C what I mean?

by stevendepolo via creative commons

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This post is brought to you by the LETTER C as in codeine, which stops the hacking long enough for me to talk and to sleep a bit and which wraps my world in a warm, fuzzy of blanket of calm.
C also stands for Christmas, the day on which my robot battery pack failed. After nearly two weeks of scrambling to shop, clean, keep up with everyday stuff, shop, attend holiday concerts and events, wrap, stress, shop, cook and stress some more, I gave in on the 25th.
C also stands for clammy sweating and chills. I faked it through the 23rd and 24th. I went roller skating on aching legs and ignored the creeping malaise. I pushed one of those ridiculous wonky carts through IKEA, past all those inviting couches and beds, whose siren songs had an almost irresistible pull. I sang Christmas carols at a candle light service on the 24th in spite of a raw throat and watery eyes. I skipped sleep one night to scrub my guest bathroom clean.
On the 25th we hosted dinner. So I downed some NyQuil, used some nasal spray and throat spray, put on extra makeup and a big smile and carried on.

“Are you sick?” one of my relatives asked post-dinner, when we were sipping tea and munching on home-baked cookies.

“Me? Oh, no… allergies, I think.”

Denial. Why the denial? There’s a family history.

By the 26th I was flat on my back. No more faking or denying. I missed two holiday parties. I missed an opportunity to go ice skating and sledding and to get together with friends over coffee.

C also stands for common sense, which is in short supply around here. I finally realized that practicing medicine without a license never ends well.  So I went to my awesome doctor, the one who treated me two years ago after I mixed the NyQuil/Benadryl/nasal spray/throat spray denial cocktail — along with real cocktails and outdoor swimming — on a trip to Las Vegas. I didn’t come home with a hangover. I came home with pneumonia in my left lung. My doctor is a swell guy, and he spared me a lecture this time around because this time I came in before I started coughing up blood. He just gave me the much-needed pills and cough medicine. He also gave me a copy of my chest X-ray on CD.

The good new is that my X-ray is clear. No scary dark spots. Just a bacterial infection of the respiratory system. That does not begin with C.

Cheers.

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Beautiful, tiny, gone

MZ archives, June 2007

“Why are you wearing those sandals?”

“Because they are so beautiful.”

“But they don’t fit.”

“But I want them.”

Do you want things, wear things, even if they don’t fit,  just because they are so beautiful?

My Girl from the East, who is four, is sitting on the floor trying to stuff her size 8 toddler feet into size 6 sandals. She doesn’t want to let go, much like the middle-aged woman who cooks her meals and drives her to school. That woman, who happens to be me,  also tries on beautiful things that don’t fit and insists on keeping them for irrational reasons.

In spite of these emotions, I purged her closet and mine and formed three piles on the floor: toss, donate and sell. She didn’t look twice at the jumpers and rompers and sun suits in the donate pile. Some things in the sell pile stirred feelings.

Like the white faux leather sandals accented by red and green butterflies. They were a favorite. When my Girl saw them on the floor, she immediately yanked off her socks and stuffed her feet into them. She walked in them for a few minutes, denying that the toe and heel overhang bothered her. (I know it did.) Then she sat on the couch (I’m sure as a way to avoid the feeling of walking in them) outstretched her legs and stared at them as if they were long-lost friends.

I know what she’s doing. She’s reminiscing. Those sandals, along with their scuff marks and wear, hold memories of summers gone by. I’m saying good-bye to the baby who became the toddler who is now a preschooler.  I’m putting the past in bags and boxes and getting it out of my life. Show’s over, folks. Time to toss, donate or convert to cash that which no longer serves a purpose.

I felt a little bad tugging the sandals off her feet. As I scrubbed them with a Magic Eraser and tucked them into the plastic bin marked for the consignment shop, I talked with her a little about growing up and letting go.

I know how she feels. I have my bag of things that don’t fit. I have my own issues of wanting what’s beautiful but no longer serves a useful purpose. After our chat, I grabbed the skinny jeans that won’t budge past my knee caps and threw them back on the donate pile. You see, I’d pulled them off the donate pile and sneakily stashed them on the staircase, with visions of saving them for when they’d fit again.

