Say Anything

I saw her familiar black furry coat walking toward the door so I waved to catch her attention.
“Finally! God, I was starving to death!”
Natasha strolled into the restaurant, unaware that my body had almost begun to eat its own organs to survive. My pancreas had all but dissolved by the time she arrived.
“Sorry, got stuck on a conference call. You been here long?”
“No, not that long. Let’s get in line, though. It’s starting to get crowded.”
I turned to the woman standing next to me and said goodbye before lining up to order my usual tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwich. As soon as we sat down at our table, Nat asked, “So who was that woman?”
“Who? Her? I don’t know. Just some woman who started talking to me. We bonded over the fact that we were both waiting for our lunch dates and almost died of hunger.”
Nat rolled her eyes, “Ha. Whatever. I thought maybe you knew her.”
“Nope. She was just really nice. Kind of overly chatty, though. She told me she really liked my sweater, and that it really brought out the color in my skin. And then she asked me what I did, and where I worked.”
Natasha cocked her head to the side and squinted a little bit. “So, out of the blue, she just started asking you all this?”
“Yeah. Why?”
“And then did she try to sell you some Mary Kay cosmetics?”
I stopped in mid-bite, a piece of basil hanging precariously from my bottom lip. “Huh? Wha- why did you ask that?”
“Ohmigod! She did, didn’t she? She totally tried to sell you Mary Kay!”
“Okay, that’s really weird. Just when you were walking in, I asked her what she did and she told me she worked for Mary Kay. Then the conversation suddenly felt a little uncomfortable, but then you came up and I just walked away.”
“Yeah, I called it. I can always tell a Mary Kay salesperson.”
“How did you know?”
“That’s their M.O. They sneak up on you, disarm you with some completely random compliment, and then go in for the kill. Once, just as I walked out of my office building, a woman jumped out of her car and told me I had nice teeth. Nice teeth. Who says that? Then she tried to tell me about their new fall line of lipsticks and mascaras. They’ll say anything to get you to buy their crap.”
My mouth suddenly felt dry as I tried washed down the crusty sandwich with some Diet Coke. I looked down at my sweater, then back at the woman, making sure not to let her catch me looking. A flood of emotions washed over me. Deception. Betrayal. Manipulation.
Why had I been such an easy victim? How had she singled me out? What had I done wrong? God, I’m so naïve sometimes! Oh, you stupid, stupid trusting person. She didn’t like my sweater at all! She didn’t think it brightened my skin! She probably wasn’t even waiting for a lunch date! She just wanted to sell me the MK Signature™ Gold Glimmer Set!
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Or no! She probably took one look at my rough reptilian hands and thought, “I can sell this poor sap our Deluxe Satin Hands® Pampering Set, and make my bonus before Christmas!”
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I couldn’t even finish the Rice Krispie treat that Nat and I bought to share. I just felt sick to my stomach. “Nat, I’m so glad you told me. I can’t believe those Mary Kay ladies are so aggressive. It’s like some kind of a cult.”
“I know, Jen. Gotta watch out for those Mary Krishnas.”
“Yeah. Frickin’ Mary Krishnas.”

Return of a Classic

While I was contemplating Wednesday’s entry about the politics of book clubs, I was talking with my friend Vivian and she revealed something to me that was so shocking and upsetting that I almost dropped the phone. Vivian is one of the most well-read people I know, so I was a bit speechless when, after I confessed to never having read Salinger, she dropped this bombshell on me:
“Well, I never read anything by Judy Blume.”
[uncomfortably long silence]
“What? You’re joking, right?”
“No, I just never got around to it.”
“Come on, Viv. You must have read something of hers. Every girl under the age of 18 has read at least three of her books.”
“Not me.”
“Uh uh.”
“Okay, I know you read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. You had to have read that.”
“Jenny, no. None of them.”
“Well, then how did you know what to do when you got your period?”
“I read lots of science books, mostly. And Nancy Drew.”
So this got me thinking – maybe the new theme of my bookclub will be “Something old, something new.” We’ll read a classic that we’ve never read before, and a classic that we have already read. But all the classics we have already read will be Judy Blume novels.
I’ll have to strategically partner up the old books with the new, for optimum reading enjoyment. At some point, I’ll have to expand beyond Judy Blume, but this should keep us going for at least a few months.
So with that, my completely non-Thanksgiving themed Thanksgiving day Opinion Poll is this:
Q: Which of the following book pairings would make you most want to join my new and exciting book club? (Alternate suggestions are welcomed. Seriously, folks, what the hell am I going to read? Okay, fine – you don’t even have to pair your suggestion up with a Judy Blume novel. My only requirement is that you not suggest James Joyce. Seriously. I’ve had Ulysses sitting on my bookshelf for over ten years and have never made it past page 50.):

