The Old Grey Mare

Every so often, I become very resentful of the fact that I am no longer twenty-two years old. When you’re young, your body generally works like it’s supposed to. Nothing pops, creaks, aches or leaks. You recover from exertion pretty quickly. And you sure as hell don’t make an “Oy…urumph” sound when you get up from a chair. As I get older, I find that every little thing that goes wrong is cause for alarm. Every headache is a tumor, and a patch of dry skin on my arm causes me to fear that my elbow is going to fall off at any time. It’s exhausting.

When you’re young, you can get away with a great deal of injustices to your body. Then, I could get by on three hours of sleep, shake it off, eat a granola bar, and get on with my day. Now, I’ve become so concerned with preserving the health I have left that I will read any magazine article with a headline that contains the words “anti-aging,” “youth enhancing,” or “saggy ass.” I try to wade through the plethora of information designed to enhance health. Every so often, for example, I try to quit drinking coffee. Coffee dehydrates the skin, they say. Exhausts the adrenal glands. Quit or die! In vulnerable moments, I fall prey to those über-health nuts who insist coffee is evil. I don’t know why I listen. I love my coffee. It is a happy, rainbow/unicorn/fuzzy ducky thing that has me in its claw-covered talons. The last time I quit, I lasted three days. It was a valiant effort, but three days of grumpiness, generalized weepiness, and feeling like I couldn’t even lift my hands over my head was enough. Sure, good health was my motivation, but the lack of caffeine made me feel so awful that I usually wound up sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night eating saltines. Or toast. Or leftover…whatever.  So I’m still drinking coffee. It’s really a non-negotiable. Even the terrible coffee that is present in every office in which I’ve ever worked – I’ll choke it down.

Speaking of which, there should be a tiny little place in hell for the person who takes the last cup of coffee from the pot and walks away without making more. I once seriously considered going to Human Resources and suggesting surveillance cameras for the coffee maker. That way we could identify the culprit(s), and while I knew there was really no way to enforce this miscarriage of justice, if we knew who they were we could have walked by their desks during the course of the day and FROWNED at them. Apparently I get more passive-aggressive when I’m mildly dehydrated and adrenally depleted.

That better not be the last cup, friend-o.

For a few months in the early 1990s, I was a vegan. It didn’t go well. Now, I believe that a vegan diet can be incredibly healthy and that we all, collectively, could do with a little less animal products being shoved into our craws, but I was a Bad Vegan. I basically lived on large quantities of brown rice, butter beans, soy burgers and celery. I was tired, cranky, and due to the fact I apparently have an intolerance to soy, not a hell of a lot of fun to be around. But I thought I was being “healthy,” and, godammit, I was willing to suffer. I sat at restaurants, sipping my herbal tea in the most sanctimonious manner possible, all the while digging my nails into my hands to keep myself from diving face first into the basket of warm bread and butter the waitress just brought. I also bought into the ultra-low-fat diet for a while. Fat free dressing, fat free cheese, no oil, no butter, no joy. I was super-cranky, my skin got really, really dry and I swear I creaked when I walked. It got to the point where a friend offered me $50 to “just eat a fucking avocado already.”

I’m long-since done with the strict regimes. It’s tough on anyone to be so rigid, but especially tough when you’re a compulsive/emotional eater. You try to be “good,” but the moment someone looks at you sideways you run home and shove the first thing you can find into your mouth to push down whatever feelings have started to bubble up. Health doesn’t even enter the picture when you’re inhaling stale Cheezy-Do’s. Wouldn’t it be nice if we craved “healthy” food when we’re upset? I wish I reached for broccoli when I’m stressed, or Swiss chard when I’m upset, or quinoa when I’m lonely. Nope, it’s got to be mashed potatoes or baked ziti, and preferably in large quantities. I do have a fair amount of self-awareness when I’m food-medicating, and often I have starch-induced visions of Richard Simmons in his sparkly shorts, grapevining his way over to me and wagging his finger in disapproval to the tune of “On Broadway.” Once in a while it’s the mental picture of Gwyneth Paltrow writing a blog about how a shot of organic wheatgrass grown at the foot of a mossy hill in a small village in Switzerland and costs $120 an ounce is guaranteed to kill the urge to eat the leftover boiled garlic potatoes. Emotional issues aside, I seem to have been born without an “off” switch that says, “Put down the food shovel, please.” I’m convinced that the only reason I don’t weigh 600 pounds is that I don’t eat fast food, and that it’s a good thing I don’t live in a big house, because there are some days I feel like one of those fish that will grow to the size of their environment if you keep feeding them. However, I’ve started working on the mindset that the emotional issues that go along with compulsive eating are just as toxic as the mustard pretzel logs, so I know I need to find a different way to cope. It’s a process.

