Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

Take the Gun, leave the Swedish Meatballs

 

It started with me whining about not having enough storage space for all my shit because I’m an American person and have way too many of everything. I’d surveyed several options for extending our clothing storage beyond two small closets, and came upon a narrow shelving unit from the compressed cardboard knitting factory formerly known as Ikea. I say formerly because I can no longer bring myself to call this place anything but The Nefarious Swede. My mother always told me it wasn’t nice to hate people– and I don’t. But this is a company, and it feels less offensive to hate them and share my contempt publicly–here, to my loyal fourteen followers who always nurse my wounds and have my back.

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Actually, I should clear this up– my beef is not with the store itself. I’ve never really had a bad experience shopping in one of their massive warehouses. It’s hard not to succumb to the allure of Ikea when you live in a city, because as nice and sturdy and reliable as genuine hardwood furniture is, if you live in a small NYC apartment, actual grown-up furniture doesn’t always fit, and if you happen to move, hauling heavy wood is a huge burden. Aside from the assembly part, buying from Ikea has always been easy and affordable. In fact, I’ve always considered a trip to Ikea an hypnotic experience, running through pre-assembled rooms like a kid in a fun house, one filled with artificial wood in bleached out colors and unyielding, under-stuffed sofas. They have a great selection of fresh plants and practical storage options. I’ve never bought a toilet brush anywhere else. I don’t love their frozen meatballs, but I can respect a place that sells them.

My complaint today (and perhaps forevermore, as I’m feeling particularly embittered about this) is with the customer service hotline associated with their online store. If that sounds super specific, it’s because it is. Apparently the online service is run by a completely different company than the original store-based Ikea. That’s what the robotic customer service rep at the store told us anyway. I think she was trained in evasiveness, and she was remarkably effective.

I’m taking this to the blog not just to bitch, but to pass along the word to others, because we had an incredibly frustrating experience but it’s nothing compared to the seemingly endless roster of complaints  other desperately raging consumers have posted online.

Without further ado and without sounding completely melodramatic…

 

THIS IS MY STORY.

 

I rush home on Saturday afternoon to wait for BILLY. Billy is tall, white and slender, with four long doors and a flexible cardboard back. The automated message predicted his arrival for sometime between 2 and 6, and much to my delight (TM), he arrived at exactly 2:20. Two sincerely unhappy, possibly mute young men carried him in, piece by piece in long cardboard boxes, plopping them in a pile on the living room floor. They seemed to understand my verbal and non-verbal cues, but refused to utter a word or even crack a vaguely pleasant smile. When I reflect back, I imagine it’s because they respond to so many complaints they’ve likely been advised to just drop things off and get the hell out of dodge.

Vin immediately gets to work building BILLY. In my imagination, he’s looked forward to this moment all week, as he is able to fulfill his life’s purpose putting the pieces of his wife’s poor financial decisions together. There are about six boxes to go through, all filled with long planks of compressed wood chips sandwiched between a thin layer of plastic. He builds one half of the cabinet. Unfinished, it tips forward and shakes slightly, because Ikea pieces must be drilled into the wall to ensure they don’t tip over and kill your children. Vin moves to open the next set of boxes to complete the build, and realizes that one of the most critical pieces is chopped in three sections like the sad leftovers from a $10 karate lesson.

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A feeling of dread washes over me, as a simple online order just became a complicated problem. I move to my computer to look up the number for their customer service line.

For a truly miserable time, call

1.888.888.4532

 

“Thanks for calling IKEA. Your call is important to us (LIES! ALL LIES!!). The approximate wait time is 60 minutes.”

I don’t know what’s worse, being told up front that the wait time is 60 minutes, or just hanging on and learning as you go. I put the phone on speaker, and do a few quiet household tasks. I couldn’t vacuum like I really needed to, so instead make some infused artisanal butter with rehydrated, pureed porcinis and a pinch of sea salt. It had been on my to-do list for a few weeks. This is what middle-aged people without children do on Saturdays– wait for shitty furniture deliveries and make homemade mushroom butter.

A rep finally picked up my call and couldn’t have been more apologetic. She kept saying she was sorry, and she really nailed an earnest, authentic tone. She validated my frustration and disappointment, which helped me manage both better. By the end of our 30-minute conversation, she’d let me know that my complaint had been registered, and that someone should be dropping off a new piece in the next two weeks.

“The next two weeks? Can I at least schedule a day for that to happen?” I ask.

“Noooooo, you can’t schedule it. What’ll happen is, the day before they drop it off, we’ll notify you by phone that it’s coming.”

“So I might get a call on Wednesday alerting me that the delivery is happening Thursday when I have to be at work?”

“Exactly. Thanks for calling, and thank you for shopping Ikea!” CLICK.

I live the rest of my life that week like I normally do. I prep food, go to my job, avoid the gym and tip-toe around a hulking half-constructed wardrobe cabinet while trying to get dressed and undressed every day, hoping its untethered base doesn’t tip over and give me a concussion.

On Tuesday afternoon, I get a voicemail from Ikea customer service letting me know that my replacement piece will be arriving between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 the next day. Well that’s just super, I think to myself, before picking up the phone to see if my retired in-laws feel like hanging out on my couch for a few hours the next afternoon. They’re like the best parent people in the world– we never leave their house without a paper plate of leftover lasagna and every time our basement flooded while we were stuck at work, they came over to mop it up. But they weren’t available the next day, so I knew I’d have to get back on the horn with Ikea customer service. Expecting to be put on hold, I waited until I got home from work, changed into loose clothing, took a good nice pee, then parked myself on a cushiony chair purchased from a steadfast, reputable competitor.

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CB2…You da real MVP

I dial the number and, as expected, am told the hold time will be 65 minutes. I have had a long, draining day at work and am having a hard time managing my own frustration about spending my evening this way. I feel cheated out of my recovery time and the longer this hold time runs over the appointed 65 minutes, the angrier I feel. By the time the rep pics up the call (at 75 minutes), I am close to tears.

“Hello, thank you for calling Ikea customer service. How can I help you?”

Right out the gate, this rep’s tone is different than the initial lady. She sounds like someone who’s been shoveling other peoples’ shit all day, and no longer has the strength to lift a shovel. Her tone was flat, to the point and if I may say so, a bit curt.

I will have a hard time proceeding with the business end of this call until I am able to express my feelings, so I just go right for it.

