Monday, August 31, 2009

Well-Heeled Pack Mule with a Bad Attitude

I’m pretty sure all 10,000 incoming freshman at NYU were in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond (aka Bed, Bath, and Behind) on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan yesterday afternoon.

Well, all 10,000 except for Morgan. I was there in her place because she was with her Nana at the NYU bookstore buying her first semester books.

I’ll go ahead and admit right now that I was not happy about being there, because the day before, we’d been in the same store, and it cost me $700 that time. And I was happy to get out of the place having secured her towels, comforter, sheets, desk lamp, and, amazingly, two bottle openers for that price.

Why was I happy to only spend $700? Because all week, Morgan had been hinting that she needed Frette linens and an Ed Hardy comforter.

Frette, aside from the fact their sheets cost in the thousands, is on the upper east side on Madison Avenue.

Ed Hardy is in the Meatpacking District.

In other words, the child believes her mother and grandmother are well-heeled pack mules sporting no-limit credit cards.

After the smackdown in which I explained that we were NOT going to cover all of Manhattan in an effort to make hers the most expensively furnished dorm room at NYU, she miraculously found an Ed Hardy duvet cover at the Bed, Bath, and Behind. It was on sale for $250. And then she found a $700 goose down duvet to go inside the cover.

Another smackdown ensued, and she settled for a $200 goose down duvet that wasn’t nearly as fluffy. Boofuckinghoo.

So the next day, I was beyond miffed when Nana sent me back for a mattress pad, shelving, under-bed storage, scissors, and trash bags. I got a cab and made my way to the store. I fought my way through all 10,000 shoppers and secured the necessary items. And then I had the brilliant thought that went something like Shit. How am I supposed to carry a bulky mattress pad, a big-ass under-the-bed plastic storage box, and a heavy box containing a wire 2-shelf storage unit requiring assembly all by myself?

I did it by ditching the storage stuff. There were six big cardboard boxes destined for the dumpster in that dorm room. She can store her damn stuff in those boxes. I paid for the remaining items and made my way back to NYU. And that’s when Nana called to tell me that Morgan’s books were too heavy for the two of them to carry. I needed to drop my things off at the dorm and then hoof it to the bookstore to help them carry three bags of books.

I obeyed. When I got there, I looked in the bags to see what books were required for Morgan’s first semester of college at NYU.

And that’s when outfitting my girl for college got really exciting for me. Those three big bags of books, to my mind, are my kid’s future, the path to being able to one day buy for herself all the Frette linens her little heart desires. They weren't heavy at all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Using My Diploma as A Paint Rag

I clearly remember the day when I realized I might get more use out of my college diploma if I turned it into a wet wipe.
Hunter was almost three, Lauren was five, and Morgan was seven. We were living in the basement of our house while the main level was being remodeled. I checked to make sure all three kids were engrossed in Rugrats and then jumped into the shower.
When I turned the water off, I heard Roger, the man who was working on the house, yelling at me from the top of the stairs. "Sandi, you gotta come up here now!" he hollered.
I pulled on a pair of jogging shorts and an ratty old Jimmy Buffett t-shirt bearing the words "I'm the woman to blame." My hair was still dripping from the shower as I raced up the stairs to see what was wrong with Roger.
"You gotta come quick," he yelled from the garage. I ran outside to find him and Hunter were standing next to my new red Ford Expedition. A can of white spray paint lay on the ground by Hunter's feet, and there was a line of spray paint all the way down the side of the vehicle. The gas cap cover was open, and the entire inside of the little compartment was painted white.
"I pulled into the driveway, and Hunter was holding the can," Roger said. "I asked him, 'Hunter did you do that,' and he said, 'No, my mama did it.'"
I turned to Hunter. "You painted my car and then lied to Roger about it?" I asked.
"No. I didn't do it. Roger did it," the kid brazenly lied.
"Dude, I am going to deal with you later. And you are in so much trouble, you have no idea what is about to happen to you," I said, picking him up and buckling him into his car seat in the Expedition.
While Roger watched Hunter to make sure he didn't get out of the car and finish the paint job, I ran downstairs, threw on a pair of flip flops, and herded the girls upstairs and into the car. Lauren paused in the garage to throw a fit because he'd not only painted my car, but he'd also taken the spray paint to her PowerWheels jeep.
We flew to Shorty's, a car wash and detailing shop a couple of miles from the house. I put the car in park, threatened the kids that they would die and Santa would never again come to our house if they got out of their carseats, and ran inside begging for someone to come quick.
A young teenage guy followed me out to the car. He whistled when he saw the paint. "Geez, lady, what happened?"
"My kid painted the car." The teenager started laughing. He walked back into the shop and came out with a couple jugs of Goof-Off and some rags. He started at the front end of the car, and I started at the back. It took us over an hour, but we got every bit of that paint off, except for the part inside the gas compartment. I left that as a souvenir.
Hunter still remembers painting the car. And he remembers getting in trouble for painting the car. I remember walking back into the house, looking at my college diploma hanging on the wall, and thinking that on that day, a couple old paint rags and a can of Goof-Off had been more useful.

