Monthly Archives: February 2009

The eyes have it

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From last week’s post I learned an important lesson: the way to generate interactive dialogue is to talk about boobs and cars. With that in mind, I am announcing a change in the focus of this blog, away from books and libraries and toward…

Boobs! And cars!

Yesterday, with boobs safely in place, I traveled, by car, to the eye doctor.

“So you like Florida, huh?” asked my eye doctor.


“That flamingo necklace you’re wearing…”

The “flamingo necklace” was in reality “garish pink flamingo Mardi Gras beads,” but people don’t make a big deal of Mardi Gras around here so I’m afraid the message was lost. It doesn’t help that I screwed up the colors of my ensemble. I had purple, and I had green, but the best I could manage for yellow was a medium tan shade. This is because the one yellow garment I own, a tanktop, makes me look fat.

Note the semantic precision here: it makes me look fat. It is not as though I, personally, am fat. The illusion of fat came from a poorly designed top, which meant I was bereft of a decent yellow in my ensemble, which means that almost no one realized I was dressed in honor of Mardi Gras, lurid flamingo beads notwithstanding.

I swear, subtle just does not work.

Boobs! And cars!

Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?
is the catchy title of a new book—catchy enough that I checked it out from the library. The author, Jena Pincott, is a science writer who has synthesized a lot of research into human sexuality and behavior. I’m learning all sorts of stuff. For instance: even though I felt like I picked yesterday’s ensemble for a specific purpose, it turns out that my hormones influence my clothing with my even realizing it. Right around ovulation, women unconsciously dress sexier. During the rest of their cycles (and after menopause, obviously) they pick less provocative clothes.

On top of that, their bodies actually look different. The evolutionary point is to attract a mate right around the time when conception is likely to occur, so during ovulation, the lips are fuller, the complexion is smoother, the pupils are bigger. I speculate ovulation may even effect…


Except—one big caveat—none of this applies to women on hormonal birth control. Even for those of us who are not at much risk for conceiving an unintended child, hormonal birth control is great because it helps prevent several types of cancer. But it’s not so great because it negatively impacts things such as libido and sexuality and—this is really important—hormonal birth control makes me uglier because it prevents ovulation.

Given a choice between less-plump lips and cancer, I guess I’ll take the first option. But still.

“I’m getting more far-sighted,” I confessed to the doctor.

“More far-sighted? Really?”

“I’m always having to push away the computer screen.”

“Huh,” said the eye doctor. “Have you recently completed school?”

“I’ve been out for four years.”

“Maybe that explains it,” said the eye doctor. “Your eyes get more far-sighted when you spend less time reading and writing.”

Ha! Ha hahahhaaa haha haha haha ha ha! Some way, some how, I sense a flaw in the good doctor’s theory.

At any rate, the eye doctor concluded that I needed two pairs of eyeglasses—that, or eye therapy. Now I have no idea what eye therapy is, but I had visions of retinal weight-lifting or iris aerobics or something. It sounds dreadful. And expensive.

“But eye therapy is pretty expensive,” confirmed the eye doc, “so let’s try to solve your problems with a second set of glasses.”

Okey-dokey. Two glasses. Sounds a little bit awkward, but more manageable than twenty eye sit-ups. I’ll have my regular pair of glasses, and then I’ll have a pair of glasses for when I’m at the computer. Though honestly I am at the computer so often that, realistically, the only time I’ll be wearing my “regular” glasses is when I am driving…

…my car!

Having concluded that my eyes are in bad shape (which has been the case for twenty years now, but nevermind), the eye doc sent me to the salesperson. I tried on several different frames and picked out a dashing red pair.

Then the salesperson began her calculations.

With insurance—WITH insurance, mind, I’m one of the few people left in America who actually does have decent health coverage—my new glasses would come to $528.

But then my health insurance, which maybe is not so decent after all, would not cover my original pair of glasses, bring the grand total up to…

“That’s more than a month’s rent,” I said, looking at the figure that was less than a thousand dollars, but only barely. That’s when I began to cry.

