Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Have a Good Time

Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My life's a mess
But I'm having a good time
                                                                                            --Paul Simon, Have a Good Time

As nearly as I can tell, Paul Simon speaks for pretty much everyone I know.

There was a part of me…ok, pretty much all of me…growing up that really thought that by the time I got to my 40s and 50s, life would feel way more in control than it did when I was younger and really felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants all the time.  You know; theoretically I’m supposed to have my shit together and have coping skills and disposable income by this point, right?

Well, here I am newly-minted at the age of 50-something and I have all that stuff.  I have a great job and a good house and I can balance my checkbook (with a pen and everything when necessary), replace the tail lights in my car, prepare a nutritious meal in 30 minutes or less with whatever crap I can find in the pantry, hem my own pants, soothe a crying baby, negotiate a contract, and re-light the pilot light on the hot water tank without assistance.  I have mad skillz, yo.

What they DON’T tell you in your 20s and 30s is that there is an order of magnitude difference in the complexity of the problems you face in your 40s and 50s versus those you face as a younger adult.  I mean, this is like graduate school.  You know, when you’re an undergrad and they give you a problem to solve, there’s actually a SOLUTION to the problem, and your job is to find it.  Grad school is different.  You get to grad school and you encounter a problem and you think you have the solution and you ask your professor if it’s right and he’s all like, “How the fuck should I know? Your job now is just to justify why you came to the conclusion you did and ensure you actually accounted for all the variables. The rest is uncharted territory, Buttercup.”

Wow.  Thanks.

And really, that’s sort of what you deal with once you hit middle age and beyond.  It’s no longer just can you show up for work every day, keep your toddler from falling off the earth, manage to make your paycheck last as long as the month, fix the leak in the kitchen drain, help patch together your friend with the drinking problem and get in for a pap smear once a year.  Now, we have sick and dying parents, estate management, patching together the adult children of the alcoholic friends and relatives we had in our 20s, retirement planning, trying to launch our own adult kids who really think they really have all the flipping answers already (Mom, seriously; thanks for not killing me when I was 22), keeping other people’s toddlers from falling off the earth, middle age depression, managing metabolic syndrome, and how the hell did we accumulate all that crap in the garage???

I really never understood why the members of my parent's generation always looked so serious and stressed out. For heaven's sake, who knew they were spending a decade and a half in their thesis year??? Mom...Mom?  You there?  I get it.  Sorry. 

And it’s not just me – all my friends are singing this song.

For my birthday yesterday, I received the following things:

  •       A children’s book from 1965
  •       A rock, painted to look like an owl
  •       A few decent bottles of red wine
  •       Purple garden tools
  •       A kitschy solar light for my garden
  •       A jingly belly dancing skirt
  •       A new bra (ok, I bought that for myself) 
  •       A decent meal with good friends

When I was younger, I wondered why old people were so delighted with the simplest little presents. I thought they were just trying to be cute and agreeable. Now I know why. Because they are simple, when so little else is.

For my birthday this year, I asked only that my friends go for a walk with me at my favorite park and that my husband make conch fritters in the kitchen and we hang out and have a drink and a laugh together.  The weather was glorious and my friends were caring and the food was delicious and I was grateful beyond words for the joy and simplicity of those acts and that day.

So from now on, if you’re over 45, I’m probably going to start wishing you the joy of an uncomplicated year to come.  Because heaven knows I could use one; you probably could too.

Have a good time.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Chapter 11: In Which We Lighten the F**k Up


So I am not always a high-handed semi-know-it-all, trying to pass off my opinion of the world as some version of wisdom.  I have, in the past, not been shy about tackling subjects such as semi-public nudity, hair removal, sexuality, social taboos, hang-ups or telling embarrassing stories about myself in the interest of a solid belly laugh.

If you’ve ever enjoyed any of these, dear reader, today is your lucky day…because today?  Today, we’re going to incorporate all of that into a single post.

Today, we are going to delve into the not-so-gentle subject of the Brazilian Wax.

First, a bit of background: or, “How I ended up sitting in this ridiculous position with a complete stranger’s face just inches from my hoo-ha”

My husband likes to grow a beard in the winter time; he really hates to shave pretty much under any circumstance, and he uses Mo-vember as a convenient excuse to begin an annual four- or five-month shaving hiatus.  He takes pride in achieving a truly outrageous growth of facial hair, both in terms of its length and sheer, Hemmingway-esque volume.  To wit: a few weeks ago, he was wearing a red ski jacket and was seriously mistaken for Santa by a dear friend’s grandson.