Preparing My Kids For Life in a Dorm

My girl’s moving into a dorm tomorrow. Tomorrow, between three and five in the afternoon, is her appointment to move into what will be her home for the next four years. Yesterday morning over breakfast at Norma’s in Manhattan, we discussed what items we needed to purchase for her room. Rug. Blanket. Lamp. Maybe a microwave, if her suitemate doesn’t already have one. A couple of pots and pans for their little kitchen.

Her Nana asked how much cooking she was planning to do in her room. “Well,” I’m having my meal plan upgraded so that I get more dining dollars, which I can use at the little restaurants in the food court.” She added, “I can use them at Starbucks.”

“You’re going to eat breakfast at Starbuck’s every day?” I asked.

“No, I’m going to cook steel-cut oatmeal every day and use my dining dollars for coffee,” she answered, as if I had just asked the silliest question in history. And then, taking a bite of the steel-cut oatmeal she’d ordered at Norma’s, she said, “And nobody in my room had better eat any of my oatmeal.”

I had to laugh. A couple of years ago, I gave up on the irrational idea that my kids should only eat organic fruits and vegetables and locally-raised, grass-fed beef. My obsession with what my kids put in their bodies had been, well, overboard. And that pendulum swung completely in the opposite direction.

Now they can look like Brangelina’s bunch walking around scarfing Cheetos for all I care. As a matter of fact, I’ve swung so far on the giving-a-shit-what-my-kids-eat pendulum that my actual home is now more like a college dorm. My kids go buy junk and hide it from everyone else in the family. I can open an upper cabinet in the laundry room and find a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Where does Lauren keep her Pringles? They used to be under her bed until the dachshunds discovered her hiding place. Now they’re stashed under her bathroom cabinet next to the box of tampons.

(As for myself, I found it easier to develop a taste for things no one else will touch. My kids hate sparkling water, so that’s what I drink now. That and Kombucha, a tea made from dehydrated mushrooms. I always know I can find some of that in my fridge.)

So Morgan's defensive attitude about the oatmeal was completely understandable. “I don’t think you’re going to have trouble with people stealing your oatmeal,” I said.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Steel-cut oatmeal takes a long time to make. It’s not a microwaveable food,” I answered, afraid to tell her the real reason I believe no one will steal her food, at least not a second time.

My nephew, Chase, spent the night at our house a few months ago. His ass is still recovering from the shredding it received when she discovered him eating one of her granola bars.

We decided she is completely prepared for dorm life, this girl of mine. So after all the discussion about what she needed, we spent the day in Bergdorf Goodman buying shoes and clothes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Shocked and Awed

Being in New York City reminds me of a little girl I met last summer at the Georgia State Tennis Tournament in Macon.
Hunter was warming up for a match, his second of the day. It was late in the afternoon and hot enough that I could feel my white-girl skin crisping up like a batch of Captain D's batter-fried fish.
I sat my stadium chair in the six inches of shade provided by an anemic magnolia tree and was watching Hunter's first serve of the match when a little girl planted herself between me and the court.
"My name is America," she announced.
"Hi, America," I said, smiling and tilting my head from left to right to see the action. I hoped she would get the hint that she was in my way.
"Today's my birthday. I'm six."
"Well, happy birthday! Did you have a party?" I asked, still trying to see around her.
"Uh huh. Guess what?"
"What?" I responded. Then, "That's it, man!" I said, encouraging Hunter when he won the point, my annoyance mounting as I exaggerated my efforts to watch the action.
"The night I was conceived, my parents were in New York City. And the next day was September 11, 2001."
I stopped trying to see around her. The child had just told me about the night she was conceived.
Now, I have conceived three children in my lifetime. And you know what? While I have a pretty good idea of where they were conceived, I'm not exactly sure about the when part. And you know what else? I've never discussed the where or my guesses as to the when with my kids. Because ewwww! Who tells their kid about the night she was conceived?
Collecting myself, I said, "I guess that's why you're named America."
"Um, no."
And then she skipped away, leaving me to believe little America had just redefined "shock and awe."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tolerator of Tainted Pussies

