Tuesday, October 11

Lessons from a newly-minted functioning member of society

Guys, guess what?? I finally became an adult! No, that does not mean I got busted for a crime, had a surprise pregnancy or sat all the way through The English Patient without falling asleep or killing myself. What it means INSTEAD is that I finally moved out of my parents’ house and got my own apartment…all me, just me. Not even a pet. ‘Cause I don’t have $300 plus $20 extra a month to be tacked onto my rent to own a cat. I mean, ‘cause I’m a lone wolf…aaawwOOOOoooo… Ahem…anyway.

So I’ve compiled a list of things I have learned since striking out on my own. You could say that with great responsibility has come great wisdom. But then you’d be terribly misquoting the Spiderman line, so you should probably just say that this had better be good, Ashlee, because you haven’t posted anything in approximately a hugezillion years and I’ve forgotten all about this blog so you’re going to have to coax me back with this ONE POST. No pressure. And we’re off!

  1. Seeing as how the closest I’ve ever come to living alone was having a very introverted homeowner allow me to crash at her house in the summer of 2010, and seeing as how she already had pretty much anything I could need as far as housewares go, I figured out very quickly for myself that THIS CRAP IS EXPENSIVE. I waited this long to move out so I could get “the best” of everything and not have to have hand-me-downs, and I’ve gone through about $3200 in groceries, dish sets, a mattress, a couch, a dining set, living room tables, a TV, a TV stand, lamps, blankets, rugs, cleaning supplies, baking sheets, pans, Tupperware, towels, sheets, and toilet paper. And that’s AFTER my mom was awesome and spent an exorbitant—albeit generous—amount of money in helping me. I started from scratch and IT HURT.

  2. The following movies are banned from your list of things you can watch once you’re living on your own: Taken, Silence of the Lambs, Cellular, Enough, What Lies Beneath, Ransom, Firewall, Panic Room (because you will not have one), any other movie where women are attacked or abducted…and From Justin to Kelly…just ‘cause it was reeeeally bad. Even if you live in an incredibly safe complex where the parking is all full when you get home at one in the morning because people are in bed and not making meth in their kitchen, you haven’t heard a gunshot (you’re pretty sure) since you moved in, no one has keyed your car after you got the best parking space and it was pouring rain, and the guys on the 3rd floor balcony stopped staring you down after a mere 14 times of you walking in from your vehicle, you will still gain a new sense of terror at being a single girl in a big apartment without even a guard-gerbil. (little known fact: gerbils are excellent watch-animals. And I DON’T EVEN HAVE ONE. Yeah, they were used in WWII to guard the Nazi work camps at night…totally 100% verified. *finishes Wikipedia page to back up made-up fact*) Aaaand we’re back. Living in a safe apartment building filled with nice Hispanic families and couples quietly shacking up together will not stop you from locking your door in between each trip back out to your car to get all of your grocery bags, or almost severing your arm in an attempt to grab your keys out of the lock and shut the door before someone in the completely deserted hallway forces their way in behind you and turns you into a Lifetime movie-of-the-month.

  3. You might develop a slight case of paranoia…which is not paranoia if it’s totally justified.

  4. Things look a little different when you’re paying for everything. You lose a lot of weight because you don’t want to open the fridge and waste electricity. You will leave your iPod plugged in or run your sound machine all night but you rethink running the microwave…does a hot dog REALLY need to be cooked all the way through? You debate whether you really need to go to the bathroom after dark. And it turns out you can do a lot of everyday things without the lights on. Who needs light to wash dishes, straighten hair, put on makeup, or read? Old people are very jealous of this talent. “You’ve got such young eyes,” they say. Thank you, Grandma. Yes I do. And now that I’ve finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix using only the glow of my alarm clock for light, I only need to squint a LITTLE to see road signs in broad daylight. Also, you find that cable and Internet get too much credit. Internet? That’s what Panera Bread is for! Who needs to update Facebook more than once a week? It’s not like you have tons of news after moving into a new place or anything. It’s FUN to have 57 notifications every time you log on. These are the lies you will tell yourself to keep from taking a knife to your throat. …Although it probably wouldn’t be a successful suicide, what with the lights off.

