Category: Life

Judgement Day

I have been described as “non-judgemental” by people who know me. I have always strived to be that way, never wanting to make another feel bad for their preferences or choices or for who they are. I know what it’s like to be under such scrutiny and i would never choose to do it to another. That being said, i found myself horrified last night. Waiting at a stop light, i watched a woman come out of a local burger joint. Close to me in age with the build of a typical southern Little League mom. She had on twill shorts and a Tshirt… Nothing to attract attention. And she was obviously out with her husband and weedlings for a fun Friday evening. But what thoughts ran through my head as i took that quick glance?

I wondered if she knew her rolls and muffin-top were accentuated by that tight Tshirt. I visualized handing her a hair brush. I said a hopeful prayer that someone would send her for a proper bra fitting.

And why? She didn’t appear miserable. In the half-second that i saw her, she appeared to be having a good evening. Her husband and boys didn’t seem to take any notice of those things. So who the hell am i to pass judgement? When it hit me that i was criticizing a woman i don’t know for not meeting some arbitrary standard of mine, as i said, i was horrified. I had become the judgemental person i reprimand.

Thinking over it later, i realized that i do it more often than i would have thought. The rotund girl in the daisy dukes. The insanely busty woman who goes braless. The gal in the Sponge Bob pajama pants at the grocery store. The one who wears the fluorescent orange eye shadow. The sandal-clad broad with hobbit feet. The stranger at the beach who appears to be smuggling a rabbi in her swimsuit. I have shaken my head at every single one of them. How dare i.

It’s not like i haven’t gone out in public, seen pictures later, and wished i could take it back. I have. And there have been times when i didn’t care. I didn’t feel well. I was in a hurry. Or i was in such a good mood that i didn’t notice. I wonder how many people shook their heads at me at those times? I have pictures of me in cutoffs where i think i look happy and beautiful, and pictures of me in elaborate gowns where i look defeated and dumpy. So who is to say which outfit was the better choice?

We say that we should be allowed to dress up or not according to our own taste and comfort. That clothes do not make the woman. That our style should be a reflection of who we are, not what others expect us to be. That we should dress to make ourselves feel good. But we also say that we women should take pride in ourselves. That we should make the most of what we have. That we should dress to impress and to project our best selves. To do all of those things seems like an inherently impossible task. Some of those things are mutually exclusive for most of us. And most of us don’t have just one “self” to project.

There are two women whose style and carriage i admire, but whose approach to appearance is diametrically opposed to each other. One is a very regal black woman. She favors flowing skirts, long jackets, precise makeup, and heels. Her fingers and ears twinkle with baubles and gems. When she enters a room it is impossible not to notice her confidence. She is kind and gracious and all those things that a lady is supposed to be, and you can tell it from the way she clothes herself. I’m not sure i’d recognize her in pajama pants.

The other woman is equally arresting, but for a totally different reason. Generally found in jeans and a casual Tshirt or flannel, devoid of makeup, straight hair sparkling clean but free of adornment. Her only jewelry, the wedding band to her beautiful wife. Her wardrobe is distinct in its non-descriptness. When you meet her, you are struck by her confidence, her comfort in her own skin, and the blue of her eyes that rings clear like the perfect spring sky. If i saw her in a classic shift, i think it would stop my function cold.

Is the former too involved in her appearance? Does she deserve to be criticized for refusing to answer the door without lipstick? Does the latter deserve any disdain for preferring a well-tailored suit and brogues to a chiffon sundress and sling-backs? Of course not. They are both stunningly beautiful, and their choices are perfect reflections of who they are. So why is it when i see a woman with children in hand and a smile on her face, i can’t think the same of her attire? If i took longer than a second to look at her, really LOOK at her, would i accept her choices more readily? Am i criticizing her, in effect, because i don’t know her? Because i can’t justify her choice based on my knowledge of her? How condescending of me.

