Monday, May 24, 2010

Wanderlust

The South is famous for its sedate pace. Its inhabitants never seem to be in as much a hurry as the rest of the world. Even in the larger cities their bustling has an air of nonchalance. Their attitude often clearly says, “Yes I’m late. No, I don’t care.”

But ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of leaving this quiet place and moving to a big city – somewhere like New York or even abroad to London or Paris. I loved everything about being on the move and much of that was contributed to my ADD. As a child I was given Ritalin, but if they’d paid attention they would have realized that the same effect could be achieved without medicine - I could drool on myself just listening to them drone on and on about their dull workdays and interests. “She just cannot sit still”, they would say in the parent/teacher conferences. Silly, narrow minded adults. I would sit still for hours with a book in my hand or a travel documentary on the television. I didn’t need the zombie side effects of Ritalin, I needed stimulation. To my knowledge, there’s no drug for selective ADD.

I never minded long road trips. I was comfortable curling up in the backseat with a pillow, my portable CD player, and a book or two. I’d watch the landscape whiz by with complete contentment, happy just knowing we were getting further and further away from that dull place called home. Hotel rooms, no matter how rudimentary, held a certain charm. I was sleeping in a foreign bed, living out of a suitcase, and eating “continental” breakfasts. How exciting!

The first time I set foot in an airport I was fifteen. I was going to Spain for two weeks with a tour group and for a small town, middle class girl it was the traveling lottery. My birthday would come and go while we were away, so my father hired a limo to drive me and my friends from our house to the airport in Charlotte, two hours away, as an early present. It was a very strange gift, but at the time I thought it was wonderful.

The trip was a scant three months before 9/11 and getting through the airport was a breeze. Checking bags was free, carry on rules were pretty lax, and security was friendly. Completely different from flying today.

I spent the entire flight to Barcelona fighting to stay awake, to take every single bit of it in: the in flight movie, the peanuts I hated but was determined to eat none-the-less, the tiny bathroom I insisted on inspecting, storing my luggage in the overhead compartment, the noises the plane made. I loved it all, but perhaps the part I loved most was getting off: Gathering my things together and striding purposefully up the gangway, collecting my luggage from the carousel, standing in front of the terminal and looking out at the people and the cars...knowing that I was actually standing on the other side of the world.

And wouldn’t you know it – the first hotel we stayed at was breathtaking. It was small and quaint – crammed together with a bunch of other buildings. The outside walls were old and peeling and the street out front was steep and narrow, but when we ventured inside everything was immaculate, shiny, and new. Our room had a set of tall double windows that opened up to a small wrought iron balcony, vines weaving their way through its bars. I remember leaning on that railing, looking out over the crowded city and having the sudden urge to cry.

We went on a whirlwind tour across the country. If I hadn’t taken picture after picture to prove it, sometimes I feel as if I’d never been there at all. Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Toledo, Seville, Costa del Sol, Madrid - I’d have to locate my old itinerary to do our schedule justice. It’s funny, the things and places I remember most aren’t the guided tours and planned outings (though the tour of The Alhambra was brilliant) – they’re the free nights and afternoons when we were allowed to explore. Dancing in a discotheque, strolling along the Ramblas, eating lunch in a crowded plaza, drinking daiquiris at a beach hut, buying a sword at the factory in Toledo, my first encounter with a taxi AND a subway (both of which left me just a tad scarred).

We took the ferry and did a day trip into Morocco which was a bit terrifying. It might have been the men with guns, the snake charmers in the crowded streets, or the camels. Take your pick. Our tour guide claimed his name was Michael Douglas. “Just like the actor!” I had a strange, and overwhelming, urge to punch him in the face.

The market places were interesting, but there were children everywhere, reaching out for you and demanding your attention, trying to sell tiny drums and fans. I suppose my favorite part was lunch. We ate in the strangest looking restaurant – very ornate floors and iron grills, men balancing trays of candles on their heads. Everything looked sort of faded and surreal. We ate couscous from giant platters in the middle of the table and drank Coca Cola from small glass bottles.

It was the trip of a lifetime. And when I returned home looked even less appealing to me than usual. I became even more obsessed with travel than I’d been before. Unfortunately I’ve yet to leave the country again. Oh, I’ve been to various places in the US and enjoyed it very much, but everything gets stacked against Spain and falls flat.

This past weekend I realized why that was. (You know, aside from the fact that it’s another country and that’s exciting and romantic.)

Sunday morning I slept late. The kid finally wandered in to wake me up, struggled up onto the high bed, nestled against me and giggled when I tickled her sides. We drank coffee and ate breakfast together in the living room while cartoons played in the background.

After dishes were washed and put away my sister and I agreed to take her swimming. As always, with that promise, a brief flurry of activity commenced. Towels were gathered from the hall closet, bathing suits put on, sunscreen applied, ice cold drinks made, and all other necessary items were stored in beach bags.

