My debut novel, “Girls Who Wear Glasses” has been released and is available now! I’m so excited about this project, as it’s been a long time coming.
What’s it about? Glad you asked.
Plus-sized Rachel Simon has settled into her life. But in a lifetime (so far) of not-quite fitting in, and battling demon food issues, she has given up on finding love, despite the well-meaning nagging of her close circle of friends.
Now, Rachel has received some big news: a fashion blog, which she secretly wrote on the side, has caught the eye of a major fashion magazine, who not only want her to write a column but are giving her an award at an upcoming banquet. The problem? She used her best friend Lisa’s picture on her bio, and believes they expect a tall beautiful blonde to walk through the doors of the magazine.
She asks Lisa to pose as her at an upcoming meeting, as well the awards banquet, believing that she would lose everything if they knew someone who looks like Rachel was behind the writing. Then, she meets Nathan: cute, smart, and just a little bit weird, but she’s absolutely convinced men like that don’t ask out “fat girls” like her, and places him decidedly in the Friend Zone, and to her dismay, find that her best friend has decided to date him.
Along her journey toward love, self-acceptance, and being true to oneself, Rachel finds that sometimes, “Men Do Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses.”
It’s a funny (I’ve been told), poignant (I hope), and honest (I think) look at weight, friendship, love, and body image. Being body-positive is great, but what about those of us who aren’t quite there yet? I hope readers will be able to relate to the main character, Rachel, and cheer her on as she navigates her journey.
Right now, it’s available as an ebook and an audiobook; the paperback version will be available late summer/early fall. Will update with an exact date when I get it from my publisher!
“Girls Who Wear Glasses” can be found here:
Well, for me, anyway. The rest of you will probably be largely unmoved.
Obviously, I’ve been neglecting this blog. I have a very good excuse, though.
I have a book coming out!
My debut novel, “Girls Who Wear Glasses,” is available for pre-order now on Amazon and will be released June 1st. It’s basically a rom-com – a funny, grown-up look at weight, love, friendship and self-acceptance.
I’ll post the descriptive blurb soon, but I wanted to get the word out there ASAP. Obviously, this is not a great time for anyone right now, but hopefully, people will appreciate a light, humorous read as an escape for the enormous crap-show happening out there.
Ok, I’m on my own for Passover, so I’m thinking about doing a Seder-For-One. However, I’ve never put this together before, so I have some concerns:
- The kid at the supermarket had no idea what I was talking about when I asked where the matzos were, and pointed me towards the tortillas. If I throw a few on the waffle iron I think I can get this to work. (Not sure if tortillas are Pareve. Google Translate was no help.)
- I do not have a Seder plate, but I do have an artist’s palette. The paint on there is non-toxic and it will turn the hard-boiled egg a nice shade of tropical pink. Will this work or I am I venturing too close to an Easter thing?
- I can’t get a roasted lamb shank. That’s a lot of lamb for one person and I don’t want to be overwhelmed by meat. I can get a turkey leg bone. Since the Seder palette will be small maybe it will be like a proportion thing and G-d won’t notice?
- I just started Keto and charoset with apples and honey is out of the question. How about a nice tuna salad? I can throw a few walnuts on it if that helps.
- I’ll have to ask and answer the Four Questions by myself, but it’s ok because I took Oral Interp in college so I can do it as two distinct characters or perhaps puppets.
- My Hebrew is bad, so at some point I may have to switch into interpretive dance.
- I know to leave a door open for Elijah, but can I also maybe leave a window open for Chris Pine? You never know.
This is a little overwhelming. I may just have to convert. Maybe Unitarian? I hear they’re nice.
We all have heroes growing up. Some look to world leaders, spiritual gurus, or writers of prose. There are those who are fortunate enough to have people in their everyday lives to admire – police officers, teachers or doctors. They give us courage, strength, and standards to live up to. They can, in essence, help form the core of the people we were meant to someday become.
My hero was Wonder Woman. The Lynda Carter version, not Gal Godot, who just makes me feel like a muppet.
Wonder Woman was a figure I could get behind. Dreadful show, to be sure, but I truly believe that Lynda Carter (as WW) was the epitome of fabulousness. She ran, jumped and spun around wearing a strapless bathing suit and high-heeled boots, and caught bad guys armed only with a rope and really chic bracelets. She even wore coordinating earrings. And did you ever notice that her hair never moved? She never broke a sweat, and her make up never smeared.
This is the standard to which I’ve aspired, if only in my head. And it’s messed me up for the last 35 years.
Not for lack of trying, of course. I once tried to brush the natural curls out of my hair so that I could achieve the WW bouffant, with terrifying results. My strands decided to rebel against the imposed regime and instead of lying quietly in an orderly, super-heroine manner branched out in sixteen different directions. My bangs puffed up like a threatened bird. Static electricity took up residence in the back of my head. I looked like I had gotten my head caught in a revolving door. I think it made my little brother cry.
Things haven’t gotten any better with age.