I have a growing obsession with what goes on my face as well as in my face. I’m a beauty products junkie, scouring women’s magazines for the Next Big Thing. The cosmetics section of the drug store is like my personal Field of Dreams, each bottle and tube with its own set of promises, large and small.

“This will make me younger!”

“This will make me taller!”

“This will make me blond and gentile!”

They rarely come through. I would soak in a tub of marinara sauce if I thought it would give me back the skin I had when I was eighteen. Even I, however, have my limits. I recently read about – get this – a bird poop facial. That’s right, somewhere in the world, women are willing to subject their faces to a mask of nightingale doody. It is, of course, wildly expensive. Look, I’m not against trying weird things in the name of beauty. I once gave myself an egg white facial. I put mayonnaise in my hair when I was thirteen, because I read it was a “natural conditioner.” I want to look youthful, but I draw the line at putting something on my face that makes me go, “Awww, man, gross!” when I see it on the windshield of my car.

Why are there so many pictures with women putting fruit on their eye?

I realize that aging is a natural process. We all deal with it. My ninety-nine-year-old grandmother once said, “I don’t mind getting older. Consider the alternative.” She has two master’s degrees and a PhD; I should probably listen to her. But I’m still in the phase where I’m trying to fight the good fight. I stopped getting carded about eight years ago. The first time it happened, I tried to force my I.D. on the cashier; he kept resisting, as if to say, “I believe you, lady!” Plus, the sign now says, “You need to have been born before this date in 1991 to buy alcohol.” In 1991, I was already old enough to buy alcohol. Reading this sign makes me feel like I need to buy alcohol. On the other hand, alcohol dehydrates the skin, making you look older. This in turn makes me feel depressed, prompting the need to buy some wine. It’s kind of a boozy vicious circle.

That’s gotta sting.

I’m also beginning to succumb to the theory that the fountain of youth can be found in a BHA-free water bottle at the gym. I’m resisting with every fiber of my being, but I’m being drowned out by the sound of weights clanging and the mental image of Madonna’s braided rope arms. I once voluntarily walked up and down seven flights of stairs without stopping, to get one of those ubiquitous office exercise breaks. It was not a well thought out plan. I survived, but when I got back to the seventh floor I was pretty sure my lungs were going to pop out of my chest and wave “Hi” to me from the floor. I knew the only way it was going to get easier was if I did it every day, but I was not able to convince my body of this fact. But I’m working on getting some more exercise; in fact, I think it’s becoming a true necessity. I need it, basically, because my body parts are no longer stationed exactly where they used to be. I mean, they’re all still in the same general ZIP Code, but they don’t seem to be as eager to be there. I was shopping at Ikea the other day, and I got the distinct feeling that someone was directly behind me. I even heard a slight, “flap, flap” sound. I kept glancing behind me until I realized that no one was following me – it was MY OWN ASS.

Fine, fine. I’ll get back on the elliptical. But those endorphins better kick in or next time I’ll be on the treadmill with a glass of chardonnay.

I heard someone once say, “Age is all relative.” That’s true, unless you’re really old. The relativity comes into play when you’re around those who are much younger and obviously don’t deserve it. Recently, I was in line at Starbucks, standing behind some girls who really tested this theory. One of them was pulling the, “Oh, I can’t believe I’m so old!” crap. Apparently she had just had a birthday, and was having a bit of an existential crisis.

