I see from your résumé that you have solid experience with the written word.
Twelve years of employment and all she’s gonna give me is “solid”?
Yes, for the last four years, I’ve been Associate Editor of Round-Up
. Hmm . . . I haven’t read that.
Which is precisely why it folded seven months ago.
It was one of those insider publications.
Well, there’s nothing “insider” about the N.Y.R.T. The New York Refuse Times
has a thriving readership.
Here I am, Amy Thomas-Stewart, a magazine veteran, a college graduate, recipient of the Elm Street Junior High award for best penmanship, interviewing for a job on a sanitation newsletter. A municipal rag. Can I sink any lower?
gone and my unemployment benefits dwindling, I’ve had to expand my job search into all areas requiring the written word: copyediting, fortune cookies, and marginal publications like The New York Refuse Times
According to the receptionist they’ve had over 150 applicants for this crummy job. It seems that as the magazine business shrinks, those of us who’d planned on making a living in it are literally being swept into the trash. (After all these years spent dreaming of a job at The New York Times (stop laughing, I’m talking about the Arts & Leisure section), how painful to be interviewing for a position with the N.Y.R.T. It’s like God’s little typo.)
Which is the only reason I’m suffering through this job interview with a woman who’s bitch-slapping my self-esteem with one hand while nursing her three-year-old son with the other.
That’s right. I said nursing her three-year-old son.
Which would be a hell of a lot easier to ignore if the kid didn’t keep interrupting our interview to demand “more.” For God’s sake, if you’re old enough to make requests, you’re old enough to open the refrigerator. And to top it off, the brat’s a noisy eater. This, along with the image of my parents having sex, is something I do not need to see.
Which makes me wonder: What’s the etiquette on public nursing? Am I supposed to ignore this? Applaud it? Do I maintain eye contact or do I plaster a warm smile across my face and act like this happens at all my interviews?
Desperate to make a good impression, I decide to play it safe and fix my gaze above boob level.
Of course, making matters worse is the fact that I’m actually ashamed of my own discomfort. That’s right, she’s baring her boobs and yet I’m the one burning with shame. After all, I’m supposed to be a feminist. A woman’s woman. Shouldn’t I support working mothers? Applaud maternal power? Of course I should. There’s nothing dirty, raunchy, or inappropriate about nursing. It’s a natural act. Like shivering in the cold or lying about your weight.
Heck, I’m the first to admit that I’m clueless about raising a child, let alone weaning one. But dammit–
IF THAT KID SUCKS ANY HARDER HE’S GONNA RIP A LUNG OUT!
Generally speaking, under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have been such a horrible comment–
Had I not said it ALOUD.
And before you could even think the word Medic! she’s snapping up her nursing bra and hissing a curt:
We’ll call you.
Sure you will.february 15th
Nowhere is unemployment more disastrous than in the area of romance. Sure, we get misty when “The Gift of the Magi” husband sells his watch in order to buy his wife a barrette only to discover that she has sold her hair in order to buy him a watch fob. . . . Ah, Love!
But in the Real World the exchange of useless items falls far short of a fancy dinner and a dozen roses. Which is what Stephen and I did last year. (OK, it was lunch and three ginger blossoms. But ginger blossoms are my favorite flower and the restaurant was really fancy. David Bowie and Iman eat sushi there all the time
) This year, struggling to pay our rent, we ordered in Chinese food. Which is not to say the evening was a total bust. The decadence factor associated with a meal as fattening as egg rolls and sesame noodles can make even the most pouty gal heady with delight. And a little horny, to boot.
Of course, most people would assume that being married to the senior partner of a software company would spare me the injustices of mounting bills and single-ply toilet paper.
Stephen’s company, along with all the other computer start-ups, is once again at the brink of bankruptcy. The computer project he developed around the time we got married bombed in the marketplace after a rival company introduced virtually the same product at half the cost.
But strained finances aside, after a year and a half of marriage I still think getting hitched was the best decision I ever made. Sure, the first year was taxing. Challenging. OK, fine, it was really hard. Suddenly those fights about nothing in particular carry much more weight. You can’t just walk out and hit the singles bars. (For the record, I’ve never actually been to a singles bar. I’m not even sure they exist. I suspect it’s more of a code word for an evening spent with a bunch of girlfriends bitching about men
.) Now if you want to walk out it’s called Divorce, and in addition to requiring a lawyer and lots of paperwork, it’ll cost you a ton of money.
So the bottom line on marriage? It’s like any partnership–you need to get used to the other person’s rhythms. Even if you’ve been with them for a while. But now, safely ensconced within our second year, Stephen and I have gotten into a groove, learned to compromise, to accept one another’s idiosyncrasies, and to compromise.
Did I mention compromise?
