We Don't Like Perfect People

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This (Particular) American Life

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Since I spend six hours a day working at a job where headphones are as common as book jackets, I’ve been listening to a lot of This American Life.  I’ve listened to at least eighty episodes since the beginning of the month, along with the occasional episode of Car Talk.  The ratio isn’t as even as I’d like it to be. Car Talk’s archives are pay-only, while TAL allows you to stream theirs from your computer for free.  As a result, I probably get one episode of Car Talk for every 25 of This American Life.

I have to hand it to the Magliozzi brothers for coming up with this scheme.  I know they came up with it, too, because it’s simultaneously brilliant and diabolical, plus you can hear it laughing and snorting if you listen very closely.  Here’s how they get you:  their weekly podcast is free, but all episodes posted prior to your subscription to the podcast are not.

Who did they get the idea from, drug dealers?  They give you just enough free stuff to get you hooked, then they crank the prices through the roof and bleed you dry.  At 95 cents a pop, they could easily get the entirety of my minimum-wage paycheck almost before it’s deposited.  Sometimes I’m tempted to do it, but then I remember I need things like gasoline and spending money during the long unemployed stretch of the school year, and I abstain.  But man, they really must need to make that boat payment.

It seems like an obvious choice:  to forgo Car Talk in favor of This American Life, which is equally entertaining at an infinitely kinder price.  And I will, but I don’t do it carelessly.  As the fifth straight hour of Ira Glass’s excessively thoughtful and morose narration draws to a close, I really miss Click and Clack.  I wish I hadn’t already listened to the week’s podcast, which I do first thing on Monday morning, to take the edge off.

It’s not that I don’t like This American Life.  I do, really, very much, despite the well-publicized opinions of The O.C.’s Summer on the matter.  It’s just that in real life I’d rather hang out with the Magliozzis.  Ira Glass and his crew would probably find me sweet, in the same way that one finds a spaniel sweet, and there’s nothing that pisses off twenty-year-old white girls more than finding them sweet in that way.  Most of us would rather you found us fat.

Tom and Ray, on the other hand, are more like my family members than anything else.  Replace “Italian” with “Southern” and “mechanics” with “truck drivers”, and you’ve got the Boland clan.  Sure, they’d probably find me sweet too, but being thought of that way by a pair of grandfathers is infinitely less galling.  My own grandfathers feel/felt that way about me.  It doesn’t prevent me from tossing out whatever crazy or stupid thing comes to mind in conversation with them.

I went to high school with kids who will grow up to be the types of people Ira Glass hosts on his show.  Even after two years of class three hours a day with them, just ten kids and a teacher in a room, things were still tense between us.  Part of it was the competition, and another big part was the premature development of overblown egos.  But still another part was that the more pretentious, elite clique found me lame.  And no wonder:  they cited Walter Benjamin, while I wrote about how much I love my cat.  I’m prone to awkward outbursts, making oversized gestures when I talk, and actual pratfalls.  I’m like Charlie Chaplin, if Charlie Chaplin’s jokes fell flat too.  Ira Glass would be as exasperated by this as Katie, Allen, Andrew, and Tori were, as his crew would have to spend hours editing my faux pas away.

But the Magliozzis are as lame as they come.  I think they’d be more forgiving of my shortcomings.

I only snort when I laugh REALLY hard.

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Written by Estie

June 16, 2010 at 3:24 am

Rules for Orifices

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Okay, whew.  My may class is over, I made an A in it, and the library job still rocks.  There are sixteen days until my family leaves for our wonderful and fabulous adventure to England and Scotland.  As I remarked to my mother last week, I am so happy at this moment that something disastrous is sure to befall me soon.

More importantly, though, I have time to have thoughts again!  So I thought I’d share my thoughts on orifices with you all this evening.

Because I lack religious conviction, I’ve been left to the inconvenient task of figuring out a belief system for myself.  I’m still working on a lot of it, though for the most part it seems to include boring philosophies like moderation, relativity, and not being a complete asshole to your fellow sentient and non-sentient beings.  However, there are a few things I feel very strongly and specifically about.  The following rules are some examples which, if followed, I believe will result in a safer, cleaner, and more harmonious existence.