Part of what makes me such a great mom is my ability to tolerate pets. To date, in our household we've had several dachshunds, a hermit crab, two pythons, several turtles, a Chinese water dragon, a rescue cat, and a $1000 Bengal cat.

Now, I only mention the cat's pricetag because I didn't buy the exotic cat. Lauren's daddy did. And not long after Lauren got her, the cat came down with what the vet called the nastiest case of trichonomads she had ever seen. A parasite only found in purebred cats, trichonomads cause the most unbelievable cat diarrhea imaginable – “malodorous” is the word used in the Vet Talk newsletter article provided by our doctor. And the veterinarian explained that there are only two possible treatments: wait it out, and the parasites will eventually work their way out of her system, or treat her for two weeks with a carcinogen that is dangerous for humans and can cause neurological disorders and liver disease in the cat.

How long until it worked its way out of her system, I wanted to know.

“Two years,” the vet replied, actually wincing as she said it. I asked if the dogs or we humans were susceptible to the parasite, and I swear this is what she said, “It’s actually a sexually transmitted disease in cattle.”

So where, o where had my slutty cat been? Was she attracted to barnyard animals, this extremely expensive pussy? According to Vet Talk, the parasites are also “inhabitants of the porcine gastrointestinal and nasal mucosa,” so there is the possibility that the cat Lauren’s daddy purchased for her had a thing for pig snot.

Needless to say, I opted for the carcinogenic treatment and began plotting how I could slip massive amounts of vodka into the cat’s drinking water without Lauren’s knowledge. Please don’t get me wrong. I love kitty cats. But a cat with a sexually transmitted parasite that manifests as massive piles of malodorous shit? That’s not a pretty kitty. It’s a tainted pussy.

Bella survived the treatment and within a few weeks was parasite-free. But not long after that, this very expensive, very exotic pussy went into heat. And the problem with that was she had already been spayed. In fact, the vet had theorized that the trauma from the surgery had triggered the outbreak of trichomonads, which had probably been latent in her system since weaning. "See, I'm not interested in how this happened, just what you're going to do about it," I explained to the vet.

The kitty was now camped by the door trying to escape the house. The little slut. And the vet was insisting that it was "impossible" that she was in heat. We were at a stalemate over this wayward pussy. That's when I called Lauren's daddy, who had already demonstrated a penchant for pricey pussy, and told him to come get the damn cat. I was done. My days as most tolerant pet mom on the planet were officially over!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inspired Teaching that Could Have Gotten Me Fired

My little classroom of international students was rocking right along. The boys and Noah were working hard, and I was studying several hours every evening to prepare for the next day's lesson. Aside from mothering toddlers, it was the hardest job I'd ever had.

I happened across Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, the book he published following his bestseller Angela’s Ashes. In an early chapter, he describes some of his teaching methods, one of which was having his students write an excuse note to God.

The next day in class, I announced that we were going to write impromptu essays as practice for the essay section on the SAT. The assignment, I explained, was to pretend they were Adam and Eve and write an excuse note to God explaining why they had eaten the apple.

The boys and Noah each stood and read their essays aloud to the class. Jakub from Poland gave a clever excuse that certainly originated from his childhood. He said, “The apple fell off the tree, and we’re not supposed to waste food.”

Aleks' excuse read, “I had too much vodka the night before and needed something on my stomach.” Like Jakub's, that excuse was probably rooted in a European upbringing, but it made me a little nervous since this was, after all, a Christian school.

