All the chatter about the HBO documentary on the Church of Scientology, Going Clear, got me thinking about my own experiences with a similar church I’ll call the Church of OddPhilosophies. Because I would never say anything bad about the Church of Scientology.
I was once on the run from the Church of OddPhilosophies.
Ok, so things weren’t as dramatic as that, but there did exist a time when I had to avoid the COO.
Picture it: the early ’00s, Los Angeles, California. A city of towering palm trees, near constant sunshine, and an overabundance of injectable-filled faces. A twenty-something woman full of youthful energy and naiveté dreams of a brilliant acting career.
(This young woman is me, by the way).
I’d often flip through Backstage West, an entertainment newspaper, looking for classes, seminars, casting notices and odd jobs. On one such occasion I came across an ad that looked something like this:
That’s not exactly what it said, but that’s sure how I read it! Every actor knows there’s big opportunity and money in nationally broadcast commercials. SIGN ME UP!
It wasn’t until I arrived at the Famous Centre on the eastern edge of Hollywood that I realized it was part of The Church of OddPhilosophies.
I should have turned around as soon as I made the connection.
Instead, I parked and entered the estate. I’d driven by the grounds of the Famous Centre before and thought it beautiful and quintessentially old Hollywood. Now I had the chance to see the inside! Besides, I figured other churches sometimes rent out use of their space to non-religious groups as an income generator.
A cheery young blond man ushered a group of about 30 of us hopefuls into a small room with seats arranged in rows facing the speaker.
“Hi, I am Felicia Lister, Denise’s less famous and less talented sister.” What happened to Denise?! Who is Felicia?
For the next half hour, Felicia charmed and dazzled us with motivational platitudes and positive affirmations.
“Maybe your dream is to win an Oscar one day. Your dream is RIGHT WITHIN YOUR GRASP! How badly do you want it though? Do you just talk the talk or do you WALK THE WALK? Do you want success?! Are you tired of worrying about how you’re going to pay your rent?”
Yes! Tell me how!
“I’ll tell you how! Some of our students are today’s biggest stars. We can’t name names because we respect their privacy. But, you know who they are.” Felicia winked.
Most of the actors were focused on Felicia, transfixed by her promises of glory and riches.
“We can help you achieve your dreams! Our methods are highly successful. So, if you’re serious about being serious about MAKING YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE, Chad will take you into the next room to watch a short film.”
Wait – so far, no one has mentioned anything about commercials. When is that going to happen?
I didn’t get the chance to ask as we were quickly hustled into an already dark screening room with about 20 seats. Somehow we’d lost 10 of our original number, so we all fit. I was beginning to feel trapped.
They showed us a 30-minute film that was part history of the Church of OddPhilosophies, and part propaganda documentary, including a direct sell from the church founder J. Don Buzzard.
It’s still one of the scariest films I’ve seen in my entire life.
Chad blocked my attempt to exit after the film.
“We’re almost done.” His smile slowly widened and his eyes glistened, “After this we’ll talk a bit about the program and then you can go if you’re not interested in MAKING YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.”
I now understood how I people get entangled in cults. Save me.
After the film, Chad led us into yet another room. This one grander, with a vaulted ceiling and lots of glittery gold. It was when they told us that for the program to work we’d need to sign a promise to stop taking any and all mind-altering drugs like antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds and the like, that I got my ass out of there.
Holy crap. Even nutritionists tell you to talk to your doctor before stopping any medications. What the hell kinda crazy?
Oh had the tale ended there.
Unfortunately, I’d given my home phone number to the COO when I signed up for the seminar. A week later I received a call from a sugary-voiced member of the church, Mandy. Mandy wanted to know if I would like to finish my consultation and join them on the road to MAKING MY DREAMS COME TRUE.
“It’s not for me.”
Mandy protested, insistent that the COO held the keys to my future bounty, but I cut her off: “Yeah, I am not interested. Thanks, Mandy! Bye!”
In the following six months, I received monthly – sometimes bi-monthly – calls from the Church of OddPhilosophies. This, despite requesting multiple times that they remove me from their list and failing that, flat-out hanging up on them. I told my roommate to regard calls with extreme suspicion if the person on the other end asked to speak to me and sounded unnaturally happy.
It took moving to a new apartment and disconnecting my phone number to finally dodge the COO.
I haven’t heard from them since.
I still screen all my calls though. You can never be too careful.
There’s no other way to say it. It happened. I’m a bee killer.
I feel guilty about this bee-icide.
My approach toward insects is this: I pay to live in my home. They do not, nor are they invited. No creature with more than four legs should be taking up residence in my place. If the bugs stay outside, keep outta my abode, we’re all good. Invade my lair and all bets are off.
I spent a summer in Panama when I was a kid. One night, while settling into bed, a cockroach accosted me, boldly crawling across my pastel pink wall, mere feet above my twin bed. A bug as thick as a pack of Bubble Yum. The roaches I knew in New York, where I lived at the time, were typically the size of my little girl pinky toe. Gross and pesky, but manageable. Squishable. This cockroach was a meathead bug; ‘roided out.
In a panicked blur, I grabbed a small shoe, and THWACK! Nobody invited you, roach, GOOD.BYE! When I shared the story with the family I was staying with, the matriarch, a kind-eyed woman with a no-nonsense manner, fixed me with a somber stare and said matter-of-factly:
“If you kill one, the rest of their family will come back for revenge. You should be careful.”
I couldn’t be sure if she spoke the truth or not, her eyes twinkled, but her eyes always twinkled. I slept uneasily that night, dreams of being chased by vindictive cockroach armies disturbing my slumber.
Though I’m an adult and I know vengeful cockroach militias don’t exist, if ever I kill a bug, a nagging thought tries to take root in my mind, an immortal superstition, “The rest of it’s kind is coming for you.”
Since the weather in San Francisco rarely rises to uncomfortable levels, many apartment units, like mine, don’t have window screens. A recent series of humid nights brought with it a wimpy breeze and ravenous mosquitoes chomping on me like steak, dining for free, multiple times a week. I’m over being battered by bugs.
So, this bee.