  5. You discover whether you are ACTUALLY a slob or if, deep down and too scared of the piles of clothes to come out of hiding, you have a semi-competent housekeeper inside you. This will be revealed the first time you make a meal (I use the term “meal” very loosely, as it really should read “grilled cheese, strawberry Jell-O, a Poptart, and a tumbler of cheap white wine”). You will either leave the skillet on the stove and the spatula-flipper-thingy in the sink, or you will have an epiphany. “If I don’t clean up my shiz-nit [paraphrase], no one else is going to.” No one is going to yell at you to wash your brownie pan but then begrudgingly do it anyway because it’s taking up her whole sink and even though she raised you better than that she’s a longsuffering mother and wife. Nope, that’s you now…only without the wife or mother part...and you’re not really suffering either. Point is, you’re now the vacuumer, toilet cleaner, laundry folder, and brownie-pan-washer. Lucky you. You can either rise to the challenge and enjoy the fact that Mommy doesn’t hold your hand anymore, or you can become one of those people on Hoarders that thought the scuttling under your mountain of five-year-old newspapers and used Kleenex’s was probably just the cat you lost six years ago…until the cleaners find that cat flattened under your bed/table/couch/toilet. For the record, I rose to the occasion, even BEFORE I ate my meal…because even without cable, that wretched show sticks with you. Bleck.

  6. There are about a million and six ways of preparing an egg, and all of them are fast, cheap, easy (except for Eggs Benedict—Hollandaise, are you kidding me right now?), and pretty much taste all exactly the same, so you’re really just changing the shape and texture of the egg to tell your brain that your diet is full of variety and so that, if asked, you can cook “a whole bunch of things.” Also, grilled cheese and soup is highly underrated. You can eat these every day, even if you didn’t just come in from making a fort on a snow-day. Go ahead, cut the crusts off and slice it into quarters. Your guard-gerbil will not judge you.

  7. If at all possible, find a place that has something amazing called “radiant heat.” …I think that’s the name. All that the feeble-minded women like myself need to know about this is that it means there are no vents in the ceiling or the floor for heat. There are pipes in the floor instead, which is great. You can’t hear anything from your upstairs neighbor except occasional footsteps. There’s no blaring music, no crying kids, no sounds of people doing the no-pants dance, no trumpet practice, no screaming at people halfway around the globe because your Marine unit got blown up by some Latvians while you were trying to get supplies from a tank…er…supply transport…yeah I’m pretty ignorant of these military video game things…so…WMD’s, Desert Storm, Panzers, and, uh…OO-RAH. Anyway, point being that it’s blessedly quiet because there are no vents anywhere. Although maybe the vents have nothing to do with it and my upstairs neighbor is just very quiet because he’s breeding cockroaches to put into the ears of his victims after he carves lines from The Iliad into their backs to lead the FBI on a wild chase until he finishes his twisted mission from the devil and uses me as his final work of sick art. …See bullet point #3. So, yeah, the radiant heat thing is nice.

  8. When you go grocery shopping (as you really should do, since eggs are great but even they need to be replenished, and it’s hard to take them in to work every day), you will probably go a little crazy buying all your favorite things, because YOU FINALLY CAN! You can buy Pop-Tarts and Count Chocula cereal and bacon and perogies and Jell-O and cheese…so much cheese. You will quickly discover, however, that you probably shouldn’t binge on all these things in the first few days, because once all your favorite things are GONE, you don’t have the fallback plan of your mother’s crappy health food that is at least better than nothing. You just have nothing. So, if you don’t want to find a new thing that you have to restock every other day, probably go a little easy on the “I can buy any food I want and eat as much as I want at all hours of the day” approach. A 2nd shift job is a great way to make sure this happens. I get off work at 12:30am, so I might have a small snack at home while winding down with The Office reruns, then I go to bed at 3am, get up at noon, eat a real meal (cereal, toast and orange juice—yes, my noontime meal is breakfast; don’t judge), go to work at 2:30—where I can’t snack because my college degree has apparently given me just enough skill and experience to work in a factory—and I get a 20-minute lunch break which is just enough time to scarf down a Lean Cuisine or some Mac n’ Cheese (surprisingly not that bad for you in the normal serving size...which is not a whole box, unfortunately). So on a good day where I get all the meals I am physically able to get, I eat two meals-ish. Not square meals, not fancy, and not deliciously greasy. In this way, you don’t go through many groceries and you actually stop resembling a sausage still wrapped in its casing. …Aaaand now I’m adding sausage to the grocery list.

Monday, January 24

Things I will not be telling my kids if I ever want them to believe I'm cool

Embarrassing moments. Like farts, we all have them; some people have no problem talking about them, and others are a bit more private about them. I keep my farts a secret, but I WILL tell you some of my most embarrassing moments. How's THAT for an A+ introduction?!? My high school English professor might have written next to this, "Crude, but effective." Thaaaat's me!