“First thing first, I have to say, I am very, very upset with Ikea right now. I know it’s not you personally, it’s more of a systemic problem, but this is the second time in a week I’ve been on hold over an hour with you guys and it just seems like there has to be a better way. I mean seriously, you must get complaints about this all day long.”

“Yes, I do. What is yours?” Some people are born to do what they do for a living. This lady was clearly one of those people.

I tell her that I need to reschedule a delivery, with an actual firm delivery date because I have a job and have not yet reached the stage of life where I can afford Ethan Allen furniture or spontaneously call out the next day for a shitty IKEA delivery. She says FINE, we’ll schedule a pick-up this Saturday.

“Pick up? No, I need a drop off. I need you to replace a broken piece so we can finishing building this half-built cabinet.”

“Yes, Ma’am–I understand that. But first we need to schedule a pick-up for the broken piece.” she says.

“So you’ll schedule a time to drop off the new piece while picking up the broken one. That’s fine. Let’s do it.”

“No, first we’ll schedule a time to pick up the broken piece. After we do that, you’ll call us back and we’ll give you another date to drop off the new one.” I start to feel a heat at the base of my earlobes.

“Are you telling me this requires two separate delivery dates, and that you’re prioritizing picking up your broken piece over giving me the new one?” I just wanted to make sure I was hearing her correctly so that my head didn’t set itself on fire and launch itself into orbit for no good reason.

“Yes, that’s right.” She actually sounded giddy telling me this.

“Listen, again, I understand you’re not the one making big decisions about the way your company is run, but this is just terrible. I’ve now been on the phone with Ikea for three hours this week, and this problem won’t be resolved until I schedule two more deliveries with you. This is ridiculous. Can I just take this thing to the store and get a new one?”

“Yes you can do that.”

“Alright, fine. That’s easier. But let me just add that the whole reason I ordered online was so I wouldn’t have the hassle of going to the store. I’m very disappointed with Ikea. Can I get a refund or something? How about you return my shipping charges?”

“Well, ma’am we want you to leave your Ikea experience with a good taste in your mouth, so I’d be delighted to give you some food coupons to use in our store.”

I have sampled Ikea’s frozen salmon fillet with lemon-dill sauce and seasonal mush vegetables, and while it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, I wouldn’t voluntarily sign up to brunch at the Red Hook Ikea unless the situation were truly dire, meaning all 25,000 of New York City’s restaurants spontaneously went out of business and their 50-cent hot dogs and limp pancakes were the last remaining food sources.

“Yeah, no offense, but your food costs like three dollars. I don’t really want food coupons. I would like some actual money returned.” I say. This whole thing is starting to offend me, and I don’t even offend that easily.

“Okay, well you can discuss that with the customer service reps at the store when you make the return. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“Got a time machine?” I considered asking. Instead, I answered no, put my head down on the table and let out a soft, defeated whimper.

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***

Saturday we drive to Ikea and Vinny is ready to throw down. He’s the nicest person in the world but when it comes to customer service or business problems, watch out, cause that long-haired devil ain’t afraid to bite with fangs. He preps me in the car.

“Listen, Jenn. Don’t do that thing where you just give in. You’re too nice. We’re getting our money back.” The man is on a mission and I’m still sorta fired up too, but am gradually losing steam with this project. We park the car and make our way to the downstairs area, where half the people are sitting around with grim faces and deconstructed cribs.

I tell myself… Do not be distracted by the healthy looking plants everyone has in their carts! No lingonberry jam! You don’t need more cheap glassware!! Don’t go upstairs! If you go upstairs, they win! I see a few people walk by with soft-serve cones. They’re only a dollar but I can’t buy one since I turned down those stupid food coupons out of fucking principle.

They finally call our number and we stride up to the counter. I am silent, and let my husband do the talking. I am done defending my case with Ikea and just want this shit behind me. Vin ain’t mucking around though, and neither is this customer service rep. My husband explains the situation firmly, directly, and somewhat dramatically. A real injustice has been made here and we want to see some corrective action. The customer service rep says nothing, walks back to the loading dock and brings us a new piece.

“Well, what about the refund on the shipping charges?” Vin asks. “The lady on the phone said you could handle that for me.”

“No, I can’t do that. Ikea store is run by a totally different company than Ikea online. You’ll have to call their customer service line to get that taken care of.” So Ikea-online and Ikea-store just ping-pong their complaints back and forth to one another? If so, that’s Machiavellian but brilliant.

“I’d rather take one of your lukewarm, under-seasoned meatballs and shove it in my eye socket than call that line again.” I didn’t say this, but I wish I had. What a visual! Instead I shrug my shoulders and thank her for her time. She places the new box of shelves on our flat cart, and we slowly roll away– defeated.

“Man, what happened to you?” asked Vin. He had a look of complete disgust on his face. “You totally wilted.”

“You know what, Vin. We’ve got the piece we need, and now I want to put this behind me. It’s Saturday. And on Saturday, I choose happiness.”

He rolled his eyes so far in his head I didn’t see them again until the next weekend. We went home, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, BILLY was finally standing tall, in one piece. We’ll see how long he lasts.

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****

A few weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail from Ikea. My name and address were hand-written for a personal, yet completely unprofessional touch.

I opened it up, expecting a check for $30 to cover the shipping charges. Inside were five fucking food coupons.

The first five people to write a comment on this post will receive one of these golden tickets, but with a caveat. If you use them in your local Ikea store, you must go loaded with a strong hand gesture and a flaming bag of poop. Tell ‘em Jenn said Glada Helgdagar*.

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*Happy Holidays, in Swedish

 

 

 

 

 

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Somethin’ Peed in the Christmas Decor

For a long time, my husband and I rented a basement apartment in Queens. The ceilings were a hair over six feet and the particleboard cabinets had begun to crumble from the edges inward. My closet was in the kitchen and we served appetizers from our bedroom’s dresser drawers during house parties. Lacking adequate space, we stored the overflow in a dank unfinished cave behind the home’s washer and dryer. Most of our possessions back there eventually smelled like mildew, but one cold December day, they reeked of urine.

I don’t like to brag, but I have the greatest sense of smell on God’s green earth. It’s an extraordinary gift when seasoning dinner or saving people from burning buildings, but it’s a real drag when garbage has overstayed its welcome or something’s peed on your Christmas decorations. I’d just stumbled on a box filled with tinsel that smelled like a litter box and it made me feel very unfestive.

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I called out to my husband. “Hey Vin! Come sniff these decorations. They smell like pee.”