Couldn’t help it. I cry all the time. (Maybe eye therapy could help with that?) Stress or anger or depression or adorable little animals—doesn’t matter, I’ll start crying. The prospect of losing more than nine hundred dollars in one morning? That’ll do it, too.

I did not mean to cry, but gosh, it was effective. The salesperson became acutely uncomfortable and bent over backwards to find me something affordable. The revised cost for visit, glasses, and other glasses now begins with the digit 2, a keen improvement over the digit 9.

Anyway. New glasses are coming. With luck they will mitigate the effects of my ovulation-deprived appearance.

Boobs! And cars!


Car Talk

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My dedicated readers know that I have an ongoing struggle with my bras. So do my erratic readers, because I talk about it so often that even a casual perusal will reveal my bra issues.

Even people who only visit my site once, ever, have a good chance of discovering my bra problems. This is because the people who only visit my site once, ever, usually get here by googling for “nipple” or “36F” or “busty librarian.” Poor dears. They set out innocently trying to find some pornography and instead they get a website that talks chiefly of books and writing and yoga. And bras, obviously, but not in a salacious way.

For the record, I think I am right now at a 34 DDD-verging-on-F, but I do not know this for a fact. What I do know is that my 36F bras are too loose in the band and slightly roomy in the cup. And I suspect that I am destined to never again have a bra that fits.

Given the choice between “Never finding true love” or “Never finding a bra that fits,” I might well opt for the life of loneliness and heartache. Loneliness and heartache could have certain advantages, like knowing that no one would ever wrest me from my cats, and being able to affect a permanent air of stoic sorrow. Very dignified, that, and dramatic to boot. Just look at whatshername in Wuthering Heights.

Not having a bra that fits has no advantages whatsoever, unless “saggy boobs” counts as an advantage.

But while I talk frequently, i.e. obsessively, about bras, I rarely mention my undies. This is because I do not have any problems with undies. Or at least I did not have a problem with my undies until today.

For context, we first need to talk about outfits. Weather forecasts and practicality play some role in how I select my ensembles, though the most import factor is the Attractiveness Continuum, with “Ravishing” on one end and “Medusa” on the other. Today I was squarely on the Medusa end of things. If you saw me today, your internal reactions probably included “frumpy” or “dowdy” or “Doesn’t get laid much, does she?”

I’m afraid I looked like a librarian rather than, say, a supermodel. Now in point of fact I am a librarian rather than a supermodel, but I would like to emphasize that this is a matter of choice. There is no reason whatever that I could not be gracing the covers of magazines and strutting down runways. I simply prefer to dedicate myself to a life of service, is all.

The reason I looked like a librarian was because I wanted flat shoes. Since I was going to be working in the bookstore in the evening, a job that requires a lot of standing, I wanted to avoid shoes with heels. The only clean garments that could be worn in harmony with flat shoes were a pair of khakis, which were too light for the weather, and a long purple skirt.

We may infer from this that I really ought to hit the laundromat soon. I need to be prepared for hot dates or photo shoots, though since I’m not a supermodel I suppose that photo shoots don’t pose much of a threat.

At any rate, today I picked the long purple skirt, which is okay by itself, but then I needed socks to go with the long purple skirt, and the sad fact is that socks will never land a girl on the sexy end of the continuum. Hose will do it, or sensual bare feet, or possibly even socks that are worn in a funky fashion over hose, but plain old socks? Not sexy.

I matched the long purple skirt, the socks, the ill-fitting bra, and the brown flats with a pink top that looks okay but loses its shape under a blue sweater, but the blue sweater wasn’t negotiable because temperatures threatened to be chilly.

And then I picked the undies. Since the rest of the outfit was a disappointment, and with no hot dates planned for the evening, I saw no reason to bother with underwear that was cute or sexy or interestingly patterned.

That’s why I chose the “Think Snow!” snowperson pair. These undies are white, with “Think Snow!” written along the top, and a picture of a snowperson. I hesitate to say “snowman” because the creature displays no genitals, nor any other identifying sexual characteristics.

Repeatedly, throughout the course of the day, I discovered one more feature of the “Think Snow!” snowperson undies. They have lost their elasticity.

I discovered this in the library. I discovered this in the bookstore. I discovered this in the grocery store.

