How Buying a Decent Cup of Coffee is A Lot Like Paying for Sex


A cup of prostitution (sort of).

For a long time, there were two things I absolutely refused to pay for: sex and a decent cup of coffee.

Sure, I’ll pay someone to take care of my kids, or clean my house, or mow the lawn, but sex and coffee were always strictly Do-It-Yourself projects.

Not paying for sex has proven to be surprisingly easy, considering my inauspicious start: back then, I fell into despair as all my high school girlfriends, one by one, lost their virginity the summer before senior year (even Anca, the exchange student from Bucharest, who had successfully petitioned the school administration to start a girls weightlifting team). Meanwhile, I failed to get past second base with my boyfriend, Keith. During the darkest days of that relationship, the awkward, fumbling days that made me wonder if Keith even knew how to do “it”, I began to understand the appeal of paying  someone more experienced, a la Holden Caulfield (we were reading The Catcher in the Rye in Honors English).

Anyway, while I was putting on another clean shirt, I sort of figured this was my big chance, in a way. I figured if she was a prostitute and all, I could get in some practice on her, in case I ever get married or anything. I worry about that stuff sometimes.

Eventually, Keith and I figured things out without any money changing hands, and shortly thereafter, I went off to college and had so much sex graduated and got married and never thought of paying for sex again.

But the coffee thing . . .

Not paying for coffee has been so much harder because I just can’t seem to make a decent cup on my own.

Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve bought fancy Italian machines, and low tech French presses. I’ve ground my own beans and stored them in the freezer. I’ve charted  water temperatures and measured grounds out on a scientific scale that promised accuracy to seven decimal places. I’ve done all that and always wound up with coffee that tastes like a cup of the dishwater left standing in my kitchen sink from a soaking lasagna pan.

Why is this so hard? It can’t be, can it? Because even the coffee I get from the gas station down the street, you know, the one with a single, cloudy coffee pot that sits on the burner all day and wears a tattered placard (“Rich Bold Flavor!”) on its handle tastes better than anything I brew.

I’m pretty intelligent, or at least I like to think so. Anyway, other people have told me that I am, and they can’t all have been trying to sleep with me, though that skeevy guy who sat behind me in PHI 110: Introduction to Ethics probably was. And I like to believe I’m a problem solver. And coffee looks to me like a problem that needs to be solved.

Still, up until now, I haven’t been able to come up with the solution, so I’ve been paying for coffee, and I’ve been feeling much guilt and shame. With every cup, I beat myself up.

“I have to stop doing this,” I thought to myself as I handed the barista another five dollar bill. “This is ridiculous, and it’s wrong. I’m an intelligent woman who believes in self-reliance and independence. I should be able to make a decent cup of coffee.”

I should, but I can’t.

I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not about intelligence or problem-solving skills, but rather it’s some natural gift that people are born with that I’m lacking, like being able to hit a curve ball or drive a stick shift. Maybe I should just let it go, realize that my talents lie elsewhere and accept the fact that I’m one of those people in this world who will have to pay for it.

The other day at the grocery store, I stood in the coffee aisle admiring all the pretty packages, all promising to make the perfect cup of coffee. A woman was busy grinding beans in the machine there and I asked her if the brand she was buying was any good.

“It’s terrific,” she said. “The best coffee I’ve ever had. You should try it.”

I shook my head and looked away, not wanting her to see my tears.


Instant Gratification.

In the end, I chose a jar of instant coffee from the shelf, some Nescafe Clasico, wondering if it could be any worse than my own home brew. I’ve made quite a few cups by now, and I have to say, it’s not so bad, and anyway, it’s quick, just two minutes in the microwave. I guess what I mean to say is that I’m getting used to it, and I’ve decided when I really need it, I’ll be happy to pay a professional.


Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at




Buy the Cow, Even If You Can Get Robot Sex for Free

Hello there, human! I am here to free you from the drudgery of daily life so you can binge watch

Do Not Have Sex with Me, Please.

Just for a moment, I considered joining the Campaign Against Sex Robots.

Here we are, fourteen months away from the 2016 US Presidential Elections and it seems like everyone else is campaigning, so why not me?

My only problem is finding the right campaign to join. I mean, running for President seems like a great choice: if I were elected, I’d get to dress up in fancy clothes and attend  fancy dinners all the time. However, it also seems like a lot of work: I’d have to dress up in fancy clothes and attend fancy dinners all the time. Anyway, I’m thinking leading the free world is not for me, even though I already picked out my Secret Service codename (Sapiosexual. Go ahead and use it, if you want, when you get elected President. I hate to see it go to waste).

So here I am, not campaigning for anything, while my In Box fills up with messages from candidates I’m never going to support.

All these flavors are an abomination against God.

Each and every one an abomination unto God.

And that’s where I was when I heard about the Campaign Against Sex Robots.

