Author: clairedunderman

Declare the pennies on your (crying) eyes

People have a lot of gripes about growing up, but something that you really have to experience for yourself is how routine your life becomes once you graduate college. If you have a job and a lease, then there isn’t really any drastic fluctuation, unless a huge life-altering event happens. This is contrasted by college, where a best friend getting a boyfriend could alter the course of your bar-hopping scene.

With adult life, this is not so much the case. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a year and a half, but even when I was single and employed, I quickly realized how little I was seeing my friends compared to college life. Even when I was an intern, I would see my friends almost every day in the city. 

But it’s just that. We were interns. Interns have programs and have their hands held. When you have a job, you need to figure shit out. Not everyone, unfortunately, that you hold dear is going to stay near. People will live in different boroughs, different states, different parts of the country. Or, even if they live a town over, their lives could be on a completely different schedule than yours.

Another part of this increasingly sense of established routine is that my crying outbursts have, well, been not as eventful. Or if I do cry, it’s about something legitimate, which, for writing purposes, is boring if it isn’t a tragic event. Crying about trying to work out a new lease? An understandable thing to be stressed about, but who wants to read about signing forms and going to the bank for a cashier’s check? It’s just not as fun as a dog eating my muffing during class.

But, saying that, despite the “adultness” surrounding my life, the flame of innocent hysteria has never gone out (ask my boyfriend or my family). I still have my eccentric thought process and racing mind. I still intake stimulus very fully and react just as equally fully. And, sometimes, like last night, I revert to an emotionally younger sense of self.

This year was the first year that I at least participated in my taxes. My dad always did them, but I marked “doing your taxes” as the final stage to becoming an adult (hence the hesitation, I didn’t want to give up my youthful sensibility). But, now that I am living a more adult experience (still am on my parent’s health care, though), I figured, “Hey, now is the time to do it, right?”

Dad walked me through the process, which was surprisingly not too overwhelming. We used Turbo Tax and the step-by-step program was easy to navigate. I plugged in the info and after about a half hour, we were done! There! I did it! I was now officially an adult (kinda)!

I forgot about it for a week and then last night, in bed, my eyes flew open and there I was, my mind going a million miles an hour 

I had committed tax fraud.

I had committed tax fraud.

I must’ve forgotten some detail. I was sure if it. I couldn’t think of anything, but I probably did something wrong.  

There was no way around it. I was going to get audited. Kyle’s best friend did audits and he probably would think that it was fraud too. I was living a lie. My parents would have to deal with the horrors of me behind bars. I had failed them.

I immediately called my brother.

Who was younger than me and had never done taxes.

“Claire… the IRS isn’t going to care if your forgot a small thing. You did your taxes with Dad. You’re okay, you need to sleep.”

It didn’t matter that it was my brother. At this point, people who know me well enough have adapted to my Mom’s Narrative. This is the line of sayings one needs to iterate to me when I am having a patented Claire Moment. Grant took on the role of Mom in that moment.

“You’re fine.”

“Claire. You’re fine,” is what people sequentially said to me the next day when they woke up to my frantic texts.

When the anxiety dust settled, I had to laugh at myself. In a strange way, I was relieved. I thought that now that I was an adult, my worrying was now all legitimate and I had no safety net. But asking your brother about your taxes that your dad helped you to complete? I realized that the safety net was still there. Not everything I worry about is going to make or break me. The situations were just a little different.

Sarcastic diagnosis and emotional growth

The time had come for me to get a checkup. These past recent months I had been having anxiety symptoms manifest themselves as physical symptoms, such as tingling.
As I walked into the doctor’s office, I was handed a form that was a packet of questions about my health. There were checkboxes and lines for listing symptoms and I was in heaven. At last I was going to get it all out, to release my inner demons onto page instead of in a text that would surely get the response: “No, Claire, it’s not a blood clot.”
I felt like I was back in high school filling out my European AP written exam – everyone else hated it, but I relished it. I wrote side comments to the checkboxes and questions in the comments section. I went to town.
After forty minutes of scribbling my symptoms away, I waited and eventually got called to go in the room.
You can imagine the appointment being a fairly regular experience. I was nervous but I kept my cool, and I talked a mile a minute listing off everything that had been worrying me.
My doctor, like everyone else, rolled her eyes at me.
“You’re twenty-two,” she said in her Eastern European accent. “You can handle everything. I wish I was feeling what you’re feeling.”
But, she wasn’t cold with me as she explained the ways I could reduce stress in my life.
“If you drink a lot, maybe your body doesn’t like alcohol,” she said. “Then just stop drinking, it’s okay.”
Obviously she had just met me.
As I was finishing my checkup, she told me that I was going to get my blood drawn. I tensed up, thinking about the incident with the IV. She left the room and I waited, controlling my breathing and sitting. My memory of waiting for the IV to be inserted and then my crying and the oral doctor getting angry at me only was beginning to manifest as the medical assistant came into the room.
“Hi, I just want you to know that I get nervous with things like this,” I said immediately.
She played along with making small talk about the city and even though I kept my focus on the ceiling, I looked down at her getting the kit ready.
“I’m not going to look,” I said.
“No, don’t look,” she said.
As she put the needle in, I stopped mid-sentence, feeling elated and my smile spreading across my face.
“I’m doing it!” I exclaimed. “Oh this is such a big thing for me, I had a panic attack when I tried getting my wisdom teeth out last year and this means that I can do it!”
I was getting choked up with hope and pride, feeling as if I could conquer the world.
“That’s very good,” the medical assistant said motherly.
Once she finished up I did feel a bit light-headed (getting worked up over my medical accomplishments) and as I put my head down on the cot, I laughed and giggled and breathed easier and deeper, relief allowing me to relax my muscles and mind.
I signed out and left the building, knowing that I had done something that everyone has to do, and something that was very easy to do. But the mind can trick us into thinking there’s some dark narrative about to be written about our lives. Today I wasn’t reading that book.

Winning the heart of a cat and memories of the stalking squirrel

I went to meet my new feline companion the other day. After moving into this new apartment, I set a goal for myself to befriend my new roommate’s cat. The cat, named Chloe, esteemed with the long fifteen years she has achieved, approached me. Her wizened, stoic face looked up at me.

This is my chance, I thought. I can become part of your world. I can show you that I belong.

I stuck out my hand, my fingers lingering in front of her nose.

Chloe, however, is no curious puppy. Nay, not even a lazy pug. She did not like this foreign object.

She looked me in my eyes, furious. She pawed my hand away, her disgust thick in a raspy hiss.

I was fortunate that she had been declawed some time ago, but I was stunned. Here I was, thinking I was making considerable progress. But no, she just wanted a reason to hate me and I gave it to her.

Fortunately, this was not the worst attack I have suffered. The greatest feat I dealt with was when I was in Alaska on a summer family trip during my middle school years.

The day felt brisk – we had spent the day hiking in Juneau. We were finishing up our tour of the nature with sifting for gold. There was a gift shop next to our sifting station. After the reenactment activities, the rest of my family went inside the shop. I lingered outside and looked up at the sky, brilliantly blue and clear.

I did not realize, however, that my presence severely pissed off a local rodent resident.

I looked down to my right and saw the squirrel that still haunts my nightmares. On its hind legs, its bulging and black eyes looked into mine and it started walking towards me.

I took a step back, but the squirrel’s intentions were cruel and understood perfectly. I started to back away faster, but it gained momentum. I began to feel a numb dread, my chest weighing heavily. I started to run to the gift shop door. It ran as well, gaining ground.

Fortunately, I reached inside before the rabies-filled stalker put its grubby paws on me.

Shaken up and beginning to tear up, I grabbed my dad and told him of the horrors of the rogue squirrel. Of course, my brother and sister walked by and thought this was oh so funny, but they didn’t have to endure the horrors I did.

