Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thanks for Bringing That Up, Chuck

Apparently I have a burning desire to write about puke. When my kids do papers for school, they are always told to write a vomit copy, first - you know - just whatever garbage spews out - then edit later. I experienced the vomit copy on literal and figurative levels this week. Well, not LITERAL literal - more like literary literal.

A few days ago I had a few spare moments to kill, so I pulled out my notebook and pen. The sentence that came out quickly - and completely unbidden - was this:

She wondered, but only for a moment, if she was doing the right thing before she closed her eyes and forced her finger down her throat.

I sat back and read what I'd written, my eyes widening. Where the hell had THAT come from? Why was she DOING that? Was she a burgeoning bulimic preparing for her first purge? Had she swallowed something potentially fatal? Was it purposeful or accidental? Yuck! I didn't care - I knew I didn't want to write about her. Yet my pen continued:

The pills came up with the first reflexive gag. She counted them - it was easy to do, there hadn't been much else in her stomach. One more gag followed quickly - a dry heave this time. She rested her head on the toilet seat for a moment to make sure it had passed. She rinsed her mouth out with a handful of water from the sink and scrutinized her face in the mirror. She looked okay. Considering. She dabbed at the corners of her mouth with a hand towel, anyway. She shook her hair out and smiled broadly at the mirror. It didn't - she assured herself - look as hollow as it felt.

Well, hells bells. I do not like this story one bit. I do not want to be writing these things about this girl. I do not want to know what drove her to this or what followed. I actively hate this storyline. Get out of my head, silly girl. Get out before I give you a name and then feel obliged to deal with you and your farked up issues. (Characters are a bit like pets in that regard) I closed the notebook and occupied myself in other ways for the rest of the afternoon.

When I picked it up the next day, I swear to you my friends, this is what came out:

Her eyes widened and her hand instinctively went to her mouth as she raced for the restroom; barely making it there before she emptied the meager contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl. This had been the third time this morning. Perhaps it was time to pee on that stick.

More puking? For reals? And pee thrown in as a bonus. Lovely. Now I'm a little more comfortable writing about a pregnancy, but she's clearly been avoiding confirmation on this one. Is she young? Is she single? Has she had an affair? Why - aside from the fact that we meet her while she's actively ralphing - is she not excited? I don't want to know. And I DON'T want to write about barf.

I mean it.

I abandon the notebook for a little while longer, but it always calls me back. This time it called in a masculine voice. Good. At least he won't be pregnant. Time to break this cycle. Pen to paper and:

His rusty pickup careened wildly as he pulled it over, more or less, to the side of the road. He opened the driver's side door and hung his head out,his right hand grasping the steering wheel for support. He spewed so violently that it scattered the fine gravel and remnants splashed up onto his work boots.

Are you fucking kidding me??? More puke?

So seriously - you who are better versed in psychology and/or symbolism than I - what the HELL? I need to - if you'll pardon the pun - purge myself of whatever demon this is before I write again, or my next short story may read a lot like the pie eating contest in Stand By Me. And while I admire Mr. King greatly, that's really not the scene I'd most like to emulate.

Oh - and if you can't help me slay the barfmonster, then at least let me know if you'd like to hear more of any of these stories. I think they're in me. One way or another, I may have to let one or more of them out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Real Housewives of Central Ohio

I have to confess right up front: I've never actually seen any of the Bravo network's Real Housewives shows. I'm aware of them - I don't live under a rock - but I've never been able to muster up enough interest to watch.

From what I gather, they chronicle the lives of rich, spoiled women with more money and time than brains. That may be inaccurate - as I said, I've never actually watched. Just one woman's uninformed but nonetheless confidently stated opinion.

But what of us? Those families and couples who manage to get by on one income - and choose to do so - but don't have a lot left over for indulgences. What of us? Surely there are more of us than there are of them. Surely there are people out there who want to know - our stories.

'Wait!' you might be saying at this point, 'isn't that what blogs are for?'

To which I reply, 'Simmer down, Captain Buzzkill. Let me enjoy my parody. Sheesh. I ask for so little.'

Today's episode opens with four women enjoying an al fresco lunch on a balcony in a popular suburban shopping destination. One of them - we'll call her me - is carrying a fabu new bag that she bought for herself as a consolation prize following an aborted shopping spree.

Me-she is the oldest member of the group which includes women in their 20's, 30's and 40's. This is not an unusual situation for me-her. This is partially due to the fact that I-she am-is so hip it hurts. Or not. Whatever.

