Category: Uncategorized

It’s Mine, And You Can’t Have It

I was talking to a friend about my new tattoo this morning. And he asked me a question that i really had to think about:

“Why?”

I’ve heard other people answer that question. “It’s artistic expression.” “I wanted to honor an event/person important to me.” “I like them.” “Why not?” … But none of these things is my reason. And i think there is a good chance it isn’t their real reason either. After all, tattoos are expensive, painful, and not always socially acceptable. Seems to me that it would take more than “But i really like Dumbledore. He inspires me!” to get his portrait tattooed on your boob (The one on your body, not the one you dated for 3 years.)

Given that i am about to dedicate most of a day to being needled, i started giving the answer to this question some hard thought. Why AM i doing it? For the fourth time, no less.

The answer, when i dig deep, is both selfish and therapeutic. I get tattoos because it is essentially inscribing my body with a serial number, marking this body as MINE. Just MINE. Not yours. Not his. Or his. Or his. MINE. I have claimed it, decorated it to suit me, placed my mark upon it so no one can ever again take it from me. I OWN IT. ME. GET IT????? ME!!! MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry. I got carried away.

But this is important stuff. From the literal perspective of being molested or abused, to the more foggy vision of a society that dichotomously imposes both chastity and sexualization; as a woman, it takes bravery to take a stand, make a choice, reclaim what is ours. Whether flappers showing their knees or Kate Hepburn wearing pants, history is resplendant with women making choices about their appearance that disquiet others. I suppose you could argue that, in a sense, you are marking it so no one else will want it. And i do believe there are some who are so injured and broken that they do. But most of us still have vanity and pride. We don’t want to be ugly. We want to be special. Unique. OURS. And when someone comes along that is worthy, they will think it as beautiful as we do. But they will always know that our body is OUR home, OUR posession, OUR self. And if they get a piece of it, it is by OUR choice. And the ink is proof.

I will never be a woman totally covered in ink. I’ve spent a lifetime learning to love my body as it is, and that would defeat the purpose. And it’s not my style. Even when i paint pictures, i like to leave a lot of white space. That being said, each tattoo does change the way i look at my body. It becomes more MINE. My thoughts are broadcast outwards so anyone astute enough to my wavelength can see how my mind works. But even if they “get it”, my body doesn’t become any more “theirs” than any other work of art. They are just able to appreciate it on a deeper level.

Each of my tats has special meaning to me. My first one was designed by my daughter as a gift. One is a rendering by a girl who was working hard to draw instead of cut. One is a sweet reminder of the softer parts of my childhood. Today? Today is a reminder of my force within. Strength, beauty, magic. My artist “gets it”. She has brought it to life. Now there can be no dispute as to who i am and what i am worth. It is displayed in a mural on my back. A blood and flesh and ink declaration of content and ownership. The manifest of my bodily ship. A delineation of the soul inside the skin. My soul.

Maybe to some, a tattoo is just a tattoo, and a cigar is just a cigar. But i like to think that i am not alone in my “why”. I like the idea of a sister- and brotherhood using the art form as a way to break a chain. To stake a claim. To draw our line in the sand. This body is no longer a generic Honda Civic. It is a custom car, built of God/Goddess/Universe’s love and painted with flair and personal style. It isn’t for sale or rent. I have the only key. And you have no say in which roads it travels. This body, this unique and wonderful work of art, this is mine. All mine. And now the world knows.

Sold, Sight Unseen

Having lunch with a good friend today, we got to talking about pen pal relationships. We had them when we were kids. Letters written and sent to friends around the world that we were likely to never meet. Now, as adults, the wonders of the internet bring us a new kind of pen pal. The same sharing of secrets, growing attachment, anticipation of response. And still unlikely to meet. And while it is true that these social media pals can be lying through their teeth and not telling us who they really are, the same could be said of the pen pals of old. Just as we present the self we want so much to be, so do they. Excluding, of course, the criminally insane that we know are out there, but doubt-hope-pray we will never encounter.

In any case, we got to talking about the difference in depth of feeling for someone you have never seen.

