Page 7…

Leave a comment

One of the most important things I learned before I got here is that you won’t always get the satisfaction that George McFly gets at the end of Back to the Future when Biff is waxing his car.

We have been led to expect this.  We have been led to believe that if we are patient, we will eventually get to see our tormentor tormented, or at least humbled, by our ability to overcome whatever it is they tormented us about.

The best thing we can do is not even wait for it; not even think -with the most remote neuron in our brain- that someday we will walk into a party and the Prom Queen will be the one standing there with ketchup on her blouse and a big honking zit on her nose.  Even if it happens, this will not empower you…

My aunts used to say to me that being beautiful is a burden.  Yes, yes, of COURSE it is a burden to get a date for prom, have boys like you, look good regardless of what little effort you’ve put into your appearance.  All these years later I realize they were right…a beautiful woman has a longer distance to fall than a regular-looking one, and -if they are not careful- the fall will be rather catastrophic because they might be tempted to grab on to ANYTHING to break the fall.

I’ve learned to not live my life waiting to feel vindicated.  If I’d opted for holding my breath, I’d be dead.  The people who bullied me are neither miserable, unsuccessful, repentant or even remotely aware of what they did and how they affected me.  If I went up to them and said “you were horrible to me,” they wouldn’t remember what I am talking about because to them it wasn’t anywhere as important as it was to me.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I’ve learned that you can’t live waiting for closure because sometimes, well, it doesn’t come from anywhere other than your willingness to move ahead with your life.  This is a bitter pill to swallow, but if you have the proper amount of liquid to wash it down with, you’ll be able to consume it and feel its effect on you.

I have children…and adolescence (which should come with a warning label tattooed on the side of your hip, visible the first moment those first hormones peak) hasn’t been easy.  My oldest son is gorgeous, and I’m not saying this out of motherly love, he is seriously good looking and has a beautiful soul (NOT code for he’s ugly but he is beautified by his kindness)…he had to go through all the same pangs of rejection, bullying, teasing, picking on, whatnot as everyone else.  At the time, of course, I did the motherly duty of telling him “some day you’ll show them.”  His response was “I’ll show them what?”  I had to be truthful: I have no idea, dude, I’m just telling you what they told me, and -quite honestly- I haven’t shown anyone anything.

He started laughing and that’s when he realized that he couldn’t just sit around and wait for the world to refund his misery with happiness at a 20% interest.  That was the time I realized the same thing, and was -surprisingly enough- liberated by the idea that I didn’t have to wait anymore.

“Happiness is the best revenge…”  really?  If you’re happy and satisfied with the person you’ve become, you won’t really be thinking to yourself that you’ve risen above so-and-so who cut your hair with blunt elementary-school scissors or whathisname who called you “bubblenose” all through high school.  Quite frankly, I’ve seen these people in Facebook pictures and they look pretty normal to me, pretty run-of-the-mill, not “compared to me” but “just like me.”

Bullying is horrible, and I don’t condone it and have been very vocal about this to the parents of children who have picked on my kids.  “Your kid is an asshole!”  “Who are you to call my kid an asshole?  How dare you?”  “Well, I am an asshole so I obviously know one when I see one.  Since your kid called my kid a retarded fag, does that mean your kid is retarded and a fag and so has the expertise to properly assess my child’s retardation and homosexuality?”

I don’t recommend this approach because the authorities do not necessarily get involved, but there’s a lot of recrimination going back and forth in the principal’s office afterwards and they make notes of it and they follow you around the district if you move.  However, on the plus side, it does make your kid laugh when he’s in his early 20s and you’re having Thanksgiving dinner…

The point, and I’m getting to it, is that if you wait for the moment when you shine in comparison to that person who stomped on you, you might just miss a lot of good crap that happens while you’re waiting.  You might not notice that, well, you’ve been rocking life all along.  If someone’s picking on you, tell your mom…she will surprise you, believe me, because there is this chip they implant when you’re in labor…

Advertisements

Page 6…

Leave a comment

The only person who truly cares about my toes is me.  I have not the most graceful-looking toes in the world; in fact, and I will NOT provide visual proof of this, my big toes look like twin Fred Flintstones.  I have tried everything to make them look less…Fred Flintstone-y, but to no avail.  There you have it…I have ugly toes.