I can’t say I’m completely on board with the campaign because it seems a bit quixotic and a little like John Henry and the steam drill. First, I agree, yes, it would be wonderful if we all had fantastic, fulfilling sex with other real, live, squishy human beings, wouldn’t it? It would also be nice if the world were full of rainbows and unicorns. Second, you can’t stop progress, and while you might raise an eyebrow at my dubious suggestion that a sex robot is progress, has there yet been a technology invented for which humans haven’t immediately realized the sexual potential? I remain convinced that right after inventing fire, one early human turned to another and said, “Good. Now we can see who we’re actually fucking in the dark.”

Anyway, I’ve thought about sex with robots before (perhaps you have, too? Oh,  you haven’t? Wow, now I’m embarrassed) and I hope that given the choice between sexy times with robots or sex with real live squishy humans, we would all choose the squishy human, and connecting with other people is almost always a good thing. There are all sorts of reasons why you should have sex with a human rather than a bunch of wires and plastic programmed by some nerd in Silicon Valley. Here’s just a few:

  • I’ll fake an orgasm once in awhile. The Sex Robot will fake every single one.
  • I’ll have sex with you in your old bedroom at your parents’ house when we go their for Thanksgiving, even after the big fight we had about whose family to see over the holiday. The Sex Robot doesn’t care where it spends Thanksgiving. The Sex Robot will feel the same about spending Thanksgiving sitting on a curb in the parking lot of the Seven-Eleven as it will sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table with your parents.
  • I’ll laugh at your jokes, or lean in to touch your arm or face to let you know I’m interested in sex. The Sex Robot will stand there in the living room even when you want have sex because you forgot to re-charge it.
  • I’ll tell you I want you and mean it. I’ll also tell you I love you and hate you and how stupid and wonderful you are and I’ll mean every word.

Royalty free stock photos including the image of the robot in this post can be found at The image promoting the Do Us a Flavor contest from Frito-Lay is taken from the company website and is believed to comply with Fair Use Standards under US and International copyright law.

Should You Force Your Child to Play the Cello or the Oboe?


OMG, make it stop hurting!!! Can’t you make it stop hurting?????

I got rejected, again, and it’s feeling a lot like that time this guy Kevin told me he didn’t want a “serious” girlfriend after I let him feel me up at that party in Bickmore Hall junior year.

This past week I sent out a short piece I wrote titled “Buy the Cow, Even if You Can Get Robot Sex for Free.” The next day, I received what my blogging friend Ross Murray from Drinking Tips for Teens would call a “kind rejection.”

Thanks for your submission and interest in our site! Great post, but not a great fit for us right now. Sorry about that! General humor is always in demand, so feel free to submit additional work.

Samantha A.
Senior Content Manager

I read and reread the rejection email, parsing each word, the same way I had parsed Kevin’s statement on girlfriends. He said he didn’t want a serious girlfriend. Samantha A. said great post. Surely there must be a way to interpret their words to mean something other than what they apparently meant. I just needed to stare at this email a bit longer, grasp at more straws, the same way I had held out hope for Kevin when he appeared to look my way in the dining hall, before he headed back into line to get a second slice of pumpkin bread.

“He didn’t have to look in my direction,” I remember thinking. “There are any number of visual routes his eyes could have taken to find that pumpkin bread, but he did, sort of, look toward me. That’s got to mean something!”

I kind of wish that both Samantha and Kevin had been more heartless in their rejections. I could have been spared several weeks of pining after him if Kevin had told me straight out, “Look, thanks for letting me touch your boobs, but I’m never going to ask you out!” Likewise, maybe it would have been better if Samantha said, “Karen, go die in a fire and never, ever, ever send out crap like this again!”

But she didn’t. She said “great post” and that got me thinking, just like all those years ago with Kevin.

“She called it a ‘great post,'” I thought. “Maybe it’s good enough to be published somewhere else.”

So I got it into my head to send the piece somewhere else. I made a few changes, and sent off “Buy the Cow, Even if You Can Get Robot Sex for Free” again, on its way to another editor’s inbox.

And that’s when I got what Ross Murray might call an “unkind rejection.”

We appreciate that you took the time to share your work with us and that we had the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not quite right for us.

No “great post” here. No “feel free to submit additional work.” Just a whole lot of “Die in a fire!”

Or at least that’s how it felt.

Rationally, I know that my piece is probably not a good fit for a website that’s publishing

Lesson 1: Drink out of the toilet.
Lesson 2: Sniff everyone’s crotch.

articles like, “Was I Wrong to Force My Child to Play the Cello? Or Should I Have Made Her Play the Oboe, Too?” and “10 Parenting Lessons I Learned from My Golden Retriever” and I kick myself for submitting it there, but I was awash in Samantha A.’s rejection compliments and not thinking clearly.

By the time I publish this post on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please, it will be 24 hours since I got that second rejection and perhaps the sting will have worn off some. Perhaps I’ll feel better and I’ll be able to drag myself off the floor and out of the fetal position.

Perhaps I’ll even look up Kevin on Facebook to see if he ever got serious with a girl.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at

Under the Vatican Dome

Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia, and I’m doing all I can to avoid him.

No dinner until you answer this questionnaire!

You can find Jesus in a casserole.

