When Vegetarians find comfort in hamburgers

Some days, I just feel like bitching. Today was a rotten day through and through, and right now, at the end of it, at the very late end of it, there is no one home to complain to. My boyfriend/commonlaw husband/domestic partner- let’s just call him CLH for short, is in Brazil right now. He has stopped writing involved letters to me and has instead starting writing really involved blogs. So, standing here hunched over a 3,000 piece puzzle in my pajamas and Peruvian wool hat, listening to jazz and eating microwavable hamburgers for comfort… it occurs to me that if no is home to bitch to, I’m going to have to seek consolation somewhere else. The hamburger in plastic wrap was step one.

I shouldn’t even be feeling this way. It’s my job that does it to me. My clients. The problem with making a career out of being anal retentive is that when your clients aren’t, it really bugs. Why should I feel exhausted and defeated if my clients can’t get their acts together once a month? How hard is it to turn in receipts on time? How many times do I have to repeat myself about where things go? How can you leave for a vacation and not cross-train ANYONE in your office? How is it that exactly half of your whole bank statement has been entered incorrectly into your financial database? How is your response to my frustration always a pure and utter mystification that things can be this bad even though I tell you how to fix them every time I see you? Why are you still plying me with compliments about my thoroughness and loyalty when what I do IS NOT THAT COMPLICATED? HOW ARE YOU STILL IN BUSINESS?!!! I want to shout these questions to my client. I can’t give away too much about the identity if my clients. One day, though, I will. They and all their shitty bookkeeping practices will be exposed to the masses when I publish my book.

I thought about taking a relaxing bath- but, I’m sure the tub is just dirty enough to make that an experiment of human immunity. So, that’s out. I had a very small, greasy dinner and I ate it in front of the computer. The American Dream.

Kevin’s been bugging me about not updating this very often. He’s right to complain. I am crappy about the upkeep of this blog. I’ve got to let go of the notion that these entries are supposed to be tiny, perfect novellas. Forgive me, Kev.

I’m leaving in 4 days to join my CLH in Brazil. I practiced some Portuguese tonight but I quit after two lessons because my mouth hurt from trying to imitate the native speakers. I think learning Polish is much easier. I’m going to have to get by by pointing and pantomiming. I’ll be okay. I took Latin in high school and much of the written language is familiar enough to me. It’s the speaking a combo of three languages at once that is a little tricky on the grey matter. My mouth just can’t switch from the French words to the Spanish ones quickly enough. Ah… sun and more sun. It can’t come soon enough.

Herculaneum

I spent the morning with my head cold and The Narrators. My head colds are like older relatives that come and inhabit my space for a week at a time, delaying and distracting me from my routine, leaving in their wake balled up tissues and half drunk cups of liquid and pill bottles and dried up tea bags… They visit at least four times a year and they are one part hurricane, and one part cause for watching lots of TV.

I cried listening to This American Life. I cried watching the History channel. Not good for an already stuffed sinus cavity. Maybe i just needed a good cry and a visit from Aunt Snot. What is it about being sick that makes me so emotional?

I wrote this on the couch this afternoon.

“Herculaneum”

It’s not that I am ungrateful
for modern conveniences
it’s that they give me pause
Like when I slough dead skin from my feet
with a luxury tool crafted for me
by the same forces that buried
thousands at Pompeii

water
and fire
vapor screaming through a tiny hole
the elements at work
like they have been for years
and then I have tea
I can wrap my hands
around pottery
the simple things, at least,
I imagine
don’t change much
after millennia
heat still soothes
liquid still equilibrates

it’s when I need my teeth to be especially white
or my water especially clean
that I am willing to
forego the caveman simplicities
and engage in a conscious relationship
with the castoffs of industrialization
polishing with fluoride
entertaining children with manufacturing byproducts
stuffing bras with liquid death
taking temperatures with poison

turning the dials on a machine
a Calutron Girl
never knowing how much
I am contributing to the
fabrication of the bomb
simply by being alive

never knowing how much ash
my best living is done in.