This has prevented me from flaunting my feet since I was very young.  I had not really noticed this resemblance with one of the most famous cavemen in the history of entertainment until it was pointed out to me by my adorable older sister.  Since then I have been concealing the toes under tables, inside shoes (preferably large, bulky shoes that will accommodate their enormity,) in the sand, in socks…you name it…

Since a very early age I have been trying to hide every single part of me that, for one or another reason, seems to have fallen short of “stellar” when reviewed by others.  I should, by all accounts, be walking around wrapped in gauze like a mummy but, I’ve been told, I might look like a frayed version of the Michelin Man.

All the years I worried about every single thing that was wrong about my appearance, agonizing over my hair being too straight, my nose being too round, my eyes being plain old brown rather than a glorious shade of something else, my toes being thick and ugly, my eyebrows being too heavy…

A few months ago, digging through a box of pictures, I found a picture of myself at the age of seventeen.  This was the year I didn’t get asked to prom and had to go with my sister.  She danced all night, had boys milling around her, was the proverbial belle of the ball.  I recall sitting in a corner, dancing with the one guy who made sure every girl got on the dance floor at least once and going home feeling relieved the whole experience was over.  I was surprised to see that I was not, in fact, a shard off of the Great Beast’s hoof…

I was rather pretty.  Not fantastic looking.  Not beautiful.  Not even very pretty.  But I was rather pretty, thank you.

To get to where I am today (a late-forties, not quite svelte, graying, attractive woman who laughs quite a bit and shows her teeth to the world with very few qualms), I had to accept that I was stupid enough to listen to my sister, and that I deserved to be defined by her because I allowed it to happen.

I don’t wear a size six like she does, and I don’t color my hair; I have not worn a two-piece bathing suit since I was ten years old, and I can’t really say that I subscribe to the standards of beauty that are paraded in front of me in the media day in and day out.  But I am happy…and I am smart…and irreverent…and funny (or so I’m told.)

If you are young and you are reading this: don’t let anyone tell you who you are.  It’s a big, old, honking waste of time!  Trust me!  I know what I speak of, my friend.

Excuse me now…I have to go paint my toenails.  I know it’s getting colder and I won’t be wearing sandals, but good ol’ Fred Flintstone, in preparation for the holidays, needs to put his tuxedo on…

 

 

Page 5…

Leave a comment

The more you sit on a problem, the bigger it gets.  To get here I had to figure out that farts and problems have similar characteristics: the ones that build and then seep out with no indication that they are, in fact, being released will smell worse than the ones that just explode and, with a loud trumpet sound, announce their presence.

Furthermore, there is no shame in admitting that the fart is yours and that it’s OK to leave the room and escape.  Problems, like farts, will make some people run away, but others -the brave ones (or the ones who have a cold)- will stick around even if they can tell what you had for lunch yesterday.

When it’s time to pick a person (of any gender, denomination, political inclination, carnivore or vegetarian) make sure they will stick around for the quick explosions that say “we have a problem” and won’t run away when the bad stuff rises from where it’s been hidden…whether it’s a problem or some gas, you want someone who will be there, even if the situation is not the most palatable…

Page 4…

Leave a comment

I have finally figured out that I am not always right and that I am ok with not always being right.  This is not an easy thing to accept; in fact, aside from accepting that I am never going to be met with any face other than my own when I look in the mirror each morning, this is one of the hardest things I had to learn.  I cannot always be right and, furthermore, at times I will be tremendously wrong.