We spent several hours lounging on the dock and on floats, swimming in lazy circles, and drenching each other with cannon balls off the high dive platform. It was the epitome of relaxation. (With the exception of Larry the goose attempting to drown Air Hose in the shallow end. The poor fat kid squalled like a wounded cat until we rescued her. For some reason Larry has recently gotten in the habit of sharing our floats and was under the impression that Air Hose would allow him to perch on top of her life jacket/head. Not so, unfortunately. )

It was later, on a long leisurely boat ride, that I started thinking about Spain. Stretched out on a seat, towel arranged under me, I lay on my stomach and watched the waves. I listened to the engine, the splashing, the radio pumping out country music. The sun beat down on my exposed skin and my hair whipped out behind me.

I realized that one of the reasons I felt so at home in that beautiful country overseas was the attitude, the feeling of the people. They’re unrushed; they take siestas in the afternoon. “Yes, I’m late. No, I don’t care.”

The language might be different, the architecture might be older and more ornate, the food more interesting, the music exotic – but the feeling of contentment and happiness I had on that boat was the same as the one I had wandering the beautiful gardens of a Spanish palace.

I’m lucky. I haven’t lost my wanderlust, but if I never get to travel again, at least I’m finally aware of the beauty in my surroundings.

There’s something to be said for my little corner of the world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hypothetically speaking

Life is all about choices.

After your choice comes the inevitable ‘follow through’. You take some sort of action – be it passive or aggressive. And then comes everyone’s favorite part: consequences. Right or wrong, good or bad – everything has a consequence. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yes?

Alright then. Let’s just say that, hypothetically, you know someone that knows someone. And the someone you know works with a woman. Allegedly this woman is a nice woman, if a little nerve grating from time to time. However, as much as the someone you know likes this woman they cannot help but be a tad disturbed by her ... habits.

See, this someone you know was in the bathroom they share with this woman. They were a bit bored, because sometimes the gopher shits take awhile, so they decided to go through the drawers of a cabinet right in front of the toilet. Previously they’d only ever opened the top drawer because it’s where they store their feminine hygiene products, but that day they were curious. Upon opening the bottom drawer they noticed a box of wet wipes and they were pleased because everyone knows that wet wipes are the best invention ever, second only to The Bullet (The zzzzzzz kind, not the POW kind).

But upon further investigation they noticed several clear, plastic Ziploc bags stashed behind the wet wipe box. The bags appeared to have been there for awhile, condensation was visible on the inside plastic. Upon even further investigation it was noted that these bags contained wadded up pairs of women’s underwear matted together with, well, shit and mold. They then yelled, “Holy mother of gawd! *gag*”

Now, it’s safe to say that this someone you know got what they deserved for being nosy: disgust, embarrassment, and the hardship of keeping a straight face every time someone says “shit” in the office. However, you can also argue that this is a shared bathroom and the drawers are now communal property. (And by drawers I mean the pull out kind, not the shitty kind.)

Now, herein lies the problem: Does this person you know tell the woman that they know about her dirty little secret? Do they hint around so that she cleans out the drawers (both kinds, if we’re being technical)? Or do they continue to keep silent and check to make sure they are still there, turning it into a running joke with their friends: “Who had $20 on three months? You lose! It’s been 4 and they’re still there! Who wants $10 on ‘the collection will be added to by 5 months’?”

Whatever choice they make, there will be another consequence and another. Until eventually they’re old enough to understand what it’s like to lose control of their bowels and start shitting in their own drawers, though hopefully they dispose of them properly. Is life depressing or what?

How are some people so decisive when there are all these choices?

Let’s try another one. Something a little different.

Let’s say that, hypothetically, you haven’t had sex since New Year’s Eve. And even though it was sex, it wasn’t great sex. And the guy was a complete tool bag man whore masquerading as a nice guy and he stabbed your clitoris, repeatedly and viciously, like the Romans stabbed Caesar. Et tu Bruté?

Let’s also say that you’re trying this new thing called getting to know a person before you fuck their brains out. You’re trying to be mature. You’re trying not to act on a sexual whim or 8 liquor drinks and a bong hit. You kind of want to remember who, what, when, where, and how the hell he did that thing with his...whatever. You’re not slutting it up anymore. High five to well-behaved, classy you!

However, here’s the crux of the matter: You’re dying. Not literally dying, but seriously, if you don’t get screwed by something that doesn’t take batteries they might put you in a mental hospital and change your middle name to ARGHHHHHHHHH!, because that’s all you ever say anymore. Everyone thinks you’re bipolar or schizophrenic, but you aren’t. You’re suffering from NoDick Disease. To complicate matters, you’re actually about to get more alone time than you ever get. Also, you may or may not have a ridiculous crush on someone that you totally shouldn’t have a crush on and you couldn’t sleep with them right now even if you wanted to.

So do you go back on your promise to yourself, go out and pick up a six foot, green eyed cure with a David Copperfield complex (Surprise! He’s in there!)? Or do you continue biting the heads off of random passersby, because they look like they just got plowed, until you finally meet someone, date them, and then fuck their brains out?

