A Week on the Job

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Miss Margo, Office Monkey.  Wanna see my spreadsheets?

      It’s a shitty job, but I’ve had worse.  The geographically-confused stationery-peddling Italians told the Temp agency that they’ll keep me through Christmas, for which I am grateful.  I think three months is this job’s sell-by date, at least for me.

      My duties require just enough brain power to keep me from feeling depressed…but not enough to keep me entertained or intellectually engaged.  That’s okay.  I don’t like it, but I can put up with it for a while.

       The nicest thing is that I am getting a paycheck tomorrow and I ought to be living independently again in about five weeks.  

        I think this is the first job I’ve had in eight years–heck, maybe ten years–that does not stress me out or intimidate me in any way or fashion.  With the exception of the other new girl, I am the youngest person in the office, but I am not remotely worried about proving myself.  The only positions in the place I’m unqualified for are factory machinist and accounting.  I’m not gonna lie: it feels nice.  Eventually it’ll start to drive me nuts, but right now, I’m enjoying being able to do almost everything right the first time and also knowing that I’m being useful. 

          I had to learn a new computer software program so that I could manage the data sets concerning inventory and help out in the distribution office if necessary.  So far, this was the hardest thing to learn.  It took a few shifts.  I haven’t needed to ask for help with it at all the last day or two.  

         I can see why they hired me to edit and write copy, because some of the documents I’ve seen look like they were run through Google translator.  I don’t speak Italian, so I can’t translate anything.  I just clean up what I have.  The good news is that I’m not exactly working with a mangled facsimile of The Divine Comedy, if you know what I mean.  It’s all just simple business correspondence: thank you for your interest in our products, here are some free leather desk pads so that you may better appreciate the quality of the workmanship, we are sorry your order has been on hold for the last six months, sirs, but there was a labor strike/youth riot, and/or we just got back from our six weeks of vacation, blah blah.  

         I clean it up, format it, and send it back as a Word document.  I don’t actually talk to anyone about that part of my work.  I just email it and that’s it.  

       The office is small.  It is gray and boring but not hideous.  There is a window.  The overhead lights have transparencies on them like this:
 

          My mother says they use them in hospitals and hospices.

          It is relatively quiet in the office, which I like.  They don’t play music, which I LOVE.  I fuckin hate office music, it’s torture and should be illegal.  

          Nobody seems curious about me or tries to pry, and I like that, too.   They like my work, though.  I am already helping the others when they get in the weeds and I have time to help out.

          I work in the same office with a handful of middle-aged women.  They are nice responsible adults, unlike most of the motley crew at the Studio, but I have very little in common with them aside from the fact that I, too, am nice, and responsible.  It’s okay, though. They don’t stress me out.  Yesterday they talked about the blue color of the new printer paper.  They all liked it better than the old printer paper.  It was a prettier blue, they said.  Made me think:



          I get a full hour for lunch, which I dislike.  I’d just as soon work through lunch and get off an hour earlier.  There is nothing to do during lunch but surf the internet or read (and I can’t even get to the fun parts of the internet or my secret emails, because I’m using company internet).  

           There is a Del Taco and a gas station across the street.  This town sucks so bad.  It’s okay, though.  I can live with it until I have the money to move again.   I’m safe and I’m not drinking and my job is stupid and boring, but painless, and tomorrow I am going to buy a new friend.

         (This job IS boring.  Really boring.  Can I do three months of boring…?  I can do three months of boring.) 
          

Changes in the Curriculum

I haven’t read all of your posts about The Biz, but of the ones I have read the tone over time seems to be changing from being pretty matter of fact about your sessions to one of “I can’t believe I’m putting up with this shit.” 

                                                                 —From an email sent to me by a concerned reader

      Yup.  

      I did a little content analysis of recent my blog posts.   The results startled me.  I did not anticipate that they would contain so many references to death (which is odd, since I’m the one who wrote them, after all).  The tone is often angry or morbid.  

      I think it’s time for me to back off. 

  I can’t afford to quit entirely, but there are things that I can do to minimize the stress and unpleasant aspects of my Secret Job.  

        First, I need to keep out of the Studio as much as possible.  The Dungeon Drama is getting me down–truly, I could write a dissertation about its shockingly dysfunctional organizational culture.  I need to work one shift a week in order to keep my locker and session privileges, so I sat down with the owner and we worked something out.  There is a good library two blocks away from the Studio.  When I’m on shift, I am going to spend my time there, on the pretext that I am working under deadline on a research project.  If they need me, they can call me and I’ll be there in five minutes.  They know that they can rely on me to be there when I say that I will be there.  

      Unless something–or someone–that sounds exceptionally fun falls into my lap, I am not accepting new clients.  

     I have an informal ranking system for clients.  This is how it goes:

      I have some regular clients whose company I truly enjoy.   They don’t stress me out at all.  Those guys can stay and see me whenever they want.  