I almost relish saying this because it takes a lot of pressure off me.  If I am not always right and I am willing to accept this, I will not always have to be the person everyone turns to when crap hits anything that rotates. 

My first suspicion of being wrong came on my ninth birthday when my mother, wanting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, bought me a pair of panty hose.  I suppose she expected me to be sophisticated enough to know what they were for, and she supposed incorrectly.  I knew what hose were, but I had never seen them attached to anything other than a bank robber’s head in movies or TV shows.  The darned things, of course, did not have instructions. 

Since English is not my vernacular, I had to work my way through the compound word and figured hose obviously did not mean the thing used in other people’s houses to water the lawn (our lawn was watered by that nifty and sometimes unpredictable thing called “rain”) so it must be what Errol Flynn was wearing in Robin Hood.   The panty part, of course, was self-explanatory.   As part of the silk-purse-out-of-sow’s-ear deal, my mother had also provided me with a dress which, in hindsight, I was right to detest.  I look at the pictures now and I wonder why, of all the colors in this world, she would pick green for me…but that’s beside the point.

I had never been more uncomfortable in my life, and I had hung by suspender-straps from trees while someone came to the rescue with a ladder.  I had bounced my way down a long flight of stairs while sitting in a metal tub.  I had slept on the floor of the marble-tiled balcony just to prove that I would’ve made a good pioneer.  The pantyhose were torture…the dress was salt on the wound.    People felt compelled to point out how nice I looked…people were lying.  I looked like a monkey wearing a tutu.

Leave it, of course, to my older sister (oh, so sophisticated she) to be the one who pointed out that I’d taken the whole pantyhose thing a little too literally.  As I leapt and bounced towards the table where my birthday cake sat, waiting for me to blow candles and be publicly recognized as the honoree, my sister (soon to be sixteen) announced to all who were there “what made you think you didn’t need to wear panties with pantyhose????” followed by a ha ha ha ha ha that I heard throughout the rest of my childhood and all of my adolescence.

So I wasn’t right in my interpretation of this garment’s name…I was too young to accept that I’d eventually get over the humiliation.  For the next 37 years I have flatly refused to celebrate my birthday because, quite frankly, the attention I was receiving that day made the humiliation even worse.  From this particular incident I learned to read instructions if there were any, and to ask questions if there weren’t instructions. 

This, however, does not guarantee that I’m going to be right.  I can research everything from here to the ends of the Earth and I will still find a way to put my foot (up to the thigh) in it from time to time.  The difference is that now I actually don’t berate myself or anyone else for having made a mistake.

Many years ago I said yes to the wrong guy because the right guy didn’t ask.  I know that, in many ways, this was a catastrophic mistake.  At the time I decided to convince myself that I was not making a mistake, that I was fighting for…true love?  Romance!  Yes, I was figthing for Romance!  With a capital R!  I could not possibly be making a mistake because…because I was me and I don’t make mistakes.

The day that marriage ended (with a combination of “fizzle” and “the little bit of plastic we can’t quite get rid off when we tear the tags off new clothes”) I was SO ANGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I wasn’t angry he left.  I wasn’t angry that he felt “meh!” about me (yes, he used “meh!” after 10 and a half years)…I was angry that I deserved “meh!” because I had made a mistake and I had clung to it out of sheer stubbornness.  I didn’t want to run home to mom and dad (or whichever one of them was there because once I married THAT relationship fizzled!) to say “I was WRONG!”  I am sure they would’ve opened a bottle of champagne and embraced like the Armistice had just been signed.

To get here I had to learn I can’t always be right and I had to admit that I don’t always want to be right.  I LIKE being right, but now I actually put in some work to BE right.  There is something liberating about being able to say “you know what?  I have NO idea how to answer that question.  Let me look it up and I’ll get back to you.”  There is something liberating about getting older and still wondering if there’s anything I’d like to try that I’ve said in the past “no, that doesn’t interest me.” 