Unsolved Mysteries

List of things done this morning:
Dreamt strange things. My sister was involved. Again
Exercised while watching a re-run of Oprah
Showered
Dressed
Watched 15 minutes of an Unsolved Mysteries, circa 1992, on Lifetime, about the Unibomber and the Zodiac Killer while brushing teeth

Has it really been ten years since Ted Kaczynski? It’s been a long time since a lot of things, hasn’t it? Who knew the Zodiac Killer started his killing spree in the 60’s? Who knew that Kaczynski and the Zodiac Killer were, at one time, thought to be the same person? Not me. How much of my young life I am finally starting to understand some 15 years later? How much went on around me as a child that I can only now put into context?

I listened to a program on NPR last night about the conflict in the Middle East. When hostages were taken in Iran and planes being blown up and cities being carpet bombed… how could I have known what to do with this information? I am having it all re-explained to me now, as an adult, via television programs and radio broadcasts, interviews with historians and professors, retrospectives, books, articles…

Growing up while the Berlin Wall came down and planes were downed over Scotland… these events were like people. They were players whose nervous ticks and habits and missing limbs and appearances in my life other adults would explain away with cryptic assurances and smiles that indicated I would “understand when I was older”. Now that I am older, I see what those assurances and simple answers were trying to protect me from.

It is amazing to have lived for so long without awareness. Not that anyone, including myself, was expecting a young girl to absorb the historical significance of anything, let alone remember what was for dinner in 1983. How incredible it is to be alive in the aftermath- to have survived to tell about anything, to have a story to tell to children that starts with “I remember when…” How amazing to be able to see history through. To remember when the Target on Mountain Avenue was a grove of trees. To remember when so-an-so was the president of Israel, of the US, of Chile. How amazing to have so much informational schrapnel flying around me as a child and to not get hit by a single piece.

Only now, as I brush my teeth with a toothbrush that does the work for me (the technology that guides it probably being developed as I breathlessly directed 3/4 of a yellow pie chart through a digital maze to gobble up white pellets in 1984) can I understand what it meant to die and how that “weird thing that Nanny did” was actually battle colon cancer, and that people were dying in international conflicts and from bombs in brown paper bags all around me ALL the time. Now things like “Iran-Contra Scandal” and “Unibomber” own their rightful definitions in my head. They aren’t vague soundbytes and snapshots.

And when will I understand all that is happening around me now? In another 15 years? I want to call the White House and tell them not to make any decisions today, tomorrow, or next year. I want them to sit on things, for, say, 15 years or so, and see if they reach better decisions then. I want them to tune in to the History Channel and watch the bit about the landing on the moon, or the assasination of Kennedy, or something about the Panama Canal, or the acquisition of Hawaii, and I want them to think about when that became REAL for them. When the schrapnel of their youths finally caught up to them and they realized that history had been happening all around them the whole time.

Really? It’s Permanent?