Vinny thinks I experience olfactory hallucinations because he never smells what I smell, so when he agreed about the urine I knew I wasn’t crazy. It’s nice to have this confirmed now and then.

“Some kind of animal must have gotten down here,” I said.

“Jenn, we’re in Queens. When have you ever seen an animal?” Ummm, did he not remember the rat from last year?

The smell was so strong I began to feel nauseous, and I worried my eyes might never uncross. I wanted to uncover the mystery, but I also needed our Christmas box to spontaneously burst into flames or grow wings and fly itself to the curb.

Vin stroked his beard like an ancient wizard; in times of crisis or uncertainty, he looked to his facial hair as a sort of oracle. Finally he offered, “What if Vito did it?”

Vito was our former landlord, a funny and engaging man with whom we’d always gotten along really well. So when my husband accused the man of marching into his own house and marking his territory like a feral donkey, I thought he was the one hallucinating. It reminded me of the time I heard meowing on the subway and instead of looking for a cat began searching for a person with a bizarre vocal talent.

‘Why would someone pee all over his own property?” I asked.

“Maybe he was working down here and had no other choice. ”  he said.

I’d always admired mens’ ability to relieve themselves at their leisure. The female anatomy made spontaneous evacuation a much more challenging task, with all the hiding and squatting and modesty and whatnot.

I wasn’t ready to rule out a critter, but Vinny was convinced it was human pee, especially after discovering his grandparents’ vintage ornaments were missing.

vintage ornaments

“The ornaments are GONE! You wanna tell me a raccoon came down here and stole them? It had to be a person, Jenn.”

“Let me get this straight,” I debated. “You think our landlord came down here, took a pee in a box, then stole our ornaments?”

“YES.”

I dropped the subject, exhaled, and delivered the stinky box to the trash. Eventually we found the ornaments and ruled out our landlord as primary suspect. We found the mouse droppings an hour later, like tiny lumps of coal. We sang some carols, hung our stockings and toasted with eggnog.

Then we lit a big freaking candle so Christmas could smell like peppermint again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Aloud from Martha Stewart’s Cookbook: Collected Snark for Every Day

 

Pay no attention to the mounds of filthy frozen snow on the ground. Spring is here! We made it through winter and now it’s time to get sprung.

Anyway, if you’re anything like me, the harkening of spring means opening up your home for a little entertaining. The sun is out, people are in good spirits and we’ve all been cooped up at home too long. And when we do our entertaining, we defer to Ms. Martha.

Thrift stores aren’t generally my favorite place to stock up on cookbooks, because they’re usually circa 1960 with entries like chipped beef on toast and canned fruit suspended in jello. But a few months ago, I popped into my local Housing Works and scored The Martha Stewart Cookbook– Collected Recipes for Every Day, which is a culmination of her most popular recipes and tips from previous books. At 619 pages, I believe it qualifies as a tome. At five bucks, I considered it a bargain. I couldn’t wait to get that puppy home.

party table

uncoached.com

Spring is for parties. All types of parties.

 

On the subway ride home, I cracked right into it, and knew immediately it’d be one of the funniest books I’d read all year.

“The eggs called for in these recipes are large. I raise my own chickens and always cook with the freshest eggs.”- Martha

“You pretentious turd”, I thought to myself. This is just classic Martha, and classic Martha is ridiculous. This is why we love her, but also why we kind of hate her. I realized very quickly that I wouldn’t be able to refer to any of her recipes without rolling my eyes, or picturing Anna Gasteyer topless, walking me step-by-step through the tedious preparation for a classic Buche de Noel.

This book is called “Recipes for Every Day” but I get the sense that Martha Stewart’s everyday life (and especially her “everyday people”) swings widely outside the norm, as many of her recipes would be better used by high-end caterers than a mom trying to put food on the table for two or three kids who’d rather be eating Gordon’s fish fingers. For example, she includes in this book a recipe for cassoulet (it serves 100) that costs at minimum $500 to prepare. Cassoulet– which I just learned includes several legs of lamb, a couple pork loins, two pounds of duck fat, three bottles of premium wine and five whole pounds of pancetta. A page away, she has a big chart illustrating how to set up the perfect raw bar. My assumption is that anyone who can afford to serve 800 cocktail shrimp can also afford a catering staff and a professional ice sculptor, since everyone knows the only way to do a proper raw bar is to first procure a series of gigantic clamshells carved from artisanal ice.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that her Jerusalem artichoke soup with pears and cream sounds delicious, but I feel like Martha should have included a disclaimer that those little tubers are going to give all your party guests diarrhea. I wish I had known that fact before trying (and loving!) Jerusalem artichokes for the first time. Now I can’t stay away from those little bastards, but I always stay close to home.

Now that I’ve caught your attention, let’s flip through a few pages together, shall we?

(Everything you see written below is straight out of Martha’s mouth, except for the words in parentheses beside them. Those are editor’s notes, and the editor is me. (For reference, the abbreviation, FOM is short for “Fuck off, Martha”.)

 

THE HOLIDAY PARTY  “The year I was writing my Christmas book, I held one of my annual Christmas parties. The theme was “Christmas All Over the House”, (No. It wasn’t. The theme was I am very rich. Let me show you.) and the party was to begin at 6 p.m. and end whenever (See! See! I can be fun too!). Hors d’ouevres were served in the outside kitchen (FOM), a buffet supper was laid out in the barn (OF COURSE IT WAS), and champagne, eggnog and desserts were in the house.”

“It was a clear night; there was a bit of a moon, and the sky was filled with stars. The paths were lined with hundreds of luminarias (candles set in paper bags) and the fruit trees shone with little white lights. It was festive but warm, friendly, and simple” (Please, define simple. I actually dare you. This Christmas party was more elaborate than my wedding).

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Tip #1: ”Changing the use of rooms can be fun for both host and guests, for it breaks tired habits. A formal dinner in a candelit finished barn (It tickles me that Martha assumes everyone has easy access to a barn, and that–if by good fortune you do–it doesn’t smell like horse shit, as every functional barn does), or cocktails in a Victorian bedroom (?) or a greenhouse, can have special moment and drama”. (Martha, my greenhouse is currently filled with imported orchids from Thailand. Guess our storage closet will have to do).

Tip #2: ”Entertaining provides a good excuse to (hire someone) put things in order (polish silver, wax floors, paint a flaking windowsill) and to be more fanciful or dramatic with details. It is the moment to indulge in a whole bank of flowering plants to line the hall (SO TRUE), or to organize a collection of antique clothes on a conspicuous coatrack” (TOO LATE, ALREADY DONE DID THAT).

