Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dance Fever

There are a number of things that come up during the course of planning a wedding that lead you to do and say things you might never do or say under normal circumstances.  For instance, I never thought I'd hear my fiance, T, say the words, "Absolutely not. I hate that FONT." Nor did I ever think I would be letting a strange woman stuff my bra (while telling me just how small my chest is) in front of my mother and my niece.  And not since the day that, as a chubby six year old, I ripped off my sequin-embellished top hat, threw that hot pink feather boa on the floor and stomped off the stage before the curtain even opened, did I think I would be taking dance lessons ever again. However, this is the nature of the year that leads up to the biggest day of your life.

Some time ago T and I took on the arduous task of picking out what would be our first dance song.  As two music lovers, this was no easy undertaking, but after hours of arguing in front of iTunes, we settled upon the perfect song.  A song that has meaning to both of us, that speaks to our relationship and will probably be forgotten by everyone who attends our wedding while we're still on our honeymoon.  After listening to it a few times, we gave each other a look that said, "Sure we can dance to this, let's give it a try."  Shoving the coffee table out of the way and turning up the speakers we took our first spin around the apartment.

For the first few measures we kind of stood there, stared at each other and we each did a little Oompa Loompa knee bend.  Watching T carefully, since he is the better dancer, I tried unsuccessfully to emulate the up and down bop to the beat.  Without saying a word we knew it was time to try and come together and dance like a real couple.  Over the next minute I basically let T swing me around the 4' x 4' space we had cleared in the apartment, trying desperately to move my feet in any sort of way that made sense.  When the song really picked up he spun me around and I did my best not to fall.  Then, subconsciously we both retreated to our old standby dance moves.  Mine consists of me throwing my hands straight up in the air and swinging my head back and forth to give whoever's watching a glimpse of how shiny and long it is.  T usually begins his snapping his fingers and doing his sexy-back hip swing which looks so good that it draws the attention away from my signature head flail and manages to make me look half decent since I'm dancing with him.  By this point I was really excited, so I backed up for a running start, went full steam ahead and yelled, "Dirty Dancing Lift!".  T did his best to stop me from taking both of us down as I jumped into his arms, then he settled me back onto solid ground, rubbed his back and said, "Dance Lessons."

So when we hit the milestone mark of one month until the big day, we decided it was time to call up Manhattan's premier wedding dance studio and clean up the Oompa-Loompa-Hair-Flail-Hip-Swing-Try-Not-To-Get-Break-A-Leg-Lift combination we had pieced together.  By the time the clock struck six we were safely inside the dance studio with our instructor, A.  A is about my size, maybe a year or two older than us and lightyears more poised than either of us will ever hope to be.  She put on our song, grabbed one of my hands, placed her other hand firmly around my waist, and threw me around the floor while I laughed, stumbled and said, "Oh no. I can not do this."  Next up was T who caught right on and twirled A around like they'd been dancing together for years.  Immediately, my competitive side kicked in and steam was all but pouring out of my ears the minute T chimed in to try and help me find the rhythm of the song.  

I thought about the time T's dad mopped the dance floor with me at his cousin's wedding and about all of the times I've had to grab onto a wall for balance and just shake my butt while out dancing late night.  As these moments flashed through my head, my resolve set in and I put on my serious face.  I watched A's feet, hung onto her every word and repeated over and over in my head, "One Two Quick-Quick, One Two Quick-Quick.  Before I knew it I had the basics down and had almost managed to move my hips.  Almost.  

Over the next five days, whenever T walked in the house, I had him practicing with me before he could even take off his coat.  Thanks to my stay-at-home status I was also able to practice in front of our bedroom mirror every day, making sure to shut the blinds because I would do so in my pre-wedding, stay-at-home uniform which consists of my new satin Prada d'orsay pumps and my new honeymoon bikini.  I like to wear these around the house a) to serve as a reminder to stay away from chocolate/wine/ice cream and b) because I love wearing those effing fabulous shoes and need to break them in for the big day.

After trudging out of the house, sick with a sinus infection and cranky, we arrived at the dance studio last night for lesson # 2 and showed A our stuff.  "You HAVE been practicing!" she exclaimed and that was all the validation I needed.  Now I have just one week to go to manage that new spin move she taught us without tripping over my own feet or getting flung into our wedding cake.  I've let my competitiveness subside and actually listen to T when he offers up his expert advice and I can't tell you how good it felt when he said, "Baby, I actually saw you moving your hips!".  

