One Flew Over the Receptionist’s Desk

First, it should be noted I have signed non-disclosure agreements at many offices in New York City as occasionally I am privy to sensitive financial information not intended for public knowledge.  I always joke with the compliance departments (some of whom laugh and others who seem to have lost their sense of humour the minute they donned their first blazers) at these financial institutions that as a twenty-five year old actor who has never had any wealth whatsoever to “manage,”

"Greed...is good.  And so are my fancy-ass suspenders and slick-backed hair."

“Greed…is good. And so are my fancy-ass suspenders and slick-backed hair.”

I wouldn’t even know what to DO with the kinds of stock or bank information I MIGHT happen to see or hear about other than to do my best Gordon Gekko impersonation and slimily say, “Greed…is good.”  I didn’t know how to manage and sell my TY Beanie Baby collection at the “prime market time,” so I’d say that’s a good indicator I probably also wouldn’t know how to buy or sell stocks at the right time either.  All this is to say I am trusted to maintain some sense of security and professionalism in all the financial institutions in which I so often do temporary work.

As a receptionist, you are the gatekeeper (“Are you the Keymaster?”) to the company both physically and telephonically, and you have the power to grant or decline entry to people’s offices and phone lines.  I am so accustomed to answering phones and greeting guests at so many offices around the city, I’m unfazed by pretty much everything a guest or caller could throw my way, and I know all the tricks people use to try to get you to give them access to people within a company so they can harass them with sales calls, money schemes, etc.  The fact is, unless you can give me a specific first and last name of someone within a company, legally, I cannot and will not put your call through.

Who would ever slam the door in Bill Murray's face?

Who would ever slam the door in Bill Murray’s face?

(I am Dana Barrett possessed by Zeul and will slam the door in your Peter Venkman face, so to speak)

So naturally, when a young woman called the office where I am working for the next two and a half weeks and asked to speak to someone about handling her money a few days ago, I told her just that: “I’m sorry, but unless you have the name of someone in the company, I cannot put your call through.  That is company policy.”  What I did NOT expect was her to launch into a perplexing and semi-unsettling confessional of her life situation for the next ten minutes that:

  1. a) Intrigued me
  2. b) Sort of terrified me
  3. c) Made me question the validity of her claims/sanity
  4. d) Led me to look her up on Facebook/Google

Her first words after I said my spiel were, “I’m sorry, I don’t know who I am.”

So I did what any person in this situation would do which is stay silent and pray I wasn’t talking to a Moriarty or a John Doe-from-Se7en or something.

Moriarty: our favorite dreamboat consulting criminal

Moriarty: our favorite dreamboat consulting criminal

She continued, “I am about to get a LOT of money from several medical malpractice suits in St. Louis,” (SHE IS ALSO FROM MISSOURI!!!! WTF!!!) “and I don’t even know what to do with it.  I don’t want it all, just enough to give some away and take some trips and live my life and get away from all these crazy people.”

My inner monologue: Um, okay…

“I’m just kind of really overwhelmed right now, and I think my parents are hiding information from me.  They won’t tell me anything, and every time I try to ask questions, they put me in a hospital and hold pillows down over my face.  They keep admitting me to mental institutions to force me to have electroshock therapy, and this one nurse actually beat me with this leather strap.  Like, with serious intent to harm.  I’m not crazy.  I have a really high IQ.”

Just like Sherlock?  A high-functioning sociopath?

I wanna 221B with you, Sherlock.

I wanna 221B with you, Sherlock.

“I don’t even think they’re my parents, like I don’t belong to them.  My family has forced me to be on my own.  I don’t really have anyone to go to, and I really need financial advice, but I can’t ask my parents because they keep sending me to hospitals to have electroshock or make me take pills.  I’m not crazy.  I just have a really high IQ.  And I’m young, so I don’t know how to handle all these millions of dollars I’m about to get in settlements.  My lawyers, which are some of the best settlement lawyers in St. Louis have been investigating and trying to get answers from my parents, but I just don’t really know who I am, and I’m alone.  I am investigating everything and trying to get names, but it’s such a slow process.  I need help, and I don’t know where to go.”