When we left, I walked closely behind my dad, watching the bushes intently for the evil squirrel. Thankfully, I was spared another horrific interaction. To this day, however, I speed up a little when I see one of those damned creatures on the sidewalk.

Now when I see Chloe, I feel grateful that it was merely a soft punch of stuffed-animal-like creature rather than a disgusting rat-thing. I nod to her as she remains curled on the couch, the legend herself bathing in sunlight.

I will respect you, cat. I think to her. And maybe one day you will respect me.

There’s No Crying in Baseball! And probably not bleeding.

This past spring, I had this weird thing with my allergies. Also, I’m one now of those people that can say that, “I have allergies.” I was one of those golden children that grew up having nothing to worry about when pollen hit the air. My brother, on the other hand, had a very difficult time when spring came around. He had to get through spring, man.

Regardless, I blame Los Angeles. I never had any allergies. Then I spent that semester there and notonly did I have strep throat for about a month (partially my fault because it wasn’t until week two when I thought, “oh! Let’s stop by Minute Clinic” and then finally checked up on myself), but I also had allergies. My God, it was hard to breathe in the city of perpetual spring. Was this what I had been missing my whole life? Please, I don’t need to start now.

But it had started. A year later, despite being back on the East Coast, the dreaded nasal drudgery followed me into March and April.

It followed me right up until I found out about my current position at the MLB Network.

When I got the phone call that informed me that I would be joining the department, I, of course, immediately called home after I had heard the news. I had only a brief window of time, though, considering I got the call about the position seconds before entering the Delta Kappa Alpha last event of the year. There were people in that room that I might (and some I will not, probably) ever see again. Hahahaha, I thought. Oh God. Oh God the emotions.

Indeed, the emotions was right. I was overwhelmed and sick and couldn’t quite breathe through my nose. I had gotten a nosebleed earlier that day, but so far my nose had been reaching normalcy.

When I entered the room for the event, I set down my bags, tears starting to form in my eyes. If you know me personally, you know that I work myself to the bone. Work is my main focus in life and I don’t try to hide that part of me. Rather, it is what keeps me going. Eh, call me a workaholic. I like it. So, for this to happen, it was so overwhelmingly gratifying and humbling all at once.

My friends in the fraternity were noticing my latest charade of emotions, not knowing that this time there was a deeper reasoning behind them rather than, “I think I cut my hand on a tiny rusty nail so now I think I’m going to get gangrene.”

One of them came over and asked how I was and I started to cry. Shocker.

“Oh, oh my God, Claire,” she said. “Your nose – it’s bleeding!”

Actually a shocker.

I went to the bathroom and cleaned off for the time being, flabbergasted by the events. Baseball, blood, goodbye to people forever, adulthood, graduation. And here I was in the bathroom, once again, a grown woman, crying and just bleeding.

The second time that I got a nosebleed during the event, I went to the bathroom and I called my mom, hearing her say the familiar rational sequence of events of how to handle the situation. There was just so much blood and everything changing so quickly.

I had to calm myself down, though. I needed to say goodbye without holding a tissue to my face.

And I did. There were people that I hugged knowing I would become distant from them. There were people I stood next to wondering how they would shape my future. And then there was the fact that everyone in that room had helped me along the way, just part of the path that we all were taking at the time. I would enjoy the next time I would see these people again, and I felt fulfilled at the end of the event.

But I didn’t cry this time. Because if I did, God damn it, I’d have another nose bleed.

Trumpet stage fright and boys that know too much.

I am one that does not shy away from the dramatics or from performing. Rather, I love the limelight, the spotlight, the attention.

I bask in it… in the theatrical sense.

When it comes to reality, my awkwardness still hasn’t ebbed away, even after all of this hard work. If I know how to handle a social situation, sure, I will be little miss performer. But when it starts to go south – and oh, if you don’t know me very well yet, it will – I’ll blubber and blurt things out and spend three days analyzing why, oh why, did I read a poem to that guy? Or why did I show him a story that I wrote three years ago? I mean come on, old, nostalgic writing? That’s almost as bad as serenading “Wonderwall” on the Quad. I didn’t even mean for it to come off like that, I just wanted to read this really cool thing but now he’s probably afraid that I’m going to fall in love regardless of the test of time or some shit like that – I read you my favorite vignette, NOW WE ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER. 

However, something I was always terrified to do was perform a trumpet solo. In high school, we did this absolutely horrid solo contest that was part of our honors credit or something or other. The schools in the area always came together for this. Anyway, because I am the shameless overachiever that I am, I always did this solo contest. It was for the state of Illinois and some of my friends were really good, and, maybe I’m okay in a full band setting, but I was the saddest thing you ever did see when it came to soloing.

I attribute this to when I had my Whiplash moment during my freshman year of high school. No, fortunately, I did not have a band director that shouted obscenities to my face (thanks for that, Mr. K). It was that moment, you know what I’m talking about, when (SPOILER) Miles Teller goes on stage and they’re playing “Upswingin'” because Fletcher totally wants to tank Andrew’s career and Miles just is miserable on stage playing whatever he could.

My moment like that came when I had a three note solo my freshman year in some piece I can’t remember the name of, but it was famous, like, where I feel like I discredited the composer with this botched note. It was in front of the whole auditorium, too, for the spring concert. It was loud and it was wrong. I cried right there in my seat for the rest of the concert – why hide the atrocity that I had just committed? The audience was now publicly privy to my horror and shame.

Since then, whenever some hopeful soul looks me in the eyes as I start to play alone, I almost wish that I had a written apology that I could just hand to them. It’s like when people want me to sing and I say “No, you don’t want to hear that.” They laugh and they tease because they know that I am sensitive, but then I look them straight in the eye and say, “No, really, it’s just going to make everyone feel uncomfortable and bad.” Then their smile starts to wane and they don’t know whether to half-heartedly laugh or look away in discomfort.

The worst, however, was when my high school hosted the solo contest. Or it was like something where Mr. K felt the need that we had to have our own solo contest…? There were like two contests per year or something… this like at least six years ago since I think it was my sophomore year, so my brain is a little fuzzy on the details. Point being, it was at our school. We had to perform in front of a few judges and anyone else who wanted to watch. I needed to find a piano accompanist. I decided to go against my previous choice of the choir director since she was my accompanist for my painfully terrible rendition of “I Enjoy Being A Girl” as my audition piece for the musical. (Fun fact, I was never in the musical despite another try two years later, singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” as my audition piece. I was, however, in pit for three years). After that shameful performance, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her.

So, I decided to ask the most talented kid in school. Let’s call him Shawn.

I have known Shawn since Kindergarten and he is this day and age’s Leonardo DaVinci. He can do everything. Draw? Perfect renditions of cats that he would give to my AP Euro teacher. Sports? Any and all of them, especially baseball while babysitting my teacher’s kids. Smart? A 95% would have been mediocre to him. Attractive? Had the biceps of one of Michaelangelo’s angels and fiery red hair… that he managed to make look Godly.

I never really had a full blown crush on Shawn, though, despite the fact that I get a crush on about 98% of the men I end up becoming friends with (so if you ever get confused at my behavior, new guy friend, please just know that I am going through my weird… motions in my head. Don’t worry, I’ll stop telling you to listen to this one song soon enough). Sure, I found him attractive. Sure, I had imagined getting a pizza date with him. But… eh. I viewed him as competition. That was a more pressing matter to me rather than ooh! A BOY!

So, because he was the perfect, celestial-like candidate for my gleaming rendition of whatever solo it was that year that I decided to choose, I mustered up the courage and asked him. He, of course, being the suave gentleman that he was, agreed to do it. He respected our history, and for that, I commend him.

