Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Get with it, people!

I have recently encountered something so gross and perplexing that I got off my lazy little behind and decided to blog about it. Well, actually, it is more that I decided to sit down on my tired behind and write about it, but those are just details.

Over the past few years, numerous health officials, health advocates, doctors, nurses, scientists, random people who know about germs and medicine have spoken out about the importance of hand washing. They have said that, with few exceptions, the spread of most communicable illnesses could be slowed and even stopped if everyone just washed their hands, especially after using the bathroom. They are not suggesting that we wash our hands all the time, just that we wash them after activities such as: going to the bathroom, riding public transportation, shaking hands with people, touching public computer keyboards, etc. Now, I do not advocate people becoming crazy about this whole thing and washing their hands until their skin comes off, but I do think the advice of washing hands more regularly should be heeded. Sometimes science has a point!

So, here is my issue - the issue that compels me to write today - why do I still see a large number of women walk out of the public restroom without washing hands? And often really smart, savvy women, too! WHY?!? So, you don't buy into the whole washing hands prevents disease thing. Fine. But, when you think about public bathrooms and what you have just done in the public bathroom, shouldn't that be enough to compel you to wash your hands? Do I need to spell it out for you? (POOP!) And, ladies, we also have that pesky little event that happens once a month, adding a whole other element to our public restroom experience. Seriously! Does this not make you feel that washing your hands is a must-do? How can you justify leaving the restroom and nibbling on a snack when you might have someone else's poo, or lord knows what else, on your hands? Really? And, rinsing one hand under the faucet for two seconds does not count as hand washing, but merely hand rinsing. Not the same thing. Soap, water, rub, rinse - that is what I am asking, even begging for. Pleeeeaaase!

And if some of you reading this blog are the perpetrators of this crime, I hope you will reconsider. If not for yourself or the general public, then for me because all I think about when I see you non-washers and hand rinsers is how I will probably touch whatever poo, pee or blood you have on your hand at some point in the near future while fighting back nausea, spoiling my own effort to wash my hands and to have a decent day. It is torturous. I am begging you, appealing to your best self - wash your hands. Please!?! Remember: soap, water, rub, rinse. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Recently I have found my ability to fantasize about hot celebrity men hampered by rules. Rules that my own conscience has created and seems determined to have me follow. A few years ago, I developed the inability to fantasize about married or seriously involved celebrities. If my dreams started in that direction, some dormant part of my brain leaped to life to create a back story justifying my rendezvous with said actor/athlete/hot guy. Sometimes he would be widowed (morbid, I know). Other times, he and his wife/girlfriend had amicably gone their separate ways, and we had connected after an appropriate grace period. No matter how hard I tried, the fantasy could not continue until one part of my brain had explained to the other part of my brain that my connection with this man was morally acceptable...or at least somewhat acceptable. Frankly, by that time, the hotness had totally vacated the fantasy. What's the point!

Now, I find myself taking into consideration the reputation of the hot guy based solely on what is reported on Perez Hilton, US Weekly or some other gossip/news source. I cannot fantasize about an actor that is known to have shagged his nanny while his wife/girlfriend was off at the market. Or about a man notorious for his womanizing ways. Or an actor known to not shower very often and stir up drama on the set of the movie that made him famous in the first place. If I start having dreams about this kind of celebrity, my brain creates this heart to heart talk with the man where he explains how he is so misunderstood and he is not really like that and that I am the most interesting woman he has ever met so he cannot imagine being with anyone else. Lots of talk and no action. Again, where's the fun in that? Oh, and I never believe the guy.

Now all of a sudden, my conscience has taken its moral code to another level and I can't fantasize anymore. The rules created by my mind have pretty much eliminated every possible man about whom I can fantasize. I mean, can't I just think a guy is hot and imagine him taking me out for dinner and drinks and whatever else without all this other stuff needing to be explained - and sometimes it is really hard to explain. That nanny thing? Rough! We are in a recession for God's sake. I am looking for some free, fun entertainment and my brain will not cooperate. I have always been a little neurotic, but this is really taking to too far. Can't a girl catch a break?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sweet, sweet adolescence

As a fairly confident, generally happy thirty year old, few things make me feel like an insecure, unbalanced seventeen year old - thankfully. Sadly, however, this past week, I re-discovered my inner, unbalanced seventeen year old and had a complete confidence meltdown. What could make me feel this way? The GREs and young adult fiction. I read quite a few young adult books, but in conjunction with the more adult aspects of my life, such books of teenage angst and insecurity do not adversely affect me. Certainly I feel great amounts of sympathy with the pimply, awkward protagonists, but their high school dramas do not get me down. I know that they too will outgrow that horrid era of high school and move on to better things. But, in combination with my agonizing preparation for the GREs, reading young adult fiction reignited a part of me I thought had disappeared long ago. As a result, I have grown a large pimple on my chin, lashed out at the people I love for no apparent reason (at least to them), and stressed out about things that only a week ago would have slid off my back.