Somewhere along the line, I missed a lecture/memo/piece of DNA that many women seem to get. I can’t do that so-called “feminine” thing that TV told us we were supposed to just do naturally. Back in the day, all someone like, say, Jaclyn Smith had to do was stand there, and men were entranced. (Yes, yes, I know – she looks like Jaclyn Smith. It helps.) A turn of the head, a hand on the hip – voila! I tried the hand on the hip thing once, and I just looked like someone’s pissed off Russian grandma. Not a real turn-on. I just can’t swing it. A man once came over to talk to me at a party. I was determined to do the “eyes” thing I’ve seen other women do – you know, the slightly lowered head, the demure smile.
“Hi,” I said. “The wine is great.”
He coughed. “Yeah. I like a pilsner.”
This is going well, I thought. “My name’s Jen…”
“I’m Mike.” He sits down and leans in. I emit something resembling a giggle, and take a sip of chardonnay. “And you’re sitting on my coat.”
I choked while swallowing the wine, and he fortunately did not send me the dry cleaning bill.
But Wonder Woman? She’d look at the guy and say, “Oh, yeah? You’ll get your coat when I’m ready to move.” Dude would naturally find this attractive and he’d wind up fetching her drinks all evening. And if he said something rude, she’d lasso him with her “truth rope” and he’d admit he’s a total nimrod and would agree to wear a sign from now on alerting other women to this fact. WW is strong, confident and can kick-ass in stilettos.
I so want to be more Wonderish. I would like to dig down, find some long-dormant confidence, throw on some lipstick and say “Howdy.” But I’m a middle-aged, overweight ex-schoolteacher. The odds are not stacked in my favor. I have the necessary parts; I’ve just never been totally clear on the instructions. And I’m missing a few tools.
Yet I arise every morning, determined to be fabulous on some level. It’s a struggle. I will never, ever be able to pull off the red, white and blue bathing suit. I cannot run in heels. And as much as I like to pretend to be a diva, sometimes you just have to take off the tiara (even if it’s figurative) and deal with the hand you’ve been dealt. Here’s the thing: Wonder Woman does not wear a bra that’s been duct-taped together. Wonder Woman does not spill soup down her front. When men talk to Wonder Woman, she does not assume they’re just trying to get to her more attractive friend. And Wonder Woman never, ever eats peanut butter from the jar with a butter knife, because Wonder Woman didn’t run the dishwasher and is too lazy to hand-wash a spoon.
I’m telling you, I need better accessories.
I’ve decided that I would like to be the next Miss America.
I am not kidding. I think I’d be great. Yes, I’m too old. I have no discernible talent. I am not perky, dedicated to public service, or particularly graceful. But I still think this could work. My current beef with the pageant is that the promoters insist that it’s not beauty pageant; it’s a “scholarship” pageant. Who are they trying to kid? If it were truly a “scholarship” pageant, the contestants wouldn’t be uniformly beautiful. They’d look like the occupants of the campus library on a Friday night. For me to win, though, there would have to be some serious revamping. There’d be no bathing suits, no helmet hair, and no plasticized smiles. It would have to become a true representation of the “average” woman in the U.S. today. Some would argue that it should not represent the norm; it should celebrate the “ideal” woman. I say that if they want to keep this thing afloat, they need to stir the pot a bit. They need, in a word, me.
Here I am. Miss Unusual America.
Doing a little digging, I found that back in the day, the pageant was originally seen as a symbol of the U.S., with Miss America often being referred to as the “female equivalent” of the President. (I’ll save the political rant and the need for a “female equivalent” for another day. Stay tuned.) But this is an interesting concept, Because I’m telling you, I think under the best of circumstances the presidency could be a two-person job. For example, the President could send me, as Miss America, to deal with the Congress, with all the bickering, petty politics, and selfishness. I was a middle school teacher – I can handle that sort of behavior. Set expectations with the Senators and Representatives. Let them know what the rules and guidelines are. And make sure they know that there will be consequences for bad behavior.
“Senator, you shot down the bill to help extend veteran’s benefits. Is this appropriate behavior for the government?”
“But he started it!”
“Senator, stop poking the gentleman from Massachusetts.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Precisely. You will be given a twenty minute detention after today’s session and will lose several points in your next polling.”
Consistency is key, with Republicans, Democrats, and seventh graders.
(Again, saving the uber-specific political rant for another day. Moving on…)
As for the nuts and bolts of the competition, there are a few areas in which Miss America must be judged in order to win the crown. The first is a personal interview, where the candidate must be well spoken, articulate, polite and confident. Not surprisingly, this part is not televised. Too bad, because I think this could be my strongest area:
Host: Miss Old Illinois, what do you think is our greatest issue in this country?
Pageant Me: OK, listen up. First of all, I’d tell everyone in the Republican Party to just relax already about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ” and let LGBTQ people serve as well, for Pete’s sake. Gay people have always bravely served in the military – this is not new. There will not be a sudden surge in gay enlistment. There will be no formation of the 77th Airborne Liza Brigade. Although if there were an uptick of gay enlistment, I think that would be awesome. Send these fellows in anywhere, surprise the hell out of the enemy with a chorus of, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” and if the opposing troops won’t retreat, they would be met with a withering glare and firm “Bitch, please.” They’d have the enemy running for the hills. (AUDIENCE GASPS) Oh, really? This bothers you? An entire generation of kids is wasting brain cells on violent video games and overdosing on Fritos, and you all clench over a stereotypical gay joke?
