Monday, April 30, 2012

The Invisible Woman

I was recently acquainted with a woman who enjoyed nothing more than talking about her ex and his many transgressions.  One of these stories involved him sending a clownish birthday greeting to a mutual co-worker of theirs.  It was not flirtatious, but it did show that he had put some thought and effort into it.  I wasn't really seeing the problem with this until she leaned over and said to me in a stage whisper, "Now she's a HEAVY woman!  What is that going to make her think?"  

As a heavy woman myself, I was confused and that must have been evident in my tone when I responded, "That he wanted her to - have a happy birthday?"

She rolled her eyes like I was the simplest, silliest excuse for a human she'd encountered in quite some time.  "She's a HEAVY woman.  She's not USED to that sort of attention.  He was leading her on."
Some of the most ridiculous logic I've ever heard expressed - and I used to teach pre-school, so I've heard some pretty convoluted logic.

And then I thought about a man in my own town.  Our paths cross a lot.  He works at the studio where both of my girls took lessons, so I saw him there twice a week for around three years.  It's a small studio.  I spoke casually with everyone else there, but never him.  He runs in the same park where I walk, so for a while there we were crossing paths almost every morning.  He never so much as nodded in recognition and when I did he would act like he was concentrating so intently on his run that he hadn't noticed me.  Recently Tom ran into him at a jam and he invited Tom to come hear him play at a local pub.  Tom and I went and he greeted Tom and thanked him for coming.  I was right at Tom's shoulder, yet managed to not even register as a blip on his radar.  What the hell, dude?  Later, he was headed towards our table, caught my eye, and did a 180.  

I remembered my acquaintance and her story and decided that maybe he thought if he acknowledged that a HEAVY woman existed in his limited little universe that she would interpret said acknowledgment as flirtatious and fall in LOVE with him.  A MAN!  Or maybe it wasn't an attempt to spare my tender feelings, but more of a self-preservation thing.  If he's seen talking to a HEAVY woman, people might think he LIKES heavy women.  And we sure as hell can't have THAT sort of business getting around.  After all, he has his reputation as a pathetic aging wannabe to protect.

(steps on soap box)

People are screwed up.  When self-righteous souls who don't have their facts straight declared a war on obesity, I guess some folks interpreted it as a war on the obese.  Fat people aren't the enemy, and shame on our First Lady for presenting us as such.  Sedentary lifestyles might be the enemy - but plenty of skinny people have sedentary lifestyles.  Poor eating habits and lack of portion control might be the enemy - but plenty of skinny people practice poor eating habits and lack of portion control.  Nope - spin it as you might this war is not being waged against unhealthy habits - it is being waged against a certain body type.  I'm tired of being shamed because I didn't win the metabolic lottery and it sickens me to see children shamed for it.

(steps down from soap box)
(clears throat)

This weekend, though, a young man in a bar gave me hope. A young man - a stranger to me - was walking out of the restroom hallway while I was walking into it.  We were the only ones in the hall.  Don't Stop Believin' was on the juke box and he spread his arms and sang right to me, "You're just a small town girl, living in a lonely worrrrrrld....." I smiled at him - he smiled back - and the encounter was over.  It was not flirtatious.  It was fun.  It was a fun thing to do.  And he had enough sense (or maybe was just drunk enough) to realize that even a HEAVY woman would interpret it as just that.  I didn't fall hopelessly in love with him.  No one accused him of being a chubby-chaser.  We just had a fun moment between strangers in a bar.

I didn't fall in love with him, no, but - even though I'll never see him again (and wouldn't be likely to recognize him if I did) - I sure do like him.

He gave me a moment to feel like a normal person.  Not the oldest one (a feeling I have to feel a LOT) not the fattest one (another pretty typical situation) - just - one.

When I was in college I took a course called Sociology of Human Sexuality.  No, the tests were not all oral.  No, I didn't get an A.  I got a C.  The only C my mother was ever proud of.  Anyway.  One day in class the professor presented us with a scenario:  If an attractive member of the opposite sex who was close to your own age approached you in a bar and said, "I'm not coming on to you or anything, but I just want you to know that I find you very sexually attractive." how would you react?  Of course most of us said we'd react pretty positively to that.  Duh.  But then he started switching things up.  What if it were someone much older?  Someone much younger?  A member of the same sex?  Someone who was unattractive?  It's still not a come-on, and yet most of us didn't have the same reaction - at least not at first.

