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I haven’t had health insurance in three years, which is a fact that netted me extensive media coverage.  What better way to prove to the Republicans that we need national health care than to trot out my over-educated, do-gooder self.  The problem with that is, and always has been, that even when I have access to western medicine, I rarely seek it out.  I don’t like the doctor, I don’t like explaining myself and I never really feel like I’m sick enough to need to bother a clearly busy person with my tales of (minor) woe.

But I’m determined to turn that around.  I am determined to be proactive with my new health care and get regular check ups.  I am going to develop a rapport with a doctor who will establish a file on me with a detailed medical history.  Together, we will document my health adventures so that when I eventually get cancer, we will have seen it coming.

My insurance officially kicked in February 1st, and I’ve been shockingly organized about the whole thing.

  1. I went to a meeting with the lady from the health insurance company and learned all kinds of things
  2. I asked around for personal recommendations for primary care doctors
  3. I filled out the paperwork and gave it to the HR lady in a timely manner
  4. I got an health insurance card

Except, apparently the soonest available appointment my doctor has, is not until April.  This leads me to wonder: why the hell is she accepting new patients if she can’t see those patients for four months?  I was prepared to get everything arranged, and then make an appointment for early February.  I called in early January, so I thought that would be plenty of time, but apparently that’s not the case at all.

Now I’m resentful of the fact that I’m paying for insurance I’m not using, which is why I never elected to pay for insurance when I was underemployed (also, I couldn’t afford it).  I could try to get in with another doctor, but then I’d have to change my primary care physician with my insurance company in order for them to cover it, which would take a while, and it seems like more trouble than its worth.  Also, what if this is how it is with all doctors?  A friend who has lived in several different states told me that Rhode Island is the only place she’s ever sought medical care where it takes forever to see a doctor.  She said if you need to see a doctor right away, her physician always just says “go to an urgent care center.”

I also had to frantically try to find a solution to the issue of needing to have birth control, which my doctor’s receptionist was not helpful about at all.  “The doctor won’t give you a prescription if you haven’t met with her.” she told me, and the doctor has not a moment of spare time until April, so I had to figure something else out.

People talk about health insurance like it’s the greatest thing in the world, and I’m sure, if you’re really sick, it is, but I am decidedly underwhelmed right now.  I’m trying not to let me it get me down, but I’m sure by the time my appointment rolls around my stress level will be markedly higher than before I had insurance.

I’ve also been having some back trouble recently, for which I think I might like to see a chiropractor (maybe), but despite the facts that my insurance covers 20 visits, I cannot go to a chiropractor without a referral from my super-busy doctor.  Considering the fact that I’ve been gimping around like an old lady, and have only run nine miles in the month of February (because of the pain), I’d like to get this looked at/adjusted as soon as I can.

In order to see a new doctor, I have to change my primary health physician.  I have to find a doctor that accepts my HMO, notify my HMO of the change, make an appointment and then wait for a card to arrive in the mail.  The whole situation seems remarkably ham-fisted.

Also, I got my dental insurance card in the mail yesterday, and they spelled my last name wrong. *sigh*

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1.

There is a woman who comes into my place of work who has been calling me Jen for about four months now.  The first time she said it, she was walking quickly past my desk and threw out a pert “Hi Jen!”

I responded to the “Hi” part before I realized that she had called me Jen.  From then on, every time she came into the library, I would get either a “Hi Jen!” or a “Bye Jen!” I kept waiting for situations to present themselves that would straighten this out without me having to do anything about it.  I thought the time that she saw both Jen and I sitting at the desk together would clue her in, but she actually acted as if she had never seen me before, let me answer her question, and then an hour later said “Bye Jen!” as she was leaving.

I’m just leaving this alone.  The funny thing is, I don’t think she ever even talks to Jen, but I might be wrong.

2.