Host (beginning to sweat): What are your personal goals?
Pageant Me: I would someday like to pull off wearing skinny jeans and a beret. I would like to invent a chocolate cake that does not induce feelings of guilt and an immediate increase in fat cells. I would like to convince the USDA to classify wine as a fruit. I hope to convince the world (and myself) that wearing pajamas all day is cool and not, as my friend Sophie classifies it, “sadthetic.” And, most of all, I’d like to persuade Nathan Fillion that those hot Hollywood starlets are passé and that he really needs to date a middle-aged woman with saddlebags, an overdeveloped sense of snark, and a killer lasagna recipe. (Looks at host) I think the word you’re looking for is, “Anyway…”
Perfect 10s all around. Nailed it!
Next up is the talent competition, which for many years has played fast and loose with the word talent. In the past, many contestants overplayed the piano or violin, while some juggled, did fast sketching, or even ventriloquism. There have been firewalkers, tractor drivers, and the ubiquitous baton twirlers. Some sang loudly with dramatic pageant arm gestures, garbled arias, or delivered a maudlin torch song with a huge smile, because, as my friend Nadine said, “Miss America is not allowed to be sad.” No more. Let’s bring this area into the real world, too. How about a Spelling Bee? Bargain Shopping? Expensive Footwear Justification? Those would be interesting. But what is my particular talent, you may ask? I can look at a photo of a man and with less than three bits of general information, tell you why he’s still single.
“Orders for a woman in a restaurant.”
“Calls women babes.”
“Continually tells women they’re overreacting.”
“Thinks he’s an artiste.”
“Career goal is to be on Jersey Shore.”
“Is on Jersey Shore.”
I can hold a violin while doing this, if it makes the judges more comfortable.
The next part of the competition is where they walk across the stage in a bathing suit and high heels. This is where I might have to take a pass. I won’t wear a suit in sunlight, much less a spotlight. And it’s not just an embarrassment issue; it’s really a logic issue. I mean, who wears a bikini (oh yeah, they can wear two-pieces now) and high heels? Since the main arena for bathing suits is generally near water and not in an actual arena, it’s really a matter of safety. You could slip and twist an ankle. See? I’m looking out for my fellow Misses. Doesn’t that show depth and higher-order thinking skills? Now, if it’s a real problem, I’ll don the suit, but I’ll wear it like most women my age wear it – completely covered with a knee-length t-shirt. Or with a sarong that starts under the armpits, reaches the knees, and is made of something that won’t stain if you get margaritas or Pop-Tarts on it.
On to Evening Wear. Now, my typical evening wear is flannel pants and a “Mystic Warlords of Ka’a” t-shirt, so I’m thinking I might have to bump it up a notch. Contestants in my new version of the pageant would be judged on poise, confidence, and who complains the least about how their double-Spanx is cutting into their waistline. I walk best in high heels if I’m carrying a cocktail and a plate of mini-quiche, so I’d see if I could work that in somehow. To make it more relevant, they could also judge things real people generally do while wearing fancy garb. We don’t just sashay, pivot, smile, sashay. We make small talk. We pretend to be glad to see someone. We eat cocktail franks. We sit through boring speeches. We fake smiles. We politely excuse ourselves to the ladies’ room to tug at our strapless bras. The pageant could tie-in this part with the “onstage question” they pose to all of the finalists, which is topical, completely random, and for which they have no prep time. I could handle this much better than the Miss Teen U.S.A. contestant from a few years back who couldn’t give a coherent answer to why one-fifth of Americans can’t find the U.S. on a map. My answer?
I really think we can get the Miss America pageant to be popular again. It just needs to be relevant. Right now, saying Miss America represents women in this country is like saying reality television represents…reality. There’s a real disconnect. Miss America should be outstanding, but not so incredibly removed from the rest of us that she ceases to become real. These things that they’re currently judged on in the pageant are not really life skills. We want our Miss America to be a representation of the best in all women. And that does not involve walking across a stage in high heels and a bikini. That’s why I think I’d make a good Miss America (or, in my case, Ms. America, thank you). I’ve survived in the real world. I have life experience. I’ve burned pot roasts. And I’ve raised a glass of wine, both figuratively and literally, with some amazing, brilliant, kick-ass women who I feel privileged to call my friends.
Plus, I’d love any excuse to wear a tiara on a regular basis. And if I added a cape and some awesome boots to the ensemble, I’m pretty sure I could take over the world. Who’s with me?
In a few days, it will be Valentine’s Day. The day of love, roses, candy, hearts, nausea, bitterness and regret.
I do like the candy, though.
I don’t do well with this day. I tend to ignore it with every fiber of my being, the emotional equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and singing, “LALALALALALALALA!” I always manage to be single on this day of days, and as a disinterested bystander, I can only say this: The Whole Day Sucks.
This is not a new sentiment. There are countless others who have covered this idea, from writers of great note, to comedians, to meme-creators. But it is hard to be on the outside looking in, like some huge commercial pastry-shop where so many of us have collectively pressed our noses against the metaphorical glass.
Whew, that’s an image.
I don’t do well with…feelings. At all. I get squirmy at the mere mention of affection, and I swear to G-d when someone tries to hug me I try to slink away like a slinky slinkerton. (Insert better simile here.)