1.  If you previously removed it from one body cavity, it should not under any circumstances be inserted into another.

I cannot stress this enough.  Whatever it is, if it came out of you, it’s probably a waste product.  Allowing it to re-enter your body is therefore detrimental to your overall health, regardless of how fresh it is.  (I’m looking at you, kids who let your snot drain into your mouths instead of wiping your noses like civilized beings.)

An exception to this rule is the replacement of said substance into the SAME cavity from which it was removed, under the following FEW AND SPECIFIC circumstances:  dental work, organ prolapse, errant hearing aids or other medical devices.

2.  Orifices should generally be regarded as one-way streets.

This rule is more flexible than the previous one.  I understand the need to allow two-way traffic in some orifices under some circumstances.  However, two-way traffic should only occur for a CLEAR and LOGICAL reason, not simply because you were bored/curious/itchy.

3.  Please, for the love of God, DO NOT examine the substances that exit your orifices.

As mentioned earlier, these are generally waste products.  Your body has no use for them, and neither should you.  Anyway, bad things happen when you examine non-personal waste products.  To wit:  lingering to examine fresh bear waste usually results in the nearby bear returning to eat you.  Lingering to examine nuclear waste results in acute poisoning and/or cancer.  And lingering to examine waste in dumpsters results in your appearing to be homeless, an antique dealer, or Freegan.

4.  I can’t believe I have to actually say this, but guys?  KEEP YOUR ORIFICES CLEAN.

A friendly reminder:  pores are orifices too.  So take a damn shower every once in a while, and USE SOAP.  Would it kill you?

Written by Estie

June 8, 2010 at 2:03 am

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

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Having slogged my way through final papers and final exams, study sessions and an eleven-mile hike specifically designed to avoid study sessions, I am now safely on the other side of my sophomore year of college.

(I am taking a Maymester course, starting tomorrow, but for some reason that counts as part of my junior year.  Hooray bureaucracy!  The course is on the trial of King Charles I, which is a good thing for me to spend a month on, because I am sadly lacking in Stuart-related historical proficiency.  All I could manage to say about Charles in the essay section of my final exam was that Parliament had important things to discuss with him, but he dismissed them, which was a poor choice because what if they just wanted to tell him his fly was down?)

On the same day I made jokes about anachronistic pants-closure methods, I had a birthday!  Not only am I free of the yoke of underclassman status, I am free of the infinitely-oppressive “teenager” status.  I feel this is important for my credibility as a Deeply Serious Writer, bringing it to a grand total of zero, if you round up.  Compare this to the average teenager’s negative credibility; I’d say birthday = win for me!

In addition to aging, higher education, and regicide, the other gleeful news in my life of late is that I managed to wrangle a summer job.  I am one of two minions (as one of the Circulation supervisors calls us) hired by the campus library’s Technical Services department to turn regular books into library books.  The work is menial and the chairs are damn uncomfortable, but I don’t work weekends, I get to choose my own hours and lunch breaks, and I can even snack on the job.  Plus, I don’t work for a Fascist corporation.  I work for a bunch of laid-back librarians.  So I’m down like a massive object in another, more massive object’s gravitational field.

Technical Services is on the ground floor of the library, cocooned away from through traffic.  It houses all sorts of things:  the library mailroom, Acquisitions, Cataloging, and one hugely pregnant lady whose purpose I don’t remember, but it doesn’t matter because she’ll be on leave after this week.  The place is my favorite kind of organized mess.  Bizarrely-organized shelves of new books fill one wall, and carts laden with books and other media at varying stages of being processed are strewn about.  Because of all these carts, an aerial view of our office would look like a paused game of Tetris.

And because it’s in a library and all, it’s QUIET.

I’m the type of person who would rather listen to my own thoughts than to someone else’s noise.  I nearly shut myself in the hotel room’s closet when we went to New York City, so desperate was I for a little peace.  Sometimes even coffee shops are too loud for me:  they’ve always got some weird music playing.  Coffee Underground, though otherwise perfect, plays disco ad nauseum (and yes, it really does make me nauseous).  Needless to say, I was super-jazzed about getting paid to sit somewhere quiet with books.

