Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm still Somebody

The neighborhood where my family lived until I was in the 7th grade was brimming with children the same age as me. It was a great way to grow up because I always had other kids to play with.

We had moved there when I was three and from day one my mom pretty much tossed me out the front door every day by the seat of my pants and didn't let me back in the house until dinner time so I was forced to run loose like a little savage and ended up making friends with all of the other children who lived near us. They were all boys and by the time I started first grade it was well established that I was one of them.

I could build a fort and leg wrestle with the best of them. I was a smudge faced, scab covered, toughskins wearing, treehouse building little dare devil. I could spit farther, punch harder, and pop the biggest wheelies. I was a superstar.

But my badge of honor soon become tarnished once I started first grade and had the chance to be around other little girls. Prior to that I really didn't know any other girls but once I started going to school all day long, rather than the half day you have in kindergarten, it soon become clear that I was a freak and I had absolutely nothing in common with any of them.

Suddenly my long distance spitting skills and dirty fingernails were not winning me any friends. Only after being called "tomboy" and "bruiser" and getting in trouble at school for chasing Shannon O'brien* around the play yard with an earthworm until she cried did anyone (my mother and I) realize that this needed to change. Thus began my lifetime struggle to be more girly.

I begged my mom to buy me some dresses and white ankle socks with lace around the edges and black patent leather Mary-Janes. That year my winter coat was red velvet with white rabbit fur trim and I had a matching muff.

Yes, I said muff.

I loved that muff. I was going to search for a photo to post here but I was afraid to Google "fur muff".

Anyhoo... I thought these girly clothes would transform me instantly from Pigpen into Shirley Temple and Darla from the Little Rascals all rolled into one. The new clothes certainly accomplished the mission of my becoming more girly, but alas the year was 1973 not 1933, so I was in addition to being super girly a big giant goober.

In a further attempt to help me get in touch with my feminine side my mother enrolled me in ballet lessons. I was thrilled at the opportunity to squeeze myself into some pink tights and a tutu, swish around in soft pink satin shoes and bingo - no more tomboy. I couldn't think of anything more girly and feminine than ballet.

As it turns out these ballet lessons changed my life and I learned far more from them than simply the joy of the dance. I learned that I lack a certain self awareness. Whether or not the long term effect of this has been good or bad I still can't decide, humility is a double edged sword and something I think kids these days** could use a little more of, but I can tell you that the 6 year old me was devastated. I can also tell you that the 6 year old me got over it and decided that perhaps dance wasn't going to be her bag, but instead moved on to music and singing lessons which turned out quite nicely.

While the actual bad experience with ballet lessons that turned out to be a defining moment of my life was not directly caused by my usual favorite target of blame for all things psyche scarring, my mother, she did however sign me up for ballet lessons without taking into consideration 2 very key elements of the situation:

1. Although she signed me up for the right age group, the 5 and 6 year olds, what she didn't realize was that all the other 6 year old girls in my class had already been taking ballet lessons since they were old enough to stand. So everyone in the class had way more experience than me.

2. I have all the natural grace and agility of a water buffalo.

Combine elements one and two and suffice it to say that I was not successful at ballet. Now add to that my ballet teachers lack of compassion, her inability to be direct and my talent at being unaware of the actions of my own body.

To describe the situation I must assume that you have occasionally had one of those moments where things are going along smoothly but suddenly there is an irritating disruption and you're not sure where it's coming from? A cell phone ringing in the library, a car alarm blasting away in the middle of the night, or some horrible smell on the bus? It could be any number of things and you say to yourself who in the name of Christ could be causing this terrible noise, disruption or odor?

Well that's what happened in ballet class one evening. We had finished all of our little warm up exercises and had just started putting some of our moves together to form an actual dance. As we stood at the bar (or whatever you call that thing) the teacher was counting out slowly and naming the moves. She was not satisfied with our performance and kept shouting STOP! AGAIN!