I can’t believe I am going to type this next sentence. I got a tattoo today. And I’m not sure how i feel about it. I mean, when it was happening, my friends were there and they were stroking my hand and patting my back and telling me to breathe and taking pictures of my grimacing face, and smiling like jackals and asking how i felt and wasn’t i excited and had i thought of my next one yet… And now that it’s over… I’m not feeling how I thought I would. It’s got a lot to do with how the design was arrived at. It happened just a few hours ago. I’m looking down at the bandage and I don’t even know what this all means. I’m going to wake up tomorrow, and the next day and the next day, and there is going to be black ink on the inside of my left arm. Forever. My partner, who also got one today with those same friends, said to me when we got home, “Our tough points just went up by, like, ten”.
Is that what this is? A sign of my toughness? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I like the tattoo that much anymore. It was spontaneous and ordeal-producing and, well, now it’s going to be on me for the rest of my life. Am i the kind of person who gets tattoos? I never thought I was. I have always loved them on other people. But me? Really? On my skin? My skin that, frankly, I have always really liked plain and clean? My arm skin that tans so beautifully, despite my Eastern European DNA? Permanently? A piercing I can take out (and i have. Over the years, I have taken the jewelry out 7 of my former 11 earring piercings and now there are just little dimples on my earlobes where the holes used to be) But a tattoo? There’s no going back.
I just never considered myself a tattoo person. I mean, EVERYone has one, right? Most people I know do. I was one of the only people who didn’t. I kind of liked that. Is this as simple as me being sad that I am one step closer to being like everyone else? Or is this really major, some sort of milestone, some coming of age- which is what a tattoo is supposed to represent anyway- that i am resisting?
I mean, civilizations the world over have painted themselves in ceremony. Why the hell should i exclude myself? To be fair, the Amazonians don’t have to show up to work on Monday to reconcile the books and discuss the budget like I do. But is that what this is really about? That i would offend some stuffed shirt with my body art? I was holding this no-tattoo policy in protest of all the tattooed folks who thought they were being hipper than thou. Am i now hip? I don’t really think so.
Here is what my tattoo is: it’s five letters, in circles. The circles are the round keys of a Royal typewriter, circa 1930. My tattoo says “WRITE”.
I wanted that tattoo to remind me to write more, to consider myself a writer, and to act like one. I imagined that it would be a great motivator when i had, for instance, just about run out of juice, or felt that everything i had written up until that point was shit and not worth printing. I would look down at my wrists paused above the keyboard, and then my arms, and I would read what it said there on my forearm….and keep on going. It was to serve as a reminder to take myself seriously, to DO SOMETHING with this “thing i do”.
How incredibly pompous, huh? I mean, really. Why not just ink the grocery list on your bicep so that when you are in the store you can catch your reflection in the produce scale and remember to buy more cantaloupe? How bad am I at remembering my true calling that I need to have a permanent black scar on my arm to remind me?
The truth is, I do need it. But let me tell you about how this all went down.
We went to a play, four of us. It was last night. When the play let out, it was still light outside, and we weren’t ready for going home yet. My best friend, eyes wild, suggests we all go get tattoos, and her fiance nods in zealous agreement, leaning forward onto the middle console. My partner and I look at each other. “Really?” we ask. Best friend is serious. Fiance is serious. I am nervous and giddy. Yes, we say. And we go on the hunt for a tattoo shop.
They all come up with their ideas quickly. I deliberate. It should be significant. It’s my first tattoo. It should be cool, and original, and mean something to me. I have thought about this reminder I want to put on my arm for some time. The idea is simple enough: It’s got to be a typewriter. A picture of a typewriter. The one i learned to type on: an old Royal typewriter, a model probably used during WWII. The one my grandfather fished out of the trash in Newark and refurbished and plunked down, hard and heavy and smelling of metal and oil, in our playroom when we were children. The one my brother and I used to create a fake newspaper and crank out stories. I would write and he would illustrate. Later on, he would dictate the story of Mu-Shu the imaginary rabbit, and my fingers would hammer out his words as fast as they could. We would play bank, and office, and school, and we would use that typewriter for everything. It would soon jam, and the ‘e’s and ‘o’s had their hollow parts filled in with ink and dirt, and the red side of the ribbon would soon be smudged with black as we discovered that, in addition to being a word-making machine, it was also a percussive instrument. The harder you typed, the more satisfying a slap the hammers would make on the typing paper. Typing paper. No one makes typing paper anymore. For years I had saved the last bit of the ream from my childhood… moved across the country with it… and just recently used it up. Time to let go, I told myself.
There were thousands upon thousands of markings on the rubber cylinder of the return carriage. Someone before us had discovered the pleasure in typing without paper and leaving a mark on the cylinder in a grey-green-yellow ghost font. I used to wonder how many letters had been written to officers in far away countries with that rubber cylinder cushioning each tiny blow from the metal arms deep inside…
And now there is this command on my arm, this command I cannot erase. It’s there. It’s to direct me, to remind me.
But I wish it had come with more euphoria. The tattoo artist was not eager to put the silhouette of an old typewriter on my arm. It would blur, he said, in a few years, and turn into a shapeless blob. Well, then what about close ups of the hammers? Nope. The picture I brought in was not clear enough. Defeated, I chose the keys with the word WRITE. A command, a DEMAND, really. Nothing enigmatic or cryptic or symbolic like i wanted. No memorial to my talented and thoughtful grandfather. No thankful tribute to the machine that had taught me to type. No archival museum for antiquated, funny looking machinery. Just five letters, looking up at me and reminding me that every moment spent not writing is time not well spent. What was I thinking?
I wasn’t. I had stomach cramps from macaroni and cheese. I was on the brink of getting my period and my lower half was churning and achy. I was probably dehydrated. I was caught up in the moment. I was excited to mark myself in honor of the decision made amongst really really good friends to be spontaneous, to celebrate our lives together.
And i know this is a GREAT BIG metaphor for the writing process- the denial, the self flagellation, the acceptance, the celebration…. and that makes me even more cranky.
I will probably learn to love it. I don’t know that i will learn to love that razor blade pain, though. So maybe this will be my last. And if it is, that will be okay. Really. I have the rest of my skin to love.