I do not come from a huggy family. We’re not cold, it’s just that we’re not overly physically affectionate. We’re more of a “Hello, how do you do?” kind of family, so that’s what I know. My nephew gave me a hug around the waist last time I visited, and I looked at my brother and was like, “What is it doing?” I’m glad he felt comfortable enough to make the effort, but I would have been fine with a smile and perhaps a hearty salute.
Valentine’s Day is just so aggressive, with the red hearts and chubby armed toddlers floating around. I worked with a woman once whose husband took his romantical duties VERY seriously. I don’t know if he had been threatened at some point, but every hour or so the gifts kept arriving. Think Phyllis from “The Office” and you’ll be about on point. First, the flowers. Ok, no prob. Common enough. Then, candy. All right, I’m ok with that, she’ll probably share. Then, more flowers. Then a bear with a heart sewn on. Then chocolate strawberries. Then a robe. Then a necklace. Then a goat with a hat. (Ok, I may be making that one up.) By five o’clock she looked like the accessory department at Macy’s. She had two interns help her move the stuff to her car.
I did have a working theory that she sent all this stuff to herself, but I kept that on the DL. Besides, if true, she’s effing brilliant.
It’s just weird to have one day of the year (I’m ignoring Sweetest Day, which I’m pretty sure is not a real thing) to get over the top LOVE stuff. It’s so artificial, and it seems like it’s really for the benefit of other people in one’s life.
“LOOK HOW G-DDAMN HAPPY WE ARE! I GIVE YOU FOLIAGE AND SUGAR! IN A VASE! WE ARE G-DDAMN HAPPY! YES! IT IS TRUE!”
Just be nice to each other and don’t forget your anniversary. I think that’s enough.
I do like the sweets part, though. That I can get behind. I bought a coconut cake for my recent birthday (yes, my birthday is Valentine’s Day adjacent. Yay!) I don’t have an “off button” for cake.
My Dad: Isn’t that your third piece of cake today?
Me: Not in a row.
My Dad: Don’t you think you’ve had enough of the cake?
Me: I understand the words you’re saying, but not in context.
Reason #243 Why My Family Is Not Surprised I’m Still Single.
I also am not a fan of what people call “relationships.” I’m too old to be awkwardly adorable; I’m just old and awkward. I can handle dealing with people for about an hour, then I start thinking, “Why are you still here?” I have friends and whatnot (you know if you’re in the “whatnot” category) who still seem intent on interacting with me after that arbitrary time limit, which usually just leaves me thinking, “How on earth do you still have things you want to tell me? Even I’M done with me now.” I desperately need my quiet/alone/plotting world domination time. Even if it’s just a few hours to walk around humming the Gilligan’s Island theme, I need it and I think the world needs me to have it too. I’m pretty insufferable, in general, but I’m highly aware of it and try to limit my influence accordingly.
I just never figured out how to interact with people without feeling like I have six arms and a horn. The problem is, I can fake it, sort of. I can do small talk, and people think because I have a theater background, I’m extroverted extrovert. But in my head I’m like, “Is this the face for being interested? Am I doing it? Now? How about now?” But I know this only extends so far, because people seem to instinctively not attempt to get too close to me. Personally, yes, which is only sometimes fine, but also physically, which I am ever-so glad for. If someone gets too close an alarm goes off in my head – “Personal bubble! Personal bubble!” It’s fine (well, mostly fine) if I know someone fairly well, but strangers seem the most guilty of this. Instant Intimacy (trademark pending) is not my bag, and if happen to meet a hugger upon introduction I’m done for the day. I appreciate the sentiment but I can’t muster the enthusiasm.
Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often.
I have some Love Theories. There really isn’t a cracked pot for every lid. I think true love happens, but not as often as people think it does. And it doesn’t happen for everyone. I’m not sure overt expressions of star-spangled lovey-dovey is emotionally healthy, and it doesn’t make it any better to throw caramel chews at it. Love is special, rare, and comes in many forms but none of them have anything to do with winged babies with armory. Wouldn’t it be better to save the Big Romantic Gestures for when they’re unexpected, not when it’s been collectively decided you SHOULD?
Like I’ve said, I’ve got no boxer in this fight. I’m a bystander. Maybe we should all take a collective breath and take time to appreciate those around us that we don’t completely hate. That would be nice.
“Hey. You. You irritate me less than other people. Even though it’s the middle of April, here’s a piece of chocolate. And some post-its. I noticed you were out.”
That I could get behind. I need post-its. Also, paper clips. Viva l’amour!
Really, when was it? One minute I’m trying to decode REM lyrics, the next minute I’m trying to figure out why in the hell kids today have to play their music so damn loud. Bands I listened to in my youth are now featured on oldies stations. TV shows have decided that “Seriously riiight?” is a legitimate punch line. And the ladies on The Golden Girls look much younger than they used to.
Take Justin Bieber. (I’m not kidding. Take him.) I suppose I get the appeal. He’s cute. He’s perfectly harmless. He can kind of sing if you have the Auto-Tune turned up high enough. However, he’s turned into this THING that keeps showing up in US Weekly, frolicking on the beach and living a much grander lifestyle than most of us can ever hope for. He has a line of nail polish, for Pete’s sake. But I’m concerned because the boy can barely string a sentence together without uttering the word “Yo.” Take a recent interview I saw on the TV:
Random Reporter: So Justin, tell us about your new autobiography.
