Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh! Mother F#####! Kill It! Kill It!

The Japanese call it the "mustache bug." If I met a man (or woman, for that matter) with a mustache that looked like this thing, I'd send them quick! to the waxer.

At this moment, I'm attempting to write about my irrational fears of the house centipede. The scutigera coleoptrata.

The problem is, in trying to download the image above, I've worked myself up into such a panic that I'm surprised my little sweaty fingers are nimble enough to strike the necessary keys.

There's no way to describe my reaction without copious use of the f-bomb, so if that word offends you, (1) I apologize whole-heartedly, (2) rest assured that I never use this word unless cornered and threatened, and (3) #2 might be a lie.

Either way, each time I look to the top right of this screen, I immediately begin laughing, though I find nothing funny at all. It's a different kind of laugh than my snort or deep baby-like giggle. This one squeezes my stomach muscles like an intense sit up, makes my eyes squint shut like I'm about to get hit, and causes me sound out a little breathy, panicky laugh, accented by "mother fucker"s. And then I cry a little. I don't know why. But  they're real tears. Fear tears. It's dumb. Ooooh, mother fucker! I just looked again! Ooooh mother fucker! Oh, my God! Oh, geeeeeeeez. That's horrible.

Nearly every time I roll out some toilet paper, I'm afraid one of these guys is just going to roll his way into view. "Haha!" It would say. "En garde!" Most people told me that this fear was irrational. Those people weren't the ones that had to make an emergency trip to 744 Syracuse Avenue (thank you, Brian Hurtt) in 1996. Brian saw it. That mother fucker was hanging on my toilet paper roll.

My dad made the 5-mile trip from his house to my apartment on Dartmouth to kill one in the kitchen. By the time he got there, I was standing on one of the chrome and red vinyl kitchen dinette chairs, tears streaming down my face, yelling, "Ooooh! Mother fucker! There it is, Dad! Mother fucker! Oooooh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus. Kill it! Kill it!" My dad, armed with an impressive arsenal of bug spray cans with various images of killer ants and bees on them, opened a can of whoop-ass ala Ghostbusters. My house smelled of toxic chemicals for days and everything I touched in the kitchen had a certain tackiness to it, but that bug was gone.

Have you encountered the house centipede? They're fast as shit. A house centipede does not mill its way across your floor. It moves all time-lapse photography style. It seriously bends time and space to get from one place to another, and it doesn't limit its terrifying fast-speed skittering to the floor. It takes its bad-ass up your wall like that boily-faced gal in the Exorcist remake. Plus, it's all "hahaha! I'm climbing up your wall, dummy!" while its doing it. I believe house centipedes mock me.

I've lived in this particular house since April, and so far, no house centipedes. It's still summer, though. When the air becomes crisp and the smell of barbecue stops infiltrating the neighborhood, these little bad asses will be looking for indoor lodging. Keep your cell phones handy. I may be giving you a call.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wait...Wait...I Didn't Mean That!: 3 Stupid Things I've Said On The Job

#1) "I'm just a sucker for anything miniature."

I said this to an elderly customer who was eyeballing the row of neatly lined-up tiny salt and pepper shakers on the wooden shelving in our kitchen department. I even tossed my head back, held my hand up in a traffic director's "STOP!" and then flung it down at the wrist. Before the sentence escaped my lips, I knew I was talking crazy talk. What the hell does it mean? Being a "sucker for anything miniature." That I am an avid collector of miniature things? I am not.  Worse, I didn't merely suggest that I like miniature things. I'm a sucker for them. I implied that I get all goo-goo ga-ga over all things represented in tiny form.

It was like I had become momentarily possessed by a scrap booking, kitten loving, sweatshirt bedazzling, country craft-making, miniature things-collecting lady, and was so overcome with joy and love for those tiny salt and pepper shakers that I just had to tell someone. I couldn't have been any more shocked by my utterance than if I'd said, "I'm a HUGE collector or precious moments figurines!" or "Hey, try out this papasan chair. And by the way, I hate the gays!"

I'm not sure why I said it.  And as the lady smiled at me in that, " and I have something in common with our love of normal things squished down into their miniature version," I felt a little guilty. When she dumped a dozen sets of the salt and pepper shakers into her shopping basket, I felt even worse.

#2) "How's it going, Sweat Pea-ness?"
This was, perhaps, one of the most traumatizing things I've ever said on the job. I was teaching kindergarten at the time, and had developed a habit of adding cutsie little suffixes to words that really didn't need them. (Refer to the "sie" just added to the word "cute" when "cute" would have sufficed.) "Hang your little bagsies over here on these hooksies. Good job, cuteness!" I wasn't awaresies of the change in my language, as I was surrounded by 5-year-olds and occasionally another kindergarten teacher who was on her own word kick by calling everyone "baby." I, however, randomly tossed out names like "Cutie Pie" and "Sweat Pea." The addition of a suffix to the later was just an accident waiting to happen.

No one likes to be called a "penis" by their teacher, even if I was legitimately saying "pea-ness." A "sweet penis," or "sweet pea-ness," to be fair, is even worse. Luckily, I've since abandoned both the need to suffixize everything I say and to use names for students other than what they were given at birth, a nickname derived from their original name, or occasionally "chicken" (meant in a loving way.)

Except for that one time, when I said to a group of middle schoolers,  (#3) "We'll go outside as soon as you're done with your test-ies."

It was, no doubt, a momentary lapse into an old speech pattern. The "ies" snuck their way in and attached themselvesies to the end of the word "test." I happened to be giving a short vocabulary quiz and had promised some time outside when everyone completed it. "Can we go out yet?" was met with my accidental suggestion that "testes" had anything to do with literacy class. A kindergartner might miss the mention of "sweet penis," but let me tell you, middle schoolers don't let a word like "test-ies" go by without giving you hell. I was sure that was the utterance that would land me in my principal's office, parent and scarred child sitting at the table opposite me, waiting to hear of an explanation. I made a silent promise right then and there not to cute-ify any words in the future. Ever. Except for when I water my planties or feed my dog her foodies.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spanx for Nothin', Comments For Free

I'd like to introduce you to Spanx. They are, essentially, sausage casings for ladies, meant to extend the denial of women over 35 by making it possible for them to continue to wear the pants they wore at age 30. A good pair will keep people from wondering when you're going to announce your pregnancy, when really you just have a good post-meal bloat going on. 
(By the way, I'm a big fan of the photo above- the lady modeling the Spanx being one who is clearly in no need of Spanx. If she were, her mid-section would be trying to escape and spilling over from the elastic band at the top. Not that mine does that. I just heard about it from a friend...)

I wore a pair today. Under a dress. It was less for the slimming effect than it was for the traumatizing thought that during silent reading in my class, when kids sprawl out all over the floor and dive into books of their choosing, some kid might have an unforseen line of sight up my dress. It's a real fear. I've skirted around the perimeter of the room to avoid the accidental gaze of a floor-reader. I've also reached down and grabbed the bottom of my skirt, creating a kind of giant diaper. Both of these strategies work well. But, I've found perimeter walking + diaper fashioning + Spanx equals a security second to none.

It would be okay if I could just wear the Spanx in silence. But, I feel the need to let each passing lady know that I'm both suffering and benefiting from having my middle completely constricted. I snap the waistband in a kind of a Spanx-salute. "Got on the Spanx," I announce. "Suckin' it all in over here." My lady-conversation partner usually looks perplexed. Maybe even uncomfortable. Either way, a little more commentary escapes before I force myself to abandon the subject. "Yep. This bloat is nothin' like what it would be without these here Spanx." The words "this bloat" are sometimes accompanied by me grabbing my middle and giving it a one-two shake. I may even snap the leg part as a type of ending punctuation. An exclamation mark, if you will.

I don't even wear Spanx that often, really. We're talking maybe once every two weeks or so, when an outfit seems to really call for a slimmer and more toned me than hops out of the shower that morning. But when I do wear them, it's not uncommon for me to reference them aloud, when an unspoken thought would probably be the better choice. "Man, farting is absolutely off limits today. These Spanx will hold that odor in and 6 hours from now, when I finally change into my jammies, I'll be hit with a fart from hours-past." Or, "I'm pretty sure I could piss in my pants right now and have no idea I was doing it, no thanks to Spanx." These comments are shared only with my team members. And perhaps a co-worker or two. Family members and friends, certainly. To date, even I have had the wherewithal to keep my Spanx thoughts to myself when in the presence of students, parents of students, most authority figures and transit workers, and the majority of people in the service industry. But, it's on my mind, no doubt. 