I know there are some readers of this blog who think I should do everything in my power to seek out the Holy Father and ask forgiveness, for both the thoughts and deeds I’ve commemorated here on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please. You may be surprised, or perhaps not, to learn that this blog is followed by a whole flock slew of Christians who write about how God is improving their marriage or revealing the mystical secrets behind tater tot casserole or losing weight through Jesus.

(Dear Christians: Just my opinion, but God may be sending you mixed messages with that tater tot casserole and weight loss stuff).

I’ve never been able to understand why this blog has so many Christian followers. Maybe they’re praying for my salvation. More likely they’re using me as an example to scare their children.

Behold the fate that awaits you if you turn from the path of righteousness: Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please!

Anyway, as I said, the Pope is visiting for a couple of days at the end of the week and, as a lapsed Catholic, the papal visit didn’t register more than a “Gee, that’s nice,” on my own personal Richter scale until a colleague contacted me to reschedule a meeting. Why did we need to reschedule? Because it appears the whole freaking city is shutting down this week, including the public schoolspublic transport, and entire bridges and stretches of highway.

So I doubt I’ll get much done in this week, except for maybe this blog post about my Christian followers.

Let me start by saying that I am not a follower of Christianity and my relationship with religion is complicated. It began with my parents: my Mom was a devout Roman Catholic and my Dad was an unrepentant atheist. How this horribly mismatched couple ever got together in the first place  remains a mystery, but you could probably place a safe bet on the involvement of alcohol. Why they stayed together has more to do with my mother strictly following the Church teaching against birth control and yet feeling a bit more loosey-goosey about the admonition against premarital sex: I was born not quite seven months after my parents married.

After my birth, I went through the motions of being a Catholic through my Confirmation, and then declared that I was an atheist as my mother wept and my father cheered.

Still, while I’ve left the Church, I remain what I’ll call a cultural Catholic, and I identify with that particular experience. If I had to choose sides in, let’s say, a game of dodgeball, I’d be on their team.

While I’m an atheist and have been since early adolescence, in my twenties I married a former altar boy. That’s maybe not too surprising. What may surprise you is that my husband, who comes from a large, Irish-Catholic family that attended Mass every Sunday, rejected the Catholic Church much more emphatically than I ever did. Even though my husband didn’t grow up in a home with a drunk guy shouting from the front porch at random passersby that all priests are “queers” (that would be my Dad), my husband refused to allow our children to be baptized. The atheist in the relationship (that would be me) would have been okay with it.

Don’t try to make sense of my beliefs. It will just make your brain hurt.

My beliefs have made my own brain hurt for a while now, including a few months I worked as an office temp several years ago. Because I was a temp, I occupied a place in the office hierarchy alongside the cleaning crew. There was a guy there who did most of the maintenance: replacing lightbulbs, fixing the lock on the women’s room door, painting the conference room a pale green called “Seedling.” In a foolish moment of proletarian solidarity, I introduced myself, my small act of rebellion against a workplace that did not acknowledge my his existence, let alone my his labor (perhaps you can understand why my career there did not progress beyond the status of a temp). He told me his name was Arthur. From then on, Arthur greeted me thusly (if the sun was shining).

“The Lord has given us a beautiful day, Karen!”

If it was raining, he would say

“The Lord has given all the plants and trees a good drink of water today, Karen!”

God sees all and knows where you left that paintbrush.

God sees everything and He knows where you left that paintbrush.

Fortunately, no natural catastrophes struck during my stint as a temp in that office, so I never got to see how Arthur’s Christian optimism would interpret an earthquake or a tsunami. Still, he did relate to me his experience of other divine interventions on his behalf. For example, there was the time he misplaced his brush while painting that conference room.

“The Lord must have been looking out for me, Karen, because he showed me right where it was, on top of the step ladder!”

And that time he parked his car, yet remained inside, fiddling with the radio for a few moments, when a speeding Toyota Camry whizzed down the street. Again, he credited the Lord with his inability to find the Washington Redskins broadcast on the AM dial and avoiding certain death in a gruesome traffic fatality.

Arthur’s need to share his faith with me remains inexplicable, sort of like the reasons why I have so many Christian followers. If I had to guess about his motivations, I think I’ll say that he was dropping what I’ll call “God hints”: little cues in conversation he hoped would start a larger discussion that would open up an opportunity to convert me. Maybe that’s what the Christian followers are doing, too, when they follow my blog. I don’t think I’m out here in the world sending a message that I need saving, but maybe with all the flailing around I do in life, and on this blog, that’s the message Christians hear.

Ahead of Pope Francis’s visit, the Washington Post published a story about all the Catholics, like my husband and I, who have left the Church. Like so many others, we’ve stopped following Catholicism. Yesterday, the paper published another story about how Americans really, really, really like Pope Francis but we really, really, really don’t like the Catholic Church.

I don’t know if the Pope’s visit will be able to bring disaffected Catholics back into the fold. So far Pope Francis seems to be saying the right things on a lot of issues that are important to Americans and American Catholics. I do know that this part of the country where I live is in an absolute frenzy during his visit, and I’m just waiting to come out the other side.

Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia on September 26 and 27. You can find his schedule here.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at

All the Reasons Why You’re Not Giving (or Getting) a BJ Tonight

Perhaps you, like my husband, are wondering why you didn’t get a BJ last night. Or perhaps you’re wondering why you didn’t give a BJ last night.

Oh, what’s that you say? You haven’t been wondering? Instead, you were thinking about what you’ll order for lunch, or what’s happened to Chaz Bono’s career now that Caitlyn Jenner showed up, but now I’ve put this image in your head that’s playing over and over on a loop in your brain like that clip of the gazelle getting taken down by a lion that you clicked on by accident that one time? It took the arrival of a certified letter from the IRS to get those images out of your head, who knows what it will take this time!

Anyway, keeping with the long-standing tradition of revealing uncomfortable details about my sex life here on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please, I’m letting you know I haven’t been meeting my quota in the Blow Job Department.


As you can see, we’ve been trending down for a long while and even slipped into negative territory recently as I promised to give a blow job on a couple of occasions ( March 20th, The International Day of Happiness and then again on that night the kids slept over a friend’s house) only to renege at the last minute.

Now, if you’ve been reading Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please for, let’s say, longer than two minutes, you’ve probably already realized that I am not a woman who is averse to putting a penis in my mouth.

So why have I (mostly) stopped?

Georgia Platts, over on Broadblogs, in the post Why Do Women Stop Being Pornstars? offers one explanation. She suggests that it’s the cultural repression of female sexuality that makes us, eventually, (mostly) stop. Platts’s argument begins with the assertion that, because we’ve learned to repress our natural sexual feelings, women need a lot of stimulus in order to become sexually aroused, and this stimulation is easy to find when a relationship is fresh and new and exciting. As a relationship develops, that stimulation is harder to come by so there isn’t enough to overcome the internalized behavior to repress our sexual desire.

In all seriousness here for a moment, I hope I have captured Platts’s argument accurately, and if not, I hope she will weigh in to correct me.

OK, back to my nonsense: I read Platts’s post and I immediately thought, “Oh, this is a bunch of hooey!” I can tell you now, some days later, as I’ve been thinking about nothing but BJs as I’ve struggled to compose this post, that I’ve decided Platts’s explanation makes a lot of sense. Long time readers of this blog know that I’ve written at nauseating length about sexual desire in too many posts, and while I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly expressed my thoughts, I think I’ve just always assumed that there is probably some socio-biological explanation for desire.

Platts’s post got me thinking I may be wrong about that.

Still, I would more readily accept female sexual repression as the explanation for the lack of BJs in my marriage if it weren’t for my own experience (that’s called confirmation bias, people) that includes the following:

  1. My husband shows a corresponding decline–perhaps not as drastic, but it’s there all the same–in the frequency of other romantic activities, including (but not limited to) twiddling, canoodling, mug-wumping and East Yurkanian kissing.
  2. While I’m not discounting the experience of other women,  I never thought sex was dirty or disgusting or horrible and (here I go with another uncomfortable detail about my personal life) I remember having sexual thoughts from a pretty early age (And I do mean early. Let’s say five or six. And I had crushes on some boy or another all through elementary school). I developed this attitude toward sex even though the message I received from my mother was that sex is awful and dirty and disgusting and to be endured by women only because we want babies.

So it’s hard for me to accept that the reason I’m not having much oral lately is due to repressed sexual desire, as I don’t think I’ve ever repressed a sexual desire in my life (behavior is another story). Let me say here that I have absolutely no doubt that’s the reason for many women out there, and I don’t mean to diminish or invalidate or pathologize their experience of their own sexuality just because it isn’t identical to mine. If their sex life is causing them unhappiness, I wish them every tool in the box to correct it to their satisfaction, including working through repressed feelings.

Instead, for me, I have to think that the way I feel about blow jobs today is sort of the way I feel about Major League Lacrosse. Let me explain: last week, when my husband suggested we go see a game (or is it called a match? Hmmm. I don’t think I really care), I responded, “I think I’ll pass.”

This is a lacrosse stick. Yeah, I wasn't sure, either.

I won’t be blowing this, either.

But if he had asked me to suck his cock go to a Major League Lacrosse game back when we were dating, I would have jumped at the chance.

What has happened in the intervening dozen years? Have those feelings that Major League Lacrosse is icky and disgusting and I’d be a dirty whore if I wanted to go see a game match game re-emerged, after being held at bay for a number of years by the initial thrill and excitement of discovering there was, indeed, such a sport as Major League Lacrosse?

Have I sworn off Major League Lacrosse fellatio forever now that I’m in an old, dull relationship?

I hope not. We shall see as my marriage lurches through its second decade.

As this post winds down, I’d be remiss if I didn’t raise this issue: I have to question if establishing a standard of what Ms. Platts calls “pornstar sex” is setting just one more unattainable goal for many women, like squeezing into 24 inch waist jeans and filling out double D bra cups.

Maybe “pornstar sex” shouldn’t be the expectation (aspiration?).

