Sunday, May 12, 2019

And Regrets, I've Had a Few

For the most part, I like to think I am a capable, intelligent, functional adult. And then, every once in a while, I do something so colossally stupid that I can’t shake it off. Does that ever happen to you?

I can’t tell if it’s a mom thing or a menopausal thing or just a getting older thing. Whatever the reason, I am still embarrassed, and because it involves my older daughter, I won’t be able to live it down for a while.

Let’s start at the beginning: Instagram. I have been entranced for a while by some of those ads that I scroll past, and for some bizarre reason for which I can’t forgive myself, I click on them to learn more. Sometimes it’s for one of those straightening brushes, which I still can’t believe can work on hair as curly as mine. Sometimes, it’s for a new version of Spanx-like control garment, making every lump and bump magically smooth out. And sometimes, it’s for a pet product that I can’t live without.

So that’s where I landed, on some grooming glove thing. It fits on your hand, and on the palm side, it has what is essentially plastic or rubber spiky teeth that can help remove your pet’s undercoat or loose fur. In the ads, the pets look like they’re enjoying it, this surprisingly effective grooming disguised as run-of-the-mill petting. It looked so promising, so convincing, so necessary.

Not that I needed convincing. Every spring, my two cats shed. A lot. While it’s easy enough to pick up the little black clumps of hair the tumbleweed around the baseboards, it’s the hairball puking that I am currently over. The two of them takes turns throwing up every few weeks so that I am on a constant routine of cleaning up hairballs.

Moshe, the short-haired one with the thicker coat, is partial to throwing up on my bedroom carpet. A few weeks ago, he started gagging on the hardwood floor of the upstairs hallway, but he ran as well and fast as he could to make it onto the carpet of my bedroom before he tossed his kibble. Oh, and it was four in the morning.

And it’s never just one and done. He has to heave a few more times before his digestive tract calms down. Which means I have multiple spot treatments to attempt, at least once a month. I try to give him that cat hairball remedy, but he hates it, and he will eat pretty much anything.

The other cat, Yoko, is also a puker. Her fur is longer than Moshe’s, and she doesn’t shed as much as he does. If you touch him, he loses fur like porcupine quills, but Yoko’s fur is more likely to tangle and clump in her kitty armpits or around her neck. Watching her groom herself is also disturbing because the hair gets stuck on her little tongue barbs. It makes me want to cough up a hairball, just watching her.

She is sneakier and more retaliatory with her hairball projecting. If I go out of town, she makes sure to upchuck her displeasure. Recently, she threw up on the all but abandoned treadmill in the downstairs guest room. Do you know how hard it is to clean dried cat puke off a treadmill belt? I do.

Which brings me back to the grooming glove. It seemed like a real solution to my hairball drama and possibly even worth the money I was going to spend on it. The next time I saw the ad on Instagram, I clicked on the “Shop now” link and placed my order.

I didn’t give it another thought, and a few days later, I received a confirmation email letting me know that my glove was in the mail. Five days later, I got another email from the company: the package was delivered! I rushed out the mailbox, but it was empty. I looked on the side porch, and nothing. Nothing on the front step either.

I reread the email, and that’s where I discovered my mistake, the thing I did that never should have happened. It turns out that I didn’t use the same shipping address as my billing address, as I thought I had. Instead, for some unknown reason, the address that auto-filled the online form was my daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s.

At some point in the beginning of their freshman year, when they were still together, I had sent him a package, one of those kind gestures that girlfriends’ moms sometimes do. They broke up around Thanksgiving, and I ordered the glove in late April. It wasn’t like his was the last mailing address I had used on my phone. Why it decided that his was the address to select during my glove ordering, I will never understand.

So, I did what any normal, rational, slightly frugal person would do: I texted the ex-boyfriend to ask him to bring it to me when he finished with finals and got home. I didn’t want to throw away the money, and I really wanted that glove. I needed that glove. I had to have that glove.