There is a woman who lives along the route that I run every day.  No matter how early or late it is when I run by, she will be on her porch, sitting in a plastic chair, wearing what looks like a nightgown, smoking.  Occasionally, she has with her an oxygen tank, but she’s still smoking.  I run outdoors year round unless the sidewalks are so clogged with snow that they’re unpassable, but she’s always out there, smoking.  I wonder now if we’re friends just because we’ve seen each other so many times.  I imagine that she either admires me or loathes me.  Maybe she’s lonely and wishes I would stop and chat; maybe if I tried to stop and chat, she’d throw her lit cigarette at me.

I think I’m going to phase in a friendly smile and possibly a head nod, just to see what kind of a reaction I get.

3.

There is a man who comes into my library and thinks that the two of us are best pals.  I don’t know his name, but he knows mine and has asked me out.  When I turned him down, he elected to keep me in “the friend zone” much to my dismay instead doing the thing where he awkwardly avoids eye contact or (even better) goes to a different library.  He keeps me up-to-date with what’s going on with him, even as I try to appear incredibly busy; and often pauses for long stretches which I assume are times for me to ask questions about whatever he’s prattling on about at the moment.

I refuse to ask questions.

Unfortunately, he is not dissuaded by my lack of question asking, and carries the conversation all on his own.

I’ve now taken the approach where I am trying to convince him that I’m a terrible human being.  This seemed like a logical next step after refusing to ask questions about his health or diabetes even when he would say things like “I’ve been having some health issues lately… was in Boston for a few days, that’s why you haven’t seen me.”  I put this new plan into effect when he recently asked if I had big plans for the weekend.

“I’m running a 1/2 marathon on Saturday.”

He then launched into a description of physical feats that he’s engaged in–mostly 5ks, it’s important to stay fit (he’s at least 40 pounds overweight).  Then he asked if I was doing it for some kind of charity.

“You mean, like am I raising money for cancer or something?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Oh absolutely not.  No way.  I just like running and getting medals.”

Then I waited, hoping that he would be incredibly disappointed in my lack of human decency, but he thought it was hilarious.

I need a new approach.

Since I’m a librarian, I spend a lot of time each day pondering the death of the public library and how necessary librarians will be once everything in the world is available online, etc.  My former boss was a techie nerd despite his advanced years and he once described to me “being able to have every book you could think of delivered instantaneously to your computer screen and you’d never have to go anywhere!”  His eyes were lit up in a way that was both alarming and unexpected and I knew that it was best to just smile and nod rather than say what I was actually thinking.

Which was, exactly why the hell would I want every book delivered instantaneously to my computer screen?  I hate reading on the computer, and having to do it for more than a couple hours at a time, makes me go all buggy-eyed.  Sure that’s an awfully convenient idea, but it’s far from desirable.

When I got my first desktop computer that I didn’t have to share with anyone else, it was the age of dial-up and the age of Napster.  I spent four full days in my apartment, alone, “sharing” music.  I spoke to no one, because none of my friends (or I) had any kind of chat capabilities; my cell phone was for emergency use only, weighed about a pound and was in my car 1/2 a block away; and since I had dial-up, no one could contact me without coming over to my house.  Frankly, looking back, I kind of wonder why no one came over to check on me.

My apartment was garden-level with very little natural light, so the passing of time meant nothing to me, and I didn’t even realize how long I had been holed up in my hovel until I noticed a new episode of Friends was on, which tipped me off that it was Thursday.

Once I finally emerged, I had a harddrive full of crappy music that I never listened to, and a desire to never sink to those depths again.  Yes, on a winter’s day, I often don’t want to leave the house, but I never want to not have to leave the house at some point.  Why would anyone want that?

I’m still recovering.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about manners and social graces.  Perhaps this is a result of working in customer service for most of my life, perhaps this is a desire to move in social circles higher than those I was born into, or perhaps this is just further manifestation of Minnesota Nice (which I think is a myth because my dad treats waitstaff appallingly bad, though others have pointed out that a side-effect of Minnesota Nice is a tendency to be passive-aggressive).  The point is, since this is something I think about frequently, I also really notice when other people are rude and awkward.  I can say with the confidence of a public librarian– a lot of people are rude or awkward–usually both.