Letters to Nanny

So, the other night I had a dream.
My grandmother (who died when I was about 10) was sitting in a wheelchair. My grandfather (also dead) was standing next to her, and my mother (their daughter) was seated on a couch to the right of my grandmother. I called my grandmother “Nanny” when I was a kid, and my grandfather “Pop-Pops.” (Side note: Funny how a toddler is assigned the role of naming grandma and grandpa. One of us kids eeked out “nanny” when we were learning how to speak, and that’s what stuck. Don’t know much about the etymology of “pop-pops”, but we still refer to the stern, proud, 6′-something guy as “pop-pops”.)

There was some subplot to the dream- something about me driving around with a boyfriend and being pissed off… i think we actually drove the car through a wall and into the living room where my family was sitting. No one seemed upset about the hole in the sheetrock. My grandmother motioned for me to lean down close to her head because she had something to tell me and couldn’t speak very loudly. I did, but i couldn’t hear what she said. She had something for me – a bag. Her feet were bound in bandages- and the shape indicated that maybe her toes were amputated (?). I knew she would never walk again- and I got the impression that the bandages represented a slow chiseling away at her existence, starting with the feet. Pop-Pops hands me a gift bag. Inside is stationary- all different colors and sizes, mostly pastels. There is a ziploc bag inside. I open it. It is filled with an assortment of stamps, all different denominations. I get the impression my grandmother was cleaning out a writing desk- some of the stamps are for strange amounts, and this tells me they came from a time when it cost less than it does now to mail a letter. I understand what is being asked of me. My grandmother wants me to write her a letter a day. I look in the bottom of the bag, and I see a glue stick and some Scotch tape, and one other object I cannot remember. The sight of this all brings me to tears. I don’t just cry, either. I weep. I am overcome by the feeling of deep, deep gratitude, and a deep sadness. It felt like what it would feel like to have a starving child share his few grains of rice with you. This woman was dying- and she was giving away her last few possessions. I cannot describe how alive those objects were. I felt my grandmother’s presence in the tape, especially. I could see that it had only briefly been used- there was quite a bit left on the roll. And it was the shiny kind- the cheap kind. It told me that she was used to a life of second-best, but what little she had, she was proud of, and it made her proud to give it to me. I took on the energy of that tape. There was shame, and there was pride, and there was so much love, so much wanting to share, to make someone feel special. I wept and wept. I understood that I was supposed to mail her a letter every day. It didn’t matter what I wrote. I just had to write her. To keep her company as she was dying. She knew I was a writer, and she wanted to encourage my gift with the few things she had. By accepting the items, i was agreeing. I was crying still as the boyfriend and I drive off.

I thought I might wake up crying, but I didn’t. I just sat in bed for a long time and tried to sort the dream out. I dream about my family quite a bit. (When I first moved here, I dreamt every day for 365 days about them- all the dreams were violent nightmares… it was a rough year). I can’t remember the last time I dreamt about my grandmother so vividly. In fact, I can’t remember if I’ve dreamt about her at all. There was no question about what I was supposed to do. Nanny wanted me to write SOMEthing every day. She wanted me to write her. I take my dreams fairly seriously. They are too vivid not to. This one especially.

I’ve been struggling with posting stuff here lately. I think my grandmother was trying to tell me to write SOMETHING, anything. Just to get my hands moving. Now that I am back in school (more on that later), I am finding the floodgates have opened. I am just having a hard time focusing on what to write about. There is SO much data coming into my brain… and I am taking lots of time to process it all… and as I do, the emotion about it all changes. I kinda feel schizophrenic these days. I suppose that’s just how it goes with writing. The trick is to make time to write at least some of it down.

I saw David Sedaris speak the other day. What a brilliant, brilliant man. He said he carries around a notepad so he can jot things down to write about later. I do that too… though the “later” part doesn’t seem to materialize for me like it used to.

