam lambert. there was nothing, really. but i knew my feelings, i knew who i had crushes on, and i knew it wasn’t “normal.”

i kept my feelings to myself–because they felt wrong. after all, i had crushes on boys. i loved the new kids on the block the same way all the other girls did. but things were off.

i pushed my feelings way way down. packed them down so deep they turned into concrete in my stomach–and my heart. they plagued me day and night. what you’re feeling isn’t normal, they whispered. you’re not normal. you’re weird. you’re a freak. you’re different. you’re wrong. and the very worst one: you’re a bad person.

here’s the catch: no one else was bullying me. i was bullying myself.

year after year the feelings were there, as was the voice in my head. the self-bullying continued. the feelings got stronger. the voice got louder. the bullying got worse. i was my own worst enemy. i didn’t know it at the time, but i was destroying myself. by the time i reached tenth and eleventh grade, you’re a bad person morphed into you’re a bad person and a bad jew.

one by one, my dreams started crumbling. marriage. children. a happy life. i might be alone forever, i told myself. i couldn’t see my way out. i felt doomed.

a loop of self-made insults and self-loathing swirled in my head day and night. i joked around in high school, did well in classes and had plenty of friends, but i felt crushed and breathless all the time. instead of hanging out with my friends, i cried alone in my room, scared to death of my feelings. scared to death i’d be shunned by my family, shunned by my friends, shunned not only by an entire religious community but also by G-d. looking back at it from the safe distance of a happy, open adulthood, i don’t know where all the self-loathing came from. after all, no one in my family ever said anything bad about gay people. no one, absolutely no one, told me that if i was a gay, or had an attraction to anyone of the same sex, i would be anything less than a good jew. (and that’s the truth–for any religion.)

but you see, all of those feelings–those feelings of being wrong, being a freak, being a bad person–are indoctrinated in us as we grow. i’m a perfect example of that. i’ve always been a free thinker. i grew up in the new york metro area. my parents are open-minded. but i got the message from society at large: gay is different. different is bad. gay is bad.

and so i stayed quiet. i stayed quiet until i came out to my high school best friend in a fit of tears and shivers in the middle of the night just a few days before our senior year started. i came out to her b/c i literally was making myself sick. i had prepped myself for our friendship ending once she heard my secret.

instead she wrapped her arms around me and told me it was ok.

“really?” i said thru my tears. “you still like me? you still want to be friends?”

“of course i want to be friends!” she said smiling. “i don’t feel any differently about you. you’re still jessica. you’re still my best friend.”

a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. i had told someone and she didn’t care. she loved me unconditionally. but i was 16. and even though i wasn’t completely sure about my sexuality, i knew, deep inside, that i would have a long way to go. b/c i didn’t love myself.

i’d like to say that i replaced fear and shame with pride and happiness, and came out to everyone that was important to me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. i didn’t feel any better about myself. and i would continue carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and continue bullying myself until i literally made myself sick–sicker this time–and finally came out to my parents when i was 18 and in college.  

and you know what? when i told my parents, they didn’t care either.

no one, not one person, who i’ve come out to in the years since–and i’m 32 now–has ever cared. they don’t see me as “gay” they see me as jessica. you see, when you’re a teen, you have a limited view of yourself and others: pretty. cute. smart. athletic. artistic. gay. straight.

oh but we are so many other things! if only i had known that–had really really known it. not just known it but truly felt it. gay, straight, bi, trans, queer–however you identify yourself. it’s simply one small aspect of who we are as people. it’s not the main course. it’s a side dish. you see what i mean?

if you’re struggling with this right now, i want you to go to the mirror, look at yourself and say “i’m (your name).” if the words “gay” or “bi” or “trans” or “queer” are on your lips, replace it with your name. b/c that’s who you are. that’s the core of you. i hope you can understand that. b/c it’s something i didn’t understand for far too long.

i wasted years–years!–feeling bad about myself when i didn’t need to. it’s hard enough when you’re a teenager. you don’t want to be seen as “different.” maybe different in the sense of you’re a cool dresser or exceptionally creative or something like that. for me, being gay was the last straw inside of me. i already felt like i didn’t fit in. and it pushed me over the edge. but it didn’t need to.