But then my Lithuanian boy, Petras, brought down the house. He stood and without batting an eye read, “Eve told me I wouldn’t get any pussy if I didn’t eat that apple.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Teaching Profanity

I looked around the room the very first day of my English as a Second Language Class and wondered what I'd gotten myself into. My class was comprised of three Polish guys -- Jakub, Krzysztof, and Aleks, a Nigerian named Solomon, Petras from Lithuania, Ousmane from Ivory Coast, a little South Korean girl named Noah, and C.J., who came to us from the nearly third-world Albany, Georgia. The average height of my students would have been around 6'7", but little Noah barely hit 5 feet, bringing the average down considerably.
I passed out copies of the required reading, Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops. Now, I'll readily admit that I'm not an expert teacher. This was my first day in the classroom, and to top it all, I'd been given no curriculum. In fact, until I devised my own curriculum, I'm not sure one existed that focused on teaching teenagers from different continents enough English to pass the SAT in nine months. But the one thing I was absolutely sure about was that they had to read to be successful. And to get them to read, I had to find books that interested them. Phil Jackson has won more NBA titles than any coach in history. He was Michael Jordan's coach during the years the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA. I was pretty sure he could keep those guys' attention.
And then I handed out the spelling and vocabulary books, explaining that since we needed to cram as many English words as we could into their brains before the SAT, they would be required to write five sentences, each using a new vocabulary word correctly, every night as part of their homework.
The next day, the boys and Noah arrived for class and turned in their vocabulary assignments. That evening, I checked over them for accuracy, and when I got to Solomon's, I laughed out loud.
The vocabulary word was "profane." And Solomon, the one his teammates called "preacher," because he was a just little over the top with his devotion to Christianity at the Christian school, and who struggled mightily with English, had written, "It was profane for the soldiers to stable their whores in the church."
He got an A. It was a perfectly correct use of the word "profane."

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Lady of Rehab

What do politicians and addicts have in common?

The easiest answer is that with both, you know they’re lying if their lips are moving.

Another quirk the two share is the ability to blame everyone else for their mistakes, their favorite target often being the people they’ve screwed.

Finally, both subsets of the larger group affectionately titled “Vile Human Beings” can claim my ex-husband as a member. While he was in rehab, he was elected Mayor.

As in Mayor of Rehab. Not exactly something you’d want on your resume, I wouldn’t think, but as a politician he can probably twist it into something useful. “Ran for and won political office in small Arizona community” perhaps. It could get him added to some “Who’s Who” list anyway.

Yes, for $35,000, you, too, can spend thirty days in the desert conning a counselor into believing you’re the best thing since lubricated condoms. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, the folks out there in Arizona thought it helpful to both the staff and the inmates to have a go-between, someone who could speak for the entire community of addicts. And some staff sucker nominated him.

I’m pretty sure that up until that time, the official duties of the Mayor of Rehab had primarily been more symbolic in nature – making proclamations like “We’re all Perfect in our Imperfections!” to the cheers of the entire cafeteria during Thursday dinner; kissing the babies who come to see their drug-addled mommies on visitation Sundays; and of course, being presented the key to the commune. But when my husband was voted Mayor, he took that job seriously. He actually went to work for his peers.

For example, the center has Movie Night once a week. The movies must be pre-approved and, ideally, affirm the values of the rehab center. Think Clean and Sober with Michael Keaton or When a Man Loves a Woman with Meg Ryan. No sex, as it might stimulate the sex addicts. No movie with anorexic actresses, as that might stress the patients with eating disorders. No alcohol, except if it is portrayed in a “this is poison, it will kill you” light. No violence; you never know what the rage-aholics will do. In other words, Movie Night choices are pretty much limited to those I’ve already mentioned plus Mulan (strong feminine character who stands up for herself while honoring her ancestors – good rehab material) and Beethoven (pets are healing, but remember that the only live thing an addict should be responsible for the first year after treatment is a plant).

Obviously looking out for his constituents, the Mayor decided that the television used for Movie Night was pitifully small. So he called his parents and directed them to ship his $9,000 video projector to Arizona for the viewing pleasure of all the addicts. And that’s not all.

He didn’t like the movie choices either. So his parents sent some movies along with the projector. The movies were immediately confiscated because they did not reflect the values of the treatment facility. He called me to complain.

“But you’re only there a few more days,” I said, after hearing the story. “Just let it go.”

“I’m not letting it go. They can’t ban my movies because of language because they allow bad language in the group sessions. They believe it’s a way of expressing your true feelings. My movies don’t have any graphic sex, no nudity, and hell, people in here had better get used to seeing a drink without needing to have one. That’s the real world. I’m so sick of the hypocritical bullshit in the place, and I’m about to expose it.”

