Dirty Towel

30 04 2014

blue_bath_towel_3d_model_8f9c1e4c-00a0-4578-b107-9f421c1f6559It was Saturday—cleaning day—a time I use each week to collect my thoughts through the repetitive motion of putting things in their proper place. It was time to clean my bathroom.

What does a towel say about who you are? My towels say I don’t give a s*** about who sees them. They are a mix of old, beat-up, absorbent wannabes that have no style or any inclination that they ever did. They are a mix of colors, ages, and textures; brands and sizes that range from the small useless hand towel, to the oversized and neon striped beach blanket. The short and messy of it was that my towels looked like they belonged to a man (or perhaps the cliché of one), a man who lives on the fringes of town—on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. You know, a renegades’ arsenal of terrycloth.

It was then that I realized an outsider had not seen my towels in some time. I don’t entertain much in the way of towels, and I guess I’ve never brought them to lunch with me. But there they were. Hanging in effigy as I scratched my head and wondered when I had become so shamelessly lazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my towels. But I was considering my boyfriend seeing them for the first time and wondering what he would think about them. In an effort to be the perfect host and girlfriend, I concluded that this just wouldn’t do. How could he possibly dry himself off with you, faded-green-blanket-of-absorbencies-past?

Then I started thinking about all the other stuff that I own that could also inflict some kind of damage. Are my sheets new enough? Do these decorative pillows accurately communicate my need for unconditional love? So what if I don’t have any matching socks. I don’t even like socks! Does any of this matter?

I stood inside Bed Bath & Beyond, contemplating the Beyond part. The towering shelves made my heart beat faster as I looked up to see items of the domicile spread out over a plane of frivolous marketing. I feared that one of them might fall on top of me—would I survive? I walked out. No need to have an anxiety attack over the simple task of purchasing new towels for my bathroom.

I walked next door to Marshalls where the shelves were more manageable. After comparing the quality of Turkish and Egyptian cottons, I settled on some no-name brand that was the proper shade of gray. A savvy shopper would never allow emotional turmoil to sway a purchase, but my mood was stuck in the middle of one of those self-realization moments, where you evaluate the black and white of things. Gray looked really good.

In some ways, confronting my towels was like closing a very long, single chapter of my life. When you’ve been single for as long as I have, you get comfortable with the idea that towels don’t matter by virtue of their privacy. I myself am an extremely private person. I like secrets. I like mystery. I like leaving a party when I feel like it simply because I’m tired. And I like not caring about my towels or my dirty laundry that too often prefers to be an area rug.

I would like to say that this introspection went deep enough—that I was able to deny the fresh cotton of department stores and my need to feel unabashed by my very, very personal space. But alas, I am only human and towels tend to come in pairs.

And so, they sit. Still folded in the bag, until I am ready.

 

-Stay Strange

 

 

 

 





Bloody Knee

21 12 2011

I was late. The merge for the 8 was blocked, probably because the city transit workers knew I would be needing it and decided to test my punctuality. So I redirect the GPS on my phone and get to my interview with two minutes to spare. Whitney 1: city transit workers 0. I jumped out the car, portfolio under one arm, purse under the other, and I trotted like a horse in 5 inch heels down a steep, black driveway, simultaneously trying to pump myself up before I went in, get my mo-jo ready, flip my hair out, chin high. Then, quicker than I could yell any profanity, I was knees flat on the asphalt. The pages in the folder flew up in a confetti of mockery. I pulled my feet under, and popped up as fast as I could without dislocating my ankles. I looked around to assess the damage. I was so stunned that I didn’t even know if I was injured. I was going to be late. Dammit. I picked up the papers and holding back an anxiety attack, tried to reconstruct my confidence. I looked up at the windows to the building. Did anyone see? There wasn’t anyone else in the parking lot, thank God, but I feared that someone above had witnessed my crash. I could just see it. I walk in, and someone says to me, “Hey! Are you okay?” And if that did  happen I would have no choice but to chuck my portfolio of dreams at them and scream, “No! I’m not okay!” Then run out the door crying.

I was in the elevator when I realized something was wrong. My left ankle was throbbing and my right knee was sore. I was too nervous to look. For all I knew I had two inches of tibia sticking out my calf. What a first impression I would make! That’s dedication! I greeted the receptionist and took a seat to wait. Maybe I wasn’t as late as I thought. Now that the adrenaline was slowing, I began to feel pain. My knee was on fire, so I took my hand and pressed it over my thin black slacks. There was blood all over my hand. Perfect! So the entire time I was being interviewed I had blood running down my shin, sticking in coagulated pools to my pants.

I didn’t get this job, but now I kind of wish I had brought up this spectacular display of commitment and self-control. Lifting my pant leg up and revealing that mess of flesh would have definitely been memorable… or gross. Whatever.

I slipped down the stairs yesterday. No one saw that either.