Justin: Yeroeks thswel blurgel swot shvwlfogh. Yo.
Or something like that. I tuned out pretty quickly.
By the way, he’s like, nine years old and wrote an autobiography a few YEARS AGO. Is it a pamphlet? A paragraph written on the back of an index card? What insights could he possibly have?
I read a blurb from it. He does a lot of “reach for your dreams” crap, and it contains other pearls about not listening to “haters,” and never saying never (which, I hesitate to point out, he did at least twice in that one sentence). All nice sentiments, but not very meaningful coming from someone who struggled for about six seconds before becoming famous. But at least he kind of works for it. He purports to have a skill. Explain Kim Kardashian to me. Her talent is literally her ass. I mean, I have a generous sized one as well, but you don’t see Entertainment Tonight following me around. (And I’ve worked for mine, man. A lot of couch-sitting had to be performed.)
So yeah, music. I will say that I used to teach middle school, and not one student I asked actually liked Justin Bieber. (To be fair, the school was 95% Hispanic and African-American, so I’m thinking that maybe his appeal doesn’t translate.) The kids liked music with suggestive lyrics and a bass line that would make your pacemaker (literal or figurative) explode. On a few occasions they asked me what kind of music I liked.
“Well,” I said. “I like a lot of things.”
Knowing they probably wouldn’t know any of the artists, I tried to go to the obvious.
“I’ve liked U2 for a long time.”
Shoulders were collectively shrugged.
“Ummm, how about The Beatles?”
Nothing. But I knew that was a bit of a stretch.
I was going to try to press on and find someone they had heard of, but I knew it was a losing battle. (They thought Duran Duran was a boxer.)
This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. I was doing some clinical observations a couple of years ago at a local high school, as part of my teacher certification program. The teacher was showing Cool Hand Luke. Afterwards, he talked about the movie a bit. He asked if anyone knew who the lead actor was. No one raised a hand. He said, “It’s an actor named Paul Newman.” The class was silent for a moment, and then someone said, “You mean the guy from the salad dressing?” The teacher paused, and he and I momentarily locked eyes. “Yes,” he sighed. “The guy from the salad dressing.”
I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.
In addition to music, the current vernacular has also changed radically, and I’m not able to hold on. “Yo” has become ubiquitous, and it seems to be a word that means absolutely nothing. Formerly an attention-getter (“Yo, I’m talking to you…”), it is now almost a punctuation mark. Case in point: a promo for a new adventure-reality show. Two people on a boat. One exclaims, “We’re in the ocean! We’re surrounded by water, yo!” (Apparently, “yo” can also be used to point out the obvious.)
I fought against it for a while, but as long as no one’s saying to me, “You’re on fire, yo,” I think I’m going swim with the tide. Besides, if you reverse the letters you’ve got “oy,” of which I’m very fond.
I actually like some of the new music today, but I’m rather selective. I will say that there are some recent songs I’m very glad are played out. I’m glad, for example, that the reign of Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” is long over, because after the first listening it made me want to stuff olives or erasers or my elbows into my ears just to make it stop. And there are other “artists” that I just don’t get – Lil’ Wayne makes me a lil’ nervous, for example, and I’m sorry, but that Ke$ha girl looks like she needs a bath. It’s not just on the radio, though. It’s everywhere. Once a student of mine was singing the chorus to a Rhianna song, which pretty much consisted of repeating the same two lines over and over again about popping one’s bubble.
This is what the young people listen to these days. So little creative imagery. So few interesting melodies. Just thump, thump, thump (or pop, pop, pop, as the case may be). I’m not saying my teen heyday of the ‘80s was exactly a musical renaissance (hello, Culture Club) but at least it didn’t all sound the same. There’s so much good older stuff out there. I really just want to walk up to a kid one of these days and say, “Led Zeppelin. ‘Black Dog.’ It will change your life.”
Some days I’m I know grasping at straws to stay relevant. Has everything always been geared for the young, or am I just noticing it now that I’m no longer minty-fresh? Fashion is impossible, most movies are banal, and if I see one more ad for osteoporosis featuring a woman who looks five years younger than I am, I’m going to cry.
So what’s the answer? I don’t want to be one of those women who clings madly to her teen years, strapping herself into skinny jeans that are, quite frankly, no longer quite so skinny, and maintaining the same teased “do” that she had in 1989. But I’m also not ready to hang out with the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” lady. (Although we’ve met. She’s very nice.) How do we find our own relevance in a society that seems ready to put us on a dusty shelf after age forty?
Maybe I’ll have to dig a little deeper into Justin Bieber’s book. He may be on to something. I will never say never, yo. I will not dislike haters, yo. I will reach for the constellations, yo. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, yo. Be your own sunshine, yo. (Or something like that.)
Yo, indeed, Mr. Bieber. Yo, indeed.
I need to stop watching medical reality shows.
I should know better. Really, I should. I spent years stress-watching E.R., and that was fiction, for Pete’s sake. But half-hours, filled with bones sticking out of legs and torn off ears and people with silly string coming out of their elbows, make me squeal like a stuck pig. I’ve now gotten to the point where I just have to turn the channel, because the most serious medical thing I want to contemplate these days is a Band-Aid commercial.
