Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My New Year's Resolution

This will not be an entertaining entry. It will probably not even be clear or well-organized. Not exactly the way I had hoped to kick off the new year, but even Teacher Lady can mature. Or suffer from incurable clinical depression. To-may-to, To-mah-to. But I had a strange, brief experience yesterday that has me (perhaps inexplicably?) rattled and depressed.

Yesterday I went to Borders to drool over some of the home decorating magazines. After all, we are soon-to-be the official proud owners of a 70-year-old house and what else can you do with your spare time, sanity and disposable income (all of which are in short supply) besides gut and renovate, gut and renovate, gut and renovate some more? (Seriously. I’m taking suggestions. Since Mr. J. and I got married, that is all we do. I think other people have hobbies and children to use up their spare time, sanity and disposable income, but I’m not quite sure.)

The home decorating magazines are kind of obnoxious which is why I can’t decide whether I love them or hate them or love to hate them. You know the kind – an article entitled, “Bathroom Must-Haves!” includes “must-haves” like a ceramic tile floor with a heating element underneath so your wee tootsies never feel the winter chill when stepping out of a fabulous (also must-have) spa-quality steam shower. Did I mention on every other page is an ad for the European towel warmers – also listed as a “must-have” in the ubiquitous bathroom “must-have” articles – explaining how now you can bring the luxury of your recent European vacation home with you? I’ve never been to Europe. Perhaps if I get one of these towel-warmer thingies, I will feel like I have been to Europe.

As I was mopping my drool off the shiny cover of the newest issue of “Fabulous Things for Your Home That Most of You Will Never Be Able to Afford” I overheard – no, not overheard – I was exposed to – a most disturbing cell phone conversation. Not disturbing like seeing a parent beat his or her child in a supermarket, but disturbing nonetheless.

This young woman was speaking so loudly that for a second I thought she must be speaking to me, until I turned around and saw her less than five feet away from me, on her cell phone, facing the only blank space of wall in all of Borders. Her first conversation went like this:

“Yes, I’m 22 years old and I’m 5’1” and weigh 126 pounds. I have a very high percent of body fat and looking in the mirror is extremely upsetting to me. I’d like to have some of my problem areas liposuctioned. I have some savings and I have some insurance.” Because I’m so nosy, I had to turn around and get a better look at this young woman. I only saw the back of her, but quite honestly? She looked fine to me. Then again, maybe her abdomen was the “trouble area” but still – liposuction at 22?

I tried to block out this conversation because I didn’t want to leave the drooly decorating magazine area. After all, can’t you call plastic surgeons from just about anywhere in Borders? Much to my relief, she finished the conversation quickly and I was able to get re-absorbed in an article about Italian! Ceramic! Tile! It’s not just for Billionaires anymore!

Then, she dialed another number. (Does she have numbers for all the local plastic surgeons programmed into her cell phone? Why was she doing this at Borders? Trying to hide this desire for liposuction from roommates or family members?) The second conversation was longer and louder and even more disturbing – this girl was losing it. You could hear her choking back the tears as she talked about how much she hated looking at herself in the mirror. And – again – the stats – I’m only 5’1” and I weigh 126 pounds, I have a very unhealthy body fat ratio, etc., etc., and I just can’t stand myself anymore.

I finally grabbed some snooty decorating magazines and ran to another part of the store, but this woman’s public angst and self-hatred sticks with me, even 24 hours later. I have a new year’s resolution now: Stay home. Don’t venture into the outside world unless absolutely necessary. Not only are people in lots of psychological pain, they are comfortable (unwittingly?) sharing it with the outside world. I don’t know what rattled me more – the self-hatred, the tears or the complete and total willingness to have this conversation in public.