    The “barely tolerable” ones–like Mr. Crocodile Tears from San Fran–were collectively herded out of their “Only See In Times of Acute Financial Distress” gulag at 4 AM this morning, put up against the wall, and shot.  I fired about ten of them via politely-worded email.  Predictably, because most of them are either obtuse or malignant boundaries-pushing assholes, they are already flooding my email box with queries about why they were let go.  I cannot decide whether or not it would be therapeutic for me to answer them in frank and explicit fashion.

    The cure for depression is work.  I volunteered to “Care For Young Trees” in NYC parks.  This means that I dig up weeds, pick up trash, and inspect bark for parasites, with periodic breaks to re-apply sunscreen.  I was going to volunteer at the Adult Literacy program, but until I stop feeling crabby, I don’t think I should inflict myself upon unsuspecting strangers.  

    I feel like this owl:



When I want to feel like this owl:

 

Scenes from My Drunkalogue: Sake and Salmonella

    When I was drinking and decided that I wanted another drink before went to bed (alone! all alone!), I would sometimes call a local sushi restaurant for delivery.  I would have to call the sushi restaurant because I couldn’t go back to my neighborhood liquor store–I’d already been there once that day, and I never went more than once in a 48-hour period, lest the cashier think that I drank “too much.”  

     Such is the absurd paranoia of the alcoholic.

     Delivery from the sushi restaurant was my way of circumventing  this from happening. 

     Such is the idiotic cunning of the alcoholic. 

     I always thought that the sushi was pretty mediocre–I often wouldn’t even eat it, because calories are calories, and when one is very concerned with one’s daily morning weigh-in with Tanita, one has to choose: Eat or drink.  

     One or the other.

     I would call the sushi place and order a tuna roll, a bottle of sake (sometimes two bottles), and a diet coke.  I always had to order the tuna roll, even if I seldom ate it, because if I just called and asked for the sake, I was worried that I might look, you know, like some sort of scumbag with a problem.  

     Once I got sober, I stopped eating at that sushi restaurant because there was better sushi in the neighborhood (other places did not offer sake delivery, but that no longer mattered).

     Well, when I relapsed, I decided that I wanted some sake delivered to my door.  I went to go call the restaurant, but found that I’d taken the number out of my phone.  

    So, I had to get on the internet and look it up…

   GUESS.WHAT.I.FOUND????

   (Get out your barf bags!)

    New York City Food Sanitation Inspection gave the sushi restaurant a C rating!!!!  Oh my gawd!  Fuckin RAW FISH from a place with a C rating!  I hadn’t eaten the sushi every time…maybe not even half the time…but I’d still eaten it plenty of times.

    I almost hurled right there in my computer chair.

    I almost feel like I should post the name of the restaurant as a public service…but the delivery was always prompt, and the Chinese delivery kid was always good to me.  One time, when I was too drunk to count change and I accidentally over-tipped him by like $22 (I’ve always been a generous tipper, but that was more than the food itself), he insisted that I’d made a mistake and gave almost all of it back to me.  I’m sure he could tell that I was wasted.

     I wish that I couldn’t remember the expression of concern on his face, because the memory makes me cringe.  Just a drunk, frightened young woman so divorced from humanity that I might as well have been a Martian.  Little Martian Margo, all alone in my Martian apartment, surrounded by books I couldn’t read and half-written manuscripts I couldn’t finish.

     Good times, eh?  God, living like that was a nightmare.  Heh.  “Living.”  

      Despite the tragi-comic tone of this post, I am doing quite well tonight.  Two meetings today, lunch with a friend.  The birds are fed and watered and their cages are clean and disinfected.  I wrote 1500 words, edited ten pages of a manuscript someone is paying me to edit, and now I am going to do laundry (it. never. ends.) and stop by the Nice Lady’s apartment while it’s washing.  Remember Nice Lady, with the cats and the computer problems?  I set up an email address for her?  

     She called me, concerned.  She is confused by the email box.  She seems to think that it can only hold one (1) email at a time, and she is trying to “get rid” (delete) an old one in order to “make room” for a new one.  She is concerned that a “new one” can’t “get in” because the old one is, I dunno, taking up all the space. 

    Did I mention that she is pretty old? I’m not making fun of her, I’m really not.  

     Tomorrow…rested and fortified…it’s back to the Studio.  I have two appointments with regulars.  I will not stay for the rest of the shift, however.  Management won’t complain; they’re still too caught up in Teh Krazy. 

Postcard from Resort A.A. (Wish You Were Here!)

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Update July 3 6:15 AM:

     It only took two hours.

     First, it was a lesson in gratitude, and I am not saying that in sarcasm.  I will never feel self-conscious about my little architecturally bizarre walk-up apartment again.  The floors are slightly uneven (if I sit in my computer chair and lift my feet off the ground and be very still, my chair will start to roll to the left.  Very Seinfeld NYC-esque), the kitchen, inexplicably, has non-functioning drawers, and there are no windows in the living room.  However, at least it has houseplants and birdies and pretty pictures all over the walls.  This babe’s house was straight out of Jacob Riis (google images it), and that’s all I’m gonna say.