I further discovered that underwear sans elastic, when worn beneath a skirt, makes for a dangerous clothing choice. I spent a good part of the day trying to tug inconspicuously at my gravity-bound underwear (“Don’t mind me, just got an itch on my thigh!”) and praying, fervently, that the undies would not fall to the floor.

Surely, you are thinking to yourself, surely Jessica’s day could not get any more exciting! And yet…

While I was struggling up the 23 steps to my apartment with a purse, a bag of groceries, a coffee mug, another pair of groceries, and a renegade pair of “Think Snow!” snowperson undies, I stopped at my mailbox.

And there was my magazine of logic problems!


And there was a letter from Toyota!

Once safely inside, with the Medusa garments swapped for jammies and the groceries stowed, I opened the letter from Toyota.

Inside was a title.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that I am now, officially, the owner of my Toyota.

Except I think I should probably delete that sentence because I don’t want to tempt the gods. I am terrified that I am going to total the car, now that it’s just been paid off.

This is a legitimate fear. For one thing, the gods wouldn’t be pleased to see me gloating about my freedom from monthly car payments. For another, I’m scared I wouldn’t be able to find a decent replacement.

See, it has recently come to my attention that car manufacturers are weaning themselves of standard transmissions. Apparently people prefer to drive automatics. (“It’s because they’re lazy,” said my source, who is also a dedicated stick shift driver. We few, we happy few.)

Now personally I find this an insult to lazy persons everywhere. While sloth is not my favorite sin, it definitely ranks up there. I am a lazy person. If I were energetic and driven, I would do laundry more often, instead of being forced to wear clothes that make me look like a librarian.

I am lazy, but I far prefer standard transmission. I like the control. It’s also more fun than driving automatic, but when it comes down to it, I like to be able to tell the car when to rev and when to chill. And though it is disgustingly flat here in Wilhelmsplatz, God willing I shall someday again live in mountains, where frankly it is ridiculous to drive an automatic transmission.

But as I figure it, car manufacturers are in such dire straights that they need to kowtow to my demands. When my Toyota dies, which with any luck will be in about sixty years, I will once again be a car consumer, at which point the car manufacturers will need to woo me with every trick in the book. I shall demand a standard transmission, a cup holder that does not spill cheesy beer soup, and some fuzzy dice, because I’ve never had fuzzy dice and, honestly, I think I deserve them. The car manufacturers will be desperate for my money, so they will listen to me. And just to be on the safe side I will wear an outfit on the sexy end of the Attractiveness Continuum. They will be helpless to resist.

LiFi Hotspot

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So I wake up at 12:06 this morning, an inconvenient time to greet the day, but I suppose I should have thought of that when I closed my eyes for “just a spot of a nap” at 5:28 last night.

A few projects are quietly nudging me in the background. I’ve got re-revisions of the ook-bay to poke at, and I need to sit down and crank out the narrative text for a chapter of annotations I’m doing. But I am groggy after my “nap,” and am seriously contemplating a sequel “nap,” so I made the decision to procrastinate on those projects. Really had to twist my own arm to reach that conclusion.

“I’ll just blog for a bit instead,” I decided, and then realized I had nothing to say.

“I’ll just read other people’s blogs for a bit instead,” I decided anew. It was a shrewd strategy, one carefully designed to maximize two goals, viz., being lazy, and killing just enough time for me to demarcate the division between Nap 1 and Nap 2.

My plan failed, for two reasons: first, Cute Overload isn’t loading right. This is the sort of thing that strikes me as a national disaster. What’s strange is that the major media outlets are, thus far, silent. There are pictures of cute little pandas and bunnies and kitties that I am CURRENTLY UNABLE TO SEE, and no one but me appreciates the tragic implications.

Second reason: Since my links to Cute Overload yielded a life-isn’t-worth-living screen of blank nihilist white, the one link in my Google Reader that did work was thrown into sharp relief. Hooray for Citizen Reader, rescuing me once again from boredom!

Most days, Citizen Reader presents reviews of nonfiction books. Some days, she presents reviews of fiction books, which is more my cup of tea, except I should realize by now that I usually don’t like the fiction she recommends.

