How To Shower When You Have A Toddler (In 28 Easy Steps!)

1. Separate small human from her current mess-making project. Comfort small human, who is now utterly despondent because obviously you’re the meanest mom ever and you’re ruining her life.

2. Carry small human into bathroom. Wedge door shut. Put trash can in sink so that small human cannot fling things out of it.

3. Lock the toilet. Always lock the toilet.

4. Take a quick and suspicious eyeball of the bathroom, looking for anything that might possibly be attractive to a small human. Hide these things in the closet.

5. Comfort your small human, who is now utterly despondent because you’ve taken away all of her best possibilities for playthings.

6. Get in shower. Aahhhhh.

7. Peek out from behind shower curtain and remove your underpants from your small human’s head.

8. Pour yourself a handful of shampoo just in time to hear a wail. Decide that it’s not worth the fight and allow small human to have your underwear.

9. Lather, rinse, repeat. Wonder why there are suddenly fifteen tampons around your feet with the soap suds. Peek out from behind shower curtain and remove basket of feminine products from your small, underwear-headed human’s reach.

10. Comfort your small human, who is now utterly despondent because you ruined her life by putting an end to the game “throw things in the shower with mommy.”

11. Soap up. Realize it’s too quiet.

12. Peek out from behind the shower curtain to realize that the cat has nudged open the bathroom door and your small, underwear-headed human is making a quick break for freedom.

13. Race out of the shower, across the bathroom, and catch small human before she heads down the hall. Corral small human and all visible cats in the bathroom to avoid further escape attempts. Wedge door shut.

14. Return to shower and rinse off soap. Hear a tiny “hi ma ma ma ma hi ma!” and look down to discover that small human has pulled back the curtain to get closer to mommy.

15. Give your sweet small human a kiss.

16. Wash your face as quickly as you can. Having your eyes closed is always a risk.

17. Watch in amusement as your small human rubs things on her face, too. Groan inwardly as you realize that as she is trying to climb into the shower with you, you will now have to dry her off and change her outfit.

18. Exfoliate your legs. Be a dumbass and leave the pot of sugar scrub on the floor of the tub. Grab it away just as your small human dips her fingers in it and says “yum!” Rinse off tiny fingers before they can make their way to the tiny mouth.

19. Mentally recall the names of the people you are going to see today, and deliberate over whether or not they are necessary enough to impress to merit shaving.

20. Remember that nobody is worth shaving for. Tall boots are in now, anyway.

21. Hear the suspicious sounds of small human giggles and peek out in time to see your underwear-headed munchkin crawling after the cat brandishing the diaper sprayer hooked up to the toilet.

22. Race out of the shower and confiscate said diaper sprayer. Decide you’re clean enough and turn off the water.

23. Towel off and appreciate that your small human is trying to help by rubbing something from the laundry basket on your legs.

24. Prepare to blow-dry. Release apprehensive-looking cats from the bathroom to avoid Feline Hairdryer Panic Syndrome (FHPS. It’s serious.)

25. While flipped upside down drying your hair, observe your small human (who has not yet become a master of balancing the right way up) try to go upside-down too and subsequently fall over.

26. Comfort your small human, who is now utterly despondent because she went “boom.”

27. Peel off the small human’s clothing and spread it over the ledge of the tub to dry. Towel her off and wrap her up in your bathrobe. Look for her hairbrush and then remember it’s by the kitchen sink, waiting for you to google “how to get scrambled egg out of baby hairbrush.”

28. Just give up on all hopes of a productive day.


You Can’t Sit With Us: How I Got Excommunicated from the Stroller Brigade

I’ve been thinking that Mean Girls, which is one of my top three favorite movies, deserves a sequel. Mean Moms. Only they could make it a documentary. Because holy crap, batman. Living in the suburbs gives moms a whoooooole new level of catty. It’s soccer moms on super-steroids. The suburbs are fricking terrifying.


A self-portrait.

The Mean Moms around me are the ones who call the cops to bust a woman who carries her child a few meters from the car into the grocery store wearing a hand-knitted blanket instead of a designer coat.

In Wheaton, we wear Prada.

Anyway, it seems like cop caller lady wasn’t the only piece of work in my area. Something happened this week that left me absolutely reeling.