  1. Moby Dick / Blubber
  2. Romeo & Juliet / Forever
  3. The Scarlett Letter / Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
  4. Mrs. Dalloway / Wifey
  5. The Great Gatsby / Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
  6. Catch-22 / Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
  7. Other (please explain)

PS – Thanks, Christine for suggesting an opinion poll!
PPS – Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Honestly, I think you are some of the coolest, smartest, funniest, kindest people I’ve never met, and you make this so much fun for me! And that’s not just the pre-Thanksgiving scotch talking, honest!

Going Clubbing

“Did I tell you that Nat and I are starting a book club? It’s just the two of us so far.”
Dee-Dee remained focused on the plate of snacks I had just set in front of her, and began assembling mini roast beef sandwiches and neat stacks of cheese and crackers.
Without looking up from her plate, Dee asked, “Cool, can I be in it?”
I looked at Nat, rolled my eyes dramatically and said, “No, you’re in that elitist book club in Milwaukee. You need to stick with your own kind.”
“No! I’m not in it anymore! I got kicked out, like over a year ago.”
Several years ago, when I still lived in Milwaukee, a friend of Dee-Dee’s started a book club with some of her colleagues who worked for a local television station. One of the members was an evening news anchor, which gave her a moderate amount of celebrity and apparently first say on every book selection for the club. Dee-Dee said she could get me into this book club. She said we would be a team. She said a lot of things. But just like Johnny Bravo, when the book club only wanted her, Dee dropped me like a hot potato. I stopped watching that news station, burned all my books, and moved to Chicago.