 

TACOS LA SALSA

First of all, STAY IN YOUR LANE MARTHA. People come to you for nice WASPy classics like egg salad canapes and smoked trout with horseradish cream.  No one plans a fiesta with Martha Stewart as co-host. You’re not who we turn to when embracing primary colors, melty orange cheese and actual fun. I do not need or want a recipe for borracho beans or gorditos from you. Second of all, you put sardines in your quesadillas and for that I will never forgive you. You’d probably fill a pinata with after-dinner mints.

 

Inexplicable Whining No One Can Relate To

“I have more than a hundred fruit trees growing in my orchard, but for some unknown reason, I have had no luck at all growing apricots.” (FOM)

 

Tip #3:  “If you have time, marinate your own mushrooms, eggplant, artichoke hearts, and roasted peppers and crack and season your own green olives” (I did not even realize this was an option).

 

Deep Thoughts about Entertaining by Martha Stewart

“Entertaining calls for an extrovert’s heart and an introvert’s soul.” (Actually, I kind of love this and tend to agree. Maybe I’ll embroider it onto my hostess gown.)

 

Random Bragging About Being Able to Do Something No One Else Would Ever Want to Do

“Family traditions evolve over time, and one of my favorites is the yearly creation of the plum pudding. To keep up with demand (You are delusional– no one is demanding plum pudding. Banana pudding is where it’s at), I began collecting traditional English pudding bowls, and one year I made three hundred puddings to give as gifts. While you may not wish to produce puddings on such a grand scale (you got that right), it is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give (this part is true, because plum pudding is traditionally topped with Cognac and lit with a match, and I can think of nothing more festive than setting one of Martha’s original creations on fire).

 

Funny Anecdote to Wrap Things Up:

When I was 22 and stupid, I interviewed at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for an editorial assistant job. The lobby was exactly what you’re picturing– pristine polished floors, tarty little loveseats and oversized vases filled with seasonally appropriate greenery. The HR guy’s name was Adam– I’ll never forget it– or the look he gave me when I asked how Martha’s impending prison sentence would affect job security within the company.

I didn’t get the job, but I did get a free cookie while waiting in the lobby, and man was it delicious.

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Hard to Swallow

When I was about 25 or 26 I had a co-worker who was around 43 or 44. Her name was Sonya, I adored her, and thusly began calling her Mom. It wasn’t because I viewed her as matronly, it was because she was nurturing and sweet and taught me a lot about growing into my womanhood. She’s also the kind of person who listens more than she talks and has all her values and priorities firmly in check, which are qualities I admire very much. I miss having her in my work life. I don’t have a work mom anymore. My office bestie now works in New Jersey, and for a while I was enjoying rich conversations with my fancy European work uncle, but he retired last week, sold his Hamptons house and moved to the South of France, which makes him far more civilized than any biological uncle I’ve ever had.

Anyway, some conversations with coworkers are more memorable than others, and there’s one talk Sonya and I had that I’ve never forgotten, even these many years later. As someone who likes to be prepared for all situations, I always paid close attention when Sonya spoke of recent shifts in her body, her relationships and her life. She’d describe some of the changes she’d experienced in her 30s and early 40s, and I’d listen with rapt attention, often taking mental notes. One day, over lunch, she said something that really rattled me.

“No cheese on the sandwich for me,” she instructed the man at the deli counter. Then she turned to me and said, “Ever since I turned 35, I haven’t been able to digest dairy.”

It was one of the saddest things I’d ever heard.

I remember thinking at the time Nuh, uh. Not me. I’m gonna be able to eat cheese forever. I’m going to be able to eat EVERYTHING foreverrrrrrrrrr.

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***

Flash-forward 13 years, and I’m crammed in the phlegm-filled lobby of an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to check out the dry cough that’s kept me up every night for the past three weeks. A cough, I’ve learned, can indicate many different things and I was hopeful that he’d give me an anti-biotic and I’d be back to dreamland in two days.

“Well, the good news is it’s not viral,” said the doctor. Perversely, I had been hoping for something viral so I could walk out of there with an actual remedy. Every other time I’ve gone to a doctor for a cough their instruction was to basically wait it out, giving me the pep talk that “it could be weeks, could be a month.”

“Since you don’t have any other real symptoms, I think it could be acid reflux,” said the doctor. “President Obama has it; it’s very trendy.”

He handed me a sheet of paper with a bunch of foods on it, including a cup of coffee, a curvy jalapeno and a big slab of steak. They all had giant black X’s marked through the center of them. It was very aggressive.

“Avoid everything on this list, and see how you feel.” The list included things I ate everyday, multiple times a day, and enjoyed more than the average person. Telling me to avoid caffeine, spicy foods and a spritz of lemon was like asking me to floss my teeth with a sailor’s knot or do a math calculation in my head. The task sounded impossible, and I was bitter that the only prescription I walked out with was “lifestyle change”.

I went home and shared the diagnosis with my husband, a former office pal who is now my head cheerleader. He understood the gravity of the situation immediately and was very supportive.

“That’s bullshit, Jenn! There’s no way that’s right. I’ve known you for 16 years; you’re the best eater I know. That doctor’s a hack. You can digest anything!”.

“I know! Thank you! I mean, what does he want me to do? Never eat a raw onion again? That’s no way to live!”

A week or two later the cough drifted away on its own, and I’ve continued to eat everything I normally do without consequence. I thought fondly of Sonya and sharp cheese and wondered if they’d ever gotten to be together again the way they were before.

***

Last year I interviewed someone to become my graduate intern. She was 26 and could digest anything.

She was a pure delight off the bat. Smart, sensitive, committed and hard-working. I welcomed her aboard on the spot; there was only one condition. She could no longer dye her hair blue.

And then I realized why I no longer have a work mom.

It’s because I am the work mom.

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Hard to Swallow

 

When I was about 25 or 26 I had a co-worker who was around 43 or 44. Her name was Sonya, I adored her, and thusly began calling her Mom. It wasn’t because I viewed her as matronly, it was because she was nurturing and sweet and taught me a lot about growing into my womanhood. She’s also the kind of person who listens more than she talks and has all her values and priorities firmly in check, which are qualities I admire very much. I miss having her in my work life. I don’t have a work mom anymore. My office bestie now works in New Jersey, and for a while I was enjoying rich conversations with my fancy European work uncle, but he retired last week, sold his Hamptons house and moved to the South of France, which makes him far more civilized than any biological uncle I’ve ever had.