It is the mistakes that we learn from, not the things we get right the first time…those make us arrogant.  And to get here, I had to get humble first…now, I just feel very lucky and I appreciate things a lot more.

 

Page 3…

Leave a comment

As we grow older we allow others to convince us about which things we should “keep” or “let go of” on our path to maturity.  Come on…admit it…there were things you said you no longer liked just because someone else said “that’s dumb!”  I admit I’ve done this.  Like every other person in this world (even the ones who think they’ve always been forward-thinkers who march to the beat of their own drummer), I let others tell me what was cool or lame.

Another thing I had to do to get here: I had to give up crayons for coloring pencils.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I once allowed girls -who were not flat-chested like myself, and hence were infinitely cooler and more mature by virtue of an A cup- inform me that crayons were OUT and coloring pencils were IN.  My beloved crayon box -with its nifty but useless crayon sharpener in the back- was banished to a shoe box in the bottom shelf of the closet.  It had to be stored in a shoe box because if it had been left exposed I would have been shamed into admitting that I felt personal affection for each and everyone of those wax-like sticks and couldn’t just dump them in the kitchen trash can like all the other refuse.

I did not have the heart to melt my crayons into candles either.  I’d seen this done by our neighbor.  She had gathered all her crayons and had melted them, pouring the colorful lava-like goo into a milk carton.  The resulting block, colorful though it was, seemed sad.  There was a hint of betrayal in the process…crayons that melted in the sun because you’d run off to play forgetting them near a window were one thing.  Melting them purposely for candles was…well…tantamount to murder.

The shoe box where the crayons went to hide was not a lonely place.  They were kept company by my baseball cards, some remaining “surprises” from Cracker Jack boxes, my pet rock Herman, several comic books and the ticket stub from when I went to see Star Wars, among other things.  I would wait until no one else was in the house to peek in and touch the things I’d stored there.  As I got older, love letters would find their way into that container.  From the beginning, the surreptitious way in which I revisited the contents of that shoe box (when no one was home) would make it seem like this was “the shoe box of infamy,” rather than the collection of treasured objects it really was.  Thirty-plus years later, I’d kill to have any of those things around.

Crayons were “kid things”…like Play-Doh, Slinky, and Etch-a-Sketch.  Crayons were as passé as Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner.  Crayons were something many of us wouldn’t use again until we had our own children. Only then would Play-Doh, Slinky, Etch-a-Sketch, Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner trot out of the “uncool” category and into nostalgia.

I got over the coloring pencil thing pretty quickly.  Yes, you can meld colors better.  Yes, you can add texture and shading, make a bit more of an effort to be artistic.  You can leave coloring pencils in the sun and sharpen them more easily.  The sound they make when you move them around to find the right color is a lot more musical than the ones crayon make.  They don’t smell like sweaty palm because they don’t have the paper around each of them.  Yes, yes, yes…I know all that.  I have coloring pencils…I use them once in a while…

when I’m not using my crayons.

Page 2…

Leave a comment

I have survived an entire posting without hearing a single word about the Xmas motif panties.  I don’t know if I’m relieved or disappointed.  This was a big deal for me to confess…I had never mentioned that to anyone other than my husband, and I only told him because he was under the mistaken impression that I am slightly more sophisticated than I really am.

I now offer the second thing in my list of “things I had to do to get here”:

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I was the reluctant child.  I was reluctant to do anything and everything that might be even remotely pleasing to my parents.  This has nothing to do with me being a rebel.  No, no, no…I was anything but a rebel.  I was downright dowdy and nerdy, but stubborn as a mule in spite of my apparent meekness.  My special combination of stubbornness and meekness ultimately led down the path of catastrophe.

Ahem!  The second thing I did to get “here” was perform a whimsical, joyful, uncharacteristically agile song-and-dance number down the path to catastrophe.  Remember Barbra Streisand singing “Before the Parade Passes By” in Hello, Dolly!?  That was me…brass band and all.  Defiantly raging against…I don’t know what I was REALLY raging against.  I’ll get back to you on that one.