I respect him even further for how he handled my behavior when the doom-filled day came.

My solo was so bad that I didn’t even finish it. My notes were shaky, my pulse sweaty, I felt like I was going to PASS OUT. I sobbed and heaved and I RUINED my chance to show to Shawn that, yes, I could be more TALENTED than him. It was a mind game that I had created, and I ruined it for myself.

For the rest of high school, despite knowing him since elementary school, whenever I passed him in the halls, I looked down and shuffled and thought of all of those years of building up to some contest that was never going to happen. Instead, I imagined that he saw the gross, over-exaggeratory side of me that all too many have seen.

The point of it, though (and now only in hindsight I see this), is that there was never a competition between Shawn and I. I had built it up in my mind because I couldn’t stand the thought of having someone – especially a boy – be smarter or more talented than me. Well, let me ring up the Doctor in the TARDIS and travel me back through space and time to visit myself because, kid, there will be people who are better at things than you. That does not mean that you’re not worthy, though.

So, now whenever I find my match, my competitive equal, my rival in abilities, I do my best not to cry. Maybe I get close, maybe I get high-strung. Maybe it’s while I’m filming or I’m trouble-shooting in the editing labs. I’ll subconsciously go back in my mind to that time when I embarrassed myself gloriously in front of Shawn with my shaky trumpet notes. I’ve come to find that I feel like this when it’s during things that I think are important with people that I value. And then I’ll remember that at least, thank God, I’m not trying to do a two-minute trumpet solo in front of people I don’t know. I’m just trying to white balance with a new camera, and sometimes you have to swallow your pride and ask.

5 Things Claire Won’t Tell You About Flirting (But You Need To Know)

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From my scandalous “Our Town” high school theater days.

So Daily Dot has these two little articles, another one of those online lists about men and women and sex and what not. What do men not know about lady sex? Men and sex, what do women not know? That’s the whole deal.

Now, since my grandma (hi Grandma Mickie!) reads my blog, I am going to refrain from going into the gory details of my… interesting… love life (or many times, lack thereof). However, in the spirit of singlehood and the fact that it is Valentine’s Day and all that romantic stuff, here is another guide to the workings of my brain and my easily flustered heart if I should ever flirt with you.

  • We probably know each other (and we’re probably friends or acquaintances).

This is a habit that I picked up from high school when I first was becoming less afraid of actually talking to guys. I was swimming in a sea of testosterone whenever I went to band and took my place in the trumpet section, so I had to learn to become comfortable with the male presence. I grew to like having a lot of guy friends.

With that, and the nature of my easily-won-over heart, I have become enamored with a series of guy friends over the years. It’s not even that I think that you’re flirting with me. It’s that we had COFFEE or did some ACTIVITY together and WOW you’re a COOL HUMAN that’s a male and ATTRACTIVE and wouldn’t it be nice if we held hands and watched Star Trek together??

I’ll try to hide it as much as I can, but the descent into my self-conscious worrying will overtake my interaction with you…

  • If I am feeling awkward, I will do one of two things: become professional or pet you (fortunately, I no longer will punch you).

So at this point, I have told at least fifteen of my other friends, “Oh my GOSH I think I TOTALLY have a thing for [insert guy friend’s name here]!!” More likely than not, I can hear people sighing and saying, “That’s nice, Claire” through the words on the screen of my phone.

“Poor [so-and-so’s name]…” my mom will sometimes say.

Not that she doesn’t want me to pursue anyone. It’s that she knows what this particular guy is unknowingly in for.

I’ll try to play it cool really really hard with you. I’ll reward myself for every evenly spoken sentence or “haha” in my texts to you instead of “oh haha, how wonderfully droll!!”

But then my mind with begin to atrophy with worry. Why did I say that his shirt clung well? I think to myself after a conversation. That’s totally too noticeable. I can’t afford to be noticeable.

I am notoriously very obvious when I like you. So I try so hard to not be obvious.

What will end up happening is that if you say a cute or funny or nice or flirty thing to me, I’ll laugh, bury my hands in my face, hyperventilate a little, and then pet you. Yes, pet you. Normally on the back or the shoulder. Sometimes I won’t even touch you; it’ll be like air pats near your skin because if I actually do touch you, then I’ll explode or something.

The opposite of what happens, however, is just as bad. I’ll treat you like a fellow colleague in a fictionalized work environment. This is because while growing up, whenever social interaction terrified me, I would retreat to academia.

I’ll ask you about the weather and your family and your homework like we might as well be talking in a cubicle. My texts to you might as well have a letterhead. The worst, however, is if I shake your hand like we just make a business transaction. That’s when I know in my heart that I really can’t overcome my own flustered nature, so why not shake your hand?

I used to be a bit rougher than I am now and would actually punch crushes or shove them out of chairs. It was like I was enacting some elementary school playground routine that I didn’t live out until I was sixteen.

  • Words don’t really work too well. And my texts to you become weird.

I touched on this slightly in the previous blurb, but this awkwardness becomes more prevalent as time goes on. I eventually will start my “double-texting” paranoia and I will soliloquy whenever I see you. I’ll cater my ranting to something that you’re interested in, like Star Wars or Arcade Fire or some form of sports and I’ll leave no space for you to respond since, well, I figure that if I do the talking for the both of us, then I don’t need to worry about what I’ve said and what you will say since I must’ve said something embarrassing anyway.

  • I will actually face plant on the floor and crawl away if it isn’t going to well.

God forbid I actually tell you how I feel about you. If you should ever reach this point with me, then I apologize. I apologize to those who have experienced this.

I’ll make sure to do this in person because if I do this in a text, it will be in the form of a fifteen-paragraph essay, many of it trying to explain my neuroses.

I will say at least five times, “Let me know if you feel uncomfortable! And it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way!” because I really don’t want you to feel off-put by me, even though it would probably be best if I said it once and didn’t keep bringing up being uncomfortable.

When I do actually tell you that I like you, I’ll whisper it or I won’t actually say it because I don’t want to believe that I am exposing myself the way that I am. I want to pretend like if I can’t hear myself say it, then you never will know what I am even saying.

Normally, I’ll joke about it and say some silly thing and most of the time you’ll be really understanding and tell me that either you’re interested or that you aren’t for different sorts of reasons.

My reactions range from being bashful and giggly to asking you why or why not so that I can add to my mental list of my social behavior to falling on the floor and crawling away. I will just go down like a tree being chopped. It doesn’t matter where – it could be in a normal room or somewhere as public as a bar. And this will be the one time where I actually am not thinking of the sanitary texture of the floor.

  • I will friendzone myself, but in the end, I am okay with this (and a lot of the time, it’s what I want anyway).

Normally after these experiences, I will give myself some time to cool down. I’ll back off for your sake or for my sake or for both of our sakes. I’ll focus on my life with my friends and family and school and work and go back into a normal sort of routine. I have a lot going on, so it’s easy for my mind to swim around with all of the things of life, man.

And then, happily more times than not, we’ll circle back around. We’ll laugh it off or we won’t even bring it up. We’ll catch up and we’ll have a good time talking. A lot of the time, we’ll become friends, the kind of friend that knows that even if you go into my heart and I become flustered, I won’t get you out of my mind. Because you’ll be important to me regardless of what happens.

I freaked out at the oral surgeon. Sorry Mom.

This past summer, I was supposed to get my wisdom teeth out. That didn’t happen.

Instead, I yelled at my oral surgeon and had to get taken out of the room.

It’s moments like these that are a constant reminder that no matter how much better I think I am, friends, no, I still don’t have it all together.

