At Least It's A Good Story

Mary Poppins Problems

The inner contents of your purse are hereditary. We work with the hand bag we’re dealt.

Bound by a legacy in which your mother treated her purse like a trough, your own bags now serve as the storage vessel for silverware, tampons, receipts, old apples, nine tweezers and at least one burgeoning airborne disease.

Such disorganization both figuratively and literally spills into the rest of your home, which at any one time is host to between six and nine plastic grocery bags full of loose papers and napkins.

Fortunately, you have the wherewithal to always keep one very important envelope in your desk drawer, the contents of which include your car title, social security card and passport. Easy to find for owner and burglar alike.

Days of yore when you knew where you passport was.

Days of yore when I knew where my passport was.

But with a trip to Europe less than two months away, you decide to pay your passport a visit. Just double-check it’s still there and simultaneously confirm you haven’t been the victim of a beautifully executed home invasion.

You walk into your bedroom, open the desk drawer and fumble around for the envelope. Odd. It must be on the left side.

A few minutes later, the contents of both drawers are spilled onto your floor and you’re working your way through a small stroke. But hey—no need to panic. There are still eight bags full of papers to work your way through.

Beginning calmly enough, the process quickly devolves into you hunched under a lamp, examining something you’re positive is a bed bug. Upon further inspection, an apple seed. Equally unnerving, no actual apple found.

You make your way into the kitchen and stress-pound three pecan swirls. If you choke to death, it won’t matter where your personal effects are hiding.

Get your shit together, you tell yourself, recalling a quote from the late Maya Angelou. “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

Maya would not associate herself with someone who handles such challenges by single-handedly keeping the Tastykake corporation afloat.

You eat one more pecan swirl and heroically return to the task at hand. With all grocery bags dumped and sorted, your next job is looking through each of the 250 books you own—the place you once hid your passport many years ago.

You reason that the passport must be hidden in the most boring book on the shelf, a place no friend, foe or armed criminal would ever look. Naturally, you go straight for the Norton Anthology of English Literature.

“Burn in Hell, you piece of college garbage!” you whimper, the book as useless and passport-devoid as it was when you were a sophomore.

An hour later, you’ve combed through every novel you own. And while you still can’t find your passport, you did come across your best friend’s book—the one you swore up and down to her you did not have.

You retreat to your bedroom closet, sit on the floor and begin crying like the grown-ass 28-year-old woman who you are. Your back hurts, the apartment is a disaster and some woman in Nebraska is most definitely refinancing a mortgage in your name.

Eyes closed and teetering on the edge of insanity, you recall a distant memory—your elementary school librarian soothing distraught children who couldn’t find the books they had checked out. “You didn’t lose it,” she’d always say, “you just misplaced it.”

An explanation any reasonable TSA agent would understand.

With the spirit of Mrs. Swisher’s words guiding you, you suddenly notice the set of plastic storage drawers tucked against the closet wall. You open the second drawer, move a piece of paper, the clouds lift and there it is—your passport, social security card and car title.

Mother, mother, mother.

Break the Glass Ceiling. Or Just the Glass.

There comes a time in every young life when you must throw a dinner party for your friends. It’s a rite of passage, similar to finally admitting that it wasn’t the two Blue Moons that “made you” get a double cheeseburger at 2 a.m.–it was just your sober, fat ass.

You’re not what one would call a “cook,” but you also have $117 in clearance holiday dishware from an ill-fated Target run last December. It’s burning a hole in your cabinet, and now’s as good a time as any to whip it out.

Alexandria, Va. / December 2014

Alexandria, Va. / December 2014

After doling out three coveted invitations, your next step is settling on a menu. W.W.B.L.D, you ask yourself. What would Blake Lively do? Then you realize you don’t have 900 hours, a glue gun and a parmesan grater to devote to the affair, and settle on a trusty pork tenderloin.

Having never shopped for loins of any kind, a significant amount of time is spent in the meat aisle, paralyzed with indecision. “Do I get, like, the log?” is spoken, via phone, to your best friend.

Log eventually in hand, you nail down Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes for your sides. A homemade chocolate cinnamon pudding to cleanse the palate.

When the day of the dinner party rolls around–talk of one guest bringing a back-up pork loin rattling your confidence–you create a Beautiful Mind timetable for each dish. It’s a shit load to keep track of.

Things begin rather seamlessly, but you soon realize the only measuring device in your possession is a one-fourth tablespoon. This does not bode well.