I don’t do things half-assed…I don’t just fall, I crash with flair!  I was the mouse that roared…but I was mostly roaring at myself.  In hindsight, I have yet to figure out why I had to be so passive-aggressive; my parents had their expectations and I somehow felt I had to fall short of those in order to live up to my own.

Translation: since I wasn’t allowed the freedom to decide where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, I was going to sabotage anything remotely resembling an opportunity to carve a niche for myself anywhere. I opted to proactively pursue burning bridges, screaming against battlements and slinging mud…downwind.

I didn’t earn a degree until my third college.  For some strange reason, I chose to believe that my mother knew better than I did, even if at the same time I was rebelling against her.  Instead of directing my efforts towards edging away from my mother’s control, I merely kicked and screamed without propelling myself one single centimeter off the predetermined course.

I shot myself in the foot.  I poked a hole in the bottom of my canoe…while paddling up the creek.  Was this a mistake?  Yes, probably.  Self-sabotage is an ugly, ugly thing, but it serves a purpose…at least in my case.

What would have been different if I had not been invited to leave two institutions of higher education before graduating from the third?  I don’t want to get too philosophical about this, but I do believe that I would have skipped a groove and played an entirely different song or, at least, gotten entirely stuck on a different part of the tune.

Anyway…to get “here” I had to shoot myself in the foot (figuratively), and the wound had to get infected.  Also: I had to not follow doctor’s orders for its care, and I had to be stubborn.  One can only heal if one is willing to participate in the healing process by doing something other than complain about how long it’s taking, how much it hurts, how it will scar.  At the end of the day, the “here” we arrive at, where we get settled and -hopefully- blossom is of our own choosing even if we like to think other people interfered in our deviation from the intended course.

What did I learn from this meek rebellion of mine which affected mostly the outcome of my life?  Everything works out in the end.   Perhaps the way it works out is not glorious or spectacular, but it’s your own.  I learned that I have been relinquishing control of my children’s lives since they were born, and I that the more tightly I hang on to that control, the more difficult it is to accept the normal course of things.

I shot myself in the foot…and it took a while for it to heal, but a lot of the growing and maturing I’ve done over time took place while I was healing.  There’s a scar there, but it’s not so unsightly that I can’t look at it, touch it, and talk about it.  I learned not to blame everyone else for my decisions.  I learned that the mouse that roars eventually goes back to making eek, eek, eek sounds…hence the animation industry’s fascination with mice.  I learned that for every single incident that makes me want to yell at my children, I have one in my background that will immediately cause me to bite my tongue and take a deep breath.

So…second thing I did to get to where I am today: I had to make a muck of things so I could figure out that parts of it get cleaned up, parts are irreparable and life goes on, whether we like it the way it is or not.

Page 1…

Leave a comment

Well! This is an interesting position I’ve put myself in…I am sitting here completely deflated after giving much thought (and investing much “courage”) to this blog. A few days ago I felt infinitely more interesting than I do now that I’m faced with this screen.

The whole idea behind this somewhat anonymous experiment is to ponder (aloud if you will) how I became who I am as opposed to who I was and aspired to be. Ambitious? Perhaps. Ridiculous? Probably. Something I will regret? Quite likely, especially after I click on Publish Post.

There are times when, while folding socks and going about the usual business of attending to a household, I feel quite interesting. Don’t scoff…you feel interesting, too. We all do. That’s why the world is inundated with people who blog, tweet, update their status on Facebook and whatnot. We are all interesting, or we aspire to be considered interesting. As I said, while I do my every day routine of cleaning the litter box, cooking meals (after having washed my hands thoroughly, of course), taking care of family and chores, I realize that there is more to me than the sum total of what I do day after day after day.