Conversation revolves around the temporary part-time job that has brought these women together. They are divorcees, newlyweds and family women. Their backgrounds are diverse and similar. Together? They are everywoman.

They pantomime toking on joints when the conversation turns to their boss, a very mellow chick indeed. She is never seen, but sometimes her Hakuna Matada voice is heard on the other side of a phone conversation. She is a Zen Charlie to our Suburban Angels.

Conversation turns to our lives since we've last convened, prompting a series of flashbacks. One has gotten a full-time job and is moving into a new home. This is huge! Surely we could squeeze a couple episodes out of that!

One orders a third mojito while alluding to a family crisis. The camera zooms in on her empty glasses. Foreshadowing? Tune in next week. DUN Dun dun...

One regales us with stories of her latest travels. I'm sensing a great opportunity for a montage...

One can't wait to get home and sit on her porch swing with a book. She suggests wistfully that the next time we get together we should wear hats. The camera loves hats. Hats amp up the drama. Her suggestion is agreed upon. Hats it is.

We go our separate ways to engage in such exciting pursuits as mowing the lawn before the rain hits, meeting the school bus, and getting dinner on the table. It is riveting stuff, I tells ya. Riveting.

Hey Bravo - call me! I'm ready to talk.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bieber Fever

Wait, wait, come back!!! It's not contagious, and we don't have a documented full blown case of it in our house, although there has been some possible exposure. You're pretty safe, I think. It's all good.

My girls are not really into his music, so my familiarity had been limited. I saw him on The View flirting with Barbara Walters, so my first impression was that he was a sycophantic little jackass with a silly haircut.

A couple weeks ago, while enjoying a nice frosty drink at Sonic and listening to Sonic radio, One Less Lonely Girl came over the airwaves. My eldest groaned and covered her ears.

"Make it stop!"

"Who is this?"

"Justin Bieber. He SUCKS!"

"Don't say that, he does not." This declaration came, very surprisingly, from our youngest - whose tastes tend to run even harder stronger and faster than Tom's and mine.

"Do you LIKE him?"

"I don't know. Probably not. Maybe. I don't know. But I do know that he makes some of my friends very happy. And anything that makes my friends happy can't suck. Even if I don't like it myself."

"You like Justin Bieber!" my eldest sang, tauntingly.

"I'm a twelve year old girl! I'm supposed to!"

"Do you want his CD?" continued the taunting song, "because you LO-O-OVE him?"

"NO!" a pause, "maybe..."

That Sunday morning we didn't fast forward through his stint as musical guest on SNL when he appeared with Tina Fey. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I'm not exactly his target demographic. He was in a couple sketches. He was tolerable. Cute, even. He looked - safe. He looked like every shaggy haired boy with dreamy eyes I idolized in my own youth. I got it.

But more than that - and possibly the reason I was able to step back and get it - was that my daughter's words rang true: Anything that makes my friends that happy can't suck.

I remember being very happy in the mid-nineties when boy bands made a comeback. I was well into adulthood at the time, so - again - it wasn't my cup of tea - but it was so nice to glance at the covers of '16' and Tiger Beat on the news stands and see these cute, young, safe boys. The eighties saw bands like Van Halen, KISS and Motley Crue gracing their covers. Now I liked me some DLR in the eighties. Oh yes I did. The following is from a story about my first apartment that I posted at Portable Magic:

We bought ourselves a poster of David Lee Roth – 1984 was when he was arguably at the height of his hotness – stepping out of a swimming pool. The poster cut off just below the hollow beneath his hip bones. We knew he probably wasn’t naked, but it was provocative enough that we were free to imagine that he was. It was – distracting, all right.

Little girls shouldn't be reading Tiger Beat and '16' for that sort of distraction. I just read Nikki Sixx's autobiographical The Heroin Diaries. Little girls DEFINITELY shouldn't have been looking for THAT sort of distraction. Nope. As a twenty-something, Van Halen and the Crue were perfectly acceptable fantasy fodder. Early teens needed 'N Sync. They needed NKOTB.

They need Justin Bieber.

Rock on with your not-so-bad-little self, Justin.

If you make scores of little girls happy, I don't think you suck.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Honesty is Such a Lonely Word (and it's not well dressed, either)

I am not a sneaky person.

My parents might disagree with that statement - and they might have cause to. I didn't say "I have never been a sneaky person" I said "I am not a sneaky person".

Every now and then I give it a shot, though. Sneaky people always seem to be having so much fun. Plus, they get all the cool stuff. I want cool stuff. What's a non-sneaky gal to do?

