Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smurf Ninjas, Panera, & Lessons in Sleepwalking

My body is blissfully unaware of any actual time schedule. It knows the sun and the moon, and it knows them well. Sometimes we pull the day shift, others the night… and sometimes I have been known to sleep walk between the two.

One such instance was this morning. I crawled out of bed sometime around noon after having been up most of the night, and made my way a few doors down to my usual lunch spot, Panera Bread. For anyone at home that is thinking of chastising me for eating at a chain restaurant… a giant middle finger to you. I love chain restaurants, mainly because most have a standard of excellence. However high or low they may set the bar, it’s been set regardless. So you always know what you are going to get. And I don’t mind that. I am after all like every other human a creature of habit. It’s when I veer from that habit that the Rainman-ness of my day gets thrown for a loop. This is one of those stories.

I rolled out of bed, and proceeded to search for my signature “Lil Ninja Jenn” uniform as my makeup artist Amy has come to describe it. In short, it is an all black track suit. There’s nothing about it that draws attention to it, no crazy neon trim or letting across the ass of the pants to tell people just how “Juicy” my ass has gotten since the last time I worked out. It makes me feel surprisingly strong, stealth, and dare I say it.. sexy… to the point I’m beginning to think I actually have a chance to be cast as the next Lara Croft, or some other gratuitous booby ridden action movie that is NOT classified as porn. I should note I own about 10 pairs of these pants and various formfitting tank tops. I should also note that it has been about two weeks since I have had a chance to pick up my laundry, or drop of the next load of dankness which means two things: I had run out of my signature Ninja Jenn outfits. And 2… If I didn’t claim my laundry in the next day or so, there would be some foreigner going through my unmentionables laughing at the pair of Victoria’s Secret underwear I own with the phrase “IMPRESS ME” emblazoned on the front of my hoohah.

Sadly, with no ninja outfits, I reach for my dark blue tracksuit. It’s not nearly as awesome as any of my black ones, and to be honest, I find quite obnoxious due to the fact it has sequins all across the bust. Sure, I could search for something that with some semblance of an outfit, but damn it.. I’m hungry and need to feed myself before I turn into a diva from one of those snicker commercials. So, I pull on my rap stars girlfriend meets high school dance team ensemble.. and walk right out the door.

Panera is only a few doors down, so I really don’t see the necessity to put myself together. Honestly, they are just lucky I brush my teeth before I go down there, that is how entirely lazy I am. From the moment I walk in, I sense that something is oddly different. For one, babies that had been crying suddenly stopped, and actually looked up at me and smiled. I shrug.. eh.. kids love me. And though Panera’s target demographic is typically limited to people who only have enough teeth to eat soup or large quantities of macaroni and cheese (read… babies and old people), there were a surprising number of decent looking younger guys there this particular morning. Clearly Steven’s has to be in summer session. God bless them.

The table of guys I walk past stare at me, but more of a mouth wide open stare. Hot damn, I think to myself.. I’ve still got it even with no makeup on, and in this awful tracksuit. It wasn’t until I walked up to the cashier to place my order I got the sense that something was terribly wrong.

“Um… Jenn.. you have something on your face.”

“What?”

She does like a hand wiping gesture in front of her face, and hands me a reflective mixer cup that was by her register. I pull up the cup into a makeshift mirror to see what the fuss was about.

The image that looked back at me… was Smurfette.. meets Braveheart… meets avatar.

So preoccupied with getting myself fed, and so thrown from my usual OCD game, I had forgotten to take off my facemask before I left the house. Luckily for me, I didn’t leave home without my sense of humor. So I casually mentioned I may or may not be shooting a Smurf live action movie, I was dressed in head to toe blue. I took my Sierra Turkey (no onion) sandwich and what was left of my dignity “To Go”… and went home.

For those of you that read my blogs, hoping for some enlightenment… on this one.. I’ve got nothing.