Here’s the weirdest part about the dream. And i admit this is really weird. I spoke to a psychic a few years back. I did this on some advice from a friend. And I swear she got everything right. Everything. She said the spirit of my grandmother is always over my right shoulder, encouraging me to write. The psychic said my grandmother was saying that “You should write. I don’t know how to help you with the writing because my English is no good. But you should write. I support you”. My grandmother was born in Germany. I don’t know if the psychic knew this exactly, but she interpreted what my grandmother was saying into something like “i don’t have the technical know-how to get you published, or to even understand some of the words you are using, but i know you should keep going.” Ever since then, every once in a while, I think about that image. My grandmother gently pushing me to write more. I think she knew she had to make an appearance. I think she sensed me teetering out on the edge there, and she wanted to draw me back, encourage me to keep writing. I think she knew that my mind implodes daily with all that’s in there that needs airing, and she was trying to tell me to go slow. Take a little at a time. Write a letter a day.

Thanks, Nanny. This one’s for you.

A Haircut, Amended

Alright, I take it back. My Guy, he must have been on something. I don’t know what. All I know is that when my hair dried, I didn’t like it. Then again, nothing seems satisfying these days. But you don’t want to fuck with your reflection when your mind is in this state. And I did. And i regret it. Hair regrets are the kind that make you cry. Talking about of old boyfriends sometimes makes me physically cringe, and the thoughts of old jobs and old bosses makes my lips involuntarily curl into a snarl and my eyes roll… but nothing makes me wish I could take it back more than bad haircuts. This one is bad. I actually paid someone today to chop off the straw-dry clown wig that is my hair this afternoon. That’s another twenty dollars down the hole. I know, I know. It grows back. My problems are ridiculously and pathetically mundane and inconsequential. But I have to drag a comb through this rat’s nest every day. I have to watch the eyes of my clients and friends climb my head from my eyes to my crown and back down again and try to dismiss the beginnings of a good snicker in the corner of their lips as they realize my skin and hair are the same hideous shade of old milk. Damnit.

A Haircut

I go to the salon maybe once or twice a year to have my hair colored. I’m not a high maintenance gal, so this is my one expensive indulgence (forget that you read that I buy designer jeans up above). For a month and a half out of the year, I look like a rock star with my hair all drastic two-tone and spiky and around my face. For the rest of the year, I look like a woman who pinches her hair back with little girl hair clips because she’s too lazy to get her roots touched up.

I have a Guy that I always see for my hair coloring sessions. He is good, My Guy. He is very good.

I have sent a dozen of my girlfriends to see My Guy because he is just that good. And they, impressed with his work, have sent their girlfriends, and they have sent their girlfriends. He is good, My Guy. But he is slow. He is very slow.

He is not slow in that “I’m going to take the next three hours to sculpt the latest and greatest piece of art nouveau that is going to be your hair” way. He is slow in that “I’m going to take a cigarette break every twenty minutes or so, wedge the cell phone in between my shoulder and ear and yak to my friends while I do your foils with one hand, and run from one end of the salon to the other in a wild, unprepared frenzy” sort of way. And this is how it goes every time.

You’d think by now, given my short fuse for bad customer service, that I would have picked another Guy to do my hair. But, My Guy, he is good. He is very good.

My appointment was supposed to be at 4:00. I was running a little late, so I called My Guy from the road and said I would be there by 4:30. At 4:12, I walked in the door.

My Guy is finishing up with some customers. They are French. It is odd to see and hear real French people in this city. I am so intrigued by what they are doing here with My Guy that I almost forget that they have kept me waiting for twenty minutes. It is now 4:40.

My Guy finishes up, the Frenchies pay, and My Guy hugs me hello. He puts on his jacket, grabs his phone and walks outside for a cigarette break. I flip through a magazine while I wait. He returns, and tells me apologetically he has lost my coloring card. I need to fill out another one. I do. It is now 4:55.

He has me sit down and he starts running his expert hands through my hair. In my mind, he is feeling for texture, familiarizing himself with his canvas, imagining the combinations of developer and coloring agent that will turn my limp dirty blond strands into gleaming swaths of suicide blond and deep chocolate brown. In reality, he is probably checking out his tattoos on his arms in the mirror.

He begins the mixing. He has to open a brand new jar of developer and needs to pour the contents from the bag to the jar. The phone rings. He answers. It is now 5:05.