In a nutshell, when I was seven or eight I wanted to be the world’s first ice-skating, ballet-dancing, cancer-curing, derring-doer nun with a PhD and a published novel. When I wasn’t performing any of those feats of greatness I would be the most sophisticated creature the world had ever known, and I’d win an Oscar and a Tony, lecture on Marco Polo’s travels and assist Dr. Barnard on heart transplants. Yes…I’ve not done one of those things.

So…things I’ve had to do to get here. What have those been? It sounds ominous, yes…say it with an Edward G. Robinson voice. Try it now with Humphrey Bogart or De Niro in Taxi Driver. Give it a whirl with the soundtrack to Lawrence of Arabia swelling in the background. Do Brando and Duvall in Apocalypse Now. Yeah…in my case it’s more like Doris Day in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies or Leslie Caron in Father Goose. The events that I will take my sweet time describing to you (and to myself) will be varied and, more frequently than I’d like, embarrassing to me and tedious to you. If you stop reading I won’t blame you, but I also won’t stop writing because I am in earnest.

My 47th birthday is fast approaching. I have gray hair, a double chin that won’t leave me even if I lose weight (it’s fond of me, I think) and two children who are getting closer every single day to not really needing me that much. This is the part where you think “poor middle-aged woman! She’s seeking some sort of validation because she’s a homemaker and her children are growing up and soon will leave her!” Yawn.

That’s not it at all, or -at least- not entirely. Of course I want validation for the choices I’ve made and the many faux pas that comprise my progression to “here.” I’d be lying if I said this didn’t play a small part in this whole experiment. I want validation, but from myself and I’m just letting you read me thinking out loud. (Oh, that was a horrendous sentence and I should strike it, but I’m not going to…I don’t want to orchestrate this to be “precious.”) I am also not going for chronological order…forgive my willingness to bounce from one thought to another. Furthermore, I am not going to philosophize if I don’t absolutely have to because I am not trying to teach anyone any lessons.

Here goes. One thing I had to do to get here:

On my first day in college, I had to walk around with my zipper open. Yes…I confess this is something that happened to me. I was happily walking along, trying to blend in as much as I could, when two young men (who were laughing heartily) told me “hey, your pants are unzipped!” The beauty of this moment lies in the fact that I assumed they were flirting with me. I thought that they were trying to get me to stop and talk to them, and I smiled as flirtatiously as I could (which, I am mortified to admit, was not very competently done) and said “what?!” in that wide-eyed, lilt-in-my-voice way that girls use when they pretend to not think they’re pretty.

They kept laughing. And when I say they kept laughing I mean they were bending over, guffawing at my vapid cluelessness. Did I mention that I was not particularly cute at this point in my life? I was OK. I didn’t have a horn sticking out of my forehead or anything, but I wasn’t the kind of girl that anyone would go to great lengths to stop so they could strike up a conversation. Only when I realized that one of them was seriously on the verge of choking with laughter did I look down. My zipper, yes, was open…and you could see the little Christmas motifs on my panties. It was late August. I was wearing panties with a Christmas motif on them.

I had to go through that moment because I had to learn that I am not a flirt. OK. I can BE a flirt, or I could be when I was young and thought there was some point to this exercise. I eventually learned to use my own type of flirting to great effect. But that wasn’t the day, and those weren’t the boys. Many, many, many times for the rest of the semester I wondered if either one of them sat in one of my classes. Many, many times I wondered if I walked into the school cafeteria someone would start humming Christmas tunes. I survived. I’m here, aren’t I?

The point of this is: as my husband and I run into people at the grocery store, as I walk around the neighborhood, clean the litter box, pay the bills, scold or console or cajole or encourage my children, I am still the girl who walked around with her pants’ zipper open and candy canes dancing around cartoon-like on her underwear. Whatever gravitas I achieve, that girl…well…she’s still here and she checks her zipper ten times before she leaves the house.