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Not Cute: Classic black and white photo of baby in a high chair, bawling and, I'd assume, red-faced, a bowl upended atop its chubby head, its contents of spaghetti hanging in the baby's terrified face like filthy hair that would cause angst even in Medusa, sauce splattered here and there like freshly clotted blood.
Cute: Classic black and white photo of a chunky meatball in a high chair, in an old-fashioned ruffled bonnet, grinning at a spoonful of strained peas approaching its mouth, held in the tender paw of a yellow tabby kitten wearing an impeccable navy blue sailor suit.
Once it becomes gleefully apparent that the big galooph who's claiming sexual harassment in the workplace is just as much of a bawdy, semi-conscious, pleated-khaki'd, button-downed, beer-drowned, loud-mouthed heap of idiocy as those he's accusing, I have no problem when the defense attorney repeatedly poses questions that encourage him to repeat the phrase "two-inch cock" in reference to the treasure in his trousers. Even more delightful is the sound of the Midwestern lawyer intoning "two-inch cock" in a drone more fit for ordering a short stack at the local IHOP than talking about the short cock in this lump's lap.
"Which one's yours?" I ask the couple I've just met, sitting on the periphery at the toddler play group.
Sam says, "The ugliest one."
"That's right," Lila says. "Find the ugliest one, and you're found ours."
"Come on, " I say with a laugh. I pick out the kid anyone would agree is the prettiest, "That one is yours. She's gorgeous."
"No, we're serious," Sam says. "Our kid's hideous."
I look around. Most are standard issue, and, yeah, some aren't even close to cute, but hideous? Then one turns around and I gasp, and Sam and Lila nod with pride.
Marla and her mom are at the kitchen table. Marla has just completed the Jumble and her mom has applauded her achievement. Her mom is struggling with the New York Times crossword, her middle finger dotted with ink from squeezing the Bic too hard.
Marla turns to Family Circus, which never makes her laugh. And then Peanuts, which rarely does. She wants a dog who looks like him, who giggles and dances.
"Marla, what's a four-letter word for 'This crossword is killing me'?"
When her mom laughs, she's prettier than Little Billy's mom and just as happy as Snoopy.
I'm talking to an acquaintance by the sinks in the gym locker room. She's a lovely Jamaican-British woman with a gentle voice. She is in a towel and I am not. (I am clothed!) At some point I have occasion to use "fuck" and lower my voice a decibel or two, and when she responds, she lowers hers even further to accommodate "hell", barely mouthing the word. It seems ridiculous that I, of all people, would care about offending anyone's ocular sensibilities when all around me I'm being assaulted by more, um, muff that you can shake a tit at.
MY DOG COMES FIRST. I don't even need to see her cardboard sign in order to want to help. All I need is to see her dog. I would've passed by had she not had one, and she probably knows it, but it's clear from the way he's curled against her, sleeping, and the way she looks down at him that her sign doesn't lie. I give her a dollar, which, who knows, may go toward a cigarette she offers to buy from a passerby, or more kibble, when the bag open on the blanket near her dog runs out.
My little Italian boyfriend makes me absolutely scrumptious eggplant parmigiana, complete with homemade sauce. The most recent batch, he explained, had no gaps in the individual eggplant medallions (yes, he calls them "medallions"!) because he cut each to fit precisely in the pan like a jigsaw puzzle. He loves doing this. It gives him great joy. Meanwhile, I'd be crying if you told me I had to spend that much time making something. I suffer an aneurysm when anything takes more than 10 minutes to prepare. And even THEN I'm whining and wanting to just order in or go out.
The only reason to watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona is for the scenery of Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Barcelona, and to wallow in the sad, sad knowledge that no matter what you do from this moment on, you'll never earn enough money to own a gorgeous house in the Spanish countryside. Scarlett Johansson, with her floppy walk, sleepy eyes, milky lips, and doughy blondeness, can't convince me she's anything but Woody Allen's all too wet dream, and that the sole reason for making this movie was to witness her kissing Cruz and hear her murmur "make love" ad nauseam. Bastante!
I posted this on Facebook:
Prejudice in any form is a hideous, insidious beast. Fuck you if you don't like a dog because it's a breed you deem scary. Fuck you if you don't like a man because he's gay. Fuck you if you don't like a woman because she's fat. For a so-called "intelligent" species, the human race, in great part, is really, really fucking stupid and not worthy of that descriptor. (Oh, and fuck you if you don't approve of the word "fuck".)