I'll toss on a pair of Spanx if I'm hopping on the scooter in a skirt or dress. I also have a diaper-tucking system for riding my scooter in anything other than pants, but it's the accident I'm worried about. I have visions of my scooter on its side, wheels spinning like an freshly-abandoned bike, and me- several feet away, flat on my back with my skirt blown up. Can you see my undies? No, siree. I've got my Spanx on. With this freedom, I don't spend all my time on my scooter thinking of the dozens of people who will be "I see London, I see France"-in' me all up and down Delmar Blvd or Clayton Rd. I just enjoy the ride. Me and my Spanx. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Warning to Milena: This piece uses the "p" word multiple times.

 (Note to all others: Sorry that it's not the "p" word you were probably thinking of. For that matter, I could do a whole post on the ridiculous slang for lady parts, all of which I find pretty hilarious. This post is about blemishes, though. Pimples.)

Last night, I put a blob of toothpaste on my chin, right at the spot where it appeared I had gotten a chin implant by a severely incompetent plastic surgeon. I was developing one of those "under the skin" pimples. This was not like the dozen or so smaller spots on my face which are masked by a fine tinted foundation each morning. This was a mother-of-all blemishes. It was out to disfigure and maim.

Keeping in mind my mother's "Don't touch it!-you'll just make it worse!" policy, I resisted the urge to bring myself inches away from by bathroom mirror, scrunch my mouth up and out of the way, and give this sucker a squeeze. I had a feeling that if I did, I might just piss it off and wake up to find all of its brothers and sisters had shown up roughly in the same spot to kick my ass. Or my face's ass. If that is what I have.

Of course, this was a warning I got at thirteen, when I was convinced that my teacher would be so horrified by the sight of my breakout that she wouldn't be able to teach class. My boyfriend would break up with me and my friends would scoot to another table at lunch just to get away from my hideous visage. I'd be laughed off the bus and spill the contents of my backpack as the driver opened the door and ordered me off. Bending down to pick up my belongings, I'd see my blemished reflection in a puddle and curse the day I was ever born. Hormones were prone to not only cause breakouts, but heighten my already developing sense of doom.

"You'll stop getting pimples once you graduate high school." That's another thing my mom used to tell me. Newsflash to teenagers: I'm nearly 38 with gray hair that I dye every 4-6 weeks, arm parts that become more like bread dough each time I investigate them, a face and neck that's falling at an alarming rate, and I still have pimples. Prepare yourselves. Mother nature is cruel.

I learned the toothpaste trick from my sister. "It has to be paste, not gel," she warned. Recently, she's sworn that tea tree oil works. "Your face will really stink, but that pimple will be gone like that." She snaps her fingers. I didn't have tea tree oil, but briefly considered other stinky things in the house, in case it was the stink that killed the pimple. In the end, I smeared a bit of Sensodyne on that bad boy and called it a night.

I woke to something not unlike a marble or frozen pea embedded in my chin. And it's mini-me several inches over on my jawline. Just for good measure, a little dainty one had appeared above my lip, where prettier people have beauty marks. My beauty mark was a pimple that took it upon itself to bleed the entire time I was getting ready for work. You don't see this in the commercials when a fresh-faced twenty-something gently exfoliates her skin and then splashes it clean with a shit-eating grin, like it's the most fun she's ever had in her life. I should be in those commercials. I have a thing or two to say about the demoralizing process that is face washing and inspection.

Before heading out to work, I put the finishing touches my attempt to appear like I have naturally glowing and flawless skin. I've fought the age spots, and the age spots have won, but I refuse to be overrun by pimples. I dab concealer. Brush with powder. A bit more concealer. Topped with a little more powder. By the time I'm done, I can't feel my own face. I may have strange lumps along my chin and jawline, but they're roughly the same color as the rest of my face. Success.

At lunch, I gave my chin a quick inspection. It was now bright red and calling to mind W.C. Field's famously grotesque nose. Under the harsh overhead light of the school bathroom, I had almost no choice but try to extract whatever might be disfiguring my chin so. I could tell from the get go that this one was going to put up a fight. Minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom looking as thought I picked up a small rabid animal and allowed it to frantically scratch and bite my chin area. This, I realized, was no improvement over the red bulbous thing I had going on moments before.

I popped (no pun intended) into the nurse's office and got a bit of ice to put on it. "What happened to you?" asked a kid who was there for legitimate medical attention.

"Oh this?" I replied. "I got punched in the jaw by Mr. B." (the take-no-crap math teacher on our team).

"Really?" She gulped.

Great. I'm such an ass. Why do I say things like that? "No, honey. I have a big ol' pimple on my face and I tried to pop it but just the juice came out well some other stuff came out but not the real part you know the part that's making it all puffy and all and now it's throbbing and all red and it's all 'dang! that hurts!' so I'm all like 'I'm puttin' some ice on this sucka' so I came in here to get some-" Sometimes I don't know when to stop.

Walking back into the cafeteria, holding a little baggy of ice on my now throbbing chin, I run into our new assistant principal (special shout-out to Mr. Balossi!) and I'm now deep into that zone of I know I should keep certain things to myself but they just keep spilling out of my mouth anyway. "Hey, you got any concealor? For my big old chin pimple?" This is what I say to him.

Now, keep in mind I've met this man only a handful of times. And he is my boss. The first time I spoke to him was at a back to school breakfast, and against my better judgment, I greeted him with a knock-knock joke about poop. It was received about like you think it would be. I've tried to put myself on a "hello," "how are you?" "good morning" and "have a nice day!" probation with him since then, and let me tell you, it takes great restraint. But, I love my job. And I want to keep it.

Here I was, though, not only calling attention to my hideous chin, but asking Mr. Balossi to see if he could round up some makeup for me. "You can't even see it," he assured me. This is how nice he is. "It's always worse for the person who has the pimple." I want to believe him. He seems so believable. I couldn't help but thinking he was eyeballing my chin in that "I can't help but let my eyes wander there" way that one has when talking to someone with giant boobs. You know. You're not trying to be creepy or anything. They're just...there. Although I guess having just typed the word "boobs" in a paragraph about my new assistant principal and chin pimples does, in fact, put me in some kind of creepy category that I'd so not like to be in. Onward...

7th graders started streaming in, and while I first had the idea to conceal the pimple by trying to appear to be in a constant state of pensive reflection, thumb under the chin and pointer finger gently wrapped across it- I decided against it. The greatest gift I can give a cafeteria full of twelve and thirteen-year-olds is to see me standing tall, chin a-glow with a now oozing post-attack pimple, and smiling like I'm so confident that a little old pimple isn't going to throw me off. "Huh. If Mrs. Maret can have a giant pimple right there on her face and not seem to mind, I guess I can sit right down with my pimply self and proceed to eat this bologna sandwich." That's what I like to think I'm doing.

Then again, perhaps no one notices.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Take My Cheeks, Please!

I guess I could eat a person if I absolutely had to.  I don't mean if someone had a gun to my head and said, "Chew this guy's arm fat or I will shoot you." Then, I'd take the bullet. I really would. But, let's say I was on a plane that went nose-first into the side of some icy mountain top, and me and the other half dozen or so survivors had already eaten everything we could to survive: complimentary peanut bags flung from the aircraft and lodged in treetops, unnaturally round patties of chicken with faux grill marks, mayonnaise packets adorned with the airline's logo, frozen gum sticks pulled out of the back pockets of bodies here and there, coffee goo licked from the insides of previously-considered-empty Starbucks to-go cups. When all that was gone, we'd chomp on snow for awhile. That's all there is. Snow. And a few trees. That and a massive mound of twisted metal and wiry guts that once was our plane.

But I'm telling you, there are no animals around. If there were, we'd eat them. Oh, maybe we'd get lucky and find the one high-altitude mammal that got left behind. I picture a marmoset. (Upon googling "marmoset" to make sure I had the right animal name, I realize I made a dreadful mistake. I'd eat a person before I'd eat one of these cute little creatures, for sure. See photo.)
What I meant to say is that I picture a capybara. That's just the squirrel/rabbit/dog combo that I could imagine a few survivors running around and wrestling to the ground. I couldn't kill it, personally. I'd bawl like a baby. I'd bawl all the way through chewing its grizzly little flesh, too. But I'd be hungry and my aching belly would be calling the shots from here on out.