Yesterday, the quiet was everything I’ve ever dreamed of.  It was like going to a spa, except that a) I’ve never been to a spa, and b) the chairs are wicked uncomfortable.  I thought up all sorts of big thoughts.  I debated the relative merits of Soren Kierkegaard and Rainer Maria Rilke—who has the better name?  (Ragnar Shaggy-Britches was the write-in candidate.)  I enumerated the evils of highly-processed foods, and decided to try to eat more cleanly.  I even pondered the nature of the human-animal connection!

But today, I mostly hummed the Frito Bandito song to myself.

So I’m charging the old iPod as I type.  I wonder, do Click and Clack have a free podcast?

Written by Estie

May 12, 2010 at 2:25 am

Things Girls Do in Libraries

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It’s a month away from finals, which at CCU means crunch time!  Our last papers are coming due, our last tests are on the horizon, and our less-organized professors are scrambling to get through the rest of the material before they have to examine our knowledge of it.  So I’m sorry I haven’t been around.  I’ll try to write once a week, but probably no more often until the first week of May.

Crunch time at CCU also means library time, if you’re not me.  I go to the library when I have leisure time, because they have a great selection of books and magazines, and plenty of comfy chairs in which to read them.  The chairs are even next to big, floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can get your Vitamin Sunshine in the winter and don’t shrivel up and die of SAD, even though you haven’t been outdoors properly in 42 days.  Last but not least, libraries are one of the few public places in which you can be near other people without having to interact with them, and that is awesome.

Part of the reason I went to CCU was their library.  I think it’s like #18 on the Princeton Review’s list of bestest college libraries evahr. If they served food in the basement, I’d spend all day there.  If they had a dormitory in the attic, I’d spend all night there, too.  But sending me to a library to study is a little like sending a football player onto the field in the middle of a game to study.  I do my homework in my dorm, because I’ve already read everything in there.  So I haven’t been to the library lately.

When I do hunker down for a marathon library session, it’s like embarking on a wilderness expedition.  I make sure I have everything I need to sustain life:  food, Diet Coke, lip balm, layers of clothing…sometimes I even grab a clean pair of socks.  I only get up to go to the bathroom.  And when I do, believe you me, it is with great reluctance.  If I were a guy, I’d probably just pee out a window.

I don’t know if you’ve gathered as much, but CCU is uptight, type-A, anal retentive yuppie central.  Emphasis on the anal-retentive.  And not in the figurative sense, either.

I know most girls are kind of shy about pooping.  But I swear to you, I have never met so many girls who were so neurotic about pooping in my entire life.  The brave ones skitter out of the stalls like ashamed mice, scrubbing their hands at lightspeed while avoiding eye contact with anyone.  Some people won’t go at all if there’s the remotest chance they may not be the only person in the bathroom.  Then there are the people who pick up their feet when they go, because someone might recognize them by their shoes.  And heaven forbid someone else know that they, like everyone else on earth except colostomy patients, poop!

Okay, I know that it smells bad, and it’s kind of embarrassing when it’s loud, but guys?  Come on.  Everybody poops.  As my mother said to me when I was very young, even Cinderella poops.

This concept had a lasting impact on my life.

For some reason, the CCU female hive mind has collectively decided that the only place any of the ~1500 of them can poop is the library.  I can understand the privacy-seeking and the shoe-hiding and even the refusal to exit the stall if another person’s presence is detected, but I do not get the library-pooping thing.  I’m beginning to suspect it’s a ritual they learn at sorority initiation.

I can’t imagine what the situation was like before the library was renovated.  It’s got something like nine stalls in it now, by far the biggest bathroom on campus, and it still smells like something died in it.  If it shrank by two thirds, to the size of all the other bathrooms, it’d have to be designated a Superfund site.

Or maybe the pooping came after the renovation.  This seems more likely, given that the campus was built in the 1950s, when everyone smoked everywhere all the time.  To the best of my knowledge, the CCU library has never exploded.

I know I am a liberal arts major, but I think it’s time for a little cross-disciplinary science experimentin’.  So let’s pretend I know what I’m talking about, and look at this empirically.

There is one other bathroom on campus that is almost as big as the library bathroom.  It does seem to be a little funkier than the other ones, which would suggest that CCU girls like to poop in big bathrooms.  I, too, have often felt that larger bathrooms provide greater anonymity:  I can blend into the crowd of poopers, instead of being the lone pooper in a bathroom where the other two people present are just fixing their makeup, and inexplicably judging me.