“I can’t BELIEVE I’m twenty four!” she exclaimed. “Wow! That seems so old! Boy, I’m really getting up there!”

Yes, you are aging quite rapidly.

She has no idea how close she came to being smacked in the face with my purse. I could have gotten away with it, too – she was wearing those stupid high heel flip-flops, and even at my age I could have outrun her. I haven’t quite settled into a groove yet, though, and I’m still ever so slightly resentful of those twenty four-year-olds, with their stupid shoes and chocolate croissants. I don’t even want the croissants, but something about them just makes me want to…oh, I don’t know…SMACK THOSE BITCHES DOWN! Oh, I’m sorry, was that me? I have some repressed anger. I’m working on it. Hand me the non-fat latté, please.

But it’s really a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Despite their enviable abs and lack of cellulite, I’m not sure I’d want to go back to my early twenties. On one hand, I feel like I know a hell of a lot more now than I did then; I’m able to have a wider perspective on things and I am much less willing to suffer fools gladly (and even less willing to date them). I would like to believe that I’m like a fine wine (or whine), improving with age. But still, there are days when all it takes is one chicky tottering around on her mega-platform heels (which totally look like hooves, by the way), with her fake tan, short skirt and tight neck to bring me right back to feeling like Miss Daisy without the cute hats and wise chauffeur. But I take solace in the fact that all of those young twenty-somethings who have around zero body fat, smoke, go to tanning salons, and drink a lot will soon be in for a big surprise. In my forties, I’ll have decent skin. In their forties, they’ll look like leather handbags.

You know, sometimes it’s the little, petty things that make life worth living.

In order to get organized and plan my needed youth-retaining regime, I have recently subscribed to a health magazine. I figure this way I’ll have all the things that I should be doing in one publication, for easy reference. Apparently, I need to do yoga, exfoliate, moisturize, eat fruit, but not too much fruit, find the right sports bra, massage my scalp, have regular, awesome sex, meditate, cook whole grains, grow my own vegetables, volunteer, make facial masks from yogurt and honey, sleep eight hours, work my quads, detox, use just the right amount of olive oil, strengthen my core, drink six barrels of water, and get the perfect eyebrow arch. Sounds simple enough. I’ll start tomorrow. And then I’ll be too tired to worry about my wrinkly knees. Or get anything else done, really, but at least I’ll look fabulous.

Just kidding.

In all honestly, I’m trying. I am. But I will say I have stopped forcing myself to drink buckets and buckets of water. They say that it helps kill the appetite. Uh, they LIE. All that happens is that I always have to pee and I make a sloshing sound when I walk. I don’t want to build my liver an above-ground swimming pool, thank you very much. And running to the restroom does not count as aerobic conditioning. I checked.

Getting older doesn’t just happen on the outside. It happens on the inside, too. I asked my Dad what he found to be the toughest thing about getting older.

“Change,” he said.

I didn’t understand. Of course we’re all changing.

“No,” he replied. “Routines. You become more conservative with your behavior. As you get older, the idea of change becomes a little scary.”

All of a sudden, I totally understood.

When you’re younger, you can take risks, because you’re immortal and have all the time in the world to recover. As you get older, the stakes get higher and you know it will take longer to bounce back. Your life is more stable, and there’s a sense of security in that. You know what you know, and the idea of anything changing your current reality is scary. I get it. I’m seeing it in my own life, too. I think twice before making plans. I don’t buy the impractical shoes. I don’t stay out late very often. Major life decisions are becoming fewer and fewer because they might change the status quo. But isn’t that when we really get old? Forget the crow’s feet, forget the grey hair – it’s when we refuse to change that we’re really in trouble. We must resist becoming overwhelmed by inertia. Change and grow, change and grow. One might feel that it’s too much; that we get to a certain age and think, “Well, that’s it. I’m done. I am who I am and this is my life.” That has a certain sly seductiveness, in a way, because it lets us off the hook, as if our journey is done. But it never really is, is it? As long as we’re here, we’re changing and growing. How we live our life determines how much we grow, and whether we can measure it in inches or miles. If youth is our goal, maybe that’s how we can hold on to it longer – by being willing to keep on risking, moving, and changing. Living. There’s an element to that which is also kind of scary, but as my Grandma said, consider the alternative. We can grasp at all the anti-aging creams and injectables we want, but the real fountain of youth is the ability to keep going. Shake things up. Stare into the abyss. And while I’m doing all that, maybe I’ll slap on some eye cream and do some lunges. Couldn’t hurt.