Anyway, some conversations with coworkers are more memorable than others, and there’s one talk Sonya and I had that I’ve never forgotten, even these many years later. As someone who likes to be prepared for all situations, I always paid close attention when Sonya spoke of recent shifts in her body, her relationships and her life. She’d describe some of the changes she’d experienced in her 30s and early 40s, and I’d listen with rapt attention, often taking mental notes. One day, over lunch, she said something that really rattled me.

“No cheese on the sandwich for me,” she instructed the man at the deli counter. Then she turned to me and said, “Ever since I turned 35, I haven’t been able to digest dairy.”

It was one of the saddest things I’d ever heard.

I remember thinking at the time Nuh, uh. Not me. I’m gonna be able to eat cheese forever. I’m going to be able to eat EVERYTHING foreverrrrrrrrrr.

 DSC_6522

***

Flash-forward 13 years, and I’m crammed in the phlegm-filled lobby of an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to check out the dry cough that’s kept me up every night for the past three weeks. A cough, I’ve learned, can indicate many different things and I was hopeful that he’d give me an anti-biotic and I’d be back to dreamland in two days.

“Well, the good news is it’s not viral,” said the doctor. Perversely, I had been hoping for something viral so I could walk out of there with an actual remedy. Every other time I’ve gone to a doctor for a cough their instruction was to basically wait it out, giving me the pep talk that “it could be weeks, could be a month.”

“Since you don’t have any other real symptoms, I think it could be acid reflux,” said the doctor.  ”President Obama has it; it’s very trendy.”

He handed me a sheet of paper with a bunch of foods on it, including a cup of coffee, a curvy jalapeno and a big slab of steak. They all had giant black X’s marked through the center of them. It was very aggressive.

“Avoid everything on this list, and see how you feel.” The list included things I ate everyday, multiple times a day, and enjoyed more than the average person. Telling me to avoid caffeine, spicy foods and a spritz of lemon was like asking me to floss my teeth with a sailor’s knot or do a math calculation in my head. The task sounded impossible, and I was bitter that the only prescription I walked out with was “lifestyle change”.

I went home and shared the diagnosis with my husband, a former office pal who is now my head cheerleader. He understood the gravity of the situation immediately and was very supportive.

“That’s bullshit, Jenn! There’s no way that’s right. I’ve known you for 16 years; you’re the best eater I know. That doctor’s a hack. You can digest anything!”.

“I know! Thank you! I mean, what does he want me to do? Never eat a raw onion again? That’s no way to live!”

A week or two later the cough drifted away on its own, and I’ve continued to eat everything I normally do without consequence. I thought fondly of Sonya and sharp cheese and wondered if they’d ever gotten to be together again the way they were before.

***

Last year I interviewed someone to become my graduate intern. She was 26 and could digest anything.

She was a pure delight off the bat. Smart, sensitive, committed and hard-working. I welcomed her aboard on the spot; there was only one condition. She could no longer dye her hair blue.

And then I realized why I no longer have a work mom.

It’s because I am the work mom.

 

 

 

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How To Save a Life

 

It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say I have a black thumb. That would require a history with plant life. I have only recently acquired an interest in the fine art of home botanical tending, but I’m finding that some of my own natural proclivities (ie: I bore easily, I tend to go with my gut in lieu of doing research) are standing in the way of becoming a master gardener.

To the new people here (hello! I think there are two of you!), I recently moved into a home with plentiful sunlight after living 10 years in  a cozy, yet cavernous basement. As a result, every time I pass a plant shop or Home Depot, I scoop up another little green friend to bring home. I’m happy to say that most are still with me, though others–I hate to report– are barely hanging on.

new living room

Here’s a question: How come none of these things come with instructions, and I mean REAL instructions? Sure, there’s a little pointy thing stuck in the dirt with a little sundial on it, but that’s about the extent of it. Everyone’s used toothpaste since toddlerhood but they STILL always put explicit instructions on the tube in the off-chance that someone out there who can read has never used it before. Put this on your teeth. Spit it out when you’re done. Don’t eat it, ya big dummy.

Why can’t they do the same with plants? There are apparently a lot of rules that come with taking care of plants, and not one of them has been written on the little container any of my plants have arrived in. You think any of my plants came with instructions to re-pot them? No! My friends told me that. There are so many things I’ve been learning along the way, none of which was explained to me via a helpful label or tri-fold brochure. You have to fertilize them. Move them around. Talk to them. Don’t underwater them. DO NOT overwater them! Trim the wonky parts. Tickle their roots. Sing them lullabies.

Dust their leaves. Dust their leaves!  Did you know you’re supposed to dust their leaves? But they live IN DIRT!!

I’m doing my best to keep up with them all, but I have a day job and dinner to make and other routine obligations that make it tricky to figure out all their unique, persnickety needs. Some need to be watered every other day, some survive on only one little sprinkle a week. The one currently looking the worst was voted “easiest houseplant to keep alive ever” on the internet. I demand a recount.

I feel mortally obligated to keep this peace lily alive not just because of its name, but because it was a housewarming gift from my friend. It must not die. The results could be disastrous!!!!!

Or, you know, I’d just feel really really bad about it.

I noticed it was starting to do the sad-spinach wilt, so I moved it into a plastic pot I purchased downstairs in the Astor Place K-Mart. Now here’s another question. How does Astor Place K-Mart do it?? Their plant section is in the basement of the store, so deep underground that it exits directly into the subway. What does K-Mart have that I don’t have? (besides 24-hour artificial lighting and miles of rayon).

Anyway, I learned quickly that the pot I replanted in was way too small to accommodate the lily, proving I have no idea what I’m doing and no good deed goes unpunished. After a week, it looked like this:

Sad plant

Is that not the saddest sad sack you’ve ever seen?

One morning (oh, it’s this morning, it just happened), I’d simply had enough. I picked up the plant, propped her on the counter, looked her right in the dirt and said, “I’M GOING TO SAVE YOU”.

So I found an even bigger pot and got to work. I poured in the Miracle-Gro and patted her roots deep into the dirt. I cut off the sad yellow bits and fluffed up her green ones. I watered her. I dusted her. I consoled her.

“It’s not over,” I said. “We’ve only just begun.”