People-eating would only be brought up when everything, I mean everything else had been eaten. Trees would be stripped of their bark by this time. Woozy survivors would be found gnawing on the plane's blown-out tires to no avail. It would have to get to the point where there was really no other choice but to lay down and die.

I've seen cartoons where one guy is super-duper hungry. Say he's trapped in some small shipping container with another guy. The hungry guy looks over at the other and suddenly imagines the guy's head to be a nice, juicy steak. He's just a big old steak with a person's body, standing there in that confined space. The hungry guy starts salivating and that steak-head just keeps looking better and better. 

I imagine that after days and days, weeks, maybe- of being hungry up there in the snow-prison, somebody's head might start looking like a steak. If I really had to, I mean really had to, I think I could do it.

I've pointed out to more than one person which parts of myself I thought would make for decent snacking if someone near me got desperate enough. My cheeks have always been plump and a bit squishy, and I'm guessing they'd be sought after like the drumsticks on a chicken. If we're ever stuck on a mountain like that, after a crash, and you've eaten everything there is but the passengers packed in ice around you, I give you permission to eat my cheeks. Not my butt cheeks, of course. Because that is just wrong, and a little gross, if you ask me. But you can have at my face. 
(*DISCLAIMER FOR MY MOTHER: I am not planning on crashing a plane. I do not crave human flesh. I have never eaten human flesh. But I have eaten chicken, which sometimes seems just as crazy of an idea if I give it some thought. I am not issuing an invitation for some stranger or crazy ex-boyfriend from the 1980s to come find me and slice off my cheeks and eat them. I do not sit around and think about what it would be like if I had to eat people after a plane crash. Only sometimes. And that's only after I read the book "Alive," where people did eat people. I would not eat you, or dad, or Amy, or Leif, or Rose. Even if I would, I'd lie about it right now to make you feel better. Two sentences ago was the truth.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sneakin' Into The Park After Dark

I live two houses from a park.  It's nothing big- a large rectangle of grass spotted with thick plastic playground equipment, one splintering pavilion with a dozen or so picnic tables, a mound of sand that made for a volleyball court at one time, an antiquated swing set with peeling paint and swings that are too high off the ground to ever really get airborne, and a squat brick building housing toilets that you'd have to be really desperate to use.

This is the park I used to sneak into after dark.

Too old to remain home on a summer night and too young to really have a place of my own to go to, I'd hop the wooden railings that border the park and make my way inside. My first stop was usually the slide, which any teenager knows is meant to be conquered in running steps, avoiding the actual stairs completely.  CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG and I was at the top, perched in my own personal watchtower, from which I had a good view of my parents returning to our house next door.

If I timed it right, I could extinguish my cigarette, pull the travel-sized mint toothpaste from my pocket, liberally apply the paste to both my tongue and the two fingers that act as my cigarette chopsticks, wipe it all off on the inside of my shirt, jump off the slide, sprint across the street, blast through the front door of our house, and be upstairs in my room studying the back of Prince's Purple Rain album before mom and dad even put their key in the lock.

My park didn't tell me I was too young to smoke Marlboro Lights, one after another, while rolling my thumb over the grooved thumbwheel of my zippo, crunching the flint below. I took comfort in the fact that enveloped in the dark, I appeared to be nothing but a faint pulsating orange glow. I could disappear into myself.

On certain occasions I'd have company.  People who spoke the same language of contempt for anyone over 18 and anyone under 15. Pat, Blake, Natasha...they were allowed in. Anyone else was nothing short of an intruder. The park was my outdoor basement with much higher ceilings and no parents clunking around one floor above.

A time or two I led a boy there. Besides smoking, my park also encouraged the kind of making out that left one's face raw, as if rubbed vigorously with a loofah.  Large pieces of concrete tunnels were meant for making out, however cumbersome they were to climb in and out of. Scraped knuckles and knots on the head were all part of the experience. War wounds of teenage love.

Scattered across the park several inches below the ground's surface are a dozen or so hermetically sealed tiny glass jars; remains of a self-absorbed piece of performance art from my 20s. Inside each jar is a relic from my childhood- a bit of fabric from a curtain that hung in the house I lived in when I was a kid, a photograph of my dad holding the plump, toddler version of myself, scraps of paper with various scribblings. This sort of thing. At one point in time, I knew the location of each jar. Under what was home plate. Near the base of the big oak tree. Twenty paces from the drinking fountain. These are things I knew a long time ago.

Tonight I walked past the park with my dog. The sky looked like someone brushed india ink across it, and I could scarcely make out the swings or the slide set way back from view. The park was empty, as far as I could tell. No one is claiming the space tonight.

From time to time, while walking my dog late at night, I catch a faint whiff of cigarette smoke coming from deep within the park. Sometimes I can see an orange dot glowing. Pulsating. A teenage beacon. I walk parallel to the wooden railings over which I feel too old to cross after the sun goes down. (There is a "park closes after sunset" sign, don't you know. When did I become old enough to obey signs? The thought makes me smile.) I stay on the sidewalk. Walking. Walking my dog at night on the sidewalk.  I will pick up my dog's poop, place it in the proper receptacle, walk home, wash my hands, and be in bed before 10:00. I am the adult for whom I had so much contempt. This also makes me smile.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What The Cameras See

We have security cameras in our school.

They're cleverly hidden behind smoky black domes mounted to the ceiling in various corners of the building.  There are no red blinking lights. They do not turn and follow our every move, focusing in on a suspected bathroom vandal or a pretty intern.

They simply record the seemingly mundane events of the school day. A replay at fast speed would show the same thing every twenty-four hours: Custodians arrive. Lights flick on. Empty halls remain undisturbed except for the early arrival of the work-aholic teachers and the childless ones. Early student drop-offs trickle in. Then more. And more. Finally the lobby is packed- a jar full of collected bugs, squirming and bouncing into the glass. Some resigned to their captivity and some looking longingly outside, thinking of a way home.

The bell rings and students run through the halls. Lockers are opening and shutting at an alarming speed. The camera keeps recording.. There are super-speed high fives and hugs, shoulder pushes and hip bumps. Heads are bobbing up and down, thrown back in laughter or tucked chin-to-chest in hopes of not being seen. The hallways clog up like the interstate at rush-hour, then the crowd dissipates as quickly as it appeared. Left are the two or three students struggling with their combination locks. One has given up and taps his head over and over on the blue metal door of his locker, trying to remember that boys don't cry. And the camera keep recording.

Every ninety minutes, the same hallway scene is repeated. And at 3:12 the whole thing happens in reverse.

On the rarest of occasions, the cameras record something other than this.  A young man broke into the school and vandalized a classroom. The cameras calmly watched it happen, and gave a play-by-play hours later when the first custodian arrived. It's no surprise that the vandal was apprehended shortly thereafter.  This is why we have security cameras.

A teacher made his way in the building one morning, and took an impressive spill. Played over and over on a loop, both forwards and backwards, this made for a very entertaining piece of video to view. Which we all did. Multiple times. This is also why we have security cameras.

I must say, this type of mass-humiliation has only happened once, and it was with the consent of the video's subject. This was a man with a strong sense of self-esteem.

Yesterday, as I was in the otherwise empty hallway with a co-worker, demonstrating how my dog does what I call the "boot scoot" across the floor, I was suddenly and painfully aware of the little black dome above and slightly behind me. While I was not personally boot-scooting across the hallway's blue carpet, I did contort myself in such a way (back hunched over, butt tucked in) before what would amount to be a series of grotesque pelvic thrusts meant to mimic that of a dog dragging its exposed rump across a scratchy surface.

I froze, mid-scoot, and imagined my own personal video loop spreading across the internet like wild-fire. I had the sudden urge to drop to the ground and army-crawl my way into my classroom undetected.

This is not the first time I've felt this way.

I surely can't be the only teacher in the building who, upon thinking she's finally found some privacy away from a classroom of students, reaches back to adjust her bunched-up underwear with an elastic SNAP! only to remember the cameras mounted above.

Or absent-mindedly reaches up to dislodge that flaky booger that had been bothering her all morning, when, Why, hello there, camera....while the finger is one-knuckle deep in the right nostril.

My sudden awareness of the camera in our team area has cut the following actions short, but not stopped them from occurring altogether: folding my arms under my armpits and dancing around the table like a chicken, checking my armpits in general, verifying that I'm too big to fit into a locker, working my way through decades of dancing styles (charleston, waltz, stroll, mash-potato, disco steps, the running man, the jerk), flicking a teammate off to his/her face, flicking a teammate off behind his/her back, demonstrating how to make a snow angel, flicking hamster poop onto the carpet, showing a co-worker a mouth full of my chewed food, and popping an arm zit.