      She did have cats.  Several of them.  Friendly creatures all, who wanted to demonstrate their approval of my visit by rubbing themselves all over my legs, lap, and backpack as I worked.

       Nice Lady showed me the laptop her son sent her.  I’d assumed he had bought her a new Acer at Walmart or something.  As usual, I was wrong.  

       When I fired that baby up, about a million “program updates are available to install” immediately filled the screen.  Dude, I thought I was bad about upgrading to the newest version of Adobe Flash.  Nice Lady’s computer was running a version of Microsoft Windows that I (mercifully) hadn’t seen since I was an undergrad.  It was a version of MS Windows that had The Blue Screen of Death. Remember that blast from the past?  Wasn’t that great?  

 

      “Can I offer you some tea?” asked Nice Lady.

    Turns out that she already had an email address–some “Puerto Rican handyman” set it up for her a long time ago, but she had never used it.  I took a look.  It contained nothing but 3,000 pieces of spam.

      “What’s spam?” asked Nice Lady.

      “The electronic equivalent of junk mail.  Ads, mostly.”

       She peered at the screen.  “Netflix sent me a message?  But I canceled my membership with them.  Why would they do that?”

       I told her to forget it and ordered her to never go to that website or check that email address ever again.  

       Then I set her up with a nice Gmail account and made Google her home screen.   I was going to make it a Yahoo! account because I was worried that the nested Gmail format would confuse her, but ultimately decided that the flashing news reports and rotating images and headlines on Yahoo! would confuse her even worse.

       I made it as bomb-proof as I could.  Her email addy is her name, the password is the names of her two oldest cats, she is permanently signed in, and when she “clicks on the internet” (I moved the Internet Explorer desk icon into the very middle of the screen and pushed all the others as far away as possible), it takes her right there.  

        Then I sent her an email from my phone: “Hi Nice Lady!  Welcome to your new email!”

         It appeared in her inbox.  I showed her how to open it and reply.

         “thank you miss margo. you are a good friend,” she typed back.

          I felt my eyes getting wet.  It wasn’t from all the cat hair, either. 

          I’ll be back soon.  I need to spend a little more time concentrating on keeping myself well.  

                       *                           *                             * 

 Yours truly is still on an Official Leave of Absence, but in the meantime, consider this a postcard from the luxurious, fun-filled resort of Hotel A.A. (aka “Bill Wilson’s Reeducation Camp.”)

     My reprogramming seems to be going swimmingly.  This evening, for instance, after the beach party and luau, I am going to Help Another Alcoholic in Need.  There was a very nice elderly lady at a meeting who shared that she was feeling tremendous anxiety about computer technology.  Specifically, she needs to get an email account in order to receive information and updates about some services she uses.  She does not have an email account and does not know how to get one.  Her son, who lives in another state, bought a laptop for her, but she does not know how to use it.  She is terrified of handling it, as if she found a boobytrap bomb or landmine underneath her piano. 

         Someone suggested that she go to the library and consult a librarian, but that vexed her even more.  She said that she wanted to put up a flyer on the bulliton board at the grocery store offering to hire someone to help her out, but she didn’t know what to write on the flyer.

       I approached her after the meeting and offered to come over to her apartment after work and set up her internet and email account for her.  I said, don’t stress, it’s super easy, I’ll show you and write down all the step-by-step instructions and you will learn it in ten minutes (I am basically a computer moron, but I still taught my Mom how to do stuff like cut-and-paste and download email attachment jpegs).  

         Nice Lady was so happy that she hugged me and called me an angel. I’ll remember that the next time I’m, you know, giving some dude a swirly at the Studio or something.

         I’m about to go over to Nice Lady’s apartment right now.  My primary concern is that she isn’t going to have access to a ISP Network, which means that she’ll have to go to the Starbucks on her block (which will freak her out) or piggyback on one of her neighbors’ internet.  She lives very close to me–if her computer can pick up mine, I’d give her the password and let her use it.  It’s not like she’s going to download a ton of pirated HBO tv specials and communiques from Al Qaeda and illegal porn. 

        My task is simple, but I anticipate that it will test my very sanity.  This is how you turn it on.  This is how you click Microsoft Explorer (I am not going to show her how to use Firefox or Chrome, fucking forget it). No, wrong side of the mouse.  This is where you type in “gmail.” I could be in Nice Lady’s apartment for hours.  I must put on my best “Can I help you, Lady?” public servant hat.  I have a very patient personality, so that should help.

        I am telling you this, my friends, because I am trying to be honest. I do not want to be one of the persons who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.  I want to develop a manner of living which requires rigorous honesty.  That is why I am telling you that I might want to beat my head against a wall before I get this Nice Lady’s Email set up.

       Salutations from Resort AA.  WISH YOU WERE HERE!

