Password Unprotected

Last week, my supervisor assigned me a new cell phone. She told me I would need to create a six digit pass code to secure it.

“Six digits,” I muttered to myself as I considered various combinations. Perhaps Marilyn Monroe’s measurements (35-22-35)? A postal code for Bangalore, India (560 012)? My junior high gym locker combination? (I can’t remember it now, just like I couldn’t remember it then, and consequently lost a perfectly good pair of Reeboks, probably to a maintenance man with a bolt cutter).

Later that day, I complained to my husband.

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We’re going to stop being friends if you keep kicking my ass.

“Why six digits? What’s wrong with four digits?” I held up my personal cell phone, one that only requires me to remember four numbers in order to thwart nefarious evil-doers determined to uncover all my super–secrets, such as the fact that I win only 23% of my Yahtzee With Buddies games (boy, do I suck) and what’s on my Grocery Pal shopping list (cat food, shampoo, red fruit).

 

“Six digits are more secure,” my husband assured me. He held up his own cell phone, the iPhone 6, which requires one of these new-fangled six digit pass codes. “You really should upgrade. I don’t know how you manage with that thing.”

I considered “that thing,” my iPhone 5s. When I bought it, it featured some of the most advanced technology in the world, including TouchID, the fingerprint identification sensor that I never could get to work right. Now, three short years later, everyone treats my phone like it’s a hand-cranked Model T while they zip around in self-driving Teslas.

While I’m sure I’ll (eventually) enjoy zipping around in a self-driving Tesla, or at least its cellphone equivalent, right now my brain has just about reached maximum capacity for the pass codes and the passwords and the secret handshakes I have to keep track of here in the 21st century. I’m afraid all of that is beginning to push out other stuff I need in there, like, you know, the words I use to, um, talk.

For example, the other day on a trip to the supermarket, I quizzed my daughters on Spanish vocabulary as we strolled the produce aisle. My older daughter just finished her first year studying Spanish in middle school, and I’m determined that there will be absolutely no summer learning loss in this family. Yes, I’m one of those mothers, the ones who manage to torture their children even at el supermercado the grocery store.

“¿Qué es esto?” I asked, holding up a red fruit.

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An apple (I think).

“Una manzana,” my older daughter said through clenched teeth.

 

I turned to my younger daughter, who’s still in elementary school, and not yet cynical about learning. “¿Y en inglés?”

“Apple!”

I looked at the red fruit in my hand. Wait, was that right? ¿Cómo se dice “manzana” en inglés?

For a split second I could not remember, and while some people might start worrying about early onset Alzheimer’s, I choose instead to blame all the passwords careening around my brain, crowding out useful information.

If you’re still not convinced, I’ve got another story for you: last month, I needed to create an account on a US government website. The site required a 15 (Yes. FIFTEEN!) character password that had to  include one upper case letter, one lower case letter, one number, one special character, a semaphore flag signal, and a blood sample.

“I’m never going to remember this,” I said as I balled up my fist and pounded the keyboard until I finally got the message, “PASSWORD ACCEPTED!”

As expected, I cannot remember that fifteen character password, and I’ve had to reset the damn thing every time I’ve accessed the site.

In the midst of all these passwords swirling around my brain (35-22-35, 560102, H3LPM3OB1W@NK@N0B1), I found an article in Fortune magazine, describing a new technology that will allow banks to identify their customers by scanning eyeballs.

Everyone is familiar with the use of fingerprints to establish someone’s identity. Now, banks are doing the same with our eyes, but not in the way you might think. They don’t rely on a customer’s iris, but instead they focus on the pattern of blood vessels behind the whites of the eyes.

In practice, this involves customers opening an app and pointing a smartphone cameras at their faces. The bank’s app compares the eyes that appear in the camera image to one the customer has previously stored stored in the app. If they match, customers can check their bank balance, transfer money, and pay bills.

Here is my response to this new technology: GIVE IT TO ME NOW.

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What’s the meaning of life? What’s for dinner? Two questions we could answer if only we didn’t have to deal with so many passwords.

Think of all the good we could accomplish in this world if we didn’t have to create and remember all these passwords. We could devote our intellectual energy toward world peace, or solving Goldbach’s conjecture, or maybe just figuring out what to make for dinner tonight. Do I really need to burn up anymore brain cells thinking up a password for  my Waste Management garbage bill? What are hackers going to do if they get in there anyway? Switch my service date from Mondays to Thursdays?

 

Of all the ridiculous passwords I’m forced to remember, I have to believe my kids’ school district reached the height of absurdity this past academic year when they decided to password “protect” electronic report cards. Previously, parents could access the reports by keying in their child’s student ID number, but now we have to key in the ID number and a password. That’s double protection the principal claimed in the email he sent out, though he didn’t elaborate on what we’re all being protected from. My husband, the son of a public school administrator, defended the decision in the interest of student privacy.

“The ID number didn’t provide enough privacy?” I asked, recalling our own struggle to access the report card after our daughter misplaced her student ID. We searched the house for three days to find it at the back of her bedroom closet, probably tossed there on the very day it had been issued in September. “If someone is going to all the trouble to find out the ID number, memorize it, and then go to the school district website and key it in just to see our kid got a ‘Good’ in Numbers and Operations, I say they’re welcome to that information.”

Anyway, screw all those passwords. I want the whole world to know how my older daughter did in Spanish this year.

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Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.com. The Yahtzee with Buddies logo comes from the Scopely website, and is believed to comply with the Fair Use doctrine.