I’m already aware that the human body is weird. Especially mine. I mean, I don’t have three arms or six ears, but I’m perpetually surprised by my person, by the things that it is able to do and by the things it…isn’t.
This is never more fully evident than when we’re sick. We revert back to childhood, no matter our age. We want soup, we want our blankie, we want to whine and moan and watch soap operas. Basically, we want our mommies, and in the absence of her, we want the flu fairy to bonk us on the head so we can sleep until it’s over. Our bodies ache, we can’t breathe, and we cough up weird things, just so our bodies can make room for more gunk. I’ve always been flummoxed by that phenomenon where one of your nostrils is plugged up and then…it’s not. The other one is. Then the mucus gets bored and goes back to the first one, until you’ve got a game of snot seesaw going on in your sinuses.
Worse than the illness, I think, are the various remedies people throw at you in an attempt to be helpful. (Of course, they’re usually thrown from a distance, as no one wants to actually be near you when the snot settles in.) “Drink lots of fluids!” is a big one. True, one wants to stay hydrated but it’s tough to get rest when you’re running to pee every five minutes. “Steam your face!” is also quite popular. For me, it doesn’t work. Then I just have a stuffy nose and frizzy hair. And that joy of joys, the Neti pot. I finally broke down and bought one. Mixed results. First of all, do not use it if you’re congested, which seems to be counterintuitive because it’s supposed to keep the nasal passages clear. But if you’re blocked up, the water can’t circulate and it winds up dripping down the back of your throat. Phlegm cocktail, anyone? And even when it works, it’s an odd sensation. I spent most of my swim time trying to prevent that from happening, so it’s strange to be doing it voluntarily. I am generally not a fan of things going up my nose. This is also one of those things that you should never, ever do in front of another person. Swooshing water through your nose is not sexy. Nor should it be.
“Hello, darling. Do you like my bedroom eyes? My seductive stance? My ‘come hither’ attitude? Wait right there, my love, one moment….SNERT!”
I would say that maintaining at least a modicum of mystery in a relationship is vital.
Sometimes our bodies surprise us in wondrous ways. It seems that a select few are the beneficiaries of the “superhuman” genes. They can accomplish far more with their bodies than the rest of us. They’re almost works of art. Then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum – me. No matter the circumstance, I’m not the most coordinated gazelle in the herd. In gym class, I was always playing “far right field.” (It’s not a real position. I looked it up.) In basketball, no one passed me the ball, so I was actually just jogging back and forth while watching the game. Oddly, I was often required to play goalie in soccer. Yeah, that makes sense. Take the girl most likely to flinch and cover her head whenever the ball comes near, and make her play goalie. (David Beckham can kick soccer balls backwards over his head. I’m just saying.) I’ve attempted dance classes twice in my life. I only lasted a short time in ballet as a small girl; I didn’t want to go because the other girls made fun of me. In college, my friends were supportive, but on the first day of dance class I was met with the teacher’s raised eyebrows and an insincere, “I’m so glad to see you in this class.” My brain seems unable to transmit the movement message to my body. Why is this? Did I miss a lecture? Is it an inner ear thing? What? Advertisers would like us to believe that it’s merely a lack of fancy shoes or sports drinks, but I’m not buying it, literally or figuratively. I am grateful for the fact that I can move, see, and hear, but just one time it would have been really nice to be able to dunk a basketball or attempt a graceful plié without my classmates giggling.
It happens to me in all areas of life, not just sports. I tend to be rather unaware of where my limbs are in space, which results in a lot of bumping and tripping over nothing. (When I’m walking, there are times that I swear I have to remind myself, “Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot…”) Whenever my theater friends and I were working on building a set, if there was a crash, invariably the first thing you’d hear is, “Where’s Jenny?” I always responded with, “I’m ooooo…..kaaaaaay!” Once, I was working on drilling some screws into a set piece we were building. It was particleboard, and I just couldn’t start the hole. Suddenly, the drill slipped and scraped the hand that was holding the screw. (Note to all of you knowledgeable handypeople: I know.) I looked down and realized that I had taken a small chunk of flesh from the base of my thumb. I looked around, and saw my friend Alan.
“Look!” I said, showing him my wound.
Now, Alan wasn’t easily moved by my plight. His first question was not, “Are you all right?” or even, “Does it hurt?” Nope. Alan had a slightly more pragmatic approach.
“Who put you in charge of a power tool?”
I would have been offended, except that it was actually kind of true.
Beyond physical feats of greatness, there are other common occurrences I don’t understand. Charlie Horses, for one. Actually, I understand what they are; I just don’t get the name. Sounds like the name of a children’s toy. Or a Disney character. It’s too cute. They need to make the name a little more intimidating, like “Adolph Viper,” or “Voledemort Rhinoceros,” or really, just name it after what it feels like:
That’s just one of the lovely things that happen when you exert yourself. (Or in my case, do absolutely nothing.) No wonder doctors can’t get their patients to exercise. It’s not that people don’t want to be fit; they’re just afraid of cramps, shin splints, tennis elbow, or jog pooping. (I’m not making that up. It’s a thing.) When I work out, my face gets red. Beet red. Like, “Oh my God, she’s having a stroke” red. And my fingers swell up. There’s pain in my shins. I’d love to concentrate on sculpting a better ass but that’s hard to do when your thighs are rubbing together with such intensity that you’re afraid your crotch is going to catch on fire. (Not that this has actually happened.) It’s enough to make you say, “Screw it” and eat a plate of curly fries. It’s crazy. I saw a man on TV who was an archery champion despite the fact that he had no arms, and I can’t get past the first level of “Dance Dance Revolution.”