It flew into my home one afternoon, using my screenless window as it’s portal. When it zoomed into my living room, my favorite cat did absolutely nothing. His feeble, half-assed attempts to catch it evolved into a game of his design, a cat-and-bee chase, only the bee was unaware of its participation and I became very concerned about getting stung. I watched his catnanigans for a bit, keeping one eye on the bee, the other on my useless feline, flipping, flopping and tossing in the air like a caught fish as he half-heartedly attempted to capture the fast-moving bee.
“Aren’t you going to do something, cat?! You only have two jobs: be cute and kill pests. Ugh!”
The bee, catching on to the cat’s plan, flew away from him and into my personal zone. Oh shit! Unthinkingly, I grabbed a broom and showed my cat how it’s done. Bee Smash!
I felt temporarily victorious – until I realized what I’d done. I killed a bee. We need bees! Bees are endangered! Did I not just have a conversation with someone about how we should try to avoid killing bees? Even though I initially scoffed and side-eyed the idea of sparing the life of an insect – sometimes these NorCal-ers take their organic-treehugging-sustainable-“nature, man”-hippieness to extremes and it’s easy to get caught up in – I am nothing if not soft-hearted when it comes to living creatures.
However, I acted on instinct. The instinct not to end up with my soft-hearted ass in the hospital. A bee stung me once – the same year as the great Panamanian cockroach haunting – and the incident ended with piercing pain and a trip to the doctor’s office. No thank you.
Filled with self-reproach – because of me, that’s one less flower pollinated, who knows how much I’ve messed up the circle of life – I approached the fallen bee, hoping that it’d still be twitching. Alive.
The bee remained still.
I poked it gently with a pen, careful not to get too close lest it was playing possum and decided to sneak attack.
It didn’t move.
I gently picked it up in my paper-towel-covered hand, walked to my window and placed it carefully on the fire escape. Solemnly I said to the bee, still slightly hopeful it’d flutter awake, “I am really sorry. I will not kill another, but can you guys not fly into my apartment? Also, please do not send your bee crew after me in retaliation.”
It’s a college party. I’m in a Soul Train line, surrounded mostly by white people, and it’s my turn to dance. A popular rap song is blasting from a giant stereo and people are losing their collective shit, arms flailing, bouncing up, down and around, shout-rapping (“shrapping?”) along but skipping the word “nigga”, some glancing at me out of the corner of their eyes. An expression that says, “See? I didn’t say it! Aren’t you proud?” “
God. I have to dance. I can feel the weight of their expectations. They are here for the entertainment. I hate these damn lines. How many people here even watched Soul Train? Where are the other two black people at this party? Why the fuck am I out here alone? Those fools are probably hiding. They knew.
I plaster a big smile on my face, take a deep breath, and begin swaying, hands in the hair, trying to look simultaneously sexy – there are cute boys here after all – and hip-hoppy. As I near the end of the line I take in everyone’s gaze, their chants slowing with each step I take. The other two black people have reappeared. I can sense their second-hand embarrassment. I bet they can even dance too! Why me?! A sloppy-drunk guy licks his lips at me. Disappointment hangs in the air. Black girl can’t dance? I have failed.
Screw you guys. My dancing is fine, you all need to lower your expectations!
Variations of this scenario are peppered throughout my personal black history. Black people have a reputation for being great dancers. The bar is raised for us. I have never been one of those fab dancing black folk, though I love to dance. I’ve danced for as long as I can remember. I took my first dance class when I was 6, in Brooklyn, with Ms. Francine. It didn’t last very long. I later asked why I stopped taking ballet classes and “someone” told me that I “wasn’t very good” and so it made me unhappy.
I should have learned then and just given up public dancing. But, as I have little recollection of this sentiment – being unhappy in ballet class – I can only assume that I found my lack of talent for ballet so traumatizing that I had to suppress the painful memories, leaving only the shiny happy moments in the quick recall bin of my memory bank. Instead, for years, I’ve suffered through the scrutiny of dancing while black in hip hop dance classes, a jazz dance class in college where I’m pretty sure my teacher wanted to cry in disbelief – it takes me forever to learn choreography; I couldn’t even get an ‘A’ in that freaking class – as well as parties and anytime a new dance craze mesmerizes the country and people assume I can teach them how do it. I can’t teach you how to Dougie either! Go ask YouTube!
Last year, at a friend’s wedding, drunk on free-flowing champagne – the videographer paid me extra attention and kept bringing me drinks; I’m not gonna lie, I enjoyed the attention and he was cute – I could not stay off the dance floor. My partying nights are few and far between these days, so I hadn’t danced in what felt like a decade but was probably closer to six months. I feel alive when I’m dancing to a fun song with a high energy beat. It’s the closest I get to a meditative state since I can never seem to quiet my mind long enough to actually meditate meditate. If I’m having a bad day, dancing it out at home alone to Beyoncé, like I have no shame, like I think I could ever come close to approximating the sexiness she oozes as her body moves like a sultry snake, it reinvigorates me.
My friend’s boyfriend was also a fixture on the dance floor. As I danced near him during one song, he yelled over the music to me, “C’MON, GIRL. SHAKE THAT GHETTO BOOTY!”
Oh life. The situations you throw at me, you jokester you!
Let’s see here. It’s my friend’s boyfriend, whom I like and know as a decent, kind human being. I also know that he is South American and their views of race and their cultural history greatly differ from the US’. So, what I’m not going to do is act a fool. It’s my friend’s wedding. I don’t need to get stank. I am a lady.
I raised an eyebrow, half-smiled and yelled back, “I AM FROM THE SUBURBS!” Let’s laugh about it, shall we?
“WHAT THAT MEANS?”
“I AM NOT FROM THE GHETTO. YOU CAN’T SAY THINGS LIKE THAT!”
“OH! C’MON. I KNOW YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!”
I wasn’t angry with him. I knew he meant it innocently, but it’s like hearing the same dumbass joke for the 1000th time. It gets old and tired. I just want dance floor liberation! To dance however the hell I want without feeling the pressure of the gaze of dozens of eyes anticipating a live performance straight out of America’s Best Dance Crew. If you’re familiar with that show, you may have noticed that many of the dance crews are Asian. As a matter of fact, many of my Asian friends are better dancers than I am. When I dance too close to them, in comparison it’s that much more obvious that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.