I now have a new appreciation for dancing with the stars and dreams of one day appearing in a Britney video.  I'm already signing us up for a post-honeymoon dance class and have the unexplainable urge to tell everyone I come across, "I found rhythm."  The truth is, when it's all over and we're back from our honeymoon, fat, happy and having spent two weeks on our asses, I'll probably fall right back into the hair-swing-head-flail and just sit back and let T make me look good.  I'll be happy enough just having the memory and the video tape of the day UnPlain Jane danced like 200 people were watching.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tits, Ass or Tears

Just a few short months ago, after carelessly leaving my wallet in a cab, I received a call from Commerce Bank letting me know that they had the gentleman who had found my wallet on the other line.  They connected me to the good samaritan and the following Monday morning I met him in front of his office, handed him a bank gift card to thank him and headed on my merry way with my wallet safely back in my hands.  Walking down the street, I carefully cataloged my belongings and to my surprise, they were all in there.  My ID, seven dollars, credit cards, a check for $554 that I had already endorsed and my beloved Sephora Beauty Insider card were each safely in their place.  For the next few weeks I ran around town praising the good nature of my fellow New Yorkers and humanity as a whole.

Cut to Wednesday.  It's exactly one month before our wedding and I'm meeting "T" at Ripley Studios for our first wedding dance lesson.  Having just guzzled a double cappuccino at a meeting half an hour earlier, I immediately headed for the bathroom.  As usual, I was carrying more than I could handle.  My purse, containing our just-picked-up-and-not-yet-insured wedding bands; a tote, containing "the perfect" dance lesson outfit I spent an hour picking out; my giant puffy coat and my most prized possession, my blackberry (aka: my entire life).  After changing and a quick pee, I dragged all of my things over to the sink to wash my hands.  I rested my blackberry on the counter and made sure to keep a careful eye on the purse that was squeezed between my knees because I was filled with fear that if I took my eyes off of it for half a second, it would be gone and, with it, our wedding bands.  Turning my head to grab some paper towels, my eyes left my blackberry for what couldn't have been more than 5 seconds and when I turned back, it was gone.  F-ck Humanity.
In disbelief, I began searching through my bags.  There I was, on all fours on the bathroom floor on the verge of hysterics, shouting into the stalls asking if anyone had seen a blackberry.  After fashioning gloves out of paper towels, I took the cover off of the garbage can and started digging through it, fighting the urge to gag and convinced that I must have dropped it in there or something because people just don't take things like that, do they?  When one of the girls in the bathroom offered to call my phone for me, it went straight to voicemail.  Sh-t, F-ck, Sh-t.  Who would do this?  I went so far as to patiently wait outside one of the stalls while some poor girl tried to stifle a violent "number two" with coughs and courtesy flushes.  I apologized when she was done, but for the love of god, I had to check in there for my Blackberry.  I had no choice.

Still unconvinced that someone would actually steal my blackberry right out from under me, I headed over to the front desk where I was informed that no one had turned anything in.  In tears, I looked up and saw that "T" had arrived.  The first thing out of his mouth was, "I've been trying to call you."  "Someone stole my Blaaaaaackbeeeeeeerrrry!" I whined and before he could offer me any consolation I continued with, "What am I gonna do! My WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE is in there! Who would do something like this?!"   Luckily for "T" our dance lesson was beginning so I had to suck it up and stumble my way through our wedding song, already in a bad mood and now seething because my competitive side can't handle that he's a better dancer than I am.  I continued acting "mature" the whole ride home including tossing out a "You don't understand!" in the cab; stomping away and once again breaking into tears when we arrived at the already-closed T-mobile store; and actually kicking my building before rounding the corner so the doorman wouldn't witness my tantrum.  I ended the rage with a good old fashion wall-punch-throw-my-purse-as-hard-as-I-can-on-the-floor combination the minute we walked in the door.  