 

Check in next week for the update! I’m going to do everything I can to avoid calling it “The Funeral”…

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Health Freaks

 

When you live in a neighborhood like ours, you begin to recognize people on the street because you see them everyday. There is one teeny-tiny lady I pass frequently who’s around 4’8″, weighs under 100 pounds and appears about two coughs away from dying. She might only be 45 years old, but she looks like every old Italian or Greek widow ever portrayed in cinema, and always seems to be wearing a roomy black shift dress that billows away from her gaunt, withering frame like a Hefty bag.

On Friday morning, she sat hunched over the bench outside my local bakery, the one that smells like meat at 8 a.m. because the owner of the bbq joint two doors down smokes brisket in their kitchen. She had on big dark sunglasses and round-toed orthopedic shoes that made her spindly legs look like toothpicks stuck into cocktail wieners. She had a cigarette in each of her hands, taking one last puff from the right one before using it to light the left. She looked like someone who had long ago thrown up both arms and exclaimed “Well! I’ve had a good run! Fuck all!”, and seeing her chain-smoking at eight in the morning made me want to hop on a treadmill, munch on an apple, chug a gallon of water and floss my teeth all at the same time. I felt a sense of urgency in my life, a pressing need to straighten up and fly right, and so before heading into work, I decided to buy a green drink.

I walked into a chain shop called Juice Press, where the girl behind the counter looked like Denise Huxtable after dropping out of Hillman and turning hippie. My jaw dropped when I saw the price list, and I almost told the chalkboard menu to go fuck itself for featuring a $15 smoothie. I don’t care if you’re blending gold chips or crack rocks into it, there is never any excuse for selling a booze-free drink for over ten bucks. If I’m gonna spend $15 on a meal, it better be in solid form and include a large piece of chicken.

So I walked down the street to a coffee shop that also makes juices and smoothies for under eight bucks. I make smoothies all the time at home, usually putting a mix of baby spinach and fresh mint in them which creates a nice subtle nutrient boost without the bitterness of other greens. This place didn’t use any spinach– just kale– so I went ahead and ordered the classic, a mix of kale and banana and berries and just a splash of apple juice. It looked like sea algae, had the mouthfeel of peat moss and tasted like apple-infused garbage. It began the separation process immediately, the fiber from the greens segregating itself from the liquid like it was insulted to share the same cup.

canyoustayfordinner.com

(Image from canyoustayfordinner.com)

The barista had some extra kale smoothie left in the blender, and offered to give me the excess.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I said, and encouraged him to drink it himself or give it to someone else behind the bar. Nobody wanted it of course, so I was left with more smoothie than I knew what to do with. I tossed back the excess like a shot of tequila, and instantly knew that drinking a whole cup of this stuff would be like trying to finish one of those ropes courses, where you have push through the pain to get to the glory.

I brought it to work, where it sat on my desk taunting me with its healing powers: I AM YOUR ONLY HOPE. DRINK ME NOW OR DECAY PREMATURELY LATER.  I shook it to make it all one color and texture again, then took another sip, this one even grosser than the first because the chill was wearing off. The only thing saving this smoothie was its frosty temperature and the longer I postponed the inevitable, the more lukewarm and the less palatable it got. It was thick and mealy, like trying to suck applesauce out of a straw.

A milkshake would have been gone in three minutes, tops, but this thing followed me around for hours. It came with me to chat with a coworker. We went outside for a breath of fresh air. It followed me upstairs to a staff meeting and plopped itself on the long conference table, squaring off against a big glass bowl of fun-sized Milky Ways. Halfway through the meeting I picked it up and took a big gulp in my effort to be rid of it, and made the puckered, horrified face I usually reserve for people who feel nothing when they hear the first few bars of Don’t Stop Believin’. My colleague across from me shook his head and smirked, not just because of my complete lack of poker face, but because he knew he had a big ham sandwich waiting for him on his desk downstairs.

At this point, the smoothie was nothing more than a prop. I had no intention of drinking it anymore, but I felt guilty throwing pricy food away. It hung around the rest of the day on my desk, a paragon of health maintenance and self-care.

Eventually a client wrinkled her nose and asked, “Jennifer, what is that?”

“Oh, it’s just a smoothie. There are greens in in, which explains the color.” I tried not to dissuade anyone from trying a green smoothie and seeing how they like it. In my line of work it’s important for people to learn how to make healthy decisions for themselves.

 

That night, Vinny and I had our usual Friday night summit of where to go out for dinner. We toyed with a few lighter options, but eventually settled on sharing a big plate of fried chicken at the new place down the street, promptly followed by a walk to the frozen yogurt place where I topped my Nutella-flavored treat with crushed Butterfingers and joy. Vin piled his with rainbow cookies, smashed oreos, and a river of hot fudge.

We’ve had a good run.

 

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On Guilty Pleasures: 19 Kids and Counting

 

I am absolutely fascinated by the Duggar family. Their show is called 19 Kids and Counting, but I hope they change the name soon to 19 and Finally Satisfied since Mama Duggar is now 48 and her uterus probably looks like a hobo bag.

They’ve been running a ton of new episodes lately, and it seems like they always have a “special announcement” to publicize. First it was daughter Jill’s wedding, then Jessa started courting and got engaged. Then Jill got pregnant. Then their sister-in-law got pregnant. Then Jessa got married and was bold and non-traditional and served 1,000 ice cream scoops at her wedding. Then cameras followed them on their European honeymoon where they graduated from side hugs to French kisses. Now I’m sucked into watching Jill give birth on TV. I’m presuming cameras will be there for the next conception.

Just once I want one of those special announcements to be something like “Jehovah got a tongue ring and started listening to heavy metal in the garage” or “20-year-old Juniper used sarcasm for the first time”, or “Jermajesty went vegetarian and now requires his own batch of beefless tater tot casserole”. My favorite episode would definitely be “Daughter Juno side-hugged with a girl and SHE LIKED IT.”

I continue to find myself amazed that with 19 children, there are no real “defectors”. They all seem to go right along with the prescribed family values, which doesn’t happen in most families, right? They all appear to be almost unbelievably wholesome, kind, calm and good-natured. How did they get away with no teenage revolt? Where are the toddler meltdowns? Do those parents ever lose their cool? I would pay good money (eh, two to four bucks) to see the footage on the cutting room floor. There must be something we’re not seeing here. Life can’t be this easy with a family the size of a chorus line.

