I am loathe to admit it, but someone I DO. NOT. LIKE. helped me last week.
You could say I was a little desperate.
And, desperate times call for desperate measures, dontcha know.
Like enlisting the aid of someone you REALLY. DON’T. LIKE.
It all started when I decided to retire from my day job, which means that my dental benefits will stop soon.
You know how retirees always seem to say that they’re “so busy” and they have “no idea how they had time for a job, before”?
I figure that’s on account of all the brushing, flossing and swishing. I’m going to be spending a good part of my retirement brushing, flossing and swishing, yessiree.
Don’t want any cavities to crop up.
Cavities are expensive to us pensioners.
Mind you, I’ve only ever had one cavity before. But, I scared the pants off my dentist at the time, because I fainted after I got the filling.
And when I faint, I look dead.
My already low heart rate drops to nearly nothing. My already low blood pressure is non-existent. My skin looks grey/blue. More than usual, I mean.
You may have heard of Heroin Chic. This is Dentist Chic.
It’s a look!
And then, people attempt to stick a tube down my throat.
Totally unnecessary, but I guess when you appear dead, desperate times call for desperate measures.
I woke up just in time, tra-la-la.
My dentist looked grey too, after all the excitement but he’s not half dead like me, so no one tried to stick a tube down his throat.
My dentist is retired now. Recovering from the trauma of doing my filling, perhaps. Probably brushing, flossing and swishing. Not to mention golfing, cruising, and travelling (him, not me).
Cavities aren’t great for pensioners but I suspect that they are quite good to former dentists.
Now, I have a new dentist. He graduated two minutes ago.
I have reached THAT age.
Even though I’m retiring nearly 20 years early.
And, horror of horrors, I failed my dental exam.
I had to get two tiny cavities fixed.
On account of the impending loss of my dental plan, the new dentist said I should get them done now, instead of waiting for them to grow up into real cavities.
I wanted to ask him if I should wait for him to grow up into a real dentist, but he had a needle in his hand, so I kept my cavity-filled mouth shut.
Plus, I only have so much time for dental visits, what with all the brushing, flossing and swishing in retirement, you know. Best to get baby cavities taken care of, now, by the baby dentist.
During the filling, he was very patient and kind with high-maintenance me.
He was very slow to tip the chair back, lest I get my spinny vertigo.
He checked in with me frequently about how I was feeling, lest the “I look dead” fainting was overtaking me.
I didn’t faint, but I’m not too proud to admit that I had to use all my evasive maneuvers to prevent it.
And also, one I AM ashamed to admit.
Keep in mind that I can faint while cooking pancakes. I can faint while I’m sleeping. I take daily medication which mostly helps but not completely.
I’m such a joy to Practical Man.
He never complains. He’s my Mr. Darcy.
I’m not the least bit afraid of the dentist or pain or fillings. And my new dentist, like my former one, is really wonderful. It’s not his fault that he makes me feel like his mother.
But, my body is a big ol’ drama queen. The slightest hint of adrenaline and it tells my nervous system to go to DEFCON 5.
So, I ate a big, salty lunch and drank a bunch of water before Practical Man escorted me to my appointment.
I crossed and uncrossed my legs in the chair, trying to pump the blood back to my heart and brain.
I flexed my ankles back and forth and back and forth.
I huffed, like a woman in labour, to push my diaphragm so my blood pressure would go up.
I tried to concentrate on the Fixer Upper episode that was on HGTV on my in-flight TV (dental offices have gotten quite fancy, I’m telling you.)
Nothing was working.
I could feel my heart rate dropping into the Zombie Zone.
There was a loud buzzing in my ears (and it wasn’t the drill).
I was losing my vision (and not just the age-related kind).
And, I was already lying down (the usual advice from onlookers).
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
So, I did it.
I called on the one person I know who can raise my blood pressure.
The person who I find to be an unfortunately extremely visible and powerful, despicable human being.
I thought about HIM.
Not the Harry Potter one.
The Apprentice one. The can’t-say-anything-nice-or be remotely tolerant-or-empathetic one.
Lest you think I’m just picking on a politician, my distaste for him pre-dates his current role by decades.
I chanted his name over and over in my head.