As is my usual MO, the next morning I was done with my rant and ready to spring into action.  I gave "T" my standard, post-tantrum apology and thanks, then decided I was going to get a new Blackberry at a discount if it killed me.  Having visiting plenty of T-Mobile stores thanks to a long history of breaking Blackberries, I was familiar with the stereotypical wireless sales worker, so I thought my best bet was to a) shake what my momma gave me and b) bring cash.  Getting ready to go get mine I put on an outfit that was not classy, nor stylish, but perfect for the occasion: The tightest jeans I own and a loooow cut shirt that barely hid the cleavage I had fashioned out of my favorite push up bra and a pair of "chicken cutlet" inserts that I keep in my underwear drawer in a plastic bag labeled "Jane's Boobs".  I topped it off with high boots, the shiniest lip gloss I own and with "T" in agreement, left my engagement ring at home.  On my way to the store, I stopped at the ATM and took out $200 because, just in case my feminine wiles didn't work, I would offer to "pay cash" and "throw in a little extra".

The times they are a changing, because when I walked into my local T-Mobile I was greeted with a plain looking young lady and her manager, a gay man.  I didn't even bother taking off my coat because clearly giving either of them a gander at "the girls" wasn't going to get me anywhere. Time for Plan B. She asked me the usual questions and I informed her that no, I do not have insurance and yes, I just extended my contract two weeks ago so I could get the discount price when my Blackberry broke in Vegas.  She politely informed me that, unfortunately, I was going to have to pay the full $350 price tag for a replacement device. With her manager hovering over, I knew I wasn't going to have the opportunity to invoke Plan B and try to grease her, so I did what came naturally and broke into tears.  Again.  Within five minutes she had me on the phone with T Mobile corporate, where between sniffles I told my sob story to Bob, my friendly customer service representative.  Ten minutes after that I was armed with a new SIM card, a loaner phone and the knowledge that my replacement Blackberry was in the mail for the bargain discount price of $150.  

I thanked Shonda and Miguel profusely, apologized for crying in their store and asked where I could call to sing their praises to the higher ups at T-Mobile.  After walking out the door, I immediately dialed "T" and informed him of the situation.  As usual, after I break down, throw a fit and then spring into action, I try to take whatever just happened and learn something from it. This time around I learned a few things.  First, there are lots of bad people in this world that will take advantage of your mistakes;  Second, even though there are lots of bad people out there, there are definitely more good people than bad; and finally, perhaps the most important lesson of them all, where tits and ass don't work, tears do.  That's one you can take to the bank.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Afternoon at Unemployment Land: The Most Miserable Place on Earth

It came in the mail a week ago.  It was bright orange, as foreboding as a piece of paper can be and instructed me to report to the unemployment office for career counseling on Tuesday, December 2 at 2:30pm.  I believe my exact reaction was "F-ck", but I'm not 100% sure because I was immediately distracted by the questionnaire I had to fill out.

Do you have a resume?  Yes.
Do you need help obtaining a GED? No.
Is English your second language? No.

If these questions were any sort of precursor to the afternoon I was in for, surely this would not be time well spent.

Mustering up the most positive attitude I possibly could, I headed downtown thinking that I would at least have the exciting opportunity to watch our city's government at work.  When I entered the building and checked in at the visitor's desk, I started to feel a little down on myself. Maybe it was because as soon as I said I was going to the 7th Floor, the man behind the desk yelled, "Oh, You're Going to Your Unemployment Today!!".  Yes. Thank you sir and thank you for announcing it to all the well-dressed, good looking people who are getting off the elevator on 4, not 7.  Even the landscaper-esque man standing next to me, who I was sure was riding to the same floor as me, got off on 4.  So there I stood, the last man standing on an elevator headed to the saddest floor of any building I've ever been in.

When I got off the elevator, I was anything but alone and the jovial, Will-Smith-Circa-The-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air-Wanna-Be security guard let me know it.  He cracked jokes, was louder than my mom and her sisters after a few glasses of wine, and commented to one of his colleagues about us, the unemployed, saying "if I don't keep them in line, they start fightin'!"   I'm sorry, I didn't know that I, the girl who oh so politely asked him if he could point me in the direction of the ladies room just a minute before that, posed the threat of violence as I took my place in line. At the first checkpoint, my ID was checked and I was herded onto another line a little further into the room.  This was my opportunity to finally get a look at the cast of characters who were now my peers.  I expected the crowd to resemble the crowd at my local OTB, but was greeted with a mixed bag of people that was mostly comprised of professionals.  In fact, it was fairly easy to discern who was unemployed vs. who worked at the unemployment office, because we, the unemployed, were dressed better and more full of life.