People learn manners and social graces from their parents mostly, and then secondarily from school and interactions with other people.  There’s not really any such thing as charm school anymore (except that Vh1 show) to teach people how to act in certain social settings, so there’s really no way to learn to interact with people except by observation. Plus there’s huge difference between the way you interact in school versus the way your act in real life. Pair this with the anonymous and semi-anonymous online interactions on facebook etc, where you can tell someone exactly what you think of them with few-to-no consequences, and I think it’s safe to say we’re all doomed.

Yes, having any book delivered to your screen instantly is a very convenient thing, but even without that, I sometimes have a hard time finding reasons to leave the house.  This is why I’m in no rush to make things more convenient.  Even though I hate doing things like going to the mall, it’s nice to leave the damn house once in a while and see other faces–no matter how unattractive.  I hope I’m not the only person who feels this way.

I went out for drinks with some of my lady friends the other day to a place called a snuggery.  The word snuggery should conjure up images of a place with cozy close quarters, tiny tea plates, and overall adorableness.  Since the snuggery is such a cozy place, it’s also a place where you’re acutely aware of the people seated next to you.  I’ve been there a few times and not been bothered by anyone, but whenever I sit next to the table in the far left corner of the front room–things tend to get a bit annoying.

The first time I went there was with Jewish Friend.  She raved about the snuggery despite my protestations that snuggery seems like a made-up word, and certainly one I would require defined before I set foot in it.  Finally she said, “A snuggery is a place where you can get both beer and cupcakes.”  That’s putting it in terms I can understand.

She and I went, and sat in a tiny booth for two right next to the dangerous corner table.  Seated at the table on this particular evening were a couple who looked, as I described them later to another friend, like two people who had recently discovered fitness.  They were both rotund, but smug about it in a way that indicated they had previously been more rotund, and tucking into their food in a way that lets others know they’ve “earned” it.  They were also really, really into each other in the way that rotund people who have recently starting dating another person who shares a love of food and hiking/biking are.

They also treated the server terribly, had conversations where it looked like they wanted to crawl inside of each other, and practiced aggressive hand-holding.  At one point, long after Jewish Friend and I started actively ignoring their almost un-ignorable displays of affection, the man in the couple started crying.  Apparently, his date had said something to him that was “so beautiful” it moved him to tears.  Seriously, I’m not making that up.

Eventually, they paid their bill, produced bicycle helmets from somewhere (despite near-constant complaining that it was too warm in there and couldn’t the proprietor prop the window open with something?), and rode off into the dusk presumably to practice more aggressive hand-holding and have conversations like, “You like that?  I love that! Let’s talk about that thing we both love and eat sorbet!  I’ll feed you.”

This most recent time, we were seated next to the dangerous table full of picture-taking women.  Again, the snuggery is cozy–you’re practically seated on top of the people at the next table, so when a middle-aged pack of hens take pictures over and over with the brightest flash known to man, you notice.  What I failed to understand about this endeavor was:

  1. At least two of the three of them had cameras–couldn’t they just share the pictures?
  2. They weren’t doing anything other than taking pictures.  They’d pose, snap, then look at the pictures they had just taken.  That was their whole evening.  How can you look back fondly on a night where you just went somewhere to take pictures?
  3. They seemed to only be talking about the pictures they had just taken just after they had taken them and were looking at them.  I don’t think you can reminisce when you’re sitting in the same place wearing the same clothes.

Maybe I’m missing the point, but I’ve grown terribly weary of people who go to bars to take pictures to post on facebook that seem to say –“Look how much fun I have!”  How can you have fun when all you’re doing is taking pictures and posing for them?  That’s like a family holiday, not a night of revelry.

Of course, given the fact that I was so close to these groups of people when they each incurred my wrath, they probably heard me making fun and are writing blogs about that angry, frowny-faced librarian-type who ruined all their hand-holding and picture-taking fun.

Since beginning my job a year ago, I’ve found that gross old men who frequent the library just can’t get enough of me.  It’s annoying and bizarre and according to my boss, it’s unlike anything she’s seen in 22 years of public librarianship.  I love being unique, but I wish it was for something I was happy about.