There are popular theories about people who, lacking one of their senses, use the others to compensate. Never having been in that position, i don’t know if that is true. But i do believe that the theory applies in sightless relationships.

We can describe how we look to someone, but accuracy is in the eye of the beholder. When i say i have freckles, do you picture a few scattered on my nose and cheeks? Do you see a constellation appearing, or a galaxy present on my back? Or do i have so many that i appear like a Monet painting of a woman? If i tell you i am curvy, do you picture Sophia Loren, Mae West, Queen Latifah, Kathy Najimy? Or do you picture Dame Edna or Ursula the Sea Witch? If i were to describe my voice as “k.d. lang, if she were born in New England but adopted a slight twang from Tennessee”, would you have the slightest idea how i sounded? And heaven only knows if anyone who knows me would find my description accurate.

Having only words to go on forces one to dig deeper. To get to know them more in other ways. Their fears and worries, their joys and delights… These things leave their marks on the face and body and stance. Health habits leave marks on face, body and voice. Their expressions, their choice of words, their accuracy of grammar… All these things add to a visual impression in our mind. Possibly even more so than their actual description of themselves. Somehow, these things seem more concrete than a subjective description.

Perhaps this is why “Blind Dates” are usually such a disappointment: We have no chance to learn these concrete things before we are forced into closeness. We have a subjective description from one who is essentially a salesman. Hardly a source known for its honesty. Combine that with the fact that our first impression is a visual one, nothing of depth or meaning. But humans are animals, after all, and if the pheromones aren’t there, well then, why waste your time, right? But what if those attraction hormones could be synthesized from within? What if we could create physical attraction from deeper connection? Would it be as strong? Would it last as long? Would it be as real?

Assuming that all parties are as honest as they can be, within human psyche limitation, perhaps this is a better way to meet people. To start deep within and work your way out to the skin, the opposite of what usually happens. Without a tainted view based on appearance, we could learn to love the soul of the other, the part of them that continues long after the looks fade. And they could do the same with us. It could be a true, deep, lasting bond that no scar or wrinkle would impact. Stronger than any mastectomy, weight gain, or sexual dysfunction. That very rare partnership that lasts forever, thru everything. The marriage that fairy tales are based on.

Or they could look like Sloth, the monster in The Goonies, and all bets are off.

Humor Me, My Child

Walking in Target today, my eldest weedling turns to me and says, “My teabag has burst.” In the context of can opener shopping, this didn’t make any sense, so i asked her to repeat it. “I’m pretty sure my teabag has burst.” Now i have to assume that this is slang, probably for something disgusting. I start to respond, “I……”, but i am at a loss for words as the possibilities of what this could mean zip thru my head like a squirrel on diet pills. Seeing my confusion, she proceeds to tell me that to keep her combat boots – her daily foot attire- from stinking, she placed an herbal teabag in each one that morning. Then proceeded to wear them.

I have no non-flippant response to this, so i move on.

Later, when we are at the car, she removes her boot, and sure enough, a flurry of twigs and leaves flies out into the wind like an elvish  treasure. Then she plucks a pathetic looking bit of sticky paper, the teabag itself, from her sole and resets her boot. I am thinking that if i tried to explain this situation to one of my international friends, they would think it a mis-translation. I can’t help myself. I chuckle til i snort.

My weedlings make me laugh. Sometimes unintentionally, but most often not. They each have a wonderful sense of the absurd. The oldest has a talent for off-the-cuff song lyrics that can pull a giggle out of thin air. The middle is the master of the sarcastic response. The youngest is truly gifted with a pun. And when i say that our home is often filled with us singing, i mean it literally. My son and i do a fantastic version of the Underdog theme, complete with harmony. And under the tutelage of my oldest, we have a song and dance routine that mimics the insanity of navigating a crowded airplane aisle. We frequently go about our household chores quoting movie lines back and forth. And all the while, we are laughing.

Humor is an underrated virtue. In the face of sadness, of stress, of tragedy, and sickness; humor can bring relief, even if it isn’t socially acceptable. After tough days, sometimes all i need is to hear my son sing. On especially disastrous days, it may take watching Llamas With Hats with my daughters to get my breathing back to normal. But they never fail to bring about that improvement. Not just for me, but for everyone around them. After all, the best humor is universal.