Then she would start the counting and calling out the dance steps all over again. It's vague because I was only 6, but she must have done this like 4 or 5 times. Each time her shouting, counting and step calling getting louder and more shrill. Finally she had had enough of whatever was bothering her and yelled, "Somebody is completely out of step and ruining it for the rest of you!"

Oh, A-ha! I eyed my fellow tiny dancers suspiciously thinking, yes one of you is really screwing up and annoying our lovely teacher, who would do such a thing?

Our teacher was really, really pretty and had been a runner up in the Miss Ohio pageant (or some such equally impressive contest to my 6 year old mind, but as I mentioned my memory of such detail is a bit fuzzy) the year before. In hindsight I'm sure she was nothing more than an economy sized bitch who had no business working with or around small children, but at the time I wanted nothing more in life than to please the pretty, pretty lady.

By today's standards I'm sure she would have been prosecuted, tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail, but like I said, it was the 70's and back then verbal abuse and psychic scarring, and hell why not, physical beatings were not only considered good solid parenting practices but encouraged and bragged about by most adults and educational professionals.

The ballet teacher then gave some more specific instructions to the culprit, "Somebody needs to keep her neck straight. Somebody needs to stop looking at her feet! Somebody needs to pay attention!!"

Yes, I thought, Somebody really needs to do that!

If you haven't figured it out based on the title of my post I am Somebody. It was a defining moment in my life because I have spent the rest of my existence on this planet trying to avoid experiencing that moment again. That moment that makes all the blood drain from your face when you discover that you are the last person in the room to recognize that you are being a tool. It's my cell phone ringing. It's my car alarm going off in the middle of the night and the horrible smell on the bus is the dog shit on the bottom of my shoe.

Discovering your own oblivion is rather circular and the philosophizing required to ponder it further is beyond me, but I have noticed this:

The decibel at which you complain out loud, the number of people who hear you complaining and the amount of obscene language used directly corresponds to the degree of likelihood that you yourself are the cause of the disturbance or strange smell.

*Not really her name of course. Actually I can't remember the kid's name, but she was Irish.
** Using the phrase "kids these days" automatically qualifies me for old fart status, a senior discount and membership to AARP. I'm going out to get fitted for dentures and big giant wrap around sunglasses this instant.

Monday, November 9, 2009

GPS = Going Postal Shortly

Saturday morning I stumbled out of bed, waddled to the kitchen and pressed the button to start the coffee (I always make it the night before so that I don't have to count out scoops and pour water because I'm not the most graceful of creatures when I wake up - I think I mentioned some stumbling) and looked out my kitchen window to see a glorious display of sparkling sunshine. I did a double take and threw my glasses on to make sure the thermometer outside the window really said 60 degrees. It really did.

Suddenly I was wide awake. I knew that the sun shining on the thermometer was probably giving it a few extra degrees, but still, not quite 10am on a shiny Saturday morning and it's almost 60? C'mon, we gotta get out of here.

So I burst back into our bedroom and leaped on top of MDH, who was still snoozing, and started jumping up and down and jostling him all over. Wake up man (bounce). It might be our last day of sunshine and warmth before we're snowed in for the next 5 months (bounce-bounce). Get up, let's go, daylight is a wastin'!

Props to my sleepy head darling. He always seems to come through with no fussing on such occasions as an exuberant, overly perky wife bouncing on his head on a Saturday morning, demanding that he wake the hell up, throw on some clothes and a ball cap and get the hell out of the house.

Originally we were just going to go for a little walk around our neighborhood, several blocks down to the farmer's market and then on to our favorite little brunch spot (my personal favorite is the Hash Benedict found on menu page 4 (with potatoes, of course)), but I decided instead to go for something a bit more outdoorsy. I know. It's out of character for me. We ended up driving a few towns over to a big park with paved walking and bike paths that meander through beautiful woods and over trickling streams and such. We had never been there before, but it didn't look that big on the map I printed from the park website. Even considering my fucked up ankle it seemed do-able.