       Miss Margo

      (P.S.  I know that I am inviting a shitstorm of hateful hatemail with this post, but if you can’t get that IT IS GENTLE SATIRE, you need to chill out, man.  Yeah I’m making fun of the preamble but I am still going over to this Nice Lady’s Apt to help with her internet.)

The Mathematician and Building Bomb-Proof Trust

      This relationship shit is kind of hard.

       I had (have?) a relationship with the Surgeon, but that was more like a years-long torrid affair with someone completely inappropriate.  He also happened to be psycho.  We were drawn together on the basis of our mutual characterological flaws…there was a lot going on.  

      To be fair, the sex was spectacular.  It was so good that it was a bad idea.  I’ve never been attracted to a man like I was to the Surgeon.  I would have done anything he wanted.  I did anything he wanted. And it went the other way, too.  He starved me emotionally in every way, but he was a very generous lover with me.  Which is interesting, considering the hostility he had for women.  For everyone.  

      I don’t think that the Mathematician hates anyone

       He’s not my boyfriend yet–or at least I don’t think he is–we haven’t had the DTR (Defining the Relationship talk).  

       I know that I want him, though.  

        I haven’t wanted a relationship with a man in a long, long time.  Years!  Years and years!  Honestly…?  Six years!  Why the hell do you think I was with the Surgeon…?  It was a not-relationship!  He was perfect for a masochistic commitment-phobe!  A part-time quasi-boyfriend!  An absentee landlord.  My master.

      This Mathematician–he’s a good choice.  Do you see it?  He has everything I want, except that he’s not an abusive, sadistic douchebag. He’s a nice normal man.  He’s emotionally complex and I’ve caught glimpses of a few neuroses, but he’s a good person and he’s…he’s loving.  He’s loving and he’s responsible

      And he sees me.  He doesn’t just use me.  I’m not like a prop with him.   When I say something, he pays attention to the words that are coming out of my mouth.  He respects me. 

      Please, God, don’t let me fuck this up.  Men like this don’t just fall out of the sky. 

       Why did his ex-wife throw out this man? What the heck was she thinking?  Boy did she ever blow it.  

       This is what I keep telling myself: be open and emotionally vulnerable and don’t lie don’t lie don’t lie don’t lie don’t lie don’t lie
   
      He doesn’t know that I’m in AA yet and I don’t have to tell him because it’s not necessarily the right time, but if/when it comes up, or if/when he asks about drinking, I must not lie about it! 

      Same thing for the Surgeon!  Cause I haven’t told the Surgeon what’s going on!  I’m worried that the Surgeon is going to cut my head off!  But if the Mathematician asks about it, I can’t lie or minimize!  

      Or my father!  Or school!  Or the stuff that makes me scared!  Or even my sexuality.  NO LYING!  

      He has to be able to trust me if the relationship is going to go anywhere…if it is going to develop and flourish.  It’s okay to omit certain stuff depending on the level of intimacy and knowledge in a relationship, but if he wants to know something topically relevant, I have no be honest no matter what.  And if he rejects me that is his prerogative, but I owe it to him–and to us–to be honest and do this in good faith.  

      Does that make sense?  Does that make sense?

       There has to be a good foundation.

        Especially given where he met me.  He needs to see me be totally consistent in the application of my moral principles.  No matter how tolerant, how understanding, how mature he is or thinks that he is being…at some later date, he is going to have to come to terms with the fact that he met me at an infamous dungeon where I worked as a dominatrix and a professional masochist.  Men came in off the street, or wherever the hell they came from, and I went into a room with them and did things to them that the Mathematician can’t even imagine.  Bad, good, in between.  That’s a fact.  

        Even the most liberal, not-jealous guy is going to wonder about that, and have to come to terms with it.  

      That’s another reason why the Mathematician has to know–and feel–that he can depend on me, and that I have always been transparent with him, and that I have always done what I said I will do.  When I said that I did not have sex with clients, I meant it.  When I said that I had boundaries, I enforced them.  When I said that I didn’t consider him to be a client, I didn’t, and that’s why I stopped taking his money.  

      He has to trust me.  Otherwise, there can be no love.  

      Bomb-proof.  People fuck up in relationship and God knows I’m not perfect or a perfect partner and maybe he will decide I’m not the girl for him, but he has to have bomb-proof trust in my honesty and earnestness.  In my honor.  

       no lying no hiding no shady bullshit no lying even if it’s The Awful Truth

    

Margo Freaks Herself Out

     This story is embarrassing to me, but I’m going to share it because the experience was constructive…and also funny.

     A few weeks ago, I mentioned to the Mathematician that I’d been hired at a new job. 

     “That’s great!  Congratulations!  What institution?”

     I froze.  One second.  Two.

     “(Hopelessly Irrelevant) Junior College!” I blurted.

    And here it is, the Awful Truth: I lied.

               *                     *                      *                      * 

     Let me explain my thought process. 