But today she decided to describe some of the websites she enjoys visiting. My eyes began to glaze over—compared to Cute Overload, other websites are meaningless—until I saw that she’d linked to my own.

“Oh shit,” I thought. “People are going to click on that link expecting to find meaningful book discussion here… Oh shit oh shit oh shit.”

Well. My nap interregnum suddenly has purpose. I need to cobble together some sort of demonstration that I am capable of writing intelligently. Preferably I need this intelligent writing to address librarianish issues, like books or reading, and at all costs I need to avoid my normal dithering, with chiefly consists of me fussing about my bras, or simply swearing a lot. (Witness the concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph for evidence.) Ahem:

Jessica’s Intelligent Analysis of Books, Featuring Neither Lingerie Nor Profanity

The other night I finished up The Inheritance, by David Sanger, the Washington correspondent with my favorite source of liberal bias, The New York Times. The book considers American foreign policy during the Bush years, with a jarring region-by-region analysis of our current situation in places such as Afghanistan, North Korea, and Pakistan.

The book was a downer. If it gives you any perspective, the most optimistic chapter was the one that dealt with China.

The book was also the sort of nonfiction I normally avoid. There wasn’t an overarching narrative, and there were no cute pictures of animals whatsoever. But I read it because I figure it’ll be nice to say, with an air of resigned acceptance, “Ah, I totally saw that coming” when Iran goes nuclear.

Having satisfied my duty to not be completely ignorant about world politics, I decided to reward myself with an escapist novel. I chose to curl up on the couch with What Was Lost, by debut author Catherine O’Flynn. Based on Citizen Reader’s review, I was anticipating a thriller, possibly even a conspiracy thriller. Girl goes missing; local young man accused; young man’s sister must solve mystery.

What I got was Literary Fiction.

Now I think Orson Scott Card is a one-man plague, a threat to Western peace who probably should have been mentioned in the Sanger book. (I did enjoy the one novel of his I read, Enchantment, but you won’t catch me admitting to it in public). It kills me to steal a phrase he coined, but I have no choice: “LiFi” is just perfect for talking about Literary Fiction.

As with pornography, I can’t define LiFi but I know it when I see it. LiFi books seek to understand the human experience, but personally I think you could say the same of all books.

(“Even the ones with vampires?” you ask. Yes, ESPECIALLY the ones with vampires.)

LiFi authors attempt to create stylistically beautiful prose. Sometimes they succeed, but I think it’s worth noting that genre authors often attempt to create stylistically beautiful prose. (See the successful attempt in Elizabeth Kostova’s novel The Historian, which features vampires.)

LiFi books are usually character-driven (big deal; nearly all novels are) but not often plot-driven (a shame; Western literature has a proud tradition of action-packed storytelling, going back to Homer). Emphasis is on internal thought rather than external events.

I like character-driven books. I like beautiful prose. But, with some notable exceptions, I don’t like LiFi.

Can’t put my finger on it. I love the classics, and honestly the only distinction I can make between the Literary Canon of yesteryear and the Literary Fiction of today is like so:

“The classics are just like Literary Fiction, except that they’re older, and I like them.”

Not very helpful, is it? I’m afraid I shall have to become more articulate before I can seek full-time employment in the field of literary criticism.

…At this point, gentle reader, I find myself struggling to finish this discussion. As always happens when I embark on my LiFi rant, I am butting into a wall: I largely dislike the genre of Literary Fiction, but I can never seem to capture why not. My instinct is to begin swearing but I promised not to.

Fortunately it is past 2 a.m., so I can make a hurried exit (“Oh goodness, look at the time!”) without bothering to gracefully conclude my argument. Check back later for further discussions of literature, which will probably be more interesting as they’ll include more swear words.

Patrons in the hands of an angry librarian

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“I thought libraries were quiet places,” said an acquaintance of mine, who has not visited a library in years. Possibly not ever.

How very wrong she is. Libraries these days are vibrant places. We encourage people to talk in normal voices. We let kids go crazy in the children’s room. We bring loud, raucous entertainers to our theater. Obviously we shut the doors to the theater, because you generally don’t want to hear live music acts when you’re cramming for your Econ exam, but the point is that modern public libraries no longer resemble the deathly-quiet sanctuaries of times past.

