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I have a rocky history when it comes to doctors. My stomach and I haven’t gotten along since fifth grade, and as a result I’ve spent a good deal of time visiting different docs, hoping that one of them will solve the unsolvable. What I don’t have is a diagnosis, but what I do have are stories.
Greenwich Village, Gastroenterologist
Crazy Doctor Lady’s office was in an apartment building close to campus. When I arrived, a minute or two late, she was nowhere to be found. After fifteen minutes spent hanging out with the doorman, the doctor arrived, flustered. She led me into the office, sat down behind the desk, and handed me paperwork. It was then I realized that this would be no normal appointment: she was her own secretary. While it wasn’t odd that a doctor with a small practice would also act as receptionist, it was odd that when I booked the appointment on the phone, she pretended to be one. I believe her exact words had been “The doctor is pretty busy on Wednesday but there’s a possibility she can squeeze you in. Let me check with her and I will get back to you.” It suddenly made sense why she had called me back so quickly. “Checking with the doctor” simply meant hanging up the phone, thinking to herself “I guess I can squeeze this girl in at 3:30,” picking up the phone, and dialing my number.
She praised her excellent record as a medical detective. When a man walked into her office complaining of stomach pains that had remained undiagnosed, she sent him away with news that he had a tapeworm. I obviously felt very comfortable. And even more comfortable when my seemingly normal tabletop examine turned into my being hooked up to an EKG machine. Suddenly I was covered in electrodes connected to a screen she was monitoring. And then came the questioning. But this was not normal EKG questioning, whatever that might be. No, the first question she posed was the most inappropriate one possible.
“Jacqueline, do you like my sweater? I was going to go with a yellow one but then I thought, this baby blue shade goes better with my eye color.” Her craziness was no longer camouflaged. She was insane, and I was hooked up to a machine.
I managed to survive the rest of the appointment, after validating several more of her fashion choices, of course. Not surprisingly, no other patients ever entered her office that afternoon.
Union Square, Psychiatrist
Next I tried a different approach for my stomach, a psychiatrist. Because, well, why not?
This doctor’s office was also in an apartment building. And while I guess that’s very common for a city doctor, after my experience with Crazy Doctor Lady, this should have been a sign. The appointment started out well enough. We slugged through my laundry list of symptoms and my medical history. And then I apparently made a huge mistake: I confided in the doctor my observations regarding effective treatment. I told her my stomach likes wine− it calms it down. She was suddenly very interested, squinting her eyes and asking, “How often do you drink this… this wine?” I responded with “A glass every other day? I’m not a heavy drinker. I just enjoy a glass of wine and it seems to calm down my stomach.”
And now her pen was down.
“Does alcoholism run in your family?” “No, not at all.”
And then came the kicker. “You, young lady, are on an extremely dangerous path. A path that ends with you injuring your body with alcohol. You need to get on the right track before this gets out of hand. I’m going to give you some pamphlets.”
No wonder so many people aren’t honest with their doctors. Tell the truth and you’re diagnosed with alcoholism.
I thought it made sense to see the gastroenterologist at a university hospital. I hoped he might have a new perspective on my situation, seeing as a majority of his patients were twentysomething students.
It turns out that his vast experience with college students made him adept at critiquing their academic choices. My stomach wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I believed creative writing, urban studies, and food studies comprised an acceptable concentration. According to Dr. Academic, one should only study history. And if not history, than economics. It seemed that in his opinion, my stomach problems were most likely the result of my inappropriate scholarly interests.
No, he had no brilliant ideas regarding my physical ailments, just a strong conviction that I was walking down the wrong academic path by taking mindless courses. And his opinionated diatribe went on so long that I was late to my next (pointless) class.
So what have I learned from these doctors? Well, nothing relating to my stomach. But I did learn the following: I’m well on my way down two dangerous paths, one toward substance abuse and another toward fruitless career goals, and you should never let a stranger in a blue sweater hook you up to electrodes.
MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” is clearly an adaptation of the birthday concept I personally created: It’s my fucking birthday so if I say you’re going to play your clarinet and attempt break dancing, that’s what you’re going to do. But I’ll let MTV take credit for the elephants and custom designer duds.
When I was in third grade, I decided that my birthday party had to be in the form of a talent show. Guests could choose from a limitless list of talents; all musical genres were fair game, and all dance moves were possibilities so long as they could fit on the mini “stage” in my basement.
I can see now how this party theme could have been interpreted as incredibly cruel. For those who fear the spotlight, an invitation announcing that a performance of some sort was the only ticket to a slice of cake and the highly anticipated goody bag—come on, why else did we ever go to parties? —is better left unopened.
