The Bachelor’s Bowl

If you attend a public university in the state of New York — most have an undergraduate population that rivals the city of Beijing — it is possible to go four years without any faculty or staff interaction.

Except for the cafeteria ladies.  They patrol the lunch lines to make sure no one takes more than a single serving of ketchup.  I never understood this conservation of ketchup.  It was the 80s.  The Reagan years.  Ketchup was classified as a vegetable.  Who ever heard of restricting students from consuming plant-based substances other than cannabis?

Anyway, without any oversight — not even from a computer — it came to pass that it was mid-term of the spring semester of my senior year when I discovered that I would fall one credit short of the magic number required for graduation.

Fortunately, the school had something called the “Quarter Course”.  These classes ran only half a semester but required twice the regular instructional hours to earn the standard course credit.  I raced to the Registrar’s Office to find a class that would enable me to graduate in May.

Unfortunately, the only one credit course with available seats that fit my ongoing work and school schedule was Beginning Bowling.  At 7 am.  Four times a week.

Though it was not what I had in mind for my final days of college, I trudged to the Student Center every Monday through Thursday at the crack of dawn to join the other slackers at the alley.

Our teacher, a short rotund woman with a thunderous voice, choreographed our movements like she was the director of some twisted version of A Chorus Line.  But instead of “Five, Six, Seven, EIGHT” she would boom “Step, Step, Step, GLIDE!”

The weather improved each week but my scores did not.  Blame it on the late nights or the early mornings or on my as yet undiagnosed Raynaud’s or arthritis.  It doesn’t matter.  At semester’s end, my average was just 43 (out of 300).

Despite my dismal performance, the instructor passed me, allowing me to graduate sunna cum maius.  To celebrate, my friends took me bowling.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Strong, Silent Type

If you should find yourself single, the women you know would ask you to join them at various “events”.  The purpose of attending these things is to meet men.  They want to go to the meat market but they don’t like to shop alone.

OK, this woman inquires my interest in some kind of a cowboy gathering.  Yup, she said “cowboy”.  She tells me she likes the strong, silent type.

So I inform her that I am an over-educated Jewish girl from New York.  I do not like the strong, silent type.  I like the slender, wordy type.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

My White Vinyl Moment

The way they are replaying Jennifer Lawrence’s tumble from last night’s Academy Awards ceremony, you would think she had invented the move.

She did not.

Long before Ms. Lawrence was skinning squirrels in Winter’s Bone, women were wearing too high heels and too long gowns and tripping the light fantastic.  Ms. Lawrence wasn’t the first.  Heck, she wasn’t even the first to do it in pink.

I should know.

My first friend to get married.  My first time in a wedding.  My first trip down the aisle.

Literally.

The decorators had rolled out the White Vinyl on top of the Red Carpet that led to the chuppah.  I was walking so very gracefully down the aisle, holding on the flowers, holding back the tears.  But the White Vinyl had become crooked and wrinkled.

One of the groomsmen decided my sashay would be an opportune moment to straighten the White Vinyl.  Perhaps he was imagining that old tablecloth trick?  The one where they pull out the tablecloth and leave the dishes undisturbed on the table?

But this kind of sleight of hand, it takes practice.  You wouldn’t get it right the first time.  You should not practice with the delicate china.  You should not practice with the osteoporotic me.

Despite my best surfer girl impression, I could not catch the gnarly wave.  It was a total wipe out.  A complete sand facial.

Everyone said it was the best part of the ceremony.  Just like they are saying Ms. Lawrence’s stumble was the pièce de résistance of the Oscars.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Pants on Fire

George Washington’s birthday falls on February 22.  Today, four days early, we’ll honor the father of our country by celebrating President’s Day in the fine old American traditions of hitting the slopes, eating cherry pie, buying new cars, and telling lots of lies.

Legend has it that George Washington could not tell a lie.  As a young lad, he bravely confessed to chopping down a cherry tree despite the inevitable consequences.

Abraham Lincoln, the other President sometimes associated with the federal holiday that falls on the third Monday of February, was also known for his truthful ways.  “Honest Abe” earned his nickname after walking several miles to return a few pennies.

The average American, on the other hand, is a mendacious creature.  There have been many projects to research how often people lie, but it turns out this is a hard thing to study because people lie about how often they lie.  It is generally accepted that most people lie between a few times and several dozen times each day.