My Guy cannot find his special comb for doing color. He searches. He looks on his tray, on his desk, on his table. He cannot find it. All the while he is muttering and giggling to himself. I cannot hear him because he has turned on his dance music CD and it is fairly loud. He also is out of foil. He is ripping the sheets of foil in half using the edge of the table for leverage. I start to look. I find the comb. It is on his table. It is now 5:10.

He begins. His tiny hands begin the work of separating my hair into almost invisible layers of hair to be colored and hair not the colored. He deftly paints the layers with foamy blue developer and wraps them up neatly in little foil squares. Sometimes he looks away, out the wall length windows and onto the street, while he does this. My Guy is that good.

At 5:20, an elderly woman walks into the salon holding a bottle. She asks for The Other One. The Other One is a woman who works at the salon alongside My Guy. The Other One is a miserable human being. She is always, always late for her appointments. She mutters to herself and has a gruff, cigarette smoker’s laugh. She is short with the customers. I try not to ever make eye contact with her. The elderly woman looks lost and confused. She asks if The Other One is on her way. My Guy says yes. That is a lie. My Guy always, always covers for The Other One.

The elderly woman says she should probably move her car, then, because she is parked illegally somewhere. My Guy smiles at her, whispers something I can’t understand into my foil covered ears, and giggles to himself. A man walks into the salon with a box. He asks if the Other One is around. The boxes are for her. My Guy pauses, brush mid-stroke in the air, and studies the boxes. Should I call her?, has asks the man. The man shrugs. My Guy picks up the phone. I have just one row of foils in my hair. It is now 5:30.

The elderly woman leaves to move her car. There is more talk about the boxes. My Guy takes a break to smoke a cigarette. The elderly woman comes back. The Other One is still not there for her appointment. It is now 5:40.

At 5:50, The Other One blows through the front door like a tornado. She is wearing an oversized coat, her hair has been thrown hastily into a giant clip, and she is red-faced and angry looking. She slams down her purse. The elderly woman stands up to greet her. The Other One is talking to no one in particular about how bad the traffic was. She looks at the appointment book, says, again to no one, that she “can’t stay that late”, and runs out the front door. The elderly woman is still standing, watching the front door. I want to hug her.

At 6:00, The Other One blows through the door again. She is still ranting about the commute. She finally acknowledges the elderly woman. She instructs the elderly woman to get in the chair to have her hair washed. The elderly woman now hands the Other One the bottle she has been clutching. She tells The Other One that she should wash her hair with the contents of this bottle because it is the only thing that doesn’t make her scalp itch. She says, all her life, she has used this soap, this Castile soap, and when her kids were babies, she never used lotion, only pure olive oil on their skin. The Other One snorts and grabs the bottle. The elderly woman is prattling on sweetly about raising kids. My heart is crying for her.

The phone rings. My Guy answers it. The Other One is complaining that because her two kids have to go to separate schools, she has to drive all over earth’s creation to get them where they need to be on time. She says that when she was a kid, her mom used to spend the day in bed. And she had to walk a half mile to school every day. I watch her blow drying the elderly woman’s perfectly white hair with a round brush. She seems to be using excessive force to pull the hair into the bristles. The elderly woman’s head snaps a little each time The Other One releases her white locks from the brush. As she is telling the Other One about the wedding she is going to, The Other One is muttering things over her shoulder to My Guy. They giggle together. The elderly woman is still talking as she pays and then walks out the door.

The phone rings some more. My Guy answers it. Another customer walks in. I suddenly want onion rings, and I tell My Guy. He runs next door to get me some. More phone ringing, more painting with the brush, more muttering and giggling, more me not hearing anything above the noise of the dance music and the hair dryer through the buffer of foil around my ears, but smiling politely. At 6:30, my foils are finally done.

At 6:35, friends of mine walk into the salon. They are here because I recommended this place to them. As My Guy takes another phone call, they tell me nervously that they are here because My Guy has told them that, unless they got there before 7:00, My Guy would not be able to see them tonight. I smile at them. Of course they will be seen.

The Other One has been working on her male customer’s hair now for some time. My Guy cuts my friends’ hair and they both look like gods and goddesses. I tell myself My Guy is good.