Frankly, I just don’t get it.  Yes, I’m friendly and attractive, but so are my co-workers who don’t have to deal with these attentions.  Honestly, I do not feel that I am hot enough to have to put up with this.  I’ve never reaped the benefits of being a hottie i.e. getting free drinks or airline upgrades, so why do I have to put up with the drawbacks?

This also sounds like a whiny thing to complain about, but the fact is, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  It makes it hard to do my job, to focus on the task at hand and to not overanalyze all my interactions with male library patrons.  I shouldn’t have to try to do my work knowing that there’s a person using a particular computer just so he can stare at me, and my co-workers shouldn’t have to field and deflect questions about my whereabouts and work schedule.

Since I’ve been having more issues with a new gross old man at work, I finally broke down and bought a stunt ring i.e. a fake wedding/engagement ring to send the clear signal without words, “I’m not interested in you.”  What’s hilarious about all this, is if I was actually engaged/married I probably wouldn’t wear a ring.  I really dislike wearing jewelry, and the few items I own, I never remember to wear.

We’ll see if this actually works and allows me to go about my workday in peace, or if I need to come up with a plan B.  The only plan B I can think of right now is dressing poorly, which sounds like a lot of expense and effort, so I’m hoping this ring is the magic bullet I need.

Day One: Wore the ring to work and discovered that not only is it slightly too big for me, but it is also incredibly heavy. I put some scotch tape on the back to make it fit better, and tried to ignore the heaviness.  Creepy Old Man #2 came in and did his usual use the 15-minute internet computers right next to me for over an hour and stare at me routine.  I make a point to run my fingers through my hair over and over, displaying the ring prominently as I did it.  The ring got caught in my hair a few times, which did not feel good.

By the end of the day, one of the fake diamonds was missing, but at least it’s one on the side.  I’m starting to think I need a different stunt ring, one that’s less cumbersome, but also would rather not spend a whole bunch of money on jewelry I don’t even want. Plus now, can I really sub in a new ring? Damage done, card played, I’ve got to keep up the pretense.  I am not cut out for jewelry wearing.

Day Two: Forgot to wear stunt ring and got asked out by a man named Earle.  Is this some kind of joke?

I decided to replace initial ring with something smaller.  I then spent an hour on overstock.com shopping for engagement ring for myself for less than $15, which was odd to say the least.  I finally found something that was the right price and size, and was moderately attractive if a bit ostentatious.  Let’s hope it doesn’t turn my finger green.

It’s not bad, I don’t hate it.  I hope it doesn’t start some kind of rumor in the workplace.

Fast forward to three weeks later, and I’ve been wearing the stunt ring every day at work, and then taking it off immediately at the end of the day.  I’ve injured myself several times getting it caught in books, clothes and all kinds of hazards I never previously noticed.  I also find it a bit hard to type while wearing it.

Several co-workers have asked if I’m engaged, one scoffed and said “my god that looks fake.”

The newest creepy old man in my life has stopped coming into the library since that first day I wore the previous stunt ring.  He may still be coming in on my days off–but who cares!  Life is good again and it’s all down to a piece of ugly jewelry.

If I wasn’t so happy I’d be totally depressed.

I’m a laid back person, I’m a bit proud of that fact, but I’m finding more and more that it gets in the way because I have little-to-no experience in standing up for myself.  It kind of goes along with the way that I cannot get deals from people in retail either when I complain about something defective, or just when I ask nicely, but extends into the rest of my life where I just cannot complain about anything and get satisfaction.

I was raised on the ethos of hard work–nose to the grindstone, take care of yourself and you’ll go far kind of thing.  Well, maybe you won’t go far, since my parents seemed to never want me to be anything more than middle class (perhaps not even comfortably middle class), but that should be all you want!  Ask for too much and you’re just greedy.  Because this is ingrained in me, I just stiff upper lip my way through life not letting things get to me, and now I’ve gotten to the point where when I try to get worked up about things and stand up for myself, it really comes off insincerely.