Perhaps we can comprehend — but not condone — why ambitious people employ duplicity for personal gain.

Independent fact-checkers reported so many outrageous lies during the 2012 US Presidential campaign that the only possible explanation is that deception was executed as a carefully planned strategy and not the inadvertent result of casual misstatements.  A top aid for the Romney operation admitted that lying is the whole point of their ads.

Less clear is why otherwise admirable people make statements lacking in both credibility and purpose.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor tarnishes her reputation by claiming she never heard of the Supreme Court until she was in college at Princeton.  Sotomayor graduated Spellman, a private high school where all students take college prep courses.  Even if she had attended an impoverished public school, it would have taken a complete news blackout for such a bright girl to miss the many landmark Supreme Court decisions of the 70s.

Most bewildering, at least to me, is why the people we know tell us so many lies, both little and large.

The majority of people are terrible actors.  They are only fooling themselves if they think they are fooling us.  And to what end?  They are showing disrespect, breeding mistrust, and fracturing relationships.  Maybe they are making themselves feel better.  They are certainly not making us feel better.

As for me, I’m sticking with the truth.  If you don’t like it, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding someone else to lie to you.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Please Don’t Help Me

My doctor wants me to start taking 5g creatine supplements —

Warning.  Creatine occurs naturally in the body and acts to build skeletal muscle.  Do not use creatine in attempt to enhance athletic performance.  Excessive amounts of this substance are known to produce dangerous side effects.  Even modest supplementation can be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions or harmful when combined with common medications.

OK, so my doctor advises me to start with the creatine.  I go by the drugstore and head straight to the vitamin and mineral aisle.  The bottles are ordered alphabetically.  I move directly to the “C” section:

C…  C + E…  C + Rose Hips…  Calcium…  Calcium + D…  Calcium + Magnesium…  Calcium + Magnesium + D…  Chromium Picolinate…  Cod Liver Oil…  CoQ10 —

Suddenly, a clerk interrupts my progress…

Clerk to me:  Can I help you?

Me to Clerk:  I’m looking for creatine.

Clerk to me:  Carotene?

Me to Clerk:  No, creatine.

Clerk to me:  OK, carotene.

Me to Clerk:  No, creatine.  C-R-E-A-T-I-N-E.

Clerk to me:  C-A-R —

Me to Clerk:  No, C-R-E —

Clerk to me:  C-A-R —

I give up and resume reading on my own.  I can read.  All by myself.  Probably better than most.

Was the clerk unaware that her “help” was counterproductive?  Of course, I don’t blame her.  Most shops seem to require their staff to provide this kind of “service”.  But why would the bosses think this behavior is desirable?  If we wanted assistance, we would ask for it.

Just the other day, while reading labels at the Whole Foods, three different clerks approached me a total of five times within the space of about two minutes.  Yes, two of them actually approached me twice.

And it just keeps getting worse.  Earlier today there was a radio spot for Trader Joe’s.  In addition to unsolicited product pitches, their clerks will now be encouraged to make book and movie recommendations.

Two words.  No thanks.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Get the Fork!

The New York Fall 2013 Fashion Week has ended and the critics are buzzing about the styles of the upcoming season.

Good news!  My “as is” wardrobe?  A perfect fit with the hottest trends.

Sleek.
Minimal.
Black.

My cocktail dresses?  My client attire?  My casual apparel?  My workout wear?  My socks and bras?  En vogue!

Since witnessing fashion’s demands back in college, my mode has always been to stick with an easy and relaxing feel.

See, one morning, my roommates are all getting ready for the day.  Suddenly, there are loud sounds of thrashing and agony.  Danielle screams, “Pam, get the fork!”

Was Danielle having some kind of epileptic fit?  Did she need Pam to suppress her tongue?

I rush in to find Pam straddling Danielle who is lying face up on the bed.  Pam appears to be doing some kind of procedure on Danielle’s midsection.

Pam calls out to me, “Thank G-d you’re here.  We need help.”  I move closer, frantically praying that no blood has been spilled.

The unfolding drama amazes me.  The two girls are desperately pulling at Danielle’s skinny jeans.