I looked over at Nat again to confer, but she was busy rolling up slices of prosciutto into tiny tubes and pressing them between two crackers. I turned to Dee and said, “Well, maybe you can join. We’ll let you come to our first meeting, and see how it goes. We need to see how you interact with the group, and make sure you bring a positive dynamic to the book club.”
“So… you want to see how I fit in with the group? The group that is just the three of us right here.”
“Yes, this group here. We’re not letting just anyone into our book club. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. Girl.”
“Okay, well what book are we going to read?”
“I’m not totally sure yet. Nat and I were thinking that the theme of this book club could be ‘Books we should have read by now.’ The first one might be Catcher in the Rye.”
Natasha perked up, “Jenny just wants to read that so she can pick up little arty boys in bars.”
“Shut up! I do not!”
Dee-Dee gave me a confused look. “Huh?”
Before I could change the subject, Nat launched into a description of our night on the town last Friday. We both needed to blow off some steam after a long, stressful workweek, so we met for dinner at a tapas restaurant and started the evening off by splitting a bottle of Spanish red. Shortly after desserts were polished off, we still felt a bit parched, and decided to continue on to a local hangout that serves the best Old Fashioneds in town. Or perhaps just the strongest. In any case, by the time we finished our first Old Fashioned, I was in a much better mood and feeling quite chatty.
We were sitting at the bar when an adorable black-capped, twenty-something scrawny poet boy sidled up next to us. He ordered a whisky, pulled out a book and started reading. Since my earlier attempt at socializing with a different barstool-mate failed miserably after his model-esque girlfriend showed up, I thought I would try a different approach:
I leaned in a bit and said, “We have a bet going that you’re reading Salinger.”
No one can resist a woman who gambles.
He gave me a crooked grin, paused a moment, then flipped the book over. Sure enough, it was Nine Stories, by JD Salinger. (Fortunately, Nat had caught a glimpse of the cover of his book earlier and said it looked just like her old copy of Franny and Zooey. I like to gamble, but only with house odds.)
I started to chat him up a bit – he had just moved here from Lincoln, Nebraska, didn’t know many people, was finishing up his Masters before moving on to his PhD, really loved the city but wished he had someone to show him around… when suddenly Nat jumped in with, “Yeah, we were both just saying how we’ve never read Salinger!”
After I burned Nat a look that would melt steel, the conversation took a rapid downturn. My grey roots and wrinkles began to show in the harsh candlelight of the bar, he started talking about text messaging, I tried to explain my job in a way that sounded hip, and then got all confused. These things happen as you get older.
“Way to go, Nat! Why’d you tell him I had never read Salinger? What the hell kind of wingman are you?”
“Mmm, the honest kind?”
“Yeah, because honesty is really what you look for in a good wingman. Why didn’t you just talk about my body fat percentage and fondness for doing paint-by-numbers while you were at it?”
“Jenny, that’s silly. I don’t know your body fat percentage.”
The evening ended shortly thereafter, with me walking back home alone, cursing the day I chose French as my major.
Back in my cheese and meat filled apartment, Nat chimed in, “Hey, why don’t we read Pride and Prejudice?”
“Ugh! No way. No way are we reading that!”
When I suggested the theme of “Books we should have read by now,” I hadn’t taken into consideration the fact that many of the books I should have read by now are really old books, often set in what is commonly known as “the days of yore.”
Nat and Dee-Dee laughed, knowing my long-standing internal struggle with period pieces. I can’t even look at the poster for the movie Pride and Prejudice without getting drowsy. When I’m reading, the mere mention of a corset or antechamber makes my eyes start to get heavy. Add to that, chapter upon chapter of long, drawn-out unrequited romance with the “Oh, Mr. Darcy” this and the “Why, Miss Doolittle” that, and I’m lucky if I can reach the bed before collapsing on the floor in a twitching mass.
“Pick something else. Something less flouncy.”
Dee-Dee suggested, “Okay, how about To Kill a Mockingbird? Absolute classic, and a definite must-read.”
“Are there corsets?
“Handlebar mustaches?”
“Mmm, don’t think so.”
“Well, all right. So I’ll plan the first meeting. Maybe we could have an Italian night, and make gourmet pizzas, and have fancy antipasto platters with salami and pepperoni and olives and peppers! I’ll pick out a couple nice wines – a Chianti would probably be good. Oh, and we can listen to my new Rosemary Clooney CD – it has Mambo Italiano on it. It’s so good! Hey – if we plan it for a Wednesday, we could make it coincide with the finale of America’s Next Top Model, too! I should also probably pick up some cannoli from the bakery on-“
Dee cut me off, “Jen? At any point during your book club meeting are we actually going to discuss the book?”
I looked at the growing list of groceries and projects I had started, and replied, “I think we’ll just need to play that part by ear. That’s a lot to cram into one evening.”
“I think I’m starting to understand why these remain the ‘Books you should have read by now.’”