And received handsful of applauding "likes".
"Bad day?" a gay man commented.
How could he?
He's breaking up with her. That much he knows. He's finally made up his mind, after months of deliberation that kept him up nights and caused him to scald himself in the shower every morning. (Sometimes he'd take a second shower, and a third, just for the opportunity to deliberate with no distractions.) Ultimately, when she asks him when he decided this, expecting him to say, "When I was in bed with the girl I was cheating on you with", he'll say, "It was 9:32 a.m. when I was buying a red bell pepper," and she'll be glad he did.
He's been checking out every good-looking dark-haired girl who's come within 30 feet of this street corner, and as each passes without acknowledging him, he shrinks a bit more into his pleated Dockers. He's sneaking peeks at me over his shoulder, no doubt thinking I may be the girl he made a date with for tonight, with whom he's been chatting on eHarmony or some other dating site he joined on a particularly pathetic Saturday night. Finally, a stout girl with a coarse bob stops in front of him. "Larry?" she says. He hesitates. "Yes," I say, and walk away.
In the decade-plus that I've lived in Manhattan, I've witnessed it become more overrun with Starbucks and Duane Reades and could-be-anywhere big-box stores than any Lower East Side tenement ever was with vermin. I reserve a special bilious place in my viscera for the mindless cretins, tourists and residents alike, who, when presented with 14,000,000 other choices, many "mom and pop" that offer better service and better products at often lower prices, still choose to throw their money at chain stores and restaurants, all for the opportunity to shroud themselves in bland uniforms and cram uninspired food down their gullets.
I'm not what you'd call crafty in the Martha sense. I'm not even crafty in the Brownies sense. I never liked making collages (although I was enchanted by Modge Podge). I'm intrigued by glue, but don't know if I want to know what's added to the formula to make it "super" or "crazy". I do know that I like to sniff it, though, not to get high but to remind myself of Elmer's (Glue-All!) and how I used to love to pick the tiny glob of dried super-white glue off the orange nozzle. It truly is the "little things", yes?
How other people act is out of your control. How you react to how they act is in yours. If you feel you need to allow someone's bad behavior to taint your experience, to hand the reins to someone with a negative attitude who for whatever reason is hellbent on spreading discontent, you're just as much to blame for the creation of the bad experience as they are. It's one thing to indulge a kneejerk response for a few minutes. but if you wallow and drown and flail around in someone else's nonsense, it's your fault. You have a choice.
They haven't visited for eight months, so I know they've gotta be shocked at the difference in my appearance: 60 more flab-pounds, chin-length graying hair, and parched lips sunk into my mouth thanks to the removal of almost every goddamned tooth. Still, they tell me I look good and rave about how sleek and awesome my new wheelchair is as compared to "that thing from Ironsides". Still this probably isn't the best time for me to meet my dad's new wife, who looks at him as if to say, "Are you sure she has the same thing as Montel Williams?"
Every time I walk home from the store with a box of kitty litter and I pass someone with a dog, I feel like they think I am too much of a pussy to own a dog, that I am one of these girls who prefers the company of cats to dogs and men, that I am a quiet spinster who clips coupons and writes poems about kittens. So even though I smile and say hello to every dog I pass on the street anyway, I make a special point of smiling even more, especially at the really big dogs.
As part of a special tie-in promotion, "Where's my Jet Pack?", my long-awaited book about how the reality of life post-2000 measures up to what I expected it would be in the mid-1970s when I entered high school, is now available for download directly into your brain for enjoyment in dreamscape mode only. Because I did not envision wireless transmittal in 1977, however, the download must be done via a metal skullcap contraption that looks like an old-fashioned beauty parlor hairdryer not unlike those used in cartoons to switch the personalities of, say, a mild-manner businessman with a mischievous chimp.
Every time I hear someone say something like, "Nothing is impossible!" I think, well, yes, pushing the Empire State Building one mile in one second with my pinky is impossible. Then I pause and increase the one mile to ten, and then the ten to 100, and add on that the person is challenging me with, "If it can be done, then we get to kill your mother!" at which time I change the mileage to 1,000. Even then I pause, because I'm paranoid that somehow the impossible IS possible and that my mom will have to suffer the consequences.