When I reached the second checkpoint, I was greeted by a man so old that not only shouldn't he be working, but he shouldn't have been alive.  He was less a man and more the tiny, pale skeleton of a man who has had the life sucked out of him by 100 years of working check-in on the unemployment line.  He used all the strength he had to staple my paperwork together and tell me to take a seat amongst the blank faces waiting behind him.  I took note of his outfit and would later find out that all of the employees in the office shared his fashion sense and wore what I've decided to call the "Unemployment Workers Uniform."  It consists of a hideous tweed jacket, a mock turtle neck that's seen the washing machine one too many times, a pair of pants that are too big and a large, ugly accessory (his was a pinky ring, others donned brooches, hats, and velvet flowers).  I'm just amazed that so many people could wake up in the morning, peek in their closet and think, "This is the Perfect Ensemble!".

After sitting for about five minutes, a Rosie Perez like voice shouted, "Will the two-thirty appointment please follow me!"  En mass, about 50 of us stood up, collected our things and were instructed to please move all the way down and fill in every seat.  When she shouted to the table next to me, "Will you gentlemens and the lady please move down one,"  I couldn't help but say to myself, "How is someone who yells across the room and uses the word 'gentlemens' going to help me get a job?"  

As I sat there, watching her instruct everyone to fill out the form that should have already been filled out before we got there, I took a look around the room.  One depressed face after the next greeted me, it was like the DMV on crack, no one wanted to be there and on top of that, everyone in this room had lost their job.  Although if I had to guess I would say that, like me, the other people in the room, young and old, were less distraught about losing their jobs and more annoyed that they had to be there.  What struck me most though was just how normal everyone was, and when a tall blonde walked in and plopped her Louis bag on the table next me I thought, "My sister."  

After twenty minutes of collecting every one's paperwork, the lecture began.  A woman about the same age as my grandmother asked if anyone had ever heard of LinkedIn?  I almost responded by asking her if she had ever heard of the Internet, but thought it was best to just stay quiet. Shortly after that, she suggested we use "Faceplace" to network for our job search. No one attempted to correct her, but instead we all just rolled our eyes at each other.  I sarcastically thought to myself "Yes, Facebook, with my pictures of Vegas, status updates like 'Jane is 4 champagnes deep on a Sunday afternoon' and snarky comments from friends like, 'I can see your camel toe' is really going to help me make my next career move.  Perhaps I could become a hooker using my social network?  I would be hiding the truth if I didn't tell you that there was about five seconds, that I was half inspired to go out there and change my life, but as soon as the Powerpoint started it ended.

Luckily the presentation lasted about five minute and afterwards we were instructed to stay put. Some of us would be called in for a one on one meeting while others would be dismissed and that it was completely random.  We all shifted our eyes nervously as the first few people were called into their one on one's.  Then, an ancient relic of a woman entered the room with the stack of dismissals and took a good twenty minutes for her to get through calling the names. I began to get desolate.  She had finally gone through every name in the pile and mine was not one of them. There I sat, one of three people left out of the fifty or so that were in that room, knowing that not only did I get selected for a one on one, but worse, I had to wait for it.  

When the young, plump and possibly recently immigrated case worker called my name and led me to her desk, I did my absolute best to be as cheerful as possible.  "How's your job search going?" she asked.  I told her things were going great, that I was using my contacts to network, had a few interviews scheduled including a second round coming up and left out the part that I'd rather be a stay-at-home-anything than go back to work soon.  She looked surprised and said, "Well than I guess you don't need help with your resume since you're getting interviews."  Correct.  Then she continued, "Then let me show you the Internet."  No, I am not kidding. I am 100 percent serious that this is what she said to me just before she asked if I've ever heard of a Podcast.  I did my best to act appreciative and after each item she showed me on this mysterious interweb, I interjected and let her know that not only was I aware of it, but that she should let me show her another, better site/widget/whatever. 

Not a minute too soon, just before I broke down into a pile of hysterical laughter and/or tears she wished me luck and sent me on my way letting me know that should I ever end up back here, which in her opinion I likely would, there are many resources to help me.  Thanks.  