Italians tell stories of passion. the Irish tell stories of laughter. Since we are both, my children and i can make you laugh with a passion. And we relish in it. We love to give that gift. To relieve the pressure. To render the darkness insignificant. We have that power. No, we are not alone in our ability… There are so many who possess the same superpower. But i’d put my weedlings up against any of them to run neck and neck. They have it. And they know how to use it.

My weedlings do a funny schtick that is an imitation of me trying to balance, unsuccessfully, a pitcher of water from a dinner half a year back. The next time you are feeling down, ask them to recount it. Or ask my middle daughter to do “The Evil Giraffe”. Or ask my oldest to tell you what lights up and blinks. Or, if it’s been the worst day ever, my son and i will sing “Underdog” for you. I promise it will make you feel better. And in the process of helping you, we will feel better, too. Because, really, what improves your day more than making someone else smile?

Misty

Johnny Mathis is playing in the background. I set it to play. On purpose. Because it’s Mother’s Day weekend. And my Ma is Johnny Mathis’ music. So on this weekend every year, i take some time to listen to him croon and think back to the better memories i have of her. Aaaaahhhhhhh… “Chances are, ‘cuz i wear a silly grin….” There are other things that remind me of Ma: The unmistakable scent of Aliage, Easter peeps, antique shops… But nothing draws me straight to memories of her like Johnny Mathis. He was her favorite, so to me, he reeks of nostalgia.

My Ma wasn’t perfect. In fact, at times she was a train wreck. When i was younger and less understanding, i harbored secret stashes of poisoned anger. But as i’ve aged and become aware of my own frailties and failures, it is easier to step around the black tar and concentrate on the patches of green grass that grew, if sporadically, theatrically fabulous. Both the oily sludge and the fragrant lawn offer lessons, but given that it’s Mother’s Day, i’ll let the cool blades tickle my toes and leave the sticky, smelly gunk to my therapist. Contained within the emerald sod are lessons that i have taken to heart. These things are as pure Ma as “The Twelfth of Never”.

Even if you are on your last dime and have little to your name, share with others. Ma would literally give the coat off her back or her last slice of bread to any soul who needed it. Didn’t matter if they were King Arthur or a fallen addict. Ma would invite them to the table. She’d make them a pallet or offer them the couch. They became family and were treated as such. This proved, more than once, not to be the smartest move for safety or security; but it was indisputably the truest move for her heart. I can’t come close to her example, i’m far too cautious with who i open to. But i do try to take the idea to heart.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. If some new ethnic food set up shop in town, Ma was one of the first customers. It could be rumored that they were slaughtering raccoons for the meat in the stew, the Health Department could have given them a stack of warnings, and Ma would give it a shot anyway. New, exotic fruit in the produce section? She might not know what to do with it, but she’d buy one and figure it out. If a Martian landed in the back yard and offered a pulsating, radioactive sandwich, Ma would take a bite. She loved new taste sensations. The adventure of it was thrilling to her. That thrill lives on in me the same way. The simple act of a new food experience brings such joy, if you let it.

When confronted with a person of difference, help them accentuate their own personal positive. I remember one evening long ago, i was dressed in a black plastic jumpsuit, ass-kicking boots, slicked hair, with a spider web painted on my face, ready to go dancing at the club. Ma took one look at me and frowned. But instead of telling me i looked like an idiot or that plastic didn’t constitute “clothing”, she told me that my spider wasn’t glittery enough. We washed my face, and she spent half an hour painting me a new web… complete with a stunning, sparkly spider making its way down my cheek. And as she did so, in her own version of “Anything worth doing is worth doing well”, she told me that there was no shame in being a freak, as long as i was the best freak i could be. I need to OWN my freakiness. Make that spider so damned beautiful that no one could dare tell me it didn’t belong there. That philosophy has worked for me and my weedlings. When we make choices outside the norm, we make them decisively. We own them. And we dare anyone to tell us we’re wrong.