Danielle is holding her breath and tugging at the right and left halves of the waist, struggling to clench them together.  Pam is securing Danielle’s body with her own weight, wrestling with the zipper using a fork tine inserted into the pull tab.  But it just won’t budge.  They need me to take charge of the waist.  This will free Danielle’s hands so she can raise her arms over her head to achieve the maximum stomach flatness.

So we do it.  We work together to get Danielle’s skinny jeans zipped and buttoned and we help her to her feet.  She will be standing all the livelong day.  She will be walking in slow motion.  She will be very late to all of her classes.

And me, I had seen what it takes and knew I would never become a slave to fashion.  I would always buy only comfortable clothing.  And I would always buy only clothing that I could put on and take off by myself, without assistance from a personal dresser or use of the kitchen cutlery.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Neither Snow Nor Rain

Long ago, on a sweltering summer day in August, the regular US mail contained a small card from my little niece.  Quite surprisingly, it was a Valentine.  The envelope was postmarked a few days before Valentine’s Day, six months prior to arrival at my home.

We will never know what happened to the vanished Valentine during those one hundred eighty-three days, but problems with the mail delivery vex me still.

See, a few times a week, envelopes and packages intended for the neighbors on my left and my right show up in my mailbox.  At the same time, a number of envelopes and packages sent to my address never reach me.  Social invitations.  Birthday gifts.  Important stuff!

What happened to the sacred trust between postal carrier and civilian?  Maybe this was just some nonsense spewed by Cliff Clavin, the grandiose postman on Cheers, but still, this is serious.  What is the deal with my mail?

A bit of detective work has revealed three problems that amalgamate into the proverbial Catch-22.

First.  The postal carrier doesn’t see the mail.

While placing the envelopes into the boxes, he does that thing.  You know, the over 40 thing.  The thing where you keep moving the paper closer to and farther from your face, but it doesn’t help.  The text just will not focus.  On many occasions, I have watched our carrier place the neighbors’ mail into my box.

Now, you would think that having vision correctable to 20/40 or so would be a job requirement for a postal carrier, kind of like swimming really well is a job requirement for a lifeguard, but apparently this is not the case.

Second.  The neighbors don’t “forward” the mail.

When mail for my neighbors is dropped in my box, I deliver the items to the appropriate door.  Clearly, this small courtesy is not a common practice in my building.  Never, not even once, in all my days here, has a misplaced letter or parcel appeared at my door.

No, it appears the “neighborly” behavior in my building is to leave the items on the bench in the mail room.  Free stuff for any passerby.  Great.

Third.  The cleaning people don’t rescue the mail.

The cleaners do not like stray paper.  This would be a good thing except they do not discriminate between fast food wrappers and official government mail.  Every day, they throw out the items left on the bench.  So much zeal I wish they would show for deodorizing the garbage room (currently doubling as a urinal for the homeless people).  But no.

Summary.  Postal carrier puts my mail in neighbor’s box.  Neighbor puts my mail on bench in mail room.  Cleaner throws out my mail along with actual rubbish.  Verbal requests and written notices go unheeded.

So please, do not entrust the US Postal Service to deliver anything to my current residence.  If you have something for me, deposit it directly into my hands or into my bank account.  Guess you really can’t trust a person in uniform after all.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Secret Ingredient

When I was in graduate school, there were a lot of “potluck” events where each person would bring food to share with the other people.

At the time, I didn’t know how to cook anything besides breakfast.  Needless to say, you couldn’t bring scrambled eggs or French toast to a dinner thing.  Especially if the faculty would be there.

My roommate decided it was time for me to learn to cook something.  She settled on Nestlé Toll House cookies, reasoning they were easy to prepare, appropriate for any occasion, and liked by everyone if you leave out the nuts.  This turned out to be a wise decision as the reviews were rave.

Upon starting my professional career, I found that the potluck was alive and well in the corporate world.  With new confidence in my kitchen capabilities, I signed up to make the cookies whenever a gathering required a culinary contribution.

Time and again, people would proclaim my delectable disks as the best chocolate chip cookies they had ever tasted and plead with me to share the incredible recipe.  With some embarrassment, I had to admit it was just the recipe printed on the back of the chocolate chip package.  Oddly, the tasters didn’t believe my humble confessions and accused me of guarding some trademark mix-in or method.

Anyway, one day a friend is keeping me company while I bake the golden goodies.  As she watched me add the baking soda, she exclaimed, “That’s disgusting!”  “What?” I asked with confusion, “It’s just baking soda.”