Because it was my party, I didn’t stress over my indecision, I went with it. Unable to settle on one musical genre, I allowed myself two performances. I chose to explore two very different fields: show tunes, and pop hits, namely “My Favorite Things” from a true classic, The Sound of Music, and another one of my favorite things, the “Macarena.” Who needs a guest appearance by Rihanna when you can choreograph your own moves to Los del Rio and save valuable time by not having to wait for an Escalade to roll in fashionably late?
There were a surprisingly high number of standout performances considering I might have been the only party girl in favor of the theme. One friend who shared my love of Broadway sang “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Miserables. My basement stage may not have housed an elaborate set of barricades, nor were there huddled masses of peasants, but there is no doubt my friend gave Cosette a run for her money. Another extremely talented friend opened our eyes to Carnatic music. I also convinced a few friends to be my backup dancers for the “Macarena,” because that song should never be performed alone. In public. Or anywhere for that matter.
My love of talent shows only continued to grow after this party. I became that girl who performs epic ballads in the middle school talent show. Sixth grade was “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Seventh Grade I paid tribute to the late Selena with her hit “Dreaming of You.” That one got pretty emotional. And Eighth grade was the year I attempted to out-belt Christina Aguilera by performing “Reflections” from Mulan. There were none of the candles and lily pads of the Disney music video, but I found my own way to call upon nature and tranquility. I wore an obnoxious, and bright red, animal print tube dress.
I never celebrated my birthday this year. Maybe it’s time to revisit an old theme… But this time I’m going to have to call in the big guns since MTV has been trying to steal my thunder for six seasons. Has anyone ever descended a grand staircase atop an AmeriGlide stair lift?
People were urging me to join JDate. So I did. For seven minutes. What turned me off online dating in those seven minutes was not the caliber of the candidates, nor was it a personal belief that I was not yet desperate enough to go that route. Instead it was my laziness toward making a member profile. I really didn’t feel like listing the qualities I look for in a man. I’d rather be reading the “Real Estate” section of the Sunday Times. Not interested in rejoining JDate, or any other online dating service for that matter, I researched another option: Speed Dating.
The organized structure of speed dating is so awkward that, as it turns out, it isn’t awkward at all. Women sit at two-person tables and men play musical chairs, moving from table to table every four minutes. There is no fluidity, no sashaying up behind a prospective romantic interest with a pick-up line or a drink offering. Speed dating is methodical. You have a number, a nametag, and a paper for checking yes or no. Of course the decision making must be done as discreetly as possible, because the person being scored need only move his or her beer mug to see into which column the slash falls.
Matches are made online after the event ends. Each participant checks off the names of the dates with whom he or she believes a connection was made, and if there is match, the speed dating company releases each participant’s email address to the other. Then it’s up to the daters to pursue this “match,” or write off the experience as just another Wednesday night.
In my opinion, speed dating is rather cost effective. When a $30 event promises 15 dates, that’s only $2 a date. I’d say that’s a pretty cheap date. Cheaper, anyway, than the dinner my friend was invited to where her date ordered bone marrow and caviar, (two dishes my friend makes it a point to avoid) and then was displeased she didn’t offer up her credit card.
In preparation for the event, I explored the dating company’s website for tips for the first time speed dater. New York EasyDates suggests daters come prepared with several fallback conversation topics to use if things get awkward. According to the site, the weather is always a great topic. The “Guide to Speed Dating” also gives appearance-related tips: “Hair that is too long, glittered or not clean is also not a good thing.” Have they had problems with glittery-haired individuals being rejected indiscriminately in the past? I have to wonder how common this “glittered” hair is. On second thought, I myself fell victim to this look circa 1999 after insisting my hairdresser give me gold highlights. I wanted hair the color of winners.
The theme of my event was Single Professionals: vague, but one of the few categories for which I qualified. There are a surprising number of events reserved for Tall Individuals. I also had to scroll through the Cougar events as well as those designed for Ivy leaguers and singles with advanced degrees.
My date with “Eli” started painfully. I described myself as a freelance food writer. He responded: “You should do me!” We were off to a great start. Eli should have stuck to weather. Instead he launched into discussing the weight loss that followed his most recent relationship. He also slipped me his business card and invited me to be his lunch date the next day for restaurant week. It’s amusing to me that with just four minutes to find a connection with someone, either romantic or platonic, one would choose to discuss a failed relationship and a struggle with weight.