I started out with a little small talk, just to soften the absurdity of my request. He does live close to us, but he attends college in another state, so it wasn’t a small ask. He claimed he was happy to do it, so I said my goodbyes and let it go for another week or two until he got home.

During the course of this glove situation, my older daughter also finished her semester and came home. I must have mentioned in passing that I had texted her ex, which would be where I made my second mistake. She is never one to miss an opportunity to make a mountain out of a molehill, which only made me feel even more like an idiot for contacting him and for the first mistake of the incorrect address.

The two of them texted about my idiocy and had a few laughs at my expense, but whatever, because I knew that grooming glove was soon to be mine.

When he brought it over, he actually came to the door and hand delivered it to me instead of leaving it in my mailbox. That was a very adult move on his part; I doubt I would have had the confidence to make small talk with my ex-girlfriend’s mother while handing over a stupid package she had shipped to me, the mail-order equivalent to an unsolicited Anthony Weiner dick pic, something you wish you didn’t receive and had to deal with.

After he left (and my daughter came out of hiding), I quickly opened the mailing envelope and removed me grooming glove. There it was, with its Velcro wrist strap and textured surface, ready to put on my right hand and start the petting.

On the other hand, I am left-handed.

Petting, like writing or masturbating, is a dominant-hand activity. I tried using it with my right hand, but my old, stupid brain didn’t have the capacity to coordinate my petting skills with my right palm. It, much like me, is useless.

Looking back on the whole debacle, I realize that the grooming glove ad didn’t offer a choice of hands, and also that I need to delete all the cookies on my phone. And also, that I probably shouldn’t fall for Instagram ads, because the reality never lives up to the expectations.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Without a Leg to Stand On

If you’ve ever witnessed a car accident (or have been in one), you know that it sticks with you for a while. It doesn’t have to be horrible to replay over and over in your mind; car accidents, while an everyday occurrence, aren’t part of most people’s everyday. So, it makes sense that I would still be thinking about the accident I saw a couple of days ago. The accident itself wasn’t so bad, but it was memorable, and I can't seem to shake it.

Let me set the scene for you. It was mid-morning, and I was stopped at a red light that was barely a mile from my neighborhood, waiting to make a left turn. As I sat there, a pickup truck with a lawn mower in the flat bed approached the green light on the cross street, and without slowing down, careened left through the intersection. I thought the driver was going a bit fast, but whatever. People do stupid shit all the time.

Then things took an interesting turn.

As the truck went past me, a man fell out of the truck and onto the pavement, rolling over a few times before he stopped. The truck continued on its way until it slammed into the thick trunk of a Bradford pear tree that probably reached its life expectancy at that very moment. The sound of pickup truck grill against hard wood is not a pleasant thing to witness. Neither is watching a man literally hit the road.

I stared at the man, trying to determine where he came from. Was he riding in the back of the truck with the mower? It’s not unheard of around these parts. I looked at the truck and noticed the driver door was wide open. No one else was standing around. The man on the street had to be the driver.

As I sat there, trying to make sense of what I had seen, the man suddenly got up on his feet. Well, foot. He held a prosthetic leg in his hand. Then, holding the leg up high in the air like a flag, he hopped over to the truck.

At this point, a woman got out of the passenger side of the truck, holding her forehead. The one-legged man started yelling at her. She was hunched over but walking, so she seemed as well to be alright.

My light was still red.

I am usually a good helper, but honestly, when something unexpected like a car accident or someone falling on volcanic rocks in a lava field, I freeze up. I suddenly lose any ability to process information and do anything. I just sat there, paralyzed. In my defense, I had just left my therapist’s office, so I was a bit preoccupied with my own shit at that moment and not exactly on top of my game. 

Luckily, plenty of other people with better fight or flight reactions had also witnessed the one-truck accident. A car stopped on the road next to the truck, and four older men dashed out of it to offer assistance. Meanwhile, a man that was two cars behind me at the red light got out of his vehicle and stood on the road divider, calling 9-1-1 to report it. I was hardly the only witness, and multiple good Samaritans had already launched into action.