If you just do it you may get satisfied, but then again you may not. Either way, you’ll eventually be slapping yourself silly because you totally ruined your well-behaved, classy plan.

The consequences are a motherfucker on this one either way you go, right? Maybe you should just go back to your old routine: Do it. Like it. Don’t care. Suffer the consequences. Still not care. Do it again. But no, it’s still a cycle! Sigh.

Last one. This is super hard, you guys. I know. My head hurts too.

Let’s say that, hypothetically, you and your five year old kid live with your mom and teenage sister. Said teenage sister is, like, ohmigawd, so perfect! You’ve always tried to relate to her, but it makes your head hurt. Until recently you never really had anything to talk about.

But now all of a sudden you’re being sought after for sexual counseling and advice, and being asked to fill the role of the mom that's popping Xanax like skittles and sticking her head in the sand because “no-one-in-this-house-has-sex-no-one-in-this-house-has-sex-no-one-in-this-house-will-ever-have-sex-nononononono” by taking said teenager to the health department for birth control. And then your nosy nature, combined with all of this sisterly bonding, suddenly culminates in the form of a cell phone video you wish to gawd you had never opened *gag* vagina *gag*...hold on a minute, please.

Ok. *deep breaths* Lalalalalalabia. In-out-in-out. *gag*

Sorry. Let’s continue.

So now you’re supposed to be the cool older sister that’s completely ok with this pimply fucker hanging around all the time and railing your sibling and talking about it to all of his friends, but you aren’t allowed to talk about it to your friends because she’s, like, ohmigawd, so perfect and no one can ever know. And she starts fucking up all the time and getting caught doing stupid shit, but everyone brushes it under the rug and she never gets punished, unlike you at that age, who totally got locked in the guest room and bitch slapped into next week.

So you take all of that angst and confusion and combine it with this most recent issue.

You’re in charge while the teenager goes to the prom. You’re supposed to monitor the time she comes in and make sure there’s no funny business going on. On one hand, you were totally doing funny business at that age and thoroughly enjoying it. On the other hand, you totally got knocked up and had to move back in with your mother. You understand the shit she’s going through, but you feel like you have to be the adult in this situation, ok.

She actually comes home at a decent hour, boyfriend in tow, to watch movies. She’s also brought along a friend and her friend’s date too. You’re completely fine with this because: A) you’re sitting on your porch getting shitfaced drunk on wine while having a fascinating four hour long phone conversation with a stranger and B) what are they possibly going to do with you RIGHT there and with their friends RIGHT there.

Everything is fine. Everyone leaves. You pass out. You wake up the next morning, pick up the kid from the non-in-laws, and park her in the other room to play while you nurse your killer headache.

But that evening you’re cleaning up the kid’s playroom and there’s a bright yellow wrapper on the floor. You pick it up and it’s an empty, torn open Trojan condom packet. You gasp and yell for the obviously guilty party. She comes in, angry at being interrupted from staring at herself in the mirror. You hold up the evidence and she immediately claims, “That’s not mine!”

“Who the fuck does it belong to then”, you say.

She rattles off the names of her friends that were there last night.

You blanch. “You mean to tell me that you let them fuck on my daughter’s playroom floor?”

“I didn’t know”, she whispers.

You are livid for many reasons: How dare someone else get laid in this house when you aren’t getting any? How dare some teenage kid deliberately bring her boyfriend over and secretly have sex in this house? How disrespectful is that? How dare your sister let them do it? IN YOUR KID’S PLAYROOM where she’s been playing ALL DAY! There could be jizz hiding anywhere! In her kitchen set teacups! You were sitting on the porch. Right there!

Before you have time to think about anything else, you decide not to mention it to your mother. Then later, once it’s percolated, you realize a few things: You’re an adult. You were technically responsible for these kids. Maybe you should say something and let them suffer the consequences, just like you had to when you were a disrespectful little shit. Or maybe you should continue to be the cooler, understanding older sister.

You demand an apology from the teenage friend and force your sister to listen to three, randomly spaced, thirty minute monologues about how much she sucks, her friends suck, her boyfriend sucks, and it sucks being an adult that has to deal with this shit and FUCK, you don’t want to think about it anymore.

And yet you continue to wonder, even after its pretty much over, if you should have done things differently. Because right now the consequences you’re suffering from are a slightly guilty conscious and the urge to vomit.

What kind of choices would you guys have made?

Of course, this is all completely hypothetical.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It turns out exercise is full of sexual innuendo. Which means it's right up my...alley.

Last Tuesday I came into work, grabbed a cup of coffee, and settled into the visitor’s chair in my boss’s office for our morning chit chat. This usually covers several topics beginning and ending with what she did the night before. (She’s a chronic repeater, you see.) This particular morning she was gushing about her new membership at the Y and something called “Zumba”.