But I wouldn’t say the odor in this second-biggest bathroom corresponds proportionally to the odor in the library.  The library bathroom is about a third bigger, but it’s probably twice as stinky.  Hmmm.  Problem.

But wait!  This second-biggest bathroom is upstairs in the CCU dining hall!  And nobody remotely sane poops where they eat!

Conclusion:  There is poop safety in numbers.

Conclusion #2:  The CIA should begin recruiting its agents from the female population at CCU, because they are a superlatively sneaky bunch.

For another insider’s report on female college poopers, see PoopReport.com.

Written by Estie

April 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Surviving History

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My friend Caroline is brilliant.  She is brilliant because her mind works differently from anyone else’s in the world, and the things that come out of it on a daily basis are the types of things that are so preposterous you laugh until you get a cramp in your side, and you have to stop laughing or you will die.  Only then, as you sit clutching your side and wheezing, do you realize how true and serious that silly thing Caroline said is.

Caroline is terribly sensitive.  She thinks the courtship montage at the beginning of The Swan Princess is bittersweet and affecting, and loves Anne of Green Gables with every fiber of her being. She also loves Arrested Development, although she is preoccupied with worry for Michael and George Michael.  She once clutched my arm and asked me seriously if I thought they were going to be okay someday.  Yet she endured a full two years of our writing teachers’ ceaseless teasing about her (incredibly strong) Southern accent—and she did it with a smile, because she thought it was funny, too.

Caroline is hilarious.  Though I can’t vouch for it firsthand, I’m inclined to think she’s always been that way.  When she was very young, she says, she dreaded going to a restaurant that was apparently one of her parents’ favorites.  There was, you see, a gravel road in front of the restaurant.  No matter the circumstances, every time her family went to the restaurant, Caroline was punished for being out in the middle of the road.  The way she tells the story, it’s as if she teleported into the middle of the road; as if going there was a thing inevitable and entirely out of her control, a switch flipped.  Caroline’s family arrived at the restaurant, therefore Caroline arrived in the road.

When Caroline writes her autobiography, I will laugh until I wet my pants, and then I will cry until my tears have rinsed away my urine.

But I digress.  Today at dinner, Caroline said, “Sometimes I think I would like to have lived in Jane Austen’s time.  But that would have been terribly unfortunate.  I would have been fat, pimply, and snaggle-toothed.”

“And blind,” I said, helpfully.

(Caroline is, in fact, legally blind without vision correction.)

This, as we say in the South, got me to thinkin’.  How on earth did anyone manage to survive before the advent of modern medicine?  Humans, as a species, have far too many ailments even in this age of compulsive hygiene and technological wizardry.  We die every day, zillions of us, accidentally or on purpose, expectedly or unexpectedly, and always too soon.  (Except for my great-grandmother, who died at age 99, thirteen years after she was ready.)

What the hell did we do before?

Case in point:  without modern medicine, I would probably not exist.  My father was born so prematurely that his fingernails were still soft.  My mother was born with two clubfeet and a hemangioma on her neck so large it looked like a bullfrog’s throat sac.  She is allergic to everything, with the unfortunate exception of the sound of her own voice.

Even if my parents had managed to make it, my brother and I would probably be kaput.  We were born fat and healthy, but had pneumonia several times when we were children.

And even if that hadn’t killed us, we’d be squinty, zitty, and supremely snaggle-toothed now.  So we probably wouldn’t be reproducing any time soon, unless they’d already invented paper bags in the Middle Ages.

Written by Estie

March 31, 2010 at 3:13 am

Poisson d’Avril!

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Thursday marks four years that my boyfriend and I have been dating.  Yes, you read that right.  Since my sophomore year of high school, I’ve been the ol’ ball and chain for the same boy.  And for the umpteenth time, no, we’re not getting married.

We didn’t do it on purpose, officer.  It just happened.  One year passed after another, and we somehow didn’t get sick of each other. We went to different schools, lived in different states, and somehow didn’t grow apart.  We meant to do the adult thing and break up after high school, but when it came down to the wire (read:  the day before I went to Millsaps), we couldn’t go through with it.

(We didn’t pick that inauspicious anniversary date on purpose, either.  It…also just happened.)