As the hours march on, physically exhausted from at one point measuring 14 one-fourth tablespoons of an ingredient, you face your next demon: The potato peeler. Burdened with very large hands tasked with holding very small potatoes, the peeling is nearly impossible, Your hand has taken on a permanent claw formation, and multiple slips have left two of your fingernails significantly chipped. A piece of one may or may not be in the potatoes. Who’s to really say.

Despite feeling dangerously overheated and in need of a back brace, all else is fairly seamless and your guests arrive to a holiday wonderland. The simultaneous delivering of dishes has always been a weakness of yours, and there’s danger of the meal turning into a tapas sitch–one dish brought out at a time–but the show must go on.

Cold potatoes

Cold potatoes

Your guests help themselves and insist their initial bites are quite good, but there’s a murmuring of lukewarm mashed potatoes. “No,” you proclaim, spooning everyone’s individual mashed potato servings into a communal bowl and shoving it into the microwave, “you will not eat cold potatoes. But…sorry about the lumps.”

Doled back out into individual, and now very much mixed and contaminated, servings, the potatoes are of a pleasing temperature and no one is yet ill from the loin.

Excited to show everyone your pudding creation–each serving held in a decorative martini glass–you open the refrigerator and watch the first martini glass fall onto the floor and shatter into pieces. To be sure, there is glass everywhere, but miraculously, only the stem and bottom are broken. The martini glass itself is still intact, though very possibly riddled with shards of glass.

“I’ll eat from this one,” a martyr somewhere deep within you offers.

And that’s when you understand what being a host is all about.

great people do things before they’re ready. (amy poehler)

F*** Your Fear

Always Be Yourself…But Don’t Expect to Date

Sweet 19 and never been dated, as the saying goes.

But things are different now–you’re in college, with a fresh crop of uninterested guys ripe for the picking. And what better place to be rejected at the next educational tier than at your first Halloween party.

University of Mary Washington / October 2004 / At Least It's a Good Story

University of Mary Washington / October 2005 / At Least It’s a Good Story

Brimming with the misguided hope of an East Coast autumn romance, you travel to a dilapidated building where your school’s one underground frat is hosting this October soiree. It’s the kind of place that serves as a welcome reminder to update your Tetanus shots, but, hey, COLLEGE!

Unfortunately, your toothpaste costume isn’t the…hit…you anticipated. Nor is it drawing the male attention you’re seeking. “What are the chances,” you say to yourself, scanning the room, “that this year’s most popular costume is a slut?!” What a coincidence!

Furthermore, you start to realize that when presented with a tube of toothpaste or said loose women, college boys pick the latter. This epiphany most clearly manifests itself as two drunk dudes start Night At The Roxbury’ing you, your felt-covered body getting bounced back and forth in a drunken sandwich as one guy begins chanting, “Squeeze the tube! Squeeze the tube!”

You manage to escape the human pinball machine, only to inform one illiterate classmate that no, you’re not a lamp shade. Hence the CREST written on your body.

Costume in shambles from all the manhandling, you decide to call it a night. You got a main squeeze–just not the kind you wanted.

Get Your Life Together

It’s your 26th birthday. Naturally, you want to spend it by roadtripping to the City of Brotherly Love with your BFF in search of large roadside attractions. As the saying goes, ‘A day of a giant cellophane-encased Tastykake apple pie brings a year of good luck.’ (Unknown)

Maryland / October 2012 / At Least It's A Good Story

Maryland / October 2012 / At Least It’s A Good Story

But as you set off, you can’t help but notice that your front tire looks a little low on air. Fortunately, you’re a modern gal who wears slacks and knows how to use an air pump. Nothing a quick trip to Exxon can’t fix!

Yet as you’re filling your tire, the problem appears to be getting worse. One more mile down the road and it becomes quite clear–you’re rocking a flat.

The Verdict

The Verdict

After dropping the car off at a nearby auto shop, you spend the next two hours waiting in what can only be described as a trailer designed for conjugal visits. Sitting on a stained, grossly oversized La-Z-Boy sofa and watching The Price is Right is a sobering way to usher in your new year; one that hardly screams, ‘Your soulmate is right around the corner.’ A rat, perhaps–but not a soulmate.

But turns out there is something more sobering: Learning two hours later that–after a thorough inspection–there was nothing wrong with your vehicle. You were just so inept with the pump that you didn’t fill your tire, but rather drained it of all remaining air.