When the light turned green, I made my left turn and drove home. I kind of wish I could have driven back to my therapist's office. Instead, I went inside and told my husband, “I just saw a car accident.”

He wanted the details, and I told him that a man fell out of a truck and lost his leg. Then I had to explain that it wasn’t his real leg. Then I had to clarify that it was his leg, but it was a fake leg, and he lost it during the fall, but that I had no idea what happened to his original leg, only that he started and finished the accident with one real leg and one fake leg, but only one was working at the time. I probably needed to do a better job of explaining, but it pretty much happened like that. It was just hard to put into words.

We surmised that his prosthetic limb must have detached somehow while he was driving, and knowing he lost control of truck, he bailed out while he could. Clearly, he did not have a seat belt to hold him back from his stunt man move. He also didn’t seem too concerned about that poor woman in the passenger seat with the head injury. Again, fight or flight, am I right?

But he had to be okay, didn’t he? I mean, he could walk, er, hop, right away. It was almost as if he knew exactly what to do, as if it had happened before.

I still feel a tad guilty for not stopping to help. I know at least two friends who are much better people than I who would have never hesitated to get involved. Not me. I assume I will just be in the way, and then I count on the kindness of others to step up. I assume if I were the only one who saw an accident, I would definitely stay and do the right thing. But how many people need to? Two? Four? All of us? At some point, I figure, too many cooks spoil the soup.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The End of an Era

     Today was my younger daughter’s last Religious School class. After thirteen years of going most Sunday mornings during the school year, she, much like her sister did two years ago, will find herself able to sleep late on Sunday mornings. She will no longer be able to complain about getting out of bed or getting dressed or sitting in the sanctuary with a bunch of wild younger kids or singing along or trying to make friends with kids that she doesn’t have much in common with outside of her religion, such as it is. Her faith may not have stuck after her many lessons about Judaism, but her Jewish identity is strong, for which we have religious school, and the rabbi, to thank.

     She started when she was three, attending a monthly pre-school class that did not always hold her interest. As a three-year-old, she was head-strong, stubborn, and non-compliant, which dominated both her Montessori experience as well as her religious school hours. No one had determined yet how to make her participate in anything she didn’t want to do. I recall her pre-school teacher at temple asking me if she understood how to color, or if she even knew her colors. I knew she just didn’t want to do what she was told to do, and she didn’t want to do what the other kids were doing, and pretty much fuck you, but in a three-year-old way.

     When kindergarten started, everything changed. A girl her age joined her religious school class, and suddenly, she had an instant friend with whom she could relate, rather than the rest of the class, all boys who liked boy things and didn’t appreciate her passion for fashion or stuffed animals. The new girl did, and they became best friends.

     Suddenly, we had another family to be Jewish with. We celebrated holidays together. We had cookouts. As the girls got older, they had sleepovers at both of our houses. We took vacations together and generally looked out for one another.

     When fifth grade ended, her best friend, along with the rest of her Jewish family, moved up north, where they quickly assimilated into a community with probably ten times the number of Jews, if not more. My daughter went back to being the only girl in a religious school class of boys at a time when they were all on the verge of middle school and puberty. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for her.

     She rallied a bit for her bat mitzvah, and because she loves our rabbi, she agreed to continue past her b’nai mitzvah year to confirmation. Those few years saw more of her religious school class leave, either just because they had enough, or, like her best friend, they moved away. She tried to be involved with the youth group as a way to stay connected to her Jewish peers, but the experience wasn’t really for her, even if she did make a few friends.

     Which brings us to this year, her confirmation year, her last year of formal religious school education. She half-heartedly continued to join in youth group events out of obligation, but she made a point of being present and engaged for her class with the rabbi. It was her and one other boy, the only two who made it all the way from the beginning together. They are friends and share a bond that comes from shared experiences, but I suspect they too will grow apart as their paths diverge with each of them going to different high schools and having different interests.