I imagine if someone were so inclined, a madcap and zany Benny Hill-like production of antics could be assembled from the hours and hours of teacher footage alone. (Minus the scantily-clad ladies being chased by creepy, pasty old men. At least I hope that's nowhere to be found in our archives.) It must be out of the sheer lack of time or sheer respect for each other that no such clips exist.

Next time I freeze mid undie-pull, look up with a stunned and slightly embarrassed expression at the smoky dome, I'll remember the hours and hours of footage of me working one-on-one with kids in that same hallway, not giving up. I'll remember that the same camera which sees me boot-scoot also captures the way I greet every single kid in the morning with genuine excitement and care. It sees me bend down next to that lone kid in the hallway trying to figure out his locker combination or eating lunch with the kids who's having a hard day. The camera watches as an old student comes back to visit and this time my embarrassment is due to my tears, which surprise even me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fear Strikes My Mother: The Playground Goes Literal

I don't think I've ever seen my mom so upset.

If her brows had reached any farther up, they would have become part of her hairline. Her eyes were wide with fear and her mouth aquiver. She appeared stunned, like she had just heard terrible news and what I was about to say would only confirm her darkest fears: An old boyfriend or (even worse!) a mean girl from high school (twenty plus years ago) had found my blog and emailed scathing remarks to me about my writing. In turn, I had clearly become distraught and spiraled into a dark place of self-loathing and violent, retalitory plans. I would slit my own throat and convince my attacker to electrocute his or herself in the bathtub with their plugged in laptop. I had truly gone off the deep end, and Mom was watching it all happen before her eyes. No wonder she reached for the phone in panic, deciding between a frantic call to my sister or 911.

12 hours earlier...

I'm at home, on my couch, laptop screen glowing white. My blog is up and the cursor is blinking. Blinking. Blinking. Come oooooon! Think of something to wriiiiiiite. I was suddenly aware of my inner-critic kicking in. I've been working on tuning it out, turning it off- and this is one reason writing frequenly on a blog has been helpful for me. I just write. Write, a quick scan for spelling errors, and click "publish." I allow no time to revise. I don't sit on anything long enough for the self-criticism to kick in. I just take the plunge.

So, when I heard the critic start to whisper, then pick up volume, and eventually pull up a lawn chair in the little nubbin part by my earlobe, I knew I had to address it somehow. People can't stand reading your self-indulgent crap. I looked at the blinking cursor. You think it's interesting for other people to read about your random thoughts? Cursor still blinking. And how about the images that flicker in your head. They're not only boring, they're freaky. Freaky bad. Not freaky entertaining. And the cursor blinks on. Besides, even if you do happen to post something funny, you won't be able to do it again. Blink. Blink. Blink. You're a one-hit blogging wonder. You should have stopped after the first post. Way to lure people in then serve them up a pile of crap. And it blinks. And blinks. And blinks.

Okay. So what if there were someone who absolutely couldn't stand reading my blog, but did so anyway? What if this person wasn't just mildly irritated by my writing, but it infuriated them to the point of near violence, like road rage on the computer? I started to picture this person, getting all worked up and finally snapping in the most absurd way. And I began typing to him.

My fingers were clicking on the keys; the words were coming at a rapid pace. I got the smile that I get when I'm entertained by something- the one where my tongue sticks out just a little tiny bit. I was personifying my own critic, and it was hilarious to me. At the end, the critic becomes so enraged that he flings his laptop around the room, knocks down a bunch of shit, and crawls, fully-clothed,  into a filled bathtub. Ridiculous.

Leaving this guy in the bathtub, crying "angry tears," cradling his laptop and rocking slightly back and forth, I clicked on "publish" and snapped my laptop shut. I readied myself for bed. I did a little journaling, and soon fell asleep like a little baby.

I'm sure I was up and at work the next morning by the time my mom woke and decided to go online. Perhaps she checked her email first. Caught up on the news. Maybe she checked the weather forecast. Either way, she made her way to my blog and read the latest post titled "An Open Letter To Those Who Don't Care For My Writing." By paragraph one, her heart began racing. By paragraph three, her stomach had sunk to the ground. By the middle of the post, her legs were like two cement blocks. And by the end- well, by the end she was nearly beside herself.

Who had hurt her baby? Who was it? Who drove her little girl to such despair? My mother vascillated between utter fear and mother-bear insticts; ready to find the bastard that infiltrated my blog and drown him in a tub herself, if she had to. What had they possibly said to me? My mom began searching, searching. Clicking through each of my previous 9 blog entries and reading the comments below. They had seemed benign enough. Maybe I had already deleted it. Certainly this monster could be blocked from ever reading my blog again, right?

She had no idea that my writing was meant to be humorous.  She had taken everything quite literally.

"What is going on? I've been sick about this all day!" It must have confused my mom to see me bouncing down the street, walking my dog and smiling in that way that I do. That general content with life smile that seems not to be the face of someone who was planning both a murder and suicide.

"What do you mean, Mom?"

"I read your blog." (Pause. Frightened stare.)


"Who is the person that is writing such mean things to you?"

"I...uh...what do you mean, exactly?"

"It was so....violent. Slitting throats. I thought you were trying to get someone to do something because you were so upset."


"You know. Go into the bathtub with their computer. And electrify themselves."

"Mom...that was meant to be humorous."

"Well, maybe next time you could write a disclaimer or something. You know. Like, 'the following is meant to be funny.'"

"Didn't think I needed to, Mom."

"Well, you did." (Long pause.) "I guess now you're going to tell me that all the animals in Animal Farm weren't actually animals."

I love you, Mom.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Open Letter To Those Who Don't Care For My Writing

Dear (insert your name if you don't care for my writing),

Let me first say that you were destined to hate me. How could you not? I call it The Blind Side syndrome. I hadn't gotten a chance to see the film for myself before dozens of people, in overenthusiastic squeals, told me I simply had to see it. It was sooooooo good! After a while, I built up a nice little resentment. Not only was I not ever going to see it, but I looked down on people who did. Assholes. Telling me what movie to see. I will not see that movie, and if I did, I'd hate it. And if I liked it, I'd hate it more. I'll show you.

So, I get you, is what I'm saying. Which probably makes you hate me more.

How many times could you hear your friend/co-worker/family member/Starbucks barista say, "Oh! You have to read Bridget's blog! It's sooooooo funny!" I'm even a little bit suspect when someone tells me this, and it's supposed to be a compliment. Instead, I find myself thinking, "What's the deal? Do you owe me a compliment for something I said once upon a time? Did I tell you that you had a nice house or something a while back? Did my mother tell you to say that?"

But, they wore you down. You don't appreciate not being a part of the dinner chat, and last night your family members were all sniffing things due to this damn blog. That was it. You had to see what was going on.

By the time you had typed the name of the blog in the search bar, you were already pissed. "" What a stupid name for a blog. These damn bloggers and their stupid names. And what's a "blogspot?" That pissed you off, too. Sounds like a blood clot, which would probably be funnier that what you were about to read.

You'd heard people talk about posts on my blog, and they were laughing while doing so. In fact, sometimes they'd actually be tearing up or bending over- such was the force of the laughter. "I just had to read this out loud to my husband!" "How does she come up with such stuff?" "That girl is so funny."

Now that you're reading it for yourself, you're not only disgusted, but considering getting all new friends and family members. What kind of assholes find this shit funny, anyway, right?

I get it.

It's because of you that I refrained from making tonight's post about my movie-mind and the things I see in there when I close my eyes, like

Water swirling round and round down a tub's chrome drain.
White rabbits playing leap frog in a field at dusk.
A hand holding tightly to a cartoon bomb, fuse lit and sparkling.
A throat that's been slit.
A tiny violet.
Birds preening each other.
A woman, bent down- hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath as the bus she she needed to catch speeds down the street.
A boy, picking his intestines up off the floor and attempting to squeeze them back into a slit in his belly.
Sunlight reflecting off a shiny car antennae.
Marbles spilling from an open mouth.
A man splitting a single hair with an axe.
Grown ups in footie pajamas, sleepily shuffling down the street, blankies in one hand and lattes in the other.

I mean, what kind of self-indulgent crap is that? I agree, if there is a hell, I'll be sent there and will be forced to listen to people try to recall their dreams, which we all know, is really only fun for the dreamer, not the listener: "And then....I was.....outside......but it wasn't really outside.......and you were were a! wait! that's not were a cloud....that's right! a cloud! was sooo cool."