Actually wait… that’s not true. Even the best of us can get thrown off our game from time to time. Just gotta learn to roll with the punches... the moral of this story is.. don’t brush your teeth in the dark.

Now if you’ll excuse me.. I need to go pick up my laundry.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good talk, Russ

Don’t let the long, dark hair and five inch heels fool you, I’m a card carrying member of the “Boys Club.” I don't enjoy overly girly things like spa days or uber sappy movies like "The Notebook." To me, spending an afternoon at Macy’s in Herald Square is like spending a night with Freddy Krueger. My Worst. Farkking. Nightmare. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a nice pair of heels and a dress every now and then, but it’s usually more for someone else’s benefit than my own. If I had my way, I'd spend my days in boots and a pair of blue jeans or even better, my all black “Ninja” gym outfit, but unfortunately I have to keep up this femininity facade so I don't fall into this odd Samantha Ronson category. Because as often as I get hit on by girls, and it happens more than one would expect, well, I'm just not quite ready to venture into that uncharted territory… yet.

A long, long time ago.. in a suburb far, far away.. while my sister was busy with her Barbies, I was fascinated by my Pow Pow Power wheels and my Dad’s crazy ideas on how to make my bright red Jeep four wheeler go faster than Tyco had ever intended it to. (Of course, it did catch fire one time, but we won't go into that. Lesson learned.) I remember my Dad driving me to school in the ghetto, because they bussed all of us suburb kids there in attempts to either harden us as human beings, or scare us into getting a proper education. He would be cranking Jethro Tull, or The Beatles, or his all time favorite, Billy Joel as we made our way through the maze of pawn stores, liquor stores, and gun shops before we pulled in the parent drop off line. So I sacrificed the 30 minute ride, countless retellings of his “roadie days” stories, and any street cred I could’ve had by exiting the car in front of the cool kids jamming to Dad’s old school tunes. But in the heat of those late August days, that thirty minutes of air conditioning far surpassed spending my afternoons crammed into the faux leather seats in a pool of the kid next to me’s ass sweat.

The truth is.. while some kids are embarrassed by their parents at this particular age… I was actually quite proud of mine. Sure, they had their quirkiness about them, but I think it was more just a generational thing than anything else. After all, it’s why my friends dubbed them Clark and Helen Griswolds. They were the kinda parents any kid would be lucky to have, and I just happened to be one of those kids. While some would argue I was a Daddy’s girl, I would tend to disagree. I think I was an “equal parts” kinda kid. I had my mom’s no nonsense stubborn, independent streak with my dad’s streets savvy and go-with-the-flow attitude. In short, I was the like the “son my father always wanted” trapped in the body of a girl that would later force him to purchase & “load up” many a metal baseball bats with a weight.. making them great for hitting serious line drives or dismantling some kids jaw should he break his daughter’s heart.

My dad will never admit this, but I’m sure some part of him is a little sad God gave him two girls. He has no one to blame but himself though. After all, it wasn’t my mother’s fault.. she was only capable of donating 50% of the kid. The rest was left to chance & God. Karma being the bitch that she is, decided my father needed to suffer for something he did in a previous life, and gave him 2 X’s, which in bowling would’ve been quite awesome. But in the Russian roulette of his little swimmers… well, they have a site to list those kinds of stories..
Fmylife.com. Gone are the chances he had to toss a ball around in the backyard. Forget going to Varsity football games, unless you count being a band or dance team chaperone. And God save us all if mom leaves it up to him to have the birds and the bees speech with us.

“They.. uh.. teach you kids that in school now right?”

“Yup Dad.”

“Whew… Good talk Russ.”

Yup, instead it was Spice Girls, Drum major uniforms, & a crap load of boring piano recitals. That didn't stop him from instilling tom boy like qualities in me. I love fast cars, sports, and anything that causes an adrenaline rush. Unfortunately, I’m just not coordinated enough to play anything remotely cool. And despite the beast of a car I own, I am still a female driver with an extensive accident record and the speeding tickets to prove it. Sigh.

