Tuesday, November 21, 2006

For your enjoyment....

I've decided to post some of my writing class assignments on here. If you're Stan or the man with MSG allergies, please click the small red X in the corner now. Thanks!!

Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence

It was the weekend of Emily’s graduation from Cornell. We had just finished breakfast at the house we were sharing with our loud, obnoxiously Jewish extended family, and Sarah and I had grandiose plans to escape the madness and spend an afternoon at Em’s place.
Her house was crusty yet charming, and we huddled together in Emily’s bed to rehash about the events of the weekend.

“When I came downstairs this morning,” Sarah began, “Nana was passed out in the La-Z-Boy with a towel underneath her in case she peed in her sleep!”

“Ha, I know,” I chimed in. “I can’t believe Mom gave her the master bedroom. We should’ve thrown her a box of Depends and sent her to the nursery!”

“What about Aunt Mara?” Emily asked. “How’s her OCD behavior this weekend?”

“Ah, same old,” Sarah replied. “You know. Opening doors with a sanitized washcloth, washing her hands every six seconds…”

“Mara needs to get laid, immediately”, I added.

We lay back on her bed laughing, all of us secretly praying that we would grow up to be slightly less insane versions of our relatives. Emily put down her mug of coffee and got up to go to the bathroom; an event that Sarah and I knew would take at least a solid thirty minutes. We tossed an Engineering book at her as she walked out the door. “You’ll need this!” I yelled after her.

“Hey, Jess. Look at that doggy-print underwear on the floor. That cannot be Emily’s!”
“Definitely not hers!” She still wears those ugly yet sensible shades-o-blue Hanes that mom bought her in the ninth grade. Why would she have those?”

We silently pondered the panties, and it seemed we made the same realization at exactly the same moment. Emily’s friend Elinor from the fencing team had been spending the entire graduation weekend with us. She was weirdly quiet, and kept hanging around. She also aspired to be a Veterinarian. Hence, the dog connection.

“Jess”, Sarah whispered, “Do you think Emily is… gay?”
“Oh my god, maybe Sar” I choked out. “Is that even possible? I mean, I guess it is. That underwear…”

Sooner then expected, Emily returned and plopped back down on the bed.

“Hey Em,” Sarah began. “Are those your doggy panties over there?”

“Oh, nope those aren’t mine. Those are Elinor’s. Her lease is up so she’s been staying with me for a couple weeks.”

“Oh,” Sarah replied, “Well, are you gay?”

“What? No! No, I’m not gay! She’s just staying here, that’s all.” Emily quickly spat out.

The awkward moment passed, but part of me still felt uneasy. Emily dropped us off with the family, and said she would see us later for Thai food.
We walked into the kitchen to find my Nana ranting and raving, flailing her arms in the air and reciting indecipherable words from the Yiddish dictionary.

“Oy gevald,” Nana blurted out to my mom. “What’s with this shikse Elinor? She keeps making the eyes at Emily. I’m intuitive, Ellen. I think something meshuganah is going on with the two of them. She is trying to convert Emily to a feygele… a lesbian!”

“They’re just friends from the fencing team” my mom calmly replied.

“She’s not gay, you guys” Sarah interjected. “We asked.”

“She doesn’t know it yet!” Nana called out. “But I know it. I’m intuitive!”

“Well,” my mom said changing the subject. “Everyone go get ready for dinner, our reservations are for 7 and we’re meeting Allison’s family.”

As it was only 4:45, I took up residence on the couch and watched as Donna denied David sex for the thirty-second time.

We were 22 minutes early, as my punctuality-obsessed mother would not have it any other way. I studied the menu as we waited for Emily, Elinor, Allison and her family to arrive and hoped the waiter could substitute the ‘Pad-See-Ew’ for a bacon cheeseburger and fries.

“Ellen, would you look at that retarded boy over there!” Nana must have thought she was whispering, but it came out in more of a holler.

“Can you imagine? Oy, it’s a shame!”

“Shhhh,” my mom whispered, “stop that!”

“Stop what? What did I do? Oy, am I starving! All I had today was a little nosheray. Just a little bit of that pot roast and some of those delicious matzo balls, and just the smallest sliver of chocolate mousse cake.”

