Archive for September, 2014

how_not_to_write_university_application_essayI was just visiting my friend’s blog and, as it usually happens, he inspired me to write a response to his post. His link can be found here – go check him out if you haven’t already — he’s a really great writer and has been a big influence in my writing.

http://dougromig.com/2014/09/who-are-you/

While he asks, “Who are you?” I want to counter with “Who are you NOT?” Yes, it seems very philosophical, but in reality, it’s also a very good question to ask.

I’ve struggled for years with who I am. I’ve dabbled  in a wide variety of interests: martial arts, writing, Zumba, etc., but have never really identified who I am as a person. I’ve been struggling recently with my “inner self” identity.

But, what has become vibrantly clear is who I am NOT. Or, who I am NO LONGER.

I am NOT a doormat.

I am NOT ugly.

I am NOT unlikeable.

I am NOT unworthy.

I am NOT too fat.

I am NOT too weak or too strong.

I am NOT letting others make my choices and decisions for me.

I am NOT going to let religious doctrine of any kind do my thinking for me.

I am NOT going to judge others for their choices, or let others’ judgment of me affect or impact my self worth.

These are the nots I have decided to untangle. Once they’re gone, I will work on the “am”s.

 

Who are you NOT?

logo-NOT-460x250

 

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Strip Joint

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

I was working the 5-11 pm shift at the local strip joint when he walked in. I barely saw him out of the corner of my right eye – I was too busy working the pole. It had been a rough week, and I was about three hundred dollars short of my rent money. My boss, Glen, wasn’t willing to give me any extra shift coverage – in fact, he was hinting that I might be “out of a job if I don’t start shaking my ass a little harder” or “wearing my clothes a little too looser. Regardless, the bastard wasn’t about to do me any favors.

When the guy walked in, what I could see of him wasn’t usual for this backwater town. Here I was, practically in bumfuck Louisiana, working a sleazy pole for meager tips, and this guy in a full military uniform walks in and takes a seat in the back, dimly lit corner of the bar. He was with two other officers, and based on his behavior, I could tell he didn’t want to get caught.

My manager, sensing this new guy’s importance, and being the kind of support your troops kinda guy he was, immediately went over and introduced himself. He wanted to know more about this guy.

Hey, I’m Glen, the manager of the Sit and Spin. And you are…?

Name’s Ben. Ben Stalin…I’m just passing through…how are the girls tonight? Any of them up for a lap dance? My pants are ready.

The manager looked at me, then back at Ben, and said, “See that woman? Yeah, you can have her. She’s just the kind of girl to do anything someone such as yourself wants.

I looked at him, and said, “Sorry, but my behavior won’t allow me. I’m a pacifist.”

I fanned the pages of the book out in front of her, but I wasn’t able to find the exact location in the book where it discusses him becoming a father. To be honest, after reading half the book, and not exactly liking what I had read, I decided to skip reading the second half, But that didn’t stop me from lobbing my next series of questions at her.

“Mary Ann, is your boss a dad?” I casually remarked. Her mouth slacked open and she almost spat her words at me. “Of course he’s a dad. He’s the best dad, ever. We’re encouraged to call him “Father”. What’s your point here?”

I didn’t react — I knew this topic was going to be very sensitive. I had to figure out a way to ask what I wanted to ask and get her to explain her answers without her calling for security. I proceeded very slowly.

“Are you a mom?” I smiled, briefly changing the subject in hopes of throwing her off my scent.

“Why, yes I am! I have four kids and three grandchildren. They are my life.” She softened a little.

“I take it you’re married then?” I inquired.

“Absolutely. My husband and I have been married for nearly 45 years.” she glanced at her wedding ring and twisted it slowly around her finger. “What does my family situation have to do with my boss’ family situation?”

“I’ll get to that in a minute, okay? I just wanted to know if you’ve had children. I’m assuming then, based on the rules of your organization, that you had your children the ‘normal way’, with your husband, and of course, after you were married, right?” I smiled warmly at her.