I belonged to the town mom group on facebook, which is primarily a craigslist sort of thing and a place where people also provided reviews or asked mom-type questions. I wasn’t very active on the site, really, but it was a pretty good resource in terms of getting forum-type answers if I had a mom question.


But several days ago, I made a fatal mistake. It was made out of ignorance and confusion, but it was a mistake nonetheless. Someone, we’ll call her Carla, was selling a baby bike seat and I jumped on the opportunity because id wanted to get one for Husband for his birthday so that he could take the papoose on bike rides. I’d seen people comment “interested” on a sale item, and everyone after that would type “next.” Good system, right?

Well, someone had asked a question about the item before I expressed interest. We’ll call her Ida. Carla had answered Ida’s question, and because Ida hadn’t said anything after that, I honestly assumed I was first in line, and I happily messaged Carla to co-ordinate pickup details. We had a nice little exchange of words, and when Carla posted on the thread that the item was pending pick up,  Ida got a little upset and wrote “wait, I thought I was first? I’m definitely interested!” Carla replied that she thought the item was supposed to go to the first person who typed “interested” as that is what she’d seen people do on the site, and she was sorry for the misunderstanding.

But then six or seven moms jumped down our throats, posting copies of the group rules, telling us not to skip people, and apparently tattling to the administrators. (There are only a few rules listed officially, but there are hundreds of secret rules that you get lynched if you break.) By the group rules, yes, Ida was first in line. But she hadn’t said she was interested, I explained, or contacted Carla, so I offered a higher bid.

And oh my god, you would have thought I’d said I thought the nazi party should take over America. People flipped. A. Shit. They called me shady and I replied that I didn’t think it was, that I saw nothing in the rules about bidding, and in fact I’d seen bidding wars before on the site! Both administrators jumped in on the thread then.

Let’s just stop for a second and talk about my interactions with them prior to this event. They were mainly limited to rolling my eyes at how admin number two would post selfies for all several thousand of us to admire.


Admin 1 told me that it just wasn’t how things were done, that people who offered higher bids would be kicked out of the group without notice. The other told me that I’d “never seen bidding wars on this site. Ever.” I’d already backed down and said that Ida could have the bike seat several comments ago, but the shit storm just kept raging.

Later that day, Ida messaged me and Carla and said that she’d felt Jesus telling her to let me have the bike seat. I said thanks but no thanks, and apologized for coming off so aggressively. I hadn’t meant to offend, honestly. I was PMSing and people from philly are just aggressive by nature. I had a nice chat with both Carla and Ida, and it was all smoothed over. Ida even tried to buy the bike seat and give it to me, but I just didn’t want the reminder of all that drama. I also wrote to the admin who threatened to kick me out, and here’s our exchange:

Me: Please do not remove me from the moms group! It was truly ambiguous as to whether or not Ida was interested in the bike seat and I didn’t know. Further, there is nothing in the rules stated about outbidding. And your comment on the post you said that members who outbid iwould be removed, but I had no idea.

Admin 1: While there is nothing stated about outbidding what I said in the post about OBO is how it works plus it is just common courtesy as many moms on the site frown upon that.  However rule #5 does state that asking a question does put one in line.  I also think the comments you put on the thread were offensive to some moms.  We are all just moms trying to get good finds for our kids and try to be respectful to each other.


Fast forward a few days and I still feel like shit. I was just dumb, just a noob, and made a rookie mistake.

So I decided to message the administrators, as the group blurb urges us to contact them with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (or, apparently, tattles). I wrote a very reasonable message saying that I realized that I was in the wrong and had apologized to both parties involved, and that my mistake had come just from ignorance so it would be really great if they could post that it is indeed against the rules to outbid, or maybe even put it in the official rules. Especially if it’s a serious enough secret rule that they threaten to kick moms out for it. I also quoted admin number 2 telling me that I had never seen a bidding war, and pointed out that I had in fact seen one just that day, even though it was a “make me an offer” type deal. I said that the outrageous backlash of anger I got for an honest mistake seemed really harsh, and that I was pretty upset about it.