She proceeded to demonstrate an alarming series of hip rolls and pelvic thrusts that had me clutching my side and howling with laughter. It’s not that her motions were particularly funny or uncoordinated. (Ok, so maybe they were a little funny...) It was just strange to see a 62 year old woman, in pearls and a suit no less, bumping and grinding at 7:30am on a Tuesday morning.

She then asked me to join her for the next class.

I’d never heard of Zumba before, but the name and the moves she was showing off seemed a bit African in origin to me. I got a picture in my head of standing next to my grey headed boss in a room full of mirrors, swinging my arms and hips in an attempt to lure some unsuspecting male with my body’s siren song. “Come to me. We make baby.” *hip roll, pelvic thrust, saucy wink with come hither fingers* I might have even pictured a headdress and a necklace top – you know, the kind that drapes down over the chest and is meant to sort of cover the boobs, but doesn’t?

Of course I said no. I have my own mating dance already and it involves several Jack and Cokes, a girlfriend to make out with, and a simple “your place or mine”. Why waste all the good moves during the pre-game when they’d be more appreciated in flagrante. “I learned this in my exercise class!” *hip roll, pelvic thrust, battle cry, Annnnnd BIG finish with windmill arms!*

For the rest of the week I heard about how awesome Zumba class was and how much fun the boss and a few coworkers were having. By Friday I’d been brainwashed and found myself agreeing to go to Monday’s class and check it out. “Self”, I said, “You like to dance and could definitely stand to lose a few pounds. Why not?” I also may or may not have seen an infomercial on TV showing the guy who invented Zumba and his plethora of hard bodied followers doing moves that made my nipples hard. Beto Perez: He’s the Chuck Norris of exercise dancing.

After a considerably lovely weekend, I returned to work on Monday with a bag of gym clothes and a growing seed of doubt. What if the old ladies moved better than I did? What if I were to sweat through my clothes? Sweat is so gross! What if some good looking man happened to pass by and look in, be overcome with lust, throw me over his shoulder and lock me up until I gave birth to 7 children? Then Self set me straight. “You should really hope for that last one. At least then you’d be getting laid.”

Self is such a bitch sometimes.

At 5pm, water bottles firmly in hand, boss and I walked the two blocks to the Y. It’s a lovely old building, six stories, with a red awning and a set of stairs leading up to the big, scarred double doors. I love old buildings, so while boss was at the front desk finalizing her membership paperwork, I was taking it all in. The lobby had worn carpet and glass doors. A curling, carpeted stairwell led up and across from it was a tiny old elevator. Its unobtrusive position was like an unwritten sign: This is for people that truly need it. Not for your fat lazy ass. Take the stairs bitch.

I signed the visitor’s sheet and followed boss, who stopped right in front of the elevator. “I’m not walking up six flights of stairs today”, she said, pressing the button. I looked guiltily around before nodding. If anyone gave me a “look”, I’d say that my “grandmother” had to use the elevator and I couldn’t, in good conscience, let her go alone.

Our room on the 6th floor was long, carpeted, and punctuated every few feet with columns. The walls were mirrored on every side, with only an occasional bare space in between for windows. I looked out over the city and thought that it was worth coming, just for the building and the view alone.

I was introduced to the other ladies from work, all of them over 40. They seemed nice enough and knowing that they’d been to the class several times before and weren’t dead yet put me more at ease. I mean, if I couldn’t do at 24 what these women could do at their age, there was a serious problem. “Self, you got this shit.”

As a few more people came in, conversation turned to our instructor, who was at that minute working on her steps in front of a mirror by the sound system cabinet. She was a small, pretty blonde girl dressed in black spandex pants and tank top. While Latin music pulsed through the speakers, I watched her do a series of moves that left me feeling a combination of excitement and disappointment. I loved to dance and the moves looked fun, but there was no way in hell I’d ever look like that while doing them. I looked down at my loose, cotton navy Capri pants and bright orange t-shirt proclaiming I was a supporter of a local pediatric group and sighed. I hadn’t needed workout clothes in years. My last gym membership expired while I was eating enough teriyaki wings for two and learning that “birth” is just another word for “you will no longer feel like doing anything – P.S. your vagina may need stitches”.

She called for us to spread out for a warm up. (How come I never realized how awesome physical fitness innuendo is until now?) There were about 8 older women aged 40 – 60, myself, and three girls that looked to also be in their early 20’s. Two of them positioned themselves directly behind the instructor and commenced giggling. I didn’t like the look of them so I took a spot on the back right side of the room. I was not going to be distracted or upstaged.

Then we began.

The music was mostly fast and in Spanish, with a few new hits I recognized from the radio. I heel, toe, stepped and gyrated through the warm up without a problem. It wasn’t until the first “routine” that I started to realize, “this shit is going to hurt”.