About five years ago, I had just started running semi-regularly.  I bought a pair of proper shoes, and was up to about three miles on the treadmill.  I was feeling pretty smug about it.  Then one day, I felt an incredible amount of pain in my left foot.  I stopped running, started walking and it subsided a bit, but as soon as I tried running again, it became unbearable.  I switched to the elliptical machine and used my heel rather than front part of my foot, and it seemed to work out.

Later that night, I went to Target, and my foot started hurting so badly, I could barely make it out of the store.  The following morning, it was completely swollen and a lovely shade of greenish purple.  Because I never go to the doctor, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the situation, so I called my father.  My rationale was, he’s been running marathons for 20 years, certainly he must have had or seen something like this in his life before, he’ll advise me.  Basically what he ended up telling me was, “quit complaining, just keep running.”

This is not the first time my father has given me terrible advice, and my protestations that I couldn’t even get a shoe on my foot much less run in this condition were ignored in favor of repeating the same few words over and over “quit complaining, just keep running.”  So I decided to take my mangled foot to the doctor in the hopes that if nothing else, he or she would give me good painkillers (which usually give me a headache, but it’s worth a shot).  The doctor determined that it was a stress fracture, said there’s nothing he could do about it, and sent me home with a bill.

This is why I don’t go to the doctor.

Despite these setbacks, I’m trying to keep up with my quest to be a little less laid back and a little more assertive, but the problem is that I just keep forgetting.  A while ago, a car was parked illegally in my street, blocking part of the road in a way that was both unsafe and annoying. I remembered Jewish Friend telling me that she frequently calls the police for vehicular complaints, so I tried to do the same.

“The car is in the middle of the street!” I asserted.

“It’s not pulled over to the side?” the police man asked.

“Well, it is pulled over, but it’s a really narrow road.”

He just sighed, “We’ll get it when we ticket at 2am.” Then he hung up on me.

Are the police supposed to hang up on you when you’re not a deranged, hysterical person?  It seems wrong, and it hurt my feelings.

Last night at work, there was a huge booming sound on the roof followed by a power outage in half the building and a post-apocalyptic hum.  We lost the phones, and one of the children’s librarians came running down the steps saying, “we need to evacuate, there’s a smell.”  So my co-worker told me to call the fire department.

I scanned the phone book looking for the fire department non-emergency number.  Turns out that there is no such thing, and if you need the fire department, you call 911, which does make sense when you think about it.

So I made my first 911 call, feeling like at any moment I would be arrested for tying up an emergency line, and almost apologizing to the woman on the other end for wasting her time.  It was an emergency, we had a building with 100 people in it and no idea what was going on, but I still felt like well, I don’t actually see flames/no one is bleeding from the eyes, surely this doesn’t warrant a 911 call.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers the other day, where he discussed a couple very famous plane crashes and determined that a lot of the crash could have been avoided had the pilot in contact with the tower been a little more assertive and emphatic about the state of emergency.  While reading it, I scoffed at the pilots, amazed that while a plane runs out of fuel before crashing into John McEnroe’s dad’s house they would nonchalantly tell the tower “We’re low on fuel” instead of “We’re out of gas!  Emergency!”

I would never make it as a pilot because I probably would have done the exact same thing.

I’m a work in progress.

Last night I went out for dinner with Theatre MILF and she informed me that she’s broken up with Dunkin Donuts.  “It’s for real,” she assured me, “I’ve taken my CDs back and everything.”

Then I pictured my friend emerging from the back room of a Dunkin Donuts with a box piled high with jewel cases and a few t-shirts.  She’d cast one forlorn glance back at the coffee maker and display case before squaring her jaw and walking out, head held high.

Taking back your CDs at the end of a breakup used to be the one action that signaled things were really over.  If you were one of those couples that broke up and got back together regularly, that would be the one step you’d have to take to communicate to your former flame, “I’m ready to bang someone else/I may already be banging someone else.”  So that begs the question: Is it easier/less final to break up now that no one has CDs anymore?  What’s the new equivalent of CDs when breaking up with someone?