He’s a computer programmer, and I’m a history junkie; if we had to switch majors for a day, we’d have our pants bored off us by the second hour.  I love to shop, and he damn near has a panic attack every time he remembers that the mall exists.  He likes typography and philosophy, and he eats meat.  I’ve never had a good eye for design, I find philosophy rather arbitrary (except for Sartre, but everybody likes Sartre), and I’ve been a vegetarian since I was fourteen.

It embarrasses him when I talk about Harry Potter as if it is real in public, and when I get involved in arguments about literature on Facebook.  It embarrasses me when he skips in public, and when he wears the “Vagina is for Lovers” t-shirt he screenprinted himself.  (I do have to admit that it’s a nice color, though.  And is as tastefully done as a “Vagina is for Lovers” t-shirt can be.)

He likes to save, I like to splurge.  He’s a morning person, I’m a night owl.  He works hard, I like nothing better than sitting on my ass and procrastinating.  He’s very neat, and I’m a mess.

We’re different.  But we’re also very much the same.

We like to compromise.  We don’t like to shout.  We like giving gifts better than receiving them.  We’re addicted to the Internet.  We both like the mountains better than the beach, and we both have trouble with our swimsuits falling down.  We have similar taste in movies and TV, and we both like to cook—he thinks I make a mean avocado sandwich, and I think he makes killer scrambled eggs.  Oh, and his espresso is to DIE for.

We like cats, Asian food, and blowing things up.  We both speak Toothbrush, and we both drive like grannies.  Each of us knows exactly what the other is talking about, even when the other isn’t making any sense whatsoever (and this is a common problem, because we both have the same bizarre sense of humor).

My roommate, who is a year and a half older than me, got engaged a few months ago.  When I informed my boyfriend of this, he said matter-of-factly, “Good for her.  I’m not engaging you, though.”  When we finished our dinner, he congratulated her, then we retired to his dorm to discuss just how crazy she is.  I like that we can agree on this.  I also like that we can agree children are annoying, and partying is vastly overrated.  This means that, if we so desire, we will be able to continue to get along for the foreseeable future.

It does not, however, mean that we’re obligated to declare ourselves stuck together for life.

People think that we have the strangest relationship on the planet.  They simply cannot understand why, if we have been together for so long, we are not “engaging” (ha, see what I did there?) in the horrid activities most other couples do, like naming our future children (gag) or planning our wedding (ugh).  And it seems that no matter how many times I say to those people, “We’re nineteen, okay?  WE ARE NINETEEN,” they never seem to get it.

This is the way I see it:  if you don’t want children, why should you legally tie yourself to another person?  I’d rather live without a commitment that requires lots of messy paperwork to dissolve, and know that when I am in a relationship, I’m there because the other person wants me to be there, not because it’s too expensive and too much of a hassle to make me leave.

Especially now, when I’ve got at least sixty years left on this earth—if average life expectancy is any indicator of my own—why should I arbitrarily push even more of my life’s milestones into the first twenty-five years of my life?

It doesn’t mean I love him any less.  To be honest, I probably love him more for it, because he feels the same way.

So here’s my acknowledgment of our momentous anniversary, because come Thursday we are going to New York City with my mom and brother, and with all the traveling hullabaloo, I’ll probably forget all about it.  =)

(Seriously, that has happened before.  We both forgot our second anniversary, because it was during our senior year of high school, the day after my dog died and my colleges rejected me, while he was devoting every second of his life to his school play.  My friend Sheri reminded me of the occasion three days later.  FAIL.)

Yeah, I know, it's lame that this is from prom. But we have shockingly few pictures together. He's always behind the camera.

Written by Estie

March 30, 2010 at 3:43 am

Flabbity Flab Flab

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A confession:  I do not like my legs.  Depending upon the time of year, I fluctuate between resigned dislike and open hatred, as fashion swings from pants and tights to shorts and miniskirts.  The only time I am pleased with my legs is when they are covered in thick, baggy ski pants and are preventing me from zooming off a cliff.

Even when I was little, before I hit puberty and filled out over approximately one month of sixth grade (I have the stretch marks to prove it), I didn’t like my legs.  I have a mole on my right thigh, halfway between knee and hip, that used to bug me to no end.  I have skin so fair it borders on albinism, so it’s not hard to spot imperfections.  And in summer, every time I looked down, that mole was there, looking right back at me.