“Winston? Party of 13. Right this way”, the hostess announced.

I suddenly felt the urge to run very far away when I realized the Down Syndrome boy my Nana had trash-talked was Allison’s younger brother. I really hoped he didn’t understand loud, senile grandmothers.

Emily sat next to Elinor and I eyed them throughout the entire meal. I tried to look for any brushes of the hand or flirtatious gestures, but nothing. Em was concentrating harder on her green curry then on Elinor. I guess she had been telling the truth.

The rest of the weekend flew by. 2 boring ceremonies, 4 grandmotherly outbursts, 18 sanitary washcloths and 5 unbutton-your-pants meals later, we packed up the car for our long journey back to New Jersey.

Sarah drove the car, mom sat in the passenger seat and I squished myself next to some luggage while my dad prepared to take a nap. As soon as we hit Route 81 South, Dad was snoring like a drunken pirate.

Suddenly, mom turned the radio down.

“Girls, I have to tell you something,” she whispered, obviously not wanting to wake my dad.
She hesitated for a moment.

”Emily and Elinor are together. They have been dating for the past five months. Em didn’t want me to tell anyone, but since you guys guessed…”

I looked at Sarah with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.
“I knew it! The doggy panties!” Sarah shouted.

“Huh? Who? What about dogs?” my dad mumbled, half asleep.

Mom interjected before he could gain full consciousness.

“Oh, nothing Marvin. Go back to sleep.”

And just like that, my sister was gay.

To Trim Or Not To Trim

It had been over four years since I had last seen Stan and could only recall classifying him into the ‘random druggie’ category of my Jersey public high school. He sat in front of me during twelfth grade English class, alternating between complete silences and napping. He was neither sexy nor unattractive and his dilated pupils served as a constant reminder of the Ecstasy he had a habit of ingesting. In my mind Stan had become a vague, distant memory not unlike my first pair of Keds.

A few weeks ago I was working out at my local New York Sports Club. I was on the elliptical and in the middle of watching “Date My Mom”, when I suddenly felt a tap on the shoulder. It was Stan. He was sporting a black Personal Trainer tee-shirt, hunk-like muscles and looking 1,200 times hotter then I can ever remember. I, on the other hand, was not at my finest. My hair was a combination of dirt, sweat and frizz which I paired nicely with exposed, unshaven legs and a major set of pit stains.

It must have been my lucky day, because Stan was flirting. Normally this goes against my rules. Usually, I’m drawn to guys whose daily physical activity entails binge drinking. Upon leaving the gym, I agreed to a free personal training session. While it sounded like a fantastic idea in the moment, several concerns dawned on me the day of.

1. All of my gym shirts have pit stains, in shades ranging from yellow to brown.
2. Is he going to weigh me?
3. Aerobic activity gives me gas.

I tried to ignore these daunting thoughts and instead concentrated on looking like a Jewish version of Suzanne Somers. I made a quick stop at Target to pick up some stain-free Hanes v-necks, straightened my curly-fro, and squeezed into a pair of surprisingly flattering black spandex. I did a last minute check for camel toe and made my way over to the gym.

I worked out with Stan for over an hour. He made me laugh, and thankfully this didn’t make me fart. He said we should go out for sushi sometime. I thought we should start planning our honeymoon. I left the gym on Cloud 9. Stan had asked for my phone number. Maybe living in Old Bridge wouldn’t be so bad after all. Besides, doesn’t dating a personal trainer guarantee my future eligibility for a size 2?

When I got home, I immediately signed into MySpace.com to see if I could stalk my future-husband-to-be. I checked the yearbook for the spelling of his crazy Russian last name and Tada, found him. What’s this picture of a hot male model doing here? Why is his comment wall signed by guys with overly shaped eyebrows named ‘Hot Naught-E Boy’ and ‘JohnnyBigShlong’? Oh, look at that. There’s a photo of Stan half-naked in the shower posing with a fluffy, pink loofah. This was more unsettling then the time in high school when my mom told me and my boyfriend to “keep it down in there”.

