Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Get Thee Behind Me Satan

It seems to me that a more sensitive bureaucrat could have arranged for my birthday present to arrive at my house before March 31, but no...there it was...in my little mail box just waiting to insult me on April 1.  I would have happily welcomed soggy toilet paper hanging from my trees, or even burning dog poop in a bag on my front porch, but alas, those happy days are gone.  What I received instead was a slap-in-the-face reality check.  "Happy Birthday, Mary," I thought as I opened the envelope and was greeted by an annoyingly perky new Medicare Card.  "You are now officially old."

It's not that I hate aging so much...after all, the alternative certainly doesn't offer any hope for my wine-soaked brain cells, I-Pad illiteracy or gelatinous thighs...it's just that I wish I could do it without watching.  You know....life could happen and I would always be three little paces ahead of it so I'd never have to stare it in the face.

So the big question is..how do I accomplish THAT?

I mulled all this over as I was getting ready for my big party a few days later.  I was already frustrated trying to find a stable spot for the toothpaste in my medicine cabinet which was overflowing with a variety of medicine bottles with adult-proof caps on them, hundreds of dollars worth of micro-sculpting regenerating serums, and a forlorn tube of Preparation H, when my daughter came in to the bathroom and promptly leaned into me to pull a gray whisker from my chin.  "Happy Birthday, Mom," she smiled.  Then said, "wait a minute, let me get the one growing out of your neck too."

"Your turn is coming," I muttered under my breath as I went into my closet to select some garment that would conceal my back flab.  I sat down on the worn cardboard box that was bursting with old report cards, children's drawings, a 1969 Time Magazine with a flag stuck in the moon on the cover, and the worthless 1972 Cosmo that sported a centerfold of a young and hairless Burt Reynolds.  I became aware that my little jaunt into the decrepitude of my future was hijacking my birthday mood and taking it to a destination much less festive.  "Hmmmmmm," I thought...."as a person who prides herself for staying on top of my emotional status....I feel......oh my God........crotchety."

You tell me....is crotchety better or worse than bitchy?

"Well!   I'm a nurse," my inside voice exclaimed, "problem-solving' are my two middle names.  I'll do what any good nurse does.  To resolve this attitude issue, I'll evaluate the situation, identify potential solutions, give it an enema and see what comes out!"

With serendipitous good fortune I rediscovered one solution the following weekend when my husband and I took friends to lunch.  Harry was a car buddy of my husband's, and I was stuck in the back seat with his wife, Sheila, while the men caught up in the front.  We turned into a parking lot that was obviously under some kind of construction.  Our restaurant was about a quarter of a mile over yonder.  I'm not sure if it was the rhythmic bobble and jiggle of my entire body or the scintillating conversation about Ford vs. Chevy engines taking place in the front seat that nearly lulled me to sleep.  Whichever, when we hit a large pothole I bounced in my seat and glanced up to see my reflection in the rear view mirror.  "What the hell is my grandmother doing here," I puzzled, shaking off my groggy stupor.

With some effort, I tuned out the drone of Sheila's dissertation on her nauseatingly capable daughter, and began to calculate how long it would take me to grow out my pixie haircut.  Surely a tight enough ponytail would diminish the crop furrows on my neck.  Though, I fretted, doing so might completely eliminate my ability to chew.  I frowned as I conjured up a life without Fritos.  This did not help the reflection staring back at me, so I placed a hand on each side of my face and stealthily began pulling up and out when Sheila said to me..."are you okay?"

"Oh yeah, fine," I fake-smiled, folding my hands in my lap.  It couldn't take rocket surgery to figure this out.

After we finished lunch, Sheila was complaining that she was frozen solid from the air conditioning in the restaurant.  The men were now discussing upholsterers when I said to her, "you know, Sheila, the vent for the heater works much better on the other side of the back seat.  I'll be happy to switch places with you."

She was grateful.  I was happy.  How could I have ever forgotten what any woman over the age of 30 knows.  Never sit behind the driver where, if you travel with your eyes open at all, you take the risk of seeing the Wicked Witch of the West glaring back at you.  It is a known fact that if you position yourself behind the front seat passenger, you will always be a young and beautiful princess!