When I was with my first long-term boyfriend, we consolidated CDs and DVDs because we were going to be together forever and who wanted the extra clutter.  It was an unspoken vow, a show of fidelity, like a ring, but entertaining.  Then when I broke up with him, he inventoried all our stuff while I was at work and I lost my Pixies collection.

“I like them better.” He told me, “It’s only fair.”

“Most of those CDs were mine initially, remember?  You were all excited that I had them so you could save money.”

“Well, I had planned to buy them.  You never listened to them, and I had on Trompe Le Monde just last week.”

“Fine, take that one.” I said, thinking that he should have picked a better album if that was his angle but also wondering if citing one of the weakest albums was meant to be a testament of true Pixies love on his part.  Saying Doolittle would have been too obvious, Bossanova just unbelievable, but Trompe walked the line.

Over the following months, I noticed that a lot of things that were mine, purchased with my money, had wandered off.  In the moment, when you own something like 400 CDs and 100 DVDs, it’s hard to recall which ones are missing, but on a Tuesday night when you want to watch Edward Scissorhands and there’s a gaping hole on the shelf, you start to become awfully bitter.

There’s nothing you can do about it though.  Calling that person up three months later seems both crazy and sad, and gives the other person the upper hand.  I have to hand it to my ex, it was a bold and inspired move, and had I been less lazy/not keeping the apartment, I might have tried the same thing.

So what do the young kids these days do to stick it to their new ex?  You leave with the same Mp3s you brought into the relationship, a lot of people just don’t have that many DVDs, what’s the new stick-it-to-them item?  Or was it never really about the CDs, just anything that the other person cared about that you could fuck with?

My little brother recently came East for a weeklong visit.  His only two requests before arriving were 1. Whales 2. Pub Quizzes.  The whales thing was all too easy to accommodate: New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Boston Whale Watch.  The pub quiz was a bit trickier but we had the quarterly pub quiz at the Providence Athenaeum, The Wild Colonial Pub Quiz, and Stump Trivia at Union Station.  Unfortunately, the LOST finale kept us from Wild Colonial Pub Quiz, and my brother left town on Wednesday (night of Stump Trivia) to visit another friend, so that left us with the Athenaeum as the sole quiz.

I started going to the Athenaeum Pub Quiz a little over a year ago because I like to support libraries, sit in beautiful, historic buildings, and because it’s $10 for all you can drink.  In the 90 minutes a typical quiz lasts–I can drink a lot.  It’s good value.

The drawback is that it’s not a good quiz–ever.  There are no prizes (I don’t care too much about prizes, but it’s nice to have something) except for first place.  The prize for first is that you get to write the next quiz.  What this leads to is trivia that is not general knowledge, or things you could make an educated guess at, but rather ridiculous, high-brow questions that no one knows, and that make the whole endeavor very un-fun.

I tried to warn little brother about this before we went.  I told him that we would most likely come in last place, as we usually do, and that mostly we go for the hootch.  He didn’t get it, and has happened every time I’ve gone to this quiz, with a number of different friends, we start to get frustrated, a bit drunk, and heckle.

Last quiz, there was a category of questions all in French.  This wasn’t common, you might be able to figure it out based on a working knowledge of romance languages French, it was “write me a sentence in French.” Well, I cannot do that because any French I know is based solely on ordering in a restaurant, or not getting ripped off by a cabbie.

This time around, there was a question about the Icelandic volcano, the question was, “Can you correctly spell the name of that Icelandic volcano?”  We answered, “no, we cannot,” which answers the question perfectly as it was asked.  However, humorless WASPS do not care to be told they write quiz questions poorly, and we didn’t get that one right.

As we languished in last place, all the other players started treating our table like the adorable, scrappy orphan table.  We’d read our score out loud, and there would be a collective, “Aw.”  The guy one table over from us, started giving us an encouraging “You’ll do better this round, guys.”

It was all incredibly obnoxious because we aren’t twelve years old, but were made to feel that way pretty much the entire night.