     I do not tell secret job clients about my other jobs, my academic work, where I went to school, or what I studied (or what neighborhood I live in and what state I come from, for that matter).  Or, rather, I don’t tell them the truth about these things. If they inquire–and I’m always surprised at how many are curious–I give them a story that is similar to the truth but not factual (the story is not embellished; I don’t try to make myself more interesting).  I do it because I have to protect my professional reputation (such as it is)…and, to some extent, to protect myself psychologically.  The nature of this work can be very intimate, but the men are still essentially strangers to me, and it is unwise to give strangers personal information about oneself. 

    The Mathematician, though, was no stranger.  He’d stopped being a stranger a long time ago.  I’d told him many true things about myself–even intimate things, things that only people close to me know. I told him that lie after we had sex but before  I stopped taking his money.  I didn’t think of him as a client and hadn’t in some time…but that’s how I met him, and there’s no getting around it.

    When he asked me where I was hired, I froze.  I registered the cognitive dissonance, but there wasn’t time to think about my feelings and our relationship and what was morally correct (and, interestingly, I cannot believe that I hadn’t prepared myself for that inevitable question from him far, far in advance.  I’m usually very good about that).  I had to make my decision in two seconds.  

     Instinctively, I resorted to my default behavior: I lied. 

                     *                             *                                * 
    
     It was the first lie I’d told him since I invited him into my home and started developing feelings for him.  When we first met, I told him the same cover-your-ass quasi-lies I tell all clients (the Surgeon and I didn’t know each other’s real names for over six months), but the first time I had him over and we went out to dinner, I told him the truth.  There’s still a lot–a lot–he doesn’t know about me (the Surgeon, alcoholism, raging sadomasochism, and a still-unresolved eating disorder spring to mind), but that’s okay because our relationship has not reached a stage where it’s healthy and normal to share serious baggage like that.  

     I realized almost immediately that the lie was a really bad idea, because I felt guilty about it.  I’ve also been trying–truly trying–to treat this man in an honorable fashion, because he’s special and I don’t want to fuck it up.  If things don’t work out between us then it won’t work out, but I’m determined that if it doesn’t work out, it’s not going to be because of some bullshit dishonest behavior or sabotage on my part. 

      The also understood that the lie was a bad idea because it was stupid.  It’s dangerous and imprudent to tell lies which are easily exposed. It’s like posting old, unrepresentative photos of your online dating profile–you can’t pull it off.  You will be busted.  And when you are busted, your date is going to be pissed.  

                    *                       *                                     * 

      Fast-forward a week: the Mathematician asks me when I start my new job.

      Arrrgh!  I couldn’t remember when the new semester started at the fake school I told him about! 

      I frantically did the numbers in my head and announced a date that I hoped to God would be a Monday. 
   
     He looked at me.  

     I swear to God, gentle reader: his face changed.  I saw it. 

    “What did you say?” he asked.  “(Fake Date)?”

     “Yup!  (Fake Date).” 

     “Oh.”  He looked troubled.

      I changed the subject.

     But a few hours later, I was convinced I’d been caught.  

     (Continued later–I have to run to work!) 

Much Wealthier

       I got the job!

       The interview was almost shockingly unprofessional.  We met at a restaurant because the campus was closed.  I got there early and stood out in the cold, trying to cool down because I was nervous.  I was wearing my best suit.  I must have looked intense, because the passing crackheads didn’t panhandle from me.  

      I found the members of the hiring committee quickly enough.  Incredibly, they were eating

       “Where did you say you were from, again?” one of them asked me.

       I told him.

       Then, the inevitable: he got a puzzled look on his face and asked me, “What do you do out there?”

      When I get this, I always want to say sarcastically: “Why, we ride horses to school and have spitoons in all the classrooms!  I got my degree in Barn Raising!”

       New Yorkers can be aggressively parochial.  They think that the rest of the USA is, like, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Beyond that, they’re stumped.  And no matter how well-read I am, no matter how cultured I become, in their minds I will always be, fundamentally, a barbarian (and possibly a closet white supremacist).  I used to be so annoyed with it that I wore cowboy boots and posted my certificate of completion for firearms training on the fridge, just to fuck with people.  

     We talked shop. 

     Success! 
       *                          *                       *                             * 
        

     The Mathematician came over to celebrate.  I gave him his Christmas gifts.  We turned on the lights of the Christmas Tree..  

      (By the way–yesterday morning he sent me a text message suggesting that I leave early in order to make it to the airport in the bad weather.  He is very responsible.  I like that he’s a good father.  On some level, I think that I want him to be my dad.  Do you think that’s bad?)

      I asked him how he got the star on top of his hugeass Christmas tree.

      “I have an orchard ladder!”

      “What is that?”

      An orchard ladder has a third leg for support, so that a person can climb up in it and pick fruit!  What a cool, practical invention!  See, that’s the sort of thing I could never come up with.  I have no common sense.  