I seized the minuscule pause in her oration to try to regain control and courteously end the conversation.

“Well, unfortunately, I’m just not allowed to connect you to anyone within the company without proper identification.  If you can do some more investigating with your lawyers and call back with a name, we’re very happy to be of help to you.  Good luck with everythi-”

She cut me off, “I’m sorry to cut you off, and I know you are trying to help, but I just want to explain that my parents are hiding things from me and making it difficult for me to get the information I need.  But I’m going to get millions of dollars, and I’m just so lost and overwhelmed and I need help.  I married into a crazy, weird family, and they all think I’m crazy and keep trying to hurt me to keep me quiet.  And my town is the same way; it’s small and weird and there’s all these secrets and lies, and it’s like everyone is against me.  I’m not crazy.  I have a really high IQ.  All I want is someone to help me manage the money I’m getting because I don’t know who I am and how to do anything.  I really don’t want it all, just enough to give some away and take some trips and live my life and get away from all these crazy people.  I’m doing investigations and trying to get names, but it’s such a long process.  And my parents have forced me into hospitals where the nurses, many of whom are African American…”

Oh lord.  Another race issue in St. Louis…and secrets and lies?  What is this, Twin Peaks?!

Twin Peaks-era Kyle McLachlan looks as confused as I felt during that phone call

Twin Peaks-era Kyle McLachlan looks as confused as I felt during that phone call

“…and they hurt me and kept trying to make me forget who I am.  My parents are trying to like, brainwash me and make me forget who I am and what I’m trying to do, and all I want is to get away from them and make all this stop.  They’re trying to make me forget things because they’re hiding things from me.  Maybe they’re scared because I’m going to have a lot of money from these settlements, but I don’t know.  I’ll definitely be calling back.  I don’t know when but when I get more information, I’ll call you.”

“Yes, have your lawyers do some investigations and we’ll be happy to help you when you have a little more information.”

I was doing EVERYTHING in my receptionist playbook to try to get her the hell off my phone, because I was really beginning to feel uneasy the longer our conversation continued and the more she kept reiterating she “wasn’t crazy” and just had a “really high IQ.”  I felt as though her extreme paranoia was radiating through the wires of our telephones.  What if all this was some elaborate ruse?  Was she really mentally unstable?  At this point, I still am not sure whether she was telling the truth or not.  Crazy people don’t realize they’re crazy, you know?  Or at least, most don’t.  I could tell just from her voice she believed what she was saying and had convinced herself of the story; there was adamant conviction behind her words.

And I sensed that perhaps the help she needed more than anything was someone to LISTEN to her without judgment or interjection.  We all so desperately long at times to have our voices heard by another so we can purge ourselves of thoughts and words weighing on our bodies and especially our minds.  It can be absolutely maddening when you are speaking and feel as though no one is listening, and while I was uneasy with her confession, I realized this might be the only thing I could do for her: provide an ear and supportive silence.  If her stories really WERE true and she was a girl interrupted, she could either be a Lisa or a Susanna.  I hoped she was the latter.

Are you more Winona or Angie?

Are you more Winona or Angie?

My silence must have satiated her for the time being, because she finally said, “I’m sorry for throwing all this at you, but I just feel alone.  Thank you for listening to all this.  I will get more information and call you back at some point.  Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  I hope you get the answers you need.”

As I finally placed the phone back on the receiver, I wondered aloud, “WHAT just happened?”  Could she have been telling the truth?  Her story seemed like something out of the Lois Duncan suspense novels I used to read as a teen; you know, Summer of Fear, Stranger With My Face and all that.  Or Gillian Flynn’s novels.  Or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

She gave me her full name, so I looked her up on Facebook just to see if I could glean any information about who she really is.  She’s a beautiful girl, probably around my age, and seems normal-ish in photos.  I will probably never know if what she said really happened or if her sanity IS intact, but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt…because I gave it to R.P. McMurphy and Susanna Kaysen.