And here was the response:

Admin 2: Ok…where to start. First, you have been a member for over 3 months. Usually when someone is a member of a group they lurk for a while to get the feel of the group, learn how things work, etc. That is why it was perplexing to us when you didn’t know that we don’t have bidding wars in the Moms Group. You were extremely defensive and inappropriate in your responses in that thread. I never asserted that you were lying. I actually assumed that you had mistaken something you had seen in another group for bidding going on in the Moms Group. As you just said, there is a difference between “make me an offer” and skipping over people for the higher bidder.


I’m a bit confused as to why you think my post today had anything to do with you or that situation about the bike seat. I’m also really annoyed that you are telling us that we need to change our rules, when you seem to be the only one who has an issue not understanding them. All you had to do was ask for clarification, but instead you lash out and tell us that we are doing it wrong. Really, Annie?

I was seriously appalled and pissed the hell off.


So pissed off that I had Husband, who is much more diplomatic than me, write my response:

Me:I think I may have been unclear with my request. I have no desire to modify the official rules or unspoken social norms of the group. I’m merely suggesting that a clarifying post would be helpful for other new members, to let them know the unwritten norms BEFORE accidentally triggering a flame war. I did not see any connection between your post and the bike seat. I only mentioned it as an example of helpful explanation, since I had previously asked who was responsible to contact whom. 

I apologize for my defensiveness, on the bike seat thread. After reviewing it the other day I saw I definitely was too aggressive, and PM apologized to those involved. Nevertheless, I was jumped on hard and fast for an easily made mistake. I merely suggest that may not be the most welcoming way to be no drama mamas.


Admin 2: Look, it’s obvious to us that you are still not getting it. It is not our job to be constantly clarifying things for people who join the group, especially if they don’t ask for clarification. It’s your responsibility as an adult to know “the norms” of a group before you participate, especially considering you have been a member for over 3 months!! You are still telling us that we aren’t doing it right, we aren’t being welcoming enough, people attacked you, etc. when this is on nobody but you. Your defensiveness on the bike thread post is what lead to the flame war, not the other way around.

Sorry, Annie, but we don’t feel that you are a good fit for the group. You are not willing to admit when you are in the wrong, and continue to blame others for your actions. With over 2000 people in the group, we just don’t have time for this.


Me: Yeah, if the group is as good as it’s members and you’re the representatives, it’s not a group I want to be in.

(I don’t know if they got that last part because they both blocked me.)

So basically what they’re saying is a big, fat:

I feel like I’m back in junior high with a bunch of bullies that are cheerleaders picking on some freak. Only in junior high, there are principals to bust the bullies, and in adult world, I find myself still isolated, excommunicated, and alone. And really ashamed, stupid, and frustrated that I never learned how to adult OR how to just be a normal non-snarky human who doesn’t have to fight the urge to go all Philly on your ass all the time.

I’m the only one in my social group with a baby. In some ways, this is cool. Clara gets all the love and doting attention. But in other ways, it’s lonely. I never got to have the freedom and fun that I watch my friends have, I never have a chance or a reason to get pretty, and there’s a certain truth to the idea that “unless you’re a mom, you just don’t understand.”

And it’s true. When you become a mother, there are things you experience that are just beyond words, and there’s a feeling of camaraderie that I’ve experienced when I meet other moms, even if they’re strangers. Other moms are the only ones who understand that your heart breaks every time your little one cries, how your world would end of they were taken from it, how you could do everything in a given day perfectly but still be up all night kicking yourself and worrying. Other moms are the only ones who understand how you can simultaneously be so frustrated and so in love.

And now I’ve had two experiences within a month of moms shattering this magical mom connection, which leaves me afraid to even try to connect with other mothers, afraid to be myself, afraid to even go out in public with the baby for fear that someone won’t approve and they’ll call the cops again.

So here I am, the snarky mama kicked out of the stroller brigade. I don’t know why this is a surprise to me. Or why at 25, I still find myself excluded by the bitchy cheerleaders.



An Open Letter to The Lady Who Called The Cops Because She Didn’t Like My Toddler’s Outfit

Dear Bitchface,

It has come to my attention, by way of a ferocious lady-cop showing up on my doorstep while I was making dinner the other day, that you were under-impressed with how my toddler was dressed at the grocery store the other day. I realize that a blue fleecy outfit is highly offensive to your delicate sensibilities, and for that I am truly, deeply, not at all sorry. For once in her goddamn life, my baby actually kept her pants ON and didn’t throw them off in the grocery store, so I was counting it a good day.