The other side of that token: Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. Or rather, when you feel you are wrong. My idea of wrong and yours may not be the same. But if i feel i have screwed up, i try to say so and fix what i can. It isn’t easy. In fact, it sucks. I do a lot of stuff wrong. That makes for an awful lot of apologies. But a clear conscience is a valuable reward. Only differing opinions on whether i am wrong make it difficult. Well, that and expecting other people to do the same.

No one is beyond hope. No drug addict, no alcoholic, no -ic of any kind is so far gone that they don’t have a chance at being a free soul. Everyone has a monkey or two on their back. Don’t judge the monkey and don’t assume it is chained there permanently. Have faith. I watched my Ma shed King Kong himself, so i know that it is possible. You don’t have to be the zookeeper, but don’t be afraid to offer an encouraging word. Words can build foundations of determination, and that determination helps in sedating the primates long enough to pull them off.

God moves mountains, but he expects you to bring a shovel and help dig. Faith gives you strength, but action gives you results. No amount of prayer will get the war won, but fighting without a higher purpose will gain you nothing. It is no simple task sometimes to combine these two things, but it’s the only way to reach the goal. It is made easier when you surround yourself with people who do the same. Then you can help each other dig and the mountain gets moved all the faster.

Be yourself. Even during the darkest of times, Ma was always Ma. Authentic. True. There was no Diva Ma, no Bitchy Ma, no Charming Ma. There was just Ma. One could argue that there was Drunken Ma and Sober Ma, but even between those two masks, she was still Ma. Still herself. I never had the foresight to ask her if she really was that comfortable being herself, or if it was a “fake it ’til you make it” kind of thing. But whatever the reason, it showed me that there is a certain comfort in predictable authenticity. Both for oneself and for others. The masses may not adore you, but they know and can bank on what to expect from you
at any moment. Life becomes much easier for everyone.

Are these lessons the ones i should have taken from her? Are these the types of things that make Mother’s Day worthwhile? “It’s Not For Me to Say”. But so much of me is derived from Ma. A lot good. Some, not so much. And that’s ok. It makes me, well, me. And that, my friends, is “Wonderful! Wonderful! Oh, so wonderful my loves!”

Grateful Praise

“For the beauty of the Earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise!”

It’s a gorgeous day. Sunny, blue-skied, fluffy clouds, slight breeze. Steering towards hot, but not there yet. I go to the farmers’ market. Sundress and sandals and bangles and raspberry lip stain (Just in case a kilted Liam Neeson happens to be there and wants to kiss me…) I can’t help but smile. I’m here to buy herb plants and local veggies. And tho i complete that task, the bulk of my time is spent wandering. Local artisans ply their wares: Jewelry, paintings, clothing, yard ornaments, toiletries and gewgaws. Local cooks hawk their specialties: Jams, sauces, spices, breads, cakes, and cheeses. Toddlers in cute Sunday outfits delight in marshmallow pop-guns. Blue-haired women of scores of years scarf freshly fried corn dogs. Rough, ungainly men try the skin-softening magic of handmade hand cream. Candles and cutting boards. Horseradish and holsters. You never know what you will find or who you will see. (Tho i have yet to see Liam Neeson).

Home with my loot, i begin Sunday chores. I string up the clothesline. I always feel like Grandma Walton when i hang wash on the line. It’s a really good feeling. Makes me smile. Apartment windows open so the breeze comes in. Plant my new seedlings on the patio: Tomatoe, thyme, rosemary. Vacuum. Walk the dog around the flowering apartment complex. Answer some mail. Set the music to Danny Elfman while i sip on a small, cold glass of wine. Typical weekend activities that hold no significance.

This is life.

The day of weedlinglessness grows ever nearer. It’s important for me to remember that life will go on. Weedlings or not. And if i can enjoy a beautiful day of solitude like today, then what have i to dread? Extra time to smell the roses. Or the rosemary. Even if i never had another date for the rest of my life, i’ve got so much to do and enjoy… How can i allow myself to be maudlin? How can i sit this evening, the scents of herbs wafting around me, the sounds of birds and frogs and leaves in the wind, and not be content?