i felt so alone, so completely alone, when i was closeted in high school. but let me tell you something: when i got to college everything changed. everything! i started meeting like-minded people. i started meeting people of every sexual orientation and background. my world opened up. like a screen door in a windstorm–BAM! and suddenly i wasn’t alone anymore. and i started becoming the jessica i once was as a kid, before worries about my sexuality came along in middle school and high school. i started coming into my own. and i started to realize, hey, i am normal. i am totally and completely 100% normal.

and you don’t need to go to college for that to happen. once you expand your world–meet new people, go new places, graduate high school–things will start changing. b/c if you’re living somewhere now where people don’t accept you, or are bullying you, there are so many places where things will be different. you just need to hold on. even if your family doesn’t wind up accepting you, families don’t always have to be blood relatives. we can make our own families. and if you haven’t come out to your friends or family yet for fear of being rejected, give them a chance. they just might surprise you.

the it gets better project has focused on other people bullying lgbt youth. i was lucky enough to never experience that. but i think what i experienced was just as bad. i bullied myself.

if you’re bullying yourself, please stop. i promise you things will get better. go easy on yourself. you are a good person. and you will find your way.

if you’re religious, please know that G-d loves you no matter what. do you hear me? gay, straight or anything in between, no matter what. if anyone tells you anything different, ignore them. shut them out. b/c it’s untrue. do you know how many lgbt-friendly houses of worship there are? tons! and you’ll find yours one day, i promise.

life as an lgbt person can be happy, extremely, gloriously happy. and normal. when i was 22, just six years after i came out to my best friend in high school, i met holly, who would become my partner of now almost 10 years. she is the love of my life! we have so much fun together. i feel like the luckiest person in the world. we got married not just once, but twice. and you know what? we are ridiculously normal. as in: we fall asleep on the couch together and watch movies and go grocery shopping and do laundry and go to starbucks and make meatloaf. we have a home and its filled with love. and you’ll have that one day, too. you really will. i promise. you just need to have faith. and give yourself time. and talk to someone you can trust if you feel so hopeless that you’re considering taking your own life.

because you need to be here.

you hear me?

you need to be here. you deserve to be here. i want you to be here. holly and i want you to be here. we all want you to be here. you might not know us but we’re out here. and the people closest to you that you might not think care–they care more than you know. you need to stick around so you can meet all the awesome, fun, impossibly sexy people that are going to help make your life not just bearable, but totally and completely awesome.

don’t bully yourself the way i did. don’t worry yourself about things that are going to work out just fine. i bet you’re not all that much different than me. and i’ve managed to figure it out. and you will, too.

i didn’t know at your age that it could get better. but it does and it has and the craziest thing? it just keeps getting better. it gets much, much, much better.

holly and i both have one shiny fingernail thanks to the hot israeli girl at the mall

if you were a jersey girl in the 80s/early-to-mid 90s who went to “the city” w/your street-wise mom on an even a semi-regular basis, you probably grew up with the following advice:

“listen to me. are you listening? walk fast and stare straight ahead. don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at anyone and don’t make eye contact. AND HOLD ONTO YOUR BAG.” (holding onto your bag was key.)

considering that i got those pointers hammered into my head at a fairly young age, i’ve gotten pretty darn good at avoiding anyone who appears even remotely like a threat. holly, once a western pee-ay girl who used to say hi to everyone and “stare at the crazies” (as she did on our first date almost 10 (!!??) years ago), has followed in my footsteps and now also excels at walking fast, staring straight ahead and holding onto her bag. (psych! you know she never carries a bag! i’m the bee-otch always stuck carrying everything in whatever bag/purse i’m dragging around.)

anyway, the story. so if you’ve been at any mall in the past 20 or so years, you know the hallways are full of these kiosks. jewelry kiosks. family photography kiosks. bath fitter (omg, still don’t get that one) kiosks. (i’d like to take the opportunity here to note that a disproportionate amount of kiosks sell cellphone cases. how does one make a living selling cell phone cases?!) and then there are the hair straightener kiosks. and the nail care kiosks. and for whatever the hell reason i don’t understand, the great majority of these last two are manned by israelis.

oh israelis. i love the israelis. i love israel. been there twice. gorgeous, magical place, unbelievable food. but hot damn, israelis are pushy! it’s their “way.” their “charm,” if you will. they are also disproportionately good-looking. this combination makes them extremely good kiosk employees. almost deadly.

here’s a typical exchange at an east coast mall for holly and i.