Pet Peeves

I took Judy to the vet as soon as the office opened at 8:00am, and already there were three other people ahead of me. As I explained her symptoms to the woman at the front desk, I tried to calm Judy down by letting her crawl underneath the wool sweater I had thrown in her cat carrier before heading out the door.
“She’s been vomiting all night, and seems really unresponsive. She won’t eat or drink anything, and her breathing seems really shallow.”
“Okay, we’re really overbooked this morning, but we’ll make sure she gets in to see the doctor. The breathing thing worries me a little.”
I peered into the carrier and said, “Yeah, me too.”
A loud man with a Cocker Spaniel came in the door, and he hovered very close behind me while I filled out my paperwork. His dog barked incessantly and kept jumping up at the counter where Judy’s carrier was sitting. Judy buried her head deeper into the sweater, and then remained motionless.
“Shush! Quiet, Dexter! C’mon Dex. Quiet! Heh. Your cat’s getting him all riled up. He doesn’t like cats much.”
Jackass. Move your stupid ugly barking dog away from my sick cat before I scratch your eyes out.
I turned Judy’s carrier away from the dog, and said, “Yeah. The feeling’s mutual, I’m sure.”
Once I had completed the paperwork, the vet’s assistant tied a little tag around the handle of my cat carrier that said, “Judy Amadeo,” and told me that she would call me when the doctor was ready.
The door opened again, and this time, an elderly woman came in with a very slow-moving dog. The woman was wearing a fur coat – fox, I think – and her hair was sprayed up in an unkempt bouffant. She had a Russian accent and too much makeup, and kept asking her dog if he wanted to sit down. But I think that both she and the dog knew that if he sat down, it would be too difficult for him to get up again, so he just stood there.
I watched the dog as he open-mouth panted and trembled, his cloudy eyes staring straight ahead. His long, matted fur was once quite glossy and beautiful, I imagined.
“Yesterday morning, he couldn’t even get up. I had to lift him up so he could walk to his bowl.” She patted the dog gently, stroking his ears, and said, “You’re tired, aren’t you Nikolai? Yeah. I know you’re tired. You don’t wanna sit down? That’s okay.” She turned to the elegantly dressed woman sitting next to her, who had an equally distinguished black Dachshund sitting preciously on her lap, and said, “I just can’t stand to see him suffer like this. He’s in so much pain.”
I was watching the Russian woman’s face as she leaned in and said something softly to her dog in Russian, when she looked up and caught my glance. I looked into her grey eyes for what seemed like a very long time.
1… 2… 3… 4… 5…
I pulled back the corners of my lips into something that was not quite a smile, but rather an acknowledgment, then looked away just in time to stop a tear. I opened Judy’s carrier and pet her underneath the wool sweater. “You’re okay. It’s okay.”
I looked up.
“You can bring Judy into Exam Room 3. The doctor will be right in.”
As the doctor examined Judy, I explained that she had been vomiting violently all night, and hadn’t gotten any better this morning. I told him that she has a terrible habit of eating things she shouldn’t, like plastic bags and string. I try to make sure they’re never accessible, but somehow she can smell a grocery bag from across the apartment.
He took her back for some X-rays and IV fluids, since she was severely dehydrated. I went back to the waiting room, to wait.
Cocker Spaniel and Collie were both gone, but Dachshund was still there. A new dog had arrived, and my heart sank again. It was a young dog, but had what looked to be an enormous scar all the way down her spine. Her tail was between her legs, and she was shaking. I wondered what awful surgery she must have just had, and thought of Judy.
A young woman with some kittens leaned over to the scarred dog’s owner and said, “Oh, how adorable! Is that a Ridgeback? She’s just beautiful!”
The woman nodded yes, and thanked the kitten woman.
Ridgeback? Not a scarred back?
I’d never heard of such a thing, but my mood lightened a bit to know that dog wasn’t there being fitted for a wheelchair.
A different vet’s assistant came out and asked for Oliver, the black Dachshund. His owner handed him over, and sat back down. Within about 20 minutes, the woman returned with the dog and said, “Here he is. We clipped his nails and squeezed his anal glands, so he should be good to go.”
I involuntarily made a slight retching noise at hearing this, when she continued, “Yeah, his glands were really full. When was the last time you had him in?”
I immediately started humming inside my head and turned my attention to the parakeet on the countertop, afraid of overhearing further graphic details of the anal glandular capacity of this once regal looking canine, who had now been reduced to wiener dog status in my mind.
That’s funny. That parakeet keeps putting his head under that bell like a hat. That’s funny. That parakeet keeps putting his head under that bell like a hat. That’s funny. That parakeet keeps putting his head under that bell like a hat.
I looked around the room and thought about how people always say that pets and their owners eventually begin to take on the same characteristics. I had to admit, it seemed to be true: The loud, obnoxious man with his equally annoying Cocker Spaniel. The old, gentle Russian woman with her disheveled, aging Collie. The young chatty couple with their talkative cats, Bert and Ernie, who needed shots before going on vacation. The well-dressed, polished woman with her well-behaved, classy Dachshund. Barring the anal gland part, they really did start to seem alike.
The vet’s assistant told me I could go back to the exam room again.
“Well, looking at the X-rays, there’s nothing blocking her intestines, so that’s good news. It really concerned me that she eats plastic bags. Basically, she responded well to the IV fluids, her skin and coat look much better, but she still seems really scared. She hasn’t vomited at all, so that’s a good sign.”
“Okay, so… you didn’t find anything wrong? Can I take her home?”
“Yeah, we gave her some antibiotics and I want you to feed her baby food for the next day or so. Turkey or beef flavored. Just a teaspoon at a time. Oh, and you should pick up some Prevacid.”
“Prevacid? You mean like the people kind? For heartburn?”
“Yeah, just give her a quarter of a tablet a day for the next two days.”
“So… you’re saying my cat has acid reflux?”
“Kind of, yeah. And she eats things she shouldn’t.”
I paid my $275 bill, carried Judy out to the car, and thought: How alike we are, indeed.