The Mother of Convention

 

I picked up a newspaper the other day–hah! No, I didn’t. This is 2016, not 1996, and I’m not some time traveling cyborg, wandering around reading newspapers because I’ve been sent back from the future to prevent a horrific tragedy from destroying our country.

Would that I were.

No, this is what I really did the other day: I scrolled through the news feed on my robot phone and discovered that here in the United States we have a presidential election going on.

“Hmm,” I said to myself. “How did that happen?”

I imagine that’s the same question more than a few of you have been asking yourself as we wind our way through this very strange political season.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 7.51.49 AMHere in Philadelphia we’re rounding up the homeless and hiding them until this whole thing is over ramping up for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, slated for the Wells Fargo Center on July 25-28.

If you head over to the Democratic National Convention website you can find out all sorts of interesting things, including how to request media credentials, although the deadline has passed, so it looks like I am SOL. Had it occurred to me before the drop dead date (whenever that was, the website doesn’t bother to say, sorry not sorry), I can’t imagine my request would have been successful.

An Overworked DNC Volunteer: Got a request from some blogger for media credentials. Can you look up Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please?

Another Overworked DNC Volunteer: Here it is. It says it’s about “Humor and Sex. Mostly Sex.”

An Overworked DNC Volunteer: Oh, boy! Any good pictures?

Another Overworked DNC Volunteer: Nah, doesn’t look like it. Posts about how to get rid of ants in your kitchen. And orangutans. Here’s one about a ham and cheese sandwich.

Overworked DNC Volunteer: None of that sounds political. So, no politics, and no dirty pictures. What’s the point of that blog?

Other Overworked DNC Volunteer: Who knows? Just stamp that request “rejected” and let’s move on.

Overworked DNC Volunteer: Ok, here’s the next one. Look up Nigel and His Naughty Friends for me . . .

As I clicked around the Democratic National Convention website, I wondered how I could work this all into a blog post about the state of American democracy. Then it occurred to me that the political convention, scheduled to take place so close to home, provided yet another “teachable moment” for my two young daughters.

I ran the idea past my husband.

“What do you mean?” he asked, his voice cracking as beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. He’s heard my ideas before, like the time I wanted to learn a foreign language and made him watch an entire season of Friends in Spanish (¡El Uno Donde Ross y Rachel se rompen!). Or that time I suggested we raise chickens, if he was willing to wring their necks (he wasn’t). Or that other time I wanted to try anal sex (in the end, I turned out to be unwilling). “You’re not going to ask me to dress up like Hillary Clinton, are you?”

No, I assured him, my plan did not involve any cross-dressing (at least, not this plan). Instead, it involved ordering a pizza and sitting around the dining room table, explaining to the girls the role political conventions play in American democracy.

“We’re going to play a sort of game,” I said as I passed out slips of paper. “This will be fun.”

“That’s what you said about the play with the people in that room,” my older daughter said without looking up from her cell phone. Last year, I’d bought season tickets to a community theater that chose to perform, alongside Charlotte’s Web and Bye Bye Birdie, Harold Pintar’s The Room. “I had nightmares three nights straight.”

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Everyone supports pizza.

“That’s right,” the younger one said. Right now, she’s more focused on decontaminating her pizza from the scourge of sliced green peppers than what we’re discussing. “You told us that would be fun, too.” She flicked away a piece of the offending vegetable. “But it wasn’t fun.”

“This is different,” I said, although who can be sure the political conventions won’t resemble an absurdist drama?

“It sounds like fun to me,” my husband said. He finds it easier to support my ideas when they don’t involve embarrassing him. “What do we do?”

My husband already knows what we’re going to do because I briefed him about it last night in bed, elbowing him awake to explain it all, so my instructions were for the benefit of the girls.

“This summer, the two political parties are going to hold their conventions. The Republicans will get together in Cleveland, and the Democrats are meeting here in Philadelphia. They’re going to pick their presidential candidates, and they’re also going to vote on their party platform.”At this point, I held up my slip of paper. “And that’s what I’d like to do. Create a sort of family platform.” I chose a pencil from the pile collected at the center of the table and pantomimed writing on the paper. “For example, I could write ‘Respect One Another’ because that’s important to me, and it’s a goal I believe we should all work toward in this family, so I want that to be part of our platform.” I put down the pencil. “After everyone fills out at least one slip of paper, we’ll vote on which ones we want to include. That’s called ‘adopting’ or ‘approving’ the platform.”

My younger daughter’s hand darted across the table to grab a pencil. “I’m voting for Trump!” She plays the trumpet in the elementary school band and somehow the presumptive Republican nominee’s name and her musical instrument have commingled in her brain and turned her into a vociferous supporter.

I wrestled the pencil from her grasp. “We’re not voting for the candidates. We’re trying to create a platform, the things we believe in, as a family, just like the political parties will at their conventions,” I explained, again.

“And if we were voting,” the thirteen year old looked up from her phone long enough to cast a withering glance at her younger sister, “we’d vote for Bernie, not Trump.”

My husband coughed. When I met him, he was a registered Republican. Six months later, he told me he had switched party affiliations (to Independent, but still . . .). I think that meant more to me than when said he loved me.

“I don’t know if we’d all vote for Bernie, but definitely not Trump,” I said. “And if you keep saying you’re voting for Trump, you’ll be playing the flute next year. Is everybody clear on what we’re doing?”

They nodded, except the thirteen year old, who put down her phone and picked up a pencil in silent acquiescence. I set the kitchen timer for five minutes.