Apparently I was not the only person with whom Eli felt a connection. I attended the event with a close friend who was seated two tables from me, and after getting “Hello my name is…” out of the way, Eli declared to my friend, “You are the girl of my dreams! Where do I go from here?” She directed him to table 12.
My conversation with “Scott” turned into networking. He took pity on me after I made several comments about the difficult job market, and offered to send my resume to the human resources department of his advertising agency.
No pursuable matches were made, but I went on fifteen dates, had a few drinks, and confirmed my belief that there are some subjects better left to a fourth date. At least.
Next time I’m going to pretend to be a firefighter.
Moving can be depressing. Rooms that were once adorned with lantern lights and holiday decorations are suddenly void of any character. Arms grow sore from strenuous box lifting, and voices grow loud during the inevitable who-gets-to-take-what conversations.
The most depressing point of my recent move came when I visited the old apartment after the movers drove away. I entered my room, expecting it to be empty save a few dust…friends. What I found was more disturbing than any rodent or mountain of dirt. Sitting on my floor, now unearthed due to the removal of my bed, was a box. A box given to me by my mother. A box I had been trying to forget I owned, and had successfully done, until now. A box labeled “Breast Enhancers.”
I was depressed on moving day.
Speaking of busts, moving day wasn’t a total one, as I was able to bond with the movers. There were three of them, one Russian, one with a ponytail, and one who was rather ambiguous. The pony-tailed mover stole my heart just a little but it was the Russian with whom I forged a special bond. He liked my new apartment, I liked his accent, and the fact that he could lift a couch with the greatest of ease.
Unpacking is worse than packing because the options for where items can go are endless. In order to get through this nightmare, I have developed a system I refer to as “unpack one or two things and get a sizable reward.” My rewards are most often in two forms: movies, and carrots. Unfortunately, the incredible amount of unpacking has left my hands more orange than usual, and I’ve no choice but to favor the movie option.
A lesson I learned the hard way: do not watch “Fatal Attraction” as a reward for a session of unpacking. No, this movie is a punishment. Glenn Close is terrifying, there is too much blood, and Michael Douglas is more attractive in his later films. Should have gone with a carrot.
In order to complete the move, Sylvie and I need your help. Aside from the normal things like pencils, quarters, and Breast Enhancers, we’ve discovered countless items we no longer need, but believe others do. These items have been placed into a box, aptly named the “Free Box.” To make things easy for potential takers, and to allow ourselves one final photo shoot in the old place, we put the items into categories, or rather “Collections,” and took pictures to display them to potential buyers. Two such collections are the “Romance” collection, composed of a single dried rose and a half empty box of Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, and the “Back to Skool” collection, a lunchbox I scored in a secret Santa exchange, a Japanese pencil case roomy enough to hold one pencil, and a package of name tags. My favorite collection is probably the “Random” collection because the photo for this allowed me to balance items on my head. I didn’t drop them, and I felt pretty proud of myself for the rest of the day.
Please request these free items. You would be doing a disservice by letting such gifts pass you by, as the state of the economy requires we be smart with our spending. And what’s smarter than not spending at all and still coming away with a plastic frog and handful of dreidels? Not a lot.
After two years, six rooftop photo shoots, a few mice given the same name, a fennec fox blog launch party, one trip to The Edge and back (the bar on the corner, not suicide), and two untouched bottles of Manischewitz, it is time to pack up our humble abode and scatter elsewhere in the city. For me, that means moving just a few blocks up the street. For Sylvie, however, that means setting up camp in a new neighborhood with a new zip code. Considering I have only recently begun to feel confident about the number of zeros in my zip code, I’m glad it’s her battle and not mine.
I’ve done quite a bit of complaining, what with the paper thin walls and eccentric neighbors, but as I take down photos, seal boxes, and pour the final bottles of wine, I’m reminded of all that I will miss.
Favorite Store. I will certainly miss that. The inspiration for this blog, Favorite Store has never let us down. Well, except for that time we were in search of hot fudge, although I’m writing that off as a fluke. The delivery truck must have been stuck on the FDR. My new apartment is not far from Favorite Store, but there is another deli in its way: More Favorite Store. I have never seen so many kinds of hummus. Sorry Favorite Store, you may have my heart, but More Favorite Store has single Tootsie Roll Pops.
I will miss the comments from the quirky people on my street. Being told that one hopes you get punched in the face when you turn the corner never gets old. Luckily I am gaining a new cast of characters. The other day on the walk to my new apartment I was told I have an “onion head.” Onions…layers…depth…genius…I’m taking that as a compliment.