Ok, so I promised to give you the reasons why you’re not giving/getting BJs. How the hell do you expect me to know? All I can tell you is why I’m not giving one tonight.

  • I’m too familiar with my husband’s penis. I already know what it’s like to give my husband a BJ. As a species, I think humans desire novelty, new experiences, and we’re curious. It’s the reason why we’ve ventured into outer space and also the reason why I blew that guy Ryan, freshman year, even though he was kind of a jerk. We needed to know what it was like to walk on the moon and also what it’s like to give a BJ to a jerk, I guess.

    A Sister of the Or Something.

    A Sister of the Or Something.

  • I’m old. Oh, God, it kills me to say it, but I’m old and those sex hormones that seemed like they would rage through my bloodstream forever now need a cane and a walker to get around. Before this is all over and I’m lying cold and dead in the ground, who knows how I’ll feel about blow jobs? I’ve always imagined myself as a surprisingly spry, and incredibly horny, 80-year old but now I may turn into one of those women who decides late in life to join a religious order, the Sisters of the Sexually Inactive (or something).

So there you have it, the latest in my ongoing series of “Posts That Will Get You To Unfollow My Blog.”

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.comI made that crappy line chart myself.

The Tipping Point

A lifetime of eating Chinese food and I still don't know how to use these.

A lifetime of eating Chinese food and I still don’t know how to use these.

I picked up Chinese take-out the other night and after I signed the bottom of the credit card receipt, the cashier paused before taking the slip of paper back from me.

I had left the little dotted line between AMOUNT and TOTAL, the one marked TIP, blank.

She waited long enough to allow my brain to register what she expected.

With the pen, I slashed a line through the TIP and transcribed the dollars and cents from AMOUNT down into the TOTAL.

“When did we start tipping for take-out Chinese?” I asked when I got home with the C7 (beef) and the E4 (hot! spicy!) combinations.

And by “we” I mean Americans, and by “Americans” I mean everyone else in these United States except me, because I’m not tipping for take-out Chinese.

Long ago, I heard that tipping is a uniquely American custom, foreign to, um, foreigners. How long ago? Way back when I spent several miserable months waitressing serving at  Ruby Tuesday, one of several jobs I cobbled together so that I could afford my share of the rent in off-campus housing.

Yeah, I'm gonna spend the whole night playing Final Fantasy IX and forget to pick up Kelly again.

Yeah, I’m gonna spend the whole night playing Final Fantasy IX and forget to pick up Kelly again.

I spent my first night working alongside a more experienced waitress server named Kelly. Five or so years older than me, Kelly had a toddler at home that her mother watched while she worked and dated a string of unreliable men who could not be counted on to pick her up after her shift.

In addition to all that I learned about her personal life that first night, she also shared the wisdom she had accumulated during her years working in the profession I had so recently chosen. A lot of what I heard from Kelly sounded racist, sexist, or ageist, and oftentimes a combination of all three.

“Don’t kill yourself with the foreign tourists,” she said. I wanted to ask her how any tourist, let alone actual Europeans or Canadians or Martians, would ever find themselves in the Ruby Tuesday at the Springfield Mall eating from the Endless Garden Bar. It was my first day, and I was afraid to say anything, so I didn’t ask. “They don’t tip, so don’t knock yourself out.” She smoothed the front of my apron and then tugged at the collar of my shirt in a futile effort to expose just a hint of my (non-existent) bosom. “I guess that’s the best we can do,” she said before urging me out onto the dining room floor alongside her.

Kelly whispered other helpful nuggets of advice as we filled sodas or waited for the bartender to mix drinks, her voice low enough so that nearby patrons could not hear.

  • A Wonderbra would be a good investment for me.
  • Don’t date Nelson, the Guatemalan line cook.
  • White is Right. (This is how Kelly told me to remember to put the salt shaker on the right, and the pepper on the left, when setting a table. I told her that I didn’t think I needed a mnemonic device for that and she shrugged and said, “Suit yourself.”)
  • Old people all think it’s still 1955 and leave their spare change as a tip.
  • Young people will run out on the check, you gotta watch them.
  • Foreigners, women, and black people don’t tip. If you can, try to get the hostess to seat them in someone else’s section.

Mercifully, my tenure at Ruby Tuesday ended when I secured a very sweet gig working as a receptionist at a local non-profit. My new job involved doing next to nothing and getting paid for it, whereas at Ruby Tuesday, I had worked my ass off and got paid $2.83 an hour. I guess there are people who can make a living working in restaurants, and I’ll admit I’m mostly to blame for my failure: I kinda sucked at being a waitress, and I didn’t stick around long enough to get better.

This rather torturous trip through the Work Experience section of my resumé leads us back to the Chinese restaurant where I’m picking up take out.

Am I supposed to tip there? Because it seems that I’m now expected to tip at a lot of places where I don’t remember tipping before.