But one thing my dad has always been good for… is advice. After all, if you want to know how the other half thinks, it works best when you can just ask one of their own. Mom’s have a tendency to sugar coat things. They would never want to be the one to make you cry. But Dads? No way. Dad’s are straight-shooting, no bullshitting kinda people. They’ll hand you the answer even if it’s something you would have preferred not to hear.

“Why do guys do this? Why’d he say that? What should I do?..” And the most heartbreaking question I'll ever have to ask him .. “Will he come back?”

Time after time, he’d give it to me straight. Maybe that's because men tend to view their interactions with others as more business-like transactions, while women can't help but get emotional sometimes. We’re just hardwired that way. My father was the captain of the stone faced stare. I think he may have cried four times in his entire life.

One day I got to thinking though.. What if I had really been a boy? If I'd have been a boy, people would have taken my drive to succeed more seriously. Guys wouldn't be shocked when I step out of my Shelby or when I spout off movie quotes. My voice wouldn't blend into the background of conversations, and my opinions wouldn't always be dismissed for those of my male counterparts. My jokes, my sense of humor, and general mischievous perversion wouldn't be so frowned upon, or viewed as social awkwardness. And if I stood up for myself I certainly wouldn't be called a bitch. I'd just be assertive.

More so.. I've always said, if I were a boy, I'd make an awesome boyfriend. It’s not that I'd be some sappy chump that gets turned out by man eating bitches, because I certainly have more backbone than that. But I'd definitely know how to treat a woman while still maintaining my sense of self. Basically, I’d be the same person I am today, only with an Ellen DeGeneres haircut.

Sometimes I think my membership to the fraternity does my brain more harm than good. Because for every promise I’ve had a man keep, I've heard him spout some other bit of absolute bullshit he fell through on. I know their games better than they do. And that being so, I could probably run them if I wanted to. Better than they do. And I'd never get caught. But that wouldn't make it right. Besides, I’m a woman.. I have no penis to “think with” and more importantly… we have consciences. Damn all this estrogen.

The fact my brain operates like a man’s is downright scary sometimes. It creates a ton of inner turmoil. Why? Because the logical or “male” part of my brain tells me one thing, while my inner chick gives me a while different set of instructions. The result? Awkwardness that usually manifests itself in my life as some self sabotaging behavior. I find myself trying to balance two totally different sides of my personality, playing up the one society says will help me be accepted, while banishing the one that shows I do indeed have weaknesses otherwise known as “feelings.”

I’ve had a lot of these arguments with myself lately, both congratulating myself for my professional accomplishments, while calling offensive pass interference on my dating life. 10 yards.. 4th down. How could I keep doing this to myself?.. Was I really saving myself from getting involved with bad people, or was I keeping myself from evolving as an adult. Even if I like a guy, I would be the first to pull the plug if I sense there is any bullshit being pulled behind the scenes. Or I’d make excuses as to why I couldn’t go on dates… “my career dictates my social life.” It got to the point where I valued my quality time with the treadmill over the company of other human beings. That was the most recent predicament I found myself in, weighing my options in my current situation as “complicated” as it already was.

Trying to keep it casual while actually having feelings for someone, coupled by only seeing each other once a month or so, really wasn't cutting it for either of us. So I simply just waited for the other shoe to drop. When it did, I didn't cry or get upset. I actually.. felt relieved. It wasn't that I didn’t care for him, because our times together were like spending days on end in this super "high." It was more so... well, he's just not the boyfriend type, and I'm not the girlfriend type. And neither of us has time for anything messy or remotely complicated. I know what you're thinking... "Jenn.. you're so full of shit." And until the other night.. I would have argued with you. But now.. I'm not so sure.

One night, as I was leaving the gym, I happened to walk through the lobby and discover a brand new piano sitting in the rec room. Sure, it wasn’t my grandmother’s old upright Steinway… but it would do. It’s been so long, I wondered if I even remembered how to play. As I sat down at the piano, years of lessons and performances came rushing back to me. But it wasn't Fur Elise, or Beethoven’s Fifth that came from beneath my fingers. It was something much more familiar.

By the time I reached the chorus, I was already singing along, oblivious to the people that had gathered in the doorway behind me.

"And the waitress is practicing politics

As the businessmen slowly get stoned

Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness

But it's better than drinkin' alone"


Somewhere in the chorus that followed, my voice cracked, and I realized there was a tear rolling down my cheek. I blinked through it as if it had been a technical glitch in my system, but then another tear followed suit.

As my hands rolled through the final chords, I heard the door close behind me. The crowd that had gathered in the door way had dispersed, and all that remained was the quiet little door man. He had to be in his late 60s, and his English was broken.

"You're very, very good," he said, "but why so sad?"

That's a great question, because I honestly had no idea. I think sometimes I go to such great lengths to put up walls, I block everything out. Maybe it’s alright to feel something. To feel homesick, to feel lonely, to feel hurt, to just.. Feel. I’m so used to people disappointing me that I’ve almost become numb to it… like.. emotionally botoxed.

"Please don't tell anyone I was in here.." I asked.

"Don't mention it. It’s no problem"

My time in the city has done a number on me. It’s made me a much more cynical, hardened version of myself, so much so… I really feel like I’ve morphed into my father. He always did his best to protect that my inner little girl for as long as he could, telling me to “grow a thicker skin” or to “toughen up.” And in some instances, I think it worked. I’m sure now he realizes I'm old enough, and have made enough mistakes in love and life to usually handle myself. But every once in a while, my father’s tough exterior will break down, and he’ll show a little compassion to the sensitive side in me, and not the hard ass he's tried so desperately to raise to protect her from boys like his old self.

"If a guy isn't smart enough to realize what he's got in front of him,” he’ll say, “he's not worth hanging on to. Regardless of any of the crap people tell you.. even the best relationships require work. And you are the hardest working woman I know next to your mother. You just have to focus on your career right now, and the rest will happen when their supposed to. Because the guy that's smart enough to see what he's got, will be the one that will never let you go."

The bad ass boy in me thinks he's spouting a crock of crap.

The inner girl in me.. Secretly hopes he's right. But I’ll never let him know.

“Thanks Daddy.”

“Good talk, Russ.”

Monday, June 07, 2010

There's no hugging in baseball

At twenty-six, I’ve had a good share of men in my life. Some good, some bad, and some.. well.. let’s just say I don’t exactly send them Christmas cards. There have been some extraordinary ones though, that even with their short stays, left lasting impacts on my life and the way I am the way I am today. But no man has left quite the lasting mark... as a boy named Thomas.

During my first two years of college, I spent my off days from school as a nanny to a six year old kid. Some argued that Thomas had a form of a learning disability, but no one really defined what it was. In my non-expert opinion it was probably just a little ADD and an excessive amount of energy from ingesting way too much sugar. Honestly though, Thomas was bright kid with an extreme passion for sports, which I was one of the first to help him to indulge. He could tell me all the names of the Rays starting line-up, and even recite their batting averages. He regularly schooled my ass in Madden, but what kid these days couldn’t? (If you’re saying you’ve never had your ass kicked by a kid with a headset & a hand controller at a video game, well, you sir are a damn liar. Today’s kids come out with ever y cheat code to Modern Warfare Gazillion ingrained in them, like its genetic coding.) Of course, it wasn’t long until Thomas got the itch to play organized sports of his own, which prompted his mother to sign him up for every sport imaginable except for maybe Cheerleading. After all, when a kid had as much energy as Thomas, you certainly didn’t want it to go to waste driving you insane and destroying your house now, do you?

