Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In My Professional Opinion

"Amy," my mother is whispering. "Amy!"

I'm slapping my bare feet against the linoleum floor, which is covered with off-white plaster dust. It doesn't hurt, and the empty, echo-y noise it's making sounds good to me in the office, which is filled with the soft droning of the secretary, the louder singing of the doctor and a substantial grinding sound. It's a crazy noise, and I like to fit in.

"Amy, look."

I slam down my feet one more time for effect and finally look up at my mother, expecting her to tell me to quit it, but she just nods her head towards the wall of the room and smiles incredulously at me. I turn my gaze to the series of pine frames on the wall and feel my forehead wrinkle with confusion.

"Jesus, what is wrong with these people?" in an equally urgent whisper. After more careful consideration of the photographs, which at first looked like standard doctor's office fare, their oddity is evident. The innocent lamb's limbs are twisted and its hooves are excessively and evilly pointed. Lying in the fetal position on what looks like Santa's oversized throne (only made of driftwood), the lamb is the perfect sacrifice for a vengeful orthopedic god. Which is actually fine, because we're at the orthotist's office.

"Where I'm from, we have an expression," the orthotist has re-entered the room, brandishing my old pair of orthotics and oblivious to the streak of white plaster caked onto his cheek. "Never," he lilts in a South African accent. "Never send a boy to do a man's job."

My mother and I look at each other, sharing an identical eyebrow raise and and a single thought: what the hell is he talking about?

"So, you're saying...?"

"These are shit, but I'll do what I can to make 'em better."

He leaves the room again and a second later his distracted singing and the grinding start up again as he resumes work.

"And that one is... what? A caribou?" I point to another photograph of an inelegant, antlered animal seemingly mid-pirouette.

"A moose maybe," my mother counters. "En pointe."

Half an hour later we're walking back to the car, my feet feeling better in shoes than they've felt in a year. It's sunny, and as I swing into the car, my mother cranks up the air conditioning.

"Did that seem a little... well..." She starts backing up and maneuvers toward the highway, leaving her sentence unfinished like a mad lib. ______ Predicate adjective.


I seem to go to an awful lot of doctor's appointments. Usually it's nothing too terrible, and it's more the quantity of these visits that is staggering. What's also staggering is the consistent quirkiness of the doctors' (and nurses' and other non-M.D. specialists') personalities.

"Um, thank you," I'm telling the apprentice at the other orthotist's office (the one who made the 'shit' pair) as she repeatedly asks Jesus to bless my mother and me. Fingering the large wooden cross around her neck and gazing rapturously at my feet, everyone in that office seems scarily focused. Having listened to three hours about the inherent miracle and beauty of the foot, the effect is not unlike saying a single word over and over again until the syllables seem abstract and non-descriptive. Foot, foot, foot, foot, foot.

"Your feet are very curvy," my physical therapist is rubbing my right foot and making intense eye contact with me. He's filling in for my regular therapist and making me nervous. His resemblance to a guy I used to date is staggering, and looking at him is like looking at V projected 20 years into the future. Copious chest hair blossoming into view, aided by a casually unbuttoned Polo; a gold chain nestles itchily. Striking Italian features and suggestive pink lips smile at me.


"Deeply arched."

It's not just my feet.

I had the flu all of last week, and in between blowing my nose, went to the doctor a couple of times. My feet are swinging above the floor as I perch on the exam table. My head feels disconnected from the rest of my body, contentedly hovering as I look around the small room. An oversized photograph of two little brunette girls. A bridal portrait, obviously from the 1980's. A three-feet tall photograph of midgets. What? The midgets are wearing carnival-like attire, the man in a royal blue tuxedo with matching top hat and the woman in a sparkly dress previously reserved for ice skaters. A smiling toddler, grazing their chins, stands smugly in the frame. I glare at him, hating him for having the life-size barbies I always wanted but never got.

A petite, intensely cheerful doctor walks into the room. In a high voice, he asks me about my symptoms and then promptly offers to prescribe hydrocodone - a narcotic pain reliever - for my cough. I've never heard of using narcotics as cough suppressants, and remembering the hallucinations and drooling that ensued the last time I took this medication (after my foot surgery), I decline, and he writes me a prescription for something non-addictive.

Later, when I'm filling the prescription at CVS, I tell the pharmacist about how the anti-viral I'd previously been prescribed to shorten the duration of the flu made me throw up.

"Oh yah," he reflects in a slight Midwestern accent. "That'll happen sometimes. Actually, every medication has the possible side effects of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. That helped me a lot at pharm school. On exams, the question would be 'list three side effects of this medication,' and I'd always just write nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Heh."