Luckily they only make you attend once and I'd be lying if I said I didn't learn anything.  I learned one lesson:  City Government is like Ellis Island.  It's where the tired, poor, huddled masses go to work and where the energetic, well dressed, but unemployed masses go to have the life sucked out of them for 2 hours on a Tuesday afternoon.  I do not plan on going back in either capacity.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Annual, Un-Original, I Hate Tourists, Rant

Warning:  What you are about to read is not new.  You've heard it all before from many different people, with many different points of view, in various states of annoyance.  But as I sit here, fighting the urge to bash my head against the wall and thanking my lucky stars it's Cyber Monday so I don't have to venture out and deal with the "Old Gals Club" who took the train in from Lon-guy-land for the day to do some shopping and see a show, I can not resist the urge to purge myself of my annual Holiday Season Rage.

Living in Manhattan allows me the daily joy of taking my stress out on the other 8 million people making their way through the concrete jungle.  I take pleasure in bumping into someone on the sidewalk just a little too hard because both of us were determined to claim our space and too stubborn to move 1/2 a foot to the right.  When the UN is in session, I relish the opportunity to yell at a delegate and let him know that "here in New York", we let women through the door first.  And, by far, my favorite is giving cab drivers the combination "Middle-Finger-F-ck You A$$hole-yell" for almost running me over as I cross the street after the Don't Walk light is already lit. This is a pedestrian city and pedestrians have the right of way (unless it's the rare instance where I am the one driving, in which case you better move your a$$ off the crosswalk because the light is green and I will run you over - don't test me).  While this may seem overly aggressive and unacceptable, to most people here it's unspoken, understood and perfectly normal.  I don't really have a problem with that b1tch who slammed into my shoulder and who's hair I subsequently yelled looked like a bird's nest.  She needed it.  I needed it.  We got it out of our systems and we could probably become best friend's over cocktails.  It's just how we roll.

Enter Late-November.  The temperature drops, the SALE signs go up, the mood starts getting festive and tourists invade.  Fifth Avenue becomes inundated with funny accents, odd clothes, and the unmistakeable calling card of the Mid-West, blue eyeliner and bad hair.  So last Wednesday at 9am, I made my way across 34th Street to beat the crowds at Macy's.  Always tempted by the call of cheap jeans and long T Shirts that I pass off as dresses, I pushed my way through a group of tourists doing the dreaded five-across-block-the-whole-sidewalk move and ducked into Forever 21.  What awaited inside filled me with an incomprehensible mix of fright, naseau and hysterics.  Like Alice in Wonderland I gasped at the cast of characters that surrounded me in what is usually my turf.  

Forever21 had been invaded by the throngs of bubbly Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Participants dragging their Mom's excitedly through a store they can find at any mall in their Ohio suburb, beyond thrilled to fight crowds and pay sales tax on items they could get cheaper at home, just because the store is bigger.  I winced each time my delicate ears were met with southern twangs practicing cheers and the attack continued on my nose with the unmistakeable scent of Jean Nate wafting off every 45 year old, bleach blonde mom who's fake smiles seethed jealously and vicarious living as they chased their teenage daughters around the store stopping only to contemplate if there's any chance they could get into a mini skirt like that just one more time.  Determined to grab a pair of jeans and give these girls the kind of New York experience they could go home and tell their friends about, I bumped, pushed and told-off my way through the store to the enormous line at the cash register.  Immediately I picked up the phone and called someone to b1tch loudly and make funny comments about the Middle American Travesties I was surrounded with.  

After 15 minutes, I was off the phone, still standing on line and in pain.  If I heard one more squeel, screetch, or Oh-My-Word-Look-At-These-Earrings!, I was going to lose it.  It was at that point that I looked at the door longingly, dropped the jeans and ran for my life.  They had beaten me.  Here I stood a few year veteran of New York City taken down by a gaggle of high-schoolers with high pony tails and ribbons in their hair.  Dejected, defeated and determined to get the hell out of Herald Square, I trudged across 34th Street trying to make my way past Fabio, Donatella and their four beautiful Italian children, all of whom strolled slowly, seductively smoking cigarettes blocking any chance I had of getting to the east side as quickly as I hoped. Once again, I was reminded of the simple fact that I Hate Tourists.

I Hate Them! I Hate Them! I Hate Them!  Now, please excuse me while I stomp my feet, clench my fists and am left no choice but to do my shopping online.  Wah.