It’s not an ugly mole or anything.  It’s about half an inch across, uniformly oval-shaped, and doesn’t protrude, flap in the breeze, or have hair growing out of it.  My irrational hatred of that mole was probably an early indicator that I’m better off with a little Sertraline in my bloodstream.  But I digress.

When I hit puberty, the lower half of my body got totally out of control.  I didn’t wear shorts for five or six years, preferring to suffocate in the South Carolina summer rather than subject the world to my hideous legs.  And bathing suits?  Hah!  I can’t believe I remember how to swim.  I still prefer to have a pair of shorts handy as a cover-up, though that comes with its own set of problems re:  pseudo-albinism—shorts rub my sunscreen off, which means that if I don’t reapply constantly, I end up with a really weird-looking sunburn.

The real trouble is that women in my family look like Sid from Toy Story built us.  We have short limbs and long torsos.  We have broad shoulders, broad hips, and narrow waists, which would be great if we came with anything resembling the BOOBS we were PROMISED in sex ed.  We tend to have an extra helping of junk in the trunk, too.  Our asscracks decide to liberate themselves from our jeans all too often, and thanks to that pasty-white skin, it’s extra-obvious when it happens in public.

In the seventies, a dunk-tank carny yelled at my mom, “Baby, you got an hourglass figure, but all the sand done run to the bottom!”

Nice of her to pass those genes on.

Here’s my body’s catch-22:  it’s not fat.  I’m not a sample size or anything—I wear a four or a six, typically—but I am at a healthy weight.  I’m five foot five, and as of this afternoon I weigh 126.7 pounds.  My body just naturally stores all of its fat on my hips and thighs.

I do eat too much junk food, but do you know what happens when I stop eating junk food?  My boobs become practically concave, and my damn legs stay as gelatinous as they ever were.  Same thing happens when I exercise compulsively.  Even though my muscles do become more toned, they’re still covered with a blanket of good old pudge, so you can’t really TELL.  Oh, and on top of that, I’ve got those stretch marks on my hips and the backs of my thighs.  With cellulite poking out in between, like a prisoner reaching desperately from between the bars of an old-fashioned jail.

I’ve read every women’s magazine in existence, and I know what they all say.  Think about your body in terms of what it can DO, not what it looks like, and unless you’re a quadriplegic, you’ll feel a lot kinder toward it.  But you know what I think about that?  I think it still doesn’t change the fact that my legs are ugly.

I’m setting myself up for a life among the non-affluent.  I want to write, and I really don’t want to do anything else with my life.  I enjoy plenty of things, but writing is the only thing that feels real and true.  So unless I marry for money (gag), I won’t ever be able to afford anything like liposuction, even if I do decide that one vain, shallow act is worth not feeling self-conscious and frustrated every time temperatures climb about 70 degrees.

I’ve done research into the different surgeries offered, pricing, and even those freaky compression garments they make you wear so you won’t go all weird and lumpy while you’re healing.  The bruising I can deal with, as I fall down about as often as I stand up, and I don’t see how compression garments are that different from heavy-duty Spanx.  It’s more the philosophical issues that bug me.

Is it ethical to have plastic surgery when people around the world are dying for want of simple surgical procedures?

Is it ethical to spend thousands of dollars on a procedure to improve my outward physical appearance, rather than on travel that would expand my mind, or something more practical like rent?

Will I lose the respect of people whose opinions I value if I work to conform more closely to our society’s unrealistic image of physical beauty?

I’m not a controlling or type-A personality by any definition of the term.  In fact, my grades would probably improve if I stressed out about things a little more, or gave more of a shit in general.  It’s just this one, insignificant, infuriating thing.  Oh, how it plagues me!

I hear sale of body parts is forbidden on Craigslist, but this is Estieslist.  In conclusion….

For sale:  one pair of legs, slightly used but in good condition.  Functional but utilitarian.  Willing to trade and/or pay cash for more aesthetically-pleasing replacements.  Shin splints and freckles OK, peg legs NOT OK.  Similar skin tone, please.  Serious inquiries only.

Leave me my voice, though, please. I use it to snark with.

Written by Estie

March 25, 2010 at 4:15 am