Is everyone in the medical community born like this? Outrageously, shamelessly eccentric? More likely it's something that develops; the personality that emerges after years of having people defer to your professional opinion.

I'm out at a South Beach club with K, who's just starting medical school. I'm sucking on a vodka cranberry, passively interacting with a group of her friends, who are all also future doctors.

"And so they tell us not to name the corpses," an attractive, dark-haired student is telling what he obviously thinks is his party story, "but I mean come on! We dissect the fucking things for an entire semester. 'Bob' is like my buddy. He's the man!" (Whatever, maybe he was the man.)

So this is how it starts!

The dermatologist who looked at my henna tattoo and smilingly told me that tattoos, to him, meant promiscuity. The orthopedist who slapped my thigh and said 'that sucks!' about my chronic pain. The gynecologist who jokingly squirted KY jelly onto my big toe. The emergency room nurse who didn't bother to tell me that my suspected asthma attack was just a panic attack, and if I calmed down, I'd be fine. Mr. OneNightStand, who asked me, during post-coital pillow talk, if I was ovulating.

And this is where it stops!

"God! Enough! Normal people do not want to hear about the damn corpses over cocktails." The storyteller eyes me with annoyance; I'm ruining all the fun. He shrugs and the conversation shifts.

I saw that look he gave me though. The look that, with a few years of practice, may disdainfully undercut my self-worth, punishing me for not having an M.D., and send me running into the arms of my shrink. Another doctor.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Live Nude Bathers

"Whatever, I just don't get why you wouldn't want to be naked with me in public. I mean, I thought you were straight... it's okay if you're not..."

It's about a year ago during Spring Break and I'm annoyed, lying on the sand at South Beach with an ex and thinking about how much I don't want to be there. It's the kind of day that tourists think they love but true Floridians know is just shy of torture. Cloudless and blazing hot, I'm sweating five steps out of my car's air conditioning, and by the time I get to the shore and spread out my towel, going into the water seems pointless because my skin couldn't possibly be wetter than it already is.

"Amy, how does not wanting to go to the nude beach make me gay? Ninety percent of the people who go there are old gay men."

He's got a point.

"That's fine," in a tone that suggests it clearly is not. "You just don't want to go with a girl. I'll make K go with me. South Beach is topless, right?"

Taking the Brazilian women next to me wearing only thong bathing suit bottoms as an answer, I speedily untie my bikini top and lie back down on my towel, haughtily agreeing with myself that I've just proved an important point.

Declining his offer to help me put on more sunscreen, he shrugs, comments that he's "always wanted to be that guy at the beach with 'topless girl' " and decides to go skim boarding. I snicker openly when he promptly falls on his ass.

I dig into the gritty sand with my toes and force myself not to cross my arms over my chest. I didn't really want to go to the nude beach, I was just in a bad mood and wanted to argue. Now though, it feels like a challenge. And you can't say no to a dare.

But Spring Break is almost over, and K flatly refuses to accompany me. I'm not getting naked alone, so the idea is shelved for a while.

I can't exactly remember how it came up again, but given that ultimately it was two of my sorority sisters who decided they wanted to go to a nude beach with me, it seems likely that it involved a drinking game.

"Never have I ever..." I can hear my friend KT semi-slurring, pausing to think of something she hasn't yet done and take a sip of her rum and coke. "Never have I ever been to a nude beach."

A pause. No one is drinking, claiming to have done it.

"Duuuude, I would so be all over that shit," my friend, nicknamed Fish, puts in. "It'd be... nice." Smirking, clearly envisioning something akin to a porno set.

"Yeah, what's the word?" I tease, eyeing her.

"Classy," we finish together. (It's kind of our catch phrase. Case in point: we were recently at a Burberry outlet, and spying a novacheck thong bikini, Fish pointed out to me that although owning a Burberry bikini would be classy, everyone seeing her ass would cancel that out. So you're saying your ass has no class? I ask. "Exactly.")

"No, we seriously should go," KT says. "It would be sweet."

I don't want to be outdone.

"We should so do it over Spring Break. Haulover Beach is pretty near my house."

It's fine as a drunken idea, or something to joke about, but during Spring Break this past week, as Fish and I tentatively walk onto the sand and are greeted by the sight of a 70-year-old and 250-pound man disrobing, it dawns on me that although I expected this in theory, I never quite realized what it would mean. Until now.