For this experience, though, I was set up for failure. The stars had been misaligned for what was going to come. For starters, I had been worrying the past few days about the procedure. I was drinking heavily that weekend and was worrying that I didn’t have enough water in my system. Also I didn’t like the idea of someone inducing that kind of a feeling in me. I didn’t want to feel incapacitated unless I made myself incapacitated. Also, I watched my siblings go through the experience a few months before and my sister didn’t have as good of a time as my brother.

The cherry on top was that I couldn’t get the scene from Ghost Town out of my head. You know, when Ricky Gervais goes back to the hospital and freaks out because he “died just a little.”

“You’ll be fine Claire!” my siblings said the night before the surgery. “They give you laughing gas. It’s really fun! Just like having a few beers… which we know you like!” They smirked as they walked up the stairs to go to bed.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world,” my mom consoled. “Just like having a cavity filled. You’ve done this before.”

She went out the day before and bought all of the soft foods – ice cream, soup, jello. She picked up my antibiotics. I was set. All I had to do was sit in a chair for an hour.

I’ll be totally fine. I thought. Just a few days of TV and then I’m back to it. It’ll be nice to just sit and watch TV.

Although it’ll be different when I actually am there to get them taken out.

Unfortunately, I know myself all too well. Mom was parking the car as I walked into the surgeon’s office with its sticky, old, leather chairs and dim lighting.

“You here for your appointment?” the receptionist asked, her head just barely making the viewing window.

“Y-yes…” I said. “I just need to have my mom bring the consent form.”

“Okay,” the receptionist said, rolling her eyes. I know, lady, I should act older for my age too.

“Is she coming in?” the nurse asked, popping in like a cartoon.

“No… she’s waiting for her mom to bring her consent form.”

What is this, the mean girls from high school?

“Okay Claire, well, we’ll tell your mom where you are. If you could just walk down to the end of the hall and it’s the door on the furthest left.

I walked in and there was the chair. The chair.

I had to get some minor oral surgery (stuff that mainly required some numbing) done a few years ago and in that scenario, it was a comical set up. There were way too many machines for a simple procedure and it made me happily think of the birthing scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. There was even a machine that went “Ping!”

This chair, however, was something out of Brazil. It had the small, black side table with devilish metal instruments and a bizarre small TV placed squarely in front of the set-up. The chair was sort of elevated off of the ground and was a pasty color of pink. It was Hell in furniture form.

“Alright Claire, just take a seat, okay,” the nurse said.

Yeah… and then Michael Palin’s going to torture me in a baby mask, I thought.

I was already on edge walking in by myself but I was even more edgy considering I could hear them talking to my mom outside. I just wanted her in here.

Mind you, I am someone that has taken many modes of transportation by myself. I am someone that has no qualms walking alone in a random city for eight hours at a time. I can proudly handle myself in different adult tasks.

But in that moment, there was no one else that I wanted in that room more than my mom.

The oral surgeon came in and, grossly mistaking me as a normal person that would have a nonchalant reaction, made an offhand comment on my breathing state.

“Oh, it sounds like you have a cold,” he said. “We might have to postpone this.”

A COLD? A goddamn COLD? Since when did I have a COLD? Was I willing myself to get stuffy so I wouldn’t have to go through with this? Was I purposefully creating mucus so I could avoid a procedure that 16-year-olds go through?

He took a look inside my mouth and I tried to think of a way to explain for my body.

“Yeah, your throat’s just a little red,” he said.

Verification! My body failed him!

“Well I just, I mean, I just don’t know,” I said, crying already.

“Oh, see, well, we can’t do it now since you’re really stuffed up,” the surgeon said, his tone akin to that of a disappointed uncle.

“Hey Claire, how’s it going?”

Thank goodness, Mom walked into the room at that moment.

“Yeah, we’re thinking that she might have a cold so it would be better to do the procedure later,” the surgeon said, happy to have a real adult in his presence.

“I mean, I know that Lucy and Grant had colds, so maybe I got it from them,” I said, garbling my words and clutching my cheeks. “Lucy has a little bit of a sore throat too.”

“Oh yeah, they were all at Lollapalooza together, so that’s probably where she got it!” my mom said, making sure that her voice was chipper. She does this so I can feel like the situation is not as big of a deal as it is.

“Here’s a tissue box,” the randomly appearing nurse said, reusing her skill but this time with Kleenex.

I took a few minutes to breathe in and out, in and out. I acted out my non-stuffy breathing state multiple times to prove that I was surgery-worthy.

“Okay, yes, it sounds good,” the surgeon sighed.

“We need to have you sign these forms, just these worst case scenario stuff,” the nurse said. I took the clipboard and I must have looked like a ghost.

“You know, just so you can do the surgery,” she reaffirmed.

I’m literally signing my life away. This is it. This really is the end. I really am Ricky Gervais.

“Alright, Claire, they’re going to start now,” Mom said, heading out of the room.

My eyes must have been maniacal because she called out before they closed the door:

“Just don’t think Claire, don’t think about anything.”

That’s the root of it really, I just overthink everything. “Just don’t think so much” is a common phrase from everybody, including myself. That’s why I really like “Breakers” by Local Natives. I should have just played that song in my mind considering I’ve listened to it hundreds of times at this point.

Instead, they were starting up all the horrid machines and my normal go-to memories of happiness weren’t working. The nose mask being placed on my face and the arm pump taking my blood pressure interrupted my reveries of my best concert experiences.

I closed my eyes.

Just don’t think. Just don’t think.

In my mind, Spoon’s “Inside Out” started to play. This helped a little bit. I could feel the psychedelic melody in my brain and I thought of the soothing vocals at the start of the song…

“Okay Claire, we’re going to start to give you oxygen.”

Instead of this statement helping matters, this just brought me back to an incredibly painful experience that I had during a family vacation while skiing in Breckenridge. I got altitude sickness, had to get steroid shots and got very slightly addicted to my handy dandy little oxygen machine that the house doctor gave me for the weekend.

No, no, Claire, this is the good part of Breckenridge, I thought. This is when you got the oxygen. This is happy Breckenridge. Enjoy the oxygen – it’s free!

But the memory of the shots became more prevalent as the surgeon said the most horrifying words:

“Ok, we’re going to look for the place to put the IV in.”

I don’t know why the idea of an IV literally makes me want to crawl out of my skull. I guess maybe it’s because arms are just so fleshy and sensitive and I don’t want some jangling thing sticking out of mine. I hoped that it’d be in my hand or something, a little less intrusive.

“We just need you to dangle your arm.”

DANGLE my ARM? That’s what DEAD PEOPLE IN HOSPITALS DO.

“Oh… um… okay,” I breathed.

The surgeon tightly tied a band around my arm, pulling it so hard that I couldn’t concentrate on the gas anymore.

This is what they do to people who are about to get their limbs amputated!!! OR WHEN YOU’RE A HEROIN ADDICT!

My fear turned into an unpleasant combination of annoyance, anger and hysteria as the surgeon started hitting my hand and probing my arm.

“I thought that there wasn’t going to be a needle in the arm,” I barked.

“Well, we just want to make sure we use the right vein,” he said, his patience with me obviously waning thin.

I started to wiggle around in my seat, re-shifting to try to make my arm feel less wooden and stiff. The nurse cooed me to sit still, attempting to calm me down.

“I just want to let you know that I get very nervous with needles,” I said, my senses starting to tingle. When I actually remembered to breathe, I’d been taking short, deep breaths of the gas.

I should have given this information sooner. Why hasn’t the gas fully knocked me out yet? No. I must stay competent to let them know how I feel.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I shouted, not daring to look at anyone in the room.

“Come on, you can do this,” he said.

“No, I don’t think I can, not yet! I CAN’T DO IT YET.”

I was yelling, full freak-out mode. I was having a panic attack and I felt chained to the horrid, horrid chair.