What really irks you is that I have an actual job. I'm old enough to have an actual job and I can't seem to hear the word Pujols without laughing. For crying out loud. It had never even occurred to you that Pujols had anything to do with either poo or holes. What kind of moron is teaching our kids today? Right? Right?

First kiss (who cares), holding in my pee (gross, and again, who cares?), belly button ranting (just plain weird), eyebrows crawling around and night (I must do drugs),  clicking like if you like me (how low must my self-esteem be, anyway?), "freewrite" hippy writing bullshit (again, so self-indulgent it makes you want to puke), sniffing things (either I'm weirder than you thought or I'm really desperate for writing ideas.) And...that was 20 minutes of your life you can never have back again.

I can see why your eyes became increasingly squintier and your brows scrunched while reading on and on. I can see, also, why you were moved to slam your laptop shut and take it into the bathroom, where your warm bath was now past lukewarm even and verging on cool. I can see why you swung your laptop at your cabinet chest, spilling all of your lotions and ointments and anti-anxiety meds and floss that you never use and toothbrush with the flared-out bristles and toothpaste (where is that cap, anyway?) and cuticle clipper.

I can see why you spun around and plunged your laptop into the bath water and held it there so tightly that your knuckles became white. I can see why you held it under water until the last bubble escaped from what was its whirring motor. I can see why you crawled, fully clothed, into the tub, your face now streaked with angry tears, and held the laptop to your chest. I can see why you sat there, rocking gently, unintentionally creating little waves in the water.

Some things are just bound to piss you off.

Yours truly,
The Playground In My Head

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scents And Sensibilities

I would sniff you if I thought I could get away with it.

I'd sniff your hair.  I'd sniff the sleeve of your shirt. I'd sniff your hands. If your shoes are leather, I'd sniff them, too.

These wouldn't be long sniffs- the kind with the sniffer's eyes closed and the sniffee feeling a bit violated. No. My sniffs would be short and only two (possible three) in rapid succession. Just enough for me to take in information.

I'd note what kind of detergent you use for your clothes. I'd know if you smoked and roughly the last time you lit up. If you chopped onions in the past 24 hours, I'd know this, too. I could detect your brand of shampoo and smell the cologne or perfume you wore the night before.

I've always been a sniffer, and after sight, my sense of smell is the one that works the hardest to transmit information to my brain. My nose knows. I can see an expiration date printed on the milk carton, but after about three days, I grow suspect and rely solely on my sense of smell to detect any possibility of it going sour. Open fridge, grab milk, twist off pink cap, lift opening to nostrils, sniff once. Once is all it takes for milk.

The fouler I predict the odor to be, the more inclined I am to sniff it for affirmation. As in, "Whoah! These shoes are old. I bet they stink. I should probably get rid of them. Let me just sniff them firs- oh, god. Yes. Yes, those really stink." Other confirmed stinky things categorized as such due to my sniffing include a freshly used Q-tip, an earring backing, an ash tray after the ashes have been dumped out, a wet band aid, a nail file, and the lid of my travel mug.

Sometimes I'm surprised and find a pleasant scent where I least expect it. I love sniffing my dog's paws the way a mother tends to adore breathing in the smell of her newborn's head. My dog's paws are musty-sweet, and if I could make them into scratch-n-sniff stickers, I would. And I'd keep one on the back of my hand and scratch and sniff it at will throughout the day. Yum.

Cigarette smoke makes me sick. But mix that smell with a tad bit of cologne and leather and I'm sixteen again, waiting for my boyfriend to open up his jacket on a cool night so I can crawl in and cocoon myself in his collective scents.

Everything has a scent. Everything is sniffable. You probably already do some sniffing. 

Who doesn't love going outside after a downpour when everything has taken of its lid to let the scents escape? Here the pavement is hot and steamy and smells almost metallic. Here flowers which you've passed countless times before suddenly seem bursting with sweetness. Here your neighbor's dryer vent pumps out a crispy clean and you know instantly whether or not you use the same fabric softener as her.

Now come back inside with your nostrils flaring and searching for more. Let's play! I dare you to pick up something within reach and really give it a sniff. No need to explain what you're doing to the wife or roommate. Just give it a good, deep sniff. Start with something non-threatening. A bill envelope, maybe (deep sniff....smell the glue?) The outside of your highlighter (deep sniff....remind you of the Barbie you had as a child?) Your hands (deep sniff...vanilla soap) Your green leather wallet (deep unexpected. This smells exactly like your grandma's makeup case.) This is a bonus-sniff. A scent linked to something from years ago. Those are the best kind.

There's nothing dainty or envy-producing about my nose. It is neither a cute little button-nose nor a pretty little pointy thing ala Audrey Hepburn.  It's tubular, really, as if God took two rigatoni noodles, fused them together, and plopped them right in the center of my face. My nostrils are two perfect circles, which upon closer visual inspection is a little unsettling. They provide an open and straight pathways to my olfactory-factory. It's clear that this nose was made for sniffing.

And that's just what I'll do.

One of these days this nose is gonna sniff all over you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's Clear I Have A Cellophane Heart

I have 30 minutes to write. Less, if I don't want to head out of the house tonight reeking of today's accumulated sweat and sporting hair not unlike Nick Nolte's now famous mug shot. I am going to a drag show, and don't want to be mistaken for one of the performers on break between Liza Minnelli numbers. (Any good gay, by the way, would know how to spell Liza's last name. I confess that I had google it.)

Did you mean: liza minnelli

Why, yes. Yes I did. Thanks for asking. (Show off.)

No writing idea came to me when I let the dog out just now to pee. (To clarify, I let the dog out so that she could pee. I do not, let it be known, have to let the dog out in order to go pee myself, even though the previous sentence reads as such.) I did see a spider being eaten by hundreds of ants, and I squatted (not to pee) and watched that for a bit. Shiny and spastic and crawling all over each other. A mosh pit of ants. I also looked at my dog and thought about how glad I am that I don't have to pee outside in the heat, or in any weather, for that matter. But these are inconsequential thoughts, and are not worthy of blogging, despite the fact that by stating this, I'm doing exactly that. Damn it.

So, in the time that I have left, I'm just going to go for a freewrite. A no-editing, turn off the inner critic, let-it-all-out freewrite. I'll do that until I run out of steam or until my alarm sounds. In this way, I take no responsibility for the entertainment value (or lack of) what's about to go down. Oh, and it's going down, alright....

And-uh one, and-uh two, and-uh-

My dog is looking at me like she knows. She knows how it goes. "I'm no feeble animal stuck on the wire, you liar!" Ears pinned back and tail wagging to throw me off. Throw me off the building. I'm building a rapport with you right now (care for me to light your cigarette?) Ashes, ashes, we all fall down the rabbit hole. Rabbit pellets litter my lawn. A tiny, tiny game of croquet? (Do you play?) The house is open. I'm holding an open house, to be sure. Rip the plastic off of the sofa! Fold the tv trays! Goodbye, Lawrence Welk, I'm turning the dial UVF click and click and pow! Screen goes black but the center. A pinpoint of light. The tv still buzzes and I know Lawrence Welk is in there somewhere looking out. Tinier, tinier, tinier.....faint buzz and poof. Now it's just me and the cicadas sue-EEEEE sue-EEEEE sue-EEEEEEEEE Their bellies rub or legs rub or somesuchthing and the noise gets caught in between my toes. Who knows if the clocks go backwards will I have to eat breakfast again? Today I called my only friend and the line was busy. "Let me in! Let me in!" But I can't hear you if you whisper, silly. My friend Billy showed me a piece of poo dangling from his bum one time. I yelled (who wouldn't?) He was spanked (I think) and sent home (I'm sure). I promised to never bring it up again and do, anyway, several times a year. It's clear I have a cellophane heart.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 Random Thoughts About The Body

I'm so glad we don't have nipples on the tips of our elbows, because that would just be gross.

If our toenails curled upwards and around, our socks would get snagged on them a whole bunch.

If I could slide all of my freckles/moles around on my body, I'm pretty sure I have enough freckles and moles to give myself African-American toes. And I'd like that. A lot.

I'm a bit wigged out by thinking about what it would be like if we all had a predetermined length of hair. Say, several feet. And it was all connected so that you could pull on your armpit hair, and the hair on your head would get shorter. Or pull on the hair on your head, and watch your armpit hair retract, retract, retract to near stubble. I'm not mentioning other body hair, but believe you me, I'm picturing it. And it grosses me out.