And please tell me, why the hell do we have to deal with adolescence? Talk about not understanding the body. Just when we, as kids, start to think we’re figuring things out, we’re hit with Hormones From Hell. Frizzy hair. Oily hair. Dry skin. Acne. Braces. Glasses. Weird growth spurts. Voice changing overnight. Happysadhappysadhappy. (And this could all be from one kid. In one day.) Nature, in her infinite wisdom, decided to dole out this misery on us when we’re probably the least prepared to deal with it. Sure, some sail right through it, damn them, but the rest of us struggle for a while, ending…well, any day now, fingers crossed. Junior high, I believe, could be considered part of the ninth circle of hell. You’re supposed to negotiate evolving gender relationships, figure out who you are and where you fit into this life, all without tripping over your own feet. You can be best friends with someone one day, fierce enemies the next. It’s a whole swirling vortex of the worst parts of life. It would be great if we could get through it in, say, a week, and then move on. Instead, we’re tossed about like a ship on the proverbial “three hour tour,” and after a couple of years of this nonsense, we’re washed ashore and left to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and say, “Well, there’s that, then,” and move on to a whole new set of issues. And there are always new ones to deal with. Always. Every day. I foolishly once thought that if I could just get through the teen years, then everything would be all right and I’d never feel awkward again. Of course, I’d laugh at that thought, but I’m stunned by the fact that I still look remarkably like my seventh grade class picture. And not in a good way. More like an, “It’s thirty years later and I still haven’t figured out my bangs” kind of way.
The truth is, our bodies are continually changing. Sometimes for the better, sometimes…not. Things grow, things fall off, things shift, things hang lower than they used to, things don’t glow quite as much, things take a lot longer to establish normalcy. I once got completely freaked out because I found a lump on my shoulder. Naturally, after years of watching medical shows, I assumed the worst. “Oh my God,” I thought. “It’s shoulder cancer! It’s an absorbed Siamese twin! It’s…wait, there’s one on the other side. What the…?”
It was my collarbone.
Also, sometimes our intestines just decide to screw around with us. No kidding, I think I farted out of my ear last week. My stomach was “gurgling,” and the pressure started to build. I was in a meeting, so there was no escape. I just kept repeating positive thoughts and regretting the turkey chili. Then, in my right ear, I heard an “eeeeeeeee”sound, and suddenly my stomach was fine. I felt like a human kazoo. No other internal body parts do this. My spleen never sounds like a banjo. My appendix doesn’t make a sproingy sound. But our digestive systems? I wouldn’t be surprised if one day mine sounded exactly like the B-side of “Abbey Road.”
Let’s not forget the most important thing that makes us adorably human – our brains. Brains that can invent the microchip, formulate string theory, or paint a masterpiece. Or, for most of us, brains that tell us to eat the cheesecake, to bet on the Chicago Bears, or that can’t remember where we parked our car. But of all the body oddities, dreams are the most far out. Much thought and research has been spent on why our brains do what they do at night. One theory is that dreams are when the brain formulates ideas, or “random thought mutations.” Another camp thinks that it’s the brain “cleaning house.” And our old buddy Herr Freud thought that dreams were expressions of unconscious desires. Personally, I think it’s the only time that we let our minds run free and wild, without being burdened with everyday decisions, worries, and random bits of “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League. I used to dream about flying a lot – not soaring over hills and dales like a bird, but more like being able to get about five feet off the ground and maybe making it across the room. I would also dream about losing my glasses, and not being able to see anything but blurs all around me. Of course, there were the ubiquitous chase dreams, in which I’d be trying to escape my pursuers in a building by going into room after room, or even in the walls between rooms, higher and higher, always worried I’d be found. Quite regularly, I’d have dreams that I was getting married, but I would have no idea what the lucky chap’s name was, which does make sending the invitations a bit tricky. Not surprisingly, people look for meaning in dreams – losing teeth means this, or being naked in public means that, or that any number of things represent Freudian penis envy (trust me, gents – we don’t). I think we’re over-thinking the whole thing. I believe dreams are just a kaleidoscope of ideas, images, fears, desires, worries, hopes…and yes, fantasies. Weird, nonsensical, badass fantasies. Water skiing with Nelson Mandela? Great. Making a three-story strawberry mousse while your third grade teacher makes you recite the multiplication tables? Fabulous. Standing under the Eiffel Tower, naked, while singing “Copacabana” into a hockey stick? I want to meet you. I think the best goal we can set for our dreams is to just let go, enjoy the ride, and wake up thinking, “What the hell was that?”