Five minutes later, I collected the slips of paper and read them out loud.

“‘Respect One Another,'” I read. That one was mine.

I picked up another slip of paper. “‘Tolerate Different Opinions.'” I recognized my husband’s hand writing, and suspected this is his way of telling me he’s voting Libertarian in the fall.

The next slip of paper said, “‘No Green Peppers.'” I looked at my younger daughter. “Really?” She nodded. “Green peppers are good for you,” I said. “I don’t know if I can support ‘No Green Peppers’ as part of the family platform.”

Finally, I came to the last one. “‘Moratorium on All Mom’s Fun Ideas,'” I read aloud.

As with much of what my older daughter says and does these days, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m disappointed that she doesn’t enthusiastically support family activities the way she did when she was younger. On the other hand, I’m really proud that she knew how to use the word “moratorium” correctly in a sentence.

In the end, I kicked them all out of the dining room and told them they didn’t deserve a democracy, let alone pizza, and we’d all be supporting Hillary in November, or else.

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And you are, too, goddammit.

The image of the DNC logo and the “I’m With Her” button come from their respective websites and are believed to comply with the Fair Use doctrine. The picture of the pizza is my own, and so is the pizza. It’s my attempt at a Chicago style deep dish from a few years ago, back when I had time to cook and write blog posts, too.

 

 

 

 

No Comment

While I can prattle on endlessly about orangutans, sex robots and Applebee’s here on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please, I often find myself at a loss for words when I’m reading your blog and fail to leave a comment.

Part of my reticence comes from a fear of being embroiled in internet drama, as I have a couple of times in my blogging career, such as the time I told one blogger he was full of hooey and that other time I told another blogger she was full of hooey.

Another part has to do with my anxiety over turning into an internet crank, you know, one of those people who spend their time on different websites, commenting on every single godforsaken article, even the daily horoscope. Does anyone really need to know about that disastrous blind date you went on during the first phase of Venus retrograde? No, I don’t think so. I only came here to get my lucky numbers for the day, not to hear about some loser who made you split the check at Olive Garden.

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It’s cake. No! It’s pie!

Next, I’ll blame my lack of comments on the fact that maybe I’ve matured enough to where I no longer feel the need to correct or confront people on the internet. For example, I’m happy to just let you go on thinking cheesecake isn’t a cake at all, it’s really a pie, even though you could not be more wrong, but, hey, it’s your blog, I guess, and, anyway, you just got 117 Likes on your “Cheesecake Should Be Called Cheesepie” post, so I must be the only person in the world who believes names matter, goddammit, and we shouldn’t call something one thing when it’s really another thing, so fuck you and your idiot readers.

Like I said, maybe I’ve matured.

Other bloggers have taken a different approach, such as the good folks over at Above the Law, who decided to turn off all comments, so even if readers are drama queens, or internet cranks, or immature, they won’t be able to display those tendencies all over that blog. In a post published a few weeks ago, the site explained its reasoning.

Today the comments are not what they once were. Although occasionally insightful or funny, ATL comments nowadays are generally fewer in number, not very substantive (often just inside jokes among the commentariat), yet still often offensive. They also represent a very small percentage of our total traffic (as we can tell because of the click required to access them).

After I read that post,  I started to question my understanding of blogging. I’d always thought the ability of readers to comment, to talk back to the author as well as talk to one another, was one of the unique features of blogging, and bloggers who did not want to engage with their readers would be better served by going to a public park and standing up on a soapbox than by this particular medium.

But what if blogging is not a conversation, like the folks at Above the Law have come to believe? What if blogging is just me droning on and on about cheesepie cheesecake and you saying absolutely nothing at all?

Can you blog without comments?

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I’m sure he thinks his farts smell awesome.

While I was composing this post, the state of Indiana held its presidential primary. Donald Trump won on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders won for the Democrats. Looking for some insight into the race, I turned to the blog FiveThirtyEight. If you’re not familiar with that blog, I’ll explain that it focuses on the statistical analysis of politics, economics and sports. Lots of numbers, lots of graphs and charts, lots of smart bloggers blogging smart stuff. Here’s a comment that was left over there.

Chris Valentini

Haha Hillary lost. You were wrong but you can’t admit it, because your farts smell so awesome.

 

After I read that comment, I reflexively thought, “The bloggers at Above the Law are right!” and everything that I believed about the free flow of information and ideas and the tolerance of divergent opinions on the internet went out the window.

And I know there have been far worse (far, far worse!) things said on the internet, and I’ve blogged about how women, especially, are attacked and harassed (here and here and here) but this stupid comment just struck me as the poster child for disabling comments.

I guess that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject, other than I’ve enjoyed leaving comments in the past, and I always look forward to the comments left here, but now the Chris Valentinis of the world have got me wondering.

Anyway, what do you think?

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.com. The image of Donald Trump is believed to fall under the doctrine of Fair Use.

Seven Words You Can’t Say On Your Workplace Collaboration System

“How do we feel about using profanity in these informal communications?”

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We need to discuss our collaboration process.

The message from one of my co-workers showed up as a desktop notification from the collaboration application, Slack, we’re using at my new job.

If you’re not familiar with Slack (I’m not too familiar with it, either), you can find out more about the program on the company’s website. I used it at a previous assignment to share files. At this job, we’re using it mostly for messaging, as the team is spread across the state and across the country–there’s a doppelganger work group out in Los Angeles doing the same stuff we’re doing here in Philadelphia–and it keeps us from checking email and cell phones every second of the day.