Why can't we stand upright with arms overhead, reach back and back until doing a sort of back bend, grasp our ankles tightly, and proceed to roll down the street to our destination? A face guard would be necessary, of course. I'm not an idiot.

Urine should empty from the bladder down the inside of your leg, collecting at the ankles. You could then squeeze and wiggle your toes discreetly into little receptacles or milk them like a cow with ten tiny udders.

The face should have two fingers attached to it: one in front of each ear. They should be about the size of your pointer finger. This way, if your eyes or nose itched, your face-finger could scratch it.

If the fleshy part under your chin is going to go ahead and get all doughy and fall as you age, it should be put to good use. Here is where a spare key or change for the parking meter could be kept. If we collectively think about this hard enough, perhaps we will evolve a little zipper along the jaw line.

Same goes for the crazy protruding waist-flesh you get as you get older, no matter how much you exercise or how many sit ups you do. Once you're old enough to develop this, you should have the option to push it and sculpt it towards another area of your body. Say, the part where God should have given you bigger boobs, but didn't.

My dog gets a tiny raised strip of fur down the center of her back when she's alarmed or doesn't care for what's going on. She'll also growl. (And sometimes bite. A lot.) I'd like for my ears to emit a little low growling noise upon hearing something I don't care for. I can have that same embarrassed detachment I have when my dog growls: "Beatrice! Stop that! I don't know why she's growling like that." Answer: probably because you're creepy. Don't be offended. Creepy can be cool. Anyway, say I'm pulled over by a police officer, and he's explaining the ticket to me. My ears would begin growling and quivering a bit. As if they were ready to bite. "Don't mind them, officer. They're a little nervous."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Click "like" if you like me

My parents don't like me.

I know this because if they truly did, they would join facebook and spend the next several hours scrolling through every mundane post I've ever made, clicking "like" under each one.  If they loved me, they'd even respond to each post with typed words.

My grandparents don't like me either. Especially the three dead ones. Surely they have the ability to click "like" from beyond the grave without even joining facebook, but they're not doing this.

For those of you who aren't facebook savvy (I use term "savvy" because it sounds so much more distinguished than "obsessed"), under each typed comment one enters, exist two little blue words: "comment" and "like." If you click on the "like" button, a tiny blue thumbs up icon appears, next to the words "You like this." It's a head nod to the writer of the comment. A "this made me smile" or "I agree!" or "I will now show my affection for your written skills by displaying a thumbs up for you."

I have become a like button whore.

The number of people in the world who actually like me fluctuates daily, as I see it; all contingent upon how many little blue thumbs up icons I see upon logging onto facebook, which I do more often in a day than I sneeze, use the bathroom, and brush my teeth- combined. At this very moment, I am liked by three people: an ex-student, a guy I haven't seen since 6th grade, and a girlfriend who was recently a house guest. She may feel obligated to like me at the moment, but the other two are perhaps the real deal.

A group of friends could show up to take me out to eat. They may knock on the door, greet me with flowers, and exclaim, "Bridget! We've come by to show our love and appreciation for you, good friend! Let us treat you to dinner!"

"Just a moment," I'd say, closing the door in their faces with a gentle click of the latch, as opposed to an angry slam. I'd scurry over to my laptop and log on. Upon navigating my way to my facebook wall and subsequent comments, I'd check to see if any of these bizarre 3-D people I've left on my front porch had actually liked anything I said. I'd close the laptop and return, suspect of their sincerity, if not merited by little blue thumbs ups left on my computer screen.

Once I post something, I prepare myself to receive your admiration or your indifference. Indifference equals hate, by the way. You probably didn't know this.


Bridget Maret would like to teach the world to that perfect off-key way that makes everyone just a little bit irritable.

4 minutes ago  Comment   Like

Enter. Poof. It's on my wall. Is it on the newsfeed? Click. It's on the newsfeed. Are people online? Click. People are online. Look at the little world icon. Any response? No response. Maybe that was only funny in my head. Is it still on the wall? Click. It's still on the wall. Is the Coca-Cola commercial reference too vague? Dated? I should have attached a youtube video of it. Let's watch the youtube video. Click. Type. Enter. Click. Oh, I loved that video. I'm a moron for not attaching that. Wonder if anyone's responded. Click. Check the world icon. Nope. Is it still on the newsfeed? Click. It's there. That was a stupid update. Makes me sounds like an asshole. What kind of asshole would want to make everyone irritable? Are you even like that? Not really. You're a pretty mellow and easy to get along with kind of person. Now you're a liar. Nice going, asshole. Check the wall. Click. There's your post, all hanging out there by itself. Unliked. You're an unlikable poster. You should delete it. Delete it right now. Check the world icon. Nothing. Delete it. Hurry, before people read it and see what a lying asshole you are. Check the newsfeed. Click. There it is, totally unliked. Oh, the humiliation.

This is what I've become.

On the flipside, I can wake up defeated, stumble over to my laptop, log on to facebook and be greeted by the equivalent of presents bursting from my Christmas stocking. Notifications! So and so likes your status. So and so commented on your status. So and so likes your status. So and so likes your status. Suddenly, I am Sally Field at the Oscars: "They like me! They really like me." I hug my laptop close to my chest and turn circles on the kitchen floor. Circles which evolve into pirouettes, really. Pirouettes that take me across the livingroom and out the front door. "They like me!" I sing, as I pirouette my way down Old Bonhomme Rd, blowing kisses of gratitude to the good people driving down the street. "Want to friend me on facebook?"

I hope to never see the day when technology advances in such a way that little hologram "like" buttons float near each person, about at belly-level. Here, in the midst of a conversation, one could virtually "like" what was being said. They could truly multi-task, paying bills yet reaching over to "like" their kid's description of a day at school or their wife's story about the funniest thing ever that happened on the way to get a manicure! Looking down and seeing a floating thumbs up would certainly boost the confidence of the speaker. But, think of the flipside.

In the meantime, I go to my facebook wall like a herion addict goes to his dealer. I know there's a genuine world waiting for me out there, full of people who assume they're liked by others just because there's no reason to assume the opposite. But until then, I'll be waiting for you to like me. Click.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do You Know What Your Eyebrows Are Up To At Night?

I have no idea why we have little furry strips above our eyes.  I know for a fact eyebrows are not essential to survival. Many an old lady has bumped my ankles with her shopping cart and revealed to me, upon turning around, theatrically painted brows in scornful angles. These ladies are still alive. They're shopping.

Sometimes, when I'm talking to someone, the conversation starts to mute out and my eyes, like a well-trained movie camera, zoom right in on the other person's eyebrows. And I become deeply disturbed. Oh my God. What the hell? There are like two thin patches of hair hanging out right there above his eyes. Holy fuck! They just moved. Oh, man....this is nuts.

Before you raise your worried fingers to your own brow, stroke it with a level of self consciousness you never knew you had, and vow to never speak to me again in a lighted area, let me say this: Usually I don't think about it. Usually I accept eyebrows as being just as normal on a face as that weird fleshy tube with two holes in it that we call a "nose," or the two cupped discs protruding from either side of our face with their many folds and eerie ability to glow from behind when in bright sun. Eyebrows are just there.

But, from time to time, I wake up and when brushing my teeth in that sleepy morning way, staring into and past the mirror while my eyes focus and unfocus, my sight rests on my eyebrows- and I couldn't be any more shocked than if someone had sneaked into my room at night and used a hot glue gun to adhere two pipe cleaners above my eyes.

It's then than I know it's going to be an eyebrow kind of day.

It's a perfect scene from a horror flick, really. Imagine this: a couple is dining outside at a quaint cafe. Breakfast, maybe. First date. The lady has been busy using her pointer finger to dab and collect little pieces of flaky croissant bits that fell off her plate onto the white tablecloth. The man is staring past the lady to the waitress with the bouncy walk and low-cut top. Things are not going well. This will be their last date.

Finally, the lady looks up from her crumbs to ask him a question. "So...where did you go to high sch-" In the exact moment her eyes lift, they make contact with two furry limp caterpillars resting directly above her date's eyelids. She had not noticed them before. How had she not noticed before? 

"Excuse me? What was that?"

"I said," (she gulps and tries to proceed) "where did you go to....high...I'm sorry. You have a little something...."

"Come again?"