I’m also going to work on some sort of coffee-wine hybrid. I could make a fortune. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

Money, Money (Monologue #1)

(Lights up on LIZ, mid-30s.)

LIZ

So let me just say, that, all things considered, yes, I am responsible with my money. Like maybe not Jeff Bezos-level responsible, but I heard he once bought four paintings of dudes on horses pointing northward, so maybe that’s not the best example. He did get free shipping through Prime, though. We weren’t poor growing up, but you know, my dad knew how to pinch a penny. But I’m not stingy. Not at all. You know, I recently discovered this thing called “Cos-Play.” Totally on accident –  it was laundry day and I had to wear my Princess Leia costume to the Laundromat and this lady told me about a convention at the Hilton. It’s not for kids, and most people are pretty much normal except for the whole dress-up-on-weekends thing, although some people are really (rolls eyes) OH BROTHER, you just know they still live in their parent’s basements, but the Hilton has a really great breakfast buffet, so you know…Oh, this? (Points to her vest) This fur trimmed breast plate? Totally great deal, plus I can use the edges to slice cheese, so, you know, double bonus…I’m getting my money’s worth, that’s for sure. I’m thinking of wearing it everywhere now, even to work. I’m sorry if Rick from accounting might find it “unprofessional” but I’m a Creative and it’s empowering and you need to be empowered when your team wont get their reports in on time and you have to take your frustrations out on the toaster oven or even, yes, sorry, Rick from accounting. It’s important to have things in your life to focus on instead of your job 24/7. I mean, I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, but I’m optimistic and I don’t need a man in my life to validate my existence. I have a gym membership – I don’t go but I do think seriously about it every day – and I just signed up for a “Pot Roast of the Month” club, so yeah, I’ve got that going for me. And I’m currently sponsoring a child from Somalia, so I use my money philanthropically, although I haven’t heard from Inan since the last military coup so maybe I should be concerned. And I did win a pool at work that took bets on how many Cheeze-Its Dave could stuff into his mouth – sixty three, by the way – so maybe I should be looking into an IRA or a CD or a DVR or something like that…so yeah, I pay my bills, put some in savings, and keep way too much in checking so if I want to buy Wonder Woman underwear online after my solo wine and cheese night, I feel perfectly justified.

So, I guess to answer your original question (looks at nametag), BRANDON…yes, even though they’re not on sale, I will take TWO dozen assorted donuts to go. And a skim milk. Keep the change.

 

BLACKOUT

Fighting Crime With Really Big 80s Hair

Ok, this is HUGE news.

According to the news feed I get from Yahoo…

“KITT, the flame-throwing, river-jumping, talking muscle car from the `80s TV show ‘Knight Rider,’ is up for sale. Restored to its debut-season glory, the modified black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am is offered at $149,995 at a Dublin auto dealership.”

Let’s start a collection. Who’s with me?

“It is one of four documented “camera cars” used for close-up shots and scenes where David Hasselhoff, who played Michael Knight in the series, was behind the wheel.”

David Hasselhoff! Behind the wheel! But does that increase the value or lower it?

“Although it cannot achieve the 300 mph speeds that KITT reached, soar 50 feet in the air or throw smoke bombs, key features of the star car are intact. Perhaps most important, the red scanner light on the nose glows and makes a humming noise.”

OOOH. A humming noise.

The red nose glows? Is this the Rudolph of television cars? Did all the other cars laugh and call him names? You know it’s pretty bad when you get dissed by the Munster Mobile.