You might not think it, but I know who you were. You were the uppity lady in pink who gave me the once-over as I exited the store with a full cart of groceries and a squirming, gleeful toddler kicking happily under her blanket and shouting “HI!” at everyone we passed. I assumed it was because I looked like a hot mess, because this had been what my day looked like:


11020296_10203883042584566_1506462752_n‘I felt your judgment as I took stock of my yoga pants smeared with baby food and bleach stains, my unwashed hair stuffed under a hat that didn’t match my thrift-store shirt, the dark circles under my eyes announcing just how many years it’s been since I got a full night of sleep. What was supposed to be my afternoon off of baby-duty in order to get the house clean ended dramatically early, and I had to go pick my baby up from Husband, who had taken her to work wearing what you were clearly so put-off by. So I didn’t have time to get sexy to impress you.

Clearly, you do not have kids, nor have you ever experienced proximity with a child. You have never fought (and inevitably lost) the battle of keeping shoes on a toddler who has just discovered she can take clothes off. You have never experienced the unique and mystical phenomenon of a toddler letting the whole world know EXACTLY what she is feeling at any given moment. (It probably wouldn’t have occurred to you, because in her abundant baby-glee, she was not screaming that she was uncomfortable.) Nor have you ever experienced proximity to someone who has done an actual day of work in their life. You have obviously not experienced a single day of Chicago winters if you considered a day in the 40-degree range cold enough to need more than a sweatshirt. Bitch please. 40 degrees is beach weather.



You tell me what’s weirder: the fact that I decided to wrap my child in her blanket instead of wrestling her into her coat to walk the fifteen meters from my car into the the grocery store, or the fact that you followed me out to my car when I was done shopping, watched me wander as I forgot where I parked, writing down my license plate number and calling the cops, who were waiting for me when I got home?

Days later, I am still livid with you. You were the cause of my panic when I saw the cop car, my fear that something had happened to a loved one and I was about to be delivered the news, the panic that I’d accidentally shoplifted milk again like I did once when I was pregnant (and immediately sent Husband back to pay for it.) You were the cause of my panic that someone had broken into my home

But most of all, you were the cause of my starting to doubt every last thing about myself. My house is the smallest and poorest-built on the block, so I must not be a fit parent. Sometimes I let my child wear the same outfit a couple days in a row, so I must be neglectful. I can’t figure out how to get her hair, which is at that awkward growing-in stage, out of her eyes or keep it from frizzing at the back, so I must be incompetent. I look disgusting from the acne that cropped up when I got my period back, so I must be too white-trashy to be allowed to be a parent without intervention. My house is a mess because I can’t figure out the secret that allows me to keep it clean when Hurricane Clara sweeps through the living room yanking all the books off the shelves and throwing the spoons out of the silverware drawer one by one, so I must be too preoccupied to parent. The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Because I’m a mom, and feeling incompetent is a mom’s M.O.

And you, dear bitchface, were the cause of the rekindling of all my fears over the past month as I had to take my child for weigh-ins because I can’t get her interested in eating enough to be a Buddha-shaped baby, as I had therapist after therapist show up to my home to evaluate her for developmental disabilities (which, by the way, she doesn’t have. Holla.)

The cop wasn’t super nice either. I get it, it’s her job to intimidate me and threaten me with DCIS taking away my baby and to tell me I lack common sense, and I know she has to respond to a report of child abuse. I know suburban cops have nothing better to do than instill stay-at-home-moms with terror that they’ve irreparably broken their child forever by carrying them a few feet into a grocery store on a balmy day with a blanket instead of a coat.

But you just keep doing you, in your perfect little pink outfit, judging complete strangers at the grocery store and pawning them off on someone else to deal with. Karma will get you, and a giant icicle will drop off the eaves of your perfect little suburban house someday and sever your brainstem or something.




The Oscars Drinking Game

I have a confession. I, who eschew all things popular culture, love the Oscars.

And this year, I have the good fortune of being able to watch them for the first time in years, because I, in my usually television-less existence, happen to be in a hotel tonight.