So we walked and walked, and walked, and walked. It was great. Up to a point. The point at which it stopped being great was when I realized that we had been walking for almost an hour and everything had started to look the same and we had not encountered another living soul for quite awhile. Not even a squirrel.

More significantly, at the same moment I also realized that I was starving and I had to pee - now. I stopped abruptly and declared victory on our outdoorsy walk in the woods assuming that we would of course be turning around and walking back out the way we came in.

Alas it was not going to shake out like that. No.

MDH has never been a man who likes to take the same route twice and consulted the GPS on his Blackberry for a route that would not require turning around. He announced that we were almost out of the woods anyway and that we had only to keep going a little further and would "soon" encounter a cemetery and after that a "neighborhood" which would provide a "flat", "paved" route for us to walk back to our car.

Yes the quotes are there to denote exactly the words that MDH used and also to emphasize the fact that our route back to the car was none of these things.

It was not soon.

Once we found the cemetery what we encountered next was certainly not a neighborhood and definitely not flat.

Although the road was indeed paved it was so busy with speeding traffic that I was forced much of the way to walk in the gravel berm (over several different lumps of roadkill of various species and states of decay).

All the while MDH, who recognized his blunder, kept flapping his lips and saying things like "almost there" and using words like "adventure" and "excitement". Again - it was none of those things.

Our exciting, almost there adventure caused me to become two things I truly hate to be - sweaty and dirty - at the same time. Plus after stepping in what I'm pretty sure used to be a baby rabbit I wanted to burn my shoes, hurl them into the woods and incinerate the whole goddamn place. I didn't do that of course, but if I had had my purse with me I would have used it to beat MDH senseless.

Eventually we made it back to the car and the outhouse style smelly hole in the ground toilet with no tissue that I had considered using before we started walking but had decided to wait because it looked like a smelly hole in the ground that probably didn't have any toilet tissue. So after all that time I had hold it in just that much longer so that I could trek back to the car to grab some of the surplus fast food napkins that thank baby jesus I always store in the glove box in case of such emergencies.

Anyhoo... I lived to tell the tale. I'm feeling as inspirational as that blind guy that climbed Mt. Everest. I might even write a book and there will be a Lifetime Original movie about how I managed to survive the elements, skipped breakfast and used Wendy's napkins for toilet paper.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Background Check - I was a nerdy little girl

Yesterday my blogger friend The Vegetable Assassin posted about how one of her blogger friends had hand written a post then the Veg hand wrote a post. It was intriguing to me because handwriting is very personal and you can tell a lot about an individual by her or his handwriting style.

Actually I can tell a lot about a person by looking at handwriting because the summer I turned 10 I was (a big doofus? still playing with Barbies? dreaming I'd grow up to look like Olivia Newton John only with bigger boobs?) obsessed with graphology - otherwise known as handwriting analysis.

At the time I fancied myself quite the little amateur hand writing expert. The Nancy Drew (with bigger boobs) of graphology if you will. I read everything I could possibly find about handwriting analysis at our local public library and even asked for and received a graphology book for my birthday.

Then I bugged all my friends and everyone in my family for handwriting samples and proceeded to analyze them and give them each individual and detailed personality assessments based on my vast expert knowledge. I'm sure it wasn't annoying at all.

My little sideline kept me out of trouble and I think my friends and family should just have thanked their lucky stars that I wasn't into phrenology or black tar heroin.