We made peace with the idea that newer, bigger, more beautiful things are out there. We can’t wait to find them.

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Granny panties: public health nuisance?

bigpants

by alessandraelle via creative commons

Aside from fine lines and dark circles and loss of muscle tone, there’s one thing that really deflates my over-40 self-esteem: the underwear choices for the typical middle-aged body.

Gone are the days of  itty-bitty pretty things in bright colors, accented with lace and beads and bows. Now, it’s all plain and dark and thick. Now, it could double as body armor in a combat zone.

More than anything else about this age, I’m embarrassed of my underwear drawer.

A few weeks ago at a picnic with a friend — who has not yet crossed the threshold into fortysomething – we cursed our big appetites and what it does to our bodies. Then, she revealed a secret to me. She raised the hem of her pink ruffled sleeveless blouse to reveal a heavy-duty bustier that stretched from her rib cage to her hips. She made a fist and rapped her knuckles against the reinforced siding to demonstrate its figure-controlling power.

Wow.

I was floored. I assumed her smooth lines were the result of genetics. Some women are lucky. But for us, pregnancy turned a slab of granite into a bowl of mush. She bought it, she whispered to me over a bowl of Sun Chips we were sharing, because someone had asked her if she was pregnant again.

Ouch.

I feel her pain. As a former member of the itty-bitty bikini club, the crop top and low rise pants club, middle age has forced me to relinquish my membership. I hang with a different crew now, the ones who shop for what at worst can be called granny panties and at best are called figure shapers.

Ugh.

I have discovered some things that make this transition tolerable:  Spanx, or anything Spanx-like.

Shopping for this type of underwear, however,  is a different experience. No longer can I go to the cute  lingerie boutiques and grab a handful of candy-colored “fundies” in my size and pay for them. Now I need to go to stores that have senior discount days to buy something to return my body to what it once was, to smooth and redistribute flesh, to conceal and reshape.

So imagine my horror on a recent shopping  trip when the dressing room clerk plucked the Spanx out of the bouquet of try-on items in hand and waved them overhead.

“No. No. No.” She admonished, shaking her head to and fro rapidly for added emphasis. “You aren’t permitted  to try on undergarments in a store!”

She used words like exposed crotch, and hygiene and public health threat. Suddenly I felt like Borat in his man-thong.

Um.

Well, I wasn’t going to take everything off and put them on, I retorted. I was going to put them on over my own underwear and see how they worked with this rather clingy dress I just bought.

More nos from the dressing room monitor. More head shaking. More talk of dreaded diseases and H1N1 and health department crackdowns.

I know I’ve tried on these body shapers before at other stores. In fact, I clearly recall a dressing-room attendant at a very upscale shop helping me find one to wear with my wedding dress. I’ve tried on bathing suits in stores countless times.

I’m not a germophobe, so much of what this attendant was talking about flies under my radar. I’m also not a shopper. I do not enjoy it. Least of all do I like trying on clothes or having to return them if they do not fit properly.

I looked at those Spanx waving over my head like the flag of doom. I talked of the price tag. I suggested that it was a lot to spend on something if it didn’t fit.

The attendant offered a solution: Buy the underwear, try it on at home, then return it to the store for a refund.

Then — and get this –she said with great pleasure that if the underwear is returned to the store, employees will have to put on protective gloves, render the garment useless, and ceremoniously dispose of it.

Whoa.

Do they have a HazMat team on duty for underwear and bathing suit returns? I ‘d love to see that in action. Do they use big tongs and drop them in airtight biohazard drums? Do they set a granny panties fire behind the store?

I suppose this all makes sense. I know it does. But something about the way this moment played out seemed hysterical and over the top. And now I feel as if I’ve been living in a cave on this matter.  After conducting a bit of online research, it seems that this is a health code rule. It turns out that people are pigs and do horrible things in dressing rooms and to clothing.

There are a lot of Borats out there.

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The one about shoes

 

Image from www.pattiewhack.com

Image from www.pattiewhack.com

So, yesterday I took my preschooler shoe shopping.
It would have been easier to climb a wall of razor blades. Naked. In a blizzard.
Whatever made me think I could place a 3-year-old girl around shelves lined with pink, purple, glitter and licensed characters beckoning from every box and expect her to pick out something conservative?