Isn't that sad?

The woman in my first story and the man in my second story could learn a lot from the man in my third story.

But perhaps it's human nature.

Perhaps we all have a lot to learn.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Day in the Life

I have recently fallen in love with the town where I live.  It was not love at first sight - it was a love born of familiarity and comfort with a little bit of traveling which lead to that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" thing thrown in for good measure.

It's just a darn fine town.  It took me nearly fifteen years, but I'm finally ready to commit.

I also recently made a career change which put money on the back burner and moved bliss to the front burner with the flame turned up high.  I know.  I can hear you now, "But Tammy, weren't you in education?  There is no money in education."  And you're right.  But it turns out there is actually a career path I can follow which is even less financially lucrative than education.  And I am so excessively happy to be on said path.

I told my old employers, though, that I would work out the last three weeks of my contract with them - under some limited terms - if they wanted me to.  It seemed fair.  And they wanted me to.  I clearly expressed my terms - because I was willing to compromise with them but did not want to compromise in any way with the new job.  I would do this, this and this but I would not do this, this or that. Definitely not that.  I am not generally the type of person who lays down the law in no uncertain terms, so it was very out of character.  I think the last time I said anything even remotely similar to that there was a safe word involved.

Last week I worked both jobs, back to back, every day.  It sounds hellish.  It wasn't.  It was exhausting - but it was the good kind of exhausting.  The kind of exhausted one feels after a day well spent.  Not quite like the exhaustion at the end of a short vacation where one tries to jam a weeks worth of fun into a weekend, but in the same general family with it.  A cousin of it, from the decidedly blue collar side of the tracks.  I am exhausted, but remarkably content.

I thought I'd tell you about a typical day in the life of a tired but happy me.  Maybe you'll get a glimpse into why I've finally fallen in love with my town.

I wake up, roll out of bed, drag a comb across my head... that's where the lads from Liverpool and I part company, though.  While they're drinking coffee and running late and catching busses, I'm syncing my computer for job number one, throwing in a load of laundry, packing my lunch, sneaking in some calisthenics (Is that word not excellent?  It makes me think of Jack and Elaine LaLanne in their leotards with their dog Happy doing sharply executed toe touches.) until it's time to take Lea to school.

photo:  The Los Angeles Times
For most of the school year, driving Lea to school takes place while it is still dark.  Then it's kind of a drag.  But last week the drive took place at dawn.  We didn't exactly get to watch the sun rise together, but we did get to enjoy the soft pink skies prepare for the big show.  I've talked about my passion for sunrises here before, so I'll try not to get into the majesty of that, but it's sort of hard to talk about our morning commutes without giving it a little mention.  We drive past small farms which look particularly charming at this time of the morning.

"Hey!" you must be saying, "Back the truck up!  What's all this business about farms?  You live in the suburbs.  You bitch about it all the time.  It's in your daggonned subtitle, for Pete's sake."

It's true.  I do not live in a rural area.  I live in the suburbs, complete with heirarchal cookie cutter neighborhoods and every chain restaurant known to man as well as the requisite Kohl's, Target, and Wally's.

It is not ideal.

But there are scattered reminders of why Columbus is sometimes called cow-town around, too.  This week - this happy week - I took a little more time to appreciate that during my morning commute.

So - sunrise - or at least the promise thereof - over bucolic farms.  Check.

Have a good day, Lea.  I love you.  Love you too.

Home once again, I pack up for the day, grab a quick shower, and try to dress in a way that will be appropriate for either job and end up just being slightly underdressed for one and overdressed for the other.  Three weeks, I tell myself, then I can settle into a happy, comfy uniform of sorts.  But for now, close will have to be good enough.  I pick Liv up and we take the same route to her school.  The sun is higher now - the world is more gold than pink.  The drive is still gentle and lovely - but completely different.  It's only an hour later.

Have a good day, Liv.  I love you.  You as well.

