I have a real post about an uncomfortable trip to the mall below, but first I need to talk about magic and John Edwards.
So… Meg’s and my writing career is cursed. Not just in the obvious “only sold 14 copies of Brainwashing so far” sense, but in an eerier, more metaphysical sense. In The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life, we refer to vomiting to get out of an ill-advised threesome as “the Amy Winehouse defense.” Now, she’s doing lines off angel’s wings. In Brainwashing for Beginners, we made any number of jokes about Kim Jong-Il, and there’s a really solid North Korea joke in It Seemed Like a Good Idea…, and now Kim Jong-Il is behind Q/G/Kadd(h)afi/y in line to be reincarnated as a mealworm with a spastic colon. The centerpiece of It Seemed Like a Good Idea…, literally the funniest thing ever written, is about a lesbian ghost who uses a neti pot – and lo and behold! Several neti pot users have dropped dead this winter in Louisiana because they got brain amoebas.
So, this brings us the matter of funding. For five dollars, we will mention one of your enemies in the next book, tentatively titled The Big Book of Strangers Who Might Die from a Curse. Ten dollars gets the name in bold.
I feel like I should feel bad about this, but how in keeping with his whole life and career is the fact that John Edwards has a heart problem and can’t go on trial? Of course. When the going gets tough, the corrupt get the vapors. He probably does have some problem, but if anyone can find a doctor to diagnose him with whatever’s convenient, John “Follow That Ambulance” Edwards is that man. Keep in mind, this is the man John Kerry chose as his running mate so the ticket would feature someone likeable – and over whom voters chose Dick Cheney.
I haven’t been blogging lately because I have a new job with terrible hours, which I’ll tell you about in a subsequent post. Right now, I want to tell you about the circumstances of the interview.
I actually had two job interviews that week, by far a personal best. The first did not go well – my interviewer was rocking the unusual combo of “plunging neckline and obvious cardiac surgery scar,” which was distracting. We did that awkward little eye-contact dance where a woman catches a man looking at her chest and gets that “well I’m offended but didn’t expect better” facial expression and I wanted to holler “I COULD CARE LESS ABOUT YOUR TITS!” This is, PS, on a day when I thought my grandmother was having heart surgery (it was later postponed) so of course I had cracked sternums on the brain. The situation went further downhill when she used “air quotes” when referencing my teaching experience. I have teaching experience. I have taught. I have not “taught,” it’s not a lie, an exaggeration, or a week-long community service project I did in high school to appear well-rounded when I applied to college.
I have teaching experience, “bitch.”
I have teaching experience, “bitch.”
I then had to take a writing test. Now, I understand that haters gonna hate, but I can write. My job was to take some notes and write content for a simple website for a pool maintenance company. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have written “Try Capital Pool Services and see just how swimmingly pool maintenance can go!” but - shit. It was literally like a back-to-school nightmare. The assignment was full of abbreviations and acronyms I didn’t understand, which… isn’t it easier to tell people what to do and see if they can do it than to make them figure it out and see then if they can do it? Like, how often on the job will I have to decipher something impenetrable? Is my cubicle between a Navajo codetalker with a lisp and a signalman who stutters in Morse code?
I then had to go into another room, bare except for a table, filing cabinet, and shelf holding three VHS tapes: Managing Diversity, Sexual Harassment: IT’S NOT FUNNY, and Office Space. It’s always a bad sign when people try to self-parody and miss. Can’t you hear that conversation? “Haha, let’s be light-hearted about the cubicle situation! After you watch the mandatory videos about sexual harassment and diversity.” I was then re-interviewed by “Elaine from HR,” who asked me all the same questions but was more polite. I was not called back.
The next day, I went to be interviewed at the other place. It took five minutes:
“MY job is really just to weed out the crazies. You don’t look like an axe murderer. Yeah, here on your resume. No axe murderer could write three humor books.”
I shit you not.
So, on the way home, the main bus stop is at a large suburban mall. I decided to have Mall Time. I never go to malls except The Gallery – for those of you who don’t live in Philadelphia, The Gallery is like… it’s a Burlington Coat Factory, a Kmart, and a train station welded together with a food court and some nail salons, and teenagers go there to cruise. This would be my first time in A Real Mall in several months at least.
I got the very last Chick-fil-A breakfast biscuit, so I was riding high. I ate it leisurely strolling around, and once I was done I decided to take a spin in the hurricane simulator. Have you seen these? It’s a little booth and you get in and get blown – not in the fun way, with fams, and it’s supposed to be “like a category two hurricane.” Having largely been spared THE WRATH OF IRENE earlier in the fall, I put in my two dollars (I could afford it! I was employed!) and went for it.
Now, you’d think a pair of seventy-year-old mall walkers would have better things to do than stop and stare at a man in a hurricane simulator. You’d be so terribly, desperately wrong. They just stopped and looked, with the same flat intensity of gaze and inscrutable reason as a Byzantine icon. Sts. Herman and Bertha of Ardmore, patrons of uncomfortable encounters with strangers. I folded my hands and faced the wall, so they wouldn’t have anything to watch, and so they got to watch a very calm, composed man in 50 mph winds. I guess their expectations were low.
I checked the video store for a copy of Pink Flamingos (nope) and the bookstore for our books (nope), and then… well, there’s no dignified way to say this.
I let the little Israeli cosmetics demonstration guy give me a cosmetics demonstration because he was handsome.
I am absolutely not a Cosmetics-and-Grooming Gay. I don’t want to spend the money, I don’t want to invest the time, and somewhere over my shoulder a Protestant ancestor (hell, maybe Pocahontas herself) is whispering “You know what they call a hyper-well-groomed person of average attractiveness? A fussy queen. You’d be better off learning how to make jam. That’s a skill. Famine comes, you’re going to eat your blemish concealer? NO. Jam, you’ll eat.” There’s something comforting about being average-looking: I don’t have to worry about losing looks I don’t have, yet people at the bank will still make eye contact with me. So if I can look about the same without being a person who shapes his eyebrows, I’d rather stick with that. (That used to be my test if a man was too effeminate for me to be interested in – not if he groomed his eyebrows but if they looked like they had been groomed.)
So, why sit through a cosmetics demonstration? Because someone attractive wanted me to. Because the real title of our first book is The Misanthrope’s Guide to Maybe If You Let Him Show You a Moisturizer, You Can Have Sex in a Mall Bathroom. Because I’m an absolute dillhole. And then – because it would be rude not to, after he spent so much time! – I bought some exfoliant. It’s made with salt from the Dead Sea, because nothing says “beauty” like minerals from a shrinking, oft-contested lake that fish can’t like in because of the chemistry.
So, fine. But Hot Cosmetics Demonstration Guy had also demonstrated nail care products, which I refused to buy. (I have a limit, apparently.) So I had one perfect, pink, smooth, buffed, shiny, elegant thumbnail and nine matte, unglamorous, respectable nails. I was so reluctant to explain this that I hid my thumb for the next several days by keeping that hand in my pocket and trying to do everything left-handed so people wouldn’t think I’d applied glossy nail polish to one nail, over and over, excluding all other. I rubbed my other fingers over the nail constantly, like a worry stone – it was pretty fucking smooth.
You know – unlike me.