So every day after school, I'd take him Thomas to his little league practice or his games. I was always there to cheer him from the bench, even if it meant getting ogled by the Dad’s and death glares from the Mom’s. But like any new skill set or activity, Thomas still had to learn the rules of the game. And that’s where I came in. I was there to remind him not to hug the kid who tagged him out at second.

“THERE’S NO HUGGING IN BASEBALL THOMAS!!!!”

When soccer rolled around, I was the one on the sideline screaming for him to not sit down in the middle of the field til the ball came back his way, or that he was in fact, about to score a goal on his own team. Or to tell him to stop running in slow motion like they do in replay mode on the NCAA football Playstation game. It was a challenge at first, teaching a kid logistics that some grown ass umpires still don’t even understand. ::cough.. Jim Joyce..cough:: But, once he learned them, Thomas was the greatest stickler for rules.

By the time he was eight, Thomas knew what the rules for every game were. But even more so, he knew the consequences if he broke those rules. He never once tried to cheat at Candyland, or Chutes and Ladders, or anything else for that matter. And that's more than I can say for some of his playmates who were not only older than him, but also some of the biggest shysters the game of Monopoly has ever seen. But don’t think this babysitter let those little bastages get away with it though. If there’s one thing I won’t stand for, its kids that think they can get away with cheating and cutting the rules. Sure, I could teach Thomas to cheat and beat the little snots at their own game. Even I knew how to rig the deck of Chance cards in his favor. But what good would that do?.. I would just be setting the example that it was OK to stoop to their snot-faced little level. So instead, I sent them home to be their parents’ problem. It was “Do not pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.” I’d be damned if I wanted to watch a room full of Dennis Mitchells. Especially if I wasn’t getting paid for it.

At twenty six, I’m still not sure I want kids. I mean, they seem cool and all. And I love all my friends’ kids. But that is because I view them like I do my Netflix subscription. I can keep the ones I like as long as I want, and the ones that suck, well, you just stick them back in the mail and send them back from the movie hell they came from. But when I’m around kids, I certainly try to set a good example and be a good role model. I can have fun, and be the “Cool Aunt” while still showing them I’m a bigger boss than Tony Danza. And the kids generally respect me for it. My friend’s daughter even wrote a paper about me. Did I mention that her teacher “Googling” me also resulted in a parent teacher conference? Oops.

I try to instill in the younger generation what my parents did in me. My parents have always taught me the importance of playing fair even as far back as my Green Acres Preschool days. I remember the boys in the sand box that would constantly throw sand in my eyes and tease me about my curly hair. Or the boys that would cheat at Duck Duck Goose because they knew I was faster than them. That didn't stop them of course from tussling my hair as they went past just to show they liked me. Hell, I admit that I may have tapped one boy’s head harder than the rest.

Though I may have grown since then, I certainly haven’t grown up. And why should I? The games really have never changed. There are still those boys I refer to as the sandbox lovers. The boy that throws "sand," quirky little barbs, and acts way cooler than you just to keep your attention focused solely on them. And the funny thing is.. Nine times out of ten, their methods are absolutely effective. Isn't it ironic how certain guys have the ability to turn even the most confident of girls into bumbling idiots? It’s because even in their adulthood, they still remember how to get under even the toughest of girl’s skin.

From the minute the dating puck is dropped with the exchanging of the numbers… it’s game time, bitches. Do you text her right away? Do you wait the standard three days? I guess there are still some no bullshit kinda people out there that will tell you up front that their motives are to either: 1) Start a relationship with you or 2) Have sex with you. Very rarely does a guy who only wants #2 ever discuss #1, but I almost applaud him for his brutal, albeit crude honesty. And as for the guy who states #1 up front, while planning our future together and naming our unborn children.. well, I usually pretend my phone number was mysteriously changed should we ever encounter one another again.

Most of the time, dating is just two people testing each other’s limits, pushing other people’s buttons.. seeing what they can get away with.. and how the other person will react. Reaction shows that you care… to care is to show weakness. And weakness lets the other player know they’re winning.