Job number one has me heading to the other side of the city this week.  I leave the suburbs in the rear view mirror and in a matter of minutes, the city skyline is looming ahead of me.  There is something about that moment when you first see a city's distinctive skyline, isn't there?  I always get just a little jolt of excitement in that moment.  The City - sparkling with promise in the early morning sun.  I want to run through that field of poppies like Dorothy and company to get there more quickly.  There is excitement in the city - an energy.

photo:  The Vigilant Citizen
I pass the center of the city and take my exit.  I know I am close to the school where I'll be working this week when I see kids with backpacks and book bags and instrument cases walking alone or in groups in the same direction.  Not high schools kids.  Elementary school kids.  Kindergarten kids.  Walking a couple blocks to school without their parents along tree lined streets - holding hands when it's time to cross the street.  One of my biggest complaints about the 'burbs is that we can't walk anywhere - not safely, at least (that is in the slow process of changing - and I am very glad - but until the sidewalks are actually in place, I would like to reserve my right to bitch).  Here in the city, though, just outside the hustling bustling city center, young kids are walking safely and independently to school.  It warms my heart.

I arrive at the school and remove the 'office on wheels' from my trunk, slip on my name tag, and gear up for the leadership position portion of my day.  I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that, while walking into the school, the sounds of the birds chirping their early morning greetings to one another mixed with the sounds of the children greeting one another and laughing on their way in to school.  How frickin' delightful is that?  I am a lucky, lucky girl and life is good.  I half expect a bird to land on my finger or tie a ribbon in my hair or something, but that doesn't happen.  Oh well.

Or an apron 'round my delicate waist.  Either way.
Photo:  Julien's Live

Sunrise over bucolic farms?  Check.

City skyline?  Check.

Happy kids walking safely to school to the soundtrack of birds singing?  Check.

Working like a boss?  Check.

A couple hours later my office is back in the trunk and my name tag is hanging from my rear view mirror and I am heading back to the suburbs.  Did I mention that my new job is only a mile from my house?  Because it totally is.  I eat the sandwich that I've packed for myself as I drive.  It would be easy to drive through somewhere and pick something up, but for less money and only slightly more effort, I am enjoying chicken salad with grapes, almonds and tarragon on a fresh croissant.  It's still a sandwich in the car - but come on - doesn't that sound a lot better than a McAnything?

I arrive at job number two right on time.  I doff my leadership hat and don my trainee hat.  These hats, by the way, are metaphorical.  I spend a wistful moment wishing that they were not.  I love hats.

I spend the next chunk of hours learning my new job. I made an amazing discovery there this week, too.  I sought this job for purely selfish reasons.  As an educator, I always sort of patted myself on the back - comfortable in the knowledge that I was doing a good thing - that I was helping others.  I knew - or at least I thought - that that would not be a part of this new job.  I sought it because I thought it would make ME happy.  I was tired of trying to save a world that didn't want to be saved.  It was time to do something for myself with no altruistic motives.  And yet.... and yet.... a week into the new job and I've realized - ok, I'm not in any danger of saving the world.  BUT - I can - and do - make people happy.  Well what do you know?  It's like the stewardess always tells you before the flight - take care of your own oxygen first, so that you'll actually be able to help other people with theirs.

At the end of my shift, I drive two doors down and wait for my sister.  She has a new job, too - and both of our shifts end at the same time.  It's like the planets aligned and made everything work out just the way it needed to - because she and her partner share a car and a ride home every day is something that she needed.  Enter me and my new job two doors down.  I take her home, insuring a short but daily face to face conversation with her.  I spend time alone in the car with three of the women I love most in the world every single day!  I feel like Magenta sliding down the banister of Frankenfurter's mansion, "You're lucky, he's lucky, I'm lucky, we're all lucky..."

Photo:  Ginger Kate
When I got home, Tom has dinner prepared.  It made my tarragon chicken salad with grapes on a croissant look like - well - a sandwich in the car.  Tom is a good cook and we have recently made some very positive changes to our eating habits which, I have a feeling, I will tell you about on another day.