"You have to stop laughing," I elbow Fish, and her giggling segues into coughing. She finally takes a deep breath and we walk south on the sand to find a less crowded spot.

Carefully spreading out my towel, I keep my eyes down as I take off my black beach dress and lie on my stomach, still wearing my bright yellow bikini. Reaching around to undo my top, I feel strangely nonchalant. When I slide off my bikini bottom, I feel even less conspicuous and finally look up.

The first thing I see is Fish, totally naked and reading my little sister's copy of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." I find the juxtaposition between completely unsexy Harry Potter and the dozens of naked people around hysterical. Fish rolls her eyes at me and as I look around I consider that actually, most of these people aren't so sexy either.

The vast majority are men in their 60's and older. Their hairy beer guts dwarf defeated-looking penises.

I'm just for decoration now, the freckly penis perched atop what can only be described as thunder thighs laments.

Nearby, a man with a large trident tattoo on his back arranges his beach chair and sits down facing my direction, revealing a huge metal genital piercing. It's at least ten times as thick as a belly button piercing and I wonder how it would be possible for him to have sex with anyone. There's no way it wouldn't get ripped out. I cringe as he blithely starts talking to his friend, who has what looks like a thick silver bracelet around the base of his penis, about fetish parties.

"Yeah, I was out with my video camera looking for some action, but there wasn't that much going on. It's 'cause the party was in Boca, which is, you know, just so Boca. Everyone's all, 'I don't want my kids exposed to that shit!' Fuckers."

Fish nudges me and I look to see a wiry bald man slathering sunscreen on himself while doing what looks like a series of yoga poses.

"Creepy; people are not supposed to be that flexible," I whisper.

"No, not him. Him."

To my left is a tall black man wearing nothing but an ipod, jogging determinedly down the beach. Slapping audibly between his legs is the biggest penis I have ever seen. It has to be at least eight inches, flaccid.

"It's just like, too much," Fish urgently intones. "I'd be like, what am I supposed to do with that shit?"

We've been out for around half an hour, so I decide it's time to flip over. Ha ha, ha ha, I can see you naked, I'm thinking. Two fully clothed guys in their early 20's walk by, and I distinctly hear the word 'titty.' Only then does it occur to me: oh my god, all of these people can see me naked. Their membership in an, if not exclusive, than at least previously consciously selected, group of people startles me. I've never felt insecure about my body in a sexual situation. I figure, if I'm naked in front of a guy, he was obviously attracted to me, so I have nothing to worry about. These people, though, didn't buy me drinks or flatter and cajole; they just happen to be walking by.

After several moments of vowing to live at the gym, I relax and acknowledge that actually, Fish and I are some of the most attractive people there. But I also have to acknowledge that no one really cares. Other than a few stares and two guys asking us for the time, people are keeping to themselves. It's a gorgeous day and I'm on Spring Break: what could be better? I feel more comfortable than I do at other beaches, where girls in designer bikinis loudly gossip while preening for the benefit of preppy guys in board shorts and boring tribal armband tattoos. There's a sort of hush at Haulover Beach that's intoxicatingly relaxing.

The cliche 'it's like seeing him naked,' comes to mind, but it seems untrue. The older couple walking in the surf holding hands; the 30-ish woman sitting in a lawn chair reading a Danielle Steele novel; the deeply tanned surfer hosing himself off and grinning. I've seen all of these people naked, but what do I really know about them?

Several hours later, Fish and I trek back to my car.

"I'm wearing way too much clothing right now," she shakes her head.

"For real." I climb into my car and turn on the air conditioning. "So, what do you wanna do now?"

"Wanna hit the mall? They have some really cute dresses at Banana."


Saturday, March 17, 2007


Technorati Profile

Starting my Technorati account...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Work in Progress

"As long as something is never even started, you never have to worry about it ending. It has endless potential." - Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever


I know I'm being dramatic, and usually I manage to keep it to myself or at least avoid blogging about it. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors, and in that quote she's talking about the perfect love affair; one that exists only in theory. You think you like the guy, you think he might like you, and it's great to think about what might happen. It's easy to work out all of the details in your head and get to moments like your first kiss, or saying 'I love you' in increasingly perfect and impossible ways. Then you might have your first kiss, never hear from him again and realize you were better off just thinking about it.

And maybe if you hadn't told him to go fuck himself when you saw him at a party a couple of months later, you could have been great friends. Personally though, I'm not big on second chances.