Insurance Cult

3 12 2011

I should have known god was trying to tell me something this morning, when in a haste, I realized I had locked my keys in my car. Fantastic. Somehow I managed to struggle my right arm in through a crack, jump the jam up, and unlocked. So against the universe’s attempt at stopping me from going to this interview, I willed myself determined that this interview would be both successful, and worth the effort at 8 in the morning. I don’t believe in fate, but I’m beginning to question my beliefs.

I decided to wear the nice Ralph Lauren outfit that makes me look expensive and smart. I had opted-out previously and learned that interviews are the kind of deal that befit from some sparkle, so I left the leather behind. I didn’t have time to do my hair which really pissed me off. I really like wearing my hair down when I need to do something important. I like the way it feels on my cheeks, and more importantly I like the way I feel when I know I’m having a good hair day; which is pretty much any time I wear my hair down.

So, I hop in the car and head for Sorrento Valley, with no reservations. After a few of these things you start to lose the jitters usually induced by too much caffeine. But I resisted my anxiety over one minor detail: I didn’t really know anything about this company. I was just going to wing it.

The second I walked into the building, something was clearly amiss. The building looked to be under construction. It was cold, I imagined somewhere a plastic tarp was fluttering open and letting that cool air in. A makeshift sign at the end of the gray atrium pointed to suite 206. I followed. Six or seven people were behind the door I pushed open, filling out forms on clipboards. I told the receptionist I had an appointment with Kristen at ten. At this point I’ve completely checked out. It was a frenzy. People were coming in and out, one at a time being called to the back by various people I assumed were conducting interviews. Everyone was in their Sunday best. I knew I should have done my hair! But the more I sat there, the more I got the feeling that these people had just been picked up from downtown, I thought maybe Occupy had found somewhere else to occupy. Something was up. This was bullshit. But that’s the funny thing about unemployment: I have nothing better to do than stay in potentially time-consuming, superfluous activities, that wont help me get ahead in the slightest.

Whitney?

I ran up to the woman who called my name, deciding I was really going to give it my all, and by that I mean I clearly had nothing to lose.  As far as I was concerned there was nothing professional happening in this building. We sit down and she asks for my resume. Wow, you worked in South Korea?! This woman was not Kristin. Did they even look at my resume? She continues to ask me questions that were completely irrelevant my skill set, focused more on personality traits. Another red flag. So, when she asked me to describe my dream job, I just let it fly. I want to be a writer! I love creativity and being part of the creative process. I love to travel, so if I could fit that in there somehow that would be awesome. Oh! And I want to make a lot of money, I also really enjoy working with social media and networking. Kids are great too. I like leadership rolls. Anything creative. She just looked at me. Well, you wont be doing any writing with us, and I wouldn’t call what we do creative. I grin. I tell her that that’s perfectly fine because I know that writing isn’t going to pay the bills and I understand that working in the insurance business must also be personally rewarding. They weren’t the only ones full of shit. Then she proceeds to tell me that she would like to move me through to the next step of the interview, which at this point could have been a pit with a bunch of snakes in it, I don’t know. We walk down a long hall to a conference room where she says I am going to have an orientation, so that I can get an idea of what the company is all about. I wait, and I wait, and I wait. Free coffee, thank god. The room slowly filled. Ten, fifteen, forty people.

I was kind of hoping that the presenter would be dressed like a wizard, or something more impressive than a middle-aged man in a cheap suit. For forty-five minutes he explained life insurance policies. He used the phrase, ‘mortal remains’ several times to describe dead people who need to be buried or whatever. Something about that phrase gave me the creeps. He talked about his love for all people; his greatest joy is seeing people happy, he’s a people person, and so on. What the fuck planet are you on? You’re in the business of making people pay for medicine so they can stay alive. He showed us something called a ‘decline certificate’, which basically alleviates a families burden to pay the people who get rid of dead bodies. I guess usually these companies want the money up front, and expect the insurance companies to reimburse the family. I mean come on!  Nothing about this guy said to me: You know what? He must really care about people. I hope my mortal remains are as well taken care of as those he looks after. I was beginning to think that this guy didn’t want to offer anybody a job, but instead, had cleverly gathered an audience of forty people into a room and was actually selling life insurance policies. Some of the people in the crowd looked like they could use it.

But it gets better. He asks his staff in the back to come up and introduce themselves. He consistently refered to them as ‘managers,’ which was also the way he described the job being offered. How cleaver I thought. Build everyone up with a fake ‘manager’ label and watch them drool over the bone. No thank you. I’m totally not into that. The managers come up to the front, and the freak show continues. But because I myself am a freak, I can’t look away. Six young-ish looking people stood in their Sunday best. What followed were six short introductions into these people’s lives that went way too deep for professionalism. She’s a single mom, and he hated his job, and he was a bartender through college, and her life has never been the same since, blah, blah, blah. But they spoke with such conviction that I almost believed them. Good god. At this point, I was pretty sure I’d figured it out. This is a cult. These people could not be seriously that jazzed about selling people life insurance, going door-to-door with a memorized script like some Jehovah Witness. At least it all made sense now. We were all going to go to a happy place together, drink pink punch, watch the sunset hand-in-hand, and die with really good life insurance polices. Utopia. My mortal remains were saved.

