Out of the Mouths of Babes

With any holiday function comes the potential challenge of having to justify your life to people you haven’t seen in months. Why am I still single? Why haven’t I bought a condo? Am I saving for retirement? Why don’t I have a job? Fortunately, I got that last one taken care of just in time for the holidays.
This year, as prepared as I was for the interrogation, I never anticipated its source: my four year old nephew, Adam.
I arrived at my parent’s house on Thanksgiving morning, arms filled with food and gifts. Okay, actually my arms were filled with an empty Starbucks cup and a basket full of dirty laundry, but I had fully intended on bringing gifts for everyone. I just fell behind.
After all the hugs and kisses were dispensed, and the rinse cycle began, I sat down at the kitchen table to talk to my youngest nephew. Adam was drinking some cranberry juice at the time, and was deeply focused on tracing his hand for a masterpiece entitled, “Turkey Hand.”
Not wanting to interrupt his genius, I just started drinking some wine (it was 11:22am, well past the 11:00am starting time) and filling my dad in on all the latest job stories. At one point, Adam looked away from his artwork and said, “Aunt Jenny, why are your teeth grey?”
I was a little thrown by the question, since I had only prepared pat answers to all the usual queries. To date, no one had ever asked me why my teeth were grey. Frankly, I am quite hopeful that no one ever asks me this question again. (For the record, my teeth are not grey, but are what my dentist calls a “nice, natural tone.”)
I explained to my nephew that what he was noticing was most likely the difference in color between my natural teeth and my bridgework. To illustrate my point, I grabbed his grape scented marker and drew a crude depiction of a dental bridge on the back of a napkin. This sparked a series of questions about why I have false teeth, if I needed a bridge because I didn’t brush my teeth, and if false teeth hurt.
Once I had explained all the ins and outs of cosmetic dentistry, he went back to drawing turkeys. Which then became black widows. Which were then eaten by dinosaurs.
Later, as we were getting ready to go outside for a walk, Adam looked up from his intense efforts at tucking his pants legs into his boots and said, “Aunt Jenny, how come you don’t have a son?”
“Uhh… I don’t know. I just haven’t been lucky like your mom and dad, yet.”
“Oh. I thought maybe it was because your eggs are so far past their expiration date that even the fertility clinic turned you down when you tried to sell them one to make some extra money while you were unemployed this summer.”
Wait. Now I wonder if maybe that last part was just in my head, because I don’t think Adam knows the phrase “fertility clinic” yet. Certainly not well enough to use it in context. And for the record, I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least a dozen or so eggs that haven’t expired yet, even if that lousy fertility clinic didn’t want them. “Must be under 30 years of age” – who made up that stupid rule?!
After our walk, we came back in and started to get cleaned up for Thanksgiving dinner. I was infinitely flattered when Adam requested that I sit next to him at the dinner table. As we were eating, Adam told me about a girl in his pre-school he has a crush on (Angela), what he hopes Santa will bring him for Christmas (army guys), and why his big brother wouldn’t let him play with his new Yu-Gi-Oh! cards (because he’s mean).
In between bites of sweet potatoes and turkey, Adam looked up at me and said, “Aunt Jenny, what are those lines on your head?”
“They’re called wrinkles, sweetie. People get them when they get old like me.”
“But my mommy doesn’t have any lines on her head.”
“Adam, that’s because your mommy sold her soul to the devil a few years ago in exchange for everlasting youth and beauty.”
Before I could finish my explanation of eternal damnation (with grape scented illustrations), Adam leapt out of his chair and ran to the bedroom in tears.

I don’t anticipate getting any questions about wrinkles next year.

Statistical Analysis

In honor of the day of giving thanks, I thought I would share some important Thanksgiving statistics:

  • 20 minutes = amount of time it took me to scrape the ice off of my car this morning.
  • 14 = the number of times my nephews will say, “Aunt Jenny – tell us a scary story. Not Hansel & Gretel. A really scary story!”
  • 7 = the number of times I will (unsuccessfully) try to explain to my relatives what people in marketing actually do.
  • 11:00am = the acceptable time to begin drinking wine.
  • 3 = the number of side dishes my mother will forget to put on the dinner table.
  • $2.00 = the amount of money I will pay my 4-year old nephew for one of his signed original drawings of a black widow eating a cobra.
  • 4 = the number of hours I will spend flipping through digital cable on the TV in the guest room.
  • 6 = the number of times I will have a mild panic attack due to sensory overload, and need to go for a walk in the woods.