Michelle Duggar reminds me of every Texas preschool teacher I ever had, the kind who wore ankle socks with the little bunny pouf on the heel and long skirts with felt apples stitched around the hemline. She has this soft, gentle, sing-song voice that makes her sound like she’s constantly reading aloud from a nursery rhyme book with hundreds of little children gathered around her feet. On this last episode her youngest daughter had a seizure while she and Jim-Bob were out of town and she discussed that incident with the exact same tone of voice she uses for describing the joy of new grand babies. It was remarkable. I keep checking to see if there’s a tiny bluebird perched on her shoulder.

Jim-Bob is the consummate man of the house– provider, spiritual leader, and passionate husband to his adoring wife. He likes to bend her over and show his older kids how kissing is really done since they’re only allowed to hold hands until they get married and leave the Duggar clan. I know they home-school, but I think there are certain lessons that should be out-sourced, and making out is one of them. They should be learning that skill behind the bleachers like everyone else. But really, Jim-Bob seems like a really sweet man and he obviously cares deeply about his family. I was very touched by how emotional he became at his daughters’ weddings. He was visibly crying, and genuinely sad they were leaving the home.

Must be a very different set of emotions when you get married at 21 or 22 and it synchronizes with leaving your parents’ home for the first time. I got married at 35 and hadn’t lived at home since I was 17, so when my bridesmaid said to my dad on my wedding day: “Aww, your little girl’s getting married today!”, his response wasn’t tears or loving praise. It was “Little girl? Jesus, she’s practically middle-age!”.

Clearly, I grew up in an environment very different than the Duggar offspring. I am one of only two children. Our house was generally pretty quiet and without chaos. There were no mini-vans in our driveway, only sports cars. My parents are well versed in sarcasm, mood shifts, and profanity. We used to gather around the TV and watch Beavis and Butthead as a family. We weren’t home-schooled, but the next door neighbors were and we thought they were weird. My teenaged brother taped black garbage bags all over the attic and lived up there till he developed heat stroke. I refused to help my mother cook. My parents divorced.

We did love us some casseroles though.

 

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The Bachelor Recap: Much Bali-hoo

 

Oooooh, so close! We’re almost at the end of the season, so it’s time for the bachelor to look to producers to plan, fund and organize an amazingly romantic getaway for his three girlfriends. I bet Farmer Chris never imagined he would have so much in common with Hugh Hefner. The gang has flown all the way to balmy Bali, and I just don’t know how he’s gonna whittle the final three down to two in this location. It’s so romantic that we’re four minutes into the program and I’ve already fallen in love with the bellhop, a breadfruit tree and three naughty monkeys. This is going to be a tough week for him.

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I’ll be honest and say that I don’t find this Chris fella particularly compelling. Different strokes for different folks, but clean-cut, small-town farmer boy is definitely not my type. Clearly I prefer long-haired hipsters with 5-day stubble and the physique of a pencil. Although, I think he is very sincere and really does hope to find a long-term partner from this process. With only 500 people in his hometown, he actually seems like the kind of person who could genuinely benefit from a weird dating system like this. The guys from L.A. and Chicago never really needed a hand meeting women, but this guy does. Let’s help him out!

Bali is a stunning place, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the women were slightly disappointed about being filmed in a tropical climate. I grew up on an island, and didn’t date until I was almost 20. Coincidence? I think not!

Anyway, I’m sure these chicks have stylists on hand to tame their frizz and wipe down their flop sweat, so I’m not so worried about them. Let’s see how the episode unfolded…

 

DATE #1: Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn is super cute and has a good sense of humor, but I still find myself hoping she doesn’t lay on too much charm because if I hear this guy laugh again it will be too soon. Call me shallow, but an annoying laugh is a deal-breaker for me, and this guy’s chuckle makes my ears wince in discomfort. They’re in the middle of a rainforest and I find myself distracted by how sweaty they both are. First they check out some temples, then approach a lady with a banana stand. Chris is given a banana to hold, which sends flying monkeys coming toward him from every direction. They are running up his arms and back, canvassing his body for the forbidden fruit, which is basically a metaphor for the entire premise of this show. Kaitlyn even says she admires the monkey and the way it goes after what it wants. She wishes she could be more like that monkey.

Then the fun and games are over and they have a serious talk over dinner. He sorta gives her a hard time about not “letting her guard down” and she apologizes for it. This makes no sense to me. You’ve known this person a few weeks, he’s still openly dating other people, and you’re apologizing for not being vulnerable enough? Sounds pretty reasonable to me!

kately

Fantasy Suite time: There’s an outdoor bathtub filled with rose petals shaped into a giant heart. Kaitlyn’s down with it. Good for you, hon. Get yours.

 

DATE #2: Whitney

Whitney is a pretty, blonde fertility nurse from Chicago with a very memorable speaking voice. She’s worked hard to get a good job she’s passionate about, which makes me like her very much, but also think she’s not going to be the best fit for a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere.

They are sailing away on a private boat that looks like the pirate ship from Goonies. I would love a fantasy date like that, but every time Vin and I have been on a boat together he’s spent the whole time vomiting over the railing. Life is not a fairy tale, little girls. Take note.

Whit just described this process as a “rollercoaster of emotions”, which is my least favorite phrase in the history of the earth, so -1 point there. Chris just said that Bali is a “beautiful place to fall in love”. I’d add that Bali is an easy place to fall in love, and it’s a joint that he and his future lady love will likely never have access to again. That’s why they should start sending these people to Taco Bell, or some kind of all-you-can-eat country buffet in his hometown. See how easy it is to fall in love there.

They jump into the water and she exclaims that she is head over heels in love with him, to which he replies a sincere, “Thank you.” What a dream come true!

Next scene: They’re all showered up, and having a serious talk over dinner. This is actually the most realistic conversation I’ve ever seen on this show. They have a frank discussion about the future of her job, and what she’d have to give up by moving to his hometown. He levels with her, and tells her that his town is “very small”, and is very clear in explaining that there is nothing to do there, and if you want to do something (like work), you’ll be driving somewhere else. This would have driven me right up from the table and onto the next plane to JFK. But Whit is in it to win it, and tells him that if she’s chosen, she’s prepared to quit her job, leave awesome Chicago and move to his tiny farm town to start making some babies. I have never seen a man grin so wide. I think she might have just sealed the deal.

Fantasy suite- yup, yup. Another bathtub, this one candelit and full of bubbles. Can someone please sneak into my apartment and set this up for me? I know I only have a stand-up shower, but I’m sure you’re creative enough to work with it.