“Nope, you’re right. We, can’t do it,” and the surgeon wheeled his chair away in one aggressive motion. He stood up and strode out of the room.

“No… no wait, I’m sorry,” I said between sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

But my powers of emotional persuasion were too great. I got what I wanted… but it wasn’t really what I wanted.

I remained motionless in my chair as the nurse opened the door. Mom was talking to the surgeon, calm and logical, her voice even and unsurprised.

At least she knows what I get like.

The surgeon, however, with his hands on his hips and shoulders occasionaly heaving from heavy sighs, was just introduced to my nature.

“Come on Claire, it’s okay. You’ll be able to have it done at the hospital,” the nurse said.

I got up and stood for a minute. My feelings crashed down on me, my body seeped into the floor. Slowly, I shuffled over to where everyone was standing.

“We’re going to have it done like the other procedure,” Mom said. “It’ll be at the other place too. Just like before.”

“We’ll get you in there for Winter Break,” the surgeon said, relieved he could pass me off to someone else.

And with that, Mom and I left the building. We walked out into the cold, grey day. We drove to McDonalds and, despite the fact that yes, I still cry as hard as a two-year-old in some scenarios, I can make things more difficult for myself and that yes, 16-year-olds have gone through that experience before, I still got to have ice cream with my Mom.

 

 

Claus and Effect

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I actually wrote this story when I was a senior in high school. In the spirit of the season, I felt it fitting to publish.


 

I believed in Santa Claus until I was in eighth grade.

It was easy at first. Oh, sure! I felt content amongst other believers at elementary school. Whenever the holiday season came, we made homemade ornaments in class such as felt reindeer traced out from our hands. Also, away from my classmates, there was the joy of seeing Santa with my family! During the annual Christmas Walk in my town, we would wait outside with only a meager cup of complementary hot chocolate from the concession stand to keep us warm in the below freezing temperatures. Why? To be in the presence of the one and only Santa Claus, of course!

“Oh my gosh… we always have to wait sooooo long!” I moaned just as we were approaching Santa’s tent. That December during my third grade was particularly frosty.

“I want the LEGO Eiffel tower… and I want the red Bionicle…” Grant, my younger brother by three years, said, listing off his first picks of the year.

As we entered the tent, Santa smiled at us warmly.

“Merry Christmas, kids! Have you been good this year?”

“Yeaaah!” Lucy, Grant’s twin, chirped as we climbed on top of Santa’s knees. “Santa, can I have some more horsies?”

“You mean the little toy ones, right?” Santa replied with a smirk.

“Yeah… but a real one would be nice, too!”

Santa chuckled his famous laugh. “Ho, ho, ho! Alright then! Now, you my boy,” he said, turning his direction towards Grant, “What would you like?” Grant then sat up straight on his lap and talked with the utmost dignity.

“Santa, I want a lot of things.”

“Okay then!” Santa said, mildly surprised at his bluntness.

“Well, I want a LEGO Eiffel tower, and I want Bionicles, and I want Super Mario Smash Brothers-”

“Santa will see what he can do!” Santa said, before my brother got any further with his endless Christmas list. Santa then looked at me.

“And what would you like?”

I blushed. “Well,” I said in a small, quiet voice, “I… I would like Nellie, the new American Girl doll.”

“How nice! Santa would see to it!”

And with his promise, I beamed into Mom’s camera as we took our picture with him. I was thinking about Nellie, my soon-to-be new doll!

By fifth and sixth grade it was a bit more difficult. People talked about their parents putting presents under the tree as Santa – “Lalalalala! I can’t hear you!” I said. Every time my friends would allude to the truth, I would plug my ears in defiance. Some said that I was in denial. I said that I was determined to not give up. I would tell my friends (my “nonbeliever” friends) that my cousins had actually seen him. Lucy first told me about this infamous incident.

“Claire, did you know that Matthew and Christian caught Santa on video??”

“No way!” I said, flabbergasted. Did Lucy really mean it? I could feel my eyes bulging out of their sockets. Did they really see him?

“Yeah, they did!” Lucy quipped, seeming to answer my thoughts. “They tried to stay up all night, but they fell asleep. But when they looked back at the camera the next day, they found that a black glove went across the screen!”

I gasped so loudly that I felt that I had sucked all of the air out of the room. “That’s proof of Santa!!!”

“I know!!!” Lucy said, jumping up and down from her excitement.

By early December of my eighth grade, however, I was one of the few. I proudly wore my “I still believe in Santa Claus” shirt even though it was starting to get a little short. I was in the midst of writing my list for him that was as extensive as ever. I had pushed any notion of doubt of his existence to the side. He was real, I kept saying to myself, they just don’t believe.

Still, there were nights when I lay awake, deep in thought. How could a jolly, red-suited man really live at the North Pole? There isn’t any land at the North Pole… and how could a man manufacture toys for every kid in the world?

I stopped myself. I had to believe.

As I started to relax, I filled my head with convictions: I mean, even Mom believes in Santa. She has that nightgown of the Mary Englebright cartoon with Santa saying “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Mom says she believes!

A couple weeks before my insomnia attacks started, I asked Mom if she really, truly believed in Santa. It’s not like a big deal or anything, I told myself right before I asked her, even when I knew that my heart was beating a little faster. I just want Mom’s opinion on the matter.

“Hey mom,” I said, my head down, eyes scaling the wood paneling of our kitchen floor.

“Yes?”

“Do…well, you believe in Santa, right? Do… do you?”

She puckered her lips and tilted her head up for a moment, deep in thought. As she was thinking, I focused on the foggy window behind her, my stomach churning from anticipation.

“I do believe,” Mom said after awhile. “I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus.”

Remembering Mom’s words on those cold, question-filled nights, I could then drift into sweet, sugar-plum-fairy-filled sleep.

But fate had a different plan for me. My Titanic of forced ignorance was drifting into an iceberg and Santa was going down with the ship.

It was a typical school day. Well, at least for the holiday season. Things were winding down for winter break and a festive spirit was taking over. I was sitting in class, doing a Christmas-themed activity: answering questions on a children’s book about Santa. Whilst reading, my teacher strolled to my table.

“Good afternoon, Claire!”

I looked up from my book. “Hello!”

“It’s a nice little book isn’t it?”

I nodded, a merry grin sprawled across my face.

“It is.”

“The pictures are so lavish. And the story is absolutely charming.”

“Yes! I also like how Santa can’t go to every house so he gets the parents to do it.”

“Yes, it’s very sweet,” she said, smiling. “It’s a good book to show to the kids when they find out that there’s no Santa Claus.” And with that completely earth-shattering remark, she was onto the next table.

A bomb had been dropped. The nice, red-suited man was a lie.

I looked around the room, my face numb. No one else seemed to be in quite as big of a shock as I was. They were still reading the book, that nice, stupid, little book, without any misgivings or anxiety attacks. WHY? I thought. WHY ARE THEY ALL OK?!?! SHE JUST SAID THAT SANTA WASN’T REAL!!!!

I could hardly contain my blubbering bouts of sobbing until the end of the day. After I was let off the bus, I ran home. Mom was standing outside of the car in the driveway, unaware of my turmoil. I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“MOMMEE,” I screamed, barely coherent, “SANTAISNTREAAAL!!”

“Claire! What! What are you talking about?” Mom asked, her eyebrows creased with worry.

I buried my red, snotty face into her jacket. “Santa’s not real,” I whimpered.

“Awww, sweetheart!” Mom said as she gave me a hug. I could feel her start to chuckle as her chest bounced up and down. Through my tears, I guess I had to laugh, too. Here I was, emotional, little Claire, crying about how there isn’t a Santa Claus at age thirteen.