That’s all folks. Have a very happy Thanksgiving, and for you non-Americans, happy… Thursday!

Colors Part 2: Gangsta Tap

When Natasha, Seamus, and I signed up for our first tap class, my goals were simple. I just wanted to improve my coordination, meet some new people, and someday earn the right to wear tights and a tuxedo jacket with tails. I never imagined that tap dance could drag me down a path of violence and destruction – that same path I fought so hard to avoid all these years.
Like any disease, this cancer started slowly, almost undetectably. Seamus was the first to exhibit symptoms. Before we became dancers, Seamus was a laid back, happy-go-lucky kind of person. He had big, crazy ideas, but they were always hypothetical.
“I’m thinking about going on a diet where I only eat round things.”
“I’m gonna write a Broadway musical called ‘Moving On Up,’ based on The Jeffersons.”
“I think I might get a tattoo on my arm of all the cities I’ve been to in the past year.”
See, it was always crazy stuff like that. No one ever believed he’d really do any of those things. So when Seamus showed up to class sporting a swollen tattoo that said, “Cleveland,” I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.
As time passed and we moved on to Tap II, Seamus became more and more passionate about how great tap dancing was. How it was so much better than every other form of dance. He said that just because we didn’t wear ruffled shirts and tight black pants like the salsa dancers didn’t mean we weren’t as important.
In order to get the respect he felt tappers were due, he decided to get organized. That’s how Seamus started the gang. Natasha was his first recruit, mainly because she came up with their gang name: the Tap Dawgz.
I told Seamus and Nat that I thought that might be a copyright infringement on the movie,Tap Dogs, but Seamus said he didn’t care.
“Look, Jenny – I’m the leader of a gang now. I have a tattoo. I just got my hair buzzed short at Klassy Kuts. You think I give a crap about some stupid copyright law? Besides, my lawyer said we’re okay because of the different spelling.”
Nat chimed in, “Yeah, just let them try to file a suit against the Dawgz. Who are they gonna sue once I bust a tap in their ass?”
They started pressuring me to join their gang, but I resisted. At least at first I did. It was scary how easily I found myself falling back into my old routine. After initially dismissing the idea of joining their tap gang, I caught myself doodling out a few logos for the Dawgz. First, some tap shoes with a skull and crossbones on the side, and later, a Rottweiler wearing a top hat.
But Seamus wanted more than just a logo from me. He said if I wanted to be a T-Dawg, I had to prove my loyalty. In order to be initiated into the gang, Seamus said I would have to sneak into the ballet class that meets before tap and slice up some shoes. Slice them up real good.
I didn’t like the idea of hurting anyone, especially the slight ballerinas in the 2nd floor studio. But old habits die hard, and when I came to tap class with a pocket full of severed pink satin ribbons, Seamus knew I could be trusted. He said my gang name could be Cyrus.
The Tap Dawgz were tight – all three of us. We answered to no one but ourselves, so when a rival dance gang – The Damen Avenue Jazzies – started encroaching on our turf, Nat said we had to take a stand. She said we’d be nothing but punks if we let them hang out at our Starbucks. I didn’t want to get sucked into a violent situation, so I brought up the fact that there were four other Starbucks locations within a five block radius, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Seamus said we had to prove to them who owned these streets, so one Saturday morning we went to the Starbucks looking for them. Seamus sent me in first to check out the situation. A quick scan of the coffee shop revealed three Jazzies who were getting their morning coffee before heading off to the studio to practice. Two of them were sitting at a table by the window reading the Tribune. Their matching red legwarmers told me all I needed to know – these were old school gangbangers.
All the playground karate in the world couldn’t have prepared me for the massacre I was about to witness.
Seamus immediately walked toward the blonde one, who looked to be their leader, while she was at the counter asking for a little more honey in her Chai tea. As soon as he approached, the tall one at the table saw what was about to go down, so she tried to distract Seamus with a frenzied interpretive dance called Time Unbound. It was dizzying to behold – I felt her anguish as she jerked her body back and forth, shifting her arms mechanically like the hands of a watch, and ultimately falling to the ground in what I believe was a poignant reference to sand slipping through an hourglass.
As hypnotic as her dance was, Seamus wasn’t phased. He slammed his cane down on the counter, sending raw sugar and nutmeg flying into the eyes of the Jazzies’ leader.
Seeing her two fallen comrades, the third woman tried to grab her gym bag and sneak out the side door, but Nat saw her just in time. Nat bent down, unscrewed her tap, and whipped it at the woman, knocking over the Grande cup of coffee that she had been drinking. The woman ran out screaming, scalded by what was left of her Americano.
“I catch you on our turf again, and next time it’ll be a Venti mocha! Chocolate stains don’t come out, you know!”
Seamus looked on proudly.
As I looked down at the disaster we had created – a trail of coffee seeping toward my shoes, sugar crunching underneath my feet, Java jackets strewn all across the counter – I felt sick to my stomach.
“Oh god. God. What have I done?”
I looked up at Seamus and saw him helping Nat carve another notch in her tap as she screwed it back on.
I want out. I love the Tap Dawgz – I mean, they’re the only family I’ve got – but I can’t do this. I didn’t struggle for 20 years to stay on the straight and narrow just to allow some feud over the box step vs. the time step to drag me back into this violent cycle.
So I told them I was leaving the gang. They were free to use my logo if they wanted, but I was officially out. I handed Seamus the dog tags he had made for me with the name “Cyrus” on them, and turned to leave.
As I walked away, Seamus yelled, “You’ll be back! Where else are you gonna go? Once a T-Dawg, always a T-Dawg!”
Not if Mrs. Garcia has something to say about it.