Almost immediately, I felt my blood start to boil (or at least, get lukewarm, being half dead as I am).
The point is, it worked.
I didn’t faint.
But now, I need an exorcist.
Who knew retirement was going to cost so much?
I had a birthday last week and I’ve decided that I need a sign.
Maybe, if I wear a sign, it will prevent the bullying. The “do you really think you need that piece of cake?” that the woman at a friend’s wedding felt it was entirely her right to say to me, while I was (sound the alarms!) eating cake with the rest of the guests.
In fairness to her, I don’t look like someone who exercises most days every week.
In other words: I don’t look like someone who deserves cake. (Cake is to be earned, defended, and rationed, I have learned). So, I figure I need to wear a sign.
I wasn’t an overweight child or teenager. But, since adulthood, I’ve grown chubby. Sometimes, I’m really fat. Morbidly Obese, the medical charts say. Morbid, oh yes indeedy, that’s how I have felt.
Even at my fittest and most cake-less, I have flab under my arms and my chin. I’m tall and I take up considerable space. My belly sticks out and I have a very pronounced bottom. Obvious also, to anyone who has worked with or befriended me for over a decade, I have a difficult relationship with food. Sadly, I think it’s the dominating relationship of my life and it makes my weight oscillate visibly and dramatically. Some years, I’m up by 80-100 pounds. Other years, I’m down by the same amount.
At both ends of that deserving or not deserving cake spectrum, I don’t look like someone who sweats through cardio and weight training and biking and running and metabolic resistance and blah, blah, blah exercises for an hour, most days, every week. Because exercise-surely regular exercise–makes you healthy.
But, I don’t always look healthy. I don’t look like a regular exerciser.
For a Capital P-People-Pleaser like me, that really hurts.
You see, I have been programmed–by family, by society, by myself–to equate (low) weight with worth. And not only that, but I am continuously getting bombarded with the message that (low) weight equals health.
Famous people have commented about the maximum size of a woman’s waist being important for health and that to put a plus-size model on the cover of a magazine, as Sports Illustrated did recently, is to “glorify” obesity and ignore its health consequences. There is, in this commentary on women’s “health”, however, no mention of a minimum size of a woman’s waist or the very life-threatening consequences of anorexia that comes from glorifying women (or y’know, any humans) who weigh far too little. Yet, we have done that without any mention of “health” for decades.
I find this oversight interesting. (And when, I am interested, I feel I deserve cake.)
But, not yet.
First, I keep exercising. I keep losing and gaining dramatic amounts of weight. I want to deserve the piece of cake. I want to be healthy. No, actually, I want to LOOK like someone who others think is healthy. Because, that’s what seems to count when I’m eating the cake at a wedding.
Sometimes, I admit to getting discouraged. I stop the exercise for a while. “Why bother?” I fume, “You don’t get credit for exercising, by yourself, where no one can see you or compliment your race time. What matters is what you weigh.”
I gnash my teeth and I forget How Far I’ve Come.
When I can muffle the nasty voices in my head (and those of rude wedding guests), I am surprised to realize that How Far I’ve Come with exercise is not about what I weigh anymore.
How Far I’ve Come is that in recent years, I have started to motivate myself to exercise with different goals than weight loss or a feeling that I need to earn my cake. I have a chronic fainting syndrome for which I take daily medication and modify my lifestyle (no alcohol, caffeine, late nights or excitement–surely, I deserve cake!) With my extremely low blood pressure and heart rate, I look like a super athlete on paper.
Famous TV doctors would be so pleased.
But, they wouldn’t declare me “healthy” because I have trouble dieting as it tends to make me faint. And modern-day-defined-by-media-sound-bytes health is apparently not about all the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, it is apparently only about weight. Weight trumps ALL. And, I’m not thin. I’m just naturally zombie-like with blue fingernails and a tendency to swoon. The walking half-dead, as it were.
So, lose weight, I must.
I’m very good at it. I hope you’ll agree that 80+ pounds lost is an impressive achievement. Especially when it’s been accomplished several times. Exercise has made me dramatically thinner sometimes. But, so many pounds lost has also sometimes made me forget How Far I’ve Come.