Lately, party Keisha has emerged from hibernation and she’s been itching to shake a tail feather. I know I’m for serious when I’m out and starting popping 5-hour energy drinks. There is a direct correlation between the amount of stress I feel at work and the intensity of my need to pop, lock and drop it. These days I wanna dance! I wanna be a Dancing Queen.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a bar with a dance floor, hip hop music playing and me the only black person in the room. I was minding my business, doing my little dance, enjoying the song, getting Into the Groove, and one of the guys with my group chanted to me, “Go, Keisha! Go, Keisha!”
Oh hell no, there’ll be no starting of a dance circle with me in the center. I inched away from him and kept on dancing.
Sometimes I want to dance like a straight fool. Like I’m not worried about steps, rhythm, being sexy, pushing some pelvis gyrating dude off me or twerking for tips, but rather just feeling the music and going with it. I want to get all Duckie to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” I don’t think that is too much to ask. Freedom from the pressures of dancing while black.
Hi, I’m Keisha and apparently I get into fights with old ladies. Let’s take a look, shall we?
When I first moved into my apartment building I met the girlfriend of one of my neighbors. Her boyfriend had lived in the building for two years.
“How do you like it here? How are the people in the
“Oh, I like it. People are pretty quiet and nice, but…” she lowered her voice and moved closer to me, “Have you met the old lady that lives down the hall?”
“Oh, Gertie? Yeah, she seems nice, I saw her vacuuming the entryway. It’s sweet that she does that.”
She made a face as though she was less than impressed.
“Yeah…she’s just…kinda weird,” her voice trailed off and then as though she were re-energized, “Well, I hope you love it here! Good luck unpacking!”
This is how scary movies start. Everyone knows the black people always die first. Dammit!
I had indeed met Ms. Gertie. I know little about her. I try to engage her in conversation when I see her, but she doesn’t much seem interested. I
noticed once an accent fading in and out, so I asked her about it.
“Oh yes, I am from Ireland.”
I asked her how long she’d been living in the building.
“Oh, longer than you’ve probably been alive, dear.” She has the voice of a fairy-tale grandmother. Or the Wicked Witch: “I’ll get you my pretty (and your little cats tooooo.).”
In the 18 months or so that I’ve lived in the building, I’ve learned the following about the life of Gertie:
1. She lives alone and spent this past Christmas with her niece that lives an hour north inWine Country.
2. I can’t say with certainty how old she is, but I’m a good guesstimator of age (ask my friends) and I think she’s probably between 72-77.
3. She likes to vacuum. I don’t mean vacuum her place. I mean, the whole building. Often at 9:30pm on a weeknight. I don’t know what the hell she’s vacuuming or why; we have a cleaning service that comes weekly to tidy up. In any case, our building is extra clean. Maybe she’s bored and needs something to do. If she has a job, it doesn’t seem to be one that requires her to leave her place.
4. I had a drink with our former building manager once (a random occurrence, he’s nearly 60 and married; it was nothing scandalous) and when I asked for his take on our building and its residents, about Gertie he shared “Ohhh, Gertie. She’s a tough one.”
He winced. I chuckled. “Does she complain a lot?”
“You could say that. She just makes my job extra hard. She calls about every little thing that goes wrong.”
5. Every Christmas she decorates the indoor entryway to our building with a Christmas tree, lights, tinsel, garland and a 2-ft tall Santa Claus doll with a pale, waxy face that my sister N deemed “creepy as hell!” It’s festive and I appreciate someone making the effort, especially since I’m not putting up a Christmas tree for me and the cats.
6. She is fond of leaving passive aggressive notes with lots!of!exclamation! around the building:
“The LIGHT! in the laundry room! is BROKEN as of 1/5/14 @ 2pm! Please FIX it IMMEDIATELY! Someone could break! their NECK!”
7. My younger sister N was here last summer and stayed with me some nights. Gertie asked me: “Is that your daughter that stays with you sometimes?”
My sister and I are six years apart in age and black don’t crack so usually people ask us who is older. No way in hell does she look like my daughter! Is my black cracking?! Do I suddenly look old? My sister’s reaction when I shared this with her reassured me, “The fuck? Your daughter?! Why does she think that? Is this some racial thing? Like you’re a ‘young single black mother’? What the hell? Your daughter? Let me say something to her.” No need. I let it go.
8. I ran into Gertie when I was on my way out to dinner once, wearing a cute new dress and showing a perfectly respectable amount of skin. And even if I wasn’t, I am a grown ass woman and I buy what I want to wear, so I can wear what I want. The look she gave me. Like I was some loose harlot! When did I sign up for a den mom? This wasn’t the first time she side-eyed me when I was either coming from fun or going to fun. Of course I ran into her on way home from the Pride festivalwith stickers on my face wearing a rainbow feathered boa. I think she either hates fun or is jealous of fun. Either way, not my problem.
I couldn’t find my keys when I left for work this morning. I dug up half my apartment looking for them. I even missed my bus trying to find them. I have a
spare key to my apartment, but not to the building’s front door. It’s one of those keys that you can’t get copied at your local Home Depot. We used to have the access code, but when our building management changed, they
decided to change the access code too and not tell anybody. Hey guys,
maybe you should notify your tenants. Anyway. I figured I could either call a neighbor when I got home or call a friend to call my cell so I could buzz myself in.
Well, hold on there girl! There are other plans in store for you!
When I got home, I was happy to see Gertie sitting inside at the bottom of the stairs. I wouldn’t have to use any of my door plans! I tried again to see if I could find my keys, just in case, but came up with nothing. All the while, Gertie didn’t move. I fished around in my purse some more and finally mouthed to Gertie, “Can you let me in, please?”
She walked slowly over, met my eyes and growled, “NO. Call the [offsite] manager. You should have your key!”
R e a l l y?
I rolled my eyes and turned away. I wasn’t going to beg her to get into my own damn place of residence. A shoebox that I pay stacks to live in. Fuck her. I was mad I ever thought to send her mean ass a Christmas card.
For whatever reason, calling myself didn’t work – I was probably too agitated to focus. I looked through the directory and dialed my neighbors who live across the hall from me. They are a polite young couple who mostly keep to themselves and their two pugs. I also knew they’d be home because they’re pretty predictable and I know their schedule.
“Hi, this is Keisha, I live in #_ and I can’t find my key…”
“Oh, I’ll let you in!”