Through the rest of the season, though, I felt naked when doing the annual celebratory acts such as lighting the advent candles or putting up ornaments on the tree. I watched my brother and sister talk about how they were going to write out their lists perfectly so that Santa would be able to determine which items on their lists they wanted the most. I would smile and nod, and then run to the other room crying.

Even while crying, though, I had to come to terms with the truth. I was kidding myself. I knew all along that he wasn’t real. Ever since I found that price tag on the CD case in my stocking a few years back. Ever since I recognized my parent’s handwriting in the letters from Santa. Ever since I realized that when my parents made us close our bedroom doors to bring down their presents to the tree, it took them an awful long time before my father’s heavy steps and Mom’s delicate pattering drifted downstairs…

But I loved Santa. Santa made me feel like a kid.

I don’t want to grow up. Not yet, I thought as my brother joyfully perused the Bionicles. After winter break started, my family and I made the traditional trip to Chicago. We always went to the same places: the stores at Water Tower Place, Virgin, Borders; now we were in the LEGO store, the shelves lined with glossy plastic casings of a bunch of itty bitty bricks that gave my brother great pleasure.

“Remember, I want these, Mom!” Grant excitedly pointed to the newest edition of the Toas. “But I already have this one. Tell Santa I don’t want that one.” The happy sparkle in his eye was enough to make me go crazy with jealousy. I want to be a kid again!

Eventually, Christmas Eve was upon us. Throughout the day I morosely thought about how my siblings would eventually learn the truth about Santa as well. Before going to the evening service at church, though, things changed. We had a candlelit dinner. Lucy and I had our hair meticulously curled and full of hair spray. Grant and Dad sat at the wooden dining table with smooth suit jackets and brilliantly festive ties. Mom had on shiny Christmas jewelry and shoes that went clomp, clomp, clomp, as she walked across the hardwood floor. In hushed tones, we asked each other for some more ham and mashed potatoes. Amongst the calm atmosphere, Lucy and Grant were anticipating for when we could get ready for Santa. Just as I was about to looked away sullenly and try to think of something else, my parents stole my attention.

“I found the Santa plate. We can put the sugar cookies on it, you know, the ones that Grant likes,” Mom said.

“We’re going to have to put out the oats quickly, it’s pretty cold out,” Dad chimed in.

My ears were ringing. Mom and Dad were excited, too! I wonder why, I thought, delving into the mashed potatoes, but it became clear to me as I remembered Christmas Eve past: The fastidiously handwritten notes to Santa. The warm milk in my hand as I set the glass on the table. The tingle of bitter cold as I place the small plate of dried oatmeal on the glittering snow. With each memory, my mashed potatoes seemed to get sweeter by the mouthful.

“Claire, are you excited to set out oats for Rudolph?” Lucy asked.

I looked up from my plate and smiled. “Yes, yes I am.”


 

On Christmas day, Grant was the first one up. He’s always been the first one up. He was downstairs and bounding across the floorboards, and I’m pretty sure it was the sound of his mammoth feet that aroused my parents from their brief slumber. They tried to sleep in as much as they could and said things like, “Oh, it’s too early to open presents,” or, “Not until I have my coffee.” Try as they might, they had to release us. My bursting brother, with my sister and I not too far behind him, rushed down stairs.

Tree aglow, the misty windows housed a celebration of pure joy. My brother’s eyes popped at seeing the bounty under the tree, and my sister’s squeals rose in pitch as she looked at our overflowing stockings. All the while, my siblings praised Santa Claus.

The oats outside were half eaten and we saw that there were hoof prints in the light snow! That’s the one thing I’ve never asked my parents about. The hoof prints outside our back door. I think I’ll leave that mystery alone.

We found that Santa drank half of his glass. Part of a cookie with little crumbles nestled on his special plate. We read the note, (it was Dad’s handwriting), and it was saying how good we all were that year. Dad turned on the Christmas music in the CD player and the kids were officially allowed to open all their gifts. After each stocking unveiling and gift unwrapping, I would glance over to Mom and Dad. Then I would smile and say, “Thanks, Santa.”

Unfortunately I got into an accident but at least Enterprise gave me a cupcake

If you ever carpool with me, I should probably ride shotgun.

When I first started driving in high school, I was really, really bad. I waited until I was 18-years-old to get my license. At that point, it was to have it more because I wanted to get to my friends’ graduation parties rather than simply drive. My mom would print out a Google Map for every location but still that didn’t work all of the time. It once took me 50 minutes to get to the mall that I’ve been going to for my whole life.

An upside of learning to drive in the suburbs was that my “bumbling driver” persona wasn’t ever much of an issue. The extent of it was either my friends poking fun at me when I would have trouble pulling into a gas station or my younger siblings (without permits at the time) electing to drive instead of me.

I got a little better by the end of the summer before freshman year of college, but I couldn’t continue to practice once I got to school. I came back during break and drove again, as if I had pressed a reset button. This was the norm for the next several semesters. I had two weeks of a break between my time in London and LA. Over in England, I was used to using the Tube every day.

So renting a car for the LA semester was of course going to go well.

It was, unfortunately, necessary. I’m not accustomed, should you say, to the way in which LA is set up – I thrive on walking. I became accustomed to walking for at least two hours a day while I was in a city. Some days, I was going for six pushing on seven hours. And I loved it, despite the fact that I would sometimes wear out my friends and learned how to better read social cues. In LA, though, the most walking that I did was to and from my car.

In LA, people drive to go to a Starbucks if they’ve left a Coffee Bean that they didn’t like (something that I admit to doing). People also don’t use turn signals. People also don’t merge until the last minute. People also don’t slow down.

In LA, you have to constantly be watching which lane you need to be in because at any moment your exit could come up and you’ll be defying death by crossing over four lanes in four seconds.

I hated it.

I hated every moment of driving in LA. I was enjoying getting to know the city but boy, I turned into a toddler throwing a temper tantrum every time I got into the car. I hated it so much that I would listen to music in the car to distract myself from my hatred, which was a dumb idea in the first place because that’s one of the many things that created my anxiety about distraction.

The day before my accident, I finally thought that I was going to be okay. I had gotten into a fender bender a few weeks before but I thought, That’s it. That’s all it is. Just a fender bender. I’ll be able to know what to do to avoid that.

I was going to test myself.

I drove down to Amoeba Music from Universal City during rush hour – and I had gone on the 101. I even drove down into Amoeba’s basement parking garage without a hitch.

Why would I defy danger, dare you say? Well, I just had to see the Silversun Pickups play and write about it. It was important. I would drive during rush hour into Hollywood for a band.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the last groups of fans waiting outside let into the store. I watched Brian and Nikki from the band play an acoustic set of songs featured on their Singles Collection and they played “Lazy Eye,” my favorite, for the last song. I thought, This is all that rush hour is. That’s it. I’ll be able to know how to drive to see and find music anywhere.

The day of the accident was the first day that I felt the bravery to explore. I missed just going around places and seeing different shops and areas. I passed my normal coffee shop that I would stop at after class and went down to Magnolia Boulevard instead – a cool strip of different restaurants and boutique-y sort of places. My destination was a record store that I hadn’t been to yet.

Not seeing a free parking lot, I parked along a side street.

I got out and walked around. Record store, different food places, an old recording studio facade. It was starting to get cloudier and less aesthetic outside so I was done after about a half hour. I got back in the car and turned on the Swoon album by Silversun Pickups. I was still glowing from that experience from the night before: that song, my favorite place in LA, that band, my confidence about driving that I never thought I would have. “Substitution” began to play. It was the first song that ever I heard by the band and I was in the mindset of thinking of where I had come from and how far I had gone.

I pulled up to the stop sign. I looked right. I looked left. I looked right again.

There was a road like this back home but this… was more than that. Cars were zipping by and every block it looked like there was a stoplight so traffic was always coming and going. I had to make a left. I waited and thought I had a window of opportunity.

