Thursday, July 31, 2008


Dear Annie,

I remember high school.
I remember being terribly unpopular.
And I remember Ardelle.

Ardelle was the most popular girl in school. She had long wavy brown hair, big green eyes, and a perfect smile. Every boy liked her and every girl wanted to be her. My little group of friends secretly loathed her existence for a decade. We'd make fun of her incessantly, and would never call her Ardelle, we'd call her “Ardle.”

Yes, my reject group of friends and I were rather pathetic. We blamed our life problems on this one girl. It was her fault if the popular boys ignored us. It was her fault if we were consistently picked last during PE. Somehow she was the secret orchestrator behind all our daily misery. Even after I left for boarding school, the memory of Ardelle lingered with me.

I ran into Ardelle again in college (the year I spent in England). She barely remembered my name. All that time I had wasted obsessing over her, and she hadn't thought of me at all! One night we went to a concert, and missed the last train back to Bracknell. We spent the night roaming the rainy streets of London together. Suddenly I had a chance to get to know her. She started to become a real person in my mind. I remember telling her all of my accomplishments...I thought if I could impress her she'd be jealous of me for once.

You know, she was a little beast back in the days. One time our 6th grade class went on a field trip. Ardelle's mom drove one of the cars, and my best friend Julie was placed with her group. Ardelle and her snotty little friends snubbed Julie, and verbally protested at the thought of her riding with them.

I found Ardelle on Myspace a year ago. Just for kicks I added her as a friend. She told me how she was studying to be a therapist. I told her my mom was one. I even sent her out to meet with my mother so she could get some insight on the career path. After their meeting was over my mom called me. I have never heard her sound so enchanted, yet, so sad. Ardelle's beauty truly swept my mom away, but Ardelle must have confided in my mom, as well. I don't know what exactly was said, but I know based on how it effected my mother that I no longer have any reason to feel jealous of Ardelle. I am thankful that I am not her...that I did not suffer through the life she suffered through. Her family, her friends... I'm thankful that I didn't make the poor choices in life that she made.

Was high school a dream? I don't know if anything I thought or felt back then was based in reality. It was a world full of fake devotion, fake friends and selfishness. Ardelle matters to me “friends” from back then, however, sadly do not.

So were you hate worthy in high school? Probably not. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't have hated you. I'm sure you were somebody's Ardelle, and so, perhaps, was I.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ne’er the Twain Shall Meet

Dear Annie,

I had to 'design' a bridge once in 7th grade...out of toothpicks. All I remember about the creative process was the smell of the glue.

My parents were big on school projects. They would usually commandeer them. One time I had to make a system that would perform a task using the least amount of initial energy. My father helped me do this. I think he pretty much created the whole system. It started with a screw. As you unscrewed this screw it would pull a string through a pulley system, which would then yank at a lever, which would pull a cart up an inclined plain, dumping a bar of soap out onto a guillotine that would chop a carrot. This project must have taken my father 50 man-hours. It was a masterpiece.

Another time my mother helped me make a map of Greece out of sawdust and wood glue. She was so enthralled with this project she became upset when I tried to help paint the map. The end result is truly a piece of fine art. My mom still has it. It used to hang in my bedroom but now she has it displayed in a cabinet, I think.

But by far the greatest Gilbert family project ever undertaken was my 4th grade mission project. We did not simply cut up a shoe box and paint it brown...oh father spent three days in the garage forming little clay bricks that we used to mason walls on a piece of finished wood. I say "Gilbert family project" because my whole family helped on this one. Even Laurie. This creation was so exquisite that the school faculty displayed it in the middle of the table during one of their board meetings. My mother took pictures of the thing and sent them to the actual mission! We also still have this work of 4th grade art displayed in the family home.

There were others, but I won't bore you.

All this talk of women and careers…my father considers me a waste of good intelligence. Once a month he'll drive out here and have lunch with me, trying to get me back in school. "You could pursue medicine...or archaeology..." He is willing to slave away his retirement years at an unfulfilling job so that he can live vicariously through my adventures. I don't want him wasting another penny on me, frankly. I'll admit, though, for a moment it was tempting. Being single at 28 makes you second-guess what you want to do with your life. I dreamt of living the single life for a minute...pursuing those things that "women aren't supposed to pursue," according to you. I could have had that high-powered career if I had wanted.