Well, I should, because in marriage you compromise five times more than you get your way and three times more than you have sex. For instance, Stephen has learned to be silent when I try on at least eight different outfits before going out for the evening. And I’ve come to understand that he leaves dirty dishes in the sink because he has a chemical imbalance that prevents him from opening the dishwasher.
Additionally, I know that he will never, no matter how often I beg, remember to flush the toilet after peeing. Although to his credit he does put the toilet seat down, so in the world of potential mates it’s safe to say I hit the jackpot.february 18th
Mandy and I met for dinner this evening at our favorite Italian restaurant, Frutto di Sole. We’ve been regulars at this tiny West Village hangout, a cross between a grandmother’s kitchen and a Neapolitan diner, since we graduated from college. Now in our thirties, I feel like we own the joint. Or at least the little table in the back by the fireplace. A feeling which is challenged every time the owner, Rocco Marconi, graciously kisses my hand then sneaks a peek down my blouse.
Still reeling from my N.Y.R.T. interview, I told Mandy all about my encounter with the kiddie milk bar. Mandy immediately felt my pain.
Good lord, it sounds like a trip to the petting zoo. Have these women no shame? Whatever happened to modesty? Self-respect? Perky breasts?
As I struggled to figure out how we’d gone from modesty to perky breasts, Mandy, my more than slightly self-involved friend, had already moved on. She was talking about an upcoming trip that she and her husband, Jon, are taking to the Canyon Ranch Spa. Mandy insists that Stephen and I join her. Never going to happen. But instead of saying that I’d rather gnaw off my own limb than vacation with her husband, Jon, I decided to focus on the fact that people who are unemployed don’t take spa vacations. Mandy wrinkled her nose.
Really, Amy. You should never say “unemployed.” It sounds so desperate.
In Mandy’s universe–where the world is like a Cheever novel with a tad less booze–it would be acceptable to do nothing with my life if I were independently wealthy. But to be jobless and broke is a socially shaming mixture akin to wearing a see-through blouse without a camisole. The fact that I’m goal-oriented and actually want to work is entirely beside the point. Once again, I marveled at Mandy’s ability to live completely outside of reality.
It’s a skill that’s particularly pronounced later in the meal as she starts talking about her mother.
It seems Mandy–who equates procreating with having a really bad hair day–has begun taking desperate measures to silence her mother’s incessant requests for grandchildren. And though Mandy’s tactics are extreme, I can totally relate to her frustration. After all, what newly married heterosexual couple doesn’t get the baby pressure?
I thought about telling her that I had fertility problems. But that’s too sleazy. So I told her Jon was sterile.
We should be so lucky.
And she’s still bothering you? Seems a bit insensitive.
Tell me about it. Do you know she actually had the nerve to send us ten thousand dollars to go to a fertility specialist?
The nerve? I barely got that much for my wedding.
So what’d you do with the money?
How do you think we’re paying for Canyon Ranch?
Check, please. And give it to her.march 5th
My employment status is officially dire. Eight months after Round-Up’s demise, my association with New York’s least-read magazine hasn’t opened a single door. How awful to work for twelve years only to discover that you’re still unqualified to do anything.
As visions of eviction notices dance through my head, I try to remember how lucky I am. I have my health. My friends. A wonderful marriage. If nothing else I can live on love. After all, love makes the world go round. Love is all you need.
Who am I kidding?
I can’t buy name-brand pantyhose with love!
And all this free time is killing me. At first it was fun. Like an extended holiday. Only no one’s around to share it with because everyone else is at work. Advancing their careers. Making something of their lives. So now I spend my days anxious, frustrated, and annoyed by my sister Nicole.
In less than two years Nicole, my vaguely younger sister, has gone from a married, suburban life with her college sweetheart, Chet, to leaving her husband, dating a younger guy, and wearing extraordinarily trashy clothes–most of which she finds tucked away in the back of my closet. In short, Nicole is finally living out her youth. Unfortunately, she’s doing it from the middle of my living room.
Stephen and I live in a cramped apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Sure, the building’s got a pretty lobby and a shiny elevator. But no matter how many times the rental agent refers to our apartment as a “handsome two-bedroom,” the fact remains that it’s only 650 square feet. A glorified one-bedroom with a fairly large closet. Far too small for Nicole to spend every weekend sleeping on our couch after late nights of clubbing with her boyfriend, Pablo. (And yes, it’s Stephen’s bachelor couch. That plaid monstrosity that I’ve begged him to throw out since the day we got engaged. But no. Just like unsightly facial hair: No matter how hard you try, it just won’t go away
At first I assumed Pablo was a rebound relationship after Nicole left her husband, Chet. A young sex toy easing her out of Mayberry and into Babylon. When their affair began he was an installer for the cable company and gave us free HBO–so I kept my opinions to myself. Besides, it was Nicole’s life to live. Now, two years later, Pablo’s been promoted to a desk job and can no longer get us free HBO. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve really grown to like him. And no matter how you slice it, two years is too long to be a rebound.