Colors Part 1: Kidz ‘N the Hood

If it hadn’t been for Manny Garcia’s mom, I would probably be dead or in jail by now.

It was 1980 – we had just elected our first movie star president, the Cold War was in full effect, and Joanie Loves Chachi was still two years away. I had just turned nine, had a lot of anger inside me and nowhere to direct it. So I turned to the streets, or rather, to the playground. Feeling alienated from society, and rarely being picked for the kickball starting lineup, Manny, our friend George, and I decided to form a street gang. Inspired by the movie, The Warriors, we called ourselves The Warriors. After school, we’d go to the park to train so that our bodies and minds were strong. We knew that they had to be, just in case we were ever called into battle.
The three of us would run laps, climb trees, and practice karate, but we pronounced it “ka-ra-TAY” because it sounded a lot more authentic that way. We took our regimen very seriously, keeping a journal of how many pushups George could do, or how long I could hang from the willow tree before letting go. Sometimes we’d look for big sticks to use as weapons, or just grab Manny’s old baseball bat and tap it menacingly in our hands at each other.
George and I were pretty good at drawing, so we worked together to come up with a gang symbol. George wanted it to be a snake coiled around a dagger. I lobbied to get two intertwined pairs of nunchucks, which I thought seemed a little more artistic, yet still intimidating. We compromised and ended up with a pair of nunchucks draped over a dagger. There was some talk of getting satin jackets with our logo on them, but we were nine.
One day, after a particularly grueling training session, we decided to go on our first patrol. Our initial stop in protecting our turf was Manny’s house, which was a few blocks behind the elementary school. As we walked toward his house, I saw his mother standing on their porch, so I waved. When she saw the baseball bat in Manny’s hand, she yelled, “Manny! Are you going to play baseball? Take your little brother to the park with you!”
George smiled and chimed in, “We’re not playing baseball. We’re in a gang!”
Manny winced.
His mom just stood there for a minute without saying anything, and I contemplated turning around to go home. Just then, she stormed off the porch, snatched the bat out of Manny’s hand and pointed it at us as she yelled, “Do you think being in a gang is some kind of a joke? You think this is funny? Do you want to get yourselves killed? Manuel – if I ever hear you talk about being in a gang again…”
She never finished her sentence. She didn’t need to.
“All three of you – look at me. You promise me you will never get mixed up in gangs. Promise me!”
As I learned that day, there already were gangs in Manuel’s neighborhood. Real ones. Not ones who sang “Macho Man” while climbing trees in the park. Not ones who went to the mall to get their names ironed on T-shirts in fuzzy letters. And definitely not ones who wore Smurfette wristwatches.
We all sheepishly nodded our heads and promised not to fall into a life of drugs and violence. Manny waved, and mouthed the word, “Bye” as his mother yanked him into his house.
As George and I walked back home, I told myself I would never break my promise to Mrs. Garcia. And for over 20 years, I stayed true to my word.
But that was before Natasha, Seamus, and I started taking tap.
[Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion – Colors Part II: Gangsta Tap!]