I started to turn.

And then.

I looked left again.

There was no mistake, I was going to get hit, driver’s side.

Fortunately, I had enough time to swerve the slightest so my body didn’t get the impact. I waited for it and felt the hit.

This was different from the bumper-to-bumper crunch that I had heard before. This was a tin can being smashed and I was in it. I hit my head on the top part above the window, missing the glass.

The car stopped and the crunching sound was over. I was still in the car. I wasn’t bleeding. I was okay. I was okay. I was okay.

“Hey. Hey you’re okay.”

I was alone but I needed someone to tell me to pull myself together.

“Hey, you’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay you’re okay you’re okay. You know what you need to do? You need to get to the side of the road okay. You cannot freak out yet. You can’t do it. You gotta hold on just a little bit more. Try to see if you can get to the side of the road.”

As I attempted to floor it, the car sputtered along and several drivers sped past me.

I glared at them, fuming at the fact that I was in a place where this was normal.

I managed to drive my battered car to the parking lot that was right next to the road in front of a maintenance shop.

I got out of the car and looked over to the other driver. She looked to me, her eyes thin from squinting through the cloudy sunlight.

“Excuse me? Ma’am?” the other girl said.

Ma’am? Did she just call me ma’am? I was probably younger than her.

“Ma’am, you’re going to need to get over here and call the police.”

I hadn’t done a police report before. The fender bender was just exchanging names. I didn’t know how to do a police report. I have to call the police?

I weaved through traffic and met up with the two other drivers.

“Is everybody okay?” I asked. I was weak in the knees and I am sure I looked pretty weak as well, the way that I get when I talk to people who intimidate me.

“Stand up straight, Claire,” my mom would always say.

“Well, the seatbelt was really tight on my chest,” the other girl said. “So I’m a little winded. But neither of us are bleeding.”

“My leg hurts,” the driver said, limping to walk closer to us.

“Oh my gosh, oh no… I must have not seen you… I mean… this is awful…”

“I’m going to call the police so they can file a report,” the driver said.

“Okay… okay I’m going to call my parents,” I said.

I sat on the curb and prepared for the call that no parent ever wants to receive. My crying stories aren’t always a laugh riot for my mom, but this was something that no one wants to hear.

“Hello Claire!” Mom said, her voice upbeat as normal.

There wasn’t any way to lead in with anything. I had to just go in.

“Mom, I just want to let you know that I am okay and that no one got seriously hurt, but I was in a car accident and the police are coming.”

I can’t really remember much of what I said afterwards. I was crying hard and my parents were asking detailed questions of the scene.

“Do not say you are sorry,” Mom said. “It is up to the police and the insurance company to decide who is at fault. You do not have to say you are sorry.”

I’m so used to saying sorry though. I’m sorry that I forgot the milk. I’m sorry that you didn’t make the play. I’m sorry that the rental car is totaled.

The next few hours happened, long and monotonous. I called home intermittently with more information that I received over time. The cops showed up and squared off the part of the street that had debris. They asked us if any of us were hurt and we all told them about how we felt.

“We’re going to need paramedics just to check you all out,” the main police officer said.

I sat down along the curb and balled up.

I’m relieved whenever people tell me that I am over-exaggerating or freaking out over nothing because then I can make those feelings stop.

So when I was scared and I was right, I felt hopeless.

The paramedics came and fortunately my wish was granted.

“Do I have a concussion?” I asked, hyperventilating on the curb.

“No… but don’t work yourself up like that,” said one of the firefighters.

They were silently standing in a circle around me. I felt like I was a bleating sheep and the farmers in front of me were wondering why it was making so much noise.

“Seriously, you’re messing with your internal system. Stop it,” the firefighter said.

After calming myself down to a level of mild sanity, I called my friend to come pick me up.

I once was in a fender bender with my mom on the way to high school. I was late as per usual with getting ready in the morning. It was snowing and we turned left onto the main road and we were going along and we heard a crunch. The next several months my mom had to deal with the insurance companies and the driver and going to court, which was just a pain in the neck for her and it was because of me.

The other mom calmed the girls down as I was sitting on the curb in front of the firefighters practically in spasms and she had to be there to make them feel better because of me.

When my friend came, she didn’t see the car since it had been towed already and the other driver and passenger had left with their mom. She didn’t mind driving me back but it wasn’t something anyone really wants to do. You don’t want to hear that someone you know gets in an accident. But I couldn’t think of anyone else at the time that would be available and know what to say to me. I didn’t know her then as well as I do now, but I knew that she wouldn’t blame me the way that I was blaming myself.

In her car, I was crying. This was the first time I had shown this side of myself to her. People don’t really know me until they know that side to me. It’s a gamble to show people that side but sometimes I don’t know how to control it.

She comforted me and she said something that helped me more than I think she realizes.

She said, “Oh Claire. This is just part of your charm.”

And it was just what I needed because then I could laugh at myself.

She dropped me off in front of my apartment and told me that if I needed her that she’d be there for me. I went inside and I was so happy to not be in a car. I was so happy to call my mom in a place that I knew.

I called the insurance company and then I ate Skinny Pop and watched It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I went to bed and I could pretend that it didn’t happen, just for a little bit, while I slept.

When I woke up, the problem was still there. I needed a car.

The first time, after the fender bender, I drove into the Enterprise parking lot thinking that they were going to just notice a few scrapes. The Enterprise branch manager, a calm, professional woman with a comforting smile, met me outside and we walked around the car.

She pointed to the front and said, “Your hood is crunched.”

I crouched down and then I saw it. I’m so bad at cars that I don’t even know how a car is supposed to look.

So I got a new car after the fender bender and I started to feel better and I went to the concert and then I got into the accident and this time I showed up with nothing.

I was barely holding it together as I walked in that morning but I was fortunately in my pre-crying stage. I’m better at holding myself together when it comes to having to interact with strangers. I’m fantastic at work. I’ve never cried before, not like how I would cry during school. I came close a few times and maybe I’ve cried because of work when talking about it, but when I am on the job I am on the job.

I sat with someone – I can’t remember his title but he seemed like he was in charge of the claims or something – and he looked the report and went through a myriad of details about what I should do about getting a new car and what to do with the old car.

I told him, “It already was towed.”

He asked, “Did you use our service?”

I told him no because there wasn’t anyone on the line that late at night.

And he got frustrated.

But this isn’t the sort of frustration that I needed to hear because in that moment I thought I hadn’t made a mistake. The night before, I talked to the police officer and he gave me a number to call and I used that because I just wanted to get back to the apartment.

He explained how that now because I didn’t use the service, they had to track down the car in some random impound and how this made things more difficult. I was being scolded and this poor guy didn’t know whom he was talking to, not like my friend.

So I started to cry.

I cried in the Enterprise and Yoga pants-wearing So Cal visitors looked over at me, just wanting something to drive. Claims Guy felt bad about this so he apologized and started to speak to me in a softer, warmer voice. Then, the branch manager walked out of her office and held up a nearly empty plastic casing.

“Do you want a cupcake?”

Now, I’ve always loved cupcakes. I can’t tell you how many I ate while I was in New York. Her asking added to the bizarreness of how I was feeling already.

I laughed and I ate the cupcake while there were still tears coming down my face. Claims Guy did his best to stay focused on deliberating the information as I stuffed my face with frosting and looked like a wreck.

A young employee with a bright smile and almost cartoonish amount of energy led me to the Enterprise van so we could pick up another car from a different branch.

“It’s so nice to meet you! Where are you from?” he gushed.

The ride over was so pleasant that I temporarily forgot about everything. I was just happy gabbing about the industry and how we were so relieved that we weren’t in other parts of the country during this particular winter.