Because i sometimes forget that “alone” doesn’t mean “unloved”.

And at those moments, i usually receive a sign. A text from an old friend. Or a new friend. A lick from my dog. An invitation to dinner. A call from a weedling. A fortune cookie that reads “Alone doesn’t mean unloved.” (God-Goddess-Universe knows i am sometimes rather thick, so the signs are often blatant). How grateful i am for those signs! They allow me to put my loneliness aside and be joyous. The beauty of the Earth! The glory of the skies! Shoes and ships and sealing wax! Cabbages and Kings! Manalive! Towanda! Up, up and away! And yippee-ki-yay! It’s Howdy Doody time!

Even as we destroy this planet, there is a lot of beauty to be had still. Each honeysuckle blossom. Each kitten. Each babbling brook. I may never get to enjoy Liam Neeson, but i can enjoy these things. And i do. Everyday. Don’t let me forget. And i will remind you, too. We can be joyous together. Take our routine activities and make them special by seeing the magic in them. Noticing the beauty. The flavor. The glory. We all can do it.

Maybe, someday, we can even learn to see it in each other.

Ring the Bell

I know this place.
I know it too well.
Many times i have stood at this gate
Expecting The Master to answer.
Each time
Every time
The wrong entrance.
By now i should recognize this door
Recognize it from the sidewalk, no less.
I should know these pickets
These posts
The wrought iron of the handle, even.
But here i stand
Yet again.
Same gate.
No Master.
Yet again.
It may be forgetfulness.
Or maybe just lack of attention.
Or a bad sense of direction.
But here i am again.
Like a long lost Jehovah’s Witness.
Reading signs on the door
“No Loitering”
“No Salesmen”
“No Trespassing”
No need to reach for the handle
Nor to knock on the door.
The Master isn’t here.
Not even hiding behind the door and Refusing to answer.
Sick and angry
To see my face again at the gate.
Please, Sir
Please
Don’t sic the dogs on me again. I Promise  i won’t come back.

But we both know i am lying.

I will return, again and again.
Never recognizing the path to the gate
Until it’s too late.
I know this place.
I know it too well.

I’m An Expert

Twice today i was asked for advice. One was on a topic i am well-versed in. The other was about something that, well, i had to ask myself if they sent the text to me by accident. Surely no one who knows me would use my take on the subject as anything but humor. In any case, it got me to thinking… In my life, i have seen a lot, been thru a lot. I guess that makes me a decent source of advice for quite a few things. But i’m not the Highlander, so there are still many life experiences i have yet to deal with. Shall we rummage thru a general list, in case you should ever need my advice?

– I have traveled quite a bit outside the country. If you need advice on compact packing, surviving layovers, approaching locals, or how to carry your money safely, i’m your gal. But my sense of style is based on practicality, comfort, and looking classier than i am… So if you want advice on how to fit 4 pair of slut shoes into your carryon, you’ve got the wrong broad.

– Given my line of work, i can give you a decent explanation of tests and conditions relating to Cardiology, Radiology and women’s health. And as a mother of three with long term MDD, i have a reasonable grasp of childhood ailments and mental health. I am happy to impart what knowledge i can. But please don’t ask me if your neurologist is taking proper care of your brain tumor or if you should see a dermatologist about that boil on your bum. I have no flipping idea. (And i REALLY don’t want to see that boil!)

– I spent a generous part of my childhood in a home where alcohol, drugs and various types of abuse were routine. I will help anyone i can to deal with those circumstances or the scars they leave, as my sister and i are living proof that you don’t have to succumb to statistics. But after all we went thru, please don’t ask me to help you put another person thru it. That just makes me want to hurt you.

– I have been married and divorced three times. Two of those, with the fathers of my children, remain amicable. So if you want advice on how to keep a civil relationship after divorce or how to co-parent with an ex, i can give you some ideas that will hopefully get you started on a good path. I can also tell you what i know about divorce law. But if you want my advice on marriage, you might want to request my advice on mental health instead. Just sayin’.