Do I actually ever see movies? Please, I have a toddler. That is so not what the Oscars are about. The Oscars are about so much more than big-screen entertainment. The Oscars are about the most prime people-watching opportunities on television. They are a beautiful ritual which layer awkward interviews upon awkward interviews, and in which

All I want in life is to see Khloe Kardashian lose her absolute living shit if I showed up on the red carpet in my baby-food-stained yoga pants stuffed oh-so-glamorously into snow boots, with my terrible bang cut and middle finger stuck in the up position.

SO to celebrate Oscars night, I’m going to leave you with this drinking game as I half-watch, half-knit, and half run around the hotel room yelling “Get that out of your mouth!”


1. “Tell me about the ‘pieces’ you’re wearing.”

2. “It just doesn’t seem ‘oscars’ to me.”

3. “I just want to thank God”

4. A celeb sniffles during their speech

5. Someone talks about how great Meryl Streep is

6. Someone thanks whoever primped them

7. Someone brings up 50 Shades of Grey

8. Someone talks faster when the music starts

9. Neil Patrick Harris says something awesome

10. Khloe Kardashian makes you want to projectile vomit

11. A movie you’ve never even heard of wins an award

12. Jennifer Lawrence falls

13. Camera cuts to Brangelina

14. “Statement necklace”

15. Someone’s boobs almost fall out of their dress.

16. Someone doesn’t have enough boobs to fill out their dress.

17. Leo doesn’t win an Oscar.

See you when I’m smashed, people.




Operation: Baby Thigh Rolls

I return to my temporarily-forgotten blog because I need to vent.

I HATE feeding the baby.

Not breastfeeding, that’s fine. But I might be one of those crunchy weirdos who breastfeeds her kid until it goes to college because literally that is my only option.

One of the reasons I haven’t posted in so long is because I spend all day every day trying to get Clara to eat. She has always shoved away the bottle and gotten very angry if I try to weasel it between her lips or sneak it in while she’s sleeping. She can go from zero to banshee in .4 seconds. Eventually, I just gave up with the bottle because I could just breastfeed her. But you’re supposed to wean the baby from the bottle at one year, and Clara is thirteen months. And as it turns out, she applies her passionate hatred of bottles towards all things cup-like–and she has since I first introduced the sippy/straw cups at nine months or so.

All the websites and blogs I’ve read assume that I’m transitioning to a cup from a bottle, and that my child isn’t dangerously underweight and that her pediatrician is not, in fact, making me come in every other week for baby weigh-ins. They assume that she’ll accept the high-calorie foods I offer, or, in fact, that she’ll accept anything aside from yogurt. They assume that baby-led weaning is the obvious solution, and not, in fact, that if I put food on her tray she’ll systematically and gleefully fling every last morsel of whatever I give her to the ground.

I’ve played all the games, and flown all the airplane spoons, and demonstrated all of the sippy-drinking. I’ve made all the funny faces and tried all the flavors of baby food and like 90% of all the adult food. I am at the end of my rope.

I spend 100% of my day trying to feed the baby and the other 100% worrying that if I can’t get her some baby thigh rolls that social services will take her away. (But maybe her foster parents would not fail at their primary parental task of feeding the child. I have two college degrees and I can’t feed my kid. I want my tuition money back.)

I am beginning to be afraid that something is Wrong. That this isn’t just a phase (after all, a phase would have ended after seven months of solid food attempts and thirteen months of bottle/sippy/straw/cup attempts….right?). Husband has some sizable autism and sensory processing disorder genes, and I am beginning to be genuinely afraid that this is what Clara is beginning to show. She seems so far behind her peers developmentally (especially physically—though, could this be because she is so underweight?), far behind babies who are months and months younger than her. And I ultimately feel like I’ve completely failed at being a mom. Literally, momming is the only thing I do and I can’t do it. I think I say this aloud several times a day.

Part of the problem is that when she has her check-ups, a bored-looking nurse weighs her and breezes through a little checklist of developmental milestones (“Does she stand? Cruise? Does she realize I’m not really even listening to a single one of your answers?”) and then the pediatrician breezes in, listens to her lungs, and sends in a nurse to give her her shots. I am a first time mom, the kind I’m convinced the doctors office makes fun of for being paranoid, and I really just want a doctor to spend a good couple hours observing and interacting with her and give me the most comforting word a doctor could give: Normal.

I wouldn’t have the first idea how to go about getting Clara evaluated. Where do I call? What do I ask for? Do I harass her pediatrician with these questions? How do I go about getting it insured? Is she even old enough?