The truth is I don’t have the motivation. I am content with the idea of having a family, a garden and a pet chicken.

I wonder how much influence parents really have on their children? I am frightened my son will watch sports, and that my daughter will want to be a cheerleader (I know you’d be delighted with such children).

Seeing pictures of you in high school makes me realize how different we once were. We definitely would have hated each other in high school, or, should I say, I would have hated you. You probably wouldn’t have given me a second thought.

All differences aside, I'm glad we met!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Beauty ≠ Skin Deep

Dear Annie,

I know plenty of female engineers. They are definitely married. My cousin Jason married an engineer. She was actually a better student than him in college.

I read Wuthering Heights as a teenager. I remember detesting Heathcliff, feeling completely drained after finishing the book, and thinking that the characters overall made terrible choices which did not at all comply with any rational human thought processes. (Yes it was a great book!)

So you believe that if a woman is smart, she should use this brilliance in the pursuit of idle hobbies and impractical knowledge? You claim that beauty and scientific skills are inversely proportional. I beg to differ. We all know that pretty girls are more likely to get by on their looks alone, and plain janes throw themselves into books to combat those feelings of social rejection. This does not mean that knowledge itself breeds unattractiveness. If anything, because Dahlia is a beauty, you should instill a thirst for knowledge in her early on. There is nothing wrong with having the best of both worlds, as long as you know when it is proper to utilize beauty over brains, and vice versa. Teach her how to apply mascara, then read her an article in Science News.

Admonishingly Yours,

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Dear Annie,

I have a strong suspicion that Dahlia will not grow up to marry an engineer. She more likely will become one...albeit a girly one. Who else would be confident and sophisticated enough to show up at work in a trendy pink lab coat with matching baby barrettes?

Engineers certainly are more practical than their theoretical counterparts. If you are a man who wants my attention, don't sit around explaining Kepler's conjecture to me, go change the oil in my car!

My cousin Jason is an engineer. Growing up, my sister Laurie and I were so jealous of him. We secretly wanted to do all the cool things he and his brother got do do. By age 12 he'd built his own miniature playhouse in the back yard with electricity and running water. He was always playing with fire, sharp objects, and heavy machinery. One day he came into the kitchen, sat down, and asked his mom to fix him a sandwich. She did, and he sat there at that table for 20+ minutes politely visiting, eating his lunch. Upon finishing, he stood up, revealing to my aunt a gaping wound on his leg, spurting blood. “Mom, I think you'd better take me to the hospital now," he said. Screaming, my aunt grabbed him and rushed him to the ER. Later, when asked why he had delayed in revealing the sorry state of his dangling limb, he simply told his mother “Well, I was hungry.” Now this is a man.

Laurie is convinced that I should marry a farmer or a mechanic. Every time I call home raving about my latest computer nerd boyfriend, she groans. "Why do you keep choosing these guys who are too much like you? You need to date your opposite." While my animal instincts agree with her on this in theory, in practice, I intimidate these baser types of men. We'll have a few wonderful dates together, those pheromones are raging, but then I'll accidentally slip up and inform him that insects are more nutritious than beef, or just exactly why E=MC2. Comments such as these inevitably shatter all hopes of a future date. Is there any man confident enough in himself to date a woman more intelligent than he is?

Seeing that I am compelled to date an ultra conservative Christian, and that he must be super smart on top of that, my dating pool is essentially reduced to one percent of one percent! No wonder I'm still single.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Alien Encounters

Dear Annie,

I simply don't understand how men work so much. When Jim told you he had "bad news" and would have to work all Saturday, he seemed happy about it. Maybe he is proud of being productive: his ability to bring home a hefty paycheck.

If my boss asks me to stay half an hour late I cringe. I don't care if he offers to pay me double, I simply won't do it. I am a slave to this job in a way. 1 Timothy 6:1-2 was written for me. God predestined Paul to write those verses, knowing I would come along. Then again, he also predestined Scrabulous. 