“Yes, of course, but I really am uncomfortable with all these personal questions. What in the world does this have to do with my boss’ book?” she responded quickly, almost a little too quickly.

“I just wanted to get a few things out in the open before my next few questions. I wanted to make sure we understand the definition of the following issues: parenthood, marriage, fidelity and child-birth. It sounds like we’re on the same page here. Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.” she answered, a bit too quickly. I could tell the ice was getting a little thinner where I was skating. I decided to just say what was on my mind and be done with this topic.

“To be honest, I have a few questions about the CEO’s paternity status and how your organization explains it. As far as you know and believe, your CEO had one son. Correct?”

“Yes, one son. I agree.”

“And did he marry the woman who bore his child before he got her pregnant? I know your organization is really against pre-marital sex, and isn’t too keen on women bearing children out-of-wedlock. I hear you can get fired for that nowadays.”

“Um, nooo…he was not married to the mother of his son at the time she got pregnant.”

“Oooh, that’s a little scandalous, don’t you think?” I pointed out.

“No, of course it isn’t scandalous! Let me point out that the woman he impregnated was a virgin at the time she got pregnant. She was completely untouched by any other man, including her husband!”

“Hold on there — are you saying that your boss impregnated a woman who was already married to another man? Is that what I heard?” I gasped.

“Well, they weren’t exactly married in the strict, wedding vows, church, flowers, way. They were just…hoo boy, this is getting difficult to explain here.” she struggled to find the right words.

“Well let me try to help. According to what you know and believe, your boss fathered a child. This child was carried in the womb of another man’s wife for nine months –”

“No, not nine months – six months. She found out six months into her pregnancy that she was carrying my boss’ baby.”

“WHAT? You mean to tell me she didn’t even know she was pregnant for the first SIX months of her pregnancy? You have kids, right? How soon after you got pregnant did you find out?” I was shocked, just shocked.

“Look, I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what it says in his book. You really need to read the parts in the book that explains how he became a daddy. And by the way, I really don’t like that you’re calling  my boss an adulterer. He never even touched the baby mama.”

“You’re kidding, right? Woo. I need a moment to wrap my head around all this. Let me see if I have this straight. Your boss got another man’s wife pregnant without the man’s or the woman’s knowledge for the first six months of her pregnancy. Then, you go on to say he never actually had sexual intercourse with her — he just, what — told her she was carrying his kid? And she was?”

“Yes, that’s what we refer to as the “immaculate conception”. He never touched her, therefore, he never actually slept with her. That’s how it goes.”

“Again, I have to ask you a personal question. This is all a lot for me to take in. But, you do know how babies are conceived and born, right?”

“Of course, I know how reproduction works. I’m not stupid.” she huffed at me.

“Well then, if you know that it takes one sperm and one egg to make a child, how is it even possible that a woman could end up pregnant with another man’s baby (which, is adultery by the way), without ever having had sex or being aware of it for the first six months of gestation? Doesn’t that sound a bit hard to believe? I mean, let’s be honest here. It sounds more like your boss is a bit of a jerk, the way he overstepped his bounds and got another man’s wife pregnant. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Look, I’m not here to cast judgment on my boss. His behavior is not to be questioned, in my opinion. And, if it sounds  a little crazy, then that’s your opinion. I believe what he told me, because it’s in his book. I strongly suggest you read the second half of the book, as that thoroughly explains this whole subject. I don’t know what else to say. My boss is wonderful, he continues to do amazing things for us every day, and I see no reason to pick apart some of what you consider “illogical statements” in his book. He is loving, kind and merciful. What more do I need to say?”