But first and foremost: What the actual hell am I doing wrong?


A Suitcase Full of Pancakes (3/30)

The first time I packed a long-term suitcase, I wore seven skirts onto the plane so that I could have more room for books. I was sitting next to this Polish lady on the plane, and she watched in mild horror and amusement as I stowed my violin in the overhead compartment and then proceeded to take off skirt after skirt after skirt, ball them all up, and then use them as a pillow. What can I say; I’m resourceful.

My packing strategy has improved over the years. If I were ever to pack up and move into a dorm in Hungary again, I would fill my suitcase not with clothing or toiletries, but with little gems of foodstuffs. Jars of peanut butter (crunchy, of course), BBQ sauce, all the good breakfast cereals, mac and cheese, bags and bags of chocolate chips, an endless supply of Skittles and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a whole keg or twelve of root beer, and maybe some avocados just to include something that’s not artificially green. Clothing can be bought overseas. Underwear can be washed. But these? These are the holy grail of an American diet, which I should surely perish without.

(If I were ever to come back from Hungary after consuming all of these lovely American delicacies, I would fill my return suitcase with lángos, which is a kind of deep-fried dough covered with sour cream and cheese. And also these foods. And just to prove to you that I’m not solely a sad fatty who only likes junk food, I would also smuggle back nine hundred bottles of multivitamin juice, which is an elixir so heavenly that I sometimes daydream about being able to buy it even online. When I moved into my dorm and discovered that they sold this stuff in the vending machine, I praised the Lord a little bit. There’s nothing like it in the US. Guava juice is the closest thing I can come up with.)

As much as I love chowin’ down on the food from the motherland…

If you don't get this reference, you're too young.

If you don’t get this reference, you’re too young.

…I really missed American food while I was camped out in my Hungarian dorm. Like, REALLY missed. Like, I was starting to daydream with tears in my eyes about chocolate chip cookies. Try as we might, paprika is not an adequate substitute for chocolate chips.

One afternoon, I crawled pathetically out of my room, reaching, clawing at the air like a despondent zombie in the desert, gasping, “Paaaaancaaaaakes!? PAAAAANCAKES!!!” and a poor passerby took pity on me. My friend of the Hungarian persuasion took me to the little corner grocery store and helped me pick out all the ingredients. (Everything is packaged differently there. Milk comes in BAGS. Trippy. And as we had a budding pancake meltdown crisis on our hands, I didn’t have time to go foraging for things by myself, reading each and every label in the store.) Then we schlepped it all back to the dorm, calculated what metric measuring cups would most closely match up to the American recipe, and got to work. A little group of Hungarians clustered around the stove, eager to see what was going on in the dorm kitchen and clamoring for a turn at trying to flip the pancake.

The reward for our efforts was a stack of gloriously golden pancakes on a plate, which we carried back to my room. As was our tradition, we opened the window down into the room to use as our table, so large we could comfortably sit seven around it, and we feasted. There was no maple syrup; it was nowhere to be found in Hungary, so we topped our ambrosia with things like butter and sugar or jam or applesauce.

Those sure were some unorthodox pancakes. But to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a brinner more. 4ad29b88acd99dafed4fce5d656ae187


Bierbauch und Schnabel-Nase (2/30)

At sixteen, I was most likely to be found perched in a windowsill, wearing a pink beret over dark hair that flowed all the way down my back, hopelessly daydreaming and writing in a notebook. The likelihood of bare feet was high, as was the presence of a long, fluttery skirt and several bangles around my ankles.

Yeaaaaaah, you know the type.

So of course, on the afternoon I found myself stretched out happily along the windowsill of my medieval German inn one luscious June afternoon, I was about the happiest I’d ever been. The Bavarian town below me, pieces of which were at least a thousand years old, buzzed gently with activity and lulled me into a deep stupor. So when a loud POP erupted on the window pane next to me, I jumped so violently that I nearly sent the flowerbox sharing my sill crashing down to the cobblestone street several stories below.

I sat up and glanced down just in time to see a second pebble, thrown with expert aim by a man across the street, deliver another loud POP against the glass. The pebble thrower, who sported a grimy apron protruding from under his beer gut, stood with a hawk-nosed young man at least twenty years younger than himself. They both peered at me curiously from under the swinging board sign of the pizzeria wall they leaned casually against.