        We made love.  It wasn’t violent, but I had a lot of fun.  He’s really a handsome man, in an understated, conventional way.  Athletic.  It’s weird, because he’s not the type of man that I’d usually be focused on if I saw him on the street…but knowing myself as I do, that’s probably a good thing (the Surgeon’s look always stopped me in my tracks).  

     I could feel him caressing and holding my body in various positions and knew what he was doing: comparing my size and the proportions of my body to that of his most recent lover (“You’re really tall!” he announced, out of nowhere, when we were in the shower).  It didn’t bother me at all; it’s only natural to do this when we’re with someone new.  I was doing it myself.  He has a big skull.  His hair is shorter and softer.   The Mathematician is tall and strong.  He has big hands and feet.

      Then we lay in bed talking and cuddling.  He is very affectionate.  The Surgeon seldom touches me unless he’s being violent or giving me sex, and he doesn’t like to be touched (by anyone) unless he’s excited, which I always thought was sort of weird for a physician.  Shit–it’s sort of weird for anyone.  Even John, my psycho ex I had to get the restraining order for, liked to snuggle.  

      It was then that I broached The Issue.

      “There’s something that I need to talk to you about,” I said.  “I wasn’t sure when to bring it up–right now or on New Year’s, or in bed or out of it–because I didn’t want to be perceived as manipulative.  But I guess we might as well talk about it now.”

      He immediately looked concerned, and got up on one elbow.  “Uh, okay.”

      “Don’t be scared.  It’s nothing bad.  I just….”  I drifted off, trying to remember exactly how I’d rehearsed the lines.  I totally blanked.  I stammered something and he looked more and more frightened.  Eventually, I just blurted:  “Look, we can keep things just the same if you really want to, but I’d feel a lot better if I stopped taking your money.  It’s important to me that I maintain this boundary and I also don’t want you to think that I’m having sex with you or hanging out with you just because you’re paying me.”

      “I don’t think that.  I never thought that.”

       Okay, good.

       “But I’ve been where you are, when you’re trying to survive and you haven’t gotten started in your career yet, really, and I like knowing that I’m helping you out.  I like knowing that I contribute.  I want you to be happy and successful in life.  Is there anything that I can do?  Do you need money for books or a computer or new clothes for this new job?  It’s no strings attached.”

       He paused.  Then: “I really admire how independent and resourceful you are.  But you seem all alone on your own, without much help.  That’s a hard way to be.”

        I didn’t tell him that I feel like I’ve been an adult since I was about fourteen years old.  TMI.

      I thought about it for a minute.

      “Tell you what.  I’ll accept the things from you that I’d accept from a boyfriend who makes more money than I do.  You can always take me to eat or help with groceries, or books, or travel.  Clothes and sex toys if and when you feel like it.  If we go to the movies you can get the tickets.”

      “Okay.  Let me know if I can help with anything else.”

      And that was that.t.

      I’m out $200.

     But I feel much, much wealthier.   

You Must Expect To Be Humiliated

    This was the sagacious advice given to me by a gentleman I dated a few years ago.  

     We had an odd relationship which defied classification–he fell somewhere in the gray area between client and boyfriend.  We spent time together when he was in New York.  I grew tremendously fond of him as I got to know him better–he was one of the most talented, fascinating people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.  He’d made a vast fortune through his creativity and industry.  He didn’t care about money, but he’d made a ton of it–a ton of it. The guy was a visionary, and I’m not just throwing that word around. Sort of like Steve Jobs, except that he wasn’t a total fucking asshole.  He was very warm, actually, and he had a great sense of humor.  

      Our relationship developed to the point where I could talk about my life and ask for his advice about things.  One time, over dinner, I told him that sometimes I’d still get stage fright when speaking in public or addressing a classroom.  

       Even though I had lots of experience.  

       Even though I knew the material.   

       “I hate getting nervous!” I cried.  “When am I going to become more confident?  Why do I never know when I’m going to get a case of the nerves?”

       He looked at me.  “You must expect to be humiliated.” 

       “What?” 

       “It happens to everyone who takes any risks in life whatesoever.  It cannot be avoided.  It is going to happen sometimes.  You will humiliate yourself.”

       This wise man’s zen-like acceptance of human frailty and suffering provided me with a terrific insight.  I was so impressed by You Must Expect To Be Humiliated that I printed it out and hung it on the wall in my office for a while, like a personal motto.  It made me feel so relieved.  

      “I’ve humiliated myself and been wrong so many times!” said this incredibly successful individual.  “Wait till you humiliate yourself with other peoples’ money and jobs at stake!  It’s not fun!”

       Sometimes in life, you’re going to fuck it up.  Sometimes you’re going to crash and burn.  

      But you can’t let the fear of that stop you from trying.  A person can waste their life avoiding pain.  And not just pain, but the possibility of pain.

      It reminds me of alcoholism, in that it does one no good to hate oneself forever for all the bad things and poor decisions one committed when one was drinking.  