Inspired by Hardee’s bold introduction of the Monster Thickburger, I decided that the time was right for me to launch a new product of my own. I really need to keep my finger on the pulse of consumer demand, so yesterday I had my market research team follow me around for the day to do some market research on the average thirty-something recently employed amateur tap-dancer. The market research that the market research team came back with helped me understand what my target audience is looking for.
The research indicated that Americans are working more hours than last week, wear turtlenecks at least twice each week, are eating 50% more candy than usual, and have a strong desire to be well informed about current events. After an important brainstorm session on my train ride home, my product development team created the following new feature designed to help Americans feel “plugged in” to this hectic world. It’s called “Current Events (as read over that guy’s shoulder).”
It’s concise. It’s timely. It’s proactive. It’s everything our focus group participant wanted. I’m certain that by reading these entries, I will become a much more aware citizen and consequently, a more productive contributor to society. So without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce our new feature:
Current Events (as read over that guy’s shoulder)
“K-Mart Snaps Up Sears for $8 Billion” – Chicago Tribune, October 18, 2004
I’m really excited about the merger between K-Mart and Sears because now, instead of having to not go to two different stores, I’ll only have to not go to one.

Overheard in the Elevator

Woman 1: “Hey, did either of you guys hear about that new burger that Hardee’s came out with? It has like, 100 grams of fat and like, 1500 calories.”
Woman 2: “No way! Who would eat that?”
Man 1: “I bet it tastes good.”
Woman 1: “I think it’s called the ‘Monster Burger’ or something like that.”
Woman 2: “That’s sick.”
I was oddly intrigued by this discussion, so when I got off on my floor, I went online to see if such a thing really existed. It does. And Woman 1 was close – it’s actually called the Monster Thickburger. 1420 calories. 107 grams of fat. Two 1/3 lb patties of meat. Three slices of cheese. Four slices of bacon. Mayonnaise. Buttered bun. (I felt so sick when I just wrote, “Buttered bun.”)
I actually tip my hat to the product development folks at Hardee’s. They know they work for a dying chain (I mean, face it, when was the last time you ate at Hardee’s?) so they’re going out in a blaze of glory. They’re not going to pander to all these healthy eating activist groups – the same groups that strong-armed McDonald’s into introducing the McLean Deluxe and the McSalad Shaker.
I think Hardee’s should unapologetically strive to clog as many arteries as they can on their way into bankruptcy. McDonald’s wants to offer healthy alternatives so that independent filmmakers stop making movies like, Super Size Me? I say, let them! Hardee’s should counter McDonald’s every move with the unhealthiest recipes they can concoct:

  • McD’s offers apple slices in Happy Meals – Hardee’s offers deep fried cheese curds (It’s a Wisconsin thing. Mmmm… deep fried cheese!)
  • McD’s offers gourmet salads – Hardee’s offers gourmet pasta carbonara wrapped inside a deep fried pasty puff
  • McD’s offers bottled water instead of pop – Hardee’s offers melted butter instead of milk
    But now, all admiration aside, I find myself facing a serious dilemma: now that I know about the Monster Thickburger, what about my New Year’s resolution to eat a slider at White Castle? I can’t have two resolutions revolving around beef. Not again. What’s a girl to do?
  • Bar Car