I never saw it coming. Is Stan gay?! I pondered his webpage as I shoveled a bowl of Turkey Hill Moose Tracks into my mouth like I had just escaped from a summer at fat camp. I couldn’t even fathom the possibility that Stan might actually like boys. He seemed so…so straight.

I avoided the gym for two weeks. Instead, I purchased a stepper and a Kathy Smith work-out DVD. While ‘Kathy’s Basic Step’ was made just a few short years ago, I loved it because it looked as though it was made in 1985. All of the steppers, the big ‘K’ included, wore neon colored leotards over contrasting neon colored spandex shorts. Even the men. Although I originally intended on using the video for calorie-burning purposes, I found myself watching it just for the ridiculous ensembles.

I finally made my big comeback to the gym last Thursday. I had rejoined Weight Watchers, which is something I like to do every other Monday after a weekend filled with beer, barbecue chicken pizza and Bloomin’ Onion. God, how I love the Bloomin’ Onion.

I had to burn at least three points in order to make up for my overage of fat-free sugar-free pudding pie, and Kathy just wasn’t cutting it. Before I hopped onto the leg press I looked both ways to see if I could spot Stan. I prayed it was his night off and let out a sigh of relief when he didn’t show up in my radar.

Not even two minutes into my workout, he found me.

“Hey, Jess! I haven’t seen ya in while!”

Ohhhhh no!

“Hey. Yeah I know. I’ve been like, so busy with work and class and everything.”

‘Everything’ meaning clomping around in my sister’s bedroom to a forty year old aerobics instructor, eating Malomars and scanning JDate for guys who earned over $100,000 per year and whose noses didn’t resemble the Titanic. This was no easy task.

“Oh. Well that’s cool. I’ve been real busy, too.”

Doing what? Humping men?

“I was wondering, do you want to go out with me and some friends on Saturday? We’re going to this bar Ashes in Red Bank… should be a good time”

Am I hearing this correctly? Oh, I get it. Maybe he wants me to be his fag hag. Get in line, buddy.

I took him up on the offer anyway. My inner detective just had to know the truth. Besides, alcohol was involved. How could I resist? I decided on a steady diet of broccoli and baby carrots, as to maximize my alcohol-points intake on the big day. I would certainly need them.
When Saturday rolled around, I started to panic. What does one even wear when going on a date with an attractive, yet possibly gay male? I did a mental scan of my wardrobe, and decided that nothing I owned was appropriate for such an occasion. This called for a trip to the Freehold Mall.
I needed to look cute in case he was straight, but I couldn’t dress slutty if it turned out he wasn’t. I also didn’t want to spend more then twenty dollars, in case his gayness meant I would be buying my own drinks.

It came to me as I chewed my grizzly-Chinese-chicken sample from the food court. I would pop my ‘Forever 21’ cherry. I pushed through the crowds of pre-teen girls and the moms who tried to dress like them, and found the perfect top. It was a flattering green and white striped tank top, which I planned on pairing with a short, frayed denim skirt over a pair of grey spandex leggings. I must have been spending a little too much quality time with Kathy.

It was getting late and I raced home to shower and get ready. I washed my hair, shaved my armpits and then I looked down. To trim or not to trim? As I was not about to chance razor-burn on an unreliable suitor, I decided to go au naturale. I changed into my tank top and sucked in. Not bad, I thought. I threw my curls up into a messy pony tail, put on some makeup and at the advice of my mother, poured a strong cocktail while I sat at the kitchen table and waited for Stan. He was twenty minutes late, and tardiness doesn’t fly with Mom.. “Even if he is straight, I don’t like him already!” she protested as I ran out the door.

Then, something unexpected happened. Stan got out of his shiny, new Beamer and opened the door for me. Okay, he might be straight. Or maybe folks from the U.S.S.R are just really polite. He looked good, but for some reason my attraction just wasn’t as strong outside of the gym. Why couldn’t he have worn his personal trainer tee shirt and carried some free weights? I would have even settled for one of those huge, bouncy balance balls. I guess my personal trainer fantasy had gotten the best of me, but I figured a few drinks and he would be Hulk Hogan.