Despite the fact that the members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang prefer most activities to smiling, occasionally stumble out of their headquarters and narrowly avoid killing me on the sidewalk, and they’ve been known to throw people out of windows, I get a strange feeling of comfort knowing they are close by. I think I’m beginning to understand them. Just last week I learned that not only do they dislike people outside of their group, but they also dislike each other! This was visible in their interest in ramming into each other’s motorcycles while impatiently waiting at stoplights.
I will miss the Super’s son’s inexplicable dislike for Sylvie. He likes everyone else, and will even ask everyone else out on dates. But not if Sylvie is present. Her presence invites glares, coldness, and most often, complete avoidance.
It is really incredible how Sylvie’s room adapts effortlessly to the change of seasons. Her window remains open year round, and one can never tell by looking out it what season or time of day it really is.
We own a signed photo from the Irish Tenors’s 2000 Christmas Show. You probably don’t.
It has been Chanukah for two years. Opening dresser drawers yields a bounty of small dreidels, and the windows are adorned with menorahs and star decals. The freezer houses three boxes of frozen latkes which are just fifteen minutes away from complementing a joyous occasion. I’d venture to guess that there are very few other apartments so equipped for spontaneous Chanukah celebrations.
At any given moment there are more dead flowers in our apartment than there are real ones.
There is a dog on our floor named Baby. This is a clever name for him though, because he is old. Baby and I occasionally meet on the stairs, and he stops to let me ascend or descend first, as my legs usually move faster. He is the only considerate baby I’ve ever met.
We live above a Hookah bar and still do not know its name. We are also continually surprised when it isn’t empty.
No matter the level of political unrest, there is a constant war raging in our building. It is a war that usually starts around 11 PM and really picks up by 1 AM. It is a war whose proper name is either Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or Gears of War. We’re not quite sure which.
I must now learn to live without the luxury of whispering through poorly constructed walls. I estimate that it will take several months to bring my voice back to normal speaking volume, as I’ve grown accustomed to imitating the cast members of Felicity.
Lots of other things happened here; the projector exploded and I thought I got shot, we watched every episode of MTV True Life, we cooked vegan meals with names like “Christmas Dish” and “Little Italy,” we fooled many visitors with decorative paper that looks like a Magic Eye but really isn’t, and we broke a whole lot of glasses as well as one toe.
Apartment, you were good to us. I can only hope the next tenants will appreciate you and your quirks as much as we did.
Where I’m from, Fourth Grade is the school year to look forward to, as it marks one’s ability to enter the town’s music program. Perhaps I was a little more excited about this than my classmates. After several failed attempts at sports, it was my final chance to join a team, the orchestra team. I might not have been the fastest runner or the strongest swimmer, but I had the largest instrument.
I signed up to play the double bass.
The double bass is an excellent conversation starter, particularly in elevators. It turns out it’s difficult to remain silent while sharing a small, enclosed space with a girl who may, at any moment, be swallowed by a musical monster on a large wheel. The most popular comment inspired by the sight of my beast and me is, “Wow! That thing is bigger than you are!” My tried-and-true response to this is “Yea…I really should have gone with the violin.” Another possible response, which I admit I use less often than I’d like, is “No, it isn’t.” I prefer this because it results in great confusion. Clearly my bass is larger than I am, and when I refute this obvious fact, the comments seem to stop because I appear curiously out of touch with my spatial reality. There are times when strangers like to switch things up and catch me off guard. A prime example being the twenty-something guy who offered, “Have fun with your trombone.”
I can fit in the case. Yes, I’ve tried. It makes a great Halloween costume when stuck in a rut. I can also fit in my bass locker, which means that as long as I have a locker, I will never be homeless.
Although I’ve been playing the bass for about eleven years, it wasn’t until this past January that I gave in to the bass wheel. It took an NYU security guard to convince me to make the switch. This man, who reminds me of Detective Stabler on Law & Order SVU, and for all I know might be a head with no body (for three years I’ve only seen him behind a desk), took it upon himself to yell “STILL?? NO WHEEL??” every time he let me pass through the special exit gate.
Since adopting the wheel into my life, I’ve noticed a curious absence, following orchestra rehearsals, of the feeling that my arms are broken. Also, the number of strangers who laugh at me struggling on the street is noticeably lower. The downside is that my—previously—intimidating arm muscles are becoming less impressive by the day.
Last week I was rejected by Kaplan.
In order to weed out the weak teachers (me, apparently), candidates with qualifying SAT scores are invited to audition. Unfortunately, the Kaplan audition does not encourage musical numbers and monologues, but instead five minute “how to” presentations. Too bad, my Phantom of the Opera solo will have to find a different audience.