Gratuitous Filler

“And so then I went into his office and said, ‘Look, I’m doing the work of two peop-‘”
“Oh, shoot. I’m sorry – I don’t mean to cut you off, but I just realized what time it is.”
“Do you have to go?”
“Yeah, I need to write something tonight.”
“What are you writing about?”
“Ugh, I have no idea. I’m all work-stressed, so I don’t have anything funny or interesting to say.”
“Post a picture – that always works in a pinch.”
“Of what?”
“I don’t know. Something. How about a puppy?”


“A puppy? I don’t even have dogs. Why would I do that?”
“Well, then how about a kitten? Post a picture of your cats – people love small animals and babies.”


“Mmm, I don’t know. I don’t really have a nice picture of my cats. Their eyes always do that glowing thing in photos, you know?”
“Okay, well then your last option is a baby. No one can resist a baby. Ooh – I know! How about a baby holding a puppy?”
“That just seems really cheap. I don’t know, I’m sure I’ll think of something.”


“All right, good luck. Talk to you later!”
“Okay, bye!”


From the moment I started down this path a few weeks ago, my decision weighed on me like a giant albatross around my neck. But unlike the ancient mariner, my burden was an invisible one. No one understood why I had been walking hunched over these past few weeks, my gait unsteady, dragged down by an unseen obligation. There was no rotting carcass swaying on my chest to explain why I was so out of sorts. Perhaps that would have been easier.
As I lumbered back to my apartment each evening after work, I felt thick. So many times I wanted to give up, quit, throw it all away. What did it mean, anyway? Would anyone even know if I just chucked it all out the window? Who would care? I would take in a sharp breath just before putting the key in the lock… and turn.
I stopped returning phone calls. When I did respond to emails, it was always to say that I had some errands to run, a project for work to finish, a family obligation. I can’t see you right now. I’d love to, but I have to do this thing. Soon, though, I promise.
But somehow, in spite of this all, every time I wanted to admit defeat and curl up into a tight ball on the kitchen floor, my head resting in a bowl of half-eaten cat food, I would hear a voice inside me. And the voice – which oddly enough sounded not like my own, but like that of Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life – would say, “But, Jenny, you gave them your word.”
My word.
I did, didn’t I? And a woman without her word is not much of a woman at all. So I kept on, pursuing to the next stop. Which led me here. You brought me through and out. And for giving me the strength and courage to persevere, I have no way to repay you, other than to fulfill my destiny and give you this:



Greasy spoon, Chicago, Fall 2005
Dear – 50-ish heavyset woman with short blonde hair
Sweetie – 30-ish poorly-dressed woman with curly hair
Honey – 50-ish nondescript man with dark mustache
Dear: “You don’t smoke, do you Sweetie?”
Sweetie [looking up from grilled cheese and notebook]: “Me? No.”
Dear: “Oh good, then I can sit here. Nothing worse than trying to enjoy a meal and having someone blow smoke in your face. Thanks, Sweetie.”
Sweetie: “My pleasure.”
Dear: “Honey, did you get some napkins? See if you can find some napkins. I want to wipe off the table.”
Honey: “Okay, Dear.”
Dear [leaning over toward Sweetie’s table]: “Would you mind if I stole one of your napkins? They forgot to wipe off our table.”
Sweetie: “Not at all, here you go.”
Dear: “Thanks, Sweetie. I’m kind of a clean freak.”
Sweetie [smiling]: “There are a lot worse problems to have.”
Dear [laughs]: “You’ve got that right. I just like things a certain way. Whenever my husband takes the pillow off the couch, I make him put it back just the way it was. I just like things a certain way.”
Honey: “Here’s some napkins. They said our order should be up in a minute.”
Dear: “I was just telling her how I always make you put the pillow back on the couch just the way it was, don’t I? Everything back the way it was.”
Honey: “Yes, you do, Dear.”
Dear: “I have… what do they call it when you like things a certain way? A compulsive? Compulsion?”
Sweetie [trying to swallow large bite of grilled cheese]: “OCD?”
Dear: “Yeah. Compulsion.”
Honey: “Here comes our food.”
Dear: “Oh good. I am so hungry. Are you hungry?”
Honey: “Not much.”
Dear: “Not much? Not much hungry? I sure am. Oh Honey, they forgot to give me honey mustard sauce. Can you go ask if they’ve got honey mustard sauce? I don’t like the hot sauce. Tastes like vinegar.”
Honey: “Yes, Dear.”
Dear: “Well, enjoy your lunch, Sweetie.”
Sweetie: “Thanks! Same to you.”