What made me think she’d pull one box at a time from the shelves? What made me think we could do this in 15 minutes?

Is it asking too much to find presentable, reasonable, dyed in a hue occurring in nature, spare of any licensed characters and flashing lights footwear?
If you’re willing to shell out some bucks, then it’s possible. If you’re looking for bargains, it’s going to be painful — razor blade painful.

Let’s point out right now that I don’t own a “Born to Shop” T-shirt. I like to get in and get out when it comes to shopping, particularly when it involves people with short fuses, small bladders and Dora the Explorer obsessions.

hannahmontana

image from www.fashionwindows.com

As I struggled to pull the neon purple, blue, pink and red disco shoes off Girl from the East’s  feet, I looked lovingly at the display of baby shoes. So cute and sweet. One pair had little cupcake appliques. Another, a simple Mary Jane with a bright red button. But these designs don’t carry over to the toddler side of the aisle.

Want to know why? The baby shoes are sweet and attractive because the mothers, fathers and grandparents are selecting them. The toddler shoes suck because the manufacturers know that the kids with this size feet are aware and making choices.

They are old enough to manipulate and be manipulated with licensed characters. Put Dora or SpongeBob on the shoe and the kids will scream for them until their parents’ ears bleed. They’ll make life so miserable that buying $12 Hannah Montana Croc rip-offs will seem like a day at the spa.

These down- and-dirty marketing tactics reduce parents to our own most desperate measures. Here are my three favorites:

There’s the bait and switch: Allow the shoe to be tried on. Then, when it’s safely off the foot, distract the child’s attention and pitch the shoes into the next aisle. When you arrive at the checkout line, declare the shoes as lost, having fallen out of the cart never to be found again.  Ever wonder why you see ugly shoes tucked into bread displays? 
Next is the  inventory shortage: This is where you say: ”Sorry, honey. They don’t have it in your size.” I am using the tactic as long as I can because she’s learning those numbers at a fast clip.
Finally, there is the delayed gratification: With this strategy, you bank on short-term memory failure.  ”We’ll get it another time,” you promise,  knowing you’ll either win this one or live to deeply regret your words.

Your parents pulled one of these on you, didn’t they?

Heck, I’m still waiting for my first car.

Terror in the checkout line

cardburn

My dear friend,

Please accept my sincere apology for the inexcusable behavior I displayed yesterday in line at Pricey Fresh Food Mart. You see, you caught me off guard, at a vulnerable moment, and in my anxiety I acted rude and dismissive.
It wasn’t you. It was me. Me and my shaky finances. The kind of shaky that makes trips through checkout lines more emotionally taxing than a biopsy of a suspicious lump.
You are such a sweet soul. Always so breezy and chatty. You with your cart of exotic little cheeses in their bright geometric packages. You and your collection of imported waters clattering next to mesh bags of organically grown produce.
If you only knew what was tearing at my insides while the cashier scanned and bagged my food products. My mac ‘n’ cheese boxes. My pasta bags. My peanut butter.
As you chatted to me about your day at the spa, I swiped my debit card through the reader and put on my best poker face.
As you adjusted your snappy leather jacket and shifted your designer purse on your shoulder, I closed my eyes and made a wish to the gods: “Please, please, please ….”
I opened one eye to peek at the screen. It paused. It blinked. My heart skipped a beat. I clutched my wallet tighter. I wondered why I didn’t just go to Cheap-O Charlie’s where no one makes eye contact.
While the screen sputtered and you asked me what my big plans were for the evening, the cashier stopped this runaway train.
“There seems to be a problem,” he said.
I broke out in a sweat. He flipped a switch to turn off the lane light. He called for assistance.

Fearing a DECLINE to my card swipe, I avoided eye contact as you repacked your cart of cheeses and wines and exotic little chocolates and backed out of line. And that, my friend, is when my dignity was saved.

By the time you had relocated to another lane, I learned it was not a decline but merely a computer glitch that necessitated a system reboot. That’s all. But by then I was emotionally drained. I looked for you at the door to salvage the moment, but you were gone. Gone home to your Belgian chocolates and flavored waters.

Please understand.

 

Your hormonally bitchy but definitely-not-broke friend