I won't have many sad stories to tell my progeny. I suffered the most when my Mother asked me to empty the dishwasher. What a terrible chore that was. I learned quickly that if I dropped a plate here and there I'd get asked less and less. 

One summer my best friend Julie begged me to work on a fishing boat with her in Alaska. I thought about it long and hard. Had I not been a vegetarian, she might have got me on that fateful voyage. I would surely have wasted away, compelling the captain to toss my emaciated, good for nothing body overboard. In retrospect, 10% of me wishes I had gone. Then I'd have at least one good work ethic story for my lazy, virtual reality game playing, teleporting children of the future. 

Why do we fight wars anymore? Countries should simply play a round of Unreal Tournament. Winner takes all.

Does Jim like his job? Does he come home complaining or quite satisfied? I hate my job. I love editing but I hate editing for someone else. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I hate that they can ask for unreasonable requests, and I always manage to deliver. 

When Jim gets to Mars, ask him to look for some pyramids and a face. My mother was convinced that there was a face on Mars...the remnants of an ancient alien civilization. She followed the story for over a decade. If NASA released an image of the face area, and it did not look like a face, then that image was surely doctored. Only that original, low quality high contrasted image was genuine in her mind.

Sadly, she also believed in reverse speech. My father and I tried for years to convince her this simply was not logical. You just cannot tell what someone's secret thoughts are by reversing their recorded voice and listening for clues. 

Questions we asked her in attempt to debunk the whole theory:

Does it work in all languages?
What if you have an accent?
Speech impediment?
What if you are bi-lingual?

Nothing seemed to dispel this idea from her mind. I didn't realize until this last year that my mother is not a reliable witness. She can't seem to get the story straight. It is always tragic, 'growing up' and realizing that your parents are not perfect. 


Thursday, July 24, 2008


Dear Annie,

I don't mind the garbage. I'm not so good with remembering numbers and the discarded designer boxes by your front door are a perfect way for me to know I'm at the right home.

Have you seen the show "My Name is Earl"? I used to love that show! I felt a strange affinity for those people.

The word "pedigree" means nothing to me. Sure my father is a doctor...a very brilliant man. He single handedly revolutionized emergency medicine and no one will ever give him credit for this. My parents lived the good life for a few years...then something happened. A series of bad investments perhaps? We moved out of our fancy estate into a suburban tract home. I don't remember much of the old days.

My Mother's first car when they married was a Porsche 911. She says she was afraid to drive it anywhere, however, and by the time I came along she had graduated to a puke green VW Rabbit. She drove this little heap of diesel guzzling junk well into the early 90s. Many a morning she'd cram my sister, the neighbor kids and me into its ratty green interior and haul us off to school. So embarrassing!

My Father, on the other hand, had commandeered my mother's 1971 blue Duster. This muscle car was so ancient that my mom had to have the dealer custom install seat belts when she bought it (the kind where you buckled the top and bottom separately). They simply weren't in fashion back then and everyone thought she was nuts. My parents, being cute, gave it a personalized license plate of: BLU DSTR. However, when the DMV printed it up they left so little space between the U and D, that it read BLUDSTR. My Father was consistently late on his way to work, and hence, would drive too fast. You can imagine the shock and awe of many a police officer upon pulling that blue speed demon over to find a prestigious doctor behind the wheel: dressed in scrubs and completely covered in donut crumbs. Ah yes...I have fond memories of the Duster (it always smelled so sweet). We owned it so long that my sister had the privilege of using it as her first mode of independent transportation.


I had great fun hanging out with you today. You and Jim are so cute together.

I enjoyed showing flashcards to the twins. It was so neat to see how attentive they were: so eager to learn. I want kids!!!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Refrigerator

Dear Annie,

I'm sorry you have to hold your refrigerator together with a designer belt. The other night I accidentally left my freezer somewhat ajar. Only the ice melted but I'm afraid to open my electric bill.

My refrigerator is actually quite deafening. It turns itself on and off all night long in attempt to keep my vegetables at 38ยบ Fahrenheit. I'm happy that my little buddy drowns out passing jets, but he must wake up the neighbors.

My first word was "coy." No wonder I'm such a Scrabble prodigy.

I wonder how old Archer will be before he learns to unbuckle a belt...maybe Dahlia will teach him.