I understand that just by being a member of society, one will see and/or hear things that one does not want or need to see or hear. I worked one summer during college at an amusement park. Seeing strangers vomiting? Yeah, no one needs to see or hear that, ever. And when you work at an amusement park, it becomes pretty routine. Not tolerable, ever, but somehow still routine. Car accidents, domestic spats, all kinds of things come into our line of vision when we are the least prepared (emotionally/physically/psychologically) to see them. But something about overhearing this young woman’s conversations was more disturbing than seeing a stranger vomit a chili dog after staggering off of the Hurricane. (And believe me, I have lots of experience with that one.) In a way, I felt like I had accidentally walked in on this young woman while she was in her therapist’s office. Or a department store dressing room. Or a public restroom stall. And all I could do was cringe in embarrassment and horror and apologize profusely and back away with my eyes closed.

I’ve read and heard about people overhearing inappropriate cell phone conversations in places where they (the over-hearer) are trapped – i.e., a bus, the subway, an elevator, etc., This was kind of a first for me – although I wasn’t exactly trapped – and I’m sure it won’t be the last inappropriate conversation I overhear. But what is happening in this world? I know I’m not asking anything original or deep – or at least not anything that hasn’t already been asked publicly by everyone from Oprah to Andy Rooney. Is this just now a part of modern society? We will be exposed to everyone’s secret, painful private business, whether we are interested or not, on a regular basis? And – although I don’t really want the answer – would I have been a Good Samaritan – or at least a better human being – if I had approached the young woman between calls and said something like, “I’m sure you don’t realize it, but we can all hear your conversation and it sounds like something you would probably like to keep private?” Or would that have been rude and somehow have implied that I was eavesdropping and therefore the one at fault? After all, I could have walked away as soon as I got the gist of the first conversation.

I think I have a slogan. 2007: The year of the tiny but powerful earplugs. Happy New Year, indeed.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones. I love that I have the security and peace of mind of having a phone with me at all times (especially handy when driving 350 miles in a 13 year old vehicle with 128,000 miles on it). As usual, mine is currently in my purse, about 5 feet from me...and OFF.

I hate having a phone with me at all times. Err, actually, I hate that other people have a phone with them at all times and use it like it is permanently affixed to their ears and worse yet...their mouths.

January 03, 2007 3:35 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Wow, that's an odd conversation to overhear. I've heard all the usual ones, breaking up with boyfriends/girlfriends etc, and I've always wondered 'You picked this time, on a packed bus, full of old people, to go over your full relationship?'

January 03, 2007 3:47 PM  
Blogger Peach said...

I think if you would have told her that her convo should be private she probably would have had some kind of attack. She was already emotional. Do what I do, just stare at them until they are compelled to move or lower their voice lol

January 03, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger Tikvah said...

I don't know..but whenever I hear strange, needy conversations like that, I want to tell the person that they are alright, and all is okay, perhaps that's waaaayyyy inappropriate but I feel that if you have a need to emote in public like that perhaps you really want some sort of response from strangers...

January 03, 2007 5:52 PM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

I would probably leave it alone since the odds of her taking your kindness the wrong way seem pretty high.

I noticed the other day in Target that I was the only one without a cellphone up to my ear. And I got to hear all about someone's yeast infection as I was perusing the 75% off Christmas aisle. And then lunch no longer seemed appealing.

January 03, 2007 7:54 PM  
Blogger desiree said...

I am 25, 5'2" (on a good day) and about 133 pounds. I wouldn't consider liposuction if you offered it to me for free even though I could stand to lose about 15 pounds. This poor girl has some major, major body issues. Not only that, but calling INSIDE borders? The hell? There are parking lots dear.

I don't understand what compels people to hold utterly personal converstations out loud in public now. It is as if they hold the illusion of being in one of those closed off phone booths the second they slap the cell on their ear. I am in accordance with your new years resolution: Stop going out. The people, they are freaks. And that poor girl? You should have smacked her hard across the face and then nicely explained that big fake tits are the way to go in regard to plastic surgery, duh.

January 04, 2007 11:47 AM  

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