– Jump up and wave your hands in the air! Spread your legs apart, pump your arms in front of you, and shake that ass like a rap video groupie on cocaine! Salsa backwards, forwards, side to side! Cha cha! Belly dance, Shakira style, round and round, left to right! Step step to the left and jump jump, step step to the right and jump jump! Run, run, and run, in place! Cumbia, (Which, as it turns out, has roots in Africa. HA!) Cumbia! And repeat! New dance! Keep going! –

Even in the intervals between routines we were to dance in place or walk around in circles while we drank from our water bottles. “Keep that heart rate up, ladies!” After the first 10 minutes I was sweating like a whore in church, panting and dying on the inside. I contemplated just walking in place during the hard parts, but none of the old ladies did. They kept going and by gawd, if they were going to keep going, I couldn’t be a 24 year old pussy. So I pushed through, vowing that once I was done I would limp out of there and never come back.

But there came a point, about 25 to 30 minutes in, that I adjusted. I caught my breath and moving became easier. I started to enjoy myself and get into it. Though, not nearly as much as the two giggling girls in front, who stared in appreciation at themselves in the mirrors and tried to outdo the instructor. I know she made a few parts harder just for them. Occasionally she would smile in a most malicious way and I wondered if our thoughts might be similar. “Bitch please, you call that a pelvic thrust? Are you having a vaginal seizure of the non-orgasmic variety? You’re gonna throw your back out and I’mma laugh like hell. We’ve got a candidate for hip replacement over here!”

By the time we were cooling down I felt good. I was loose, relaxed, and entirely too pleased with myself for doing the moves better than the over 50 crowd. As I stretched I watched the others. They were just as sweat soaked and completely oblivious. No one cared what anyone else looked like and if they’d been paying attention to how others moved, they’d done it behind an expression of veiled disinterest, just like me.

Walking with boss in companionable silence down the six flights of stairs, I changed my mind. I decided that I would join the Y and continue coming to classes. I would wear cuter exercise clothes, more deodorant, and even, horror of horrors, do “The Pony” without complaint. Yes, that’s right. One of the moves in a routine was “The Pony”. Something I hadn’t done since I was a fat kid watching Richard Simmons videos in the living room with Satan’s mistress my mother.

When I got home I was tired, but not too sore. I did the mundane chores that needed to be done, threatened my disobedient child with “The Pony” (which was surprisingly ineffective), and finally took a long hot shower.

Yesterday morning I was fine – no aching muscles or stiff limbs. (That’s what she said.) I went on to class without the boss, who had a prior engagement, and filled out the membership paperwork, took my picture and accepted my keychain. I felt surprisingly little dread at the thought of more exercise. It’s never been a priority or something I enjoy much of, but then again, I used to hate granola bars. Now I can’t get enough of those bitches.

But last night when I got home and got out of the car, my calves hurt so badly I could barely stand up. There’s a short set of brick stairs that go down from our driveway to the patio and front door, but when I went to take the first one, my knees nearly buckled. I ended up having to take one step at a time, slowly and turned sideways. Like an old lady. And when I got to work this morning, they were still a bit tight and sore (they just keep coming...).

Sigh. At least I don’t have to go back until tomorrow night. Besides, it is kind of fun. And I’m committed now – I’ve signed the form and everything. An anti-exercise woman has been reborn into a Zumba fanatic.

I guess it just goes to show – Richard Simmons might have a vagina, but the pony is still going strong. Wait, no. I mean – Exercise is a bitch, but staying away from home (and my mother) for an extra two hours is awesome. No, no. Uhhh – If I can’t have sex, I can at least simulate it three days a week, fully clothed in a room full of strangers to make myself feel better. FUCK!

Ok, I got it!

Exercise makes you feel good. But exercising with a bunch of old people makes you feel even better. “And Pony! And Pony! And Pony! OOWA OOWA!”

Monday, May 10, 2010

A moment like this

Today’s teenage girls, despite popular belief, aren’t that different from those of decades past. Sure there’s a lapse in manners and a higher pregnancy rate. The shorts are shorter, the piercings plentiful, and the sense of entitlement has reached awe inspiring heights. But the basics are still there: insecurity, vapidity, earnestness, the never ending battle to fit it, to be popular. At football games it’s still the old game of “see and be seen”. Whispering behind hands, passing notes, making out in secluded corners with boys best avoided – not much has changed at all. Even the most antiquated ritual remains largely intact: The Prom.

As a Junior I was excited about going to prom. I’d gone to several military balls with JROTC guys in previous years and the concept was exactly the same. Just exchange the uniform for a tux and there you go. But you couldn’t have told me that then. Because surely, with prom, it would be different. The decorations would be more beautiful, the music more wonderful, the punch sweeter – everything would be perfect. I would get all dressed up and make one of the best memories of my life.

I went dress shopping with my mom and godmother – a pastime that usually required a lot of tongue biting and eye rolling. But even though they irritated me a bit, I loved trying on the formal gowns in the huge dressing room with the curving stand of mirrors and raised, carpeted platform. The walls were papered in gold and there were mahogany side tables next to plush chairs and couches. I would usually take longer than necessary just to stay in the dressing area, but that year it went quickly.

