Tuesday, March 20, 2012

**What My (Pathetic) Life Says About Me

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 22, 2012] © 2012

I'm always a sucker for those internet and magazine self-help articles on the theme of "What your car/phone/electronics/hair style/wardrobe says about you" or the 'How-To' pieces:  How to Land the Man of Your Dreams, How to Look Ten Pounds Thinner in One Day, or even How to Look Great Naked.

You know the ones.  Catchy copy breathlessly gushes:  "Your Audi screams fun and flirty!  You're a go-getting jet-setting trend setter yearning for the wanderlust lifestyle!  You were born to live on the other side of the pond.  In your ideal life, Fridays would find you on your way to a rendezvous with your Italian lover!" 

Now, as a regular reader of these articles, the one thing I've noticed is that they never seem to reference my particular car or phone or electronics.  I'm not sure why but it irritates me beyond belief.  I can only wonder, if they wrote about me, what would they say? 

What Your Car Says About You:  Your 2005 Toyota Corolla fairly screams Cheap Car!  But the fact that this one actually has automatic windows says it is a huge step up from your Jetta.  You were truly born without the car gene!  Still, this is the first car you've ever owned that your husband doesn't tell people belongs to the cleaning lady.  Next time, go wild and crazy and get a Prius!

What Your Cell Phone Says About You:  Like your car, it's says Cheap!  Insanely cheap!  It doesn't even have a camera!  The fact that it is a pre-paid minutes phone means it doesn't have internet either!  It also fairly shouts, "I have no idea how to text!  In fact, I'm not totally sure how to answer it!"  When your two-year-old granddaughter watches Yo Gabba Gabba on her iPhone, which she can operate herself, you ask, "What's that thing called?"

How to Look Ten Pounds Thinner in One Day:  Photoshop, Baby!  Heck, go for fifty!

What Your Wardrobe Says About You:  You have a wardrobe?  Did you age out of contention for "What Not To Wear"?  Giving away the iron ten years ago was a great feminist statement:  you're not about to wear anything that isn't wash and wear.  But eventually even wash and wear wears out!  Yes, it really does!  Are you going for Bag Lady Chic?

How to Land the Man of Your Dreams:  Actually, he's already flopping on the dock.  (Love you, Olof!)

What Your House Plants Say About You:    Is it any accident you only have five house plants left?  And they're on probation?  Your philosophy is:  How expensive is a friggin' golden pothos anyway?   If it needs watering more than once a week, it's not happening at your house.  Survival of the fittest!  You've spent your entire adult life taking care of kids, husbands, pets and plants.  Can't let the first three crump (however tempting) but the second the horticulturals make a single demand, they're compost!  Enough already!

How to Look Great Naked:  Short of losing sixty pounds and being reincarnated as a supermodel, there is no way on God's green earth that you are going to look great naked!  Or even OK naked!  That ship has like totally sailed!  Or in your case sunk!  Sorry, Inga, that article was intended for people for whom there is actually hope!  Can't believe you even read it!  The link you were looking for was:  "How to make sure people never see you naked."

OK, I think I'm officially sorry I asked.

Monday, March 5, 2012

*Wishing There Were a Cure for Doctor Worship

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 8, 2012]  © 2012

Given the number of doctors in La Jolla, it’s probably not surprising that I would count among my friends a certain number of fellow ex-wives of physicians.  Virtually all of us have remarried (as have our former spouses) and I’m happy to say that despite early rancor, we all have good relationships with them now. 

 At a recent lunch, we were reflecting on our lives when we first divorced.  Overnight his status as a single doctor soared while ours as single mothers tanked to reptilian levels.  But what irked us more than anything was what the exes could get away with that we couldn’t.  We were up against some serious doctor worship.

 After my physician husband and I divorced, I went back into the workplace in an entry level job and with a custody schedule written in stone.  My ex solved the problem of soccer practice on his custody day by charming the female soccer coach – whom he didn’t know from Adam – into taking our son home with her after practice and keeping him until the child could be picked up.  She was glad to do it, she told me reverently.  “He’s a busy doctor, you know.”  

 When the ex brought the kids to a birthday party in mis-matched clothes, jam on their faces, rumpled hair, and bedroom slippers, the other moms all thought it was adorable.  If I’d done that, there would have been anonymous calls to Social Services. 

 Even the school perennially suffered from what I could only refer to as felony physician fawning.  Our divorce decree had stipulated that if the kids were sick on Monday, Thursday, or Friday, it was my problem.  Since Tuesday night was the ex’s weekday custody night, Tuesday and Wednesdays were his days to make arrangements. 

 Like that ever happened.

 One long ago Monday in December, I called the ex and alerted him that the kids had been home with temperatures of 103 and obviously wouldn’t be able to go to school the next day.  He says OK.  The next morning he comes to get them.  At 10 a.m. I get a call at work from the school’s office staff.  They’re not happy.

“Your children are much too sick to be in school today.”

 Inga (puzzled):  “I know.  That’s why I called them in absent this morning.”

“But they’re standing right here.”

“They can’t be."

“They are.  Do you want to talk to them?”

Inga:  “No, but I’d love to talk to their father, whom you’re supposed to call on Tuesdays and Wednesdays per the instructions we gave.”

“We already did, but his office says he’s unavailable.”  (Pause for moment of unctuous deification.)  “He is a doctor, you know.”

Inga (drily):  “Yes, I’ve seen the diploma.  I’ll call you right back.”

Ex’s answering service:  “I’m sorry, but Doctor is teaching this morning and left strict instructions not to be disturbed.” 

Inga:  (Did they think they were dealing with an amateur?)   “Tell ‘Doctor’ to get on the phone right now or I’ll be over in five minutes to blow up his frigging office.”

Seconds later: 

 Ex:   “Hi Inga.  My answering service said a distraught psychiatric patient was on the line and that I might need to evacuate the building.  So I knew it had to be you.”

 Inga:  “You took the kids to school!”

 Ex:   “Well, once I got them in the car, they didn’t look that sick to me.”
Inga:   “The perception of illness in a family member has never been within your visual or auditory capabilities.  I pumped them full of Tylenol an hour before you came but they’re still really sick.”

 Ex:   “Gee, this is a problem.  I’m teaching all day.  

Inga (still a little bitter at this stage:)  "Why don't you call one of your horde of hussies?"

Ex (offended):  "They are not hussies."  (Sniffs:)  "They have lives too, you know." 

Inga:  "What?  Making tassels for their costumes?  We are under deadline to submit a huge grant proposal today.  I can't take the day off."

Ex:  "If you could just help me out today, I promise I’ll never do this to you again.”

 Inga:  “Except that this is already the fourth time!”

 Ex:   “Oops, gotta go!  You’re the best!  Bye!”

 (School again:)  “Henri just threw up on the office floor.  These children really need to go home.  Oh, and they’re crying.”

 As I picked them up from school a short time later, the secretary enthused, “It must be wonderful for the children to have a doctor for a father.  Especially when they’re sick.”

 “Yup,” I said, “I couldn’t be more grateful.”