In brainstorming topics for my audition, it occurred to me that I have very few skills to teach. I’m not great at doing laundry, I can never get the sheets to fit just right on my bed, I follow recipes when cooking, and my list of mastered sports is shorter than I am. So I prepared a five minute audition on the one topic I do know, wine. I attempted, unsuccessfully it seems, to present tips for the amateur wine taster. I covered the basics: the preparation for a wine tasting, the steps in the actual wine tasting event, and most importantly, wine-related phrases that would undoubtedly impress the individuals pouring the wine. Speak of the herbaceous tones, the hints of citrus and green apple. Compare it to last week’s Pinotage, the signature grape of South Africa, a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.
Kaplan believes in consistency. If you fail to pass the audition round of the hiring process on your first try, that’s too bad. Because that first try was your only try. You are forever banned from the program. Your future does not include the possibility of working for Kaplan. This strikes me as a rather hypocritical practice for a company that seems to promote excellence in trying. Didn’t ace the SAT’s the first time around? Not a problem! Just sign up for a classroom course or some private tutoring, and do practice tests until you genuinely like analogies and bubbling in letters. Turns out the practicing is only for the student.
The most enjoyable part of my evening at Kaplan was spent observing the auditions of others. When people have the opportunity to speak for an uninterrupted five minutes about any topic they so choose, it makes for a good night. We started off with an initiation into the world of golf, and in particular, a successful swing. I will be trying out a new technique come mini golf season.
Golf practice was followed by “How to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.” I think the entire presentation could have been simplified to one word: safely. The next candidate attempted “How to make a paper airplane.” I say attempted because it didn’t work. All audience members were left with unrecognizable pieces of white paper that will never know the joy of flight.
Also notable was the presentation on hair removal options. Laser hair removal is less painful than electrolysis and it can target a larger surface area, but it requires more sessions for upkeep. I think. Next was the woman determined to prove that Betta fish make for great pets, despite the fact that they eat their young. I suppose we all have our flaws.
The evening concluded with a man eager to enlighten us with his secrets for fighting off stress. They involved addressing the issue, coming up with a plan of attack, and practicing time management. Sadly he was the one candidate who failed to finish in the allotted time.
I may not have a future as a Kaplan tutor, but I sure as hell know to swing a golf club like a pro. And that is a much more valuable skill than being able to teach others the tricks of standardized testing.
Two days ago I woke up, wandered four feet into my living room, and dove face first into the tangled web of chords in the corner. That right there is the face of unemployment.
Lying here with what may or may not be a broken toe has prompted me to muse on my past experiences with injuries. Luckily there are few, as I’ve always been more susceptible to semi-unusual illnesses like Scarlet Fever, Shingles, and Pityriasis Rosea. If it starts with an “S” or has multiple “S’s” in it, I’ve probably had it. But in the broken bones department, I am a rare shopper. Except for that one time I was six years old, it was snowing, and my mom and I were headed down to the frozen pond behind my house. In an effort to practice safe mothering skills, my mom picked me up so that I rested on her hip, one small bundled up leg in front of her, and one in back. As she put her foot down on a snow-covered patch of ice, she lost her balance, slid down the hill and landed on the ground. Unfortunately, my right leg landed underneath her.
Back to present day Manhattan, fifteen years later: I became irrationally angry as I struggled to walk to the subway last night. I should have been riding in the back of a red wagon. My broken leg of yore resulted in my being pulled around as I sat like a princess in our family wagon. My parents and sister took turns at the handle, rolling me around the neighborhood, my pink cast beaming under the winter sun. I have never felt more important than I did those times I sat proudly in my red wagon, my large pink cast pointing majestically to the sky, a salute to all my neighbors. The sympathy wasn’t so bad either. Friends and family saw my pitiful appearance and took the time to draw painstakingly detailed pictures on my cast, a testament to my new place in society. My sister looked on with pure jealously. Before I was simply the spoiled youngest child; my accident in the woods transformed me into royalty. No need to marry a prince when your mom can fall on you.
This time around I’ve received very little sympathy, probably because I have no one to blame but myself. At the time of my accident I had my glasses on, was entirely sober, and had yet to engage in the distraction that is Bravo television programming.
Just as I experienced with my other broken bone, the novelty has proven transient. I think I’ll give in and spend the money on some surgical tape to bring my toe back to life. If people still won’t hold the door open for you when you’re visibly limping, there’s really no point in prolonging the pain.