It was the second dress I tried on. Black, made like an old timey dressing gown with three diamond buttons at the waist. It split above and below the buttons to reveal horizontal striped white cloth, the stripes alternately solid and sheer. The bodice was tight with thin straps and the black overcoat of sorts stood up in points on either side. It flared out at the waist, like a smaller scale version of something out of Gone with the Wind. I never wanted to take it off.

With two godmothers, one a hairdresser and one a makeup artist, I had an easier time of it than most. I was pampered for free and quite grateful about it. My love of makeup was in the beginning stages and sitting in the studio having glittery powder dusted over my face was probably my favorite part. I’ve never been very photogenic, but when I posed for pictures that afternoon with my date and my friends, I felt beautiful and confident. And it showed.

My date and I drove to a downtown Japanese restaurant where they do the cooking in front of you. I’d always enjoyed watching their comical routine, but when the man was flipping his shrimp and teriyaki chicken into open mouths around the table, I shrank back. He turned to me, gesturing with his spatula, a piece of chicken balanced on the end. “No, no. I don’t want...” But it was too late, he let the saucy chicken fly and it missed my unready mouth, landing in my lap on the white striped part of my dress. I was horrified, then teary, then angry. No amount of cursing or scrubbing in the bathroom could get the small stain out of my dress.

When we left the restaurant my date passed me a conciliatory joint. We smoked it, got a bit giggly, and I felt better. But upon arrival I noticed that the decorations were crap. Why I’d expected anything else from a small country high school, I don’t know, but my fantasies of twirling around under a bunch of beautiful twinkling lights were brought to an abrupt halt. The walls of the facility were made of ugly brown panels and the floor was a smooth grey concrete. There were a few balloons here and there and one large banner telling us that we were indeed at the 2002 Junior/Senior Prom.

As it turned out my date was not a dancer, but rather a chain smoker who preferred the company of the tobacco chewers gathered on the outside steps. After a few fast dances with my friends and one coerced slow dance with him, I ruined his plans of a prom night conquest and demanded he take me to my friend’s house where I was to stay the night.

The 15 minute ride was mostly silent. I got out, grabbed my bag, and stalked past his outstretched arms to join the all female party that was already in full swing. I sat in my friend’s room, drinking wine coolers, and listening to the group gossip. And I fell asleep in my perfect dress with my perfectly done up curls and makeup well before the stroke of midnight, clutching a half empty Bacardi bottle in my hand.

I was so disappointed by my junior prom that I swore my senior year would be completely different, and it was. I picked out a dress I didn’t care a thing about, styled my recently cropped hair as best I could, and decided to go without a date. The one thing I didn’t skimp on was the makeup. I went back to the studio and let my godmom do the honors.

I went to dinner with a group of friends and made a 20 minute appearance at the dance before relocating to the nearest party. I remember standing alone at one point, watching my cousin and her seemingly perfect boyfriend pose for pictures under the balloon archway, and wondering what she’d remember most about that night, if being popular really made it that much better. I’ve never been able to go to dinner or a movie by myself, so looking back I’m a little bit in awe of the teenage girl that stuck her nose in the air and walked alone into that building full of judgmental kids.

The first party spanned several blocks. There were so many people crowded on lawns, passing weed and booze, dancing to the latest rap music. Prom dresses and tuxes blended with bathing suits and shorts. I’ve never seen a party to rival its scale. It was inevitable that the cops would show up, so before long we went back to my friend’s house and started up a smaller version.

The sinks and bathtubs were filled with PJ, a fruity mixed liquor drink that tastes lovely and mild, but sneaks up on you later. I drank and I danced and, as later evidenced by pictures and word of mouth, played a rousing game of Twister. At that time I just happened to be conveniently living with the friend whose house we were partying in and just as conveniently staying in her older brother’s room. Home for a rare visit, he decided that we could share his bed, no problem.

And indeed it wasn’t, because he was quite sexy and after an hour or so of talking, we spent the rest of the morning and well into the day going at it like rabbits. Unfortunately, my friend’s father came home a bit earlier than expected and opened the door to find his teenage houseguest sitting astride his adult son’s lap, doing her best to make her senior prom’s theme, “A Moment Like This”, live up to the hype.

Last weekend, as I worked the counter at my godmom’s makeup store and watched the parade of prom girls, I quietly reminisced and wondered what their night would be like. Would it end in disappointment, an irremovable stain on their dress and a date with better pot than manners? I hoped not. Because I saw the same thing in them that I saw in myself before my first prom: excitement.

The shy, smiling girl whose plain face and quiet nature seemed at odds with her anxious parents, hovering with a camera to capture her every move. The loud and obnoxious brat whose complaints elicited surprisingly strong words from the mild makeup artist, while her mother looked on in disinterest. The beautiful political fanatic, whose opinions and clothing sat on her like an often rehearsed, unbelievable speech lying atop a podium.

They were all different. Yet I could see the excitement in the tilt of their heads, the drumming of their fingers, and the looks in their eyes when they gazed at themselves in the mirror.