The graphology book I once treasured is long since gone, and I have come to realize that many real experts think that handwriting analysis is a bunch of hooey, but here are some generalizations of the craft that I vaguely remember and if anybody out there thinks the items in the bullet points below are incorrect, I was too lazy to verify most of this stuff, so you are probably right. It's all from memory and I smoked a lot of pot and ate a few toadstools in the late 80's:

  • Large writing = obnoxious bastard

  • Small writing = a shut in

  • Writing tends to slant downward = the person is generally a bummer

  • Writing tends to slant upward = Pollyanna

  • Legible writing = nun

  • Illegible writing = whackjob

  • Writing that is extremely neat and tidy = serial killer

  • Words spaced far apart = jackass - the person thinks what they have to say is very important
All I've got of recent handwriting samples of my own are shopping and to-do lists and those are in print not script. I'm not sure I even remember how to write in script. It looks weird when I try.
Here's what I think you can tell about me from my handwriting samples above (all but the post it note, which was wadded up into a little ball and hiding on the floor behind the waste can in our office, were found folded up in the pockets of my various jackets):

  • I have a cat
  • My lower case R's look like V's

  • I cook a lot

  • I eat fairly healthy

  • I like Mexican food

  • Sometimes I buy cake

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Wicked Witch

Ever since MDH and I moved to the suburbs I have looked forward to passing out candy to all the adorable little trick or treating tots at Halloween each year. I usually carve a jack o'lantern and choose just the right candies and run excitedly when the doorbell rings to fuss and squeal over all the adorable costumes of the little rosy cheeked munchkins who look up at me with such wonder and appreciation as I happily toss mini bags of Sour Skittles and Reece's Cups into their plastic pumpkin heads. I look forward to it, but it never seems to turn out like how I envision it.

Oh sure we get a couple of rosy cheeked yada yada, but mostly it seems like I'm giving away treats to half assed lame-o's who barely blurt out "Trick or treat" and never seem to say "Thank you." It kind of sucks.

Well it's over. We're done with trick or treaters due to the sparse number of participants, lame costume ensembles and over all weak character of the slack jawed miscreants that visited our home this year. I informed MDH that next year we are shutting it down. Lights off. We're going to the movies instead. Fuck it.

What tipped me over the edge? The two teenage boys who not only had the balls to show up on my welcome mat wearing no costumes but also bearing 13 gallon kitchen garbage bags drooping with the weight of god only knows how much candy. I assumed that in order to have collected such a large haul that they were either driving around from neighborhood to neighborhood or tazing the smaller children and stealing their candy. You should think that no costumes and giant sized goodie bags would be irritating enough, but no.

When I opened the door to these asshats one of them was actually chatting away on his cell phone, having what appeared to be a pretty in depth conversation. And not only that. He gave me the one finger up gesture. Yes he did. The one finger up gesture as in, hold your horses nice lady who is trying to give me free Skittles and peanut butter cups, I'm very busy on the telephone right now and will be with you shortly.

I was stunned.

As the boy continued to talk on the phone I put the bowl of candy back on the sideboard next to the front door and did that smile that I have where my mouth is closed and my lips disappear. Turning back to the door I crossed my arms over my chest in a sarcastic oh take as much time as you need kind of posture. After another moment had passed and the boy was still on the phone I gave him my most withering stare and burst a blood vessel in my left eyeball as I restrained myself from saying, "That's a very realistic douchebag costume you've got on there kiddo."

Not much better, what I actually said was, Are you kidding me? In my head the tirade continued You're that busy and important that you can't be bothered to wear a costume or get off the fucking phone while you trick or treat? Really?

Actually I blasted out most of my passive aggressive wrath on the cell phone boys poor little friend, probably because he was not on the phone and therefore available to stand there and take my abuse. I asked him if he too wouldn't like to take the opportunity to use my front porch to catch up on his correspondence and maybe do some texting or update his facebook page.

Then I actually gave those two idiots some candy just to get them the hell out of my sight, at which point my head exploded and little green and red flame shitting demons flew out of my eyes and I ran away screaming into the streets and MDH had to answer the door and finish passing out the candy for the rest of the evening.

I fully expect very soon I will find myself stamping out a flaming bag of dogshit on my front porch and/or scrubbing graffiti that says "Psycho Bitch" from my garage door.

Yep. Next year we're going to the movies. I think it's better for all parties involved. Although if someone kicks my seat I can't say I won't make trouble.