     They have one joint shabbat service left, and then, well, it will probably be high holy days and holiday celebrations at home here on out. In a couple more years, she will go to college, and she may or may not decide to participate in Hillel or other Jewish college groups. She may take her Birthright trip, or she may never make it to Israel. And as she grows up, she may get married and have children and have to decide if she too will enroll them in religious school so that they can understand the faith that goes along with the culture.

     In the meantime, we can sleep in or go out for brunch on Sunday mornings. Our lives will spill over into that time slot that for over a decade was devoted to being Jewish, and chances are pretty good, at least for now, that another time slot won’t open up on a different day to replace it. Will she miss it? Will I? Does anyone miss going to religious school?

     Thirteen years ago, I drove her to religious school. Today, she drove me home from the temple. It feels so final. Of course, we can go to temple whenever we want, but will we? 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

This Is the New Year

I just popped in on my blog site for the first time this year, and I was dismayed to discover that I only wrote four blog posts last year. Four, that’s four days out of 365. Not quite a prolific year, huh? How did a whole year go by without more to say?

As disappointed as I am in my lack of words and posts, I am even more disappointed in my lack of stories to share. What can I tell you: 2017 was not the best year. What made it subpar? I wish I could sum it up in a word, a phrase, or even a sentence, but the reality is that it was more of a mood, and it wasn’t positive.

I started the year feeling motivated and proactive, much like some of my friends who were also out of sorts after the 2016 election. I went to the Women’s March in D.C. with two of my favorite people. I came home ready to fight, but no amount of book clubs and post card parties and meditation apps could make up for the relentless news stories that seemed to affect many things that matter to me. Everyday felt like another step backward, another liberty lost, and I couldn’t stop watching because I thought it was my civic duty to bear witness. The more I paid attention, the more outrage I felt, which in turn chipped away at my ability to find joy in the everyday.

I definitely made happy memories in 2017, but in between those bright moments was that sense of disappointment. I took one day at a time, whether it meant focusing on work, helping my family, or whatever other tasks I had. I filled my days with busyness to tamp down the disappointment, but at night, when I would sit down, it was still there, ready to color my mood gray.

How do I sum up the year? I smiled less. I stayed home more. I wrote fewer words. I ate more chocolate. I dealt with my husband’s stress, my children’s stress, and my country’s stress, all while denying my own. Turns out, my lack of a strategy didn’t work so well. As the months passed, so did my motivation. Every time I tried to change my attitude, I found myself giving into the disappointment because it felt safer, like staying under the covers on a rainy morning.

And then the year ended, with yet another loss, this time of a dear friend, an unexpected heartbreaking tragedy that was the symbolic culmination of everything about life that isn’t fair. I stumbled through the last two weeks of the year thinking about my friend who passed away, about what a positive person she was, even as she too had to work hard to stay that way, each day of her life. She loved her husband, her daughters, her pets, but she really loved herself. Hers was a life well lived, and her memory will be for a blessing, but for now, many people who knew her, including me, are still in shock.

Fast forward to today, January 2, 2018. It’s a new year, but can I make a new me? I’m no soothsayer, but I still have my words and I’m going to try. I don’t need to stay silent; it doesn’t serve me to keep a low profile. I’ve spent a year trying to ignore or suppress how I feel, and all it got me was twenty extra pounds and an increase in my medication.

I am not a big believer in resolutions because they never really pan out for most people. A few years ago, I tried to simplify my goals to make them realistic. Read four books every month. Meditate for ten minutes every day. Lose one pound a week. Nothing stuck past February, and then I would just feel worse about myself because I could add failure to the list of things that hadn’t changed.