Another cigarette break. My Guy checks my foils. It is now 7:15. I am ready to be rinsed. I lean my head back into the sink. I love having my hair washed. I will pay My Guy well for this. It is worth it. I am just beginning to melt into the scalp massage when the phone rings. He answers. The phone is tucked into his shoulder. He pauses. I am hungry. I am growing weary of The Other One’s stories about her lousy day. I am getting a little dizzy under the fluorescent lights. I paw my way out from under my cape and make a dramatic gesture of looking at my watch. I really want to be done. I sigh. It works. My Guy tells his caller he has to go. He hangs up, rinses, and I walk back over to my chair and look at myself in the mirror.

He has done it again. I am a rock star, a celebrity, a bright shiny beautiful thing with platinum streaks spilling from my scalp. I look ten years younger. My skin glows. I am reborn. I am alive. He blows the top dry. At first, I am disappointed that he leaves the ends a little wet, but as they dry in a fuzzy, jagged, stylish shape, just as I demanded they should when I walked in, I understand how his genius works, and I am awed all over again.

It is 7:41 when I leave. I have been in this salon for three and a half hours. I am irritated that I have been here for half a work day. I almost get up the nerve to tell him that I might have to go somewhere else next time because three and a half hours is a ridiculously long time to spend in a salon when I catch my reflection in the mirror and swoon a little. I clamp my mouth shut and pay my bill. After all, My Guy is good. He is very, very good.

Jeans For The Rest of Us

If you want a complex about your body, try fitting it into the average pair of jeans. I had J-Lo’s ass before she did, only mine didn’t come with a patent and a fragrance and a clothing line. And it’s impossible to stuff into a regular sized pair of jeans.

The problem is, and always will be: proportions. Petite sizes are for women who are 5′ 4″ and under. The waist and hips on petite pants are a normal size. It’s just the legs that are cut short for those of us who inherited the half dwarfism. As if having short legs with a big ass wasn’t enough of a genetic recombination sequence from Hell, I am cursed with being too tall for petite pants, but not tall enough for regular sized pants. “Regular” jeans are for “regular” sized women (whoever they are), i.e. anyone 5’4″ and above. I am 5′ 4 3/4″. Honestly. That’s really what the freakin’ scale says when I step on it at the doctor’s office. I am literally three quarters of an inch too tall to fit into petite jeans. And if you think you can’t tell the difference….well, you can. Regular sized pants usually cover my feet with three to six inches of extra fabric. I look like a blue Gumby that’s had his feet crushed. I’m thinking about marketing myself as the pint sized Swiffer Stripper. For a price, I’ll come over and dance around your hardwoods in a bra and “regular” sized jeans: I’ll get a workout, and you’ll get your floors dry mopped.

So tonight I went to the mall to shop for jeans. My friends think I shop at JC Penney because I have some sort of sense of fashion and an eye for a bargain . The truth is JC Penney is as far into the mall as I can go before I start dry heaving with the banality of it all. I like it because it has several entrances (which double as getaway doors when you just can’t take it anymore). I can park near the women’s clothing section, walk in about twenty paces, try on forty things, buy two, and walk twenty paces out. Period.

Tonight I decided to brave the other stores in the mall. First I went to the Gap, famous amongst my friends for having jeans that “fit well”. I am greeted (read: shouted “Hi-yeeeeeee” at from across the store by a smiling 17 year old with a headset on) and I make a beeline for the jeans. A sign on the door of the dressing room shows what sort of jeans fit what body type. I try mine on. The sign is wrong.

I remember that American Eagle sold me a pair of shorts years ago that still fit, and are not, even after eight summers, even the tiniest bit threadbare. I want to see if their jeans are as strong as their shorts. I am greeted by another teenager in another headset. She asks if I need help finding anything. I am tempted to tell her I am looking for painless way to slough off a few pounds from my ass with a deli meat slicer so I can buy some freakin’ jeans, but I refrain. Instead, I tell her I am looking for stovepipe style pants, straight leg, something that doesn’t taper in the knee. She says that I should try the “boyfriend” style, which is mostly straight, and some other style, which, even from ten feet away, I can see is tapered in the knee. I grab two “boyfriend” styles in my size and head for the dressing room. The tags inform me that the jeans are new and clean, but there are holes in the them. Somebody wants me to buy jeans with holes already in them. I yank off my own jeans and unclip the holey jeans from the hanger. I start the tug of war. My toe catches in one of the holes as I am pulling and I can hear the jeans rip. I pause. I decide the people at American Eagle deserve that I have ruined their pants by further ripping their regulation sized hole and tug some more. I pause again. Clearly something has happened in the eight years since I bought shorts here. Somehow, my size, the size I have been for the past ten years of my life, is no longer my size. I can’t even zipper them. I move on.