    As the weather gets colder, the sidewalks get sloppier, and public transportation gets more crowded, I’m very happy to report that I recently made the switch from taking the “L” to riding the Metra to work each day. Don’t get me wrong – I like the Purple Line just as much as the next guy – but there comes a time in a woman’s life when she has to make choices. Difficult choices. Choices like:

  • Listening to someone talk to lawyer on cell phone vs. listening to someone talk back to voices in head
  • Smelling too much Chanel No. 5 vs. smelling too much Body Odors No. 1 and 2
  • Exposing immune system to millions of festering germs vs. exposing immune system to millions of… okay, I guess there’s no real difference there, but you get the point.
    There’s just something about riding the Metra that makes me feel, I don’t know, kind of high society. I always get to sit down on the Metra. I smile at the conductor on the Metra and he smiles back. I can go to the bathroom on the Metra. Some people go to the bathroom on the “L,” which would be fine if there were actually bathrooms on the “L.”
    But there aren’t.
    I find great comfort in the familiar sounds of riding the big girl train: the automated recording saying, “Doors closing. Please stand back.” The conductor leaning out the door and yelling, “All aboard!” And the gentle “Pshhht!” of beer cans opening all around me.
    It was this last sound that initially caught me a little off guard. The first time I heard it, I didn’t quite recognize what it was. Certainly, I’m well familiar with the sound of a beer can cracking open (although I’m more accustomed to the loving pop of a cork from some nice Shiraz), but it was the context that threw me. Beer cans? On a train? In public? That’s so – naughty!
    I must admit, though, that I’ve yet to actually drink on the train myself. Through my astute observational techniques – known in some circles as staring – I have noticed that only men seem to drink on the train. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the train station bars only sell gigantic Sam’s Club sized cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I mean, come on now – my ride is only 15 minutes long. How am I supposed to finish all that beer? Do they expect me to shotgun that bad boy?
    That would severely cramp my high society style.
    I did actually see one woman drinking beer on the train a few weeks ago, but she was splitting it with her boyfriend. I guess that’s seen as acceptable – kind of like having a chaperone. But what’s an unescorted gal like me to do? Endure the scornful gazes of all my fellow commuters as I lug my half keg of Old Style past them and start to drink it alone as I stare out the window, a solitary tear running down my cheek?
    Like I said, I love the Metra and all, but really – what kind of world do we live in where a single woman has to feel ashamed to drink 48 ounces of beer on an empty stomach in 15 minutes on a commuter train on a Tuesday night at 5:00pm before she gets into her car and drives home?
    I know what you’re thinking: “Jenny’s just imagining this. She’s projecting her own insecurities onto everyone else. She’s not part of the solution – she’s part of the problem! If she wants to drink a beer on the train, she should just do it and shut up about it!”
    And to that I say: Get the hell out of my head! You’re freaking me out! But I suppose you are a lot cheaper than my therapist, so perhaps you have a point.
    I just wish that society didn’t put so many pressures on people to conform to some unwritten code of ethics. I mean, just picture a world where everyone was free to get intoxicated in whatever style and manner they saw fit. A world where no man, woman, or child with convincing fake ID would be judged for cracking open a Milwaukee’s Best inside a moving vehicle. Open your minds, friends. Can you just imagine it? Can you?
    “Imagine all the people
    Drinking on the train
    You hooooooooo
    You may say I’m a dreamer,
    But I’m not the only one.”
  • Feeling Not So Fresh?