In the beginning, being a fainter made exercise really scary because when my heart started beating really fast and the pulse pounded in my ears, it felt alarmingly similar to what happens just before I skid, unconscious, across my bedroom carpet on my face and end up with an oozing forehead abrasion the size of a cookie (mmmm: cookies.) But, Practical Man (who cleans up the mess that is me and the carpet in the middle of the night) and I believe that exercising actually increases my tolerance against fainting. We think it helps my cardiac and nervous systems get used to being pushed and they learn not to react quite so dramatically at the slightest assault.
I faint far less frequently than I used to. I am healthier–even when my bum won’t always fit into the XL pants.
But, I continue to ignore How Far I’m Come re exercise when I forget that I have adapted exercise in recent years to help me cope with chronic vertigo (a sensation that the room is spinning very rapidly around me). I have to be very careful how I hold my head or move my eyes. I can’t do most yoga poses. I sleep sitting partially up and elbow Practical Man in the forehead when I roll my eyes the wrong way during a dream and everything spins violently. I can’t let my body escape completely in dance, in the ways that I used to. My balance problems have reached a place that I can’t walk quietly around my neighbourhood with a friend, without sweating profusely and feeling as if I have just disembarked from a boat on rocky seas. But, I’ve learned to exercise despite my fear of triggering an intense spinning episode that can last weeks or even months.
I can do it, even though I have to be careful. In this way, exercise has made me braver, which I think is healthier–whether or not my maximum waist size meets a former super model’s approval.
I’m also minimizing How Far I’ve Come with exercise when I overlook that nowadays, I exercise to reduce the chronic pain I have when I move my left eye. I take medications and vitamins and see specialists to try to solve the mystery of what causes only one of my eyes to hurt with every glance and feel as if it’s boring its way into my brain. The working theories so far have been serious and even life-threatening possibilities. But, I have learned that exercising produces endorphins that give me a few minutes or half an hour of all-natural pain relief. I can look around “recklessly” without it hurting for a while.
Such a blessing that I never knew exercise could give. I thought it was all about making me allowed to eat cake but, no. Exercise makes me happier to live for a while without pain and healthier–even though I still have double chins.
Most of all, I realize How Far I’ve Come because even when my thighs rub together with every kilometre I clock, exercising makes me feel strong. Even without losing a pound or an inch, the deep breathing and physical release is a boost to my mental health. It reminds me that even though I am a fainting, spinning, eyeball aching sicko, I am also brave, strong and capable of valuing myself for more than my size.
Yep, I had a birthday last week and there are so many interesting things to do and contribute and learn in life. I am dealing with–and may be facing more-chronic or serious illness. And, with all my health issues — with all that doesn’t work in my body, with all that I continue to try, I want to appreciate my body for what it lets me do, not what shape it has.
So, keep your pursed lips and disapproving eyes to yourself, rude wedding lady. Ditto to you famous people commenting on things under the dubious label of “health“.
But, staying in that, ahem, healthy head space–where I can believe that I deserve to have my cake and eat it like everyone else–will continue to be difficult.
We live in a world where instead of worrying about how our bodies are FUNCTIONING and CONTRIBUTING and LOVING, we are bombarded with messages that tell us that the only thing that really counts is how our bodies are LOOKING and MEASURING and WEIGHING.
Because if we don’t focus on the LOOKING and MEASURING and WEIGHING – well, then, we’re obviously not healthy.
And since health is something that apparently can be measured simply by glancing at someone, that means that anyone can–ahem–weigh in on our right to cake, or to be on the cover of a magazine.
I say that’s a sign that needs changing.
I just accomplished the Nearly Impossible.
We recently had to buy a new computer–at the kind of great expense that I hate spending on stuff like that–because why would you spend big money on a computer when you could, for roughly the same price, score yourself a vintage Vespa scooter (tra-la-la)?
Anyway, Practical Man doesn’t seem to mind the whole big money spending on boring stuff like computers because
- for some reason, he seems to think they’re just as fun as a vintage Vespa. Um, no.
- he wouldn’t be caught dead on a vintage Vespa (it’s bad enough he has to drive a Fiat 500 occasionally) and
- he love, love, loves the whole research-and-read-consumer-reports thing that he gets to do before he buys a big money item. Those pesky “compare and contrast” essays I used to have to do in A-level English? I bet he would have loved those. Practical Man is a born comparer and contraster.
