• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
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Friday
May022008

The Young Tortilla-Based Hostess

When I was scrounging about college in sweatpants, I saw a picture of Jacqueline Kennedy lighting a candle at the dinner table. The caption read, "The young hostess prepares to entertain her guests." And I thought, "Isn't that a lovely bit of life! She has guests!"

Now I have guests, too, and they eat Skyline chili dip and little squares of cheese. Just like Jackie's!


And cupcakes featuring bored-looking plastic horses. Also just like Jackie!


green sugar at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com
Friday
May022008

Angry Cookies

Never mind. It's an angry day today. I spent it cleaning and then making cookie bars, which, when cut into, were all scary on the inside. So I'm not going to take it out on you. I'll just continue to take it out on every...drawer...in...the...freaking...KITCHEN.

slam at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

Thursday
May012008

Match

Yesterday Josh The Pilot and I found ourselves--as we often are--requested to remove six matches from a box, place them on a table, and await further instructions. While we sat, I glanced up at my unruly pile of matches, then looked over at his seat, where six matchsticks sat in an eldest-child perfectly aligned row, an even red splash marching across the white tablecloth.

Marriages are built on far less.

takes two at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

Wednesday
Apr302008

...It Usually Is

"If you were writing about our beautiful resort," the saleswoman said as she shoved me in her car, "what would you put?"

I smiled as she slammed the door, because I was afraid to tell the truth, which was that it would consist of a 100,000 word report detailing every single Satanic sales tactic, engraved invitation to further debt, and general numeric terrorism. Oh, and the NEWLY EXPANDED, TOTALLY PURIFIED INDOOR WATER PARK!!

This is what newlyweds up to their dandruff in student loan debt do for fun: We tour time shares with no intent to purchase. Some marketing genius saw my name on the mortgage and assumed that where there is high credit, there is also high income. This person, as it happens, is merely high.

Josh The Pilot and I were offered free airline tickets and highly reduced hotel stays and a one thousand dollar online shopping spree and a Home Depot gift card and a crappy little water bottle guaranteed to make your beverage taste like plastic in exchange for ninety minutes of our time taking a leisurely tour around our gorgeous Gold Crown Resort.

To absolutely no one's surprise, the entire endeavor took four hours and ended in tears, as our salesman was shocked, shocked! that we'd driven all the way into Shenandoah National Park for the tour and then refused his generous offer to add $10,000 worth of debt at 17% interest in exchange for a week in Jacksonville in the middle of November.

Our tour guide was a lovely woman who was way, way too interested in our well-being. "How was your drive?" she said. "Did you have lunch?"

"We brought a picnic," said Josh.

She clasped her hands before her and beamed as though we were presenting her with a basket of every baby kitten ever born. "THAT. IS. SO. COOL. Where did you eat?"

"In the car."

"I made sandwiches," I elaborated.

"No waaaaaaaay!" she shrieked. "Oh, you are so LUCKY!"

Our mothers should have shown us this much tender regard. "Are you feeling okay?" she asked with great solicitation as Josh surreptitiously yawned at the two-hour mark, as though he was screeching in great jellyfish bite pain. "Can I get you anything? Are you all right?"

"He's fine," I said shortly, still not forgiving her for having shown us through one of the impeccably maintained units, complete with electronic fireplace with little wavy orange lights trained on a black screen, and waving her hand before it and saying, "Now, what do you think a place like this might cost for a week? Huh?"

We stared sullenly at the insta-carpet. Clearly, the idea here was to guess some outrageously high figure, at which point she would shock! us with the low! low! actual price of the timeshare. But by then, we were beaten people, and we weren't playing.

"Take a guess."

"Well," said Josh.

"Come on! Take. A. Guess."

"I don't do numbers," I said, throwing it in the lap of my husband. He glared. It was the worst thing I'd ever done, as a wife.

She wheeled on him. "GIVE ME A NUMBER."

"I couldn't say," said Josh.

There was much huffing on the way to the NEWLY EXPANDED, TOTALLY PURIFIED INDOOR WATER PARK, which was clotted with small children at every section of tubing. I looked longingly at the deep, deep water, far from the meddlesome action of the life preserver.

"Is it always this crowded?" Josh said.

"You think this is crowded?" she answered as a herd of middle schoolers blasted past on their way to the birthday room.

"You could have a book signing in there," she said, pointing at the crepe paper-festooned room. "Wouldn't that be great?"

"It would be... um," I said. Because Thoreau always had his book signings to the right of the Twisty Crusher Gusher, across the hall from the largest claw game in the state of Virginia.

The guide returned us to an enormous room filled with tables populated by other arms-folded couples and corresponding salespeople. It was a room given over entirely to financing and misery. We were joined by her manager, Verne. We were told to expect great things from Verne, up to and including eternal salvation. "I know you told me that you're on a budget," she said, "but I've seen him work miracles."

"Can he make the budget go away?"

I was immediately identified as the weak one, which was sexist and offensive and entirely accurate. One of them plopped a binder full of exchange resorts in my lap, conveniently opened to the Cocoa Beach section. Well! Someone had themselves a past address list!

I looked down at the glossy pages and back at my husband.

"We'd like our plane tickets now, please," he said.

"You can't do this?" Verne said to me.

"No, thank you," said Josh.

I hunched way, way down in my seat, because this was just about everything I have ever hated in life in one room: Conflict, being a source of disappointment to any living thing, numbers, people, and bad coffee.

"Look at what I'm offering you," said Verne, desperately attempting eye contact. "If I walk away, we legally cannot make this offer again."

I became fascinated with the table leg.

"Is there a comment card I can fill out?" said Josh.

Hunchhunchhunch.

"See," said Verne. "Here's five things I can give you today, set in stone. Firm." He proceeded to make a little list. The list included swap weeks, finance options, and...lunch. "I will buy you lunch," he said, underlining it twice, which would have been far more effective were it not four-thirty in the afternoon. "Final offer."

Josh again politely demanded our airline tickets and hotel vouchers, and Verne stood up from his chair, dignity mortally wounded. "I don't have anything to do with that," he said haughtily, and stalked off.

We were then moved through a series of rooms, each subsequently smaller and crappier than the last, as we continued to turn down Verne's amazing offer of lunch. One woman wrote down a number which was half of Verne's final, totally last, rock-bottom, never to be repeated offer. But we were both shells of our former selves.

"No, huh?" Well, if lunch didn't do it, a $120 monthly payment surely wouldn't.

We collected the free airline tickets (cashable only for travel over seven nights, upon booking hotel rooms at the travel agency's partner resorts), and the highly reduced hotel stays (good only at four-star resorts for stays over seven nights, which, when you have three figures in the bank and precisely 2.5 days of vacation, is an awesome deal) and the one thousand dollar online shopping spree (applicable only when buying cruises or travel items from an Internet company which, when Googled, spit up 37,000 hits paired with "Fraud Alert.") But we triumphantly held aloft our Home Depot gift card, good for two replacement garage door springs and a bottle of weed killer. Which was, somehow, highly appropriate.

Guess where we're going for our summer vacation! There's a little place in Williamsburg, and all we have to do is take part in a brief presentation with exciting and upwardly mobile couples like us.

red week at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

Tuesday
Apr292008

Welcome Freelance Switch Readers