“Oooh, glad you brought the “loving, kind and merciful” subject up. I was hoping to get to those words next. How are we doing for time?”

https://mymusespeakstome.wordpress.com/

Mary Ann took a quick glance at the book I dropped onto the table and practically cackled with glee. “Ooooo,” she murmured, “My favorite book! Yes, let’s talk about this!” I figured now was just as a good a time to drop my first logic bomb on her. I had to move very slowly, otherwise, as most of the employees do, she would end up getting angry, start hurling a few insults at me, and abruptly stalk off. This always seems to happen when I try to discuss the CEO and his organizational policies with any member of his organization. Either this or they flat-out ignore my questions. So much for open-mindedness, huh.

I took a long, drawn out breath and with as much calm I could muster, laid out the bait, “I’ve heard this book is the CEO’s autobiography. Is that true?”

Mary Ann looked at me quizzically. I don’t think she was expecting the question, to be honest. “Well…,” she averted her eyes, fussed with her hands a bit, then continued “Yes and no…, I guess.”

“Yes and no? How is that even possible? Either an autobiography is entirely true, or it is not. A biography, the same. There are rules to publishing, and truth in writing is one of them when the book declares itself as a retelling of someone’s life. Otherwise, that’s called “fiction.”

Mary Ann narrowed her eyes at me — it was barely perceptible, but I’m very observant. She opened her mouth to speak, but clamped her teeth together as she struggled with what she said next.

“Well, here’s the truth. It isn’t exactly the CEO’s autobiography, technically…”

“Yes, I know, which is why I asked. I know about writing and I know how writing works. I understand genre, literary device, plot, characters, and all the elements of writing. So, when I asked you if you believe his book is an autobiography, you answered ‘yes and no’. It can’t be both. Either it came directly from his own thoughts, pencil, paper or whatever he chose to use to write  his words down, or it didn’t. Which is it?”

Mary Ann continued briskly, “Well, if that’s how writing works, then I guess it really can’t be considered his “personal” autobiography…”

“How so?” I pressed her for clarification.

“Technically, it was written by several different authors.”

“Where they all sitting down together — you know, like a TV or movie script writing session – and collaborating on each others’ work while your boss was giving them his lines?”

“No, not really. They all wrote their own material, sometimes hundreds of years apart from each other, without ever meeting.”

“Where did they get the information from anyways?”

“Well, they ‘borrowed’ elements of stories from other stories…”

“WAIT — what? Borrowed? Isn’t that a euphemism for ‘plagiarized’?”

Mary Ann flinched. “Wait, no – I didn’t mean they stole other people’s works.”

“You just said these writers–scribes as they are always referred to–borrowed bits and pieces of stories from other cultures. How is that not plagiarism?”

She fell silent for a minute as she heard, perhaps for the first time, the logic of my argument. Regardless, she continued.

“It’s not plagiarism!” she insisted, “It’s the word of my CEO. It’s as simple as that. There is no other way to explain his auto–” I cut her words off.

“Let  me see if I have this correct according to your organization’s philosophy.”

“Okay, go ahead, I’m listening” Mary Ann folded her hands over her lap and straightened in her chair.

“Feel free to interject if I’m missing something, or have something wrong, okay?” She half-smiled, half snarled back at me. I pulled the pin on the logic hand grenade and lobbed it onto the table.

“Even though your organization claims this book is the word of your CEO, it wasn’t actually written by your CEO himself. Therefore, it isn’t an actual autobiography. Correct?”

“Okay, I’ll give you that one.” She acknowledged, “Next?”

“This book was written by several different men, from several different locations, at several different moments in time, over the course of approximately one thousand years. And they were all describing events they never actually witnessed first hand. Right?”

“Yes, correct again.”

“And The stories within this ‘autobiography’ were pieced together in some places using bits and pieces of stories from other cultures. Am I still correct?”

“Uh huh…” she admitted shyly.

“Then, if everything is as I just explained it, what does that tell you about this book being nothing more than a bunch of non-collaborated. non witnessed events put down on paper? A bunch of –dare I say it — myths? How is this book any different than all those stories about Greek gods?”