So, after he read all the consumer reports and debated the merits of the new operating system versus the older, new operating system that everybody hates; and the really expensive manufacturer that everyone loves (and some mock) but would mean we’d have to convert everything we own; and this graphic card versus that graphic card; and this many giga-bytes versus that many tera-bytes; and he had oogled and jiggled computers all over town, we bought one.
A new computer, that is. Not a vintage Vespa.
Imagine my disappointment.
Today, I opened my writing folder for the first time on the new system (which is not even called a “laptop” anymore because apparently that name potentially leads to burned thighs and not from the sunburn you got while riding on the Amalfi coast for hours and hours on your vintage Vespa) and realized that many of my projects were written using a software that you pay for and then download from online.
Uh, oh, I thought.
That sinking feeling in my stomach was because for middle of ages people like me, “online!” meant that there were no disks to help me re-load the software on our shiny new computer.
Okay, I know they’re called CDs now.
It’s not a vintage Vespa so I can’t be bothered to pay attention.
Anyway, since I had no thinga-ma-bobs to re-load the software on the new system, I had to get Practical Man’s flash drive (or as he calls it, the “key fob”), open it and wander into the recesses of his brain. Because, that’s what it’s like going into his flash drive. It has folders and stuff that mean absolutely nothing to me, whatsoever.
It looks as if he used English to name the folders and yet…I am completely…can’t…what…?
It’s sort of like that time I tried to fold kirigami trees, only more difficult.
I was looking for his passwords file, in hopes that he would have recorded the magic numbers I needed to re-download Scrivener. Because, being Practical Man, he does things like that. He keeps the receipts for the thinga-ma-bob we bought in 1999 just in case we might need it so I was fairly confident that he would have recorded the registration number on his “key fob” that I needed to re-download the program that wasn’t on a disk (because it’s no longer 1987).
But, being all Secret Agent-y as he is, the passwords file is in a sub directory and he doesn’t label the sub directories anything that mean anything to me (although I was intrigued by the folder marked “Minion”) and of course, even if you can manage to get down in the recesses of his brain, the passwords file is not in a file called “passwords”. Because otherwise, when the evil, super villan breaks into our house, goes through our closet and finds the key fob/flash drive in the pocket of Practical Man’s jeans, he could, MWAH-HA-HA get easy access to all our passwords!
I know. It does make sense. I just like to mock Practical Man sometimes.
It’s an old married couple thing. Kind of like flossing our teeth in front of each other.
(Our dental hygienist is very proud).
Anyway, today, I successfully THOUGHT LIKE A PRACTICAL MAN (no easy feat, lemme tell ya) and four or five hours later, figured out which file the passwords were hidden in.
Of course, it was encrypted with a password.
The password file had a password.
Again. Very sensible.
After all that, the super secret Scrivener registration code wasn’t even there.
Turns out, I had saved it somewhere else.
I should have bought a vintage Vespa.
Brace yourselves, my darlings. It’s that time of year, again.
It’s swimsuit season.
I say “brace yourselves” because we women seem to do a mighty fine job of beating ourselves up when it comes to what we’re wearing in the pool or at the beach.
It’s just a pool, people.
Ditto for the beach.
No cause for that sheen of sweat and feeling of desperation in the pit of our stomachs, now is there?
Especially when we could wear this vintage beauty:
My kindred spirit friend Anne-Girl sent it to me a while ago.
It came through the real-for-true, old-fashioned mail, the way all vintage things should.
I have to admit, I was slightly taken aback when I opened the package and found a blue, crocheted bathing suit — sized about four decades too small for me–to boot.
But maybe some of you get bathing suits through the mail all the time, because you buy your swimsuits online.
What, what, what?
I can’t fathom it. You see, I’ve always gone for the tried-and-true way of buying a bathing suit: the festival that is the fluorescent-lit mall or big box or even boutique store change room. I am accustomed to the usual view of acres of me, unflatteringly lit with row upon row of fluorescents as I attempt to corral bits in with only the thin sheen of some kind of high-tech fabric.