      I am not advocating that humiliation and failure are character-building experiences–I’ll leave that horseshit sermon to the Church and the State.  They definitely can be, but mostly I think they’re just demoralizing at best and traumatizing at worst.  

     But they cannot be avoided.  They are the collection booths on the great toll road that is life (is that a bad metaphor?). 

      I bring this up because I’m about to go to a job interview.  I woke up early and prepared and prepared all day yesterday and there’s literally nothing else I can prepare for.  I was freaking out about the possibility of freaking out.   

      I got to thinking about what my wise friend told me over dinner.

      All that I can do is the best that I can do.  There is no more. And if I blow it–which, realistically, is improbable–well then, I blow it.  So what.  I’ve done it before and I will do it again, unless I plan to hide in my room through life and drink my fear away.  

      Here is my MASCOT, Beaker!  In this video, Beaker is humiliated whilst singing “Feelings” for the crowd…but he doesn’t run away!  He sticks it out!  And his friend, Animal, comes to help him!


        P.S.  Mathematician is coming by this afternoon!  YAY!  

Greetings from WallyWorld Country

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   Speaking of Mom’s dog (so cute! SO CUTE!), I found some of the dog’s leftover pain medication from when she had surgery.  It seems to be the same sort of synthetic morphine humans take (Drug Monkey!  Where are you now?).  Now, my Sponsor wouldn’t approve of this, but…do you think that this stuff is safe to eat?  

       Or is eating your dog’s leftover codeine some disgusting, degenerate junkie behavior?  

       I guess I could ask the Surgeon, but he’d probably tell me to airmail it to him.  Kidding!  Kidding!

      I’ll leave it in the medicine cabinet.  If the dog ever got sick and needed pain relief and didn’t have any because it ate it while watching Jeopardy!, I’d feel like a complete scumbag.  

       Bad news and good news: bad news is that I have to go home to NYC a day early and it’s making my Mom sad.  

       Good news is that I have to go home early cause I got a job interview!

        A normal job, too!  A job that would utilize the knowledge, skills, and abilities I cultivated in many years of college!

       I’m being sarcastic, of course.  My secret job utilizes many of these talents, also.  Grad students and untenured academics are the lowest of masochistic slaves.  The Dean of my last program is a sadistic control freak who might actually be the only man I’ve ever met who is a bigger egomaniac than the Surgeon.  I’m not kidding. 

       It’s for a teaching job.  The pro who was supposed to teach the class next semester quit all at once, and they need to fill the position ASAP.  Margo to the rescue!  If I do the math, I think that it pays approx. $0.72/hour.  (Says the Mathematician: Don’t depress yourself and do the math!  I used to be an adjunct!  Don’t do the math!)

      Even if the wage is crap, I’ll do it if I get the job.  The tutoring job that I have now pays well, and if I do just two or three independent secret job sessions a week–which I could do in a day now!–I’ll be comfortable.  Heck, I could save the secret job stuff for the weekend, and devote my weekdays to living…like a fulltime professional academic. 

       I could have a normal life.  Modest, but normal.  Scheduled.  No more rushing from school to the Surgeon to the insanity at the Superstudio to AA, lying every stop of the way.  I mean, I’d still have to lie…but just a little.  

       I could have a man in my life.  Not the Surgeon or these party animals like Mr. Wolf (bless his heart) who jump out of planes for recreation.  A normal man, for a normal life.  Or as normal as I think I could possibly get anytime in the immediate future.  

       Which brings us to… 

       The Mathematician sent me an email with pictures of his dog and his huuuuugeass Christmas tree.  I am not exaggerating–it really is a hugeass Christmas tree.  Where do you get a tree this big? Is it a fucking redwood?  How did he get it in the door?  How do you get the star on top of it?   

       I turned my computer around towards my mother so that she could take a look at the screen.  

       “Awww!  He’s a very nice-looking man!  And what is that big bird doing out of its cage?” asked Mom.

        “The bird is his friend!” I explained.  

         Maybe I could be his friend…?

         Okay, enough heavy stuff.  Want a peep inside life in the redneck state of my birth?  My homeland, where part of my soul will always hail?

        Today, I went with my Mom and my brother to WalMart.  It was not my idea.  Mom wanted to buy a big light-up Snowman decoration for the front lawn–it was 70% off on the after-holiday sale.  My brother needed ammo.  Lots of ammo.  

       They sell ammo in KMarts here.  

        Anyway, I know that some of my New York readers may have never been inside of a WalMart.  I find them bizarre and unlikable for a number of different reasons.  One reason is that they are HUGE.

       No exaggeration.  HUGE.  

       WalMarts are so big inside that even though you can see the ceiling and it’s climate-controlled and artificially lighted, you feel like you’re outdoors.  Or at least I do.  Yeah.  I feel outdoors.  

        The only thing remotely comparable that I’ve ever experienced is an indoor football stadium.  