And way too long to be sleeping on my sofa.
Especially since Stephen refuses to have sex when Nicole’s around. He’s says the walls are too thin. Great. First you spend high school evading your parents while groping in their living room. Then you spend college praying your roommate doesn’t walk in on you. Isn’t having sex in your own apartment one of the few inalienable rights of adulthood?
Sure, it would seem logical for Nicole to exchange her apartment and job upstate for ones here in the city. After all, how hard could it be to find paralegal work in New York? But no matter how often I beg she refuses to get her own place in the city, or at the very least to convince Pablo to move out of his parents’ house. “Isn’t it about time? I mean for God’s sake, the guy’s twenty-five.”
Nicole just shrugs. “Why should he? He saves tons of money this way. Besides, they treat him like an adult.”
“Then why can’t you sleep over there?”
“Are you kidding? His parents would flip if they knew he was having sex!”
And for the record, I don’t want to know about Pablo’s sex life, either. So I’ve laid down the law. Nicole can sleep here, but she is NOT ALLOWED TO FORNICATE ON OUR SOFA. If Stephen and I can’t have sex in our apartment, then neither can she. Which is why, after sneaking out of Pablo’s bedroom, Nicole does the Walk of Shame back to my apartment every Friday and Saturday night.
This from a woman who used to spend weekends swapping meat loaf recipes and playing couples’ charades.march 12th
As materialistic, self-involved, and high-maintenance as Mandy is, she’s been one of my best friends since college. And nothing, not even her off-the-cuff remark in 1996 about how bangs make me look like a man in drag, will ever change that. Our friendship will follow us to the grave.
A fact that has never been so greatly tested as when Mandy Alexander completely lost her sanity and married Jon Skepperman on the perfectly manicured lawn of her parents’ country club.
On a certain level it made complete sense. Like Mandy, Jon comes from an old-money family and has a deeply rooted respect for tradition. People are on this planet to marry, earn money, and own Izod sport shirts in every available color. She’s a real estate agent. Jon’s a real estate lawyer. They’re like two halves of a very disturbing puzzle. Except that while Mandy can be funny, charming, and an extremely supportive friend, Jon remains a pear-shaped man who runs like a woman and talks like a minor character from a Ronald Reagan biopic.
But Mandy loves him and I love her, so I keep my thoughts to myself. My interactions with Jon are brief, of necessity, and inevitably end with fantasies of me poking out his eyes with a ballpoint pen. Which is why I was surprised when he called me last night.
Hi, Amy. It’s Jon.
This can’t be good.
I was wondering if you’re still living off the State.
Like I said . . .
If you mean am I still receiving my unemployment benefits, to which I’m entitled after paying taxes for the last twelve years, the answer is yes. JON
Must be humiliating. Just talking about it makes me uncomfortable.
Of course it does. After all, God never intended for jackasses to speak.
Mercifully, I think I have a solution for you. A colleague of mine has a sister who works in public relations. She’s leaving her job at a company called Brinkman/Baines, and they have yet to fill her position. It doesn’t seem particularly challenging. You should look into it.
Please, sir, may I have another?march 12th–9 p.m
You’re taking life advice from a guy without a pulse? You really have hit rock bottom.
My friend Anita is just as candid and uncensored as Mandy is. Only, while Mandy favors Emily Post, Anita is pure Courtney Love. No wonder they can’t stand each other.
That Jon has a job, let alone a law degree, proves that Western civilization is in decline.
Hard to argue. But the fact remains that despite Anita’s best efforts, it’s Jon, not she, who’s provided the best employment tip I’ve had in months. So I insisted Anita stop bashing Jon long enough to tell me what she knows about Brinkman/Baines.
Turns out she knows tons.
As managing editor of Teen Flair magazine, she’s had lots of interactions with the folks at Brinkman/Baines–a third-rate public relations firm specializing in minor celebrities and local politicians. Do you remember Glyniss O’Maley, the eleven-year-old who parlayed an attempt at the Guinness record for the highest number of consecutive cartwheels5 into a recurring role on the soap opera All My Sorrows? In addition to being Teen Flair’s January cover girl, she’s also a Brinkman/Baines client.
And Alexander Hastings, the candidate for city councilman who claimed to be thirty until a jilted girlfriend sent his high school yearbook to the opposition. The ink was still drying–the guy was eighteen. Brinkman/Baines helped him leverage the scandal by appealing to the youth vote. Last I heard, Councilman Hastings was spearheading a campaign to legalize marijuana.
Intellectual? Not really. Classy? Definitely not.
I immediately called for an interview.
Excerpted from Diary of a Mad Mom-to-Be by Laura Wolf. Copyright © 2003 by Laura Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Delta, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.