The man looks confused, which makes his furry eye strips scrunch down, appearing twice their former size.

"Oh!" she yelps.  "I said, there's something on your....." The lady takes her pointer finger, one lonely piece of flaky croissant still dangling from it, and proceeds to slowly direct it toward her own face in an attempt to indicate to her date where the offensive intruders were located. "...Right here, above your-"

Here, the camera would pull in for a tight shot of her finger making contact with her own foreign brow. A brow that she had somehow gone 30 years without noticing. The pastry flake loses its ability to hang on to her fingertip and takes refuge on one protruding hair. A rebel hair. One that refuses to lay down and do as you're told.

Back to the tight shot. Her fingers begin to shake and tactilly take in the startling reality they've stumbled upon. It doesn't take long for us to hear the piercing scream. This is a Janet Leigh scream. The camera then pulls back, but this time from above. With the scream on a continual loop, we float above her. Further and further away until she and her date and the waitress and the tables with little white table cloths are just specks. Then the rooftops are specks. We're retracting at an alarmingly fast pace now, and her scream- the farther away we get from it- lessens in volume, sure. But it's when we're in outer space and can still hear it, that we know the extent of her horror.

Last night it occurred to me that I'm not sure what my eyebrows are up to at night. As I fell asleep, I imagined them waiting for me to be deep in a dream before sliding off my face, inch worming themselves across my pillow and sheet, and plopping onto the floor. They know to avoid the dog's room. Other than that, they have free reign until 7:30 a.m., when my alarm goes off and they're back on my face. Exhausted from their nighttime escapades.

Perhaps one evening they'll be so caught up in their adventures that they won't quite make it back on time. I'll stumble out of bed, let the dog out, watch her sniff frantically around the perimeter of each room, and suddenly stop in the corner of my kitchen. Grunting and snorting, I'll know she's found something she's not supposed to have. A dust bunny, perhaps, but she'll have eaten it before I can properly scorn her.

I'll let her out and shuffle my way to the bathroom, where, without looking, I'll open the mirrored medicine cabinet and reach for my toothbrush and toothpaste. Unscrew the cap. Squeeze the tube on the bristles. Put the cap back on. Back on the shelf. Close the cabinet door and here I'm met with my reflection. Eyes in and out of focus, teeth being vigorously brushed. Above them is my nose. My two sleepy eyes. My eyelids. And above those is a smooth surface where my eyebrows used to be.

I wonder if I'd even miss them. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Did Someone Say Poo Holes?

I laugh every time I hear the name of Cardinal's player Albert Pujols. I mean, each and every time.


I'm laughing right now.  At nearly 38-years-old, you'd think that I'd be able to say his name without getting that giddy feeling right at the end of Pu and just before jols. It's one of the things I really enjoy about going to Cardinals games. I don't care much about hits or runs and all of that running around on the field business. And, to tell you the truth, I get a little spooked by all of that mechanical monkey behavior crowds do when given the slightest musical prompt. You know, the organ busts out a few notes of the mexican hat dance, and everyone drops their i-phones, beer, and scoring cards to get ready for the double clap. You know what I mean. You've done it before.

I don't like those big-ass pretzels that leave my tongue like a salted piece of beef jerky. $5 for cotton candy makes me angry, and I don't understand the concept of ice cream that's made out of what looks like colored styrofoam beads. It's always hot as shit and my legs sweat and stick to the metal chairs, which makes me feel like I've peed myself. (*See last post to calculate possibilities of this happening.) Invariably I see someone with a Brockabrella, and I become pissed that I threw mine out in 1985. But the price of admission is well-spent when I hear echoing over those speakers: "Alllllbert Puuuuuujols!" I clap just as enthusiastically as a real Pujols fan; one who knows about his stats ("stats," right?) and whatnot. But I'm clapping for the poo. And the holes.

When I found out there was a country called Djibouti (roughly pronounced "juh-booty"), I was delighted. When further research indicated the capital of Djibouti is also called Djibouti, I wanted to call Sir Mix-A-Lot and celebrate the good news. The good people of Djibouti don't know how good they have it. My students, on the other hand, did not have the benefit of having a teacher who was able to make it through a reading of a chapter which mentioned Djibouti, without giggling so hard is was difficult to regain her composure. "Yeah...we get it, Mrs. Maret. Could you keep going, please?"

Colon and semi-colon lessons are equally as challenging. "Today I'm going to explain how to use the colon! And I don't mean the poop-chute!" It doesn't occur to me that no one else in the class had actually thought of those two little dots as sharing the same name as our Pujols.

Somewhere deep inside of me is a mature woman who rolls her eyes every time I swat someone on the arm and say "Haha. He said Pujols! Pu-hols. Oh, man...." This is the woman who generally shows up when conducting parent teacher conferences, or when giving a presentation to a group of professionals. She sees nothing funny in anything having to do with bodily functions or body parts. She's even forgot she has them.

Then there's the kid in me. The one whose mouth is grinning and collecting little spit bubbles in the corners. Her stomach, in attempts to hold back explosive laughter, is doing what can best be described as a sort of backwards sneeze. Her eyes are bright and wet with tears from the last mention of anything poop-related and she can't wait for someone to say something. Just say it.

Today, I asked my niece about the name of her new teacher. "Mrs. Butz." She wasn't even looking at me for a reaction. I wanted to be the bigger person. I wanted have normal follow up questions like, "Do you know anything about her? Is she nice? Are any of your friends in that class with you?" I wanted to say things such as, "Oh! I know her husband! I just had a writing class with him. He's a very nice person." (All true.) Instead, I did what amounted to a perfect spit-take. "Butz.......ohhhhhhhh, man! Butz! That's awesome! I guess is better than getting Mr. Boobs."

Mr. Boobs.

What in God's name was I thinking?

My niece gets to witness me with no guards up. No professional teacher action. No I'm a polite house guest. No scornful "Well, maybe that's funny at your age, young missy, but when you're my age, you won't be laughing like that." I like to think that I'm reminding her that life is still funny, no matter what your age. Or perhaps I'm providing her with a visual aid of what not to be when she's in her late 30s. It's hard to say.

In the meantime, ball, anyone?

p.s. I said "ball."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Bladder: The Last Frontier of Perceived Control

Having a body that insists on eliminating its liquid waste several times a day is just a big old irritation.

Seriously. Think about it.

You must stop what you're doing, go into the bathroom, (and let's just continue on as if your only option is a public bathroom, although many things on this list apply to home, as well) check for a clean stall, lock the door (if it indeed locks, otherwise block with your big purse), unfasten whatever is keeping your pants on, nest or squat (whatever your preference), do the deal, do the dry, un-squat or un-nest, re-fasten, flush with the bottom of your shoe, unlock the door (or remove the purse, trying not to think of the possibility of any foreign hairs adhering to the bottom of it), wash your hands, read the signs about employees washing their hands and know most probably don't, make idle chit chat with whoever happens to be washing their hands next to you (notice they don't use soap- decide to use foot to open the door), wave your hand in front of a towel dispenser like and idiot and sigh when a piece of scratchy recycled-looking paper the size of a tissue comes out, and exit, knowing it will only be mere hours before having to go through it all again.

This is why I flat out refuse to use the bathroom until I'm sure one more bump in the road or mild chuckle at something halfway amusing will cause me to lose absolute control of my bladder.

Same thing happens at home, with mild modifications. I may be relaxing on the couch, reading a good book, dog at my side, when suddenly..."Are you fucking kidding me?" This is almost always my reaction to the initial pressure indicating a full bladder. I'm not sure why it's always such a surprise. I'm well aware of how the body works in regards to liquids. But, it always puts me out, like getting a telemarketing call during dinner. As a result, I ignore the call.

Yes, I've been warned. I know that by 50, I won't so much as be able to blink without completely pissing myself. But for now, I'm happy with the illusion that I have complete control over my bladder. It does not own me; I own it. I will not be bitchified by a sack of piss.

"Why don't you just go use the bathroom?" Well-intentioned friends who have been forced to witness a bizarre dance of twisted legs and contorted facial muscles try to suggest the obvious. What they don't see is that this would be giving in. Aha! My bladder would relish in its ability move me from place to place like a urinating automaton. No, bladder. I won't play your micturating games.

"Wow. What a control freak," you may be erroneously assuming. Here's the deal. Just about everything else in my life I can take with a grain of salt. Just not the kind that's excreted from the body in a stream of foul-smelling liquid. I've been known to point to a map with my eyes closed and travel. Unexpected house guest? No problem. Bump it up a notch. Loss of my home? Infertility? Divorce? This, I can do with grace and dignity.