I try several more stores. More yelling by more teenaged sales associates. More bad fitting jeans. I am growing tired.

I walk in to Macy’s. Here there is promise. I remember shopping at Macy’s years ago on the East Coast and loving it. At this point, I am hot and sweaty. I have brought my big lumpy jacket into the mall with me and it is hanging over my arm. My purse doesn’t sit on my shoulder quite right, so it’s hanging from my elbow underneath my jacket. I catch my reflection in the mirror. I have a three hairs clumped together and sticking straight up on the top of my head, my mascara has started to run, my face is flushed, and I appear to be smuggling an old lady purse out of the store . I’m surprised I haven’t been flagged by security.

I grab every single size 8 on the rack in the clearance section. Every. Single. One. I swipe a pair of DKNY from the regluar priced rack, a pair of Polo’s, and a pair of Calvin Kleins. I cannot believe I am carrying designer jeans in my arms. I was raised in Lee’s, and even now, as a fairly successful self employed person with a fairly comfortable income, I still wear crappy jeans. The thought occurs: I might have to buy designer jeans tonight. I might have to close my eyes as I hand over my credit card and tell myself that this is what it takes to feel good in a pair of jeans. No more wimpy flimsy blue colored rags that frame my ass like a canvas toolbelt around two balloons. Real jeans, by real designers. I practically skip into the dressing room with my jeans. The sign says the limit per person is 4. I march right past it, throw open a dressing room door and triumphantly throw the 19 lbs. of denim on the floor. I take a deep breath and pull on the first pair. The DKNYs fit like a dream. I am blown away. Could it be? All these years of wearing shitty jeans for nothing? All this time, all I had to do was lay down a ridiculous amount of cash for jeans, and I could have foregone the Gumby legs and the shelf-butt? It seems too simple. I try on the other pairs and they all fit well, but the DKNYs fit the best. I stare at my profile in the mirror. No cheap buttons on the butt pockets. No stretchy material sucking at my thighs. Just a sleek line from my butt to the floor. I almost cry. I check out and either the woman at the counter doesn’t notice or is too polite to comment on the sweat running down my face and the flush in my cheeks as she hands me my bag. And she makes quite a gesture of handing me my bag. She walks all the way around the counter to hand it to me! I feel like royalty. Does everyone shop like this? How many countless hours have I spent being treated like a pile of dung by blank-eyed retail associates who barely make eye contact while they run my clothing over the scanning gun and ball it up in a bag?

Oh, I’m all revved up now, baby. I am armed with the information that I too can shop like the rich, be treated kindly, and get what I want for a mere $59!

But the high does not last long. My overconfidence gets the better of me. I stop in one last time at JC Penney on the way out and I spot a brand I have never seen before. They look straight enough in the leg and they have pretty embroidering on the front pocket. I take them to the dressing room. But there it is again. The pinched knee area. The flared leg that swallows my whole foot. I look like a blueberry on stilts. I take them off and kick them to the corner of the dressing room. It is late. I am tired. Several more hairs have begun to free themselves from my clips, and have joined the others at attention at the top of my head. I notice my shirt is on inside out. One of my shoes is untied. I look down at the ball of rumpled jeans. The retail associate I once was tells me to bend over, pick up those goddamned jeans and return them to the go-back rack. But now I am pissed. All those years of trying on second rate jeans, getting so overheated and dehydrated in dressing rooms changing in and out of jeans that would never fit that I actually craved an Orange Julius. An Orange Julius! Damn you, Penney’s. Damn you for your crappy jeans. Someone else can pick them up. I am a designer jeans wearing woman now and you cannot lure me back with your fancy cheap jeans. Did you hear me, Penney’s? I am a changed woman. I am going to wear designer jeans. I am going to wear designer jeans.