We made a quick pit stop at Wawa to meet up with a car full of his alleged ‘guy friends’, and Stan went inside to purchase some Trident strawberry-kiwi gum. Fruity gum for a fruity guy? Perhaps. Conversation flowed easily as we made the twenty-six minute journey down to Red Bank. Stan talked about the health benefits of egg whites and Creatine shakes, while I tried to decide whether I would start with a Martini or a Gin and Tonic.

When we got to Ashes, I saddled right up to the bar to scan the drink list. Stan stood behind me, and told me to order two of whatever I was getting. I bravely chose a $12 Gloria Estefan, an orange-flavored Mojito, in hopes that I would not be the one paying. Two votes for straight, as he whipped out his MasterCard. I took the next few minutes to analyze his buddies. Three were checking out the girls. The forth was bordering on ambiguously homosexual, while I was bordering on extreme paranoia. What are those statistics again? Is it two out of every five guys are gay? I forget.

The drinks kept coming. I downed one more Gloria, three Coronas and two shots of Soco and lime. I was wasted, stumbling and praying that I would not pee my spandex. Stan was doing the white-boy shuffle. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so quick to quit the Ecstasy. While the details are fuzzy, I do recall him holding my hand. Or maybe he was just holding me up so I didn’t have to crawl to the bathroom. Either way, there was some definite flirtation. At some point Stan stopped drinking. As I had no intentions of being the designated driver, I kept on chugging.

The next thing I can remember is waking up in his car, my ass on fire from the heated seats. We were back in Old Bridge, in front of my house to be exact. I said a quick, sloppy “I’ll see you at the gym” and staggered down my driveway. He didn’t hold the door open, try to kiss me, or even put his hand down my pants. Gay! I knew it, but I didn’t care. I was completely hammered, famished and more concerned about what leftovers would be in the fridge.

Rock bottom, I thought to myself as I stood in front of the open refrigerator door stuffing my face with cold, chopped steak and mac and cheese. At least points don’t count when you’re drunk! After the binge, I struggled up the stairs, threw my shirt on the floor and fell into bed. I desperately wanted to brush the meaty feast out of my teeth, but I thought that throwing the flavor of Colgate into the mix might have caused me to vomit. I closed my eyes and drifted into a comatose sleep.

“Be my lover. Got to be my lover! Da-da-da-dee-da-da-da-da.” Ugh. What the? Oh, text message. It was from Stan.

“Thanks for the compliments and the good time. Had a blast. I must say I wanted to kiss you, but hate when alcohol is involved”

Why are you blaming your unclear sexuality on alcohol? And compliments? What compliments? I certainly did not tell him he was a good dancer. And he’s not gay? Lord help me. I proceeded to the toilet to throw up and figure out how my life had come down to determining other people’s sexual preferences.

I woke up and felt so awful I convinced myself that I miscarried in my sleep. My hair resembled Krusty the Clown, mascara ran down my face and my gut protruded ever so nicely over my too-tight leggings. I put on a shirt and stumbled downstairs for a cup of coffee.

My mom looked up from the Wedding Section of the Sunday Times.

“So, is he gay?” she asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Maybe he’s bi?”

You, Me and MSG

Some women say that they can tell a lot about a man by his taste in music. Others, in his choice of shoes or ties. For a select few it’s the car he drives, the cologne he wears or the way his bathroom is decorated. “Wow, look at his beautiful array of monogrammed hand towels… he must get along great with his mother AND be good in bed!” However, being myself, a nice Jewish girl from an overly Jewish set of parents, I can tell if I like a man by the way he eats. Likes sushi? Adventurous! Into the fatty, greasy bacon cheeseburgers? Manly man, bonus points. Coffee lover? Sensitive, maybe TOO sensitive but we’ll give it a try. I steer clear of any consumption of veggie burgers, turkey burgers and main course salads. Don’t get me wrong, I love salad, I absolutely do. But please, just have a small version (with full-fat dressing, please!) before your big, manly fat-burger, THANKS!