Not high-tech enough, however, to hold up that which needs holding.
Or squeeze in that which needs squeezing.
Oh sure, we can send people to the International Space Station in suits that let them breathe in zero atmosphere but we can’t manage to conjure up a single swimsuit that will hold bits or squeeze bits the way I’d love them to.
I think I miss corsets.
Or what about these pantaloon bathing costumes – weren’t those great? Let’s ask some Hollywood/Fashion Week style dictator to bring those back. please oh pretty please. I think I could love a bathing suit that covered me from ankles to earlobes.
I sunburn easily and am always cold.
Anne-girl’s mother obviously loved this blue beauty because she wore it and loved it enough to emigrate to Canada with it, save it for half a century and pass it down to her daughter, who–knowing a wacky vintage-loving woman across the province–passed it down to me.
I love it. I love the buckles, I love the crochet, I love how the bottoms come up All The Way to the belly button (or higher).
On someone four decades smaller than I, of course.
Yep, love this bathing suit.
Being a woman brought up in the times when we were taught to constantly criticize our bodies, it has occurred to me that I can’t say “I love it” very often about a bathing suit in my possession. In fact, the last bathing suit I loved was at the age of four. I inherited a “bikini” from a more sophisticated five year-old friend and gleefully pranced about in it all summer, belly un-corraled.
My belly hasn’t been un-corraled in quite some time. On account of, I don’t have any core strength, as evidenced by the fact that I recently started doing core exercises (again) and didn’t notice their effect in the slightest during my regular waking hours until I went to bed and Practical Man informed me in the morning that I had groaned each and every time I rolled over in the night.
It turns out, I roll over a lot. And, apparently, if you exercise your core, it hurts to roll over. But, then, hopefully, after a few months of midnight groaning, your rolly bits don’t roll over your waist band quite as much as they used to.
At least, they better not.
Well, unless you count the times while I’m in the change room, trying to corral all the bits of my (apparently un-used) core, hold up that which needs holding and squeeze in that which needs squeezing, with only thin pieces of man-made fabric at my disposal.
Which, I don’t.
Anyway, run away from the fluorescent humiliation that is the bathing suit change room.
Run away, I say!
And, stop skulking behind that beach towel.
Wear your suit proudly because you’re already a bathing beauty.
Just like this one.
This is an ode to the public washroom.
Let me explain.
I had high hopes when the washroom of my new office building was being built a few years back. The only good thing about our old office washroom had been the “magic” mirror, so named because it seemed to make everyone look taller and thinner (albeit with misshapen heads). Other than that, it was a 1960s relic with chipped toilets and dingy corners. But this new washroom, oh I could see it in all its glory, even before it was built. And, I had all kinds of tippy-toe-tree-top-World’s-Tallest-Freestanding-Building hopes for it on account of:
I got wind of the fact that the project had a female interior designer.
Somehow–sexist me–I thought all this would add up to (sound the angels) The Workplace Washroom of My Dreams.
Let me give you a tour.
To begin, we have gigantic mirrors with fluorescent lighting which, when I stand under them to wash my hands, make me look as if I haven’t slept in three months.
- Check out those bluey-purple circles under my eyes that weren’t there when I left the house this morning!
- And, that sallow skin tone that makes me look as if I have been living in a swamp bog!
- Ditto for my few, measly grey hairs, which seem to have multiplied since lunch into a phosphorescent bouquet which could light up the night sky!
Okay, so I don’t love the mirrors. There’s no escaping them because they are wall to wall. And my trauma is perhaps exacerbated by the feeling of betrayal from my own kind–the female designer, also known as She Who Perpetrated These Atrocities.
Obviously, the solution is not to be so very, very vain, hope I don’t have anything stuck in my teeth, and simply avoid looking in the demon mirrors, whilst entering The Washroom of NOT MY Dreams.
So, these days, I quickly nip into one of the three stalls to do my business. I can’t remember which stall the Mythbusters discovered was the most used but, what’s a few extra germs anyway, when I’m about to be tormented in so many ways?
Even though I don’t believe that we’re a particularly thieving group of university staff, for some reason, the toilet paper is protected like Fort Knox.