Solution number one....check.

Over the next few days I continued to muse over the art of aging gracefully and sans crotchetiness.  So far I have come up with a short list, which, in parting, I am pleased to share with you.

1.  Frequent nursing homes.  It's good not to feel like I'm the oldest person in the world.  Plus, the greatest Generation has the Greatest Attitude.....ever.

2.  Hang out with anorexic smokers or speed freaks.  Even if they're ten years younger than me, they easily look ten years older.  It's okay...I've heard that freeway underpasses are safe.

3.  Work on your balance.  I don't need this kind of attention.  I learned this when I fell off my one inch heels while standing perfectly still waiting in line at Starbucks.

4.  Know your keys.  That red one is the panic button.  It does not unlock the door.

5.  Watch the diet.  It's pretty important to watch the calories, but I did hear Gloria Vanderbilt tell Anderson that if you give up a scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge you can have an extra glass of Smoking Loon.

6.  Spend more money on a boob-lifting bra than you would on a stainless steel side-by- side.  One of my daughters turned me on to this.  It was really cool to become reacquainted with my ladies...I hadn't seen them that close up since I spent the entire month of February, 1973 standing on my head...trying to get pregnant while my husband was on R and R.

7.  Learn lip reading.  This works well for having any kind of meaningful conversation in an eating establishment.  Also for getting the message right on TV.  Recently, I mistakenly thought I heard John Boehner say something respectful about the President of the United States.

In case you missed it.....that's bitchy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's the Difference?

I once attended a lecture, given by what I would call a rather daring psychologist, on the topic of "The Difference Between Man and Woman".  It was held in a small auditorium, so he lectured from a stage.  Several feet to his left, on said stage, was a stand with a bust of a man on it, and to his right a stand with a bust of a woman.  To the best of my recollection, this is what he said.  He approached the bust of the man, and waved his hand over it once.  "This is a man's brain," he began.  "A man's brain is made up of many compartments.  There is a compartment for his kids, one for the Lakers, one for feelings of sadness because his dog died, one for mowing the lawn, etc.  When he's feeling amorous, he goes into the 'Making Love with My Wife' compartment...finding in there all that he needs to accomplish that task, then he exits that compartment when he's finished, and moves into the 'Time to go to Sleep' box.  All very simple."

Several unimpressed "mmmm-hmmmms" could be heard from the females in the audience, as we all pictured our man unhurriedly meandering from one compartment to another.

The doctor pressed on, walking from the male to the female bust.

"This," he continued, "is the brain of a woman."  He immediately began madly wiggling his fingers and moving his hands all over the woman's head.  "A woman's brain is not made of compartments," he explained.  "The female brain is completely interactive.  By this I mean each activity and thought is directly linked to many other activities and thoughts, responsibilties and data that are housed in one single compartment.  The connections are perpetually racing, an electrical current sending messages...they never stop...not even during sleep.  Shifting, buzzing...all...the...time!"

At this point the therapist gazed over the audience, seeking out the males in the crowd and then nodded at them sympathetically, with a wistful smile on his face.

He continued.  "I know the gentlemen are asking themselves, "Why, whatever creates such a hullabaloo?  Why all the commotion?"  The psychologist began to enunciate his words - "This robust power grid in a woman's brain is ignited by...EEE-MO-TION."

"Heeeeeee're's Johnny", I thought, hearing Jack Nicholson cackling in my head as I snickered under my breath.

You could hear a collective male moan waft through the audience, "Ohhhhhh".  Then silence.

Well, I thought, that about sums it up!  Most likely men are not equipped with a compartment labeled "Understanding Women", or if there is one, its content is constantly changing its mind or reinventing itself.  Just ask Billy Joel.  I was starting to feel sorry for the guys.  We ladies do tend to spew those EEE-MO-TIONS all over the damn place.

My sympathy boat, however, was about to run aground.  The mental health professional was not quite finished.  A question came from a woman in the audience.

"Well, doctor, my husband and I can be taking a quiet walk, or just lying on the beach and I'll get a little lonely or bored and say 'Whatcha' thinking, honey'?

