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Forty Years After Graduation, No Career in Sight

Five years ago I mentioned here that I was going to my high school class reunion and had forgotten to come up with a believable profession. Gearing up for my quinquennial visit back to see my classmates, I got through almost everything on my to-do list: I remembered to get a plane ticket, I remembered to buy a new outfit, I remembered almost everyone’s name, and I remembered to drink loads of water the day of the reunion, as well as pack some Excedrin. But I forgot to put together a good answer to the inevitable question, “What do you do?”

Well, guess what? It’s that half decade again, and I still don’t know what I do for a living.

Of course I know what I do for a living; I just don’t know how to present it so my former classmates don’t think I’m a slacker, an eccentric or a concubine.

“What do you do?”

“Whatever it takes.”

“What do you do?”

“What don’t I do?”

Those were suggested answers offered by my two sons. Let me mention that they don’t really know what I do either. They’re just really good at cleverly blowing smoke and diffusing awkward situations with humor.  And until a couple of years ago, when asked what their dad did for a living, they said, “He types.”

Other suggestions?

“None of your business. What’s with the third degree?”

“My FBI handler will give you a written reply within seven business days. Right after the congressional inquiry is finished.”

And my favorite, “Well, actually, right now I’m a — Look! A butterfly!”

More was expected of me in my high school. I wore glasses so naturally it was assumed that I was smart and would become an accomplished professional of some sort. But that was all based on my siblings, whose CPO jacket tails I rode straight through high school commencement. They were smart. They were Laneys. I was a Laney. Ergo I should be smart, right? It was Ohio public education in the 1970s, so we didn’t have philosophy classes to tell us life doesn’t work that way. You could be valedictorian without knowing what syllogism was, or any other ism for that matter.

I did my part by spending an inordinate amount of time studying, getting good grades, and only skipping class once in my entire school career. (I went to the Dairy Queen with Andy Franko and I about threw up from the anxiety of what was going to happen to me if someone in the office looked at the attendance sheets and saw that I had ditched. I frantically scanned the parking lot for the juvy paddywagon when we inexplicably returned to school. So not worth the 75 cent Dilly Bar.)

The smart girl thing worked among my classmates and even my teachers, but it didn’t fool the U.S. military. One day in my senior year of high school, the Army came in and did career assessments. A bunch of us were called down to the media center, where we sat at the round tables and listened to a sales pitch to enlist, and then filled out a long questionnaire about our interests and skills. And then we had one-on-ones, where we were told what the Army thought was our best career choice.

I got secretary. “The good news is you don’t have to go to college to work as a secretary,” he said. “And there are lots of opportunities to be a secretary in the Army, without any further delay.” Thanks, Army guy.

Shortly after that I was passed over for Rotary Student of the Month because my intended college major, Journalism, was “not an academic subject.”  Thanks, Mr. Rotary student selection committee chairman.

The cat was seemingly out of the bag. I probably wasn’t going to amount to much.

Sure enough, by my third class reunion I was unemployed and pregnant with my third baby. When I showed up at the Brentford House in a tent dress with a $10 haircut and a bruise on my shin from the McDonald’s PlayLand sliding board, it was the first time in months I had put on lipstick that wasn’t the candy kind.

“What do you do?” some poor unsuspecting, well meaninged guy asked me.

“Well, I, actually, — look! A butterfly!”

It worked then; no reason to think it won’t work again this year. Now to address the last thing on my list of things to do before my reunion: Lose 25 pounds.

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New York Without Hamilton is What Exactly?

I’m going to New York in a couple of months. I might as well be going to Nebraska, because – swallow whatever’s in your mouth and sit down because I don’t want you to choke and hurt yourself from the shock – I’m not going to see Hamilton.

Why bother? you ask. Is there anything else going on the entire 23-square mile island of Manhattan? Will they even let me off the plane at JFK without a ticket in my hand and will I be put on a terrorist watch list if I try to leave the city without a Playbill signed by at least three cast members?

Why is she even here?          No clue. Better frisk her and check for gunpowder residue.