We watch something on Netflix.  Our newest thing is a series on classic albums.  RUSH, a bottle of wine, some brie and hot pepper strawberry jam on crisp bread - oh my God, you guys.  (Last night we went to our high school's production of Legally Blonde.  Can you tell?)

To review:

Sunrise over bucolic farms?  Check.

City skyline?  Check.

Happy kids walking safely to school to the soundtrack of birds singing?  Check.

Working like a boss?  Check.

Good - delicious - food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack?  Check.

Learning a new job that makes me - and others! - happy?  Check.

Spending time every day with people I love?  Check.

It was a good week to be me.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. ~ The Beatles

Photo:  Wikipedia

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Importance of Proper Footwear

My husband has, I believe, four pairs of shoes.  Dress shoes, work shoes, sneakers and sandals.  One pair of each.  He figures he's covered all of his footwear needs and he's pretty content.  When a pair wear out - and it takes a long time for them to do so, because when you're buying such a small quantity of shoes you generally go for quality - he replaces just that pair with another pair that will serve just that purpose.  His whole dress code is simple.  Suit?  Dress shoes.  Khakis?  Work shoes.  Jeans?  Sneakers.  Shorts?  Sandals.

It boggles my mind.

In my late teens and twenties I had shoes.  I stuck to pretty basic styles, but I had no fear of color.  When the shoe salesman tried to convince me that orange was the new neutral when I was looking at a pair of spectators with a moderate heel in that hue I knew he was full of shit, but I bought them anyway.  Not because they were neutral - they so, so, weren't - but because they were awesome.  They were more rust than ORANGE, just in case you're trying to conjure up a visual.  But that is not to say that I didn't have shoes that were ORANGE or PINK or BLUE. I had a full rainbow of pumps in varying heights.  Keds, too.  Of course I wore the pumps with my jeans and the Keds with my dresses.  The late 80's and early 90's were a mixed up muddled up shook up time.  Chucks (in every color - mostly high tops) were for shorts.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I DID have a dress code as simple as my husband's current one.  The difference being that I had each of those styles in every color known to man.

This was not the case when I was growing up.  I was ridiculously knock-kneed.  I wore corrective shoes. They were crazy expensive and crazy ugly.  One boy on the bus teased me about them every morning and I arrived at school crying or fighting tears every morning.  I hated those damn shoes.  But they were what I wore.  For dress, for school, for play, every season, all the time.  I got two pairs a year because I wore them out.  I did always have a pair of sneakers, too, but it was made infinitely clear that they were for gym class and gym class only.  I hated gym class, but I loved changing out of those ugly shoes.

Maybe that's why my teens and twenties had me looking for quantity over quality.

I could wear cheap shoes painlessly, too, because my knees no longer knocked.

So the corrective shoes were a good thing.  An ugly, socially devastating good thing.

Recently I find myself, more often than not, in a quandary over what to wear on my feet.  I still want to be  cute, but heels at my age and weight are just not a reasonable option.  I have a pair of Chucks.  They're purple.  

These shoes weren't made for walking.  But they are most excellent for propping up on a railing to watch the tide roll in.
I love them.  But I can't wear them for long because they offer no support.  All of my flats make me feel like an old lady (shut up) or a suburban hausfrau (I SAID SHUT UP!).  I am self conscious about my shoes ALL the time - and I always feel like I've made the wrong choice - either because my feet hurt or because I'm making a statement I don't want to make.  And then there are my Danskos.  They feel wonderful.  I can go all day when I wear them.  My feet feel good, my legs feel good - a clear win, right?


Because they look like this:

What, pray tell, does THAT look cute with?  I've worn them all winter with very long skirts and black socks.  I won't say it works.  I guess I could say I think I get away with it.

Then, last week, Tom and I went to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band.  It was not a nostalgia act, yet we were very close to the mean age in the venue.  And my shoes felt not only physically comfortable but completely socially appropriate.  What a wonderful way to feel.  (Tremendous show, by the way.  I should've done a squealy fangirl post but things got a little busy last weekend.  Also?  We ran into Derek Trucks trying to get to his bus.  Tom said, "Good show, man" and he said "Thanks".  I tried to take a picture but fumbled. It was such a quick moment.  But we both know it happened.  So there's that.)