But, give me a full bladder, and I will show the universe who is boss.

There are current perks, which I will continue to enjoy until I'm forced to wear an adult diaper at age 45. I can go for an entire day of teaching and only have to use the bathroom once. Some days, I can even skip the once and wait until I get home. (Take that, bladder!) I'm fabulous on a road trip. That is, if I'm road tripping alone, I guess. Or with someone who also has a contentious relationship with their own bladder. I never miss anything while at the movies. I made it through Gandi. 191 minutes. With a large soda. Who's the boss now, bladder? Yeah, I thought so.

Perhaps one day I'll need to make amends to my bladder. I'll speak kindly to it and refrain from idle gossip. We'll vacation together and I'll introduce it to the bathrooms of the world. The bottomless pit with two concrete foot shapes on either side in China, the fancy heated toilets of Japan, the open-air spaces of the American mid-west, the pay-as-you-go stalls on the streets of Europe. One day, I might do this. But not today.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One, two, three- Let's kiss!

Rewind. Fast playback. Let your movie-mind display on the back of your eyelids a montage of all of the kisses you've ever had.  I mean to say start with the last one- a few moments ago. This morning. Last night. Last week.

Whenever it was.

And go back. Edit out the lick on the face by your dog, because that's just gross. And go ahead and take out the peck on the cheek by your grandma, because that's just assumed. What's left? Your spouse? Go back. That guy you dated with the teeth that always hit yours. Back...further. College. The kiss in the middle of the street at 3 a.m. Go back...further. High school. Kissing your sister's college roommate. Go back...further. 8th grade. Kissing an ex-boyfriend at a party and being disgusted by the taste of stale beer on his breath. Go back...just a bit further. Summer of 6th grade.

Now you're at your first kiss.

In 5th grade I received a hand-written note that roughly stated the following: Meet me behind the tree by the playground during recess. I want to kiss you. Love, Geoff. I quickly folded the note and tried to hide my flushed face. This was the stuff of IBS producing stress and anxiety. Had Geoff, the rosy-cheeked crush of my life, actually written the note? Was I being teased? Set up? What if he had written it- was I ready to make such a mature leap into the world of people who press their lips together and turn their heads from side to side, like I had seen on The Loveboat?

During recess, I feigned interest in a game of tether ball while eying the big oak tree several yards away. I couldn't bring myself to walk over there and see if Geoff was waiting for me or not. I wasn't even sure what to do if he had been.

I wasn't ready.

By the summer of 6th grade, I'd invested all of my crush energy in one boy: Neal Cain. So devoted to the idea of our everlasting love was I that when he suggested we prepare ourselves for what would be my first kiss, I was ready.  I had, I thought, perfected my technique on my larger-than-life poster of Adam Ant hanging on my wall at home, and was quite certain that I could transfer my abilities onto a real-life man. Boy. Child, I guess. We were twelve.

The kiss was to take place at Julie Wilhelm's pool party. I spent the day burning up the phone wires, gathering moral support from all of my girlfriends. I had a cheering committee. They believed in me. I exercised my mouth muscles throughout the day like a swimmer warming up by the side of the pool. Ooooooohhhhhhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeee.  Ooooooooooh. Eeeeeeeeeee. I had no reason to believe that my tongue would have any part in the activity. I mean, who would actually put their tongue in someone's mouth? Totally gross!

I was in the pool, skirting around the perimeter, for a good hour before the kiss even happened. Neal had been preoccupied, no doubt, by various older and more curvaceous girls in their swimsuits. I mean, there were 8th grade girls there. Come on!

Finally he hopped in the pool and dog-paddled his way over to me.

"Are you ready?"
"I guess so."
"Do you think our braces will get stuck together?"
(uncomfortable giggle) "I don't know?" (odd question-like inflection)
"So, I thought on the count of three, we should go underwater and then, you"

This was his bright idea. To go underwater, where historically humans can't breathe, and open our mouths. I also had the problem of not being able to open my eyes underwater. I was an eye-shutter. This, to me, sounded like a total disaster.

"Um...okay. Sure."

We held hands and counted off to three together. "One....two...three" and down we went. Sounds of teenage yelling and splashing were instantly muffled the second my ears hit the water.  Afraid to admit that I couldn't open my eyes under water, I simply hoped that his lips would find their way over to mine. My heart was exercising its free will to pound its way out of my chest. My feet were kicking in a frantic attempt to keep me from sinking to the bottom of the pool, and all of a sudden, our teeth clicked.

Our teeth clicked.

That was it. Unable to hold our breath any longer, we broke through the surface of the water and clung to the side of the pool, panting and heaving in utter defeat.

"Let's try again," he suggested.
"Okay. Let me just wipe my-"
"Onetwothree!" And he was down again. I sensed his determination.

This time, it finally happened. My lips were met with his. Mushy. Warm. Alien. I started to turn my head, as I had practiced so many times before, when I was met by an unexpected participant.

His tongue.

Wiggling around like a sidewalk worm after a summer rain was his tongue, trying every which way to make a full sweep of my entire mouth cavity. Had I been choking on something, his tongue would have surely cleared my airways, such was the thorough job it was doing. Chlorinated water rushed in and mixed with this tasteless oyster I now had taking up space in what was moments before a perfectly happy mouth. Before long, I was gagging. Coughing. Drowing. This was horrible.

Once again we rushed to the surface to breathe, and after wiping my eyes and getting my bearings, I looked over an Neal, who was grinning, nodding his head, and giving the thumbs up sign to everyone within viewing distance. He was a man now, and everyone should take notice. Neal: the lady kisser.

I, on the other hand, was mortified. Was this all there was to it? Was I doomed to a life of claustrophobic tongue-wrestling sessions in the pools of classmates who weren't really friends of mine to begin with?

Having jumped on the kissing bandwagon, Neal was ready to perfect his new-found passion. Each time became progressively less-creepy, although I often found myself opening my eyes and looking around, like, "This is just too weird."

Fast forward. High school kisses. Coffee house kisses. Homecoming kisses. Prom kisses. Off to college. Art studio kisses. Dorm room kisses. Traveling across Europe kisses. Getting older. "I do" kisses (yes, two) and kisses good-bye.

What's the story behind your first kiss?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Belly buttons...we used to eat through that shit.

Take a moment to look at your belly button. Really. Do it. If you're feeling a little exposed, like, say, you're on the bus or in your car next to some hottie, just cup your hand over your belly button and take a quick peek. Make sure it's a long enough peek that you'll remember what it looks like while we go on to the next paragraph.

Now, here's the really creepy part. We used to eat through that shit.  A big old long tangly straw going right into our bellies.  Sometimes, when I'm at a restaurant, I picture what things would be like if we still used our belly buttons in the way we once did. I imagine our mouths, no longer needed to be part of the digestion process, just flapping away with all of our idle dinner chat. Flap, flap, flapping about this or that (and is anyone really listening?) and meanwhile, held in our hungry little hands are our extended belly buttons. Elongated, really. More umbilical cord and less cute little nubbin.

Into this miniature vacuum hose goes all of our pureed food. We use it to suck up every little bit of cold corn chowder and watermelon bits in a balsamic reduction. Perhaps it gets clogged from time to time. Maybe sitting upon the white table cloth is a container full of complimentary pipe cleaners or cotton swabs, meant to clear the way when things get stuck.

I wonder about the noises. I imagine it to sound not too unlike many people strapped into chairs at the dentist, spit suction tubes hanging from the corners of their mouths. Ttttthhhhhhh... CRACKLE!... ttttttthhhhhhh...CRRRR....ttttthhhhhhhh...... Only our eyes are not full of dental dread. They are happy. Lids are heavy. Blinking is slow and content because our bellies are getting full.

Look down at your belly button and think about it. You used to eat through that shit.

I got my belly button pierced about one week before I realized I was really too old to ever show my belly button in public again. This stainless steel loop, adorned with a little round bead, is nothing more than a new way for me to express certain anxiety. I've found that the tick-tick-tick noise that comes from flicking my belly button ring back and forth is to me what relaxing waterfall sounds might be to others. Other than that, no one sees it. I imagine I'll be the little old lady in the nursing home, slippered feet scoot-scoot-scooting in place as I'm being pushed down the long hallway, creepily fingering away at my rusted hoop dangling from my protruding and saggy belly button.

Don't ever accuse me of not having things to look forward to.