Once I was set up with the new car, I managed to get myself safely back to the apartment.

There still was enough time in the morning to go to work.

I could go. It’d help things feel normal again.

I repeated this in my head maybe fifty times. Then I stopped lying to myself.

I called my supervisor and explained the situation.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “No, just rest and come back tomorrow – or you can take off tomorrow if you need to. Seriously, do not feel like you have to push yourself.”

For the remainder of the semester, I didn’t get into another car accident. I made sure to give any last details to the report. I made sure to come on time whenever I did the monthly check-up at Enterprise. The branch was always happy to see me.

“Hey there! It’s so good to see you!” they beamed. “It’s so nice to see you smiling. How are you?”

I’d smile and think, I totaled your car but I’m okay with this.

When I returned my car at the end of the semester, they even said they were sad to see me go.

“We always have a few students from those programs in the Oakwood that we get to know, and we’re so glad that we got to know you!”

I laughed, thinking how strange but wonderful it was for these people to be so welcoming. I have some friends that wouldn’t be nearly as accommodating.

The branch manager stood up from her desk and came to the front, holding a brownie for me. The entire branch and I laughed about it, as if it were the end of an I Love Lucy episode.

The young employee drove me and a few other students back to the Oakwood so the airport shuttle could take us to the airport. I waved goodbye to him and I don’t even think it would have been weird if we hugged.

I waited in the lobby and the shuttle finally came. I got in and sat down and started my journey to the airport. Someone else was driving.

 

10 Signs You’re Dating a Claire, Not a Woman, Not a Girl

 

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This article on Elite Daily made me angry.

So did this article.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the most timely of responses since it was posted a few months ago. Regardless, if you would so indulge me for a second, I would like to briefly get on my high horse and hope that it doesn’t gallop off into an open grassy area surrounded by a forest, which is what happened to me in elementary school at a Girl Scout camp. Anyway, aside from emotionally scarring animal stories, I will say that I like sharing and bookmarking fun articles. Who doesn’t? This article, however, I would not include in that collection.

This particular article goes further than, say, quirky seasonal accessories or the best beers to find in Greenwich. When an article on a website criticizes people for just being people, it just becomes a breeding ground for over-generalized comments and perpetuates this idea for the search of utter perfection. Even more than that, these articles can reemphasize gender stereotypes that are already ever so prevalent in media and society.

Also, in simpler terms, I was miffed at reading something like that, especially since it was written by a dude. So what if I eat a salad every now and then and then eat Cheez-Its at home? So what if I have a night where I drink a little too much and think that I became best friends with the bartender? So what if I watch reruns of The Bachelor? Personally, I think that Juan Pablo is a cretin.

So, I’ve come up with a list of my own.

“1. Girls like to dress in revealing clothes because they think they look sexy – women know they look sexy no matter what they wear.”

Claire just doesn’t know when she looks sexy and it’s probably better if you don’t tell her if she does happen to look sexy.

I mean, I know I have curves. And I like funky shawls and boots. Those are fashionable things. I used to not be fashionable at all (ask my sister). But if you tell me that I look hot, it’s likely that it won’t even register. Especially if you are an attractive man. It’ll be overload for me. I already know I look nice for myself, which is a huge personal accomplishment for me to actually like my appearance since I used to have serious confidence issues about my physicality. So if you tell me that I look nice then you’re going to ruin everything. What will happen is that I’m going to have to then deal with my emotions of me feeling good about looking nice and then I have to take into account that you have a standard for me looking nice and that it is probably making you think happy and sexy thoughts of me. Which is too much. I need to deal with my own happy emotions; you just keep it to yourself.

“2. Girls expect their men to know how they feel and what they’re thinking – women use their words.”

Claire expects you to know how she’s feeling and she uses a lot of words. And then Claire cries.

There is a select few of you that, unfortunately, know the depth of my rare confrontational skills. It involves me questioning what you are doing while simultaneously me questioning what I am doing. Then I explain the entire situation, pretty much more to myself rather than you after awhile so I can make sure that I am understanding what I am actually saying. Then I’ll realize that it probably wasn’t even that big of a deal anyway and I’ll cry for feeling bad that I put both of us through twenty minutes of me frustratedly talking to myself.

“3. Girls expect you to pay the tab – women are financially independent.”

Claire will either mooch off of you like a leech or offer literally everything to you such as water from her water bottle that’s two days old.

Listen, we all like free meals, right? We all like free rides to places, right? Free stuff is free stuff. If you offer me pie, I’m going to eat pie. If you offer to buy me a burrito, of course I’m going to eat a burrito.

At the same time, I enjoy being obnoxiously generous. Please, take my day-old cheeseburger. I don’t want you to be hungry. I want you to be well-fed. Eat it. Eat it now.

“4. Girls go out and get wasted – women can hold their liquor and know their limits.”

Claire should probably just stick to beer.

I like going out and about. I will be messy sometimes. I will be classy at other points. We can all agree that I should mainly stick to my beer snobbery and indulge in craft ales and lagers. If I venture into the tempting realm of whiskey, it is not uncommon to see me cry during various experiences. These range from being overwhelmed by too many people at a party to explaining why Arcade Fire means so much to me, man.

“5. Girls can’t wait to update their Facebook status to “In a relationship” – women forget they have a Facebook.”

Claire will post pictures of all of her pseudo-boyfriends regardless.

I have a boyfriend. His name is Leo. He’s so handsome and has amazing dancing skills and is willing to let loose and play with water guns during the summertime. There’s something I haven’t told him, though. He doesn’t know about Key… or Corey… or Dev or Dan or Benedict. I did tell him that it was an open relationship, though, so he shouldn’t be too upset…

“6. Girls watch junk TV – women read.”

If you talk about a book or a television show to Claire then she will dissect every element of the story so you won’t ever want to hear the words “Sherlock Holmes” or “Ex-Parrot” ever again.

When I’m in my happy place, I’m in my happy place and I will bring you there. Other trigger words include “Heisenberg,” “Santaland,”and “MeowMeowBeenz.”

“7. Girls talk about trivial matters – women know how to hold a stimulating conversation.”

You don’t even need to be there for Claire to have a conversation.

There’s home video footage of my mom trying to talk to me while I’m playing with my Babe stuffed animal. In it, she’s trying to ask me what I’m doing, etc. All I am doing is quietly talking to myself, to Babe, and responding to myself as Babe. Ranging from excitedly listing out songs to put on my next playlist while walking around campus to chastising myself for forgetting to get milk while leaving the grocery store, things haven’t changed much since then.

“Claire… I just sometimes hear you randomly talk,” my sister will say.

“Yeah, like you’re in the bathroom washing your hands or something and I’ll wonder who else is in there,” my brother will say.

I’m not talking to anyone else… except for Tony.

“8. Girls eat salads – women eat whatever the hell they want.”

Claire likes eating pizza and will lose respect for you if you diss deep dish pizza.

It’s a meal, people. It’s supposed to have substance. That’s what food is, isn’t it? Not just a snack that you eat in two minutes, you know? Not that I don’t like New York-style, I do, I really do, and yeah, it’s more popularly seen throughout the country. But that’s the beauty of Chicago-style pizza, my friends. You want to have something that is unique to a region? You go anywhere outside of the city or the suburbs and it’s going to go downhill from there.

“9. Girls stick to what they know – women are always searching to widen their horizons.”

Claire knows everything.

Be afraid.

“10. Girls need guardians – women don’t need anybody but themselves.”

Claire likes people but there are some that are just cumbersome and aren’t worth trying to understand. So whenever those people give her trouble, she just watches a show or a film and pretends that she’s Claire Underwood or Amy Dunne or Mindy and becomes friends with these characters in her mind.

I have my family, my friends and then my characters. It’s a pretty good support system.