See, taking standardized tests has always been one of my most hated activities, second only to throwing up and maybe hitting my shins. They make us sit in a small, usually windowless room, in an even smaller cubicle with a computer in front of us. We sit here to be judged on our intelligence, or at least, our test taking abilities. The computer provides a tutorial informing us of how the test will proceed. Then, we are on our own. In the upper left corner, a vicious clock counts down the minutes until our time to answer questions is through. In the center of the screen, just barely to the right of the ticking clock, are the tortuous questions with trick answers. The trick answer always standing out a bit brighter from all the rest. And down in the left hand corner are the evil options, telling us we can quit the test or leave the section. What those options do not tell us is that we essentially become a complete failure when we click on them. So, our eyes gravitate back to the center of the screen, with a quick peek at the ever descending numbers of the clock. For some, like my brother, this experience might be exhilerrating, challenging him to beat the system, the man. For others, for me, such a set up breeds sheer panic and a complete evacuation of the brain. All the words, geometric formulas, and reading comprehension skills I learned through years of schooling and weeks of hard core cramming are gone. My brain is a blank. Empty. And then the trick answer glares brighter on the screen. I know it is a trick, but panic tinged with a moth-like fascination take over and suddenly I am compelled to click. And click, and click, until suddenly time runs out. At the end of the computerized test, our scores flip on the screen. For some, elation and/or pride might overwhelm them. For others, for me, a true sense of mediocrity and failure fills my gut. We know we have yet again let the ETS and standardized tests get us down. Even at thirty, such an event is painful, reminding me of the very insecurities I felt thirteen years before taking a similar exam. Always wondering if my grades and hard work would be enough, or if this three hour test would break me.

Add these feelings with a little teenage vampire sexual tension, and I reconnect with that seventeen year old self - the one I so proudly thought I had outgrown. Hubris. Tonight I reacquaint myself with thirty through a French film, red wine and Jane Austen. I'll just have to ignore the pimple.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I am just an average middle-class white girl - not as pathetic as Bridget Jones, but not as interesting either. I wake up each morning at 7AM, perform my morning toilette, eat breakfast and run to the bus stop. I then take the number 55 bus downtown and walk ten minutes up a huge hill to work. I arrive each day at 8:55. And each day, I heave a huge sigh wondering if things could possibly be more boring.

Now, I realize times are tough for almost everyone in the great USA. Even the guys on Wall Street are having their salaries capped at $500k per year if they are receiving government money. Must be tough! Reminds me of that NBA player from the 1998 players strike who whined on national television about not making enough to pay his car insurance. After some research, I found that the man had five cars, and they were not Hondas. So now, the Wall Street guys will have to cut down to one yacht. Those docking fees can really add up - and no one likes it when the tax payers get angry. Unless of course, you don't know any tax payers - which seems to be the case with these Wall Street and Washington folks.

Given my tendency to listen obsessively to NPR, I should know better than to complain about the rather blah flavor of my life just now. But, just for kicks, I think will indulge anyway. After all, it's free and kills time, so actually, I am doing myself (though not the economy) a favor by complaining. When focused inward, I don't notice the cute clothes I am not buying, or the chocolate cake in the fridge I should not be eating, or the house I should be cleaning. No. When writing about my vanilla life, I have what John Stewart would call my moment of zen.

Why am I so cranky, you ask? Well, I'm bored. After juggling multiple jobs and a full load of graduate courses while commuting four hours everyday, working 9 to 5 feels slow. While in school, my days were usually divided into quarters. First quarter: commute on the train for 1 1/2 hours. Second quarter: work. Third quarter: class. Fourth quarter: commute home for 1 1/2 hours while doing homework. A little variety! Now, I ride the bus, work in a windowless basement with mousetraps everywhere from 9-5 and then go home. Once home, there's dinner to make, of course, but no homework to complete or articles to read. So then what? What's a woman to do? I could rot my brain on television, which I am wont to do from time to time. I could write, but you can see what occurs when I do that. I could read, but after reading all day at work, I am finding the eyes are getting a little tired. I could sew, but my hands and wrists are sore from using the computer all day. (How old am I?) So here I am. The most boring 30-year old EVER!

I usually end up reading which, don't get me wrong, is very enjoyable, despite the fact that it might render me blind in five years. Lately, I have been reading some wonderful non-fiction that amazes me and makes me feel like a lazy, selfish, unmotivated piece of poo. Perhaps I should be out in the world building houses in New Orleans or El Salvador, establishing schools in Pakistan or Tanzania, putting Afghanis and Iraqis to work rebuilding the cities we destroyed - or creating brilliant, unique poetry, writing wonderfully engaging novels or making the next groundbreaking independent film. But I don't do any of this. I go to work and feel sorry for myself for being bored and not having any windows. I come home and feel sorry for myself for no good reason because I have a roof over my head and food to eat and someone to love me. I have caught the Kate Winslet disease - surburban woman feeling trapped by the confines of normal life. I have not yet taken a lover or decided to move to Paris - but given time, I could get there.

Now before you get too disgusted with me, understand that I am also disgusted with myself. I know I am blessed and in all reality have absolutely nothing about which to complain. I won't even have to work in the windowless basement anymore after Friday. So why the malaise? Why the feeling of biding my time?