Overall, I’m doing all right. So I’ll never be a ballerina. I can’t run fast. My stomach makes weird noises at inappropriate times. The important thing is that when I fall down, I can pick myself up, brush myself off, and hope like hell nobody saw me. And if I’m very, very lucky, tonight my brain will be nice to me and I’ll have that dream where I’m taking a bubble bath with Nathan Fillion and Jon Hamm.
I have fallen prey to the siren song of the discount, the ever-present lure of a bargain. Yes, I have started shopping at Costco. It’s worlds away from regular, everyday shopping, and I like it.
And why not? It’s a land of wonderment, where you can buy gallon jugs of olive oil, rice by the barrel, car tires, tube socks, books, and cakes that are layered in so much chocolate it would make Willy Wonka blush. I bought an enormous jug of laundry detergent for about $9 and six months later, I’m still using it. I got a package of paper towels that I had to lash to a dolly. I almost bought a package of 64 pairs of underwear, but I decided that was too much pressure.
It really is a hopeful place, when you get right down to it. Buying in volume is like saying “YES” to your life – “Yes! I will live to finish that six pounds of coffee! Yes! I will have canned peaches until the END OF TIME! Take your single-serving pouch of tuna and BITE ME!” (You’ll want to twirl down the aisles and possibly toss your hat in the air like a crazed Mary Tyler Moore. Resist the urge.)
You can spot the newbies right away. They’re the ones picking up two-pound cans of Chicken Noodle Soup and going, “Oooohhh…” They’re the ones looking at a three-pack of barbecue sauce and saying, “Now who in their right mind would buy this much?” But they’re also the ones who wind up at the check-out with six of those three-packs so you know the conversion happened somewhere, probably in the wine department. (The store is big on samples.) I imagine one of those new shoppers sitting on their kitchen floor about three hours later, weeping, surrounded by boxes of Popsicles, toothpaste and paper plates that are so big you could lose a toddler in them and thinking, “It’s all just too much…” Even in bulk, one must practice moderation.
It sure beats clothes shopping, as far as I’m concerned. Buying big at Costco is encouraged. Buying big in clothing stores, not so much. I have an upper limit of about twenty minutes for clothes shopping. It’s not a matter of not knowing what I’m looking for. I’ve been reading fashion magazines since 1977; I’m aware of what skirt goes with what blouse. When you’re not a Size 6, though, it can be discouraging. You walk from rack to rack, pulling pieces to look at.
“The vertical stripes on this sweater look like a landing strip. I’ll have planes circling, waiting for clearance.”
“If I wear this blouse, my boobs will look like they have their own ZIP Code. They’re there. We’re aware. We don’t need to announce them.”
“These jeans might as well have a bull’s eye painted on the ass.”
And if I’m actually able to find things in my size that don’t have cutsie sayings or pictures of cows on them, trying them on is, well, trying. Personally, I think the government should forget about water boarding. Trying on clothes in a cramped dressing room, with a mirror the store probably salvaged from a carnival, under those not-entirely-flattering lights (the heat lamps at McDonald’s would be a better choice), is a real and common form of torture. I’m serious. After three outfits the terrorists would be in tears.
If I find pants that fit in the waist, I guarantee they’ll be five inches too long. (I never understood this. They’re supposed to be “average length.” I’m 5’7”– who in the hell are they designing for?) If they are the right length, I have to practically lie on the floor to get them zipped. This, invariably, is when the sales person comes to check on me, and I’m sure she’s quite alarmed when my muffled response comes from about five feet lower than where she expected it.
“How are you doing in there?” she says, brightly.
“As God as my witness, I’m never shopping again. From now on, I’m wearing a nylon tent everywhere. Oh, I hate my liiiiiiffffeeee…”
“Do you need another size?”
“I need a cupcake. Back off.”
“All righty, my name is Sandy, if you need anything, let me know!”
“Thanks, Sandy. I’ve got my therapist on speed dial. I’ll keep you posted.”
I walked out of that store with a pair of socks and a sour disposition. It was not a successful venture.
I have been doing quite a bit of shopping online, which allows me to do the whole retail self-loathing bit in the privacy of my own bedroom. Unfortunately, if something doesn’t fit, you have to do the “shopping walk of shame” to return it. It’s gotten to the point where the kid at the UPS store has started to recognize me.
“No luck this time?” he asks.
“No, they’re weren’t ‘me.’”
“You got the capri pants, didn’t you? It’s a tough look to pull off, you know.”
That’s a lot of smugness coming from a seventeen-year-old wearing a nametag and a Batman belt buckle.
I have to work up the courage to shop for clothes, because it’s a necessary evil. It is also a solitary activity, because all my friends are slim and fit, and, bless their hearts, they don’t always understand that it’s hard to find things when you’re shaped like a Hershey’s Kiss, and when I’m trying on the sixth little black dress that looks like it’s designed by The House of Old Ladies, it’s not terribly encouraging to hear, “Oh, that’s….cuuuuute….” However, when I shop with a buddy we usually wind up with hot pretzels or vanilla lattes afterwards, so it’s not a total loss.
I’ll keep shopping at Costco, though, and enjoying my box of 600 garbage bags. They fit the can, they’re always in style, and they have cute little twist ties. That’s fun. And I may go back and get that 64-pack of underpants after all. Life’s a party.