“But…it’s the word of my CEO passed down to all these men! That’s what his book is all about. It’s a guideline for behavior. This is his book, given to the world, to help us navigate through life, and tell us how we should act and treat others. It truly is the best book ever written, whether he wrote it himself, or some other men did. How are you not understanding this?”

I picked the book up off the table. I opened it to the first chapter. I read the first sentence: “In the beginning…” I put my finger on the line, looked up at Mary Ann and said,

“Okay, let’s try another approach. Let’s talk about the content itself. Maybe we can find some middle ground here…”

creation-image

After making sure Sebastian was okay to drive home, I was finally able to focus on the interview with the company’s CEO. I climbed back into the elevator and, sure enough, the CEO’s floor wasn’t at the top, but on the seventh floor. I knew this because of all the buttons on the panel, this was the only one ringed in bright yellow gold. It didn’t take a detective with a science background to figure that out.

I pushed the button and leaned back against the back of the elevator, “Oh boy, what am I getting myself into?” I muttered aloud. I really had no idea what my interview plan was. I knew I had a few sound questions written down on some note cards, but I was hoping that most of this interview was going to be open ended. I would ask a question, then let the CEO just “talk”. I was certain I’d learn more about him than ever before. Plus, if my suspicions rang true, letting him “talk” was exactly what I needed in order to prove how completely full of crap I felt his organization has become. I looked at it as a way to give him just enough rope to hang himself. If everything went according to my plan, that is…

The seventh floor button rang– it wasn’t so much a buzzer or a ding as it was more like a bell — and I smoothed my skirt down one final time before I exited the elevator door and walked up to the receptionist. The receptionist looked swamped — the panel of lights indicating callers was blinking continuously. How anyone could keep up with the call volume was beyond me.

I raised my hand in a friendly wave, gave a slight smile and said “Hi, I’m here to interview the CEO…” Without missing a single step (and with her phone firmly attached to her cheek), she pointed to the hallway behind her and said, “His office is back there. His assistant will be with you momentarily.” Good, I smiled back. I’m ready to begin.

Expecting a well-dressed male figure to come out to get me, I was a bit surprised to see an older, gray haired woman dressed in a sharp suit and sensible, black flats heading directly towards me. She was only slightly smiling – more trepidation than friendliness. Something told me she already knew why I was here.

“Hello, I’m Mary Ann,” she smiled wryly at me, “We’ve had a bit of a mix up here. I know you’re here to see the boss, but I’m afraid we can’t let you do that today. He’s been called away on some very important business. Humanitarian work, so we’ve been told…” She continued to apologize for the CEO’s absence, and as I listened to her, I recognized her voice as the same one that had just told Sebastian – the gay man from the elevator – to get the hell out. My eyes slightly narrowed at this realization – already I knew I didn’t like her, and that I would greatly enjoy what was just about to happen. Regardless, I bit my cheek and fought back the impulse to tell her what to go do to herself for being such a disrespectful bitch to that poor guy downstairs.

“I had a few questions to ask your boss, ” I smiled back, showing just the slightest tips of my canines -controlled anger boiling just beneath the surface of my words, “May I ask you them instead?” She stared at me silently for just a few seconds, trying to read the expression on my face as I stood there, arms down at my sides, trying to be as inviting and nonthreatening as possible. I was going to need to go very slowly here, or I’d risk getting kicked out of the building myself.

“Sure!” she smiled back, “I’d love to discuss my CEO’s job with you.”

We walked back to the conference room and she directed me to sit directly across from her. As I made myself comfortable, she went over to the mini fridge in the corner and took out two water bottles for us. She handed me one as I was reaching into my satchel. I muttered a quick, “Thanks” and took out the object I was looking for. I placed it down on the middle of the table and, with a look of half disdain and half curiosity, pointed to it and said,

“Let’s talk about this book your CEO has supposedly written. Who wants to start?”

book

I need a superhero.