I remember back when playing games used to be fun. Sure someone would win, and someone would lose.. but at the end of the day it was just a game. It’s not like anyone went home crying about it. Oh, wait.. I forgot about the Little League World Series, my bad.

Back when we were little, and society hadn’t turned us all into completely jaded assholes, we still had a sense that life was fair. That if we played by the rules, all would be well. We also used the phrase.. "First is the worst, second is the best." Who came @#$! up with that crap? Because nowadays, if you ain’t first, you’re last! That’s just how real life is. But if I have learned one thing about myself, it’s that I refuse to treat someone like a priority that only sees me as an option.

What fun is a game when you're constantly watching your back and second guessing someone’s motives? Why do we have to pretend we don't like someone to get them to like us? Aren't we all just playing the same bullshit games we did in preschool, bopping kids on the head, throwing sand in their eyes? And we still expect them to LIKE us? More so, how are we expected to keep up this whole charade while we’re trying to drive our careers and maintain our own personal lives? Who really has time for all the nonsense??... More so, does anyone ever really win?

I want a guy that gets excited over the fact I want to see him, not act like it’s some chore or great favor to ask of him. I want a guy that has the perfect balance of friend time, family time, and significant other time and doesn't define himself by any of those things. I don’t want a person that NEEDS me. I want someone that WANTS me. And if you really want someone.. why chance it by playing games? Risk is only fun when it involves little plastic pieces and a game of chance, not in real life scenarios. Why do you have to wait three days to call someone? Or act too busy for them when they text you? If I like a guy, but he continues to “beat around the bush” in the gumdrop forest (and no that is not a euphemism for sex), then I got news for him. Successful individuals with their own lives going on won't stand for it, and we will simply cut our losses rather than go down with our battleship you just took out. The thing is, I’m just as guilty as most men are. I self-sabotage, I run people off, make excuses, or I simply cut bait with no explanation. I play the same stupid games men do, to keep from committing, to keep others from hurting me. And it’s cost me plenty of opportunity not to mention probably made me miss out on the real genuine men out there. I’ll be damned if I'm not the type to learn from my mistakes.

It’s hard enough finding someone you mesh well with and that “gets you” in this crazy world these days. It seems people will just try to “wife” someone up for the sake of not being alone, instead of really getting to just know the person with no bullshit fa├žades. So when you find somebody that makes your life a little happier by just being in it, why waste each other’s time playing “it cool”… instead of just enjoying each other’s company? After all if you spend your entire life playing games and bending the rules, eventually the rest of the kids at the playground will get fed up with your shit, take their ball and go home.

During one of my trips home, I took Thomas to a Rays game. Nothing beat watching his face light up, as I walked him through the tunnel and out to the cushy seats right behind home plate, where he sat just mere feet from some of his favorite players. I got him some cracker jacks and peanuts, and all the things that make up the ball park experience. One of the Ray’s staff even brought him down a team signed ball. The kid was in heaven. Maybe that's why I loved Thomas so much. Kids in general, well… most of them anyway, are some of the most genuine, honest little people you will ever meet. There are no hidden agendas, there’s no rule breaking, and there’s not a single game played that does involve a ball. Thomas may not have won at every game he played, but he certainly played fair and by the rules. Maybe if adults took a page from their rule book, there would be a lot less miscommunication between the two sexes. And those are the kinda rules I could definitely live by.

BJ Upton hit a walk off home run that night, which set the Trop on fire. Thomas jumped up and down on his chair and cheered. If only all victories in life were that sweet. As I walked him up through the tunnels past the clubhouse to the exit, he spotted Carlos Pena down the way. Like a dog after the postman, he slipped out of my grasp and ran to meet the first baseman, who he hugged as if he had known him all his young life. Oddly enough, Carlos just laughed. And so did I.

:::Slaps forehead::::

Eh kids.. well, at least it wasn’t the kid that tagged him out at second this time.