“The car has two working video screens on the dashboard, and the cockpit features buttons that light up in green, yellow and red: ski mode, rocket boost, micro jam, silent mode, oil slick and eject.”

Ski mode, rocket boost and eject I understand. This is important when you’re catching ’80s criminals on the slopes or in space. (Just make sure you dress in layers under your “Member’s Only” jacket.) But what the hell is micro jam? Something you put on tiny little pieces of toast?

“’Most of the buttons don’t do anything,’ Verhoek said. ‘Nor can the car hold a conversation or drive itself.’”

I think it’s funny they felt the need to be specific on the last two points.

“’KITT isn’t even street legal because of missing smog equipment and other modifications. Whoever buys the car will probably keep it in a private collection, or it may be purchased by a museum,’ Verhoek said.”

As long as it goes to a museum that also houses Alf, anything from “Manimal” and Joan Collins’ wigs. Or just Joan herself. I would go there.

Wait – it isn’t street legal because of MISSING smog equipment? Like if you stuck a new smog machine on there it could be cruising on I-55?

“The car belongs to Tim Russo of Livermore, a Kassabian customer who figured now was a good time to test the market, with the 25th anniversary of the show’s debut coming up. Russo purchased the car 10 years ago at an auction in San Diego, and has spent the last decade finding parts to restore it.”

I bet ejector seats and car skis were very hard to come by. I don’t think they have them at Wal-Mart. And he’ll probably spend the next decade trying to find someone to buy it.

“The winning bid at auction will also come with a private concert by the Hoff himself.”

It will cost you another 15k to make him go away.

I hope KITT finds a home. And no one is subjected to a Hasselfest. I’d love to bid on it, but I’m saving up for when Wonder Woman’s invisible plane goes on the market.

Don’t Send Me Email Forwards…

For some reason, I’m exhausted. And then I get stressed about being exhausted because I always feel like there’s something I should be doing, but I’m just too tired to do it. Consequently, I haven’t slept more than about 3 hours in a row in the last week and a half. I’m so tired I’m almost giddy. However, tired as I am, “Two and a Half Men” still doesn’t make me laugh, so obviously I haven’t completely lost it.

An acquaintance recently sent me this email forward. It’s a cute list, written by someone, entitled, “Things I’ve Learned.” Usually, I just skim through them, think, “Oh, that’s clever,” and hit delete. I was feeling a little punchy, so I decided to write my own responses to the list. Below is the original list that she sent me, (numbered, italicized and it quotations), followed by my responses.

1. “I wish Google Maps had an “Avoid Ghetto” routing option.”

I wish when you typed in an address in satellite “street view” they actually showed you that street, not something kinda close. I want to see where I’m going, not something over yonder.

2. “Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.”

Then you have to get creative, and change the point of the argument. Then when the person says, “Wait, aren’t we talking about car tires?” you can wail, “I can’t BELIEVE you think this is about CAR TIRES!”

3. “I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.”

Well, you can’t. Suck it up and be tired. Put down your blankie and deal.

4. “There is a great need for a sarcasm font.”

Yeah, sometimes the little winking guy icon juuuust doesn’t cover it.

5. “Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what was going on when I first saw it.”

I could watch “Syriana” in 10 years and I still won’t know.

6. “I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.”

I do this, but I only make it about 3 feet into the house before I simply plop the bags down on the floor and yell, “Food!” And then if I get no help, I wind up taking each bag into the kitchen individually. Takes twice as long, but I get to feel indignant and that’s always fun.

7. “I think part of your best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die…”

<Whispers> Bottom drawer…nightstand…

8. “Was learning cursive really necessary?”

How else would we identify the serial killers? “Oooh, look at this manifesto…he had a weird L. See that L? That’s the L of a killer, everyone…oh hello, Pastor Johnson….”

9. “Whenever someone says ‘I’m not book smart, but I’m street smart’, all I hear is ‘I’m not real smart, but I’m imaginary smart.'”

Because it’s usually some white kid from the ‘burbs who says that. In their case, “street smart” means they use Google Earth to find the nearest Starbucks.