Beak-Nose shouted something in German. I stared dumbly back at him.

“Ich….nein…spreche….gut…Deutsch,” I tried, hesitantly.

At this, both men leaned enthusiastically forward and shouted in unison, “AMERICAN GIIIIIRL!”

God save us.

“See you later, allie-gator!” Beer-Gut called gleefully. “Oh boy!”

I laughed, bemused. “What?”

“He speak no good English,” Beak-Nose called, helpfully.  “Where you come from?”

“Uhhhhhhhh….I’m from Philadelphia.”

“What make you come here?”

“I’m with my orchestra. We’re on tour.”

“What is on tour?”

“We came here to play music. Concerts.”

“You come down,” Beer-Gut decided.

I laughed nervously. “I can’t. I have to go to dinner soon.”

“You no go to dinner. You come down!” Beer-Gut answered.

“If you come down, we make you dinner free!” Beak-Nose added, hopefully.

There comes a time in every young musician’s life where they will tire of playing for food instead of money. But I had not yet hit that age. (Two college degrees later, I still kind of haven’t, but at least I’m a * little * pickier about the quality of the meal.)

“Free? Okay, maybe, but my concert is in an hour, so it has to be quick!” I called down to the men. But I still felt nervous about crossing the street to meet two strangers, so I added, “Can my roommate come?”


I slid out of the windowsill into my room and giggled nervously, slipping into my sandals and racing down the stairs. I found Elise* in the dining room and told her about what the pizza guys across the street had promised me.

“Free pizza? Hell yes,” she agreed. “Are they hot?”

“No. But free pizza!”

“Free pizza,” Elise agreed, and we set out on our adventure across the street.

The two men shook our hands, and led us into the restaurant, where, I kid you not, they kicked all the patrons out into the courtyard and sat us down at a table. Elise and I snuck glances at each other as they brought us beers (we were not underage in Germany), but neither of us wanted to be the first to drink something offered to us by a stranger. Beer-Gut and Beak-Nose plopped down in seats across from us and shook their napkins into their laps.

“Welcome to our restaurant,” Beak-Nose said. “My uncle’s father started restaurant years ago. Now we have restaurant.”

We nodded, unsure of what to say, and nibbled on the flatbread they’d brought out. Away from the safe confines of our hotel, free pizza with strangers seemed a little more daunting.

“Tell us about concert,” Beak-Nose said. “We maybe come.”

Elise and I told him about the repertoire, and our orchestra, and we chatted a little bit about German composers. I had just begun to relax when Beer-Gut asked, “You has the boyfriends?”

“Uhhhhh…..No. I mean yes.”

“Well, which is it? No or yes? Because store close at midnight. But after that, we are free.” Beak-nose said matter-of-factly.

“Do you have a restroom?” I asked. Not eager to be left alone, Elise followed me into the bathroom, and as soon as the door latched behind us, we began to laugh wildly.

“Oh my god! They think we’re slutty American girls!” she whispered.

“I know! Oh my god, have you ever even kissed a guy?”

“No! Have you?”

I shook my head.

“Well, what do we do?” This is so awkward!”

“We could always leave,” she suggested.

“I don’t know. I think they might follow us to our concert or something. Or lock the door so we can’t get out. Oh my god, what if we can’t get out?”

“Free pizza was your stupid idea!”

“So….okay. So. Neither of us has a cell phone.”

“Yeah, NOW we think of that. Do you think anyone would hear us if we screamed?”

But I didn’t answer. The window, which opened into the room in the traditional European style, had caught my eye. Elise followed my gaze.

“Oh, no. No no no.”

“Well, do you want to go back out there?” I asked, starting to laugh.

“Give me a hand up!” she hissed, clamoring onto the toilet tank. We pulled hard against the window, and it swung open with a creak.

“Oh god! I bet they heard that!” I squealed. “Hurry up, Elise!”

She dove through the window and into the alley. I heard her drag a trash can under the window and saw her blond head pop up. She offered me her hand, and I grabbed ahold of it and launched myself out too. Luckily, the window was only a few feet off the ground, and we darted away after tugging the window shut, laughing all the way down the alley and back to the inn.






*name changed