    [Note: This entry was alternately titled, How Jenny Loses Her Male Readership in One Fell Swoop. Sorry gents, this article had to be written. You can check back in a few days.]
    Rarely does product advertising annoy me enough to feel the need to write about it. Heck, I work in marketing, so I kind of like advertising. Usually I’m pretty oblivious to the nonstop onslaught of “New!” and “Reformulated!” and “Refreshing!” messages that bombard us on an hourly basis. But last week something happened to change all that. I went to my favorite store in the entire world, Target, to stock up on everything that one stocks up on when visiting said Mecca: cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, Kleenex, tube socks, clearance Halloween marshmallow Peeps, and, you know… feminine hygiene products.
    So I’m in the feminine product aisle, which is oddly located right next to the electronics section. Come to think of it, maybe Target is trying to establish some sort of in-store matchmaking service. I can almost see it play out: I’m rushing out of the woman aisle, arms full of sanitary products, when I run head-on into a dashing young man who is walking out of the electronics department. We collide. A torrent of DVD’s, batteries, and FDS feminine deodorant spray rains down upon our heads. I nervously gather up my items, cheeks burning with embarrassment and intrigue. I look up. Our eyes meet. As he hands me my box of Tampax tampons, now in new Compak® design, our hands briefly touch. It’s electric. He leans in for a kiss and…
    But I digress.
    When I got home from Target and started putting away my purchases, reveling in all the money I saved by purchasing in bulk, I noticed a strange graphic on the box of Kotex feminine pads. (Sidebar – I think they finally stopped calling them sanitary napkins. Amen to that!) On the cover of the box, there’s a picture of the little package the pad comes in, with the word: “Ssshhh!” on it.

    Wait a minute – did my Kotex pad just shush me? I look closer and notice that the text underneath the ssshhh says, “Quietest Pouch!” Well it’s high time someone got rid of those noisy pouches, always with the yak, yak, yak. Thank god, I can finally hear myself think above the din of menstruating women all across the world simultaneously ripping open their pads!
    This still isn’t really making sense to me, so I flip the box over, hoping for some further explanation. I found what I was looking for – on the back, selling point #4 is “Quiet, cloth-like pouch for discretion.”
    Discretion? When was the last time you were in a ladies room and came out of the stall only to see half a dozen women laughing and pointing and throwing tampons at you. (Okay, maybe if your name is Carrie, but she got them back. She got them real good.) How much more discrete can you get than a microthin little pink square that easily fits into your back pocket? I mean, it’s not like they used to install car alarms inside the pouches.
    It’s yet another absurd advertising message designed to convince women that their monthly cycles are dirty and humiliating. Devil woman! You must be ashamed of this cycle that confounds the non-bleeders! How dare you flaunt your fertility with the deafening sounds of plastic packages opening in the ladies room!? Goody Jenny is a witch! She bleeds without dying! Burn her! Burn her!
    I mean, granted, I agree that we need to exercise some modicum of discretion, just like you would with any bodily function that requires you to retire to the ladies room. It’s not like I’m suggesting women walk around all week and advertise their periods by dangling tampons from their ears and slapping pads all over their clothes like post-it notes.
    But are these advertisers truly trying to suggest that in 2004, focus group studies showed that women’s #4 concern was the humiliating and reputation-sullying sound of plastic tearing as we opened our pads? Now, I realize I’ve only been dealing with this issue for the past 20 years or so, but if you’re opening up a pad, you’re pretty much either in your own home, or in some public ladies restroom, right? If you’re at home, who gives a rat’s ass, and if you’re in a ladies room, you’re in a room with other ladies. Who. Also. Use. These. Products!
    Well I say, screw you, Madison Avenue marketing geniuses. You want to “ssshhh” me? I don’t think so. So I’m starting a new movement. Everything old is new again. That’s right. I’m bringing back the sanitary belt. Wear it loud, wear it proud! What’s that sticking out of your low rider jeans? Hint: it’s not a thong. You heard me! The belt is back!
    We’ve come a long way, baby.

