Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Little Ditty

I think I might turn into one of those old ladies who doesn't give a fig - like that fabled old woman "who shall wear purple" and who spawned that awful red hat business that I am almost old enough for but will never really be old enough for.

I think this - because today I broke old lady rules and fat lady rules and threw caution to the wind.  It felt amazing.

It is a beautiful day here in suburbia, so after the oppressive heat of the last couple weeks, I decided it was time to read on the deck.  I grabbed my book and headed for my beloved lounge chair, but I paused on the way.  The decking itself was beckoning.  I never do that.  I've mentioned that I have a lounge chair, right?  But the call of the boards was loud and I was helpless to resist it.  I laid down flat on the deck, my knees bent so that my feet rested comfortably on the first step.  My old back - from whom I had expected protest - practically sung in relief.  I'm not sure, but I think the song it sang was Take the Money and Run.  It didn't make sense to me either.  Not right away.

I couldn't figure out a way to read in this position, and the sun was gently forcing my eyelids closed anyway - so I put my paperback under my head  and spread my arms out - a pose I refer to as The Sun Worshiper.  It felt glorious.

But something was missing.

The sun on my face was perfect.  My pose - unlike any of my poses in actual yoga - was flawless.  But....

My hands worked as if by muscle memory - pulling the hem of my T-shirt through the collar and knotting it through once again.  I tucked the sleeves of my T-shirt under the shirt itself.  My arms were exposed, my neckline was plunging and - *gasp* - my belly was exposed.

Now this is the sort of exposure that causes people who aren't very nice to reach for their cameras and post pictures online for other people to laugh at.  Hahahahahaha - get it?  Someone who is not genetically blessed still enjoys the way the sun feels on their skin.  Just like real people.  It's funny, right?


But I ignored the little voices in my head that reminded me of those not very nice people.  I ignored the little voices that told me that no one wanted to see my old, fat mid-section - especially since it has not seen sun in over two decades!  I ignored them and I enjoyed the way it felt to have sun touching so much of me.

It felt like summer.

And that's when I understood why I'd heard Take the Money and Run when my old back sang.  A million years and a lifetime ago, that was part of a summer beach vacation soundtrack.  It's not one of my favorite songs.  It's ok, I guess.  But damned if it doesn't take me to a pretty wonderful place.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Skin I'm In

When I was wee, as the story goes, my mother was bathing me after a full sunny day in my sandbox.  She was scrubbing to the point of scouring and I was crying to the point of screaming.  Dad poked his head in the bathroom to see what all the fuss was about.  "I just can't get her clean", Mom said, unable to keep the frustration out of her voice.

As I've been told, what happened next was that Dad stepped in for a closer look and, upon assessing the situation, proclaimed, "She's not dirty.  She's tan."

Yep.  My mom was trying to scrub the tan off of me.

A few years later, at the height of my self-conscious, angsty adolescence, when the sweaters of winter gave way to the halters of summer, my mother said, "Your elbows are filthy!  You need to scrub them!"  Now elbows are one of those out of sight/out of mind body parts that do tend to go neglected.  You just don't see much of them.  You're trying to look at yours right now, aren't you?  Unless you are weirdly double jointed, it just ain't gonna happen.  At any rate.  I raised my elbows to the mirror and - sure enough - wildly discolored.  It was the beginning of a long crusade involving lotions and potions and loofahs and lemons.  I convinced myself that each new touted 'cure' was working, but none of them actually did.

Eventually, I gave up.  It was the unique way I was colored in and I could accept it or go nuts trying to change it.  I was never a huge fan of coloring within the lines.  Acceptance it was.

This went well - after all - I never really saw them, so they were easy to forget - until I joined a gym.  The mirrors were there, I knew, to remind me to watch my form, but I just couldn't take my eyes off of my elbows.  I didn't even really hate them anymore, I just sort of found them to be mesmerizing.  I did, however, begin to wonder if others judged me by them.  They DO look dirty to the unenlightened...

A few weeks ago I went to the dentist for a routine cleaning.  The tech scraped.  And she scraped.  She applied unnecessary pressure.  I winced.  She apologized.  She scraped some more.  Finally she paused.  She was sweating from the effort.  "What did you do to make your teeth so discolored?" she asked in frustration.

Are you kidding me?  This torture session was taking place because my pearly whites were neither?  "They are dark."  I said, trying to hide my annoyance.  "They have always been dark.  From the time I traded in my baby teeth they have been dark".  My dentist did some experimental whitening in the early 70's.  Session after session.  Nothing happened.  Techniques have almost certainly improved since then, but the point has always been moot for me because I had a cap (and now - soon - a crown) right in front.  Whitening doesn't have an effect on them - so even if I did manage to whiten the rest of my teeth, well..... "They are not discolored.  This IS their color."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, laughing a little bit in an ineffective attempt to conceal her embarrassment.

Is it any wonder that I laugh right out loud when I hear something described as flesh-colored?  You'd need the whole deluxe 64 pack of Crayolas to accurately color me!  Manatee and Purple Mountains Majesty might combine well to shade my elbows.  The veins that show in my legs and arms are Royal Purple and Mulberry and Jazzberry Jam.  The beds of my nails are Melon - or maybe Pink Sherbert.  I have freckles (NOT age spots.  BIG freckles.) that might be colored Raw Umber or Chestnut.  I have scars that are Cotton Candy and Silver.  All of these are much more interesting than the Peach or Apricot crayon most of us reach for when coloring in Caucasians, no?