What does it all mean?

I don't know.  Maybe that I need to get real.

I hear Dansko has a pretty so-ugly-they're-cute spring line...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hoppin' Down the Bunny Trail

Or Memory Lane.


It's hard to anticipate when those bouts of nostalgia are going to hit.  A song, a smell, a stranger's look - any of those things, and many more, can send me traveling through time faster than a TARDIS.  Today's protagonist?

These little basket fillers - which should have never caught my eye, nestled as they were among the other, arguably more appealing treats - sent me back to days of Easter bonnets with thin elastic chin straps and dainty little white gloves.  Easter weekend was spent with my aunt and uncle and cousins out of town, and that was very wonderful as well, but that is another story for another day.  Today's story - the warm happy place those foil wrapped eggs took me - is about the week before Easter.

My dad's family was large - he was the eighth of nine children and there were cousins that spanned two decades.  It seems to me, now, that it must have been hard to pull a family of that size together, but we did so regularly and very very happily.  At least that is my recollection.  We would always gather at my grandmother's house - the homestead.  It was small.  So, so, small.  I tell you that as an adult, because I know it to be true.  As a child, however, I never never never perceived it as even remotely less than adequate.  It was more than big enough to hold all of our joys, all of our concerns, all of our traditions.

Our Easter tradition - as I recall it -was twofold.  It involved coloring eggs and then hunting for those little Hershey's eggs, wrapped in pastel foil and hidden in the attic by - well - I don't know who.  Let's just presume it was The Bunny and get on with it.  But I've gotten a little ahead of myself.  First we colored the eggs. No Paas tablets for us - we used food coloring and vinegar - swirling them to make fabulous random colorful designs.  Each of the cousins - and maybe some of the aunts and uncles, too, I can't be sure - would color a dozen eggs.  We would all put them on the same baking racks, then we would be sent off to our egg hunt while they dried.  Maybe it hadn't always run so smoothly - I was among the younger of my cousins - by the time I was participating they had it arranged so that there was very little down time wherein children might become bored and whiny.

Off we would be herded to the attic - the older cousins leaving some of the chocolates in plain sight for the younger ones.  The attic was small - as you would presume the attic of a very small house would be - and the cousins were plentiful - but we never got in each other's way and the distribution of eggs always seemed pretty fair.  Sometimes, as we got a little older, we would muse on the fact that our fathers - four brothers - all shared this attic as a bedroom.  Even by Easter it was hot up there.  Yet we never - not then - thought, "how awful for them".  We - I, at least - always thought they were lucky to be so close.  I imagined them talking about whatever boys talked about long into the night.  This was the only night of the year I ever entered that attic and I always left it with the voices of the ghosts of the boys who had grown into the men who were gathered downstairs lingering in my consciousness.

We would all have to count our eggs when we came downstairs, and the one with the most eggs would get a prize:  a quarter.  The prize was small so that we didn't become ridiculously competitive over it. I learned in later years that it was really just an excuse to do an egg count.  If the amount of eggs we collected didn't match the amount of eggs distributed, an older cousin was sent back up until they were all found.  I imagine you don't let too many chocolate eggs in the hot attic for too long before figuring out that accountability is a good idea.

When the chocolate eggs had all been collected and accounted for, we gathered once again around the table - this time with an empty egg crate.  We would go around the table - each choosing an egg in turn to fill our crates.  Sometimes we got the eggs we had colored, sometimes we did not.  Gentle lessons were learned.  Sometimes you had your eye on an egg and someone else claimed it before it was your turn.  Other times, you got the most beautiful egg on the table and you hadn't even been the one to color it.  Small disappointments counterbalanced with small victories.  Little lessons that would translate well in the big world.

All that and chocolate eggs, to boot.

I haven't thought about that tradition in years.

I don't even usually like those darn eggs.

But I bet I'm going to enjoy the heck out of this bag. 

I know some of my cousins will read this - my mom will read this - and perhaps it will not match their recollection.  That's cool.  This is my memory.  If theirs is different, it takes nothing away from mine.  Oh - and if any of them would like to share their reminiscences?  That would be absolutely spectacular...