* * *

"Ugggh... I can't stand him!" my friend is ranting to me on the phone on a Saturday afternoon, the day after we've gone out with some friends. "It's just so annoying how he talks so loudly and gets all up in your face. I just want to scream at him to SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

I wince at her yelling; my cell phone is cradled between my ear and my shoulder and I'm casually re-painting my nails bright Barbie pink with the Chanel nail polish I expensively impulse-bought around New Year's. (I recently found that I could stop biting my nails if I instead painted them and then methodically chipped it all off. It's called replacement, I think?) I'm passively agreeing with her, but then I surprise both of us as I recap my nail polish and sigh.

"I don't really mind him. Actually, I think he's kind of nice."

My friend says nothing, and I feel a creeping puzzlement coming from the receiver. I have to fill the space.

"I mean, I can totally see why you hate him. I just think... you know... that's the way he is, and if you can get past the volume and the constant New York references, he's really funny. He's cute."

A pause.

"I don't hate him, Amy. He... gets on my nerves. I just thought that you..."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I just..."

"It's okay."

"All right."

"Well, I guess I'll talk to you later."

"Okay, bye."

She's one of my best friends, and it's easy for me to see why she's confused. Usually, if she - or any of my other friends or relatives - hates someone, it's a safe bet that I hate them even more. It's not that I set out to dislike people, it's just that I'm not very forgiving. While my sister L might have, at one point, hated her ex-boyfriend from sophomore year, I still hate him. When my friend K hesitantly told me that she was hanging out with a guy who was once a complete asshole to her, I was not so much appalled as shocked.

"But he apologized," K, somewhat defensively, explained to me, dragging out her words, intoning slowly.

"Good for him! You should have thanked him for apologizing and then politely told him to fuck off. Why should he get to be friends with you after the way he acted?"

We weren't on the same page though. (We rarely are, and I think it's why we get along so well: no conflicting interests.)

"But what does that do for me? I'd much rather have him as a friend than not have him in my life at all."

It's a philosophy that makes me uneasy. If someone is really your friend, shouldn't their behavior be, if not impeccable, then always defensible? It's a nice idea, one that I cling to, but all I have to do is look at my own behavior to know that it isn't true. Should I really have given up that secret in order to impress someone? Was it worth it to make that funny but too cutting remark?

The other night my thoughts drifted to an old friend and how we used to drive around Boca, waiting for something exciting to happen. It never did, but we always had a great time complaining about it and staying up all night talking. She was such a fun person, and gave the best pep talks. If I was having a rough day, I could call her, and without much prompting, she would dish out a 20-minute monologue about what a great person I was. Thinking about it, I had a moment of real loneliness for her that didn't wash away entirely when I remembered our bitter falling out and my cutting her off.

When my most recent ex and I broke up, we didn't see each other for almost five months, and communicated sparsely during that time. It was long enough so that when I did finally run into him, my freshest memories were only positive ones, culled from near the beginning of our relationship. After making very brief small talk, I went back into my house and made myself mentally list all of the reasons why we broke up. I relived each late night argument, a midday shouting match and the despondent phone call that finally pulled the trigger. I felt much worse, but had the gradual realization that I actually didn't hate him.

What the hell?

In the past, my brutal decisiveness and ruthless dismissal of friends was a point of pride. I'm the girl who periodically scrolls through her cell phone contacts and deletes people, enjoying the satisfaction of knowing that I don't have to settle for imperfect friends. Now, it feels more like hypocrisy. So what if K missed my party? I haven't bought her a birthday gift in two years. It feels good not to hate my ex. It's much less time consuming to occasionally remember the good things.

The added gray scale in my black and white thinking initially convinced me that my standards had fallen incredibly low and that I was desperate for friends. It's hard to argue, though, that staying home and feeding my anger is a better way to spend the evening than going out to dinner with a big group of people.

Some relationships can't be repaired, but I'm belatedly realizing that most can be.

* * *

"But if something was really important, fate made sure it somehow came back to you and gave you another chance... Events conspired to bring you back to where you'd been. It was what you did then that made all the difference: it was all about potential." - Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Not in This Lifetime

The fact that I read too many trashy novels, mostly targeted at the 13-to-17-year-old age group, has made me a little overly angsty. Sometimes I record events as they're happening to me in cleverly compact catch phrases, mentally adding punctuation and quotation marks. Then I begin to imagine the rest of the story, just to make things fit a little better. If I actually start out the day by inadvertently straightening my bangs in such a way that they stick out at a 90 degree angle from my forehead, I mentally jump in the shower and dry my hair again, perfectly this time, which makes me late for class. I can't find a parking spot in my usual place and have to park in the commuter lot, which is halfway across campus from my class. As I'm hurrying, I trip and get mud all over myself (it's been raining, although not on me), but it looks cute on me, and as I'm getting back up onto my feet, a tall shadow blocks the scorching sun and a gorgeous guy with long eyelashes and a penchant for Polo's reaches down to help me.