I could see Gertie stewing in the entryway. Her plan to teach
this wayward youngin’ a lesson foiled by cleverity (no, it’s not a word). Had I been less stew-y I would have booyah’d! all up in her face. Instead, I stormed in, I hope looking flawless, huffing, as she started in on me with, “You should have your
“DO NOT TALK TO ME GERTIE! I don’t want to hear ANYTHING you have to say. This is the WORST neighborly treatment I have ever received.” Neighborly treatment? Is that really the best I could come up with?
I almost never yell. I’m quite anti yelling in anger. But this crazy old goat got me yelling. Yes. Crazy. Old. Goat. I love old people. I love goats. I even love some crazy people. But I don’t love crazy old goat people. I hope I never become a crazy old goat so set in proving I’m right that I act like I’m constantly trying to headbutt people with my assholery, goaty beard strands swinging in the wind.
“Where’s YOUR KEY?
“I MISPLACED IT!”
I was yelling.
“How come none of you have your keys?! You all lose your keys? Sure! You think I”m crazy?”
Actually, yes, you crazy old goat. I don’t know who or what the fuck she was talking about and I don’t care. I am not “you guys,” I am the person who was standing outside with grocery bags trying to find my keys, getting super angry, as she banged on the window like a banshee, lecturing me and telling me to call the manager. I’ve never even misplaced my keys before!
“Gertie. I have a JOB. I have a lot of responsibilities. I am busy. SOMETIMES I MISPLACE THINGS. I have lived here for OVER A YEAR. YOU KNOW WHO I AM.” God, I really pulled the “I have a job” card. Who am I? Vicki Gunvalson?
“You should have YOUR KEY!”
“You KNOW I LIVE HERE! Do not EVER ask me for ANYTHING. EVER.”
Do not come to my house looking for an egg, sugar, an earthquake kit, or a rag to chew on as goats are wont to do…go ask somebody else, crazy old goat. All I got for you in this apartment are dead stares and no fucks. Look me in my face, I ain’t got no worriesFOR YOU.
I opened my door, walked in and slammed it with the force of Veruca Salt’s anger.
I cannot believe she let me stand outside the build, like a damn fool, just watching me and not helping. WHO DOES THAT?! I felt humiliated. Crazy old goat.
She continued muttering and bitching out in the hall, periodically moving closer to my door so I could get a good whiff of the shit she was spewing. I heard her
complain to a neighbor who must have passed by, “Keys..door..manager…I…crazy…”
Sometimes people misplace things. It happens with age. She should know.
She walked nearer to my door and complained into the air, “It’s like an insane asylum in here!”
This old bitch.
My keys were on the key rack under a sweater. In my attempts to straighten up, I hid my own damn keys.
I get a few days off from work next week and away from my apartment. I need it.
It occurs to me that she was just sitting at the bottom of the staircase when I got home. She didn’t appear to be doing anything. Was that crazy old goat just waiting to bleat at people about their keys? I’m now wondering if the Christmas decorations she puts up in the lobby every year are riddled nanny cams so she can spy on people coming in and out of the building, daring to have fun or forget their keys.
Damn crazy old goats.
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I just got off the phone with my dad. A 45-minute conversation.
Our conversation went something like this:
“I just tried calling you. Your voicemail box is full.”
“Oh, ok. Yeah, I never check it.”
“Someone might want to call you and leave you a message. Gotta check that.”
The only people who call me and leave messages are Walgreen’s pharmacy with an automated message letting me know that my prescription is ready. That’s it. So, not even a person.
“Ok, I will.”
Every conversation with my dad these days involves at least three themes: reminiscing about old times (and asking me if I remember them), commentary on current events & society (“Facebook is not an adequate means of communication. Your generation likes that. I don’t do that Facebook thing. Texting is not talking.”), and objections to the insane weather in Midwest, where he works.
He continued. Thoughts rolling out like waves. The only words I got in edgewise were:
“Uh, huh”, “Yeah,” “You’re right, dad,” “OK, dad,” “Oh, yeah, that is weird,” “I know I should go back to school and get my Master’s.”
With a college professor’s cadence, he touched on everything from the legacy he wants to leave in life, to explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to me (a concept with which, when he asked, I said I was familiar, but he explained it to me anyway), to how Seahawks’ Quarterback Russell Wilson got married “a tad too early” at 23. However, 49ers’ QB, Colin Kaepernick, can strut down the street with Beats headphones on and be a stud to women ’cause he’s single and therefore potentially attainable.
What is this conversation we are having?
I felt my inner teen threatening an appearance, eyes ready to roll all the way up in my head, familiar thoughts resurfacing in my head like, “God, dad! I’m not a kid, I knooooow!”
I hate that I regress like this. I’ll be 50 years old, eyes all the way up in my head, like I’m 13, thinking: “Daaad, I’ve been alive for 1/2 a century now. I know!”
Then he was told me about the shows that film in Chicago like Chicago Fire. Honestly, I was half listening; we were 25 minutes in. I have had a very
busy and stressful few weeks at work and had Ratatouille cued up because my brain couldn’t handle the mentally taxing reality of non-animated fare. I tried watching the latest episode of The Vampire Diariesthe night before and I couldn’t even follow the story; that’s how mentally exhausted I am. You know it’s a real “I need to metaphorically lobotomize myself” kind of weekend when even a teen drama about hot vampires is too much.
And then I heard him say, “My buddy and I saw, who’s that guy, from that movie…Magic…Magic ‘Something’…Mike…Magic Mike?”
“Magic Mike? CHANNING TATUM?!”
I wanted to squeal and church dance. My dad saw Channing Tatumin the flesh! I had so many questions. What did he look like? What was he wearing? I hope a tight blue t-shirt that made his eyes shine like the sun and did serious justice to his pecs. What did he smell like? Was he tall? Were there little singing blue birds trailing behind him? He’s so not my type. And yet…
How has my dad seen Channing Tatum and I haven’t?! That is why I moved to L.A.! To see hot male actors in the flesh! (Oh, you thought I had legit reasons?)
I didn’t squeal though. I kept it chill.
“Oh, him. Yeah, that’s cool.” I mean, ain’t no thing. OMFG! Channing Tatum! My friend, E, just saw him on her flight last month. Why is everyone seeing Channing Tatum but me?
“So, what are your thoughts, Keisha?”
Damn! In my Channing reverie I’d checked out and hadn’t realized he’d continued talking. In my fog, I recall hearing the words “cold,” “sub-zero,” and “damn heavy jackets.” I guessed the topic had shifted to the Midwest’s cold weather.
“Oh yeah, that’s really cold! We’ve actually been having an unusually warm winter here. It’s been like 65 and sunny. It’s actually…” I was going to say that we actually finally got some much-needed rain, but he interjected with:
“65. Ho ho! That’s like telling a starving man you had a buffet with steak! 65!! What’s the high?”
“Um, that is the high. It doesn’t get that hot here.” I laughed, but it’s actually not that funny. I’d like to wear shorts once in a while too, you know, and not have to worry about rushing home to change into pants before nightfall arrives and the temperature drops 20 degrees. Like I’m Cinderella or something, dashing home before she turns back into a fake ugly girl.
“65! I tell you….”
I could tell he was happy to be on the phone with me. He didn’t outright say that, of course. He’s not the type to skywrite his feelings or Oprah-ize, though he’s certainly become more sentimental with age. Jokes aside, I appreciate these conversations with him. They are endearing. Frustrating at times (and whose conversations with their parents sometimes aren’t?), but endearing. As I get older, I become more aware of my parent’s mortality and I value the time I have with them to get to know them as adults.
“…find someone you have things in common with. If you marry a slob and you’re neat, it’s not gonna work. Don’t believe in that ‘opposites attract’ business. You understand what I mean, Keisha?”
“Uh, huh. Yes, Dad. Often it’s those little quirks you think are ‘cute’ at first, that become the most annoying or tiresome.” See? I know things!
“Right. Speaking of dating: how’s that going?”
Did I say our conversations revolved around three themes? Well, make that four.
This is the third year that Jimmy Kimmel encouraged parents to torment their unsuspecting, innocent, sticky-fingered children by pretending the parents ate all the kids’ Halloween candy. These candy-nappers film the interaction as they break the news to their presumed beloved spawn. We, the adults, are expected to laugh at the pain these helpless tykes feel at the shocking and unexpected loss of their sugar haul.
“That’s not a very kind thing to doooooo,” one sweet boy wailed at his candy-napping parent.
No, kid, it’s not kind. It’s not funny. I feel your pain.
I grew up during the “How Halloween Candy is Killing Your Kids – Film at 11!”hysteria of the 80s. Panic-inducing reports warned concerned parents to check their kid’s Halloween candy collection for razors and other non-treat items. Nefarious derelicts were out to poison your children one tainted Snickers bar at a time, the news warned.
Dutifully, after trick-or-treating I’d turn over my hard-earned candy – hard-earned through amped up cuteness and that trick adults love: politeness; saying “please” and “thank you” – to my parents to inspect. Their turnaround time would be anywhere from 10-minutes to 72-hours. Those 72-hour Halloween seasons blew like exploding chunks of pumpkin.
“How could it possibly take so long to check candy for razors?” my young mind would wonder.
Some years, it seemed that when my parents returned my prized candy, the load was noticeably lighter. Um…didn’t I have more Now & Laters in this pail? Nah, I probably just thought I had more.
The last year I trick-or-treated, I was a sophomore in high school and did it sort of ironically – at least that’s what I’d tell anyone my age who might have caught me out. Truthfully, my younger sisters were going and I wanted free candy. Besides, most adults thought I looked like a middle-schooler anyway. May as well capitalize on my baby-faced appearance.
As always, when we returned home that evening, I handed over my sack of sucrose to my parents. “I’m 15, do I really need you to check my candy? I know what a razor looks like. And, anyway, I don’t know how you can tell if something is poisonous if it’s in a wrapper.”
Yeah, I was a little bit of a know-it-all.
My plea for adult responsibility via candy-checking didn’t work. Off to my parents my candy went.
The next afternoon, when I was reunited with my candy, I felt certain I’d been ripped off. I KNOW there were Sour Patch Kids in there. I don’t mess around with my Sour Patch Kids! I confronted my parents. I was on to them.
Like a woman from Snapped who slowly poisons her husband by adding small doses of arsenic to his morning coffee, my parents had been siphoning off more and more candy from my collection over the years. This had gone on for long enough. I did the leg work. I asked politely for candy and dressed up like a fool for the amusement of grown people. I wanted what I worked for!
“Parents, I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, but I’m pretty sure I’m missing some candy.”
“Oh…,” parental stammer,” well, your sister didn’t get as much candy as you did, so we gave some of yours to her.”
WHAT?! Again, I have to share? Man sometimes I miss when I was an only child. I worked for the candy and because the little ones didn’t hustle enough, I have to give up some of mine? This is crap!
“And we also took a few pieces. You don’t need to eat all that sugar.”
But, I worked for this! It’s mine! I earned it!
There was no point arguing with them. They were in charge. They made the rules. The candy was gone and trying to retrieve the misappropriated goods from my little sisters was like asking for a grounding. Sigh.
The following spring, I earned my very first paycheck from my first non-lemonade stand, non-babysitting, non-chores around the house, job. I’d calculated that at 16-hours a week and $4.25 an hour, a two-week paycheck would have me living in petit baller-land in no time.
I was horrified when I saw my net pay.
“What the hell is FICA and why is it taking my money?!”
I’d known about federal taxes, but what were all these other deductions? Why does the federal government need all this money from me? I’m only 16. I just want to be able to buy a tasty chicken fried steak lunch at school, maybe get some clothes and sit around at Starbuck’s, pretending to be intellectual while drinking coffee that isn’t going to stunt my growth because I’ve already accepted I’ll be 5’1″ forever.
Now I understood why adults were always whining about paying taxes. I worked 32 hours and it seemed like half of the time I worked went to the government. For what?! If this is how much I have to work just to get this piddly little check, I’m going to have to work forever!
The thing is though, I wasn’t actually that shocked. Sure, momentarily, the government raining on my first paycheck parade with its deductions, gave me pause. However, my parents Halloween-candy pilfering and redistribution of candy-wealth to my sisters had prepared me for this moment.
My parents taught me about the concept of the sharing the wealth through Halloween candy. My little sisters were quite content with their inflated candy stashes and my parents were right: I didn’t need all that candy anyway.
I feel for the kids whose parents pulled candy-thieving pranks on them. However, maybe they will learn something from this. Something other than, “sometimes mommy and daddy can be mean.” I still won’t take joy in their pain. Don’t be messing with people’s candy. The last time someone tried to steal my candy, bitch almost lost an arm.
Last year, while walking to lunch, a male co-worker and I got into one of our usual tiffs when I declared:
“I want a dooooooog!”
My interest in getting a dog had grown greater and greater over the years and deepened after I bonded with a stray in Costa Rica the year before.
He scoffed and threw me a pointed look, “You already have two cats. No guy is going to want to date a woman with two cats and a dog!”
I and my female co-worker (and close friend) gasped in disagreement. This was a common occurrence. Our male co-worker would nonchalantly drop a statement we’d find incendiary and a heated debate would ensue, often in the lunchroom, hilariously, with others joining in and sides forming along gender lines.
[Ex: One guy complains that women only want men with money. Another chimes in that he’s had to buy former girlfriends designer bags only to have them break up with him and then be out the cost of five-star dinners and Balenciaga bags. I say something like, “I don’t specifically look for a guy with money.”
Male: “Yeah, right. You guys want expensive dinners and gifts.”
“I like to travel. I want a guy who has money to travel so we can travel together. I am not interested in being anybody’s sugar mama. If I want a Balenciaga bag, I’ll buy it my damn self.”
The women would respond with a chorus of “Yeah! I bought my own Chanel bag!” or “I took myself to dinner at Bazaar!” or “I have my own money!”
The men would protest in disbelief. Ah, I miss those lunches.)
I sighed heavily with exasperation, “What? First of all, I’m not going to plan my life around what some nonexistent guy may or may not like. Second, I didn’t say I was going to get a dog. I just said I want one. I am not ready to own a dog right now. And what if I did get one? I wouldn’t want to date some guy who would dismiss me because of my pets!”
He looked dubious. “Ha! I don’t know what guy would be like ‘She has two cats and a dog, cool!’ Most guys will just think you’re weird. It’s bad enough you have two cats.”
I rolled my eyes. “I said ‘I am NOT GETTING A DOG!'”
It’s “bad enough I have two cats?” Nobody asked you, bruh.
He’s not the only one who feels that way though. The “crazy cat lady” cliche has survived for decades, to torment innocent single women who’ve committed no greater crime than taking in a feline or two. I almost have to choke out, “Yeah, I have two cats,” when someone asks if I have pets these days. I have noticed some visibly wince or wrinkle their nose with distaste at my response. “Oh! That’s…nice,” they’ll say falsely as if I missed their judgy-faced expression. I secretly want to add, “But, I’m only temporarily single! I have had boyfriends before! I am not a ‘cat lady!’ Don’t judge me.”
What is with the species-est attitude against cats? They are perfectly fine animals. The Egyptians knew what was up. They revered cats.
Enter many Chinese novelty shops or restaurants and you’ll likely see at least one small statue of the good luck kitty with the raised and sometimes, waving hand.
Cats are cool. There’s nothing inherently crazy about owning a cat and having XX chromosomes.
You know who does seem crazy sometimes though? Dog owners!
Let me tell you about (some) dog owners and their quirks. Here is just a sampling of the oddities dog owners get up to:
1. Dress their dog up in silly costumes
Why don’t you dress yourself up as an alligator or 3-headed alien? I have never put clothing on my animals. I don’t think my cats would be amused to be dressed up like a pumKitty on Halloween or SantyCat on Christmas. How undignified! And if it’s true that owners become like their pets and vice versa: my cat can give major side-eye. You don’t want to be side-eyed by a cat. That look says, “I’m coming for your face with my claws, bitch!”
2. Push their dog around in a stroller
The hell? The dog is made to walk, sans shoes, padding already built in. You push your dog around?! You just got served! By your dog!
Related to that:
3. Carry their dog around a purse
I can’t. I really can’t.
4. Bring their dog everywhere
Are you so co-dependent on Virginia Woof that you can’t leave her at home when you go to a restaurant, the beauty salon, the bank or the therapist’s office because you need her there for moral support? (I don’t know actually know if that happens, but I’m 75% sure some Tupperware-faced lonely housewife in Beverly Hills has done this at least once.)
5. Take their dog to dog socializing events
Not for the people to socialize. Haha, that would be absurd! No, this is for the dog to engage it’s social skills. There are dog parks, dog play-dates, dog hotels, doggy daycare, and dog agility camps. The dog probably has a better social life than the owner.
6. Claim their dog is vegetarian
I’m sorry did you mean to buy a rabbit? Dogs are DOGS. They eat meat. In the wild, many of them are skilled hunters. They hunt other mammals. Our sharp teeth that we use to bite through tough things? Those are called “canines” for a reason. Put a hunk of beef on the floor next to a bowl of carrots and grains. Which do you think Sir Barks A Lot is going to make a run for? It sure as hell won’t be those damn bunny stalks.
7. Moon over their dog, some even claiming their dog is their best friend
Do you know how crazily people would look at me if I said my cat was my best friend? People would be whispering, “No wonder that chick is single!” However, it is seen as quite acceptable for a person to say their dog is their BFF, ace boon, road dog, ride or die bitch.
Some dog owners will blather on for days about how talented their dog is. “Waggy Simpson can sit!” Big deal, my cat can leap buildings without breaking a pant. Now, that is some impressive shit!
I almost never talk about my cats unless prompted and even then it’s usually in a sardonic way: “Does anyone want my bitchy scaredy-cat? That dumb cat had the nerve to hiss at me for trying to feed her. I’ll put her ungrateful catass out like Dino!”
8. Walk their dog according to the dog’s schedule
I know my neighbors’ dog walking schedule. Twice a day, morning and evening, their demanding barky mini-dogs who snort like pigs, get walked.
Some people have to plan their day around their dog’s schedule. Or they leave places early to go walk their dog. Sorry you missed it when President Obama walked into the bar at my birthday party and karaoked to 2 Chainz’ “Birthday Song” (“It’s your Birthday/It’s Your Birthday!/Bad bitch contest you in first place!”). I hope Arf Garfurkel enjoyed his midnight walk.
Hey guess what trick my cats can do? They walk themselves! They have litter boxes; they know how to use ’em. I will come and go as I please.
9. Pay astronomical amounts to groom and primp their dog
Some people even take their dogs to acupuncture!
Actually, I have to admit: I saw a poodle dyed orange and black last year when the Giants were in the World Series. It was cute. But still, really? Does Pug ‘n’ Whistle really need her nails polished? That is like some Kim Kardashian “everything in my house must be white” level of foolishness. (Please don’t ask me how I know that bit of information.)
Now, read the above list and tell me who is “crazy”?
I have never made food for my cats. How about some of you dog owners? Mmhmm. Buying special raw meat for L’il L’il Bow Wow. I see you.
Where’s the “crazy dog lady” stereotype?
I actually love dogs. My boss brought her dog to work one day last week and all my professional composure went out the window.
Which brings me to the fallacy of the “dog or cat person” bifurcation. It’s silly. I can only like cats or dogs? Well guess what? I like both! They are entirely different species, a different genus. It’s like asking if I prefer chimps or humans. Of course, the answer is chimps. At least they know how to respect their elders.
Then again I’m also neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m an ambivert. I’m also ambidextrous. Unfortunately, I am not bisexual. I feel like dating women would be much easier than dating men. I think I’d be into feminine girls, so if I found someone my size, I could wear her clothes. Double the wardrobe! Anyhow, maybe I am unusual in not having a strong preference for cats or dogs over the other.
You may wonder why I have two cats. It’s not because I want to begin a life of cat hoarding. When I used to aspire to be on TV, it wasn’t to be looking all wild-faced, with cats prancing all over my malodorous-looking home, showcased on A&E. It creeps me out seeing hordes of cats together. I shuddered just writing that. That’s disgusting.
Contrary to popular belief, some cats are social and my Maine Coon is one of them. For the first four years I had him, I lived with roommates who had their own cats. He loved playing with them and asserting himself as the alpha kitty. I enjoyed this, as well. I don’t want any weak pets.
When I started living alone, I felt guilty leaving him home by himself all day, so I got the second one. She is absolutely useless to me, but she does keep him company and lets him be in charge. So, she stays. For now. Which I’ve been saying for 7 years now. Damn bitchy cat.
People who don’t understand cats often make assumptions based on stereotypes or brief negative exposure to one mean cat:
“That cat I ran into in the street while it was eating tried to attack me! Cats are evil.”
“Once when I was little, I pulled our family cat’s tail and she bit me. Cats are mean!”
“Cats don’t show love. When I try to squeeze my friend’s cat with a love hug, the cat yelps and runs away!”
“Cats are too independent. [I am needy.]”
Well, when I was a kid I saw Cujo – the movie about the rabid dog that tries to kill its’ owners – it terrified me. Not too long after, I encountered a snarling, drooling German Shepherd that chased me down the streets of Brooklyn for blocks as I pumped my little legs as fast as I could on my bike. I was scared to death of dogs for ages! I thought dogs were vicious animals ready to attack unsuspecting little girls. Thankfully I eventually got over that and learned many dogs are really sweet. Also, rabies shots are legit!
There are weird cat owners, just as there are weird dogs owners. Nobody has the “crazy” pet-owner market owned except maybe those animal hoarders. Who lets a house full of animals shit all over their place? The hoarders aside, let cat owners be. Not every single woman who owns a cat has got the crazy eyes. Dog owners can be just as nuts as cat owners.
It’s always funny to me how, when catching up with friends, they’ll sometimes ask “So, how are the kitties?”
The answer is always a (thankfully) boring, “Oh, they’re good. Healthy.” But, why do we ask about each other’s pets? They are very simple creatures. They eat, drink, play, sleep, whine to eat more, shed, and find the only rug in a hardwood-floored apartment to vomit on because vomiting on the floor would make things easier for me to clean, and repeat.
Do we expect the answer will be something like this?
Fluffy RaccoonTail is busy hatching his plan to take down the internet’s latest cat darling, Colonel Meow. The Colonel’s arrogance and perma-sneer offends him. Also, like me, he likes to give back. So he’s set up a nonprofit to provide birdwatching opportunities for disadvantaged indoor cats with nothing better to watch out their windows except large dogs that are beneath them as a species and that, like fools with no damn sense, do everything humans tell them and silly humans carrying no food whom are therefore useless. He’s getting push-back from the bird lobby on his birding nonprofit. He says, they’re whining that “cats kill birds and shit.” Boo hoo, he says. I don’t know where he gets this attitude from. He is brilliant and the secondary income he brings in allows me to afford to eat in this city, since rent consumes all of my pay.
Bitchy VonScaredy-Cat has regressed further into bitchery and lame-assedness since the move from L.A. She’s actively working with her therapist to get the hell over herself. She’s decorated her bedroom, a cozy spot far under my bed, with furballs and dust. She hopes one day I will stop torturing her by trying to love her and clean her since the vet told me she’s too stupid to clean herself properly.
We are all very well, thanks for asking. One of my cats is awesome. Do you want the other one?
I was IMing with a co-worker last week about the absurdity of business jargon. How ridiculous is business-speak? I envision that somewhere there is a committee of Seth Rogan-types who secretly hate their jobs and sit around in a slacker lair inventing dumb shit for business people to say. Stuff that will secretly crack them up when they hear the words repeated. I remember when I started my first big girl business job. I’d hear people speak in a seemingly foreign language and I wanted to quit. It was Office Space: Live!
(sidenote: OMG you guys, a co-worker and I IM’d about non-work stuff, this is such progress in the work friendship department. This deserves Rachel Zoe levels of excitement: This is so “major!” )
10 laughable business terms
1. Putting Out Fires
Usually said by a self-important middle-manager as she/he runs around spreading her/his frenetic energy to everyone else. “People, we have fires to put out!” *Yawn* Call a damn fireman then! Why are you talking to me about it? Keep your stress ball to yourself and get back to me when there’s an actual fire. My hair might be flammable.
2. I don’t have the bandwidth for that
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto. You are a machine right? That’s why you’re talking about your bandwidth? You got a panel on your back we need to open to increase your bandwidth? Do you know Vicky from Small Wonder? I have always wanted to meet her. She wore prairie dresses like nobody’s business.
3. Circle Back
It means to um, I think, like, revisit something? Oh who cares! You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna make a circle all right, a circle around a bar as I get multiple rounds of beer ‘til I get so drunk I walk in an arc. Yeah, circle baaa – I’m so wasted. Heeeeeeee!