I got up. He was talking about salary and inflating the hell out of commission. I left. I don’t know if anyone starred me down, gave a shit that I was leaving, because I never looked. I just felt really bad and wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Not only had they wasted my time, but even worse, I had finally seen my people, people surfing through unemployment. It was depressing. I drove home with the radio loud enough to blow your eardrums, I’m use to it.

This was the first time I had ever gotten a good look at someone who, like myself, is unemployed and looking for work in a down economy. It was uncomfortable sitting next to people who I knew were out of work and in hard times. I’m in hard times too. But I got the feeling that hard times was relative depending on the circumstance. We can’t tell in daily life who has a job and who doesn’t. Who wants one, and who needs one. I thought about the people I see in Rancho Bernardo, signs up asking for money. How are they any different?  Here we were all together: young, and old, black, white, asian, mexican. This is my competition. This is who we are.

At about 6:30 that night I got a phone call. I didn’t answer it. I knew it was them. The cult was clearly out to get me for human sacrifice, or maybe they just weren’t going to take no for an answer and I would purchase a life insurance policy. It didn’t matter. But I was rather surprised by the message they left: they were considering me for hire and requested another interview. Are you kidding me? They don’t know anything about me! They have no idea that I’m putting them on blast right now, and they think they want to hire me? What kind of company hires people so recklessly? If I wanted that I would go back into sales or customer service, where tolerating alienation is standard practice. Fuck that.

I didn’t call back the insurance cult. And I’m relieved I didn’t do my hair, that would have put me over the edge, as if I wasn’t there already.

 
Edited by
Rachel Bates and Nicole Rork




Homecoming

30 10 2011

The older I get the more I hate popular idioms. Mostly because people use them when they have nothing thoughtful to say, and they tend to stay with you for while. And this week, my first week home, I found myself repeating some useless advice in my head: Home is where the heart is. And I have no idea why I kept saying it. Maybe because somehow, I thought if I repeated it enough I might find some resolution to the way I am feeling.

I feel like I have been living out of a suitcase for the past fifteen months. I’ve unloaded a lot possessions along the way and it feels amazing to be so light. I packed for three weeks of European travel in about fifteen minutes. But what is weighing me down is this transient shift battling against my former, very anchored, habitual self. I get the sense that most people enjoy some level of stability or permanency; a sense of what is to come, at least an idea of how to speculate ones future. But when you barely have an address, when you pick up three different coin currencies off the bottom of the washing machine, look at them in your hand, you start to wonder: what am I doing? And if and when you figure it out, you wonder even more if you made the right decision.

I was lost. Somewhere between jobs, between countries, between thoughts on what I was going to do next. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could miss home when they’re touring through one of the most beautiful places on the planet: the French Riviera is beautiful. But somehow, while walking past the grand fountains in front of the infamous Monte Carlo Casino, I realized, I had no idea where I was. A ride along the Amalfi Coast is said to be a religious experience, but I wasn’t looking for God. I was thinking about home-whatever that means, my future, my past, and from time to time flirting with my super hot Italian cab driver, Antonio Sabato.

Missing home when you’re traveling is common I suppose; a natural reaction to stress, the unfamiliar. But when you finally make it back, wherever you came from, will it feel like home? Can we look into the faces of the people we love and expect the same kind of understanding that we learned to discover in ourselves? I think to some extent we can, but for anyone who has ever gone solo, attempted to question the fabric of their comfort, returning home feels less like returning and more like an invasion on static memories that have been in motion the whole time you were gone. Do I fit in here? Home hasn’t made sense to me for a long time, I left home because I didn’t understand it then. And in my search for clarity, I found more confusion. The more you learn about something the more you realize you know nothing about it at all. So more confused than ever, I’m in southern California looking for full-time work in a highly competitive field, and questioning the whole damn thing. I feel weird in a familiar place.

But you know what they say, time heals all wounds. That’s the annoying thing about idioms, they mean different things to different people. This is a common take: Home is a place where regardless of its make-up, feels good, feels the best to whoever has made it a home. It doesn’t mean you live with your family or friends, it’s simply the place or the people who you love to be around because it makes you the happiest. And I guess that’s why I feel so bothered by the whole notion. My heart doesn’t feel like it belongs anywhere in particular. I think I left a big piece of it in Korea. I definitely gave some of it up in Barcelona and Italy. And I feel like I have so much more of it to give, that it’s terrifying to think of it locked up inside a home. I’ve never been more scared in my whole life. Not even when I thought I was going to die in Vietnam from anaphylaxis shock. So after repeating the phrase a million times this week, wondering if there was some mystical power that would emerge from its intrinsic nature, I realized: I need to be a house.








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