Gym, Tan, Laundry. or None of the Above

I wonder what sort of figure I cut, walking down the driveway in my pajamas at 1pm every weekday afternoon to get the mail. In a way, it’s quite poetic because the pajamas are ones I bought when I first moved to New York for college.

We live on a street of retirees, though most seem to be busier than I’ve ever been. They go to the gym, run errands, golf, take long ski and fishing vacations in other states, have friends and family over by the dozens, garden, write letters to my mother on flowery stationery (assuming that she too, is retired) inviting her to join them on various garden tours where brunch is included. They are probably so busy they never really see me getting the mail at 1pm, but if they did, they’d probably think, “My, we watched that girl grow up and now we’ll watch her age and wither. Does she ever change out of those pajamas? What a shame.” And they see me feeling productive because I’m getting out of the house to fetch the mail. Indoors, I putter quietly around the house, drowsy in the morning when my parents have already been up for two or three hours, and energetic by the time they’ve left to attend their own things – I rub my eyes and poof – I’m alone. The house is quiet. There’s no one to talk to.

When I was younger, I relished afternoons like this because it meant I could watch television uninterrupted. Now, I don’t really watch TV. I don’t really know what’s on TV and when I turn it on, it seems almost foreign. A strange cousin to the internet, more talkative, more boisterous. I always end up turning it off after channel surfing for two seconds.

The next best thing then, is to go online. After email, Facebook and occasionally, twitter, (though I still don’t really understand the point), is surfing the internet, an activity I perfected (along with the masses in my generation) in college. It’s aimless at first – bona-fide surfing – jumping from link to link, never knowing where the blue words might take you. Then you get smart and narrow down the scope to a few choice websites you go back to again and again to get everything: news, gossip, fashion, food, travel. The NYTimes.com is a favorite. I think ninety percent of the news I read comes from the NYTimes.com.The other ten percent is hearsay and a mishmash of outdated news magazines. Before I scoffed at the notion of paying for online journalism, but when they started charging a few weeks ago and limited the number of articles I could read for free, I panicked. I agonized for days, debating whether I should shell out four dollars a week (or something) to keep my NYTimes.com addiction while living frugally off the meager ten free-article allowance.

I even tried some other news sites: LATimes.com, boston.com, the SF Chronicle which online, inexplicably, is called SF Gate. But it was like trying to replace a beloved dog or switching to a new blogging platform.The layouts were weird and jumbled. The reporters seemed less motivated. I could have done it, switched to another, less expensive news source. Give me time and I’ll adapt to anything. But it wasn’t as though the NYTimes had burned to the ground and would never update their site again. The days ticked by and I began to feel my brain withering. Finally, the feeling that I was missing out and falling behind pulled my wallet out. Wasn’t I falling behind in enough already? I imagined conversing at a dinner party with people who had read all ten articles on the “Most E-mailed” list and eliciting an embarrassing blank stare.

“I don’t have a subscription,” I imagined saying.
“Betty. It’s four dollars. Even homeless people sometimes have four dollars.”

The least I could do was stay on top of the news (and the weddings and celebrations of the upper classes). I made up my mind and paid to stay in the know.

After I devour the NYTimes I head over to People.com to see what my friends in Hollywood are up to. It’s not a guilty pleasure. Not anymore. Before, I’d close the page whenever someone walked into my room and open the NYTimes.com tab, making sure to scroll down to the middle or open up some random article on Bernie Madoff or testicular cancer. I have a blog called “Very Highbrow” and when you have a blog named such, you have to keep up appearances. But that got old real fast because sometimes, all I want to read about is why Taylor Swift broke up with Taylor Lautner and what the hell Lady Gaga was thinking, wearing meat to some awards show. Now when someone walks in and I’m surfing People.com, I say, “Hey, come and check out what my husband Shia (LaBeouf) is up to.” Chances are, people will say, “Oh that chump? Okay. Show me.”

And after all that, it’s only about 1:30pm. Now I’m desperate. The day seems interminable now – and if the weather is anything like today’s – grey, overcast, chilly…a mirage of perpetual early morning- I can’t even develop a biological sense of time. I start to fear nightfall because I know it will come swiftly and in a blink of an eye I’ll be sitting by lamplight, wondering what the hell I did with my day. That’s when I think, “Alright. I’ll write to pass the time.”

And I do. I write. Something. Anything. Like this entry about getting the mail and my favorite websites. And it’s got a few paragraphs. It seems long-ish. I lean back now, ready to put my feet up, ready to click “Publish post,” but not before I glance at the time: 1:58 pm.

Now what do I do?

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