This coming weekend I’ll help my sister go through the same motions. We’ll go to the studio and I’ll put makeup on her face and help curl her hair. In the absence of our vacationing mother, I’ll take pictures and stay up late waiting on her to come home. She’ll be just another prom girl hoping for a memorable evening...and even though I think her boyfriend is a douche bag and manipulator of the first order, I’ll do my part to make it just that.

And as her big sister, I’ll do a bit more for her than I did for those other girls. I’ll give her a few words of wisdom:

Enjoy the preparation – it’s often as fun (or more fun) than the actual event.

Don’t eat teriyaki chicken or any other saucy food at dinner.

Always remember to lock doors.

And if the night turns out to be less than you thought, don’t worry about it. You’ve got one year left to get rid of that douche bag boyfriend and get it right. The after parties are always better when you’re a senior.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Spring has come to Whoreville (Alternate Title: Don't judge me, asshole.)

It’s that time of year again. The sun is bright, the flowers are in bloom, and the air is thick with love. Ah, spring! Couples stroll arm in arm downtown and gaze at each other in cafes over club sandwiches. Women wander about the grocery store in their sundresses and sandals, picking up sweet smelling bouquets. Men drive their convertibles with the tops down, winking and waving at passersby. People everywhere are gardening and picnicking and sunning and bustling.

Spring has a way of tempting even the declared indoor fanatics, like myself, out into its midst. I won’t garden because I don’t like dirt and I won’t bustle because I’m not the bustling sort. I won’t make moony eyes at some man on a café patio or grope them on a crowded sidewalk because I hate PDA. (And also because groping a stranger is called sexual harassment and is frowned upon in most areas.) But...I will wear sundresses and sandals, give men in convertibles the middle finger out my open sunroof, and eat outside (after thoroughly checking the area for bugs and bird shit).

What can I say? I like buildings. Air conditioned, clean, nicely decorated buildings. While most people are lazing about the parks, I’m exploring other options.

For instance, I’ve been working at the makeup store, shopping, organizing my closet. And I’ve been to the library the last two weekends – browsing through the shelves, taking pictures of the architecture, and just generally wandering the floors in a state of barely suppressed glee.

But after excitedly talking about my adventures and showing some of these pictures to my cousin’s boyfriend Dan (wrongly pegging him as a kindred spirit) at a get-together on Saturday night, and listening to him laugh at my excitement, it was established that: Not only am I hopelessly indoors-y, I’m a geek. While they had pictures of ‘fun’ (that’s a silently sarcastic ‘fun’), outdoorsy stuff like walks and softball...I had books. You would have thought I’d suddenly pulled a zipper down from my forehead and revealed myself to be an alien.

My cousin Tim and his fiancé Elle were sitting across the room, my cousin Christine was on the floor in front of me, and Dan sat next to me on the couch. We’d all been drinking quite a bit and when that happens “the stories” come out. Christine and Tim, seeking to redeem my geek status in the eyes of their other halves that didn’t know me as well...or embarrass me beyond repair, began the downward spiral I like to call: “Do you remember the time...”

This is a common practice with everyone in my family and people are subjected to it whether they’ve heard “the stories” before or not. But if they haven’t heard them, the excitement in the room is akin to a well-timed fart – faces are red, laughing is loud, and pointing is possible. I’ve participated many times in the telling of “the stories” for other family members; it doesn’t just happen to me. But I do seem to be the favored one.

Christine and I have been competing against each other for this and that since we were kids and sometimes when “the stories” start, things get ugly. I believe this happens through no fault of my own and is most likely due to her feelings of inadequacy in the presence of my superior intelligence. Or an overlapping of childhood jealousies and copious amounts of Whisky.

It all started on equal footing:

Tim: Hey Al, tell Elle about the time you showed up drunk at the airport with no bra and no luggage.

I happily told the story of my public shame and smiled while Elle and the others laughed. When it’s just a competition to see who can outdo the other in terms of hilarity or shock value, I’m fine with that.

Christine: You think that’s bad? How about Alyson’s 21st birthday? She ended up taking care of me!

Translation: I’ve totally been drunker than you.

Me: Yes. I believe you were the one outside the bar swinging round and round a light pole, in front of the cops, with your stripper heels in your hand singing “woo woo woo woo woo” like a slurring ambulance siren.

Translation: I will always be funnier than you. Even when it’s not an anecdote about me.

Everyone laughed and “the stories” continued.

We talked about the time Tim got drunk and pissed in the laundry basket and the kitchen trash can. We talked about the time I was almost eaten and/or molested by a fat drug dealer. We talked about the time Christine got up and pissed in the middle of her bedroom floor while her boyfriend yelled at her to stop, to no avail. We talked about the time Tim had sex with a girl on the living room floor and one of our roommates sat next to him, naked, and talked to them the whole time. He didn’t even pause. Did I mention I was on the couch? Awake.

Elle and Dan didn’t contribute any stories of their own. They couldn’t have gotten in a word edgewise anyway. But they seemed to be enjoying themselves and I was sure their faith had been restored in my general badassness. They could now over look all the alien library chatter.