I clicked on the notification to close it and then searched the message archives to see who had been swearing. I hoped against hope that it hadn’t been me.

Because I swear.

A lot.

After scanning the brief history of messages, I relaxed. For the time being, my new work team would remain unaware of my filthy mouth. It turned out that someone else had said fuck cursed.

Meanwhile, I had forgotten my password and signed in late to a virtual meeting, triggering my only transgression (so far): an exasperated, “Jesus Christ! Fiddlesticks!”

That expression doesn’t even count as a real swear in my book, not like shit sugar, piss number one, fuck fudge, cunt jerk, cocksucker jerk, motherfucker jerk, and tits, no, boobs!, wait, I mean, breasts.

So how did we feel about using profanity?

The question reminded me of a situation I’d been in before, back during my freshman year at college. I’d been assigned to the the only all-female dorm on campus with two roommates: a young woman from suburban Chicago named Nicole, who would eventually major in French, and one from New York City, named Julianna, who would major in modern dance.

Compared to these two, my ultimate area of study, English Literature, seemed positively practical.

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Students who can’t go back to their dorms because their roommate is having sex there.

Anyway, on that first day (the very first day!) on campus, right there at the beginning of Freshman Orientation Week, Nicole and I opened the dorm room door to find Julianna entertaining a young man on the institutional twin bed she had been assigned.

Now, by “entertaining” I mean—well,  we didn’t see anything. They had clothes on, and each had at least one foot on the floor (I checked). Still, the sight shocked me, even though  I considered myself a sophisticated seventeen year old: I’d already lost my virginity and read The New Yorker.

Nicole and I backed out of the room and let the door close behind us. Once in the safety of the hallway, she took a deep breath, her face flushed. I stood there unable to decide whether to be embarrassed or envious.

“I think,” Nicole finally said, her voice faltering before she could finish the sentence. She gulped more air as though it gave her the courage to speak and then blurted out the rest of her words with such effort that I feared she might collapse into exhausted tears. “I think we need to have rules about men in the room!”

Back then, we needed rules about men. Today, we need rules about swearing.

I swear, as I said. My husband, who does not swear, wishes I would stop. My sister, who has no children, told me she always assumed people stop swearing when they have kids. I’ll take this opportunity to inform her that she could not be more wrong: I feel my experiences as a parent entitle me to swear a whole lot more.

After work on Friday, at a happy hour where I order a Coke Zero, conversation turns to the question posed earlier in the week: how do we feel about profanity? We talk the topic to death, an occupational hazard, and I share the story about my roommates in college. That story prompts the others to tell stories about roommates they’ve had, and we bond a bit over drinks, but never come to a resolution on the use of profanity.

Today I’m still thinking about my new work team: how we’re trying to coalesce, trying to become something more than random strangers to one another, trying to figure each other out: why I would order a Coke Zero and why someone else doesn’t like swearing. Back in college, my roommates and I never did figure it out: the following year,  Julianna moved in with a boy, Nicole stayed on in that all girls dorm, taking on the role of Resident Advisor sophomore year, and I shared a rented house off campus.

I guess I won’t swear in “these informal communications” just like I never brought a guy back to my dorm room. It’s not that I don’t think we should swear, it’s more that I don’t want anyone, even some new co-worker three thousand miles away, to think I’m an asshole a jerk.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.com.

 

 

I Guess Maybe You Can’t Turn Women Into Insatiable Sex Zombies After All

Here’s a question for you: what do you do when you have a product no one will buy?

That problem currently faces Valeant Pharmaceuticals (among others. Hang on. We’ll get to that in a bit). Now, you may ask yourself, “Why is this blog, Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please, which is ostensibly concerned with sex and humor, interested in the sales problems at Valeant Pharmaceuticals?”

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One pill makes you smaller, one pill makes you tall. The one that Valeant Pharmaceuticals gives you doesn’t do anything at all.

Let me tell you why: last year Valeant acquired Sprout Pharmaceuticals, a company which readers of this blog may recall from the post Her Eyes Say Yes (It’s Just the Medication Talking) as the manufacturers of the so-called female Viagra, Addyi (flibanserin).

Not quite one  year and one billion dollars (the price Valeant paid for Sprout) later, it appears that most women don’t feel the need to be turned into an insatiable sex zombie (or whatever the drug is supposed to do), and  Valeant has been forced to slash the drug’s sales force.

So what will Valeant do with (I’m guessing) warehouses full of a product that no one will buy?

If you have the answer to that question, can you let me know? Like Valeant  I, too, have been trying to sell a product that no one wants to buy: my writing. Long time readers of this blog are familiar with my trials and tribulations getting published but mostly not getting published.

Is it time for me to realize that my writing is like the so-called female Viagra, a product no one really wants?

Maybe.

Last year, my blogging schedule tapered off from “Once or twice a week or so” to “Definitely at least once a week” to “Once a month or so” and finally fell into “Is she even blogging anymore?” status. A blogger friend noticed I had not been posting and asked, “Don’t you miss it?”

Truthfully, blogger friends, I can say that I did not. It helped (hurt?) that my professional career had finally stabilized, and I couldn’t justify spending what little free time I had working on my fantasy career.

If we turn the clock back even further, back to a year and a half ago, I finished a novel-length work during the annual Nanowrimo challenge. As I toiled at my dining room table that November, typing away on my laptop, my older daughter noted the National Novel Writing Month motto.