 

DATE #3:  Becca

From a body-language perspective, Becca is the least compatible with Chris. She is the only contestant who, upon greeting him, does not jump into his arms and wrap her legs around his back. This is because Becca is a virgin. I actually think this girl is the best fit for him, because she grew up in a small town in Louisiana and has a quiet, wholesome charm that a lot of men would be very smitten by. Whatever happens, this girl has great hair and unbelievable teeth, so I’m not that worried about her romantic future.

There’s a soundbite of Chris indicating that it’s “Time to get to know one another on another level”, which is code for “time to have some fun without our pants on.” Becca is going to use this evening to explain that she plans to have fun with her pants on until marriage. Let’s see how he handles it!

They’re sitting side by side, and she drops the bomb: The V-Bomb. He looks sooooooo uncomfortable. He is tongue-tied. He respects that, of course. But he’s uncomfortable. Visibly. She says his response was perfect. I really, really hope she didn’t have sex with him in that fantasy suite behind the sheer curtains. Because if he sleeps with her after revealing she was a virgin on TV and then dumps her in public days later, that would be unforgivable.

She ends up staying in the suite, and the next morning they’re both confused about what happens next as Becca is the logical one who tells Chris that she’d want to date for a while before leaving her whole life behind and moving to his hometown. I don’t know why logic is always viewed as suspicious behavior on this show.

 

ROSE CEREMONY THROWDOWN

The women are wearing traditional Balinese gear which consists of frizz-taming updos and many layers of brightly colored fabric. Chris is dressed like the beefy farmboy version of the karate kid.

And then he drops the boom. He asks Becca to step away with him. The other two titter, trying not to sound catty. They predict he’s having a little chat with Becca the Virgin before sending her home. Kaitlyn looks pretty confident about their future and says so. (oh girl, this is gonna hurt).

WRONGOLA! They come back minutes later, holding hands. Now they’re sweating for real. Your uptight hairdos can’t save you now.

Kaitlyn –the fun, sassy one– is being sent home. She was open and vulnerable, and now she has to face the humiliating back-of-the-cab cry. As he tries to explain why he’s letting her go, a rooster crows in the background. She looks so crestfallen and sad. So does he.

Don’t worry Kaitlyn. You’re going to be okay, and you’ll probably be chosen as the next Bachelorette.

Rise when the rooster crows.

Go out there and take the world by the bananas.

 

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V-day D-day: A Complete and Thorough Guide to Maintaining Long-Term Love and Achieving Sexual Awkardness

 

My friend Kim is about to spend her first Valentine’s day with her boyfriend. As such, they are swapping extravagant presents–he’s bought her theater tickets and she is gifting him a new guitar. I know this because she asked Vin to help her pick out a good one.

“Aren’t they adorable?” I said later to my husband.

“They’re super sweet,” Vin replied. Then we locked eyes and smirked before he said exactly what we were both thinking.

“Rookies.”

DSC_0341

 

Year One:

Our first Valentine’s day together was 50 years ago. Vin had recently quit his job and was spending three months driving around the country just for fun. I was pretty busy in my new life as a ski bum/cocktail waitress. It’s safe to say we both miss our 20s.

I lived in Denver at the time, so we were in a long-distance relationship. Interesting things happen during long-distance relationships. You drag your ass to the post office to mail care packages and love letters. Nights are spent making kissy noises into the receiver during three-hour phone calls (“You hang up first”, “No, YOU hang up first!) and days are filled with flirty texts and moony day-dreaming.  If you and your partner ever find yourself in a slump, I highly recommend one of you skips town and rents an apartment across the country.

We decided to meet in one of my favorite cities– Santa Fe, New Mexico. I arrived at the Ramada Inn hours before he did (because some things never change) and transformed our dingy quarters into a cartoonish love den by littering the room with dozens of hand-crafted paper hearts and pink streamers. He brought chocolates and cookies and sparkly new jewelry. I don’t remember what I wore, but I’m pretty sure it involved lace and rubber bands.  It ended up being an incredibly exciting and romantic weekend, filled with sugar, smooches, and roasted green chiles.

 

Year Two:

I’m not sure how or why fondue became the archetype for a romantic meal for two, but I decided to pull out all the stops and melt everything in my apartment for V-Day 2.o.  I lived alone this year, and took the liberty of shoving all my living room furniture against the wall so I could create a picnic spread for me and my man. I rolled out a deep pink blanket, and scattered a bunch of girly pillows around so I could lean seductively while dripping hot gruyere onto my chin.

We started with a full cheese course before diving headfirst into a bucket of melted chocolate, booze and heavy cream. The first few tastes were heaven, and just like I had planned, by the last few bites we couldn’t keep our hands to ourselves. We were like savages–a tangle of arms and hands clawing all over each other as we both fought over who got to murder the bathroom first.

DSC_9797

 

Year Three:

Back in New York and living with roommates,  I transformed my teeny bedroom on the Upper West Side into a charming Italian cafe. I brought in a small round table and covered it in linen and tiny white candles. I turned off all the lights and served filet mignon and fettuccine alfredo while Stevie Wonder played softly in the background. It was a great meal, but steak should never be served in one’s bedroom. Once your sheets and curtains smell like beef, the evening goes downhill fast.

 

Years Four through Six:

It was around this time that gifts became more perfunctory than predictable. These were the years when Vinny started gifting me All-Clad pans for holidays. His mother thought it marked the beginning of the end, but I felt like things were just getting good. My man knew me better. Flowers last about a week. Stainless steel is forever.

 

Years Seven through Ten:

Dinner? Flowers? Chocolate? Sex? Did we even exchange cards? Who the hell remembers?

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Year 11

This year, we’re double-dating with one of our favorite couples, Jen and Jackie. We’ll share a healthy vegan meal and end the night with John Hughes movies. Don’t tell Vin but I’m planning to blindfold him after dinner and drag him through the snow for a midnight viewing of Fifty Shades of Gray. Who says romance is dead?

Whatever you guys are up to for Valentine’s Day, please make sure you read this list of warnings about recreating scenes from this weekend’s sexy blockbuster. If you’re too lazy to click on this link, the gist is that you should always keep the key to your handcuffs handy and think twice before locking anything to your genitals.  I would also add “avoid dairy” to that list.

And please: take my word for it and never fill a bathtub with an entire bottle of baby oil expecting magically sexy things to happen. Not only will you clog your drain something awful, but your hair will never have any volume again and at least one of you will end up with a head injury.

Happy Valentine’s Day Lovahs!

 

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