See, the only baking soda in the house was the yellow box of Arm & Hammer I kept in the refrigerator to absorb the unpleasant food odors.  It had never occurred to me to buy a separate box for baking purposes.

So, I get a fresh box of baking soda to be used exclusively for food preparation.  Suddenly, the cookie compliments cease completely.  The magic in the munchies?  Gone.

Of course, the only explanation is that my cookies did incorporate a secret ingredient.  A fusion so unconventional that no pâtissier could have possibly imagined its potency.  An essence so well hidden that even I was not aware of its presence.

Fumes of raw onion!

Mark my words, you will see this on the Top Chef.  And when you do, remember you heard it here first.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

@#%&!

I never learned to swear.  I know all the curse words.  But I do not think to use them.

The inability to be profane hasn’t been so hobbling as the many other deficiencies that plague me, so incorporating foul language into conversation has never been a priority.  It’s just not that important.

Empathy, however, is very important.  And it seems to help if you talk in a vocabulary that resonates with your confidant.  At least that’s what I always tell my clients.

So I was speaking with a friend who uses the expletives.  She disclosed some truly terrible treatment the ex-husband had inflicted upon her son and herself.

Feeling her outrage and pain, I exclaimed, “What an ass!”

“Bastard,” she informed me. “Bastard is the correct word.”

Guess I blew that one.  In my zeal to appropriate a sympathetic patois, I understated the man’s vile behavior.  From now on, I wouldn’t fake any mastery of the coarser oaths.  Better I should stick with my natural additive-free dialect.

By the way, if you suffer from a G-rated tongue like me, help is available.  Check out the Urban Dictionary for all of your unruly idiom needs.  Definition and usage included!

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Women’s Lib

Growing up, most of my friends were more-or-less indifferent to social issues.  In the activist 60s, college kids were going to jail for demonstrating against Jim Crow and Vietnam.  In the apathetic 80s, we were going to clubs and selling our textbooks for cocktails and cover charges.

Even so, women’s issues have always been of great interest to me.  Probably because me and my sister were treated as third-class citizens in our childhood home.  Even the dog had greater status than us girls.  Then again, he was a boy.

The diminution came not from our father who gave more attention to whatever ball game happened to be on TV than to his children of either gender, but from our mother who made no secret of her distaste for any living creature lacking the Y chromosome.

Long before my mind understood the basics of the women’s movement, my heart and mouth were engaged in the struggle.  One evening my brother asked me to pass him the ketchup at supper.  Famously, I responded “Women’s lib.  Get it yourself.”

When my mother refused my requests to wear an ERA bracelet on my wrist or a yamakah on my head, I acted on the sly, attempting to join my friends in signing up for boys’ soccer and shop class instead of girls’ cheerleading and home ec.  Of course, my friends had their parents’ support whereas I had only my mother’s hysterics.  These efforts did not end well for me.

The strength of my mother’s hostility for women was astounding.  Frequently, and for no apparent reason, she would declare “I hate women!”  She made proclamations such as “there are things a woman should not do and being a doctor is one of them.”  She degraded the appearance, activities, and accomplishments for all the women of her acquaintance.

My mother’s behavior reached its bizarre apex at the time of my bas mitzvah.  When she learned our shul had a tradition where the President of the Sisterhood presented each girl with a set of silver candlesticks, she exploded “You will not share the stage with any woman!”  With no concern for my feelings on the matter, she instructed the rabbi to eliminate this portion of the ceremony.

Years later, my brother arranged to have a female rabbi conduct our mother’s funeral service.  Despite her crazy attitudes, this seemed disrespectful.  Obviously, my mother would not want to share her final act with a woman.  Especially when this other woman got all of the speaking parts and my mother did not get a single line.

Like many women of my generation, I am down with “the best person for the job” philosophy.  Still, I do admit that sometimes my feelings about gender roles can get rather traditional.

When the toilet or some such is broken, I research the problem on the web.  I purchase the parts by the hardware store.  I try and try again until the task is done.  But as often as not, there are tears.  No matter.  I act the independent woman.  But I know the truth.  It’d be so nice to have a man around the house.

But that’s just me and so what if I wouldn’t make a very good plumber?  Moving forward, for the first time in history, females in the US military will no longer be banned from positions in combat.

You go, girls!   Women’s lib!

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.