When Tom and I were getting close to our wedding day, I was given a piece of sage advice for keeping a marriage happy: always hide the receipts. I never followed that advice because I knew I was marrying a man who wouldn't just pay the bills without question.

So I mended my plastic happy ways. For the most part. Because I knew I was accountable. Every now and then I'd have a brief relapse, and he never got angry with me - but he was disappointed. You just groaned, right? Because having someone you love be disappointed in you is WAY worse than having them be angry with you.

But even so, sometimes I would give in to the temptation to buy now, pay later.

I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

I will gladly pay you next month for a wardrobe today.

I keep one charge card open - a Kohl's card - because - seriously - you get much better deals there when you have a card. And you can pay it off right at the register when you make a purchase - so you just use your card, get your discount, then pay it off with cash. What could possibly go wrong?


So anyway, short story longer than it needs to be, we had a little money and decided to pay off all the credit cards. "Including my Kohl's card?"

"Including your Kohl's card."

"Awesome," thought my trying so hard to be sneaky little mind. He has no idea how much is on that card. I'll go on one last shopping spree right before I pay it off with full permission. (Hi Tom. Love you. Mean it.) So this morning was the day. There were a few little road blocks on the way to Kohl's, but I wasn't gonna let them stop me - I powered through. Today was gonna be my own personal Bonus Buy!

I looked for shoes. I wanted the sort of neutral, casual, comfortable shoe you'd want to slip on every single day. What was I drawn to? Silver with chunky heels and embellishments... I knew I needed something practical, but the heart wants what it wants. And besides - I was already feeling sneaky and a little bit deliciously bad. Into the buggy they went.

Next stop? Clothing, of course. I tried on an armload and everything that would've been a maybe on a normal shopping day became a yes. This is sort of key. I didn't LOVE anything in my buggy. It was more - "I guess I'd wear that" than "I will cease to be able to find the will to breathe without that". You know - good enough.

Then on to jewelry. I found a few chunky pieces that delighted me and into the buggy they went.

On the way to the makeup counter to pick up some eyeliner - which I actually DID need - I encountered a rack with SALE dresses that I hadn't seen before. I picked up two and went into the dressing room, leaving my buggy outside as their signs tell me I must. I had to. It was a SALE. It said so in red and everything.

One of the dresses was fine. The other was pretty nice - summer sexy. I go to many events in the summer that require the sort of sexy chic that can only be acquired by shopping at Kohl's, so it seemed like a reasonable purchase. (I don't know if you can tell, but I wrote that last paragraph in sarcastic font. Blogger doesn't support it and conforms it to their preferred font, but it was intended to be sarcastic. Honest.)

I was still debating adding these two dresses to my pile when I walked out of my dressing room to find my buggy being systematically emptied by a Kohl's employee who didn't realize it belonged to someone. Um, ok, it was parked outside the dressing room and full of a variety of stuff, but, whatever. She was mortified when she saw the look on my face and offered to help me hunt everything down.

I declined.

It wasn't to be.

I put the ok dress and the sexy dress back on the rack, too.

I am not a sneaky person. When I try to be, the universe (or, you know, a Kohl's associate) steps in to keep me in line.

And my bill is paid off, fair and square.

That feels good.

But it doesn't feel as sexy as silver hottie shoes and a low cut black dress.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Such is Life

I was just folding the laundry (just a little glimpse into the life of an international woman of mystery and intrigue) when one of my daughters' shirts got me to thinking. It read: Music is Life. You've seen, perhaps even worn, variations on the theme: Football is Life, Lacrosse is Life, Cheering is Life, Star Trek is Life - whatever your 'thing' is, someone is out there willing to take your money for the opportunity to allow you to advertise it. My husband's online moniker is Bass is Life.

I don't lay claim to any of those slogans.

And for a moment there - as I folded that shirt - it made me a little sad. It must be nice to have a passion that is so encompassing that it defines life for you. I have no such passion. I like to knit - but is it LIFE? I couldn't imagine a day without writing - but is it LIFE? Music, reading, shopping for shoes - all enjoyable pastimes, but LIFE?

It doesn't feel like living without sunshine. Maybe sunshine is life. But that can't be - because it's not all I need. A beautiful sunny day with a toothache still sucks.

Then I turned my thoughts towards my hubs - Bass is Life. Not a lot in this world makes him happier than his bass. And not a lot in the world makes him more angry, frustrated and depressed. He experiences moments of great pride and accomplishment behind that bass and moments that make him feel worthless. There's a fine line between love and hate, and his feelings for that instrument balance on it tenuously.