It was such a strange situation because in my real life, I’m actually starting to embrace this being a grownup thing.  People come into the library and look at me as an ultimate authority.  Other staff defer to me when they have questions.  Gentleman Scholar has two masters degrees from Ive League schools, and little brother wears a suit every day to work.  We didn’t roll in there on razor scooters, wearing hoodies then sulk in the corner, yet, I felt like we were sitting at the kids’ table all night.

Reflecting back on previous quizzes, it’s always a bit like this.  This was certainly the worst in terms of pure, unfiltered condescension, but there’s always some.  When asked by a lady why we had done so poorly in the French round, I replied “Je suis fatigué.”

“If you can say that, why didn’t you answer any questions correctly?” she asked.

Recently, my boss approached me with the offer to get a health screening at work.

“Is it free?” I immediately asked.

“Yes.” she told me.

So I trotted on down to where the health screeners were set up, eager to blow them away with my ablebodiedness.  Typically what happens when I get a health screening is that my blood pressure is excellent, I get a bit of a strange look when I get weighed, my resting pulse rate is very low, and then we discuss my exercise routine and lifestyle concluding that I should keep on doing what I’m doing, then I feel great about myself for the rest of the day.  It’s a lot of fun for me.

This time around, the woman (I assume she’s a nurse, but I don’t know for sure what kind) took my blood pressure.

“It’s a little high.” she told me, looking concerned, “Have you been stressed lately?”

I was alarmed as this has never happened to me before, “I don’t think so,” I told her.

“Have you been eating a lot of high sodium food lately?”

I racked my brain to think of what I had eaten recently, and finally told her, “I ate a bunch of hummus late last night.”

“Well hummus is a healthy snack, but you should really be watching portion size and late-night eating.  I recently cut out my late-night snack, and found that the first few days it actually hurt, but now I don’t miss it at all!”

During this speech, I tried to interject that this was not, in fact, a late night snack, but dinner, as I had not gotten home from work until 10pm, but she wouldn’t late me break in to what sounded very much like a prepared anecdote for just such an occasion.

Then she asked, “Would you like your BMI (Body Mass Index)?”

I’ve figured out my BMI at home plenty of times, but never had it professionally done, so I decided to go for it.  What I forgot was that I am a very, unexpectedly heavy person.  I’m not big, no one would ever describe me as fat, or overweight, but when I tell people how much I weigh they either don’t believe me, or they are shocked.  I told a friend once that he would be amazed how heavy I am–this is a friend who was an avid weightlifter.  A few months later, during some work shenanigans, he picked me up and ran with me down the hall.

As he, panting, set me down, he remarked, “Wow, you weren’t kidding.”  This was when I was at my skinniest, when my mother was calling my brother telling him to tell me to eat, and co-workers were asking how I stayed so svelte.

I didn’t get a chance to tell this woman any of this because she weighed me, took out her chart, and then started lecturing me on the importance of exercise, even when the daylight hours are so short, and not filling up on bacon and soda.

She and her partner then loaded me down with brochures about losing weight the healthy way, and “exercise for busy people.”  Not once did they ask me if I binge eat bacon, or how much exercise I get on average; they just assumed from my weight that I’m sedentary and have bad habits.

What surprised me was how bothered I am by this.  Having grown up with a mother who is constantly dieting and who loves to make comments about my weight–usually based on how she feels about her weight–I’ve developed a healthy body image almost out of spite.  I know none of their assumptions about me are true, but the fact that they would make these assumptions started filling my head with all kinds of notions–what if I am fat, and I didn’t know it? What if my friends and loved ones are just too polite to tell me that I’ve let myself go?

My stork-legged, bacon-loving, and staunchly sedentary Jewish Friend quickly reassured me that that was not the case, and I believe her.  I like to think that I have the kind of friends who would honestly tell me if I’ve somehow gotten fat without my knowledge.

I’ve long thought that the BMI is a load of bunk, because weight is not the final arbiter of health.  A friend of mine who recently lost 85 pounds, and is featured in this month’s Fitness magazine, is still technically overweight, according to the BMI.  I could start smoking again, quit eating, and be at a “healthy” weight in no time, but that shouldn’t be the kind of lifestyle a workplace wellness person promotes.