I may never get to the point where i can accept leggings and a sports bra as clothing for anyone who isn’t immediately pre- or post- run. I may never be able to overlook ripped and filthy clothing on anyone who isn’t involved in laborious work. I think those things are too entwined in my beliefs on self-worth. But i can most certainly train myself not to dog another woman for committing some fake crime of fashion. I can teach myself not to assume that, just because i am not aware of them, there aren’t reasons for her choices. And i can learn to accept the fact that i have no right to pick-apart a woman’s wardrobe like some over-zealous editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Not only can i, but i must. As hard as it is to kill an old habit, it is even harder still to allow myself to be something i revile.

Never Pretty. Always Beautiful

I am not a pretty woman. From what we see and hear in our world, beauty is about a flawless, symmetrical face with a tiny waist, rock-hard bum, perky breasts, long, flowing locks and an age that is never more than 28. I have lines and crags and freckles and scars and dry skin and smooshy parts and a barely-there bum and I have never found a way to defeat gravity. But as depressing as that is, I take comfort in the fact that most women are like me.

Tho we women flog ourselves daily for not being pretty, no one else seems to care. We scrub and scrape and color and cut and spackle and Bond-O and nip and tuck. We squeeze ourselves into shoes that will eventually deform our feet. We inject ourselves with plastics and poisons. We paint ourselves with chemicals known to cause cancer. We pay good money for just the right amount of radiation burn.  We strap ourselves in and suck ourselves up and point ourselves out just right. Every day. All in hopes that someone will notice and think we are pretty. And yet, I’ve never heard a man say that any of these things impresses him enough to call it love.

And really, isn’t that what we are all wanting? The need to feel pretty isn’t about knowing that we are Vogue-worthy, it’s about getting the attention of a love interest. One who is smart and handsome and well-off and well-appointed and romantic and rugged (No small amount of pressure for our menfolk there). But those men aren’t after the young and palpably sexy blonde, so why do we strive to be like her? I don’t deny those women are pleasing to look at. And I don’t deny that I, given the opportunity, wouldn’t want to take one home myself. But is that walking list of beauty editor favorites any more likely to find love than we are?

I have known a few truly pretty people. Men and women both. And none of them is any more successful at love than the rest of us schmoes.  I think, and as I get older, I am really starting to believe that what attracts love is beauty. And, honey, beauty sometimes ain’t pretty.

The ones I know who appear to truly have found the sort of love we all seek won’t be on the cover of Vanity Fair. They have wrinkles and sags and mommy-tummies. They aren’t always decked out in their finest. They burp and sweat and have strange laughs and morning breath and sometimes forget to shave. They dig in the garden, nurse their children, clean the bathroom, scoop the innards out of the turkey. In other words, they are schmoes just like us. But if you look closely, you will see something else. And if for some reason you can’t see it, you can tell that their spouse does.

Ask the spouse and they’ll tell you. It’s in the way she laughs like Cliff Claven on Cheers. It’s the way she yells at the TV when her team makes a great play. It’s the fact that she can fix both the ceiling fan and a standing rib roast. It’s the way she closes her eyes when she eats something decadent. It’s in her intellect, her humor, her goofiness, her character. But, mostly, it’s in her eyes.

As much as the eyes are the window to the soul, they are also the window to love. And tho it would seem logical to compare it to a magnet or a tractor beam, it is really more like the sun. When she glances over at him, sweaty and stinky and covered in grass after playing with the kids on the front lawn, her eyes appear like a sunrise. A glowing beam of warmth and respect and genuine affection. When she glances at him, his evening drink in hand, legs kicked out on the back porch while listening to cicadas and tree frogs, her eyes become like a sunset. Deep and rich and dark with the promise of stars soon

And, oh, she can bring him stars. The more-than-ample bum becomes exactly what he likes, regardless of the fact that she often wishes it were smaller. It is what he wants because he has seen the sunrise and the sunset and the lovely afternoon in between. Because, though he, too, wishes he were taller and thinner and somehow better, in the end, all he wants is to see that look in her eye.

Following my logic so far, to be beautiful, we have to find love. And to find love, we have to be beautiful.

Hey, I never said my theories made sense.