My freshman year of college, I stayed out past curfew (that's right, curfew at college) so I could stay late after a concert and hang out with the band. They were from my school anyway, but they were still Indie rock stars (in my eyes) and therefore infinitely cool. We went to the equally infinitely cool but also very classy International House of Pancakes, because even in the "big city" that's the only thing open past 11. I have said on this blog before that I learn all my humor from funnier people, and that was especially true my freshman year. I hadn't quite learned the subtle art of stealing STYLE of humor...no, I preferred the easier method of directly quoting lesser-known comedians without credit. People assumed it was my material, and I gladly let them. I tended to be overshadowed by my even more outgoing and much funnier friends, so any leg-up I could get was incredibly helpful. We sat across from the lead singer, a very gangly, redheaded, quiet, inexplicably-godlike guy who could sing the ugly off a Klingon woman. Yeah, that good. Seriously, if you see a picture you won't get it, but somehow he's really hot. So I decided now would be a fantastic time to show off my totally original comedy. I said, "But really, I don't get why they call it 'IHOP.' I never leave here feeling like hopping. Shouldn't they call it, 'I...barely move' or 'I...need a wheelbarrow'?" And I got a really good laugh out of it from friends and band members alike. Then Corey softly, almost hesitantly, chimes in with, "Didn't a comedian say that?" Tennis-match style, everyone swivels to look at me. "Uh...yeah," I croak. "It was Jim Gaffigan. Thanks, Corey." Then I proceeded to turn 6 shades of red and get a flash of my future, filled with disappointment and disillusionment as a humorist. CBFF Christi still tells that story to anyone who starts to think I'm sort of funny...or anyone who will listen to her if I start to think I might be funny.

I currently sell furniture at a major company in Michigan. One day I was showing a man a bedroom set for his spare room, and he asked me to figure out the price on the whole group, but he wasn't going to buy it that day. If we know they're not going to buy that day we have to get a second person to try to convince them to buy it then, or at least to give them two people's names to hopefully remember when (if) they come back in. So I got an older man named Bill who has been there about twenty years. Bill chatted him up for a bit while I got the prices written down on my card, and I put Bill's name on the card as well. I handed it to the man, showed him both our names for when he came back, and he said, "Could you write down some identifiers too?" Confused, I said, "Sure," and took the card back. I looked at it for a second and next to Bill's name I wrote, "Older man w/ glasses" and next to my name I wrote, "Young, dark hair" and showed him what I'd written. He looked at it straight-faced and said, "That's great. ...Could you also write down what the furniture looks like?"

We had a male gym teacher in high school who also taught Bible classes, history classes, coached soccer (JV and Varsity, both the boys' and the girls' teams), and was married to the Physics/Chemistry/Earth Science teacher/volleyball coach. Yeah, it was a small school. Seniors babysat their kid in the halls during their afternoon classes. His favorite thing to do was have us play indoor soccer. It didn't take much organization, we all knew the rules, he could sit in the corner and watch videos of the boys' games, and his girls could practice for spring season. I had discovered the awesome and oh-so-cool tearaway pants, and since they were PANTS I didn't see a reason to wear shorts under them. That's just begging to sweat through your underwear and get some serious swass* that you'd have to deal with for the rest of the school-day. BFF Cori told me on a few occasions that I should wear shorts, but I would not. I was going to march to the beat of my own drum, be a unique butterfly that intimidated people and that's why I never got asked out, and other cliches my mom told me during the 9.7 years I was in my awkward stage. While playing indoor soccer one day, I ran after the ball (which meant all eyes were on me), and hooked my thumb between two of the snaps accidentally, thereby revealing to everyone the utility and efficiency of tearaway pants...and also my underwear. I instantly collapsed like a rag doll, desperately trying to reattach a few of the snaps and possibly disappear into the floor as well. Unsure whether to laugh or cry hysterically, I settled for shaky laughter and misty eyes. Unfortunately, our teacher occasionally looked up from his soccer tapes and chose those few minutes as a good time to check in on our game. We didn't make eye contact for a week.

*Update: I realize I never explained "swass." This is what my coworker Tom affectionately calls "swamp ass," or the point in the day when you're sweating enough that your damp underwear begins to chafe your buttocks. And it's very uncomfortable. And apparently he gets it a lot at work. Because he sweats like my mom during a hot flash.