My therapist and I have been dabbling in some “inner child” work lately, and her latest assignment was for me to create a list of “needs” I feel have been seriously missing in my life. What was it I needed most as a child, but never felt I got? A superhero.

I grew up in a family filled with kids and chaos. I was the youngest of six. With such a large family to monitor, what time my parents had to give to each of their kids was minimal and sparing. Being the last in line, it always seemed to me that whenever I needed something, I was the last to be heard and get it.

I was a scrawny, gangly kid with bucked teeth and bad eyes. Looking back on it  now, I see my inner child as totally “adorkable”, but back then, I could have been a poster child for both the ophthalmology and Orthodontia Associations. I needed a lot of work done to straighten out my teeth and realign my eyes. In the end, only my teeth got fixed. I’ve been living without depth perception and balanced eyes since 1975. I’ve adjusted.

But as kids are prone to do, this made great fodder for bullying. I was bullied as a child — starting right around sixth grade, as the hormones began to kick in and boys’ and girls’ bodies start to develop. I was way behind on the maturity train, if that helps explain things.

This isn’t about bullying, even though the way I was treated by my peers back then has a lot to do with how I respond to the world now. This is about what I needed as a child to help me endure and rise above the mistreatment and disappointments of life. I needed someone in my life who could have rushed in at the moment I needed it and said “YOU WILL NOT TREAT HER AS SUCH! YOU WILL LISTEN TO HER NEEDS AND FEELINGS AND RESPECT THEM!”

I have some very vivid memories of  events from my childhood where my superhero had totally “left the building”. One event has permanently impacted my physical stature.

I went through a rapid growth spurt in fifth grade and was outgrowing a pair of shoes about every three months. With the way money was so tight in my house (according to my dad- if you read about him in my tribute you’d know what I mean here), I felt it was too much of a financial burden on the family if I told my parents I needed new shoes. I was sure I would hear my dad say “What do you mean you need new shoes? We just bought you a goddamn new pair three months ago!!”

So, instead of letting my parents know my feet were now a size 7 instead of a 5, I would just continue to wear them, knuckles bulging upwards as they formed into permanent hammertoes.  I bet my superhero, had he or she been there, would have gladly swept into the house, picked me up in his or her arms. and flown me to the nearest shoe  mart to find me a pair of new, bigger, less binding shoes. But sadly, that never happened.

The other incident I will never forget was the time I came down with a case of tonsillitis so advanced I nearly landed in the hospital with surgery. Again, I was reluctant to tell my parents I didn’t feel well, because there was always some sort of kid crisis going on with my older siblings. Who was I, the littlest one, to ask for help? So, I endured the blazing sore throat, the high fever and chills, and just “toughed it out” until one day I could barely swallow my soup. I happened to find my mom in a rare moment of solitude, and approached her cautiously. “Mom, my throat hurts a little, can you look at it?” My mom audibly gasped and recoiled in horror at what she saw. My throat was bright red, with white oozing pustules and yellow streaks running down the back. My tonsils were so swollen they were almost touching each other.

Obviously, my mother rushed me to the doctor immediately – she wasn’t one of those “It’s just a little viral thing, you’ll get over it” kind of moms. The doctor, however, felt my mom had been negligent, and proceeded to rip her a new one for not bringing me in sooner. He was ready to send me to the hospital and have my tonsils ripped out. Eventually, the antibiotics kicked in, and he determined tonsils were more beneficial than not having them, so surgery was called off.

Again, if I had had a superhero in my life, he or she would have let mom know I was truly, really, sick days before I worked up the courage to tell her myself.

Moments like these occurred all through my life. The Catholic upbringing played a large part in it as well. Being constantly told to remain humble, not stir the pot, be good, patient, etc., because that’s what god wanted, in a large family where everyone has too many needs that all can’t be met right now, caused me to always put my own needs aside for everyone else’s.