Haaaaa-py birth-dayyyyy to youuuuuu.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

When your mom tells you it’s time to clean out your childhood bedroom, you have no choice but to cry a little for no reason, then drive your grown-ass, 27-year-old self home for the weekend.

Upon arrival, you’ll face your demons. More specifically, 36 of them. Your porcelain doll collection takes up the majority of your room, and though you’ve since been cured of this frightening addiction, you could never bear the thought of tossing them. These are human beings, for God’s sake!

Maryland / July 2014 / At Least It's a Good Story

Maryland / July 2014 / At Least It’s a Good Story

And then you look at your mother, utterly exhausted from spending nearly three decades dusting 36 velvet hats, muffs and overcoats, and you realize it’s time to grow up.

“Just get rid of them all,” you announce, completely shutting down inside. “Except the Anne of Green Gables dolls! But everything else, get rid of. I don’t care.”

But having birthed you–and once also cleaning shit out of your underwear after an accident at the movie theater–Mom can sense you’re not quite ready to let go.

Being the angel that she is, she’ll suggest you just box them up for now. The selling of said dolls–human trafficking, if we’re all being honest with ourselves–can be handled at a later date.

Straight up serial killer.

Straight up serial killer.

As you’re contorting various porcelain limbs into cardboard boxes, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Why can’t you Idina up and let it go?

And then, a few minutes later, you see your Mom hunched over your dresser, holding a little something special of her own. Turns out she’s been saving your wisdom teeth for the past decade.

The demented apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

Pie Waits For No Man

Some families enjoy a good wine tasting, hopping from vineyard to vineyard on a sunny afternoon. But your family enjoys a good bakery. As in, bakery after bakery after bakery.

So when you drive past a long line forming outside of a church pie sale one August, smack dab in the middle of Maine blueberry season, your natural instinct will be to pull the vehicle over with NASCAR-esque precision and speed.

One of your three travel companions has done something horrible in a past life and is now paying the price as a gluten-free Celiac. The other two enjoy traditional baked goods, but maybe don’t share your…intensity.

After exiting the vehicle and joining the back of the line, you see a woman emerge from the church hall and inform everyone that the doors will open in 10 minutes. First come, first served.

Bar Harbor, Maine / August 2013 / At Least It's a Good Story

Bar Harbor, Maine / August 2013 / At Least It’s a Good Story

With your team in place, you huddle up and begin delegating assignments like Monica wedding-dress shopping in “Friends.” When the doors open, everyone is to fan out and begin searching for blueberry pie–ideally, with exquisite lattice work and crumbles on top of the crust. When said pies are located, each individual is to stand guard until three blueberry pies can be narrowed down to one. If time remains, a second pie of an unknown flavor may also be grabbed.

What hiking trips are all about.

What hiking trips are all about.

Once inside, you find yourself pushing past church parishioners as if you’re trying to secure a spot on the final Titanic lifeboat. The next few moments are a whirlwind, throwing open lid after lid on each pie box to assess the crust work.

Five minutes later, you exit with the most beautifully crafted blueberry pie known to man. And a key lime, to boot. You’re not quite sure what went down in there–you may have killed someone, or gouged out the Reverend’s eye balls. Who’s to say?

All you know is you have two pies in your possession. And that in the heat of the moment, you signed up for a church lobster bake.


Don’t Stalk Julia Roberts

Between the years 1998-2004, you may have had a somewhat disturbing and inexplicable obsession with Julia Roberts. As in, collected every magazine cover on which she appeared, recorded every interview on various loose VHS tapes, memorized her unauthorized biography, cried when she broke up with Benjamin Bratt, and organized an extremely frightening binder full of newspaper clippings–the cover of which included cut-out letters from magazines that spelled ‘America’s Sweetheart: The woman with the million-dollar smile.’ For your 14th birthday, you even had a cake with Julia Roberts’ face screen-printed on the top.

Perhaps most concerning of all, you were never apprehended by the authorities.

Fast forward to 2013. Now an arguably normal 27-year-old with no serial-killer binders dedicated to female movie stars in your possession, you’ll travel to New Mexico with a friend. But old habits die hard.

Taos, New Mexico / December 2013 / At Least It's a Good Story

Taos, New Mexico / December 2013 / At Least It’s a Good Story

As you’re headed toward Taos, you can’t help but remember that Julia spends a good portion of her time on a ranch just outside of town. You’re not in New Mexico to stalk Julia Roberts, and you want to be respectful of her privacy–but the 14-year-old in you also wants to watch her move from room to room in her home while perched in a nearby tree. The 27-year-old in you really wants to, too.