In reality I flipped out at the idea of being less than 10 minutes early, grabbed a headband and forgot my umbrella.

It's not really the idea of the gorgeous guy that does it for me in that scenario. What's more appealing is imagining that I'm a different kind of girl; one who is relaxed and confident and has bouncy, shiny hair. Other girls see me and think ooh, look at her! I have to know where she bought that cute top. But when they ask me, I can't remember. It's not the shirt they want, it's my effortless style. But that's not on sale yet at the Gap, so there can only be one of me. Suckers.

Another daydream takes over as I'm walking from one class to another. The bell tower on campus is ringing out a melody I vaguely recognize and label as classical. The temperature is biting (for someone born in Miami), and as I breathe in the cold air burns me, but in a good way. I'm wearing a wool sweater, and the other native Floridians around me are wearing boots and heavy jackets. I'm walking through a beautiful part of campus, filled with red brick buildings and thick trees, and it's easy for the context of the situation to wash out of my mind. I'm walking through Boston. No, somewhere more collegial. Pennsylvania? I have only postcard notions of what these places are really like, but that seems like enough. I'm on a northern college campus, somewhere busy, and I'm speed walking to meet a professor in his office, who wants my input on an important medical -- no, psychological -- study he is conducting. Sure, maybe I am only 21-years-old, but it's obvious to everyone that I have a brilliant mind and a keen sense of observation, not to mention a killer body and a perfected aura of aloofness. I wish I had time to listen to the a Capella group that's taken up on the quad, but as anyone can see, I'm running a bit late.

Why do I constantly fantasize about being late? Is it because I want someone to cry out, flooded with relief as I try to enter unobtrusively through the back door, Oh thank god you're here!

Fifteen minutes early for my next class, I sit on a bench, rub my right foot and inevitably begin to fantasize about the obvious: what if I weren't disabled?

You probably wouldn't notice my slight limp and sturdy footwear, much less the tension held in the stiff second joint of my right middle finger, or in my slightly raised eyebrows. But often, faking small talk with a friend, the intermittent searing pain in my foot is the only thing about which I can think.

Sometimes the pain takes my thoughts in a more vindictive direction, and I send bitter mental messages to passing girls. Your boots look like you borrowed them from your prostitute mother... I didn't know bondage was in this season. Ugh. Why would you choose to wear sneakers? Yours look more orthopedic than mine. Ooh, those shoes are cute. Too bad they still don't detract from your face! I can't sustain it though, and I begin to imagine what I would be like had my fall merely broken a bone rather than shattering my life.

Shoe shopping would be an indulgence rather than an exercise in damage control. I wouldn't see older women and empathize with their careful steps. I'm unburdened by the periodic depression that accompanies the realization that I have no control over my own body. I might be casually doing anything -- planning a night out with friends without worrying about how far away the parking is or letting my sister guilt me into playing racquetball with her. All of the things that were once merely details have worked themselves into unattainable fantasies. Like calorie-free ice cream or my being a famous actress: it's just not going to happen. And sure maybe there is some disappointment, but what's the big fuss? Right?

It's maybe 10 years in the future and I'm looking at old pictures with my mother. There's one of me in my sophomore year at my sorority's formal, wearing a baby pink dress and a lime green knee-high cast.

"Oh Amy, remember when you broke your foot? That cast was so cute."

"Haha, I know! Everything was pink and green for a month."

Feeling uneasy about my self-involvement, I sometimes force my thoughts in the opposite direction. Picturing myself in a wheelchair, I imagine trying to afford a New York City apartment in a building that has an elevator and the way clients would try to avoid staring at me when I greet them at the glamorous public relations firm that has hired me in an effort to appear non-discriminatory.

Then I might see a person who really is in a wheelchair and I realize that I have no concept of what their life is like.

The thing about fantasies is that they don't have to intersect with reality. Isn't escape the point? Who wants to imagine something that's worse? If I wanted to appreciate what I have, I'd maybe go to temple or do community service.

In my mind, I am doing these things. But the inescapable reality is that I'm destined to be myself.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I absolutely despise this video, and I can't believe I had to watch it in one of my classes... even if we are learning Photoshop:

This one is much, much better: