Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Too Ditzy for Jet Lag.

When planning my activities this month, I craftily set myself up for an 8 a.m. weekend volunteering stint just after having gotten back from six days in Hawaii.

"I figured I'd be up early anyway," I reasoned. It had to be explained to me that since Hawaii runs three hours earlier than California, that what I had done actually made no sense. "It actually feels worse for you to be getting up early on the West Coast now," I was told. "It would feel like five in the morning to you." Gee, that explains the two-hour nap I took today, after flying in from O'ahu last night. I wondered why I was so tired!

I have a degree from a very respectable university and most of the time seem like a perfectly intelligent human being. But certain areas, such as time zones, turn me into a complete mouth-breather. The whole of geography and spatial relations is a realm of mystery.

One of our companions in Hawaii happened to be a former coworker of mine at a news Web site. At one point he lamented the stunning mistakes that some of his colleagues make these days.

"Remember that news quiz they used to give to job candidates?" he said to me. "I don't know what happened to that. These are people who couldn't pick out Kuala Lumpur on a map!" He said this with earnest incredulity.

I let that sit for a moment before coming clean. "They never gave me that quiz," I said. "I got hired before they instituted it." I was having a good day and happened to know that Kuala Lumpur was in Malaysia, but if you ask me where Malayasia is on a map, there's a chance I'd point to Tibet. Or maybe Mexico.

"I would have failed that test, and I was the world editor at one point," I confessed. Our friend politely ignored me and continued to critique his coworkers.

There must be something adaptive about the fact that my brain cannot process which way east is, but can still sing a Pop Tarts commercial from 1987. I'm not sure what that adaptive quality is, but I'm open to ideas.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Read on an Empty Stomach.

Just when I think I've dealt with every annoying skin problem you can have, I acquire things that I've never even heard of.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that there was a bump on my eyelid. "Weird," I thought. I figured it would go away.

But there it stubbornly sat, a miniature eye-igloo camping out on my lid, ready for all weather. It wasn't going anywhere. In fact, it was getting bigger.

The bump looked suspiciously like that of a work colleague who had been complaining about a thing on his eye that looked... exactly the same, come to think of it. I mentally ran through his comments as I inspected mine in the mirror: "I've had it for MONTHS," he had said. "My doctor isn't doing anything for it... I just want it to go away... Nothing works!"

Later that week I saw him for a post-work event. I had already decided that I would pull him aside at some point and ask him more about his eye, but that tonight would not be the proper context. I carefully put neutral eyeshadow over the eyelid boil. "There," I thought. "I didn't make it disappear, but at least it's not immediately noticeable."

"YOU HAVE ONE TOO!" was the first thing he said when he got a good look at me. "Oh my God. I feel responsible. Did you get this from me?" I reassured him that I didn't think so. "We can start a band and call ourselves the Eyesores," I said with an effort at blitheness, as two other attendees of the event edged away from us and began their own conversation.

After forever, it was time to go to the doctor.

My advice to everyone with eyes would be, if someone offers you a chalazion, say no thank you. Do not get one. They are heinous-looking, uncomfortable and stubborn.

A chalazion, in case you aren't familiar, is a fancy word for what two health care professionals separately described to me as "an eye zit."

Hearing a chalazion likened to a zit made everything come together for me. My face has spent its entire lifespan in the service of whiteheads, blackheads, enlarged pores and mysterious rashes. Managing to get a disfiguring zit on my eye was a new milestone of acne achievement. I thought coldly of the days in my teens when I looked forward to being an adult, imagining then that emergence from puberty would mean freedom from skin problems. Oh how wrong I was.

"You have two choices," the doctor told me. "Usually these go away within a few months, so you can wait. Or, you can come back and have it lanced."

A few months? "Lance it," I said, trying not to think of knights' weapons and the dragon perched on my eyelid.

I don't know why I thought that the lancing would be an easy-peasy experience. It involves a blade and one's EYE. But I thought hey, they're just popping an eye zit. How bad can it be?

Bad enough that I got nauseous in the chair. Bad enough that I ended up in the lobby unable to do anything but cry on the phone to my mommy until I was in good enough shape to drive myself home. Bad enough that it didn't heal fully for another 10 days.

Now I am chalazion-free and my eyelid is enjoying a freedom that it never knew to appreciate before. Before the chalazion, I never thought to look in the mirror and say, "Boy, I sure am glad I don't have a boil on my eye." Now, I know better.

I don't know that I'd call this a cautionary tale, or a sob story, or really anything other than an opportunity to give anyone who reads this a laugh at my expense in a week that is drenched in inexplicable violence and sadness.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Baby Growing Up.

On a recent Sunday, I was wandering with two friends in the Penn bookstore after a weekend reunion of my college a cappella group. "Who do you think is the most improved?" I asked. "You mean as a singer, or as a person?" one of them said. "As a person," I said.

Unlike many of the times I ask a question like that, this time I had no particular answer in mind. Neither, as it turned out, did my friends.

"I don't know. They all seem, fuckin', the same," said G., who is now a musician in L.A. and still has crazy dyed hair despite being a married dad. "Yeah," said the other G., who is still irrepressible, smart, good-looking and an incurable yet harmless letch, despite also being a married dad.

There was silence. "[Name redacted] is better," someone offered. "THAT is true," I agreed. "Was he really that bad?" one G. said. We debated that for awhile.

Here's the point: No one had really changed, as far as anyone could tell. Which can't be true, because that means I haven't changed either, which is unacceptable. Aren't I more polished, sage and at ease with myself than 10-plus years ago, when our reunions did not involve hotel meeting rooms with placards out front and kids running among the tables?

Come to think of it, no.

I was telling my sister about the fact that no one from college had changed. "Did you expect that they would?" she asked. I guess I had. I guess somewhere in my subconscious, I assumed that getting married and building careers and having children and facing 40 turned you into a different person along the way. Maybe it does, in some respects, but why did I expect the change to be immediately detectable, like a hand-stamp or a third eye?

The weekend had me ruminating a lot on the strangeness of getting older. But, turning my youth-challenged frown upside down, I decided to list some positives:

  • You don't know, or don't care (as much), when people are talking trash about you.

  • You and most of your friends have outgrown the need to nitpick restaurant choices or bill-splitting techniques.

  • You can pick the people you live with, and where.

  • You can have whatever you want for whatever meal, whatever time.

  • No futons. No fake IDs. No internships.

    That's all I can think of so far. If you have others, please post them.