An Open Letter to That One Woman Over There Who Keeps Coughing

Dear Coughing Woman:
For the past week and a half I have been sitting at my desk trying to do work and read important online journals which are more commonly known as Web logs, or “blogs,” but my train of thought is constantly interrupted by your incessant coughing.
I am not a doctor, but it sounds to me like you are in the final stages of consumption, which concerns me greatly. I don’t really know what consumption is, but I seem to recall that a lot of famous writers from the olden days died of it, so you can see why I’m a bit worried. Also, I saw you eating chicken in the lounge the other day, so there is the distinct possibility that you have the avian flu as well.
I know we don’t know each other, in fact, I don’t even know what department you work for, so I hope this letter doesn’t seem out of line. If I did know what department you worked for, I would most certainly speak to your vice president and tell him/her how appalled I am at the fact that his/her department doesn’t allow its employees to take sick days. I can only assume that sick days are strictly verboden where you work, or certainly you would not subject this many people to your open mouthed barking for hours on end.
Given that you are obviously being forced to come to work each day, no matter how sick you are, I felt it necessary to call a few things to your attention. As you know, everyone on this side of the building shares one kitchen area, and on numerous occasions I have witnessed you moistly coughing into your hand, rubbing your nose and then:
1. Grabbing the doorknob to the kitchen
2. Opening the refrigerator
3. Touching the microwave
4. Pressing several buttons on the pop machine
5. Licking clean the surface of every table
Perhaps I didn’t actually witness that last one, but based on your fondness for spreading disease, it seemed a logical assumption.
Over the past week and a half, I have also noticed that several other people in your immediate vicinity have started coughing as well, which leads me to believe that there is an outbreak of consumption in the area which must be contained immediately. As I mentioned before, I’m not a doctor, so I did a quick Google search of “quarantine procedures” and found what appears to be a helpful article from the University of Michigan.
Starting this afternoon, we will be instituting these procedures until it is determined that there is no further threat of contamination. Since this article was targeted more toward rodents than corporate employees, I have made the appropriate text edits to make this more relevant to our situation.
Rodent Incessant Coughing Employee Quarantine Procedures
All rodents employees shipped to the University of Michigan Valhalla Inc. from other institutions or non-approved vendors must go through quarantine procedures before being housed in other animal rooms animal rooms. This is necessary to avoid the possible introduction of infectious agents into the University of Michigan Valhalla Inc. rodent facilities kitchen.
Quarantine Entry Procedures

  • The standard order of cubicle entry is A-B-C-D, barring any surprise contaminations. Cubicles A and B contain SPF animals and cubicle D contains known contaminations.
  • Only one cubicle door can be opened at a time.
  • The biocontainment downward flow hood must be sprayed with Spore-klenz before use, between investigators, between entry into each cubicle, and after procedures are completed within the flow hood.
  • Cubicle A, B and C have a separate gown on the appropriate hook. For Cubicle D, disposable gowns are used in accordance with the new pinworm consumption/avian flu contamination guidelines. A new gown is opened each time cubicle D is entered, and then thrown out afterwards.
    If we all follow these simple procedures, I think that we will be able to work together in greater harmony moving forward. Thank you for your cooperation, and I look forward to your speedy recovery.
    Best regards,
    Jenny Amadeo