And I do tip other places, which are sort of like the Chinese take-out place, and still not at all like Ruby Tuesday. There’s the little bagel shop in town where my family walks each Sunday morning, and on our walk, we discuss whether or not this will be the day we’re brave enough to order lox. Our courage falters as soon as we cross over the threshold into the shop. My husband is friends with the owner, Dave, they play basketball together, and Dave works behind the counter with a crew of college-aged kids who keep a plastic deli cup on the counter marked “Gas” or “Pizza”or “Beer.”

I always toss a dollar into that cup.

Bait, when you find yourself out there angling for a tip.

Tip bait.

At the Dunkin Donuts near my office, there’s an oversized coffee mug that hangs out in front of the cash registers.  I’ve struck up a sort of friendship with one of the young men who works behind the counter there. It says “Nikhil” on his name tag, but he insists I call him “Nick.” Nick used to sneak a couple of donut holes into my bag until I told him to stop, I didn’t eat them, they just wound up in the trash. I figured this was his way to ensure I’d drop a little something into the tip cup, the Dunkin Donuts  version of Kelly’s advice to refill soda glasses before the customer asked.

I always drop a little something into that oversized coffee mug.

Given the way tipping has spread beyond pizza delivery, and restaurants, and hair salons, I’ve got to think it’s only a matter of time before we’ll all have Tip Lines showing up on our pay stubs.

Gross Pay

Net Pay

Tip Amount 

The New York Times claims there’s a movement afoot at fancy restaurants to end tipping and instead raise the wages of the staff. We’ll see if it catches on. Meanwhile, a New Jersey waitress posted on Facebook a photo of the credit card receipt from a customer who wrote “LOL” on the tip line, the latest in a series of angry servers using social media to shame customers. Initially, I react to that story like I’m the inept waitress I was fifteen years ago, angry at every asshole I had to wait on and clean up after, but the more I think about it, I have to wonder why the server’s anger isn’t directed at a compensation system that makes her rely on the random generosity of strangers rather than fair pay from the business that’s benefitting from her labor.

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at

My Blog Is Relevant. I’m just as surprised as you are.

It’s so rare that any of the content I produce on Do Not Get Sick In the Sink, Please  is relevant or timely or interesting useful, but I woke up this morning to the news that two  (two!) topics I’d blogged about recently were all over the place.

And by “all over the place” I mean trending on Twitter, which is all that matters.

Anyway, the news reports this morning  on the Ashley Madison hack confirm what I only joked about it the post Life is Short. Stay Away From My Husband. Sanctimonious virgins really are behind that data breach. You can’t make this stuff up, people.

ashley-madison-siteAnd for those of you who are wondering if your wife will have a headache tonight, your worries are over (or just about). The FDA approved flibanserin (the so-called female Viagra) yesterday, so I’m sure the future of American women involves us all being so horny all the time we can’t sit still (not that I wasn’t already). I’m ambivalent about the drug, and you can hear me hem and haw and ultimately come to no conclusion at all in Her Eyes Say Yes (It’s Just the Medication Talking).

He's taking boner pills, and she's taken meds that make her think he's attractive.

He’s taking boner pills, and she’s taking meds that make her think he’s attractive.

The photo of the sexually dysfunctioning couple comes from freeimages.comThe Ashley Madison logo comes from

The Neighborhood Improvement Association

Do you ever imagine what your neighbors would say if some horrible and newsworthy tragedy befell you and the local TV station showed up to ask what sort of person you were before the horrible (and newsworthy) tragedy?

Because I’m morbid, I’ve imagined what my own neighbors would say many, many times. I’ve thought (probably too much) about how they would react if I got eaten by a bear, or crushed in my driveway, or cooked in an industrial oven along with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna.

Not even in your worst nightmare could you imagine going like this.

In your worst nightmare you could not imagine a death like this.

It’s just terrible. I can’t believe it. We used to see her running through the neighborhood all the time and she would wave to us. She mostly kept to herself, except for that wave.  But one time, about five years ago, she yelled at my son for playing music too loud because it woke her baby. He joined the Marines and went to Afghanistan since then, but you can ask him yourself, he was never more afraid for his life than he was on that day.

They would have a lot more to say about my husband, who is a cheerful and friendly presence around the neighborhood, chatting in the driveway or giving directions to lost day-trippers. His loss would be felt much more acutely than mine if he were suffocated by an “atomic wedgie” or died in a silo collapse. My husband knows all our neighbors by name, knows their kids, knows their troubles, their joys. Meanwhile, I struggle to remember the name of the woman who has lived behind us for a dozen years. She stopped by to compliment the flowers I’ve got growing in pots all around the porch and while she spoke, I noted the innumerable freckles that ran from the left side of her face all across her nose and then spilled over the other side. I described the freckles to my husband later.

“That’s Stephanie,” my husband said and I know I’ll remember her name just long enough to include it in this post.