What’s going to be different about this year? Hopefully a lot. For starters, I am going to write it down. It isn’t enough to bear witness; I need a tangible record and a sense of accountability. I need to give up excuses and just do things. I need to take chances and trust more. I need to stop eating so much chocolate and take more walks. I need to say no, but I also need to say yes. I need to honor my friend by loving myself.

So, here’s my resolution: once a week, at a minimum, I am going to write, here, for me. One thing I know is that writing makes me feel better, and when I stopped, so did the feeling better. It’s time to make a change because what’s happening now isn’t working.

You can read it if you would like, but you don’t have to; you do you, and I’ll do me. Yes, I still want to lose some weight, and read more, and be mindful. No, I don’t want to see our world suffer more injustices and setbacks. Maybe I’ll write about it, and just maybe, it will help.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Top of the Heap

I have a confession to make: I don’t heart New York.

I know it’s not a popular position to take, but my family and I just returned from a trip to the Big Apple, and I have to admit, I am not equivocating when I say I’m not crazy about it. I don’t feel safe. I don’t like the rudeness. I don’t care for the smells. It’s too big and has too much going on. It’s just too much everything.

I have lived in the South, or south of the Mason-Dixon Line, almost all of my life. While I live in what would best be described as a small, generic city, I’ve been to big cities many times. San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, Washington DC, Phoenix, Atlanta, Los Angeles…I actually quite enjoy a nice vacation to an urban center where I can have the kinds of experiences that are lacking in my own town. I love to visit museums and eat fabulous food and walk and explore. I could navigate public transportation on my own if I had to, although I generally am with my family when I do. I feel comfortable, even when I am out of my element.

I have been to NYC before, although it has been almost 20 years since my last visit. I’ve done some touristy stuff. I’ve gone cheap, and I’ve had a touch of luxury. It doesn’t matter how I travel there; it’s just not my cup of tea. I grew up in a time when New York was considered dangerous, and clearly, it left a big impression on me. When I think of New York, my mind goes to some dark places. Rape in Central Park, muggings on street corners, Son of Sam during a black out kind of dark places.

I never said my New York state of mind was rational.

Our recent trip did not change my opinion. For starters, we went during a bit of a heat wave, when the temperatures creeped over 90 degrees every day. I am used to heat and humidity, but I am also used to functional air conditioning. New York’s buildings are sorely lacking in good A/C. Ducking into a store does not offer you any relief from the oppressive heat. Restaurants won’t give you ice unless you ask, which may be the norm in Europe, but doesn’t fly in the US. Schvitzing doesn’t even begin to describe the kind of sweaty mess I became.

Everywhere we walked was filthy. Not like cigarette butts and empty Big Gulp cups filthy, but actual trash bags piled torso high on every street, food and feces on the sidewalks filthy. You would think over the past hundred years or so they would have come up with a better system for public sanitation than throwing your trash in the streets.

There was a constant rivulet of water flowing along each curb, rehydrating the forgotten garbage, which we referred to as “street juice.” On our last morning there, we were treated to a true New York moment. A rat skittered out of a construction site near the Hotel Chelsea, where Sid murdered Nancy, to gingerly sip at the street juice before darting back to the safety of darkened building. We silently ate our doughnuts and watched the spectacle.

Last year, when we were in San Francisco, we marveled at the commitment to public recycling that one would expect in California. NYC doesn’t give a shit about the environment, which is why tossing your trash in the street is just fine. In fact, a small population of elderly people takes the garbage sorting literally into their own hands, most likely as a way to make ends meet. You can feel bad about the pollution and the lack of public services for the needy at the same time.

If you really want to feel bad, check out the handwritten cardboard signs in front of many homeless people around the city. I couldn’t buy a bottle of water for everyone, and I couldn’t reconcile doing nothing. Instead, I avoided eye contact and felt like an entitled piece of shit.

While riding in a taxi, we saw a homeless man pissing on the sidewalk. Common decency would dictate we look away, but my curiosity got the better of me. I was treated to a view of him using a wad of discarded napkins to wipe his ass inside his shorts. You better believe I thought about that the rest of the time we walked around the city, which made me feel even more like an entitled piece of shit.