  • Harvest

    I heard a tap on the glass and looked up from my desk. She was standing at the door, holding a brown paper bag and a silver bowl. My eyes lit up as I smiled and waved.
    “Class, if you haven’t finished yet, you can set aside your spelling worksheets for now. We have a special guest – Jenny’s mom is here, and she has a treat for us all.”
    I think the teacher might have said something else, but no one could hear her over the clamor of papers rustling, girls giggling, and metal scraping against linoleum as we rearranged our desks in a circle.
    My mother had volunteered to come to my class and tell a story, so I had waited eagerly all day for her to arrive. She set the silver bowl down on a desk and then pulled out a giant red fruit from her bag. She then passed it around so we could all look at it before she began her story, which was the tale of Persephone.
    After collecting the strange fruit back from the students, she rolled it in her hands and then placed it carefully in the silver bowl before scooting her chair in closer to the circle.
    “The Greek god Zeus and the goddess of the harvest Demeter had a beautiful daughter named Persephone,” she told us.
    “Persephone loved to help her mother in the fields, planting and tending to the crops. Over the years, the god of the underworld, Hades, would watch Persephone as she worked outside, and eventually he fell in love with her because she was so beautiful. Hades asked Zeus if he could marry his daughter, but Zeus refused because he knew how much her mother would miss her.”
    We all listened attentively as my mother continued her story. She told us that one day, while Persephone was out picking flowers, Hades kidnapped her and took her down into the underworld to make her his wife.
    When Demeter discovered that Persephone had been kidnapped, she stopped taking care of the crops so she could look for her daughter. Everything started to die, and people began to starve.
    “Why didn’t she take care of the crops?”
    “Because she was so sad. She missed her daughter so much, and she had to find her no matter what,” my mother answered.
    “When Persephone was in the underworld, Hades offered her all kinds of wonderful feasts, but she wouldn’t eat anything. She didn’t want to take any food from Hades because she was afraid of him. But one day, Persephone got so hungry that she snuck into Hades’ garden and ate just six tiny seeds from a pomegranate.”
    “Like that one!”
    At this point, my mother stopped her story and asked me to help her with the pomegranate. She sliced the fruit in half, and held it up for everyone to see. The dark red seeds rest like little jewels in a honeycomb. It reminded me of the geode my uncle brought me from Florida – when he cracked it open, there were beautiful purple crystals inside.
    She cut the fruit again into quarters and handed them to me. I pulled the seeds out, one by one, and put them into the silver bowl. They made a soft cracking sound as I pried each one out of its tight grip. When I had removed all the seeds, I passed the bowl around the classroom, and my mother told everyone to take a few to eat.
    “But what part do you eat?” someone asked.
    “You eat the whole thing – even the little white seed inside. It won’t hurt you.”
    “Do I have to eat that part?”
    My mother laughed, “No. You don’t have to eat the whole thing, but at least try it. The juice is delicious!”
    I placed a seed into my mouth, bit down, and winced a little as the tart juice burst onto my tongue. I ate the whole thing, just like my mother said we could. The next one was much sweeter.
    As we finished eating the pomegranate, my mother continued her story, “Zeus tried to get his daughter back from the underworld, but Hades told him that since she had eaten six pomegranate seeds, Persephone would have to stay there with him and be his wife. So for six months of the year, Persephone had to live with Hades. Then for the other six months, she could go home and be with her mother. So every year, when Persephone had to go back to the underworld, Demeter would get terribly sad, and she would let all the crops die. And that’s why all the trees lose their leaves and the plants die in the fall and winter.”
    “Because her mother is sad?”
    “Yes, because she misses her daughter so much that she can’t take care of any of the crops. And then when Persephone comes back every spring, Demeter is so happy that she plants the fields and makes everything grow again.”
    My classmates asked a few more questions while my mother cleaned up the pomegranate remains and wiped out the bowl. As she was packing up to go home, a girl leaned over to me and asked, “How come your mom knows all this?”
    I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know. She just knows lots of stuff.”
    “Oh, and ’cause she’s a gypsy.”
    “She is?”
    “What’s a gypsy?”
    I didn’t answer. As my mother left the classroom, she winked at me and waved goodbye to the class. I waved back, my hand still stained red from the pomegranate.

    Cosmo Compatibility Study

    By Dr. Jenny Amadeo, PhD, Human Relations and Sexual Development
    I know what some of you are thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Sure Jenny has a PhD in Human Relations and Sexual Development, but is that really even an actual area of specialization? And even if it is, how can she, with her PhD in Human Relations and Sexual Development, help me identify who I am most attracted to?”
    Well, first of all, you ended that question with a preposition. But whatever. Secondly, I resent the implication that my degree is something I just made up on the “L” ride home last week. If you really knew what you were talking about, you would know that I don’t even take the “L” home anymore. I ride the Metra, as I have for almost the past year. So there goes your theory out the window.
    Moving on to the second and actually sensible part of your question, you want to know how I can help you identify your ideal mate, is that right? Well, fortunately, most of you took the quiz from last week. If you didn’t, there’s still time, but only if you stop reading right now and go here. Then come back to us. Go. Now. Bunch of Johnny Come Lately’s.
    For those of you who did take the quiz, I need to preface this report by saying that you may disagree with my findings, but just know that as a scientist, everything I tell you is truthful and accurate. I looked at the facts, followed the trends, analyzed and dissected the data, and discovered that all attraction comes down to simple choices.
    Through your raw honesty and deep self-examination, you have helped further science in the area of Human Relations and Sexual Development. So I thank you all for your willing participation in this study, and must admit that I have never been more attracted to you than I am right at this moment. Call me?