But if I had to come up with a way to make it make sense, perhaps the love we need to be beautiful isn’t the love for another, but a love for ourselves and for life. A love that allows us to take joy in a fragrant blossom, a delicious flan, a sweet kitten… A magnificent thunderstorm, a kick-ass guitar lick, an unlikely touchdown. Maybe that’s the kind of love that brings it back to us.

And if that’s the case, then we all have a chance. Even those of us with rolls and gas and hairy toes. Even those of us with chapped lips and unibrows and back fat. Even those of us who are old or chubby or plain. Even those of us who aren’t pretty.

Thank God

Herbert Was Wrong

They tell me it’s because i’m getting older. All these things that keep popping up. Getting lost. Falling off. I just keep thinking to myself, “That can’t be right. I’m not old.” As an American woman, i’m supposed to be in my prime. OK, maybe the saying is about sexual prime, but it stands to reason that you wouldn’t hit your sexual prime only to have your body and brain fail for no good reason. I hope God isn’t that kind of Sadist.

I am reasonably fit. I eat healthy most of the time. My weight is spot on the recommendations. I sleep a full night. I take medicines as directed. I don’t overindulge in alcohol. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I try to meditate. I try not to break the law. I wear my seatbelt. And i don’t wear white pants after Labor Day. Yet i am plagued. Cholesterol. Shingles. Menopause (OK, maybe that isn’t a bad thing after all), bifocals, bunions, hypertension that causes other complications, osteoporosis, wrinkles, sags, bags… And now i’m losing my mind.

My similarly middle-age friends tell jokes about going into a room and forgetting why they’re there. They lose their keys. They can’t recall phone numbers. They draw a blank on the name of their partners’ favorite beer. They miss important dates. They forget to thaw the chops for dinner. Me? I accidentally call my daughters by each others’ names. I have accidentally called my son my dog’s name. I have stared at the dog and for the life of me can’t remember the word for that species of animal. And when i get angry or excited or giddy? The words in my head come out in the wrong order. And not like Yoda, either. Like a verbal Yahtzee toss. It’s frustrating as hell. To be there, mouth open, word at the back of my mouth and i can’t bring it forth. And it gets scary when i hear a thought come out of my mouth and it makes no sense.

As a writer, words are important to me. I will delete whole paragraphs from a piece of work if i can’t find the perfect word for a single thought. I love my Thesaurus. And much like Charlotte from her web, i will yell from my laptop to my weedlings to request ideas for a word that means suchandsuch. I try to say and write exactly what i mean. To be unable to pull those words out of my brain is like craving Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday. Vexatious. To hear gibberish come out of my mouth is more like hearing Elmo swear. Sacrilege.

Now, i realize that it seems far worse to me than to those around me. I am able, sometimes, to recognize that my mouth is awry and manage to shut it before spouting off like a word puzzle from the Sunday paper. And perhaps my panic magnifies the issue in my personal reality. Perhaps i don’t deal well with stress, and it short-circuits my brain when i can’t maintain calm. Perhaps all people my age say “cat” when they mean “coffee” on occasion. Perhaps all our brains are so full, at this age, that the files get jumbled. Perhaps the cumulative effects of weed and Bovine Growth Hormones and red dye #5 are catching up with my generation and having a bad impact. Perhaps we all are losing our memory bit by bit. Perhaps. But, damnit, I DON’T LIKE IT! I DON’T WANT IT! AND I REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE FACT THAT I AM NO LONGER YOUNG!

Ma was just a couple of years older than i am now when she died. This makes it difficult to assess how i compare in the familial trend, though i remember my grandmothers from both sides being sharp and acute til the very end, and they were much longer lived. I hesitate to compare my brain to the men before me because, well, let’s face it… Male brains are a different animal entirely. Both my body doc and my head doc tell me that this is all normal, and that if i could learn to control my stress better, my brain will respond (As will the blood pressure, the shingles, the tmj… Pretty much everything but the bunions.) But i regularly attempt meditation, and i always fall asleep. I tried yoga, but the sweaty mats made me schieve. I considered running, but my boobs begged to differ. Tai Chi moves too slow. BioFeedback isn’t covered by my insurance. I’m too poor for regular massages.  And weed is illegal. So what is left? I write. I walk. And i bitch to my girlfriends. I may still be stressed out, but i’d hate to see what i’d be like without those things. I’d probably explode like in that old movie Scanners. And that would give my children nightmares, so that option is out.