Lawyerlike, he took his case all the way to the top. And when the man who owns and directs the treatment facility told him no, he took his case to the inmates. They could stage an uprising or a sit-in like the center had never seen before. They could boycott breakfast or pull a Gandhi, refusing to eat until they were allowed to watch what they wanted (the eating disorder patients could be counted on for this part of the demonstration). In fact, it wasn’t jail; anyone could leave at any time. They could all just up and walk out. Goddammit, they were the customers, and they were right!

That’s basically what he told the director of the treatment center where he was paying $35,000 to be treated for addiction – that he was the customer, and he was right, and if they didn’t let him watch the movie he wanted to watch, then he would leave.

Incredibly, the center gave in, and he got his way.

Even more amazing is that it became his rehab story. In the weeks after he got home, as friends and family welcomed him back, hoping he was intent on being a loving husband and father, what did he report about his time in Arizona? The Movie Night Story. He didn’t talk about how he faced the horror of losing his family and decided to end his affair. He didn’t talk about realizing that staying out all night drinking was not only bad for his health but also devastating to a wife who loved him and sat up all night fearful he wouldn’t make it back.

I, for one, could totally understand the center’s insistence that The Godfather was inappropriate viewing material for the rehabilitation of alcoholics, sex addicts, and gamblers. Hell, that director probably capitulated because he was terrified he’d wake up to find the decapitated head of his cat Fluffy in bed with him the next morning. Reymondo, the patient who was a high-ranking Central American diplomat had some pretty good connections, after all.

I sat listening to him tell the story over and over, and I began to wonder if that was all that he took away from his month in rehab.

If so, I can think of about 267 better ways to spend $35,000. For $35,000, I could buy a fishing lure business on Ebay or a custom portrait of the children by the same artist who painted Jimmy Carter’s presidential portrait, or, hell, half a Hummer. Ten years from now, I’d conceivably still have any of those things. But I’ve got a bad feeling that he’s got nothing to show for that $35,000. He would have been better off spending that money on campaign pencils – “Dick for Mayor of Rehab.” Pencils last a long, long time.

Given that he kept his campaign promises and enjoyed a high popularity rating in his tenure as Mayor, I’m sure he would have been elected to a second term if he’d chosen to extend his time at the facility. Looking back, that probably would have been good for everyone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Most English majors, it seems, devise the same backup plan if all their other dreams don't come true.  The safety net?  We can all teach English.
I resisted teaching for many years, mostly because I didn't believe I had the patience to be a teacher.  But four years ago, I volunteered to oversee an international student program at my children's Christian school.  The school, over the course of two years, hosted nearly twenty high school boys from several different countries.   What they had in common was that they were all very, very tall, and they all played basketball.  
My boys came from Poland, France, Nigeria, Lithuania, Ivory Coast, Canada, and the Canary Islands.  A few did not even speak English when they came to the school.  The English teacher, a nice enough woman who had her hands full with the school's regular kids, put her foot down one day and refused to give extra help to the international students.
I was frantic.  Without a sympathetic English teacher, these boys would flounder.  And really, they needed a high-speed course focused on helping them pass the SAT and preparing them for freshman English -- assuming they actually made it to college.
The school administrator said to me, "You're so concerned about their English.  Why don't you teach it?"
And I responded, "I will."  
And then he said, "Oh, and we have a young lady from South Korea who is an exchange student with one of our school families.  She'll be in your class, too."
It's one thing to teach English.  But teaching English as a second language to ten young men and one girl, all from different countries and cultures, when I'd never taught before?  
I was scared.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wiping Butts with that English Degree

Potty training my children was not my finest moment. I’m still not sure how one goes about properly potty training a child. I can say they were all potty trained by the time they started kindergarten, but I can’t tell you how I managed to accomplish that feat. (And for the record, I can’t house train a dachshund, either. That’s why Laverne and Shirley spend their days outside.)

My mother-in-law tried to help me teach the kids to use a toilet, and she was good with the girls. But I had to draw the line with her idea of where it was appropriate for a boy to relieve himself. When my son was three, he jumped out of her pool and yelled, “I have to go potty!” She praised him for not going in the pool but, realizing that he might have an accident if he waited to dry off with a towel, she instructed him to just go in the bushes. He obediently pulled down his pants and then turned around so that his fanny faced her flowers and began to take a dump in her daisies.

So when it came time for my sister to potty train the twins, she called me for advice. The bitch. She was just trying to rub my nose in my potty-training failures.