    The Rules of Attraction: Research Findings

    Subjects were placed in a controlled web-based environment and presented with a series of choices. They were instructed to select the option to which they found themselves most attracted. Choices were:

    1. Circle or square
    2. Bear or wolf
    3. Sun or moon
    4. Crocodile or cobra
    5. Solid, liquid or vapor

    Results were tabulated and analyzed by an independent laboratory in a controlled whiskey-based environment in northern Chicago.
    Number of respondents (including Natasha and Dr. Amadeo):
    Male = 23%
    Female = 74%
    Unknown = 3% (1 anonymous)
    Circle = 53%
    Square = 47%
    Bear = 55%
    Wolf = 45%
    Sun = 30%
    Moon = 70%
    Cobra = 52%
    Crocodile = 48%
    Solid = 21%
    Liquid = 38%
    Vapor = 41%
    Most Popular Choices:
    At the most basic level, each option within these pairs is inherently either masculine or feminine.
    In addition, each option has certain personality traits associated with it, which drive our attraction toward each. Whether consciously or not, respondents found themselves drawn toward the characteristics that each of these options possess.
    Square = stable, pragmatic, mechanical
    Circle = emotional, open, artistic
    Bear = fun-loving, outgoing, strong
    Wolf = aloof, mysterious, wild
    Sun = healthy, friendly, extroverted
    Moon = romantic, elusive, noncommittal
    Crocodile = aggressive, bold, athletic
    Cobra = manipulative, clever, flexible
    Solid = reliable, honest, rational
    Liquid = adaptable, creative, passionate
    Vapor = evasive, shy, mystical
    As any good researcher on a tight budget will do, I used myself as the first subject, and my choices were Square, Wolf, Moon, Cobra, Liquid. This means that I am most attracted to people who are mechanical, mysterious, romantic, clever, and creative. “But, Jenny,” you’re thinking. “Some of these traits contradict each other. How can you be attracted to someone who’s both stable and elusive?”
    And to that, my response is that clearly you and I have never dated, or you would know that I am attracted to all sorts of things that contradict each other. Be more attentive! Give me my space! Tell me how you feel! Stop being such a crybaby!
    Based on their responses, study participants were grouped into three different categories based on the personality traits they find most attractive. This means that these individuals should all meet each other and hang out at the bars together, since they clearly are attracted to the same types of people. Or conversely, it means that they should avoid each other at all costs, for fear of having their mates stolen by backstabbing bloggers with similar tastes. (I only present the data, what you do with it is up to you.)
    Please note: the label for each group indicates the type of person to whom they are most attracted, and does not necessarily reflect their own personality.
    The Grounded
    The Ethereal
    Tracy Kaply
    Dr. Amadeo
    The Conflicted The Hermaphrodite The Balanced
    Stationary Queen
    The Scarlett
    Dr. G
    Fiorello La Guardia

    1. Women like to take personality quizzes more than men.

    2. With a few notable exceptions (ahem…), the majority of respondents like structure and rules.
    3. Very few respondents are attracted to mates who are grounded.
    4. Many respondents seek conflict.
    5. Most bloggers fear the sun.
    6. My friend Vivian needs to change that “I don’t like quizzes” attitude if she ever wants to meet someone nice.
    7. Respondents are mostly a bunch of softies and romantics.
    8. Nina is really impatient.
    9. I should really let my subscription to Cosmo run out.
    10. I think squares are hot.
    11. I would make out with a wolf, right here, right now.

    My next study is about the effects of excessive blogging on libido, so if you are over the age of 21 and a non-smoker, please contact my research assistant to set up an appointment to participate in this important study.