As such, you’ll spend the next 30 minutes Googling a smattering of phrases to the effect of ‘Driving directions to Julia Roberts’ private home in Taos.’ When nothing of the sort is found, you’ll resort to visiting every quilting shop in town. Everyone knows J. Ro. loves to work a pair of needles while on set.

Although Julia is nowhere to be found, you’ll eventually acknowledge the hidden blessing in it all. Some dreams are best left unrealized; some collages of Julia Roberts’ face best left under your childhood bed.

The Secret Garden Was Less Secret

A hostel is no place for three young gals to spend five months in Ireland. (Did I or did I not just warn you all about Waterfalls in Tip 32?!) Thus, you’ll arrive in Galway looking for your forever home.

The challenge is that the Irish urban planners of yore were constantly wasted. As such, there are three 4 McDonough Drives in the city center alone. So when you see an ad in the Galway Advertiser for a house at this very address, you’ll spend the next 19 hours looking for it. And just for fun, it will pour the entire time. And your umbrella will break, because why not.

Approximately 10 hours into your house hunting, you’ll call the landlord and ask for help. But when dear, sweet Tom answers the phone, he’ll inform you that–funny story–he’s not at the house where you’re supposed to meet him, he’s actually at the pub. But hey, relax–there’s a key in the rafters above the door. You can just let yourselves in and have a look.

And you can drown in your pint, Tom.

Galway / June 2008 / At Least It's a Good Story

Galway / June 2008 / At Least It’s a Good Story

Once under the doorway of the correct home, you’ll face your next character-building challenge: How the HELL will you get the keys down?

You’ll reason that Liz is the lightest of the three, and as such, she’ll have to climb on your back and get the keys. You’re the base in this cheerleader pyramid, no questions asked. In an equally important role, Bridget will need to take your camera and capture the experience.

With Liz’s legs dangling around your neck, you’ll launch her skyward. The next 10 minutes will be spent alternatively laughing hysterically–Liz threatening to “piss all the way down your back”–and listening to her piece together a masterful string of expletives as she runs her hands along the “cockroach-infested” rafters.

So just do yourselves a favor and stop looking. You’ll sooner find the requisite licks to the center of a Tootsie pop.

Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

The single most important thing you learn in your mid-twenties is that cheap pitchers are the Devil’s work. Unfortunately, you’ll find yourself in Barcelona in your early twenties.

More specifically, you’ll find yourself on the hostel rooftop, purchasing a pitcher of Sangria for three euros. ‘What a deal!’ you’ll say to your friends. ‘Let’s each buy a pitcher!’

Oh you sweet, naive cherubs.

The man selling pitchers of Sangria / Barcelona / August 2008 / At Least It's a Good Story

The man selling pitchers of Sangria / Barcelona / August 2008 / At Least It’s a Good Story

Pitchers in hand, you’ll join a group of fellow travelers from around the globe in an impromptu game of Waterfalls. TLC was all ‘Don’t go chasin’ and you’re all ‘I wanna chase, T-Boz!’

Unfortunately one of your new teammates is a Finnish woman with no sense of self-control. Furthermore, she’s chugging straight from a handle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, intent on destroying her body with mass quantities of lactose. So you’ll think, hey, what’s a little Sangria?! It’s got fruit!

Halfway down Satan’s wormhole, a very attractive Welsh gentleman will begin speaking to you. The conversation’s off to a good start, but then you’ll realize you’re going to vomit in approximately 28 seconds.

“Hey…umm, I’ll be right back,” you’ll say, before doing a surprisingly calm yet incredibly frantic run-walk to the hostel bathroom. Hanging out on all fours, you’ll finally get why the game is called Waterfalls. Four waterfalls, to be specific.

Your friends will find you in the bathroom half an hour later, your jean skirt now intimately involved with the tile floor. But what’s that? They’re not ready to the end the night!

So instead of making sure you’re OK, they’ll walk you back to your co-ed hostel room and leave you in there with two Danish men occupying the other set of bunks. But wait–good friend alert–they’ll also set your phone alarm for 2 a.m., at which point they’ll ask that you send confirmation, via text, that you haven’t choked to death on your own vomit. You guuyyyyssss!

But hey, lesson learned. You gotta stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. Like, three hard ciders, max.