I was inspired by the mission presented to me in library school and by our new President. I believed I could go out and make a difference each day just by working hard and contributing to the greater good. Each day I think I do that by preserving bits of our country's important past and by making it available to those who choose to explore that past. For some reason, that's not enough. I don't fall asleep at night feeling that pleasant heaviness of accomplishment and satisfaction. Sure. I have all I need and all I could ask for in the practical sense. So how do I satisfy that other need? Get off my butt and go where? Do what? Perhaps my NPR listening, informing me of all that's wrong with the world, makes me wonder where my efforts would be most useful and how the actions of one person could possibly do anything to make the crumbling, melting world a little better. Perhaps I need to turn off the radio and do something - anything - and know that it's enough. Perhaps.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Sauna

I recently had the pleasure of visiting my partner's family in Germany for the New Year. While there, we had a brief holiday in a small town in the Austrian Alps. The scenery was lovely. The sledding was AWESOME! The food was delicious. Despite the minor language barrier, even for the Germans, Austria was a restful and relaxing mini-vacation. And what would a relaxing European vacation be without the sauna? Rhetorical.

For those of you who have never been to or seen a sauna, a sauna is a small, closed room, primarily made of wood, intended to be a hot, dry, restful space - a place to sweat, cleanse and meditate. Wooden benches line the walls of the sauna in stadium-seating form accomodating eight to ten people. The key to this whole event, however, is that everyone is naked - buck naked.

Now, I like to think of myself as a worldly, open-minded person, comfortable in my skin. I like to think that I am free and open, happy with my little temple - perhaps in a way not too common in the U.S. of A. But, in Austria, I realized I have been lying to myself all these years. While being naked is something I love in my own home, I really am not a fan of being naked in public. Much to the amusement of my former ultimate teammates, most of whom had no reservations at all about getting naked, I refused to get naked in front of them at parties or on the field. Could be that my aversion stems from my redheadedness, having had more than one stranger ask me if the carpet matches the curtains. Such invasions of privacy may have created my certain knowledge that all eyes will naturally drift downwards with the curiosity of "Is she a real redhead?" too powerful to ignore. Could be that nakedness seems like something private, not to be shared with anyone other than one's partner. Could be sheer fear. Whatever the reason, I will not get naked in a "public" space - making visits to European saunas rather... interesting.

Beyond being naked in public, being naked with one's own family as an adult, or the family of a partner seems even more invasive. Not for the Europeans. Mothers, fathers, daughters and sons enjoy saunas together with no evident discomfort. For this American, such behavior was eye opening on so many levels.

So here is the scenario: Nice relaxing space, wonderfully warm after being outside in 10 degree weather. Children scamper through on their way to the pool to shriek, dive and generally create waterlogged mayhem. I enter and feel immediately comfortable. I let out a deep sigh. Naked adults stroll about, comfortable - even relishing their freedom from clothing - and I am comfortable with their nakedness. There are no roving eyes or lascivious comments. All is well. Then my partner's sister takes off her clothes. Okay, I can handle this. Then my partner's brother-in-law takes off his clothes. Seriously, where do I look? I mean, if my eyes go down then it looks like I am checking out his goods or her hygiene choices. If my eyes stay chest level, then I look like I am checking out her goods. If I look down, then I look like I am ashamed or afraid of their nakedness. If I just close my eyes, I will wipe out and really look like an idiot. So, again, where do I look?

Now I am faced with a dilemma. Do I take off my swimsuit to fit in and seem more worldly than I feel? Do I leave it on, essentially wearing a sandwich board stating, "I am an American, incapable of getting naked even though I was born that way"? Suddenly, this relaxing space became a space of anxiety, fittingly causing me to break a sweat. Not only would I be naked in public, but I would also be naked in front of my partner's family - a serious double whammy. Surely they must be curious if my hair is natural. No, that's ridiculous. Surely they must be asking themselves why their brother (in-law) stays in the U.S. with this American woman. Quit it. Now you are just being paranoid.... Sigh.

I opt for the swimsuit (yeah, wimpy, I know) - and enter the sauna, trying to hold my head up high, but not high enough to see anything I shouldn't. I feel like an idiot. Who wears clothes in a sauna? My friends lie down on the top bench, very naked, and relax, legs bent, parts moving naturally. I, being the mature, capable person that I am, feel severely uncomfortable, wondering what proper eye protocol is and how long I would have to wait until my cultural discomfort eased. My cultural discomfort outlasts my ability to handle the warmth of the sauna and I leave the room redfaced from heat and embarrassment.

Later that evening, we ate dinner in the hotel dining room. As I looked around the room, I saw many faces from my earlier trip to the sauna. I felt oddly smug as I realized I had seen most of them naked earlier that day. Somehow I knew more than I should about each and every one of them. Later, I realized everyone saw everyone else naked that day, too. Took some wind from my smugly whipping sails. Boy, I am pathetic.

Listening to the dinner conversation, I learned that my partner's mother was planning to visit the sauna the following day. I decided I would skip the sauna. Baby steps.