So, I’m sure you’re not surprised when I decided to meet Mr. Match.com at a local Italian restaurant. I didn’t know all too much about him, but I figured a few glasses of wine would help the flow of conversation. Wait, I should rewind and tell you what I knew about him pre-dinner. He’s 26, a Jew, allergic to MSG (and I don’t mean the nosebleed seats at the garden!) and is way too into cars. He has four. Why would you own four cars? Okay, maybe if you’re Little Bow Wow and Cribs is coming over to tape you, your car for each season that you can’t even drive yet and your Coors Light-filled fridge that you’re not even old enough to drink yet! Apparently, one of his cars is old and purple. Two are pick-ups (Are u SURE you’re Jewish?) and the last is a sexy red Beamer. Interesting selection. Prior to meeting him, he sent me photos of his cars, not himself. That should have been a warning in itself, but who am I to judge?

Dinner is at 9:30. I am fuckin’ staaaaaarving and in need of a drink. Oh and of course, just as I expected… he’s a lot cuter in his photos. Well, maybe not the Beamer! That looked pretty great in person. About 3 minutes into the date, I knew I was doomed. “Would you like something to drink, Miss?” “Do you have a wine list?” “No, it’s actually BYOB.” SHIT! Damn you, restaurant review website for not warning me! Diet Coke it is.

He’s nervous, I can tell. You know how I can tell? He tells me. It’s about 95 degrees outside and he’s just a tad too sweaty looking for my liking. THEN the kicker. “I’m not even that hungry, it’s just TOO hot out!” Okay, then why are we here? Again, I’m fucking starving and my fat-free dressing-laced salad I had at 2 o’ clock just ain’t doing the trick. I dive head first into the breadbasket, while he sits there looking nervous, sweaty and talking about cars. His cars, the cars he works with and oh why is there a large, scary dent in the side of MY car? Oh, apparently it can be fixed if I would like ‘his car people’ to look at it. Sure thing, buddy. Sounds like it would require another date, maybe even 2… EEK!

The specials sound really good and I’m totally thinking I might go for the shrimp ravioli, or maybe the scallops. Oh, you don’t like seafood? Not even shrimp? Ah Ha! Definitely NOT sushi. He’s getting some hybrid chicken/sausage combo that he can’t pronounce. He doesn’t even try to pronounce it actually. He just points his finger to it on the menu, and tells the waiter “The Chicken… Ssss…Sca….Scarrp” Oh, no. C’mon, give it a try. Sound it out, I promise it’s not too hard! I give him a few bonus points for the manly-esque meats, but I quickly take them back for the lack of effort.

I’m not digging this guy, but at least there are no awkward silences. Thank god. Usually no alcohol on a first date is a complete death sentence but we’re actually not doing too badly. You know why? He always goes on sober dates, because he doesn’t like to drink! “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.” HAHAHAH, excuse me? HELP!

The plates arrive and I’m glad because now we can talk less… about cars. I ask him about his MSG allergy and discovered it gives him hives and swollen lips. Hmmm… that could be hot. Perhaps I should’ve suggested Hunan Wok. Now this next part is just unbelievable. I want you to know I’m laughing right now, because I had to hold it in all through dinner and it was just too monumental. His chicken was sitting in an especially oily, greasy mess and GUESS WHAT? “For some reason, greasy food makes my nose itch.” He warned me… you know, in case I was wondering why he was incessantly scratching his nostrils throughout the entire meal! At one point in the date, he asked me if he had something in his nose. Shit, I must have been staring, but that’s all he could do. Chew his chicken and scratch, scratch, scratch!

He redeemed himself by ordering us peanut butter gelato and telling a few entertaining stories that finally didn’t revolve around cars or food allergies. I feel bad, he’s a nice guy, sure… but I just didn’t realize someone could be so strange, or at least let it show in the span of one and a half hours!

We parted ways with a polite hug and an “I’ll talk to you soon”, but not until he got an up close and personal look at the dent in my car. Thanks for the advice buddy, and sorry about your nose.


Cheetos and Fritos and Doritos, OH MY!

In case you’ve been in asleep in your cubicle for the past 14 years, you should know that you are in the presence of a highly esteemed political figure. I, Ms. Jessica Harris Winston, was the very first, or rather the only President of the Eating Club. I know. Harris. Who gives their cherubic, little puffy-cheeked daughter the middle name Harris? I certainly didn’t own a penis, live in an active adult community r wet my Depends at the thought of the early-bird special at the Old Country Buffet. However, my parents claimed that it was the only name they liked that began with an H. Maybe the names Hillary and Hannah didn’t come about until late 1985.

I was one of those kids lucky enough to endure the excruciating pain of being the youngest sibling of three. Emily, my elder by seven years combines the fashion sense of your sixth grade math teacher with the brains of Doogie Howser. Now, with all of the recent publicity it seems like she and Neil Patrick Harris have a bit more in common then I originally thought. Senior year at Cornell, Emily pulled an Ellen. We had all assumed her heterosexuality up until that point, but for some reason the news was about as shocking as finding out that overdosing on Taco Bell gives you diarrhea. Mom responded with an “Oh, that’s nice. At least I won’t have to pay for another wedding!” and now she tells the world about her daughter’s ‘partner’ and thinks Lesbianism is as trendy as a pair of Ugg Boots.

Emily was my Mr. Myagi. I held her responsible for teaching me all of the important things in life. At about the age of 9, Emily inquired,

“Jessie, do you spit or swallow?”

“What do you mean? I, uh, I guess I do both!” I nervously replied.

“No way, you can’t do both! You have to pick one. Is it SPIT, or SWALLOW?”

“I guess I do both?"

Wrong answer.

Sarah is four years older then I am, and an excellent example of the Marsha Brady syndrome. She might as well have worn a Geisha outfit and bowed down to my parents because she was certainly the favorite, not to mention she always had boyfriends clinging to her like a bad case of Herpes. We act alike, sound alike and many people say we even look alike. Except for one minor detail. She is Nicole Richie, and I am Carnie Wilson. Post-Gastric Bypass, but still Carnie Wilson. Maybe I got a chubby sperm with a pokey metabolism, or perhaps my egg had a thing for big, beefy men. Or maybe, just maybe it was the long-lasting effects of the Eating Club.

I was El Presidente of the Eating Club. How does one attain this ultra-prestigious title? Well as I mentioned before, my sisters loved to tease me. Some days I was forced to me their child-slave, while on other occasions they would attempt to suffocate me with a blanket while simultaneously farting on my face until I begged for mercy. I believe it was Emily who had the genius idea of creating the Eating Club. I’m not sure whether it was out of pure cruelty or if she decided that I needed an extra-curricular activity. I had a brief run-in with soccer and gymnastics, but I guess mom got tired of paying to watch me stand obliviously on the field picking Umbros-induced wedgies out of my butt like I had Down Syndrome. I also attempted ice-skating which lasted a mere 13 minutes, 12 of which I was trying to shove my eggplant sized feet into those awful skates and 1 to decide the ice looked scary and I wanted to go home instead and shove cool ranch Doritos down my throat.

Becoming President wasn’t all fun and games. Getting elected into office was harder then the SATs. I thought that half a box of Milanos would do the trick, but apparently cookies were just not enough for the Winston sisters. In order to be considered ‘cool’ and hang out in the backyard clubhouse with the rest of the club, I really had to start packing it in. So I kept eating! Waffles and ice cream quickly became a breakfast favorite, while I went nuts for salami, provolone and mayo sandwiches for lunch. After-school snack? Box of mini pizza bagels!

"No, you can’t have any, they’re all mine!"
"Mom, is dinner ready yet? I’m starving!!"

My rampant eating habits combined with marathon episodes of Saved by the Bell quickly evoked the growth of a little somethin’ somethin’ right below the home of my future breasts. Emily and Sarah dubbed my fat belly, the ‘Twoogie”. They found it especially fun to surprise with a quick, hard pinch and a loud “TWOOGIE, TWOOGIE!!”

“Why are you guys making fun of me?? I’m cool and I’m the President of the Eating Club!”

I eventually discovered the joys of weight-loss through the Elliptical and fat-free food items, but not without a few more years of Twoogie Torture. To this day, I still blame my childhood chunk on my sisters. However, my adult on-set chunk is a whole other story, which I blame solely on my love of beer and…Milanos.