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Because she shares her mother’s slightly cruel sense of humor, for the rest of that month, my daughter would walk past me and say, “Don’t believe it, Mom. The world really doesn’t need your novel.”

And now I’m thinking, just like the world doesn’t need Addyi, maybe the world doesn’t need my writing or my blogging and the (I’m guessing) absolute fuckton* of posts I’ve composed over (nearly) six years.

While discussing the difficulty getting published and my readiness to chuck the whole enterprise unless someone, somewhere put a few dollars in my pocket, yet another blogger friend counseled me.

“You should keep writing because you enjoy it,” he said. “That should be reason enough.”

I considered his advice and posted irregularly, haphazardly.

I’m starting a new job today. Right now, as you read this post, I’m probably going through some sort of new employee orientation. In preparation for my new position, I moved all the files on my laptop to an external hard drive this past week. One of the files I moved is that novel I wrote the November before last. I opened the file and read a bit of what I’d written.

And I thought, “I really like what I wrote here.”

And I thought, “Why haven’t I pursued this the way I promised myself I would, back when I wrote it?”

Unlike Valeant, who hired a whole sales force to shill Addyi, I never did anything with the manuscript, except hand it off to two beta readers. One of them loved it, the other hated it, giving a single line of critique, as though she were a high school guidance counseler who spotted the class valedictorian working behind the counter of a McDonald’s.

“I expected so much more from you,” she said.

Glancing through the manuscript the other day, I remembered why I’d given up in the first place: I could no longer tell whether I improved the work with my edits, or if I just changed it. Now I see a lot of glaring errors: lots of passive voice, my usual trouble with commas, an ending that doesn’t quite work.

I don’t much like the title anymore, either.

I guess I’m at the same fork in the road as Valeant is with Addyi. Do I regroup and rethink my product, my writing? Or do I realize, like maybe Valeant should, sometimes the world doesn’t need insatiable sex zombies** what you’re selling?

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.com.


* For purposes of this blog, an “absolute fuckton” is 228 posts, apparently, because that’s how many I’ve written, counting this one.

**Perhaps if I had written a novel about insatiable sex zombies, I’d have a better chance getting it published.

 

Five Questions No One Ever Asked Before Getting Married, But Maybe They Should

Last week, the New York Times published a list of the thirteen questions to ask before getting married. I scanned the article and nowhere did I find the one question I asked:

What do you mean the condom broke?

Number one!

Ask me anything!

Instead, there’s a bunch about finances and child rearing and negotiating conflict, like this one:

Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose?

It’s a good question and, if I had thought to ask, I would have liked to know my husband’s answer. But I didn’t think to ask because my brain was muddled (more on that later).

While I would have liked to know my husband’s answer to how his family handled conflict, I’m absolutely sure I would never have wanted him to know mine.

Let’s see. Throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down? Are those the only choices? Are you sure there isn’t an option for my father slapping my mother, calling her a dirty whore, and then threatening her with a baseball bat while my sister and I run down to the pay phone on the corner and frantically dial 911? Is that one of the choices? No? Well, I guess I’ll answer none of the above, then.

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I’m here to apply for that husband job.

If you click on the link to the story and read the rest of the questions, you might start to feel that this has little to do with love or romance or attraction and instead seems an awful lot like a job interview. Like most job hunters,  applicants for the position of spouse probably become adept at stretching and spinning the truth so that it casts them in the most favorable light.

I just interviewed for a position (wish me luck!) so this job application metaphor comes easily to my mind. I left that interview thinking I’d hit every question out of the park, and there was no curve ball they could have thrown at me that I could not handle, not even if they had asked me how my family managed disagreements.

Could you repeat the question? Ok, throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down. All right. I’ll say that we were definitely a plate-throwing family, only because we cared so much about one another, and if a plate needed to be thrown to show how much we cared, we threw it. That’s the type of people I come from. We recognize what needs to be done and we do it. Do you know the saying, ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs’? So, yes, sure, we broke some eggs in my family. And a lot of plates.

Now let’s return to that bit I mentioned earlier about my brain being muddled back when I dated my future husband: there’s a real problem with the New York Times list of questions because it assumes we are thinking clearly as we assess the qualities of our prospective spouse.

Foolish, foolish New York Times. We are not thinking clearly.

We are not thinking about consolidating debt, or how much money we’re comfortable spending, or the (potential) in-laws.

Mazel tov!

Yeah, but he laughs at my jokes.

We’re thinking about how he laughs at my jokes, and how he can do all the voices of the characters on The Simpsons, and how he does that thing with his tongue that I like, that thing that I did not even know I liked until I met him.

In the end–or at least at the end of a dozen or so years of marriage–I do wish I’d thought to ask all the questions before we got married.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I asked any questions, other than what kind of music he liked.

Now that we’re married and we have kids, I  really, really, really want my daughters to consider everyone of these thirteen questions when they head out on their own romantic adventures.

It’s amazing how your perspective on all this changes when you remove yourself from the equation and add in your adolescent daughters.

As a parent who frets endlessly over everything, I hope my daughters rank their future partners’ ability to negotiate conflict higher than his ability to do that thing with his tongue.

As a woman who fell hopelessly in love too many times, I suspect they won’t.

Anyway, here’s the list of thirteen–thirteen? Really, NY Times? Are you trying to jinx all the married people?–let’s make it FIVE questions you should ask before getting married, according to Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.