Hmmmm - now that I think about it, that DOES sound a lot like life...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Come as You Are

I think I'm going to have a party. You need to promise me you'll come, though - I have a genuine fear of planning a party for which no one shows up. So promise, ok? Pinky swear?

It's going to be a come as you are party.

No, not what you're wearing right now! If I opened the door in the oversized mens gym shorts and ratty nightshirt I'm wearing right now - sans bra and shoes, of course, though I DID take the time to gather all of my hair into a flattering Pebbles Flintstone/Gene Simmons top of the head ponytail - you'd run screaming for the hills. No - I want you to come as you ARE. Come as who you feel like on the inside. (and hey - if who you are on the inside is a Flintstone/Simmons hybrid with baggy clothes and saggy boobs - I won't judge. Come on in. Make yourself at home. Drugs to the right, hookers to the left.)

Wouldn't that be a great party? Better than Halloween. People showing their true colors. Speaking of colors - my inner gypsy, of course, would be wearing lots of them. And scarves...so many scarves... I would still probably have bare feet - but there would be jingly ankle bracelets and toe rings... And I would open the doors of my house - just as it is, with no apologies - to cowboys and rock stars and princesses and captains of industry - to super moms and pirates and pin-up girls. We would mix and mingle and the people we meet would see US - not some time-worn, society-driven version of us - the REAL us.

Are you packing your bag and planning your wardrobe? You promised you'd come. You pinky swore.

A friend told me recently that in her dreams she is always thin. She asked if anyone else experienced the same thing. I quickly replied that I am always thin, I always have amazing hair, and I'm usually wearing white. I don't know what that's all about - since my inner self, as I've already mentioned, is a huge fan of color. But my dream self wears white. And she moves like water; like wind... She's awesome.

She's not coming to the party, though. Because even though she's me in my dreams, she's not me on the inside. Plus, she doesn't seem like the sort who could get her party on.

So, I need to know: What are you wearing to my party? What will I see when I see the real you?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Act Your Age

I used to always be able to sleep on planes. Once in my early 20's, when I was much younger and way cuter than I am now, I fell asleep on a flight and woke up with my arm wrapped around the arm of the gentleman next to me and my head nestled comfortably into his shoulder. There may or may not have been drool involved. He was, as I already mentioned, a gentleman. He didn't mention it. He was a complete stranger. My embarrassment was mild and fleeting though, because he clearly found the whole situation adorable.

If I repeated that scenario now, I suspect that the reaction of a stranger would not be the same.

On my most recent flights I couldn't even relax, much less sleep. I spent the bulk of my time scrunching my shoulders inward in a ridiculous attempt to take up less space than I do. When I board a plane now, I can almost hear people's thoughts as I head up the aisle, "Dontsitbymedontsitbymedontsitbyme" followed by a relieved exhale as I pass them by. When some unlucky loser in the seat game DOES have to sit next to me, I wonder if they can hear my equally loud thoughts,

What's adorable behavior for a young (relatively) attractive woman would be absolutely appalling behavior for - well - me.

Take flirting. Oh my Lord, I like to flirt. Always did. Probably always will. Now, though, you're unlikely to find me very flirtatious before my third cocktail. The inhibitions that come with age, and weight, and feeling generally unattractive need to be softened up a bit these days before I can muster up enough confidence to play the coquette. Even using that word - coquette - to describe me seems wrong. I'm a big woman pushing 50. I'm not anything -ette.

But I always have fun when I let myself give in to it.

Bartender? I'll have another of those, please. (Lowers eyes and raises them at the bartender just like Susanna Hoffs circa 1985. Just. Like her.)

Ah, but acting one's age can be as difficult to figure out as dressing one's age.

When kids are very young, it starts. We don't want them to act any younger than they are - that's immature and annoying. We don't want them to act any older than they are - that's precocious and obnoxious. Yet most kids err on both sides of that equation from time to time.

I still err on both sides of that equation from time to time.

Sometimes I still feel as though I could party like a rock star (complete with massive amounts of flirtation) and sometimes I'd just rather bitch about my arthritis and my hot flashes. Only difference I see between that and kids getting it wrong is that when I err on the side of youth it's obnoxious and when I err on the side of geriatrics it's annoying.

Act your age, not your shoe size. And while I'm at it, I should probably stop buying my shoes in the Juniors department. Candies aren't cute with cankles. Friends don't let friends wear mary janes with support hose.

But what is a woman my age supposed to act like? What is she supposed to look like? What is she supposed to dress like?

Ah, friends, it's just another variation on the theme I've been exploring for weeks - no, months - no, years: I need to simply be who I be.

Such a simple sentiment, it really should be easier for me to grasp.