    Terms of Endearment

    I was already starving by 11:00am yesterday. After a few weeks of diligently packing a lunch, I quickly fell back into my old habits of infrequent grocery shopping and regular trips to the food court for lunch. I haven’t suffered too much for the past week and a half, though, because I’ve mainly been living off of old Halloween candy that all my co-workers keep bringing into the office in an effort to wean their children off their week-long sugar highs.
    Last week there were some smashed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a lot of Hershey’s Special Darks. Later there were the fruit flavored Tootsie Rolls, which I had never tried before. The orange ones were good, but tasted a little like baby aspirin. Mmm. Chalky. This week, all the hearty chocolate is gone, so I’m left with nothing but Smarties, which I love, but they aren’t very filling. And they make my belly burn if I eat too many of them.
    Fearing the dreaded Smartie reflux, I headed out for lunch yesterday in search of some real sustenance. I went to the little deli near the office and ordered a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich on a hard roll. Oh, and some chips, please. The cashier said, “Did you want something to drink with that, sweetie?”
    This caught me off guard a little, so I looked up from my wallet and saw the cashier giving me a warm smile that made her eyes crinkle. I smiled back and said, “Umm… sure. Medium Diet Pepsi, please?”
    “No problem, sweetie. You have a nice day, now!”
    I really didn’t want anything to drink. Hadn’t intended on ordering a soda. But I couldn’t help myself – she called me “sweetie” twice. Sure, I heard her say the same thing to all the customers behind me, but it wasn’t about being singled out. It was just the kindness in her voice when she said it. It was devoid of all irony.
    The word just flowed so naturally off her tongue. I guess that’s her thing – she’s the “sweetie” woman. I envy her. I don’t have a thing. I wish I had a thing. Some thing that made people remember me and want to buy unnecessary sodas from me.
    You have to be a certain kind of person to be able to get away with calling strangers affectionate little nicknames like that. I think you have to be really old or maybe from the south. Oddly, this woman was neither. She was just an average looking, somewhat pudgy woman with nice teeth and kind eyes. But she had sincerity on her side, so it worked for her.
    I suppose I could just wait another 40 years to start referring to people as “doll,” but I’m not sure I have the patience. And a Midwestern accent does not register high enough on the charm scale to permit the use of “sugar.” Why did I have to be born in America’s Heartland?! Curse you, immigrant great grandparents! Why couldn’t you have settled in Kentucky?!
    No wait, you didn’t know any better. And I don’t really do well with the heat. I’m sorry great grandparents – I take it all back.
    Actually, I have no one to blame but myself. I had my shot and I blew it. All my talk about wiping the slate clean with this new job, parting my hair on the side, making up lies about my family, and I completely forgot about the rarest of rare opportunities we get when we start a new job: adopting an accent.
    I mean, what was I thinking? I was going to waste my time pretending to be left handed, when I could have been speaking in an Irish brogue all along? Seriously – say this sentence aloud in your best Irish accent, and just try to tell me you don’t want to give me a raise:
    “Marketing, this is Sinead. What’s that you say? You need me to get you the print schedules for all the new collateral pieces? Aye, I’ll do it straight away!”
    Or perhaps French:
    “Marketeeng, zis ees Marie-Claire. Comment? Oh la la – you need me to get you ze print schedule for all ze collateral piece? Okay, I’ll do it tout de suite!”
    Or maybe Italian:
    “Marketing, it’s Giovanna. What? You love me and think I’m bellissima so you’ll get the print schedules yourself? Bravo!”
    God, what a fool I am! Another great opportunity slips through my grasp. But mark my words, if for some unforeseen reason, I someday have to work at a company other than this one, I won’t make that same mistake again.
    No, someday I’ll have a thing of my own. Me and my accent, we’ll have a really cool thing together. We’ll call people “sweet pea” or “lamb” or “hon.” And we’ll make people smile and they’ll remember us because we looked them in the eyes with complete sincerity and we didn’t want anything from them when we called them “darling” and that made them feel special for just one minute. But we will never call anyone “sweetie.” We know perfection when we’ve seen it.

    Overheard in the Elevator

    [16th Floor. Three women and one man get on the elevator. One of women is listening to her iPod. Man and other two women silently stare ahead. The volume on woman’s iPod is extremely loud and everyone on the elevator can hear the music.]
    Woman 1 [softly mouthing words]: “My… milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…”
    Woman 2: “And they’re like, it’s better than yours…”
    Woman 3: “Damn right, it’s better than yours…”
    Man: “I could teach you, but I’d have to charge.”