I have made no secret of my lack of affection for the beard.  Sometimes to the point of borderline shrewishness. (I know that this may come as a surprise to some of you; what with me being of such a meek, gentle, and biddable nature in nearly every other instance.)  A couple weeks ago, in the midst of one of my anti-beard tirades, my husband threw down the gauntlet: “I’ll shave the beard off if you get a Brazilian wax.” He smiled triumphantly.

“Done”, came my equally triumphant answer.

In the intervening couple of weeks my work schedule got pretty nutso and then we were called out of town to take my MIL to Florida.  And then, on Easter Sunday, my husband emerged from the bathroom, minus the beard. I was thrilled; he looked so handsome and clean! And I knew it was my turn. 

Tuesday night, I casually tossed out to him, “I made an appointment for Friday with the waxing place.” 

He stopped and looked at me. “You know you don’t really have to do this.”

“Wha-? Dude, a deal is a deal. Let it never be said that I reneg on an agreement.”  I could swear out of the corner of my eye I saw him make a little fist pump and whisper “yyyyessss!’ under his breath, but he soon straightened his face and said, “Well, it’s your choice.”

I've never been shy about trimming and shaving, but waxing is a new thing for me. I’ll say up-front that deciding where to have this sort of service done is not a trivial matter. It’s not exactly the type of thing you can just casually bring up among the ladies at work, or even among your close friends for that matter. “Really, these little pepperoni bites are delicious; can you give me the recipe?  Also, can you recommend a good place to get a Brazilian? No; the wax, not the cabana boy. Asking for a friend.”

I turned to Yelp.  Choosing the top-rated place on the list, I clicked through to the web site. “We make sure your Betty is always ready, including crystals and fun colors for your hair down there!” I blinked. Twice.

Then I clicked through to appointments.  I mean, seriously. How do you NOT at least check that out?

I used to keep a list of “Stuff I never expected to Google”.   This list contains items such as “Do parrots masturbate?” (they do) and “Did I just eat a poisonous mushroom?” (I hadn’t); I found myself adding “What is the etiquette for Brazilian waxing?” to the list.  Yes; there are pages that cover this.  The rules can be summed up as follows:

1)  Yes; you must take off your panties for this.
2)  Yes; you should shower beforehand
3)  You might want to avoid anything hard to digest the night before.

One might expect the first two at least to be self-evident.  I was puzzled about the third one, however.

They also say that the process does have some pain involved.  I’ve had my brows and underarms waxed before, so I was under no illusion about this.  But I’m tough, I thought.  I can handle it.

The proprietress of this establishment was a 30-something brunette named Nicole, who was friendly and efficient.  This is her business and she takes it seriously.  She greeted me with a brisk handshake.  "Hey, I got your note. Don't worry about being a newbie; I'll talk you through it.  We're not going to just dip you in wax and pull your hair out."  I told her I was grateful for that.

She led me to a room that contained what looked like a fainting couch, which should have been my first clue.  She came in and grabbed the pot of hot wax and her stack of fabric strips.  "Just relax; so what do you do...?"

I settled into a good-natured banter around politics as she started applying warm wax and fabric strips to my bits down below and I was feeling more or less about as comfortable as a visit to the gynecologist.  Which is to say, not exactly relaxed but not terrible.  I don’t have a lot of privacy hang-ups. 

“So, apparently there has been a Twitter hashtag called #TheThing that refers to Cruz’s extramarital affairs that, like, everybody has known about for weeks but nobody talked about until Trump’s camp rel-"


I studied embryology in college, and it’s well-documented that as we develop in the womb, we actually grow and then resorb a lot of features that are part of the anatomy of our evolutionary predecessors.  It would appear that at one point, we have retractable claws that we inherited from a feline ancestor somewhere along the way.  I know this, because as she tore off the first fabric strip, I devolved, shot off the chair six feet straight up, and embedded my now-extended claws into the ceiling panels, where I dangled uncertainly for a full 45 seconds.  I also spontaneously sprouted a tail, with the fur standing straight up on end. 

I was suddenly grateful to have heeded rule #3 above.  Good call.

“I warned you”, she said. “Just so you know, tail waxing is going to cost extra.”

Claws successfully retracted, I plopped unceremoniously back into the chair.
We repeated this process, sans dangling from the ceiling, perhaps a dozen more times. By the end, I had invented six previously-unheard curses in three languages, but managed eventually to resorb the tail.  I was just thinking “Wow; I’m glad we’re done” when I came to the realization we weren’t done. 

If you have ever had your eyebrows waxed, you know that the wax tear-off gets *almost* all the unwanted hair off.  However, there are always a couple of ‘strays’ that need tweezed out at the end.

I have to say that I hadn’t thought this part through.

So there was Nicole, tweezers poised, bent over her work.  I elected at this point to pass the time by singing Brunhilde’s Immolation Aria from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.

There are women who repeat this process every 6 weeks or so.