Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's Summer Already, Damn It!

Okay, I'm invited to a pool party at my mom and dad's condo on Sunday. I don't want to go; I don't want to swim; I don't want to be cornered into jollying my son and husband into enjoying themselves at what is essentially a twenty-year shuffleboard tournament with my aging relatives. My mom is the most upbeat and delightful member of this aging rogue's gallery and somehow feels called upon to be a kind of super cruise director in charge of fun for the whole group. She cooks up day trips, checks when the gardens or museums are open, works out the best place to eat lunch after the requisite two hours of cultural enhancement. And then invites me or my sister, or both, to help her jolly along the cranky seniors. In her place, I might be tempted to do so, too. It's either take charge of it herself, or just sit in front of the ball game on TV and criticize the food.
Still, I don't want to sit around the pool in a swimsuit. I especially don't want to do it to make other people feel they are pleasing me or my son by setting the usual discussion of weather, traffic conditions, and shopping desires around a bosky pool. I don't want to be forced to swim ("But you used to love swimming!" Yes, I did, Mom. Things change.) by the fact that no one else will go in the water with my son, so I'll get guilt-tripped by the elder generation, who if memory serves, never swam with me in similar situations because there were always hordes of bratty cousins to do it for them. My son has the misfortune of being invited twice monthly to what are essentially nursing home fun fairs. I am supposed to entertain the bored seniors who have too much time on their hands and nothing to do or think about but when to invite us over again (i.e. besides doctor's appointments), and also to convince my son he's having fun, fun, fun!
Even more, I don't want to spend even one minute with my thighs exposed to the air. This is not because I care so very deeply about how they look, or how they look to some theoretical bystander. The party will consist only of family members who either don't care what my thighs look like (the males), or those who do but whose thighs are more problematic than mine (the females). I just don't want to go there. I don't want to look at them myself. I come by my hypercritical visual distinction-making genetically, and it's almost impossible to turn off once stimulated. Also the problem-solving gene. So if forced to sit around a pool with my naked knees in front of me, the puckery thigh thing distracting me from all possibility of contiguous thought processes, I'll get cranky too. I'll start imagining what could be done to ameliorate the "water trapped in silk parachute balloons" problem that my thighs now present to the world, and when liposuction arises in my mind and then is disgustedly dismissed, I will have traveled a well-worn thought trench one more time. One more time than I wanted to. I'm trying to avoid situations where I place my admittedly not-perfect body on some lazy Susan of self-scrutiny, because it's just a waste of time. I had to quit CorePower Yoga for the same reason. The yoga I was trying to practice for health and flexibility was starting to stress me out because of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the studio. I was spending all my meditative moments in body comparison studies. I couldn't help it. Most of the others were young and fit, but which was the fittest? Whose thighs did I envy the most? How utterly non-yogic.
Of course you could argue that you just have to ignore certain features of the modern world, the competitive, surface-only nature of life as it is lived here and now, but putting myself again and again in such situations where 75% of the milieu is practically toxic--better just get out. I'm fine with my legs qua legs. They work well, they take me where I want to go, they just fall down in the aesthetic department. So don't look.
Of course, what I want and what will happen are often very far apart.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How You Should Live Your Life

I have no advice. I used to hide behind a mask of silence that led people to believe I agreed with them, but mostly I didn't. Now I find in the new middle-aged blurt phase I seem to be in, that when I express my opinion, it is taken as a condemnation of any other way of doing things. A judgment on others' lives. This is not what I mean, or what I want.
For example, if I express my delight in my son's sense of humor, somehow this is taken as bragging, or worse, a criticism of the glum teenagers of others. Or a wounding reminder of others' childlessness. Most people don't want to hear about your child, especially those who are waiting for you to shut up so they can tell you about their cat.
No, I do not know how you should live your life. I often hear other women my age explaining to each other how young people should act. Which college she should go to, how he should get a job already. It's their life, let them handle the day-to-day. There is no way that your experience can help them; they live in a different world, they are differently constituted.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Run Now and Again

Every woman who thinks her husband doesn't understand her should have a sister-in-law like mine, Joanie. My brother is a typical Midwestern guy, a toolhead, asks for a circular saw for Christmas, a sports fan with an insatiable need for jerseys, a guy who feels he conquers the world on his riding mower. But he loves his wife. He just doesn't have clue what she's on about. She says, "Go get Ben from day care," and he gets up to do it, is halfway to his car when she shouts after him, "Wait, don't forget his stuff--his sweatshirt, his lunchbox--listen!" He comes halfway back to hear her instructions and then, foolishly believing the instructions are finished, starts heading out again. She calls after him, "Listen--listen," and he comes back into the living room from the kitchen, "last time I didn't gather up all his stuff, it was gone the next day. I asked them where it all was and they said look in the lost and found, and that's where I found his winter boots . . . " By this time, my brother has given up the idea of forward progress or of pleasing her, because he knows very well what's coming next. Here it comes: he waits until she's done talking and then for three more beats and she says, "Well, what are you waiting for? Go get Ben!" and he just shrugs and chuckles to himself in the car on the way over, no way to win, is there?
He does everything he can for her, he tries to listen, but he can't read her mind. He always guesses wrong--is going to get Ben first or is listening? Which? She wishes he would just do what she tells him to do, and he's trying. He wishes she could see how this feels to him, like being chained up in the yard. But he loves her, like a dog he loves her, and he accepts being chained up in the yard. He just needs to be taken out for a run now and again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


So, of course, I'm reassessing my reassessment. More voices have weighed in and many of them are slightly more ambiguous than the big thumb's up I scored two weeks ago. Again, they said, good effort, but are you sure you want to use a dream in this story? What about the husband, shouldn't we know more about him, and maybe not all from the wife's point of view? Why don't you introduce him earlier and let us, the readers, make up our own minds about him?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I see what you're saying.
I see that my stories often come to a "cute" ending. Two hand claps and that's all settled now, isn't it? That the interstices should be elaborated or perhaps cut out altogether, I can't decide. Of course, no one can tell you the answer to the question I'm really asking, which is: is it any good? Will it ever be any good? And who do I want to tell me that? And who do I need to tell me that? Because some people's opinions--good or bad--would not satisfy me.
Grump, grump, grump.