Did I mention the incessant honking? What is that going to accomplish? Also, is there any time of day that an emergency requiring firetrucks, police cars, or ambulances is not occurring? The City
That Never Sleeps needs to give it a rest.

Everything in New York is so GD expensive. My husband kept joking about eating in NYC for $400 a day, but seriously, other than the Staten Island ferry, nothing is free. The food is crazy expensive, as are the museums, hotels, transportation, clothing, etc. It was frequently cheaper to take Uber everywhere for the four of us than it was to ride the subway or a taxi. We did use the subways a few times, and they rival the streets for the dirtiest spots in the city. The black grime that covers most surfaces is not just a few decades of buildup; it is the actual decay you would expect in a dystopian movie. I kept yanking my older daughter away from the edge of the platform while we waited for a train. She just wanted to find Pizza Rat, and I was petrified some lunatic would push her on the tracks.

Let’s take a moment to talk about Times Square. Why is it a thing? Part of the road is blocked off for pedestrians, and that area is lined with concrete barriers to prevent crazies from plowing their cars into the crowd. Inside the barriers, however, anything goes. Women with their breasts painted in patriotic colors posed for photos with tourists. A variety of statues of Liberty stood around with sunglasses and flags in case you want the ultimate picture. The crowds. The smells. The noise. The flashing signs. My ADD self didn’t know where to look, and the overstimulation was practically debilitating. Nothing about it was fun or enjoyable, and none of it felt safe. It was the kind of atmosphere that could turn bad at any moment, and I didn’t want to be there when it happened.

I don’t want you to think that I hated every moment of my vacation, because I didn’t. I had a lovely time, in fact. I reconnected with a dear friend from high school. I marveled at the skyline from the Empire State observation deck. I saw the newest production of 1984 on Broadway. I tasted pastrami at Katz’s. I strolled the High Line. I took a picture of my husband grabbing the balls of the Charging Bull on Wall Street, although I am not allowed to show it to anyone. We covered a lot of territory, and we ate some marvelous food, and all in all, we had a great time.

I’m just not eager to go back again any time soon.

Monday, March 6, 2017

There's the Rub

A few months ago, when my sister, LK, came to town for a visit, we wanted to treat ourselves. We are normally pedicure fans, but there’s a local place that offers foot reflexology and massages that I wanted to try. I had not been able to talk anyone into going with me, and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go alone. It seemed like the kind of experience that required a witness and possibly a safe word. I also wasn’t entirely sure what it involved, but it was an hour long and cost the same as getting my toes painted, so it seemed worth a gamble. My daughter, S, wanted to join us because her feet are a hot mess from years of dance, or more specifically, years of pointe shoes. I made reservations for the three of us.

The foot massage place was located in a strip mall, and it had the same sort of feel as a Chinese take-out. There were handwritten signs on the windows with the specials scribbled on them: Good Deal 30 min foot 30 min massage, and Treat Self, 50 min massage with 15 neck, walk in welcome. We went inside and were met at the door by a tall Asian man who did not speak but indicated through gestures that we should follow him. He never asked for our names, but I guess we were the only party of three that came in, so there was no need for formalities.

Down the hall were a series of small rooms with open doorways, some of which were partially obscured by a curtain of sheer fabric or hanging beads. Most had a single massage table in the center of the room, which made me wonder how many massages could be performed at the same time. I suppose it would depend on the therapists scheduled at a particular time. That made me wonder if they had a busy time because they are open seven days a week for roughly twelve hours a day. That made me wonder about the privacy. These were small rooms, mind you. Even hookers would have felt exposed.

He led us to a dimly lit room with about eight black leather padded chairs with ottomans, all in a row. Half of the chairs were occupied by older Asian women who had towels on their laps. Some of them were having their heads rubbed, while others were receiving their vigorous foot massages. All of the massage therapists, if you will, were middle-aged to older Asian men.