"Ooooooooo," I muttered.  I'd lived those 100 miles of silence on the road.  "Whatcha thinkin' honey?' I mimicked in my head.  Every female in the place knew what was coming next.

"He always answers, 'Nothing'.  Now doctor, how can anybody be thinking about nothing?  That's impossible."

"Oh no," the doctor was quick to explain, "it's simple."  I watched all the women in the audience move forward on their seats, ready for the long-awaited big reveal for this primordial question.

"You remember all those compartments in a man's brain that he goes into?"

The woman nodded.

"Well.....................one of them is empty."  He said with a self-satisfied grin.

Suddenly I was reminded of a book my daughter told me about.  You know, the one about men being from one planet and women being from another, in which, the good author explains, men like to go to their 'cave' sometimes, and just hibernate there.  Brilliantly I surmised this must be the empty compartment to which our very male doctor referred.

We all sat back in our chairs.  We glanced at one another and nodded in unspoken agreement.  Verrrry interesting.

I believe they were contemplating the same thing I was.  How limiting it must be to have to function out of containers!  Sort of like living out of suitcases, which, in my humble opinion, is a real pain in the patoot primarily because it causes me to waste a lot of time looking for things wandering around distractedly scratching my.....BING!  A light came on as I pictured the pile of dirty sweats on the bedroom floor my husband steps over every day and the unfailingly blank expression I receive when I mention to my husband that Mother's Day is Sunday.  Of course, I concluded.  A guy couldn't possibly have a box in his head for everything in life.  Right?

I want to be a man's equal, but that does not mean I want to be like a man.  What I want is his damn cave.  My slap-happy electrically charged hormonal currents wear me out.  I think I need a rest.  I'd put a little easy chair in there, with a lamp and a little fridge for chilled wine.  Nice stack of bestsellers.  And a window overlooking San Simeon Beach.  Oops.  I digress.

No..I don't think I want to be like a man.  If I were like a man, my children would have to become accustomed to me not really knowing what their exact birthdates are.  I'd be focused on protecting my crotch all the time and wouldn't have emotional energy required to empathize with Mary from Downton Abbey.  Some neighbor would come to the house and ask me to help fix his leaky toilet, and I'd have to give up my time sniffing my new grandbaby's neck.  I'd find myself scratching the itch in my git-a-long in public, experiencing absolutely no sense of social decorum because the door to my embarrassment container would be sealed tightly shut.

Well, I have to say our good doctor's revelations were really no surprise to me.  Men and women are definitely different, make no mistake.  If we weren't it would take my husband more than three minutes to shop for, clean up for and dress for a formal occasion.  He be at Gina's spa lying on her table allowing her to apply caustic substances to his face so that it would peel away.  And he wouldn't ask me to trim his eyebrows every six months, he pay someone to apply hot parafin to his skin and rip them off.

If men and women were the same, I'd have to climb out my bedroom window and balance precariously on my roof to wash the outside of the window.  I'd have to fish out the gaggy hair from the clogged bathtub drain.  I'd have to be the outside spoon when we snuggled in bed, freezing my ass off.  Nah.

I'll settle for grabbing a moment to read between peeling potatoes, re-patching my granddaughter's 12 year old baby blanket, clipping my mother's toenails, inventing new gluten-free recipes for my man, taking responsibility for picking eye boogers off the dog, and doing the Christmas shopping for every member of our extended family.  Oh, and having my boobs run over by a steam roller by my mammogram tech.

My grandson was here today.  He's exhibiting some signs.  I believe he was firmly entrenched in his homework compartment.  He was hungry and I had one hard-boiled egg left in the refrigerator.  I came into the kitchen and found its shell in the wrong side of the sink.  Smiling, I cleaned it out and threw it into the garbage disposal on the other side.  I looked around for the bowl it had been in and didn't see it.  Knowingly, I peeked in the fridge.  There it sat on my shelf.  Empty.

When his mother came to pick him up, I told her this little story.  Her eyes welled with tears and she hugged her son close saying, "Awwwwwww...my little boy is becoming a man."  She reached for the salt shaker left by his notebook and lovingly put it back where it belonged in the kitchen.