– I have studied and taken extensive college courses in comparative religion. I love good discourse on faith and spirituality, and i am blessed to know people of various religions who are good walking examples of their faiths. If you need a sounding board for your evolving faith or need someone to accompany you to a new religious service, just ask. But if you want me to condone your defamation of a religion that you don’t like, just go ahead and kiss my arse. That’s what it will come to.

– Since i minored in cultural geography in college, see the last bullet for other cultures as well.

– I am a Star Trek fan. If you want a good old-fashioned debate on Kirk vs. Picard, the evolution of the Klingon Empire, or why i think Jadzia Dax was the sexiest ST character EVER, i will be more than happy to do so. Especially after a glass of wine. But ask me about Star Wars, and i’ll start quoting Space Balls on you.

– I can quilt, crochet, sew, and tat lace… But i don’t have the attention span to do large or intricate projects in spite of the fact that i keep my closet stocked for them. So if you are in need for chartreuse yarn and the store has already closed, give me a call. If you want to learn to make a granny square or how to do Irish Chain, invite me over for coffee. If you ask how long it would take me to alter and re-line your brother-in-law’s authentic Civil War reenactment uniform… The very real answer is, “Longer than it takes to read Crime and Punishment.”

– I am a 48 year old woman with kids, curves, and scars. If you want some brand names of large-cup bras that do their job, i’ll let you rifle thru my bureau. If you slip your 22 year old size 2 body into a pair of see-thru jeggings and ask me if they make your ass look fat, my only advice will be some authentic Italian hand gestures.

– I am a tea whore. Seriously. I love the taste, smell and tradition of tea. I buy from a Master Blender, and i can identify the teas “notes” like others deconstruct wine. Tea is my both my caffeine and my valium. The making of it is therapeutic to me. If you are looking for a perfect blend or want to put together a tea gift basket, i am full of ideas! If you want to know how many lipton bags to put in your windowsill iced tea jug, you are out of luck.

– I am a writer. I love words. Especially ones that make you laugh or think. If you received a thoughtful gift and want to word a special thank you, if you are doing the crossword and need an eight letter word for “unreal” , if you got a snarky email and need a witty retort… Honey, i’m all about it. But if you ask me to proofread a message that is essentially a string of texting vernacular, expect to get a raised eyebrow and a witty retort.

– Lastly, what i write on here is who i am. For better or for worse, this is me. If you are having to host a dinner party that includes a rabbi, a Croatian fish farmer, and a transvestite, i’d be happy to attend and keep everyone involved in the conversation. Hopefully, i will also keep them all laughing and help them realize that we all have a lot in common. But if you need someone to speak on the tragedy of orphan beatings at a general assembly of the Papal council, for the love of God, don’t ask me!

We all have our areas of expertise. Every single human on this Earth has a gift that is meant to be shared and wisdom that is meant to be imparted. Most of us have a fair idea of what we can speak intelligently about in times of crisis. To identify the ones who have no idea? Ask them what they can’t tell you about.

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

The Breakfast Cereal Aisle of Life

I remember years ago reading an essay by a man who was born and raised in Soviet Russia. He was describing his first visit to an American supermarket. He said he nearly had a breakdown in the cereal aisle in the face of so many choices. He was used to choosing between two or three. Over 100 choices available? Just for breakfast cereal??? It was overwhelming.

At the time, i found his crisis humorous. Too many choices… What a problem to have! With my second decade thinking, it seemed unfathomable for variety to cause an existential crisis. But now, at this moment, i get it.

While in the throes of panic from my middle weedling leaving the nest, i find myself in the midst of a unique opportunity. My oldest weedling is on her own, more than capable, and on her way to making her own niche. My youngest is about to embark on a transition year. And as for me, for the first time in my life, i have to make a life choice that has no connection to a man. Not  being happily married, not unhappily married, not wishing to be married… no man at all to consider. Just me and my own future. The immediate vision is like that of Montana in the springtime… Fresh new grass and budding stems for as far as the eye can see. How exciting! I can go anywhere! My life isn’t tied to any stake at all! The possibilities are endless! Yeah, baby!

And then i start to consider them. All those possibilities. And i feel like the man in the supermarket.