The first part of my visit will be during my husband’s business meetings, so I’ll be on my own during the day. I will probably go to Chelsea Market shops, where I hear there is a vendor who sells lockets containing the dustpan sweepings from the stage at the Richard Rogers Theater, collected after each Hamilton performance.  And I’ll definitely go to Greenwich Village and hit my favorite indie bookstore, where they sell the few remaining books that aren’t about Hamilton in a newly built annex, constructed from hardback copies of Hamilton: The Revolution, the book about Hamilton. Which I am not seeing. (more…)

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This Is No Way to Get a Crick in Your Neck

For those of you not from Northeastern Ohio or Western Pennsylvania, a crick is either a small stream where you can wade with your pant legs rolled up hunting  for crawdads, making Tom Sawyer and Becky look like preppy Archie and Veronica, or it’s an equally Midwestern condition that lies somewhere between a pulled muscle and a nerve that is being obnoxious.

I refer to the latter.

If you look up What is a crick in the neck you’ll learn that there’s something called cervical radiculopathy, which must be what I have because how I got this is radiculous.  I won’t swear to it, but I think I got it from letting a Vietnamese stranger give me a neck massage in a Dallas nail salon. (more…)

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Return to Sender

I got a Christmas card returned as Undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service yesterday. Yesterday, as in the second week of March. As in I’m a third of the way through the bottle of perfume my husband bought me. As in the leftover turkey and ham are long gone from the freezer, having been casseroled to the nth degree. Where has this card been for three months?

This makes me wonder if we shouldn’t rethink this thing we call sending things through the mail.

When the people of the future excavate our landfills and realize that we spent valuable December hours addressing and stamping cards, many containing photographs that had to be scheduled, shot, rejected, reshot, bickered over, paid for, printed and decorated, some of them blood spattered from paper cuts, they will surely say, “What the eff? All that work and money, just to express the hope that these quasi-friends will have a happy holiday or that the season will be greeted? What a bunch of shits-for brains.”

And just wait until they get a load of the yellow strips saying UNABLE TO DELIVER.

“And they just kept on sending them,” Excavator Nicole will say. “Looky here. This one chick in San Francisco seems to have just kept sending cards out to the wrong address for five freaking years.”

I’ve got three words for you.

Jacquie. Lawson. E-Cards. (more…)

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A Letter to My Cousin’s Husband, Bob, Who is a Dentist

Dear Bob,

Don’t be alarmed that I’m writing a letter to you. You aren’t being visited by a 19th century Pride and Prejudice character. It’s just me, your wife’s cousin.

I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately, because I’ve been taking care of some dentistry problems. Nothing serious, just your average everyday stuff that people have to deal with when their “permanent” teeth stop living up to their nickname.

I have not skipped a biannual visit to the dentist since I was in college. And I take excellent care of my teeth. (I do, you know. I honestly do. Despite what you may have heard and the “little bit of perio” that one nasty-ass dental hygienist said she could see in my Facebook profile picture. Yes, that happened.) But despite all the  twice daily flossing, the $150 Sonicare toothbrush, toothpaste so expensive it’s behind lock and key in Walgreens, and not having popcorn since 1989, my teeth are being assholes. (more…)

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Who Needs the President at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?

So. President Donald Trump is skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. People, let’s just all calm down, and that includes you Samantha “I’ll Put on My Own Dinner” Bee. This is not a huge deal. If this were high school, the class president would be refusing to attend the Chess Club Banquet. His absence is not worthy of your outrage. In fact, it might be a lot more fun if the comedians don’t have to face their accuser.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is affectionately referred to as the Nerd Prom. So it’s no wonder the political and media celebs and the smattering of Hollywood types who love the event are saying the equivalent of, “Um, like, whatever” while adjusting their pocket protectors.

Trump won’t be the first president to ditch this event. But he is the first one to do it for no adult reason. Jimmy Carter missed one year because he was exhausted. Ronald Reagan’s excuse (“Um, I was shot? In the lung?”) was more valid, plus he phoned in jokes that killed. Trump isn’t imaginative enough to come up with a good excuse. He said it wouldn’t make sense to go to the dinner and “pretend” like he doesn’t hate the White House correspondents. He’s never had to muster up good manners and protocol and he’s not going to start now.

So that’s fine. Because the White House Correspondents’ Dinner isn’t about the president. It’s about the other people who show up. (more…)

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