Of course, my husband noticed when our neighbor, the guy who lived in the other side of our twin house here in the Philadelphia suburbs, had stopped rolling his trash bin to the curb each week. Let me stop here to explain to you what a “twin” is, because, unless you’re from around here, you may not know. In other parts of the country it’s a style of house known as a “duplex,” and if you know that term, you have an idea of the sort of house we live in, but not quite. Twins in the Philadelphia area are different from those tracts of duplexes I’m familiar with that clutter the outer boroughs of NYC, squeezing two families into space designed to hold one. Rather, twin houses around here seem to have sprung up organically, chaotically, not due to some plan of a real estate developer to maximize profits. For example, my house is the only twin on the block, each half a mirror image of the other, set down (sprung up?) in the midst of old stone mansions and converted barns in an architecturally diverse area of the historic district of our town.

A twin.

A twin.

Ok, so as I said, my husband was the first to notice that this man who we shared a wall with had not been seen for a while.

“Have you seen Chris?” my husband asked. “He’s the guy who lives next door,” he added, because he thought it necessary.

I hadn’t seen him, but that was not unusual. Like me, Chris mostly kept to himself, perhaps for other reasons than my own. He had been an engineer, but he suffered an injury in a car accident shortly after I’d moved in here, and he no longer worked. While I hadn’t seen him lately, I could still hear his TV through that wall we shared, and his answering machine when it picked up in response to the ringing telephone, and there were almost always lights on in the house when I left in the predawn darkness to run.

“Always on or almost always on?” my husband asked.

I wasn’t sure.

That morning, my husband knocked on Chris’s front door and got no response. “I think I’m going to call the police,” he decided when he came back. “Ask them to do a well-being check.”

What happened next I’m sure will be no surprise: when the police came, they found Chris dead, lying on his living room sofa in front of the television. He’d been there for several days, they said. Possibly as long as two weeks.

Chris’s family, you know the one that relied on the nice guy next door to check on their son/brother/uncle? Yeah, they showed up to take his car (a late-model Volvo), remove the valuables from the house and list it for sale. Real estate flippers bought the house and then sold it to a group of investors. The investors intend to rent the property to the young professionals who are drawn to this town, to this neighborhood, but can’t afford to buy here, at least, not yet.

Yes, I did this.

Yes, I did this.

I guess that’s a pretty smart business plan. My husband and I have often thought about doing something similar as our family outgrew this side of the twin one child (maybe two) ago. Still, here we are, and instead we’ve embarked on a series of modest improvements, some of which I’ve managed to achieve on my own. I’d never done any sort of home projects before, except that one time I painted a bedroom in an apartment, and never considered myself particularly handy, but I’m organized, pay attention to detail and I’ve always been a good student, so I’ve been able to teach myself how to tile a kitchen floor, and stain hardwood, and refinish cabinets. I’ve discovered the satisfaction that comes from physical labor that I had not known before.

Anyway, our neighborhood of homeowners is concerned about the effect a rental property will have on home values. They’re worried about what sort of people a rental will attract, even though the monthly rent is set high enough to make me sputter over my morning cup of coffee when I first hear about it. Regardless of what the rest of the neighborhood thinks, renters are about to move in next door, into a house built in 1870, back before there was a Historic Architectural Review Board that’s now telling me I need their approval before I can replace the window in the living room that’s been leaking in every thunderstorm this summer. The HARB is concerned that I might choose a style of window that detracts from the historical character of the neighborhood, so I have to send them the window specifications, and they have to approve them, before the work can be done. As I fill out the Certificate of Appropriateness Application, I think how un-American, invasive, almost Orwellian it all seems.

Then I think about a post I read last week over on I didn’t have my glasses on  . . . titled Now Comes the Mystery. In a poem, new homeowners wonder what’s become of a missing hatchet, outlined on a pegboard of tools left in the backyard shed. I left a flip comment there.

Here’s hoping that Lizzie Borden wasn’t the previous occupant . . .

And then I think about Chris, the previous occupant of the other side of our twin. And I think about all the previous occupants on our own side, all 145 years of them. Like the guy who left this message on the drywall behind the kitchen backsplash I replaced last year.

For a good time call Pam.

For a good time call Pam.

I wondered if he ever called Pam, and where he’d met her, if they dated for a while and then broke up, or if they got married and live together somewhere in a house in the 212 area code now.

Or maybe Pam was just the drywall saleslady and his supply was running low.

My point is–I guess I do have one–we’re all renters, even those of us who carefully tend the potted pansies we have growing out on the porch, even those of us who will drop dead in front of the TV.

The images of the can of tuna and the twins come from freeimages.comThe other photos are my own.

It’s All About Me

about-meFor a long time, my About consisted of a single sentence:

Karen lives in Philadelphia with a patient husband and a lovesick cat.

It was short, it was snappy, and I felt it revealed enough about me, and left enough to the imagination, to give readers an idea of the voice they might hear if they found their web browser tuned to that particular station that is Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.

Or perhaps it didn’t reveal anything at all. Which, let me add, would be okay with me, by the way. I learned early on in life to give vague answers about my personal background, to turn conversation away from myself, to make jokes, to deflect, to deter, to focus attention on any other bright shiny object in the room other than, you know, me.

Because back then I believed that if we actually talked about me, you might find out that I grew up in a violent, alcoholic home. You know those news stories where the police spokesperson says, “There is a history of officers responding to reports of domestic disturbances at this address”?