4. Think Outside the Box
How long have we been saying this now? I think everyone is outside of the stupid box. That box is probably skanky as hell now. All kinds of germs and shit. People passing the flu back and forth to each other. Gross. Now, who’s gonna be different climb right back in? That’s a real trailblazer. Enjoy the box. Looooove the box. Empower yourself to circle back to the box.
5. Let’s Touch Base
Is there a reason business people never reference things actually related to business? How about “hey, come to my cubicle where everyone can see and hear our business! Good times, man, good times!” In business, we “touch base”, we are cool like baseball players. But, no. You sir, are no Sammy Sosa, weird-looking face notwithstanding.
6. On the radar screen
Again! You are not a pilot. You do not work for the FAA. You’re not directing air traffic. You’re not flying anywhere, but I do secretly think you like to get high. So high. I see it in your eyes when you talk about putting out fires. You really wanna blaze it up! Give in to your inner smokey!
7. Let’s “parking lot” this discussion
Great, I’m out. Dueces! Peace out, suckas! Oh, you mean we can’t go home? Say what, now? “parking lot it” means to discuss it later? %)*%#)^&_)&%^@!
8. Let’s drill-down to the fine points.
I like to drill. Actually I love Home Depot. The place is amazing. Did you know you can buy toilet seat covers there? Like with cute little duckies on them and everything?
9. Utilize / Incentivize
Stop. Just stop. Stop making up words, biz. You don’t need to “utilize” anything. You can use it. You may have used it. It may be even be useful. You should find a way to incent yourself to stop using the worlds “utilize” and “incentivize.”
I used to love getting mail. Remember back when the internet only existed in secrecy and you had to physically write letters to people? In junior high I had a French penpal. We’d write back and forth practicing our kindergarten-level language skills. My letters to her probably translated to something like:
“Hello, my French friend. How are you? I am teenager. It’s not fun as think. Have zits. How say zits in French? Zeut alors! Do go to discotechques? You are amiable. Texas hot. Thanks. Write back now.”
I loved getting letters back from her. But, really I loved getting anything in the mail. I would write to companies for information, just so I could get mail. It seemed wondrous to get return mail back from exotic places like Pueblo, CO. On Saturdays, I eagerly awaited the mailman’s arrival, with the enthusiasm of a wagging dog tail. He was a man who made things happen. One day my parents decided to put an end to my mail obsession. They forbid me and my sisters from checking the mail. They may as well have just told me that George Michael and I would never be. I refused to hear this! That was the beginning of me thinking my parents were spies in the CIA. Of course I couldn’t check the mail, I might intercept one of their top secret government letters.
Today I hate the mail. Let’s take a look at some of the mail I receive now.
Victoria’s Secret Catalogs
These are eight catalogs I’ve received from Victoria’s Secret in the last two months. This photo doesn’t even capture the ones I threw away on sight in disgust at them flaunting their tree-hating ways. Just how many pairs of boobs does Victoria’s Secret think I have? And while my ass is biggish, I’ve managed to get by with only wearing one pair of underwear at a time for years. So, what’s up with all the catalogs? Are they trying to keep the paper industry in business? Are they determined to have every American female wear pants with writing on the butt?
Never Forget: You are Not a Woman, You Are a Vessel
I’ve received a couple of these wonderful, no pressure, informational leaflets from my insurance company, Blue Cross:
How come no one told me I’m pregnant? The last time I visited the lady doctor, did she check for everything but the baby?! I’ve been tossing back shots like spring break in Mexico on the regular. My poor, unacknowledged, drunken fetus. Or could it be that I’m not pregnant? That my health insurance company is profiling me? “Ah, see, a woman in her 30s, let’s baby mail bomb her! Surely someone will be sticking a bun in her oven soon! And it’s springtime! Who doesn’t want to get pregnant in the spring?” What if I don’t want to have kids? What if I can’t have kids?
Look, Blue Cross, get out of my uterus! A single woman of a certain age gets enough baby pressure as is: parents; my general practitioner; anytime US Weekly has a sad photo of Jennifer Aniston and her “baby woes” on the cover; a random prescient homeless woman (“Gurl, you gotta get knocked up soon! Yo’ eggs gon’ dry up!” Ok, maybe that last bit never happened, but you get my point.). I don’t need pressure delivered by snail mail. I get it. My eggs are feeling useless and weeping. Once a month as another is released, the others cheer it on, “Get it girl, get fertilized, this is your time!” Then as the egg passes on into the ether, the rest fall into a deep depression. I don’t think they understand exactly how things work in that area. Can I get Prozac just for my eggs?
Then there are the bills, the bills and the bills. Destiny’s Child had it right: “Can you pay my bills? Maybe then we can chill.” ‘Cause I’m sick of looking at the damn things. Time Warner, your internet service is subpar. Can I just pay you what I I think you’re worth? Here’s two dollars.
Everyone Should be a Teen Mom!
My latest mailman is definitely not the man of my dreams. The mailbox at my current apartment is super small. A mailbox fit for an ewok. I can’t even fit packages of illegal drugs in there. There goes that side business. As a result, he’d taken to sticking my US Weeklys in the mailbin. [Yes, I have a subscription to US Weekly. Don’t wrinkle your intellectually snooty nose at me. I think for a living. My brain needs a vacation from time to time.] The mailbin where any shifty Teen Mom-obsessed nutcase can steal them, and steal them they have. I missed out on seeing the photos of Kim Kardashian’s latest giant-ass stunt with Kanye because of my mailman. We gon’ fight, dude.
I may or may not have sent some goons (that word doesn’t enough love these days) to his house to help him see the light. My US Weeklys are now being safely deposited in my mailbox. Never again will I have to live in fear that I will answer “I don’t know” when asked what’s going on with The Bachelor behind the scenes, because even though I don’t watch that maddening show, US keeps me in-the-know.
Between the the tree-killers, the shame leaflets, the bills and the magazine kidnapping, I’ve lost a lot of love for the mail and subsequently my love affair with the mailman came to an end. I appreciate the job mail carriers do. I really do. But, rarely do they bring me good news. One day I’d love to check my mail and find a bag of Popeye’s chicken, courtesy of a fine-ass male, mail carrier. Until that day comes, me and the mail carriers are like ketchup and lays chips – we don’t belong together (I’m looking at you, Canada).
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.