I want to call this woman and yell at her, but I honestly don’t know what to say. “I’m a naturally heavy person” sounds like an excuse, and calling her up insisting that I run 25 miles a week, haven’t eaten bacon since I was 12, and almost never drink soda would be a very strange thing to do.

All I can do is shake it off, though I feel like maybe I’ll picture this woman as I run my next 1/2 marathon.  I bet I’ll destroy my old time that way.

I’ve worked in customer service most of my working life.  I genuinely enjoy it because in my real life I’m not terribly gregarious, and this way I get to interact with all sorts of characters in a controlled, limited way.  I’ve seen, if not everything, plenty of stuff, enough to make me a bit more unflappable than your average newbie librarian.  Why is it then that I have forgotten about the breed of patron/customer that has brought me the most grief over my checkered career?  How remiss am I to think that just because I have a master’s degree in library science that I will not have to deal with the gross old men of the world?

My interactions with gross old men go back to high school, yes, high school.  Working at the gas station, wearing an unflattering red, later tan, polo shirt made me the target for many inappropriate men.  They would flirt, flatter, follow.  Co-workers and I would enact elaborate “save me” routines to extract one another from the clutches of these wannabe philanderers.  Thankfully, I learned quite quickly how to deflect these advances, and I think I was aided by the fact that, as a sixteen-year-old, I had the law on my side should anything get out of hand, but the comments and winks became exhausting.

I chalked it all up to living in a very small town, and moved to the big city where surely, surely, men behave appropriately around significantly younger ladies.  I got a job at Barnes & Noble, which is second only to the library as a place where the weirdos come in droves.  There I met a man who spent about 12 hours per day in that store–sometimes longer.  In the cafe, we served him breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus the occasional snack, and he sat at the high counter reading the paper, magazines, and being visited by friends.  He also decided that I was the girl for him, or if not for him, for his son.  He brought in pictures, talked the young stud up every chance he got, and introduced me to people as “my future daughter-in-law.”

When he first got the idea that his son and I were meant to be, his son was out of the country.  “He’ll be back in a few weeks,” he told me, “What will you say to him when I bring him in?”

“I’ll ask him if he wants a coffee,” I replied.

He was very disappointed in me.

Now, at my present job, I have a new fan.  He comes in all the time, right before closing, and traps me in conversation as often as possible.  “Andria, can you recommend a DVD for me?  Andria, I need articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education and I don’t know how to find them.  Andria, is Land’s End a good store to get a gift card from?”  At least some of what he asks me are actual reference questions, but not nearly enough.

Yesterday, he gave me a christmas card (with his phone number and email address included), and when I complained to my boss of his overtures, she suggested a stunt ring.

“Go get something cheap and flashy and make sure he sees it, then he’ll leave you alone.” she told me.

This is something I’ve though about before, and when I was working at tv station, the foxy meteorologist and I discussed it at length as she had been getting a lot of crude emails from many, many men, but it seems like I shouldn’t have to take these steps.  Why would a man who is old enough to be my father, who is educated, and supposedly sensible think that my being polite and courteous is anything more than me just being good at my job?  I don’t want to wear a stunt ring, and I don’t want to be a girl who talks constantly of her boyfriend, but I think it may come to that.

I was working at a wine bar before I moved to Rhode Island, and there was an older gentleman who came in often, monopolized my time, and asked me to go out with him several times.  When I heard that he had come in on my night off, asked where I was, then promptly left, I decided to play the boyfriend card.  All conversation halted– he wouldn’t even look at me. He chugged his wine, threw some money on the table, and left without saying goodbye.

I certainly don’t miss him or his company, but I was a bit hurt that all our interactions seemed to just be a ploy to…what?… get me into bed?  Does that actually ever work?

I just don’t want to have to deal with this, but I do, which I find unfair.  After this guy, there will be more, I’m sure, and once the attention stops, I’ll probably feel bad about my looks fading.