While it is true that my choices are narrowed somewhat by the need to have an appropriate atmosphere for my son, that really only takes the raisin bran off the shelf. There are still so many other choices! Too many. So i take away any place that has bad memories. Wheaties, off the shelf. Places with no work for me. Mini-wheats, off the shelf. Places too difficult to travel from. Cheerios, off the shelf. But there’s still Life and Apple Jacks and Sugar Smacks, and Cap’n Crunch. There’s still Special K and Chex and Cornflakes and Lucky Charms. All these choices. Each with their own taste and appeal and price. The pragmatist in me has started making lists and charts, comparisons of the many brands available. The gypsy in me visualizes the many bowls of color and texture. The child in me sits on the floor of the store and weeps in fear and fluster.

To quote Maria Von Trapp, “When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Only in my case, he has flung open windows, doors, hatches, chimney flues and skylights. So many escape routes, and nothing actually chasing me. Oh, the irony. The only thing i know for certain is that i have been given this opportunity for a reason. That God has trusted me with something very special – my own future. A blank slate, a full buffet, a veritable Kellogg’s factory of choices. And i take the responsibility very seriously. After all, after i buy the whole grain goodness, i’m the one who has to eat it.

So the Gypsy picks the child off the floor. The Pragmatist makes a list of the cereals that meet the nutritional, flavor and price requirements. And all three of them will converse til the choice is made. I’m sure the dry-goods manager and the other shoppers will find this amusing. But, i suppose, so what? You could say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just cereal?” But me? I say it’s life.

My First Night Out As A Single Gal

(This is an old bit of mine, reposted just for fun)

Otherwise entitled, “WTF is he thinking?!?!?!?!”

A girlfriend and i decide to do what single women sometimes do, and meet for a late night drink and nosh at a fun outdoor bar. It seems promising when we get there… even at this hour, it’s mostly people our age.

I rarely go out, and never to bars, so i have no idea what to order. I tell the bartender, “Can i have something a little sweet that won’t knock me on my ass?” He brings me a drink that is exactly what i was after. When i ask what it is, he blushes a little and tells me it’s a Wet Pu***. (Later, after i’d had a couple, i asked him if there was one called a Wet Di**. He tells me what’s in it, and i ask him do we get it free if we can fit it in our mouth all at once? You see why i don’t drink much). Anyway, so we drink, and have some fantastic peel-n-eat shrimp and onion rings and such. We chat with each other, and chat up the women around us. I’m thinking this isn’t so bad. Every man in the bar is pretty much drunk, but that makes up for the fact that they’re all ignoring me.

After a while, the woman beside us has some insightful epiphany and invites a friend of a friend over and starts him talking to us. Before long, he is standing behind us, nose in our ears as he speaks to us (All of you who know me well know that my ears are off limits), hands all over our shoulders and necks (C’mon girls, collective “Ewwwwww”), and – this is the weird part – he is somehow managing to prop his leg up in such a way that his knee is wedging itself into my butt crack. Honey, you could be Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones, whoever – but i AM NOT letting you stick your knee up my ass. So i keep squirming myself at an angle, but his leg joint follows me like toilet paper on a shoe. My girlfriend, trying to be cute, makes some comment after he asks a question, about how he and i should really have a whole date to discuss it. Bitch! (Not really. Now that it’s over, i think it’s funny too). At one point, i almost start to think that this guy wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that he’s drunk and has a fixation on patellar-anal intercourse… and then he starts to tell me more about himself. I figured him in his early 50s, probably working middle management somewhere. Turns out he’s younger than i am, only looks 15 years older, with a job that, while less than promising, is only a fall back because he lost his job recently when his wife divorced him, and he can barely afford the tuition on his 2 year old’s preschool, and the ex still owes him for the business they started but she’s ruining it, and can you hand me that ashtray, and now he’s got his hand wrapped around my upper arm and i’m thinking that may no longer be just his knee. (Another collective “Ewwww”) Oh, my… is that the time? We really must be going…

OK. It’s funny now. I wasn’t going there to find a date anyway. And my girlfriend and i will laugh about it for a long time. But it does beg one to wonder if Darwin is watching all this from the great beyond and scratching his head…