Five Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Married
  1. How long are you going to leave your dirty laundry on the bedroom floor before I get to throw it onto the front lawn?
  2. Should we move the arm chair by the window or leave it next to the lamp?
  3. If I make dinner from a recipe I find on the internet after searching “What to make when you have only a packet of active dry yeast, a mostly brown half of an avocado, and an old jar of Herbs de Provence that I bought back when I tried to cook French food that week in 2007?” will you:
    1. Eat the dinner I so lovingly prepared without complaint.
    2. Tell me you love me and you had a really big lunch.
    3. Ask me, “How could you forget it’s pizza night?”
    4. Fake an illness so severe that I’ll have to drive you to the emergency room where you can eat hospital food instead.
  4. Paper or plastic?
  5. You didn’t learn to do that thing with your tongue that I like from a hooker, did you?

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.com

 

What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting (to See Your Gynecologist)

I have a gynecologist appointment this morning and quite possibly, as you read this post, I’m wearing an ill-fitting hospital gown and my bare legs are strung up in stirrups as my OB-GYN’s head disappears out of my field of vision, down there beyond the edge of the examination table. Meanwhile, I’m feeling compelled to keep up an endless patter of small talk as she does things that I normally don’t allow until the third date.

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Before you scrape my cervix, let me tell you about this great book I’m reading.

“Did you redecorate?” I might ask after noticing a change to the examining room wall color since my last appointment. Or I might say, “Have you read any good books lately?” Or, “How about those Phillies/Eagles?” (depending on the time of year).

My OB-GYN will chat with me, as if she isn’t doing what we both know she’s doing, as she describes everything she is doing, even though I know everything she is doing, because it’s the same thing she’s been doing every year at my annual exam.

“We did redecorate–can you scoot down just a little bit?–because we just got tired of that dreary beige color–you might feel a little pressure here–and we think this warm yellow brightens up the room. Now, when was your last menstrual period?”

It’s an odd intimacy that develops between a woman and her gynecologist, and, I think, it’s unlike any other relationship between a patient and doctor. Sure, your primary physician may have seen you naked, they might know about that weird heart-shaped birth mark on your left hip that you were certain was cancer but turned out to only mean you were destined for a life full of love. Your primary may even know you suffer from psoriasis, or hemorrhoids, or acid reflux.

But your gynecologist . . . Well, your gynecologist sees inside you, while you’re lying there prone, vulnerable, wearing only socks and a johnny coat that doesn’t quite close, both of which would impede a dignified escape across the shiny waxed floors.

Once, late last year, I stopped at the supermarket that’s near my gynecologist’s office to pick up cat food. One of our cats had become a picky eater, and like the  nervous mother I am, I’d begun to fret over her, and decided to get an assortment of different canned food to see if there was one she liked better than the others. I got into the checkout line with a few different varieties and put them on the conveyor belt.

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You’re not going to eat that, are you?

While I stood in line, I became convinced that my selection of groceries, limited to different brands of cat food, would lead the cashier to believe that I was eating all this cat food myself. She’d think that I didn’t have any cats at all; rather, she’d believe that I was doing my weekly grocery shopping and all I needed to stock my kitchen were these cans of cat food.

(Let me stop here to say that I occasionally sometimes often get contacted by readers asking whether what I write is factually true. For the most part, it is, though I do change names and sometimes chronology for the sake of a better story. This part about standing in a check out line and thinking the cashier would assume I’m eating cat food? It’s absolutely true. I really am as crazy as you’ve suspected).

I was about to sweep all the cat food into my arms and head back out into the aisles to grab random human food off the shelves (Kashi®? That’s made for human consumption, isn’t it?) when the customer in line ahead of me touched my arm.

“Hi, Karen. How are you?”

If she hadn’t touched me, I might not have recognized her, but the touch was familiar, intimate. I looked up to see my gynecologist in front of me, her purchases spread out behind the small plastic bar that created a barrier to my cat food. She gave my arm a little squeeze, the same way she squeezes my shoulder at the end of an appointment, right before she leaves the examination room so I can get dressed. Then she took her hand away.

“Oh, hi, I’m fine. How are you?”

“I’m well. You’re buying a little bit of cat food there, aren’t you? How many cats do you have?”

“Just two,” I answered, and think about sending her a link to a blog post I wrote long ago that explained the number of cats you can have before you’re considered a Crazy Cat Lady (my answer is, unsurprisingly, two) just to prove that I am not a Crazy Cat Lady, despite the insane amount of canned cat food I’m buying.

She smiled and made a comment that I didn’t quite catch (something about treating our pets better than we treat ourselves, I think) and then paid for her groceries and gave me a little wave as she exited the line.

I could make any one of a number of tasteless jokes here about pussies, and tuna, and gynecology but I won’t. I trust my readers will be able to come up with their own.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.com


This post was written in response to this week’s Discover Challenge: In this week’s Discover Challenge, publish a post that appeals to one of the senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. You’re free to interpret this in any way, and publish in any format: prose, poetry, photography, audio, video . . .

 

In Space, No One Can Hear Your Screaming Orgasm

Even as an avowed skeptic, there are a few things in life I have not questioned: the sky is blue, water is wet, Donald Trump will never be the Republican nominee for President, and astronauts have had sex in space.

For years and years and years, I’ve assumed astronauts have had sex in space. Of course they have! It’s probably one of the first things they did, as soon as they heard the word “Liftoff!” and right after they switched the jet propulsion rockets to autopilot, or whatever. (Please don’t leave a message explaining space travel to me in the comments, it will just make my head hurt, and this blog is about sex, a topic about which I’m just marginally more informed.)