The Day My Facebook (& My Life) Went From Bacchanals to Bridal Showers: A Modern Tale of Growing Up

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a male friend about the weird transitional time we both are finding ourselves in: the time in life when everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is getting engaged, married, and procreating. At 27, he seemed astonished that I, at 24, already had so many friends entering into the everlasting bonds of holy matrimony. “I mean, I understand it at my age since I’ve been out of school longer and a little closer to thirty,” he said, “but this is already happening to you?” I gave a solemn nod. He replied with what I can only describe as a mixture of sympathy and horror.

Bluto's fb page would have been legendary

Bluto’s fb page would have been legendary

There was a time when my Facebook newsfeed was a hive of raucous, questionable behavior; everywhere I looked, friends were hoisting high their red solo cups of glory, chugging their lives away as if there was no tomorrow. Outrageous costumes and blurry photos dominated my networks. It was like ancient Rome or something.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but one day, my newsfeed turned from bacchanals to bridal showers. Singles nights to sonograms. My world has gone completely topsy-turvy, and I’m not sure I like it.  I suppose it’s the natural order of things, but what, anymore, really IS “natural”? Am I missing something? At 24, I’m being left in the dust of everyone’s mad dash to the altar. In New York, this is not such a big deal, but back where I come from, my being single is a point of conversation and sometimes condescension (mostly amongst the older generations; people my age couldn’t care less).

I never cared much about dating in high school (though my journals and correspondence with some of my BFFs might contest that), and the few boyfriend/relationship-y situations I got myself into during those mixed up teen years were…well, teenaged.  I certainly didn’t date anyone in college due to a slim selection of heterosexual boys in my department (and on campus period).  I was the straight-A student, the overachiever, always working hard and dreaming of being a successful actress.  I’ve never planned my “dream wedding,” choosing colors or thinking about where I’d have it.  I always planned out my dream career: choosing roles to play and directors/actors I’d want to work with. I never thought that wasn’t normal…until now.

I'm an outsider just like Ponyboy.  We're both just trying to stay gold.

I’m an outsider just like Ponyboy. We’re both blonde, pensive people who enjoy staring off into the distance while quoting poetry.

I’ve probably been an outsider (just call me Ponyboy!) my whole life in that way and didn’t realize it until I started seeing large, sparkly diamonds on all the left hands of my female classmates and friends.

Now, I’m not begrudging any of these people their happiness; I’m truly excited for them. They’re starting a whole new journey in their lives, and that’s something awesome for sure. I welcome any chance to celebrate more love being brought to the world.  And I definitely have a blast at weddings!  I’ve yet to find myself feeling miserable and sullen during one just because I’m single; on the contrary, I see weddings as a chance to have fun, drink free liquor (if you have a cash bar at your wedding, I’m not coming; shell out the extra dough for an open bar please), eat cake, dance, and hang out with my friends.  I just have never thought about MY life the way some of my friends think about theirs.  To each their own, you know?  I suppose my priorities are different, and I also haven’t met someone with whom I desire to share all my precious time.  I can’t imagine being married right now; I still feel like a kid a lot of the time, and my finances are all over the place, and I’m not even sure I’m the person I’m supposed to be yet.  How could I possibly devote my life to someone when I don’t even know what I’m doing with it yet?  And don’t even bring up the idea of me having a child before I’m in my thirties.

(I have nightmares of being the kind of parent who’s forever immortalized in all my kid’s Spielberg-ian films as the inspiration for their characters’ “mommy-issues.” In reality, I don’t think I’d actually be like that, but indulge me, please.)

Somewhere, I read the quote, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and it is.  I’m the worst.  I have a competitive streak and self-worth issues, and if I think for a second I’m behind the rest of the world somehow or not doing enough to be seen as “worthy” or “valuable,” I try to do everything I can to catch up and change how I think people perceive me.  It’s not healthy, and I know it, but it’s always going to be something with which I struggle.  And while I use self-deprecating humor as a cover for a lot of my darker, more maligned feelings, I can’t always convince myself that there isn’t something wrong with me somehow because the rest of the world is pairing off, and I’m here on my own (cue Les Mis moment).