But now it’s time to become my own superhero. My therapist has been encouraging me to raise my voice, speak my mind and let my needs be known. She is working on giving me back some of what was missing in my childhood – the strength to speak up and out about whatever is bothering me, or what I needed.

Perhaps, she’s the superhero I was looking for all along.

superhero

building

The appointment was for 1 pm sharp. Since I believe in arriving early, I pulled into the parking lot at 12:42, parked my car, checked myself in the mirror, adjusted my business suit and made the slow saunter up to the building. The entrance doors were very fancy – gold-plated, I believe. There was an aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting through the air. “I bet they have an amazing pastry bar in this place,” I sniffed one more time, before swinging the door open and stepping into what had to be the most beautiful, ornate and echoey marbled hallway I’ve ever seen. Every step of my five-inch, spiked stilettos tapped out my arrival. The floor was freshly polished, too, and I struggled to keep from sliding and falling flat on my ass. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long walk to the elevators.

I paused briefly in front of the two elevators – contemplating my next step. Which floor is the CEO on? I’d like to assume the top floor, but perhaps this CEO runs things a little differently around here. I’ve had that happen to me before — an elevator ride up thirteen floors, only to be told “Sorry about your luck, but the person you’re looking for is one story up.” That’s what I get for believing in superstitions, I guess.

I pushed the big button and waited, almost impatiently, for the sound of the elevator descending to meet me. When the doors opened, I was about to step on when I noticed the man huddled in the corner of the elevator, weeping silently to himself. Such an odd sight to see. My immediate reaction was to catch the next car up, but my soft side told me to check on the distraught man, and see if there was something I could do to help.

“Sir, are you alright?” I said, looking anxiously at my wristwatch. I had two minutes to get to my interview, and this could easily take a while. The poor guy seemed on the verge of hysterics.

“No, I am not alright,” the man quivered under his breath. “I just met with the CEO, and he is furious with me…” “Oh, this can’t be good,” I thought to myself “And I have an interview with him? Yikes…”

I decided to delay my arrival upstairs by just a few moments. To not jeopardize my situation, I took out my cell phone and dialed the CEO’s number. His assistant answered almost immediately. “Yes?” the condescension in the assistant’s voice was almost palpable. “What do you want?” I explained I was downstairs, I had arrived on time, but I stopped to  help out a fellow co-worker. I’d be up in a few minutes. Expecting the assistant to soften a little, because the company I was interviewing for was known for its compassion (although I have recently heard rumors to the contrary), I was quite shocked when the assistant snapped back,

“Are you talking about Sebastian? Is he wearing a dark gray suit and black penny loafers? Pink tie?” the assistant sneered into the phone. I looked at the man. “Why, uh, yes, as a matter of fact–”

I recoiled in horror at what I heard next.

“The CEO just fired him. It turned out he has been hiding a secret, gay life and this violates our corporation’s policies. We won’t have that kind of person working here. So,  he’s gone – adios, sucker. Go find somewhere else to work.” the assistant slammed the phone down harshly.

I stared at my phone, expecting a call back and a “just kidding, you’ve been pranked!” But, nothing like that happened. I looked down at the cowering, whimpering man and softly asked, “Sebastian? Is that you?” The poor guy looked up at me and, with a weak smile, answered, “Yes, that’s me. And yes, the CEO just fired me. For being…gay. I can’t believe it – I have been a loyal, dedicated, hard-working employee almost all of my LIFE! How can he do this to me?”

I slowly maneuvered myself onto the floor next to him, making sure I didn’t expose any parts of me that could be seen by anyone else approaching. I leaned in slightly, put my left hand gently on his forearm, and, with as much contempt and bitterness I could muster, I said,

“Welcome to the Catholic church.”

I knew right there and then I’d keep that meeting with the CEO. I had some serious questions to ask him, and if he is who he says he is, then he should be willing to provide the answers.