“Does this place have an echo?”  Why yes, yes it goes.  And a pharmacy, a nail salon, a hair salon, a McDonald’s, and a plant nursery.  And an optometrist.  Jesus Christ.  

LOW LOW PRICES!!!
     This fish display in the pet section just about killed me.  For fish, this truly must be hell on earth.  Well, I told myself, you can’t save them all! 

Fish Hell: “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here.”
      My camera could not adequately capture the horror of this image: a huuuuuge long table with acres and acres and acres of inferior, diabetes-provoking pastry.  It boggles my mind.  Full disclosure: I love those cheapass sweet sugar cookies with the soft icing on the top.  Or at least I did. Those ones in the very front.  I think I last had one in 2008.  So sad.  

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Date Decision Flow Chart: Nothing Could Go Wrong (+ Bird Hilarity)

      You missed quite a comedy show this morning here at Margo Manor, friends and neighbors.  

       Yours truly, Captain Cranium, was getting caught up on housework.  I was washing my stockings in the sink when I heard the unmistakable sound of wings flapping.  I poked my head out of the bathroom door in time to see all of my little birds–not Parrot, the little ones–making a cage break.  I’d left their door open after I cleaned their cage, and they were using this opportunity to get the hell out of Dodge.

       Several of them, flying around my apartment like crazy.  And unlike Parrot, they are only quasi-tame–they don’t step up.  I had to chase them, which was quite an experience, and I could only chase one at a time.  I was terrified that the ones I wasn’t focusing on would fall into the aquarium tank or fly into a window or eat some rat bait or God knows what.

      Or get eaten by Parrot.  Parrot was hanging out on top of her cage when this happened, and she didn’t like the little ones whizzing around the room, feathers flying everywhere.  She didn’t like it at all. 

     I was chasing birds for a few minutes before I remembered that I’d left the bathroom sink running.   Flooded the floor.  Took every dry towel in the house to mop up the water.  

       I was going to do the floors today anyway, but for Chrissake.

      I finally got the birds contained by throwing a pillowcase on top of each one and gently bundling it up.  I examined each bird carefully and I think they are all okay.  

       It’s a beautiful day outside.  I’m going to finish my chores and walk to the west side to catch the train to Jersey.  I have a student tonight and then I’m going to catch up with a friend.  I feel much better.  Last week was emotionally rough for me, for reasons that I don’t quite comprehend.  Maybe I overexerted myself.  It’s good that I made plenty of money and got the monthly bills paid up in advance, but maybe I overdid it.  I think I’m gonna take it easy this week.  

      I was also sorta torturing myself about what to do with the Mathematician.  He’s always sending me emails and text messages.  Not about setting up an appointment, either.  It’s friendly stuff like “I took my dog to the beach today!  Wish you were here!” with attached photo of sand-encrusted retriever fetching a tennis ball, or “What do you think I should get my female colleague for the office Secret Santa exchange?” 

        It is notable that these warm–dare I say, affectionate–gestures provoked within me anxiety and an impending sense of doom.  Tell me that isn’t hilarious.  I’m sitting in back at the Studio–the atmosphere of which was only nominally more sane than the psych ward at Bellvue last week–answering emails from random internet sadomasochists, and I look like I was attacked by Hannibal Lecter because the Surgeon took a bite out of my shoulder, and I freaked out over the photo of the dog with the tennis ball.   

       This nice man has no idea what he’s getting into, I thought.  What do I do? 

       Well, you know what…?  He’s a grownass man.  He’s older than I am, and he has his shit together.  He can make his own decisions.  I’m not going to get rid of him just because of my stupid self-sabotaging impulse.  He doesn’t need me to protect him from anything.  

        At this point, the only thing that I owe him is honesty.  He can decide for himself whether, and to what extent, he wants to be involved with me.  

       He invited me to watch him play squash tomorrow night, and this time I am going to go (last time he invited me, I freaked out and canceled).  Then I am going to let him take me to dinner.  I am going to eat the food, and not cut it up in tiny pieces and move it around on the plate.  I am going to enjoy his company.  If he wants to pay me, he can.  I am not going to stress out about it anymore.  If he wants to talk about it, then we can talk about it and reach a decision like two mature, thoughtful adults.  

      The Mathematician is not Hannibal Lecter.  There is nothing to be afraid of here.  He is, in fact, probably the least scary part of my life.  

      I just did a little decision flow chart in my head.  Barring a catastrophic freak event, like a car crash or the Surgeon showing up at the restaurant, nothing could go wrong.  It is impossible to fuck this up.  I am going to spend time with a really great, attractive guy who treats me like gold.  

      Wow.  I don’t know where I got this burst of clarity and insight from, but I’m sure glad to have it!  I will definitely have to share this with my analyst.  She will be thrilled.  Three cheers for positive mental health!

       What a relief, man.  I need to think like this more often!

       Here is an awesome, beautiful video about birds.  It makes me feel happy inside.  I hope you like it!