Granted, the astronauts may have only had that solo sort of sex, you know, the kind where you fantasize that James Franco is your boyfriend, and that probably got interrupted by another astronaut banging on the toilet compartment door, asking, “What are you doing in there for so long? You’re supposed to be on a space walk!”

I remained convinced that the astronauts (or the cosmonauts, or whoever) had sex in space until I watched the documentary A Year in Space Wednesday night, which chronicles American astronaut Scott Kelly’s year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. The film is streaming online at PBS.org through April 2, so if you missed the original broadcast, you can still catch it there.

 

If you watch the documentary, which I recommend that you do, because it’s fascinating, and beautiful, and quite literally marvelous, the first thing you might notice is that the members of the crew on the International Space Station never have a good hair day. Their hair stands up and away from their scalp all the time, as though they’re forever receiving the most horrible scare of their life, or a constant electric shock.

Needless to say, it’s not a flattering look.

As we’ve all known at least as far back as Farrah Fawcett, a good hairstyle improves your chances of getting laid. And as I’ve known ever since I received a very unfortunate The Rachel back in the ’90s, a bad haircut dooms you to at least six weeks alone with only fantasies of James Franco (or whoever) to keep you warm.

I’m thinking this hair thing is the reason why Scott Kelly shaves his head bald, a style I’d recommend for the entire crew, even the women, if they want to have sex.

As it turns out, they may not even want to, as hard difficult as some of my readers may find that to believe. There’s this thing called “space sickness” which is a kind of constant nausea caused by a disruption to the vestibular system due to weightlessness. Fortunately, the nausea only lasts for a few days, and the human body eventually (and amazingly!) adapts to the environment.

I’m figuring around day three or thereabout, the astronauts stop throwing up and their thoughts return to sex.

Once you get beyond the dizziness and nausea, you still might face other difficulties in joining the 278 Kilometers High Club. Microgravity allows our internal fluids to flow from the lower half of our bodies, where on Earth they tend to settle, and where our sexy parts are situated, into the upper half of our bodies. If you watch A Year in Space you’ll notice how puffy and bloated everyone’s face is, as though they’re all retaining way too much water during a particularly difficult menstrual cycle.

So even if the desire to have sex is there, the ability to have sex may be gone. And I’m not just talking about boners here–blood flow is integral to the sexual experience of women, as well, and it makes a lot of good stuff happen down there for us.

If you research this topic further (I know you’re probably Googling already), you’ll find the answer to whether human beings have had sex in space is unclear. At least, no one is saying whether they have or not. If I were a betting woman, I’d gamble on the fact that they have conducted experiments involving human sexuality. I mean, they’ve studied the effects of the gravity on maintenance of muscle mass in zebrafish and I want to believe someone up there is at least having a bit of fun.

 

 

The BBC in the USA

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The way we used to watch television

I’ve stopped watching television. No, I haven’t turned into one of those people who chucks their TV out the nearest window and then loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that I don’t even miss it, really, I don’t, and, anyway, I have so much more free time now, that’s, you know, free, instead of sponsored by Stains Be Gone! laundry detergent (or whatever). Instead, my television viewing, like so much of my life, has become a matter of semantics: yes, it’s true, I no longer watch television; now, here in the 21st century, I stream it.

 

As we do here in the future, I subscribed to the British television streaming service Acorn TV, which should not be confused with the Acorns micro-investing application, although icons for both appear on my iPhone. Let’s hope I never mix them up and lose 43¢ in the stock market when I just want to watch The Great British Bake Off.AcornTV:Acorns

I’ll stop here to say I continue to be gobsmacked by how rapidly technology is changing our lives, and how different my kids’ childhood is from my own: today, there is no gathering around the television on Sunday nights to watch, say, 21 Jump Street, just like there are no report cards brought home to be signed by proud/disappointed parents. Report cards still exist but only in electronic form, transmitted through the atmosphere to something called the Parent Portal on the school district website, which is as science fiction-y as it sounds. Shows like 21 Jump Street are still produced, I guess, but my kids are too busy following YouTube stars on Instagram to gather around the television. They know they can always catch up with television shows any time On Demand.

OK, Luddite rant over, let’s get back to Acorn TV.

If you go to Acorn TV’s website, you’ll see they promise all the best of British television, and I like British television–or so I assumed from years of watching PBS– and the subscription was free, and I thought, why not? So I signed up.

But the thing is, what PBS has been feeding us all these years, it’s not even British television. For example, the show Downton Abbey–did you know it’s only half British? The series is produced in a partnership between Carnival Films, which is based in London, and Masterpiece, the production company of WGBH, a Boston based television station that is responsible for more than two-thirds of PBS’s national programming.

(And, while we’re taking the blame credit for half of Downton Abbey, we Americans can also claim half of Winston Churchill, whose mother, Jenny, was born and raised in Brooklyn).

Can you believe it? Most of PBS programming isn’t British at all–it’s as American as, well, Winston Churchill! But all these years they’ve been leading us to believe with their fancy accents, and their fancy manor houses, and their fancy Marmite, that they’re British!

Now that I’m watching 100% British shows on Acorn TV, I can understand why television executives might want to add a bit of American before broadcasting here. Do you know that old joke about the US and Great Britain being separated by a common language? Tune into an episode of Vera, a crime drama set in the north of England, and try to follow the action without turning on the closed captioning.

Here’s another obstacle UK shows face in getting on US television: the gross error in nomenclature you may have noticed in the title of that video clip, “Vera, New Series.” Over there, they call each new batch of a particular show a series instead of a season, as we Americans do, and (I’m sure) God intended. Vera is not, in fact, a new television show at all. It’s been airing since 2011, and that video clip is promoting the 2015 season of the show. I don’t know how they got this wrong, but I suspect it’s somehow related to all those unnecessary U’s they insert all over the place. Regardless, it’s an absolute deal breaker for me as I’m too old and too easily confused to call anything other than what I’ve always been calling it, which is why I’ve owned a succession of cats all named Mitzy.

If you haven’t been dissuaded by that series/season thing and you still think you want to watch Vera, I’m afraid the only way you can is with a subscription to Acorn TV. Alternatively, you could move to the UK and watch it there. Without considering the (possibly prohibitive?) relocation expenses, that option will cost you, as well: the Brits have this thing called the television license licence fee that’s collected by the BBC to fund television, radio and online services. That will run you “£145.50 for a colour and£49.00 for a black and white” which pays for all the fancy costumes and cases of Marmite, I suppose.

As for Downton Abbey, you can watch the sixth and very last series season on Sunday nights on PBS. Check your local listings. Or don’t. I’m sure you can watch it On Demand any time. Or stream it through your robot phone, if you want.

Royalty free stock photos including an image of the old TV can be found at freeimages.com. The screenshot of my phone is my own.

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Reading (on a Desert Island)

Snowzilla January 2016

Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Meanwhile, inside, a battle between Henry Danger and the Dance Moms raged.

When you’re trapped indoors as Jonas Snowzilla Blizzard 2016 storms outside, and you find yourself with two kids who decide the best resolution to a disagreement over what to Netflix next is to hold an Ultimate Fighting Championship duel to the death, and when you discover that the only other adult in the house just exploded Bagel Bites in the

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The cause of irreconcilable differences.

microwave and pretended he didn’t know there were cheesy bagel guts everywhere–EVERYWHERE!—you may find yourself considering the following:

  1. Suicide.
  2. Divorce.
  3. The ten books you would take to a desert island.

Since I enjoy breathing and also connubial relations, I opted for number three, after discovering the website One Grand. From the site’s About:

One Grand is curated bookstore in which celebrated thinkers, writers, artists, and other creative minds share the ten books they would take to their metaphorical desert island, providing the audience a window into the minds of some of the world’s most engaging people.

While the good people over at One Grand haven’t contacted me for my list, at least, not yet, they have asked Neil Patrick Harris, Lena Dunham, Gloria Steinem, John Waters, John Cameron Mitchell, Tilda Swinton, David Hare, and Terence Koh (and if you’re not familiar with the work of Terence Koh–and I was not, until I encountered him on One Grand–I encourage you  to head over and read his bio and then consider whether your own life has been wasted). In order to prepare for that request whenever it comes (I’m waiting by the phone, One Grand), I decided to think about my own list, and the criteria I’d use for including a book.

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Nothing here but us coconuts and the complete, unannotated text of the Mahabharata.

First, I’d only take books I haven’t read yet. I like books as well as Terence Koh the next person, but it’s rare that I’ve read a book and then wanted to read it again. There are a few classics (Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby) that I’ve enjoyed reading again with my kids as they’ve gotten older, but I’m not looking forward to spending an eternity with Jake Barnes (the protagonist of my favorite novel, The Sun Also Rises) for, perhaps obvious, multiple reasons.

Second, I’d take mostly non-fiction. I’m thinking a few practical titles, like True Tales of Survival Volume XI: Shark Attacks or 101 Uses for Coconutsmight come in handy.

Third, I’d take only really long books. Think Tolstoy (War and Peace clocks in around 600,000 words) or Proust (Remembrance of Things Past, a whopping 1.2M). In fact, I’m thinking it would be best to take these novels in their original languages, just to prolong my misery make them last even longer. Hey, I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands, why not spend it improving myself by learning a foreign language (or two)?

By Sunday morning, Jonas Snowzilla Blizzard 2016 was over, and the allure of some faraway desert isle wore off, replaced by the clean, cold, simple beauty right outside my doorstep. I drove around the neighborhood, surveying the aftermath of the storm, the snow banks as tall as a person on each side of  the street, the snow laden tree branches not quite reaching breaking point, extending over the roadway like a canopy. Since my brain works this way, I thought about how I might die out there, running through the various possibilities in my head. I wouldn’t get the chance to be marooned on a desert island because I would skid into one of these snow banks and never, ever be found, invisible behind the wheel of the new car we’d just bought, my death blamed on my unfortunate choice of color: White Diamond Pearl. The color might as well be called No One Will Ever Find You Avalanche White. I knew I’d regret not choosing Forest Mist Metallic!

Stopped at a light, I looked over into the passenger seat. That’s where I store whatever books I happen to be reading at the moment. It seems like I always have time to kill: waiting for my kids after school or sports, waiting for an appointment that I invariably showed up a half hour before, waiting in a commuter parking lot for a train that’s late, and books have always served me well as traveling companions. Right now, there’s an odd assortment of books in my car: a history of the 1920 Presidential election, a collection of locked room mysteries, and John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, a book I first read over a decade ago, and one that made the trip from the passenger seat of my old car into this new one. I guess if I get stuck in a snowbank, or on a desert isle, at least I’ll have something to read.

I always do.

Royalty free stock photos including an image in this post can be found at freeimages.com. The photo of the view from my backyard (that’s the first photo, not the second. I kinda wish it was the second) is my own.