I'm sure there are cosmetics available that would cover all of my 'imperfections'.  They'd probably have cool names, too.  But I've been there.  Done that.  I think it's time to start loving the colors that are me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Free Hugs

I woke up crabby this morning.  Really really crabby.  Don't-talk-to-me-because-I-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say crabby.   It was not a huge surprise, because I had gone to bed crabby.  

Coffee will help.

No coffee.

Well of course there's not.  Just fucking fantastic.

So I got dressed - which is not something I especially like to do on a Saturday morning - and headed to our little local coffee shop.

I am having a fantastic hair day and the sun is shining - a combination of factors which is usually enough to guarantee a good day, or at least a good morning - but even those two events weren't enough to cut through the denseness of my crabby mood.

I walked in among the runners beginning to congregate for their post-run coffee.  Fuck you, Mr. Runner-Man in your stupid running shorts and your stupid running shoes drinking your stupid power smoothie or whatever the fuck.  I'm too crabby to feel guilty about my sedentary lifestyle today.

I got in line behind a woman and in just a moment two of her friends walked in the door.  They greeted each other enthusiastically and they both hugged her in a way that made it clear that they were NOT trying to usurp my place in the line - they just wanted to greet their friend. The three of them were so happy - to see each other, to share their coffee, to enjoy the sunshine.  I wanted to be happy, too, but I was too darn crabby.  It was at this point that one of them, the one directly behind me in line, addressed me, "I'm sorry!  You must feel left out!" and quick as that, her arms were around me and I was being hugged.  By a total stranger.  In the coffee shop.  Because her joy this morning was as strong or stronger than my negativity.  Before I had a chance to recover, her friend hugged me, too.

I'm not the best writer in the world, so you may think that sounds creepy - I did, as I read over it - but it really wasn't.  It was spontaneous and sweet and I smiled from ear to ear as a torrent of good feelings washed away my crabby - at least for a moment or two.

When I got home, I was informed that we were out of creamer.  Well that's just fu...

That's cool.  Skim milk will do just fine.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cute is What We Aim For

The other day I was shopping in the sort of establishment where the salespeople wear little blue smocks that resemble the pinnies we used to wear in high school gym to indicate what team we were on. It's not a great look, but it does provide uniformity and recognizability - plus it hides a multitude of sins and protects your clothes.  So it's not all bad.  I will confess, though, that I often picture that moment when one realizes, 'Yeah, this is my life.  I work here, now.' and then - as if to bring the point home - as if they weren't resigned enough - they are handed their pinny and name tag.

Now most folks, based on my own casual observations, tend to dress down under their pinnies.  Makes sense to me.  May as well be comfortable, if no one is going to see your outfit anyway.

But the other day, the young lady who rang up my order was dressed very nicely.  Her hair and makeup were perfect.  Her nails were perfect.  She was clearly a young lady who put a lot of thought and effort into her appearance before being forced to cover it all up with a smock.  Her job, like so many jobs, also required her to wear a lanyard with keys around her neck.  And this is why she drew my attention.  She was wearing her lanyard backwards so that it resembled a choker beneath the open collar of her blouse. It couldn't have been a convenient set-up for when she required her keys, and frankly it didn't look very comfortable - I imagined the weight of her keys pulling back against her throat - but she was doing her damndest to look cute under circumstances that fought her every step of the way.

My initial instinct was to giggle. Pinnies and lanyards aren't cute.  No amount of manipulation is likely to change that.  Save cute for after your shift.

And then I remembered ROTC.

That's right.  In college, this peacemonger was in the ROTC.  Judge if you must.  To those of you who are judging because I took a military obligation casually - I apologize.  You are right and I was wrong.  My only defense is the naivete of youth.  To those of you who are judging because I did something that goes against my basic ideology - I apologize.  You are also right and I am wrong again.  Same defense.  The thing is - I could complete my physical education requirement with two semesters of ROTC or three semesters of health/phys ed.  You do the math.  Also I got those kick-ass combat boots out of it.  I know.  It was terribly flawed logic.  Even offensive to some, I imagine.  But I was young and selfish and it made sense to me at the time.  If you call me out in either direction I won't defend myself.  I may have then, but I won't now.  It wasn't a good or right thing to do, but I did it.

The reason I was in the ROTC was not the point I meant to make today, though - I wanted to talk about the uniform.

We were provided with the aforementioned boots, pants and a shirt in Army green, a webbed belt and a hat.  We were also told to wear a white T-shirt under the shirt, but were not provided with one.  We had to wear this uniform to class once a week.  This was during the big, neon-bright, highly individualistic 80's.  Wearing a drab uniform on campus once a week was a major buzzkill.  I did it, though - because frankly - I would've done almost anything to get out of gym.  I looked at the uniform as a means to escape a pinny.

I, like the young lady in the lanyard choker, did the best I could to make what I was given fashionable.  I regularly ditched the T-shirt, preferring to wear my collar unbuttoned a button or two below regulation and popped (I already told you.  80's.).  I wore my permed hair (80's.  Stay with me here.) in a side ponytail and positioned the hat in a way that would set that off rather than straight on top of my head as I'd been instructed.  I was a little unclear, in my youth, about the concept of uniformity.  I guess if I HAD been clear on the concept, I would've rejected it anyway - so it's sort of a moot point.

It was pretty hard to look cute in that uniform, but I gave it hell trying.

Just like the young lady in the pinny and the choker.

You do the best you can with what you've got.

I am at a place in my life, now, where fashionability - while still desirable - is not a huge priority.  That's a pretty comfortable place to be. (Literally.  You should see my shoe rack.  Comfort reigns supreme.) BUT I need to remember the follies of my own youth before I think about passing judgment on others.  And, once again - 80's.  My fashion follies were massive and awesome.