The man pointed at three vacant chairs. I sat in one, S took the seat next to me, and LK sat in the third, closest to where the rest of the action was. LK immediately settled back on her chair and closed her eyes. She is quite adept at relaxing. S, on the other hand, has never had a massage, not even of her feet, and she certainly hasn’t been touched by a grown Asian man. She sat up stiffly, trying not to stare at the other patrons. The men were finishing up their massage work by slapping the bottoms of the ladies’ feet and pounding on their calves with fists.

S tapped me on the arm and bugged out her eyes. Let’s just say she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to relax. It didn’t occur to me until that moment that a grown man, an absolute stranger, was about to put his hands on my fourteen year old child. This was exactly the kind of situation she spent most of her life trying to avoid.

One of the men finished and left the room. He returned carrying a large wooden bucket. It was lined with a clear plastic bag and filled with water. He set it down in front of my chair and indicated that I should put my feet in it, which I did. It was tepid and felt a bit like I had my feet in a small trashcan that had been left out in the rain. He left the room and came back with the same setup for S, and then a third time for LK. My sister stuck her feet into her bucket and reclined again. S couldn’t decide what to do. I gestured to her to roll up her pants and stick her feet in the water. In her awkwardness, she managed to kick the bucket accidentally and spill half the water onto the floor.

We sat with our feet in buckets, trying to relax. After a little while, the first Asian man and two other men came in and sat on the ottomans. They worked in a synchronized rhythm, first lifting our feet out of the buckets, then patting them dry with towels before repositioning the ottoman and starting the reflexology portion of the massage.

Reflexology must involve some ancient Asian wisdom, but on the surface, it is more a combination of ungodly pressure that manages to hurt and tickle at the same time. There is a lot of toe pulling and arch irritating, interspersed with ankle twisting. It’s a bit more spirited than your standard Swedish massage technique, designed to get deep into the tissues that may or may not correspond with your inner organs that could possibly release whatever toxins may be hiding there.

I tried to remain calm but I couldn’t. I sat there stiffly with my feet in a stranger’s hands, worrying about my daughter next to me. Maybe that’s why spas tell you to leave your children at home.

 After the foot squeezing ended, they slapped the bottoms of our feet and pounded on our calves and thighs with closed fists. It didn’t hurt, but it also didn’t feel good, like getting hit with a ball that was thrown underhand.

Finally, the Asian men moved behind our chairs and began the neck and head portion of the massage. Normally, I rather enjoy a scalp massage, but not with hands that are covered in feet cells. I didn’t recall the men leaving the room to freshen up; they just switched positions and kept at it. Feet in hair, hair on chair. I wanted to take a peek at their DHEC inspection paperwork, but I also wanted to get my money’s worth. After some uncomfortable neck squeezing and odd arm pulling, the spa treatment ended.

They left the room and the three of us sat up, unsure of what to do next. We stepped into our shoes and walked back down the hallway to the counter near the door where we entered. A woman stood behind the counter, and on the floor next to her was a baby. The baby fussed as she tried to indicate, without words, what we needed to pay. We settled up as she passed the baby over to one of the foot-rubbing men, and he tried to calm it. Apparently, this was one spa that was fine with children of all ages.

Would I go again? Absolutely! Thirty bucks for a complete stranger to rub my feet in a non-sexual way is a steal, people. It might not be the most relaxing spa treatment, but you get what you pay for. Although, you might want to leave your kids at home.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Part I of the Women's March

Have you wondered what makes people take action? Sometimes it is in their nature to stand up and speak out. Sometimes, it takes a little support and encouragement from likeminded people. Sometimes, it’s just a text.

I got a text message from my friend MH: Do you want to go with me to the women’s march in Washington?