It is locked away–yet so tantalizingly close–on two gigantic rolls, “dispensed” by (incarcerated, is more like it) the plastic casing around them. Locked away, even though the paper is not “cottony-soft” or “velvety-thick” or any of the things I see on television commercials. No, no. This is institutional toilet paper, which, if you’ve ever been in an institutional washroom, you know ranges from a wax papery-like texture to wafer-thin tissue paper.
We are a publically-funded university, so we have the see-through, must be less than 1-ply kind. It’s basically onion skin, except thinner and much more fragile. It’s not low-fat or even no-fat toilet paper.
Nope, this is Toilet Paper Free.
Apparently well worth incarcerating like Fort Knox, however.
Picture this fragile, delicate onion skin, wound around and around and around a behemoth roll of toilet paper. Of course, you probably don’t have to picture it. You’ve seen them. Giant rolls of toilet paper, the likes of which probably require special safety training before one can install them. You could throw your back out with these monster-truck tires-sized babies. Heaven forbid we pay someone to check the washrooms regularly. Instead, we invent the Texas-size toilet paper roll. Each roll must weigh in excess of 250 pounds.
There is loads of toilet paper on the rolls so, I do my business, then stick my hand up inside the “dispenser” and I pull. But each time I pull, my fingers come up empty with only flecks as my reward. I try again. Surely, this can’t be that hard.
I’ve been doing this by myself for well over 40 years. For heaven’s sake, it’s right there!
The roll is so large that the whisper-thin piece of paper can’t withstand the strain of being pulled, without collapsing into a million, teary pieces.
Oh wait ,that was me.
I try pulling it slower. Faster. Gentler. Firmer.
I try spinning the roll, without pulling.
I try spinning the roll the opposite direction, without pulling.
I try pulling again.
I whisper, “please, please, please,” under my breath.
I whisper something else under my breath.
My kingdom for an entire piece of toilet paper! A full square. Just something more than a shard or a shred. It’s all locked up, tormenting me, laughing at me. Haha! You can’t get at me, the toilet paper taunts, even though your arm is halfway to your armpit up in the “dispenser”; even though I’m right here!
Now, you might think: hey, I’ve been camping. I can make do without toilet paper in a pinch. Or, maybe: I’ll just hold it until I get home.
But then, you may or may not know that women make up approximately 50% of the population and let’s say 50% of those women are in their reproductive years. That means there are roughly 3 gajillion women, each of whom has a few days in every month or so (or sometimes, twice a month if they are in their wonderful 40s!), when they are spending time in the stalls completing feats of agility and skill (little did you know).
Ever tried to change a tampon in a public washroom?
I’m pretty sure that washroom designers have forgotten that this might be a frequent activity. Because, other than the little steel box lined with a paper bag in each cubicle, there’s no evidence that they have thought about the roughly 3 gajillion women spending time in there to complete feats of agility and skill.
It’s the Cirque de Soleil of toilet paper in there, I kid you not.
The toilet paper dispenser refuses to dispense any toilet paper even though, tantalizingly, there are two gargantuan roles on the “dispenser”.
So there we are, tampon swinging in the wind.
It’s tampon acrobatics, that’s what it is.
Two toilet paper shards to our name, our spare hand shoved up to the elbow inside the “dispenser”, desperately rolling and rolling and pulling ever-so-gently and praying and pulling and coming out with…
Flakes. Flecks. Confetti, of toilet paper.
Meanwhile, the tampon is in the other hand, swinging in the wind, acrobatic-like.
I don’t want to get too graphic here but it honestly starts to look as if a serial killer has been in the stall.
Yes, a serial killer and Tampon Cirque de Soleil but, not one BLESSED SQUARE of toilet paper.
To make matters worse, we have a washroom policy that forbids paper towels (just blowy hand dryers) so if you need to clean up the toxic spill or crime scene you’ve just created..well, flakes or flecks of confetti toilet paper is your only option (and you’d better hope you’re not in a hurry because Every. Single. Time you stick your arm up to the elbow in the “dispenser” and gently, gently, cringing-ly pull it, it will shred and give you approximately 3 more flecks of tissue).