Hey, you want quiet, then go in the Quiet Study Room. Or just come by in the evening. It’s always dead then.

Weekends, now, weekends are busy. Even on Superbowl Sunday, which apparently today is, the library is hopping. People come in to get books and movies, or to hop on the computer, or to listen to lectures or attend classes or programs. People of a young persuasion come to play with toys and listen to stories. People of a homeless persuasion come to stay warm and pass the time.

I like this. I like that the library is a vital (literally: vital) part of the town. From a starry-eyed perspective, it makes my heart glad that folks can find entertainment and information and community in a cultural institution. From a shrewd perspective, I like the job security. Public uproar would be intense if the quality of the library were to degrade.

The only bad part of working in a public library is that I have to work with the public. Most of the time I am really quite pleased about this. Even when I feel completely neutral toward a patron, it makes me happy help out with a reference question. When I feel favorably toward a patron, so much the better. If I can find a good book for a person who’s been nice to me—well geeze, that just makes my day.

But then there are the less desirable members of the public. The problem with opening our doors to everyone is that everyone comes in. Weirdos, creeps, serial killers, malfeasants, jerks, and assorted riffraff manage to find their way into the library. Actually I suppose the serial killers don’t, if they’ve been found guilty, but serial killers who are on the loose can waltz right in. Shameful, isn’t it?

Have I mentioned that I am a weirdo magnet? I am a weirdo magnet. (Possibly I am a magnet for serial killers, but I am still alive, so possibly not.) It’s because I’m too nice. Or to be more accurate, it’s because I seem too nice. If I encounter someone I truly dislike, I will engage in a private fantasy inspired by “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This eighteenth-century sermon by Jonathan Edwards features some really appalling imagery, with the bad guys dangling by a thread just above the gaping maw of hell. Powerful stuff, really violent. I completely disapprove of scare tactics as a means of religious recruitment, but for the purposes of internal revenge fantasies it really hits the spot.

On the surface, however, I am likeable and good-natured. It’s genuine with most people, a complete sham with the ones I dislike, but no matter what, I am going to seem pleasant to every patron I encounter at the reference desk. I find this approach goes a long way toward staying employed.

Because I am pleasant and approachable, I invariably draw the weirdos. I suppose I also draw the perfectly normal people, but it’s the weirdos who home in on me. (“Look at the nice lady, she’s not calling the cops! She must really like me!”). Also, I have big boobs. This attracts whichever weirdos were not pulled in by my seemingly pleasant attitude. (“Look, she has big boobs! She must really like me!”).

And, just in case I manage to not lure in the weirdos with my sweet personality and oversized gazongas, I have another safeguard, i.e., my job title. Now it happens that I am the youngest librarian with the least work experience. There are some younger folks in other roles—shelvers and technical assistants and so forth—but of the so-called professional positions, I am the baby. By dint of my job title, however, I sometimes float to the top of the hierarchy. On weekends and evenings, when administrators are scarce, I am usually the Librarian in Charge—meaning that, when patrons misbehave, I must act as the negotiator.

It is my suspicion that the malfeasants, uncaptured serial killers, etc., convene each year to determine exactly when to descend upon the library. “Let’s wreak our havoc when that young girl is in charge,” they say. “She won’t know what to do with us.”

Idiots. Their plan is backfiring. I have now garnered so much experience with them that I have ascended to Master Diplomat. The police call me in when they need a hostage negotiator. The Secretary of State is sending me to the Middle East to establish a viable Palestine.

Anyway, I’d tell you all about my high-octane confrontations these past few weeks, but I foolishly decided not to talk about individual patrons when I established this blog. Clearly this was a mistake. It’s true that I am protecting people’s privacy, which is all well and good, but consequently I am unable to reveal the juicy details of my job.

Don’t worry. When I abandon librarianship for a career as a sexologist, as I promised to do last week, I will violate the hell out of some privacy. I will reveal the lurid details of people’s sex lives because, let’s be honest here, you’d much rather read about that than anything else I could come up with.