I don’t remember how long after the election that the march was proposed and announced. I had seen it on Facebook, and thought about how much I wanted to participate. I also thought about how unlike me it would be to go that far outside of my comfort zone. I knew, in a million years, I would never do something like that on my own, but that text message was an invitation, an opportunity. I could say yes and join with many other women who had enough of the erosion of our rights and freedoms. Or I could say no and continue to sit on my couch and watch the news and grow more hopeless and angry and distraught.

I answered MH’s text: Yes!

We discussed the possibility with each of our husbands. We weren’t looking for permission or even reassurance. We just wanted to make sure we had parenting coverage in our absence and no scheduling conflicts. When we were given the all-clear, I contacted my wonderful friend, SS, who lives near DC and is always happy to play host. He graciously agreed to house us, which meant we had the means and the wherewithal. We still needed the nerve.

I don’t want to say we needed the balls to join the march. We need to stop saying that balls equal courage. Balls don’t do anything particularly courageous. They just hang there and go along for the ride. You know a brave organ? A vagina. That thing is from where we all enter the world, and to where a large majority of people, mostly men, spend the rest of their lives trying to return. That is where bravery is born, where it perseveres, where it overcomes.

We didn’t need the balls to go; we needed to pussy the hell up.

As the date of the march drew closer, we started to lose our resolve. MH and I each had concerns about the crowd size and safety of the event. Around the same time, sister marches began popping up around the country. One was going to happen nearby, in Asheville. Another was scheduled to take place right here in our town. We debated heading to Asheville because it felt safer. We debated staying here, but it didn’t seem like taking a stand. Then we debated going to the beach because, well, it’s the beach.

One week before the march, we texted again. MH wanted to know what I thought. I said I thought the only thing stopping us was fear, and fear was precisely thing we wanted to protest against. The president-elect campaigned by exploiting fear. If we didn’t want to live in fear for the next four years, we needed to take a stand now. That being afraid to go was exactly why we should. MH agreed. She didn’t want to have any regrets. We felt it was going to be historic and more significant than we thought we knew, and someday, we could sit and tell our grandchildren about the time we marched in Washington to stand up for what we believe.

A few days before our trip, MH found “Thelma” and “Louise” t-shirts at the mall. We went back together to try them on, and thanks to serendipity, we found the right sizes with the right names.  While checking out, MH told our cashier we were buying the shirts because we were headed to the march in Washington. She thought that sounded fun, and then asked us if we were going to Washington State. MH maintained her smile and said, no, DC. She had no idea what we were talking about.

After we got our shirts, we decided to search the mall for fanny packs. We both thought they made the perfect march accessory; we could stash our IDs, some cash, cell phones, perhaps a tissue for uncontrolled emotions, leaving our hands free for protest signs, throwing punches, or rubbing the tear gas out of our eyes. Our first stop was Forever 21. We figured they would have fanny packs as an homage to the 80’s, but no such luck. We did ask a girl who worked there if they had any. MH told her we were going to the march. She too had no idea what we were talking about. We tried a department store, but they had nothing resembling a fanny pack. We finally stopped at the lone luggage store, where an older woman and gentleman were working. We asked them if they had fanny packs. The woman said yes and asked us if we were going to the march.

We confirmed our trip with SS, our host. He didn’t want anything but a pussy hat, but it was too late for me to get one. I baked him his favorite cake instead.

The next morning, MH drove to pick me up. I had my suitcase, the cake, a few signs my daughter made, and my favorite pillow. She too had her bag and favorite pillow. We both packed our anti-anxiety medication, our insurance policy if we lost our nerve.

We hit the road in our matching t-shirts, ready to join forces with like-minded Americans who also had no intention of sitting quietly. We felt empowered, strong, confident, until we had to stop to pee. Then we kind of felt dorky in our matching t-shirts. Clearly, we loved the idea in the car, but out of the car was another story. Some people just looked at us. Some people told us they liked our shirts. And some women, well, they asked us about the march. They got it.

When we arrived at SS’s place, we took a moment to relax, and then we changed clothes before dinner, just like Thelma and Louise would have done.