(handsome israeli man zeros in on two potential customers. they’re both female. double whammy. we make eye contact for .02 seconds. dammit! this is what my mother warned me about!)

(it’s too late. he’s walking towards us. he singles me out.)

“excuuuuse-me! MEEEESS! [“miss”],” he shouts across the hallway. “meeeess! excuuuuuuuuuuse me do you straighten your HAAAAIR?!”

(of course i straighten my hair! i’m jewish! i want to yell. instead i focus on a an invisible spot across the mall and walk faster.)

“keep walking, honey,” i tell holly w/out moving my lips. (suddenly i’m a ventriloquist, too.) “just. keep. walking.”

MEEEEES! deees will only take a meee-nute! you have very beautiful hair! i make you even more beautiful!” (what he doesn’t realize is that his swarthy charms won’t work on us the way they do on other girls. we are immune.)

“THAT’S OK NO THANKS WE’RE NOT INTERESTED BUT THANKS ANYWAY!” i yell back, trying not to sound rude but failing. i sense holly’s defenses crumbling simply bc she is too nice. i, on the other hand, was raised in new jersey. i grab her arm and drag her. we finally make it out of the danger zone. we both breathe out.

this scenario is repeated fairly frequently. but last week [when we were prowling every hair place in white marsh looking for the perfect product for holly’s hair (don’t get me started, don’t even get me started)] there was a crack in our usual plan. it was…a woman.

we were passing a nail kiosk and a pretty olive-skinned girl spotted us.

“shit honey! she saw us.”

“excuuuuse me!” she shouted. “are you two seeesters?” [“sisters”]

seeing how i’m friggin tired of ppl asking if we’re sisters (hello, we look totally different. but we both have brown hair, are caucasian and under 5’5″ so sure, i guess we look like sisters), i was like, “no. we’re married.” i don’t usually do that, but i figured, what the hell. maybe she’d give up b/c gay girls don’t care about manicures bc we all work on motorcycles when we’re not fixing cars and building ikea furniture. (false, btw. i totally do my nails and hello, i’ve never put together ikea furniture. i get holly to do it for me!)

anyway, i don’t remember what she said, but her accent was so cute and she was so pretty (ok, gorgeous), that, yup, you guessed it. holly and i both stopped.

“let me ask you a queeeestion,” the hot israeli girl asked us both. she knew she had the married girls hooked. “are you reeeady to see something unbelievable?”

“um…yeah?” we both responded. i wanted to run but my legs were glued to the marble floor. i couldn’t move them. it was like a bad dream except not that bad.

she asked to see holly’s hand. i knew what was about to happen. yup, and out came the three-sided puffy nail file (ladies, you know the one i’m talking about). she filed and filed and was talking and talking and honestly? yeah, i don’t remember what she said, just that she was unbelievably pretty.

“try not to yell too loud when you see this, okay? you will simply not belieeeeve dees.”

she lifted the nail file and holy crap, i could practically see my reflection in holly’s nail. then she did it to me while i stood immobilized, unable to tell her to stop or no. when she removed the file, my nail (index finger) was shinier than it’s ever been in my entire life. then she took out some special bottle of oil and put it on our cuticles. and still, we could not run.

“beautiful, no?”

“wow,” i said, looking at my  nail, preparing to tell her that under no circumstances were we going to buy these nail kits. or even one nail kit for that matter.

“only $34.99!” she said, smiling her thousand-watt israeli smile.

“no…it’s ok, maybe next time,” i croaked, clearing my throat.

be strong, i told myself.

“ok! for you, i give at special price! $29.99!”

“no, seriously,” i said laughing. “we’re ok. no, thanks.”

but no. this didn’t work either. she just thought i was playing hardball.

“come here, come into my office,” she told us, moving towards the kiosk chair. and what did we do? we followed her. like little lambs.

“for you, only for you, i give very special price.” (only for me? geesh.)

she tapped some numbers into a big calculator and turned it around to face us. it read $24.99.

this was my big chance to say no. ain’t no way no how uh-uh not gonna buy it. what did i say instead?

i asked if she worked on commission, for her name and told her we’d be back next week. until then, we each have one insanely shiny fingernail. all of this could have been avoided if we’d just stuck to the plan and run like hell.