But finally, please don’t ask us the details, you are sorted and you, yes please, thank you very much, go to wash your hands. They are gouged and scraped and full of red marks from the tips of your fingers to the ends of your elbows from the Cirque de Soleil serial killer and your forays into the depths of the “dispenser” but these are merely battle scars.
By now, you really want to wash your hands–thoroughly, up to the elbows and with soap– and while the sinks are good and large, the faucet is so short, that to get your sudsy hands under it, you end up sticking your fingers in that icky hole that sinks have (EEeuwww).
What is that icky hole for anyway, except to be…icky?
I explore this question frequently during the day, as I am washing my hands under that puny little faucet, my fingers grazing the gunk that is in the mysterious hole of ick.
Such are the traumas of the public washroom.
Magic mirror, I miss you.
I think I owe The Nature an apology.
If you read this blog with any regularity, you may recall that I do tend to complain about The Nature a lot. Since childhood, I have avoided it like…well, like mosquitoes and poison ivy and frostbite and wind burn. But, I realized today that I don’t, in fact, truly dislike The Nature, as much as I sometimes think I do.
I just like the Starbucks version of nature.
I like the Frank Sinatra version.
That is, I like it my way.
Like today: today was The Nature at its sparkly winter best.
It was the kind of sunny, crisp and perfect day that we often get here in southern Ontario, Canada. The kind of day where, you can bundle up a bit and snuggle into some cozy mittens and a good coat’s hood. You can pretend that you’re in a little cave in your hood and the wind can howl but you’re all snugged up in your hood (as long as the wind is cooperating and blowing in the right direction) and you can giggle to yourself and marvel at how much better a hood is than a mere hat, even though hats are among your most favourite things in the whole world.
Then, when you get out in The Nature, you breathe the clean, cold air and act as if you totally meant to fall on your face as you skid off a patch of snow while attempting to stomp around in your–magnificent hood but, unfortunately also–boots that don’t have anywhere near enough traction.
As you were, neighbours. Nothing to see here but a woman on her keester.
Today wasn’t a snow pants day (but remind me to talk about that some other day because snow pants are one of life’s great joys that not enough adults indulge in) and it wasn’t a snowshoe day, so I was wearing my quasi-citified boots, instead of my “I mean Canadian winter business, heavy as two Godfather cement bricks boots” (which perhaps explains the falling on my face).
Anyway, triple axle achieved, I wandered back through our property, traipsing through the skiff of snow with intention, with purpose. I put stray thoughts of rabid packs of coyotes out of my mind and pretended that The Nature and I were old pals and bosom friends. Into the Woods (humming songs from the play/movie), I went.
Then, I segued onto the farmer’s lane that joins our property and walked up to the giant field.
And, not just any giant field: this is a giant field of dreams.
That is, the field that a kindly neighbour has plowed around the perimeter. It is a cross-country skiing/snowshoeing/traipsing around in your quasi-citified boots masterpiece.
So around it, I went. (If you build it, they will come–or in my case, traipse, while trying not to fall on my keester again).
Last year, The Nature was having one of its temper tantrums and the ground was covered in a thick layer of ice with a gigantic pile of snow on top for the entire winter. There was no perimeter on the field of dreams. There was only heartache and sweating and occasional hysterical laughter as we tried to snowshoe in drifts up to our hips.
But today, it was grand. All the cells and atoms and thing-a-ma-bobs in my heart and brain and elbows went “boing, boing, boing” as they filled up with sunshine and started dancing around inside me, filling up my cozy mitts and magnificent hood.
No wonder I felt a little dizzy.
I traipsed on, around and around the field I went, holding my arms out at the sides to steady me so I wouldn’t fall over while my sunshine cells did their dancing.
As you were, neighbours. Nothing to see here but a dizzy woman walking.
Then, I thought it: the thing that makes me realize I need to apologize to The Nature:
I thought these four, incredible words: “I am having fun.”
In The Nature.
And, with a gasp, I realized that today is not the first time that has happened.
As you were, neighbours. Nothing to see here but a mostly-indoor woman enjoying The Nature.
I’m going under the knife.
Well, okay it’s probably scissors. Not that scissors are any less scary.
I made an appointment today to get my hair cut on Wednesday. So yes, I am currently shaking in my boots, as you do.