10. “Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using ‘as in’ examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss’s last name to an attorney and said ‘Yes that’s G as in…(10 second lapse)..ummm…Goonies.'”

I once said, “P as in pork chop.” Hand to G-d.

11. “MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.”

They could start on #1 if they were more detailed. Like, “Go out the back door because your annoying neighbor is washing his car and will want to chat.” Or, “Take care not to hit the whiny kid who is riding his bike down the middle of the street and doesn’t have the sense to get out of the way.

Or even better…

1. Are you sure you want to be wearing that outfit?

2. Seriously?

3. It does nothing for your ass.

4. Last time you wore it, you complained that it rode up. Ok, but don’t bitch about it.

5. Merge onto 355N

12. “Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.”

Only if the obituary read, “Details are sketchy, but the death appears to have involved a watermelon, a pair of leiderhosen and a spatula…” That would be interesting.

13. “Bad decisions make good stories.”

 Bad dates make better ones.

14. “Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I’m from; this shouldn’t be a problem…”

Usually the name and place part goes ok; it’s when people try to be funny that it goes horribly wrong. Look dude, you’re not Jon Stewart. Just say you have two kids and coach soccer and MOVE ON.

15. “You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you’ve made up your mind that you just aren’t doing anything productive for the rest of the day.”

For me it was always 1:25 PM. Can’t explain it; it was just always 1:25 PM. If I was in a meeting I would just sigh loudly. People never knew why.

16. “Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don’t want to have to restart my collection.”

Look, we all said that after videos and cassette tapes. There is a point in the technology stream, however, when we all just have to throw up our hands and just start acting out the films for each other in our living rooms.

17. “I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.”

I’ve learned the hard way that the answer is always YES. YESYESYESYES.

18. “I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it’s on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.”

And if it’s on shuffle, why does it always play all the same artists together? Or if not the same artists, then the same era. Can we just get past the ’70s, Mr. iPod? Pleeeeeze? Shuffle! Shuffle! Like a deck of cards!

19. “Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.”

That’s how you know it’s time to put down the Pinot and go home.

20. “Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, phone in their purse, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey – but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time…”

I can reset it in my sleep. I’m THAT good.

If this trend continues, I may wind up sending out responses to family newsletters. I don’t see that ending well.

 

Out Of The Mouths Of…

As the school year is winding down, I find myself dreaming about the hot weather of the coming summer, which is weird, because before I became a teacher I hated the summer – the humidity, the sweating, the flip flops. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be teaching, as I’m in the middle of a career crisis (after three years), but every so often I’m surprised by the things that come out of the mouths of my current students. I’m not talking about the cursing, or the grammatical snafus, but of the odd, out-of-left-field stuff that plops itself on my desk every so often.

Take yesterday. I had just assigned my sixth graders an autobiographical poem — ten lines, and I pretty much tell them what to write on each line. Line four was to be “Three things I don’t like.” Francisco came up to my table and asked if he could write that he didn’t like the Romans.

“What do you have against the Romans?”

“Well,” he replied, “They stole all the Greek’s gods because they couldn’t come up with any of their own.”

Fair enough. But wait for it…wait for it…

“And they tortured Jesus.”

There it is.

I have another student who apparently was “almost arrested” the other day. I asked him why.

“I don’t know, miss. I wasn’t doing anything.”

“Well, you must have been doing something.”

“No, I was just sitting there.”

“Where?”

“In front of the One Stop.”

“DeShaun, that’s a liquor store. What were you doing there?”

“I was with some people..the cop thought they were…”

“You need to stop hanging out with these people.”

“No, miss. Can’t. One of them has the new Xbox.”

Glad to see priorities are in order.

I’ve also been asked if I thought Obama was the antichrist, and if I was worried about North Korea. (P.S. No, and yes but there’s really nothing I can do about it now.)

At the other end of the spectrum, I had two boys in my class last quarter who thought that, “Guess what? Chicken butt!” was the height of hilarity. So it’s all kind of a mixed bag.

On the plus side, some of my students were impressed when I told them that I wrote a book, despite the fact that there aren’t any zombies in it.