I'm not crying because I'm single; I'm crying because Russell Crowe's voice is le miserable.

I’m not crying because I’m single; I’m crying because Russell Crowe’s voice is le miserable.

This is, of course, just my raging Woody Allen-esque neuroses coming out.  In Hannah and Her Sisters, he’s a hypochondriac who thinks he’s dying of various things.  I, on the other hand, am a hypochondriac about love. “Am I gonna catch it?  What do I do if I catch it?  Why haven’t I caught it?  What’s wrong with me? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!  I should have had it by now, right?  What does it feel like?  How do I know when I’ve got it?” I guess I think that if I fret about it enough, I’ll catch love like you do a cold; in my head, it has become a psychosomatic syndrome.

And I do hope you don’t think I’m complaining because in all actuality, I’m not.  Not to mention it’s horribly unoriginal to be a twenty-something female living in New York complaining about her lack of significant other.  I suppose what all this nonsense boils down to is I’m just not used to the idea of aging yet.  As I see so many friends starting to plant roots and seeds for new phases of their lives, I’m realizing I will never be this young again; life changes you.  You think you know that, but until you start experiencing those changes, you don’t…not really.  Someday, I’m going to put down my own roots, and it’s going to be scary and exciting and will make some of my younger friends feel the way I do right now about my older friends.  And there is nothing wrong with you if you’re in your twenties and still single.  Conversely, there is nothing wrong with you if you are in your twenties and married/engaged/with child.  Live your life, because the fact is, it’s YOUR life.  Judge not lest ye be judged, people.  You’re the one who has to live your life, so don’t let anyone make you think for a second that however you choose to live it is not valuable or worthwhile just because it’s not how THEY chose to live theirs.

So my Facebook newsfeed no longer looks like a hive of alcohol-soaked debauchery.  So what?  The Roman Empire didn’t last forever.  I can’t promise MY posts will be any tamer for a while, but that’s where I am in my life, and I won’t apologize for it.  The beauty of life is that it can change in a second; it’s dealing with the change that’s the hardest (but most rewarding) part.

26: It’s Just the Near(sighted)ness of You

Day 2 of the new portions of my workout routine aka Tracy Anderson’s ab and arm webisodes.  For those of you unfamiliar with Tracy, she’s a major celebrity personal trainer, working with everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jennifer Aniston to Madonna.  Needless to say, the girl knows her stuff.   What I like about her Method is that she believes in high reps with lots of different sequencing.  She doesn’t like her clients to become bored so she changes their workout routines every 10 days to insure maximum muscle confusion.  I like the variety of movements, because it doesn’t feel like the same old thing.  Not only that, but I actually can feel the exercises working on the muscles in my body as I’m doing the movements.  Her ab webisode is a staggering 10 minutes of floorwork and a standing ab section.  It’s great and hurts like a bitch.  It’s definitely not just your basic crunches or Pilates.  The arm webisode is awesome too because the first half of it doesn’t even require weights, it’s just using the resistance of your own body.  This portion also hurts like a bitch, but I instantly feel stronger upon completion, and it makes me feel accomplished as I fight through the pain to the end.

After a trip to the eye doctor today, I found out I am slightly nearsighted, meaning I have slight vision distortion when I look at things far away.  I HAVE noticed the last two years or so that I’ve had some trouble with reading things at a great distance.  However, the eye doctor said it’s not really that bad and definitely not bad enough for me to need glasses yet.  He said I still have 20/20 vision, but it’s a weird feeling.

It’s the first time I’ve ever realized that I am, in fact, getting older and will one day start showing visible signs of aging.

It’s not really something I’ve thought a lot about, to be honest.  I think when we’re young, we feel invincible: forever young.  We don’t think we’ll ever get to be “that age.”  I can’t even imagine what having crow’s feet around my eyes is like, because I stubbornly choose to believe I won’t get them.  The concept of ever turning 40 is so foreign to me.  I can’t picture it.  Maybe I just don’t want to.  I just want to bask in my youth and then deal with its consequences later when I somehow become 40.  Is that acceptable?

“God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.” — anonymous