Yeah, well, that’s the sort of house I grew up in.

Anyway, it’s a skill that has served me well to this very day, this ability to focus attention on others. I still have it, even after five years of therapy that made me strong enough to tell the teenager bagging my groceries, the LDS missionary knocking on my front door, and the (possibly rabid) raccoon rooting through my garbage, “You know, my dad was a drunk and my mom was clinically depressed.”

In the work I do now, I spend a lot of time introducing myself. There I am, behind a desk, or behind a cup of coffee, shaking hands and launching into a sort of Reader’s Digest condensed version of my resumé, what I’ve come to think of as my “Professional About”: this is who I am, this is what I do.

And then it’s my turn to be quiet, to listen to their “About.”

Karen lives in Philadelphia with a patient husband and a lovesick cat.

Sometimes, if you listen carefully to another person’s “About”, you can hear all the stuff they’ve left out.

The image in this post comes from the Internet, and it’s been so widely disseminated that I’ve been unable to determine attribution.

Blogging: You’re Doing It All Wrong

Blah, blah, blah, blog!

Blah, blah, blah, blog!

Back at the end of July, I had a bright idea: I signed up for the WordPress workshop Blogging 101, a month-long series of assignments designed to introduce brand-spanking-new bloggers to the whats, hows, whys and wherefores of blogging, scheduled to begin August 3rd.

In my mind, I thought I might find some humor as an ancient experienced blogger working my way through daily assignments for creating, writing, and maintaining a blog.

Here’s the first assignment (I know, I know, it’s late. The dog ate my homework, or something):

Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click “New Post,” and tell us why you’re here.

Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.

I saw the assignment and thought if a reader wants to know who I am, he/she can click on my About page.

Now, if a reader wants to know why I’m here . . .  Well, that’s more of a mystery.

I started blogging 212 213 posts ago, back in 2010, when I couldn’t find steady work and thought I’d write to keep current on professional issues, but even the very first post on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please is only tangentially related to law (and not even American law). By the way, you don’t need to go back and read that first post, it’s absolutely cringe-worthy, but I keep it in the archives because I’m a masochist to maintain historical accuracy.

So despite my intentions, I wound up blogging content that was very different from what I set out to blog.

Fast forward about five years, and it’s August, 2015, and I’m signed up for Blogging 101. One morning, two blog posts show up in my Reader that get me thinking more about this “Why We Blog” issue. The first came from Amiecus Curiae in Writer’s Life Wednesday–Blogging to Build an Author Platform and it’s a response to a post from Dylan Hearn over on Suffolk Scribblings. Dylan’s post shows up in my Reader, as well, as I scroll further down: There Are Easier Ways To Sell Books Than Through Blogging.

If you read both posts, and you also read Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Pleaseyou’ll probably already have guessed that I’m mostly in agreement with Amie’s perspective on writers who blog in support of their writing careers.

But, and here’s the big but, the way to make this work, to actually build a following is to blog about something other than writing!

I’m reluctant to give writing advice (because, after all, who the fuck am I to give advice to anyone?) but let me share my experience as a reader: the last two novels I’ve bought were because I read op-ed pieces written by the authors on subjects that had absolutely nothing to do with the novels they’d written and that I (eventually) purchased. Ann Patchett wrote a very funny take for the Washington Post on what it’s like to own an independent book store (I bought State of Wonderand Diana Spechler wrote about sexual obsession in the New York Times (I bought Who By Fire).

And I mostly agree with what Dylan’s got to say–at least, I don’t disagree with it.

So why should writers blog?

Because it’s a wonderful opportunity to write something different, to let off steam, to connect with like-minded . . . to find comfort and community, to help others much earlier in the process than yourself and be helped by those further down the line. It’s a way of making new friends, for discovering excellent books and for improving your craft. It’s a place to be yourself, to be someone else or to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.

All good reasons to blog, to be sure. However, I’m not sure if Dylan’s approach is going to support a goal of making money (even just a little bit!) from writing, but I realize that’s not everyone’s goal. And while there are established authors who do not blog, and do not have much of a social media presence, any new author is expected to play the social media game (on FB, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on and on and on). I’m not sure if being all over social media sells books, either (you can read more of my thoughts on this topic in Is Your “Social Media Platform” Killing Your “Brand”?), but if you’re a novelist who’s blogging, you need to find a way to connect with readers, the folks you hope will buy your book(s). That’s my “big but” (heh! That sounded like I said “my big butt”) which is different from Amie’s, as I don’t have a tough time droning on about any number of topics other than writing (see my recent posts on adultery, ants, and, um, summer activities)–yes, blog, but find a way to reach readers of novels.

It would probably be helpful right here if I could tell you the ways to reach those readers, wouldn’t it? I’m sorry, I wish I knew. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t going to be offered the opportunity to write op-eds in the Washington Post or the NY Times anytime soon.

Anyway, if you came here looking for useful advice, you took a wrong turn somewhere.

Ok, so back to Blogging 101 and that question about why I’m here: I guess I’m here ’cause I got nowhere else to go.