Or, at least, as I do.
I am a hairdressing chicken.
A coiffure coward.
A feminine frills fraidy-cat.
Dress it up with any amount of annoying alliteration, the reality is that no matter what you call it, I am just plain afraid of the hair salon.
My grandma Verna (who, at age 88, is still much fancier than I will ever, ever be) regularly visits her hair stylist for pampering and a perm. She comes from an era–a lovely, vintage era, in my mind–where women didn’t do their own hair. They had a weekly appointment at a salon and the rest of the time, they wrapped their heads in toilet paper between visits, to sleep.
My kingdom for a victory roll and some toilet paper!
Me and my hair have a long and sketchy history. I’m still traumatized from childhood when I remember sleeping in curlers, a lot.
Boy oh boy, did my mother like my hair curled all up for birthday parties, school pictures and the like. There are lots of similar pictures of me as a child: be-kerchiefed and ready to magically turn into Christine the curly-haired, overnight.
To be fair, she did it to herself too.
The problem was, my mom often ran out of the softer pink foam curlers by the end of her ministrations, so although my whole head was lumpy, it was my forehead that had to endure the evil, prickly, silvery-black curlers while I slept.
Poke, poke, scratch, scratch.
Right then, I knew that suffering for beauty was not going to be my thing.
Oh, I know there are people who laugh at my fear. In fact, there are people who actually look forward to going to an establishment with chairs that pump up and down and the sweet smell of chemicals in the air, just so they can get:
- the lovely hair washing in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
- the lovely hand massage while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
- the lovely shiatsu head massage while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
- the lovely aromatherapy while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
- the would-you-like-a-lovely-magazine-with-pictures-of-hunky-hollywood-types-in-it while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back thingy
and so on and so forth.
I am totally deprived at the hair salon due to my inability to bond with the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy. It gave me horrific vertigo a few years ago and I’ve been advised to avoid the lovely tilt-your-head-back sink thingy ever since.
To my dismay, I now have to skip the whole sink thingy extravaganza and head straight for the CHAIR OF DOOM.
And, I don’t even get a discount.
When I was growing up, I had to remove my glasses for a hair cut so the entire procedure would be a complete mystery until, ta-da! I was revealed looking like Einstein had stuck his finger in an electric socket or Paul McCartney had put a bowl on his head and cut around it.
Or worse: my mother.
(No one really wants to look like one’s mother, no matter how beautiful she is.)
Nowadays, I wear contact lenses so, at least I can see what’s happening, while it’s happening.
Oh, the terror!
As soon as my posterior hits the pleather, my barely-disguised inner wallflower/social misfit rears its ugly head (a head which somehow seems to be wearing thick glasses, braces and a face full of acne). Before I can recover my straightened teeth and contact lenses zen, one of the popular crowd (aka the hair stylist) approaches and I immediately become tongue-tied or prone to using multi-syllabic words that reveal me as “a brain” and a member of the super un-cool.
It’s like grade 6 through high school (and some present-day interactions with my student staff) all over again.
I’m afraid to ask for what I want from the obvious icon of fashion and plentiful high school dates who hovers near me with the scissors and I can’t adequately convey my ineptitude with styling products and all the flattening/straightening/curling/burning appliances. My refusal to dye my hair only further marks me as one who “lets herself go” or is a middle-aged, makeover-in-waiting. And, although I often toy with the idea of adding an electric blue streak to my locks, within seconds of landing in the CHAIR OF DOOM, I find myself cowering under my synthetic smock. I bleat out one pitiful request and count down the minutes until I can pay an exorbitant sum for a trim (and no pampering from the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy), not to mention a tip, as if I can buy my way into the cool people crowd.
Even when I finally work up the nerve to peer at myself in the rear-view mirror in the car, I am not comforted. If the haircut is lovely, I know there’s no toilet paper bedtime regime to preserve it. If it’s horrible, I wouldn’t know where to start to make even pink curlers and pokey black curlers transform me overnight.
But then, I remember something that soothes all my wayward cowlicks.
The one pitiful request I had managed to bleat out while in the CHAIR OF DOOM was:
“please make it a style that works with hats”.
So, bring it on Wednesday, I’m ready.