Elle: Damn girl! I should’ve known you back then.

Translation: You sound way more fun in these stories than you’ve been since I met you. What happened?

I don’t know which story spawned the decline into the downward spiral of doom and “Alyson’s a giant whore” Ville, but it was very sudden and brutal. I was like a fucked up Dorothy. Picked up by the tornado of the past and transplanted, with my slutty red slippers, to the yellow brick road to hell.

Christine: Do you remember the time she slept with that dude in the tent in Amber’s backyard?

Christine: Oh! Oh! Do you remember the time she tried to give what’s his name a hand job in the car?

Tim suddenly jumped up from his chair and pointed at me with an expression akin to the look catholic priests give altar boys. It said, “Your ass is mine.”

Tim: Oh! OH! NO! OHMYGOD! CHRISTINE! Do you remember that party we went to at your boyfriend’s house? When he lived upstate?

I was lost. Where was this going? What party?

Christine: GASP! YES! That was the night she locked herself in the bathroom with my boyfriend’s brother and then he came and got me because she was puking everywhere!

Shit...that party.

Me: Ha. Yeah. That was a rough night. *cough*

Christine: I still can’t believe you were in there with him.

Me: Shut up, rug pisser.

Tim: That’s not even the half of it! You remember what happened on the ride home?

Ride home? Ride home? Have I blocked this...was I blacked out? What is he ta...ooooh motherfucker. Don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it.

Christine: GASP! Tell them!

Tim: We got ready to leave and I was sitting in the back seat of the car with her friend, who was passed out, and

Me: Shut up! Let’s talk about something else!

Elle: Oh, no! We have to hear it now.

Tim: And she was up front with her friend’s boyfriend and he was driving and

Me: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!

Tim and Christine were laughing so hard they were crying. Caught in the rare trap of reliving a moment I’d sufficiently blocked for years, I was horrified. I rarely blush, yet my cheeks were burning. I wished I could take my immediate reaction back because it only fueled the fire. My protests were more potent than the other two insisting that they must know the end of the story.

Elle: WHAT!

Christine: EEEEEEE!

Tim: And the 30 minute drive took two hours... because she was giving him a blowjob and he didn’t want to go home! I was half passed out and didn’t even realize what was going on until later when we were dropped off, but at some point in the middle of it her friend woke up and asked for a cigarette and Al gave her one and that’s how my pants had a huge burn hole in them. And when we finally got back to the house the first thing Al says to me is, “Oh my gawd. I gave him a blowjob for, like, two hours.”

Christine: Did you at least stop when you handed her a cigarette?

Everyone was howling with laughter. I put my hands to my burning face and looked down.

Tim: And then she slept with him when

My head popped up and I glared at him.

Me: Hold the fuck on! She WANTED me to sleep with him. She begged me to sleep with him. They had some kind of weird fetish thing and he

Tim: Yeah, that’s true...

Christine: Yeah, I remember that. She tried to blame you for the whole thing when the friendship ended. Dude, she hated you.

Me: Humph. They were crazy and I was hopped up on pills and booze and weed. Doesn’t count. And if it did, it would be "slept with them", not "him".

Elle: Oh my god.

Me: Sigh. Can we talk about something else now?

Elle: Two hours?

Me: I guess. I don’t really remember anything about it other than the fact that it happened. Sigh. So...anyway.

Elle: But TWO hours?

Me: Listen, I’ve gotten a lot better since then.

Dan: (finally offering something other than just laughter) *grin* Persistence!

Everyone laughed and I was relieved. When I got up to leave shortly after that, around 12:30am, Elle gave me a hard time.

Elle: Stay here! Have another drink!

Me: I’d love to, but I’ve got to get back. I stopped drinking a while ago so I could drive.

Elle: You’re always running off.

She’s right. I don’t really party anymore. I “can’t hang”. I manage to get drunk and I’m out of commission for two days. I can’t even play "Do you remember the time" right anymore, don’t even compete with them! I didn’t tell the story about how Christine got the herp from an ex and walked around shaking a huge container of baby powder into her underwear. (Because that’s totally a treatment.) And I didn’t tell the story about the time Tim lit himself on fire or when he was fucking that girl that looked like the love child of Carrot Top and Tom Hanks.

I’m not the girl in “the stories” anymore. I suppose I’m the geek.

And really, I’m ok with that. After hearing and (sort of) remembering that story for the first time in years, I’d much rather be the chick that roams the library and gets excited about skylights and murals than that other person. Or maybe there’s a healthy medium?

Who knows? Now that I'm all adult and shit, maybe I’ll even get over my issues with dirt and start gardening. I might be a little different, but I’m still persistent, right? If I can give a two hour blow job, surely I can plant some fucking flowers.

Dressed in a white shirt with my hair combed straight
Here in my black shoes and me without a date
Me without hindsight, me without
When will change come, Just like Spring Rain