After listening to and summarily rejecting my advice, she decided the best method for her was to buy them pretty princess panties and take them and the kiddie potty outside for the day. The idea was that they wouldn’t want to mess up the new panties but if they did have an accident, it happened in the garage and not on her hand-hooked rug.

Yeah, right. We can’t let Ariel, the freaking Little Mermaid who LIVES IN THE OCEAN, get wet. Even a toddler sees through that bullshit.

I pulled into her driveway that afternoon, and the girls jumped off the miniature Harleys they were riding to show me the Sponge Bob tattoos I’d helped them apply to their bodies the day before. Faith asked for another tattoo, and her mother said, “Go pee pee in the potty, and you can have another tattoo.”

My sister’s raising Harley-riding miniature Tommy Lees. While I’m visiting my kids at rehab Family Week in Arizona, she’s going to be visiting her Hell’s Angels at Biker Week in Daytona. I guess all we can do is raise our kids the best way we know how, to let them know we love them unconditionally, and then push them out of the nest with a good education and a set of straight teeth. The rest is up to them.

When I left that day, both girls were standing in the driveway peeing in their new Ariel panties.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Way to Use that English Degree: Cafeteria Worker

The insurance company refused to return my post-interview telephone calls. I finally concluded that they were put off when I said, “I never imagined using my degree in creative writing to come up with creative ways to deny insurance coverage in writing.”

The Christian schools both wanted me, but I would have to wear dresses every day, attend the churches affiliated with their schools, and moonlight as a server in the school cafeteria during lunch. In addition, they proposed paying me with free tuition for the children I didn’t yet have.

So I went to work for the very large church. And before I ever got to write the first word of the first script, the pastor’s wife decided she wanted the job. So they redirected me to the church cafeteria, where I began my career as a writer by making large posters of the weekly menus for the Oasis Seniors Club, which we in the cafeteria affectionately called the Old-asses Club. And when I finished with the menu posters, I got to serve mashed potatoes to people so old they remembered the last Great Irish Potato Famine.

Given the lack of actual writing my new job demanded, I continued using my writing skills to further my husband’s Bible college education.

But I refused to be paid in sex. I opted instead for dinner out at the nicest restaurant we could afford, Taco Bell. Hell, I’ll take a burrito over a blow job any day of the week!

Writing for Sexual Favors

Six days after the president of Georgia State University in Atlanta handed me a rolled-up piece of paper declaring that I had fulfilled the requirements for a Bachelor's degree in English, a minister handed me a piece of paper declaring that I had fulfilled the requirements for a Mrs. Degree.

In other words, I got married six days after I finished college. I was twenty. My new husband was nineteen and still in college.

The week after our honeymoon, I began searching for a job, naively believing that multitudes of companies were salivating over the idea of having a writer on staff. After one month, I’d interviewed at a large insurance company for a position writing creative claim denial letters, at a large church writing television scripts for the pastor's personal show, and at two Christian schools for teaching positions.

The only problem with these jobs was that they paid slightly less than a waitress at Hooter’s could make.

Discouraged, I whined to my husband about the trouble I was having finding a job doing what I had trained to do. “I just want to write,” I said.

My new husband looked up from his plate of spaghetti and said, “I have a paper due Monday. Why don’t you write it for me?”

“I need to get paid for writing,” I answered.

“I’ll pay you. Write my paper, and I’ll give you the best sex of your life.”

Now, paying for sex is one thing, but being paid in sex was a whole new can of condoms. As a preacher’s daughter, I had to spend a moment contemplating the moral ramifications of the situation. Since I was still unemployed, though, and scared for my writing abilities because of the old axiom "if you don't use it, you lose it," I went ahead and wrote his paper, for which he received an A. His professor, thoroughly impressed with the quality of writing, called my husband into his office and said, “This is the best undergraduate paper anyone has ever turned in to me. My question is, ‘Did you write it?’”

And without hesitating, my husband said, “Yes, I did.” In relating the story to me, he justified his lie by saying, “The Bible says that since we’re married, we’re considered one flesh.”

Wow. So I’d just used my newly-minted English degree for the purpose of enabling my new husband, who was a student in Bible College, to lie and cheat. And on top of that, I was to be paid in sex.

In that light, writing a creative letter denying insurance coverage to a little old lady who’d been paying premiums for a gazillion years seemed ethical. I called the insurance company to check on the status of my application.