In my all-time favorite book, Flowers For Algernon, i still cry every time i get to the part where Charlie starts to lose his edge. The pain of him knowing what is seeping away is so profound that it stabs me right through the pages. And i worry it will happen to me. Even knowing in my head that i am no worse off than anyone else my age, my soul still panics at the thought of losing my intellect. I have no doubt that my healers are correct and that obtaining some zen, some way, some how, will improve my health and clarity. Tho i may still misplace my dog, i will at least be able to remember her species. It’s an improvement anyway.

In Dune, when Paul is tested by the Bene Gesserit, he recites a mantra to remind him that fear is the mind killer. I disagree. It isn’t fear. The real mind killer is stress.

Musings on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014 at 9:39am

Ok. I’m not a traditional Christian. Perhaps i have no right to expound on the meaning of the holiday. Perhaps my ideas are off base and totally wrong. Perhaps no one gives a flip. But i’m going to write it anyway because in the wake of the violence and chaos of the year, i need to put out some good stuff to the cosmos.

So here’s a holiday with two large scale traditions. One religious, one secular. The birth of a man that started a whole new faith of peace and love. The dedication of a man who wanted happiness for all good children. Both present concepts that make us better people.

First Jesus. Whether or not you believe he was the Messiah, consider this. The history / tradition / faith of this man was about the one simple thing that makes us human. I don’t know that there is an adequate word for it. The Buddhists call it “Lovingkindness”. Be good to each other. Take care of each other. Stand up for each other. Respect each other. Protect each other. And above all, Love each other. And on Christmas, we mark the birth of the man who reminded the world that these things are our purpose. Not as Christians, but as people. Not to simplify it too much, but i believe that the goal is to treat people like our dogs treat us… With unswerving love and forgiveness and gratitude. And each year at this time, we all take that message closer to heart and try to live it. (Unless we’re looking for a parking spot at the mall… Then all bets are off). And this spirit is infectious. Each bit of warmth we share, it has the potential to go viral like the latest Miley video, but with less tacky and more love. Especially in this era of war and heartache and division, we need more love. As much as we can stand. And Christmas helps to inspire that. This year, i hope to keep this message in my heart and my actions for as much of the year as i can manage. After all, as a Theist, i can celebrate the concept of Christmas whenever i want 😉

As for Santa – Well, in some ways, he’s a secular example of the same tradition, isn’t he? Reminding people to be good to each other, reminding children to be respectful and do what they should. Would that he’d remind adults to do the same. (Can we say “Politicians”?) Tho granted, especially by the time we’re adults, we shouldn’t need the promise of presents to walk our talk. We should do it to preserve our humanity. But we don’t. Or at least I don’t. Not as often as i should, anyway. I see so many selfless acts in my day to day life and know for certain that i could – and will – do better. And to note – Since there is no such thing as a perfect human, take solace in this, one of my favorite holiday books… How Murray Saved Christmas ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdC6cxUeQZo Not the best reading of the book, you really need to buy it and read it for yourself 🙂 )

All in all, what i get from Christmas is a renewed sense of purpose. Of charity. of Humanity. Sort of like a spiritual New Year. And all of my shortcomings from last year… Well, i get a chance to do better. A renewed vow to myself and my God. A karma do-over. Break out my existential chisel and sandpaper and gorilla glue and do some improvements on my heart and soul. And just as importantly, allow others to do the same. The birth of a baby and the charity of an old man are the benchmarks for the best of Humanity. The spirit of Christmas brings the hope that we all can meet those benchmarks. All humanity has a chance to clean their soul windows and let their love shine. Lets see how long we can make it last this year.

Love, Light and Laughter, my friends. For this Christmas and for Always.