I am so grateful for a warm, cozy apartment with an old-fashioned silver-colored radiator that works very well, with just enough intermittent clanking , hissing , and whistling to accompany the heat output to remind me that it's taking its job very seriously. But holy moly, it's like 94 grandparentish degrees in here, and I'm reduced to nothing but shorts and a tank top in January. I half expect my Bubby and Poppop to appear out of the squiggly heat, smiling, offering me plates of knishes and macaroons and a bowl of sliced pears (canned, in heavy syrup) in Yiddish.
She's discontinued gas service to her apartment and cooks using only a single electric burner perched atop her now dormant range. On the counter opposite a small toaster oven, propped atop a stack of who-the-hell-knows-what, serves as an oven. The knobs on the range are removed, and all I can think is that the stove looks like it's been blinded. I feel sorry for the now dormant appliance and wonder if the electric burner and the toaster oven are intimidated by its presence, knowing they're minuscule substitutes, or feel empowered, knowing that they now get to do what it cannot.
In 1971 Mary Richards paid $175 a month for the wonderfully dreamy apartment that I always wanted to live in, complete with the "M" on the wall and the TV that was smaller than a toaster oven. Even though I know that was 41 years ago and that apartment was in Minneapolis, still, I flail and froth on my sofa in Manhattan in 2012. During a commercial break, I plug in my rent into an online consumer price index inflation calculator. My apartment would have gone for $360 in 1971. I guess we're about even, given the geographical difference, yes?
People seem to really dig the photo I posted on Facebook of me with a friend from the summer of 1981, where I'm holding up a Time magazine with "High on Cocaine" on its cover. My friend, someone says, looks like Tyne Daly. I, however, they say, am adorable, like a young Ally Sheedy, with my feathered hair, and even I must agree, but the striped pastel shorts and coordinating lavender shirt don't jive with the version of Ally Sheedy that more accurately represents my attitude at that time, the one in Breakfast Club (minus, of course, the appalling dandruff).
You have not lived until you have dipped a perfect french fry (steak-cut, medium-golden brown on the outside, fluffy on the inside, a bit of skin left on, salted and fresh-ground-peppered, hot and still slightly sizzling) into a mound of perfect mashed potatoes (hot, fluffy, not whipped into submission by beaters, but beaters used only for initial smashing and then a fork used to retain integrity of the potato) into which a small depression has been made and filled with real mushroom gravy. And for extra points, hot corn niblets on the side, into which the fry-with-mash is dipped. Heaven.
The dog is dawdling, as a dog'll do, and she's tugging with non-existent patience on the leash. I'm losing mine, wanting to strangle her so she knows how the dog feels. I'm on the other side of Fifth, and dash across so I'm several paces behind them. Fortunately they stop at a light.
"You have no idea how beautiful your dog is," I say with a smile.
She turns and faces me. "It's my boss' dog."
"You have no idea how beautiful it is."
"She is," she says.
The light turns green. She walks alongside the dog, tugging no more.
I am acting "as if". As if your baby is a puppy. So I can coo and gush over it the way I know people do over babies, but which I've never really had a compulsion to do. and which, when I have done it, has felt as false as if I were to address men as "sir" and women as "ma'am". Your baby is rather cute, yes, and being proper-polite is lovely, yes, but the conventional reactions I think I'm supposed to have, I just don't. So, when your baby cries, yes, sir, I imagine a puppy whimpering. Awww!
She isn't sugar-coating the circumstances of their father's death. She isn't telling her three young kids that he "passed away" or he "went to a better place". The kids know he killed himself, they know he wasn't happy after the divorce, they know it's not their or her fault, they know he's gone and that what he did wasn't the way to do things. I don't think she's telling them that the undertaker said his body one of the most horrifying he'd ever encountered, thanks to the carbon monoxide poisoning, though. Maybe there are some things that are left buried.
The other day, while jumping down from the bed, something happened that caused my cat to tumble or crash to the ground. Usually when something like this happens, she acts like she'd planned it all along, barely batting an eye, and as she casually licks a paw, peers at me like I'm the one who did something stupid. This time, though, before I could turn to see what had happened, she'd already wordlessly left the scene, disappearing to who knows where. And just when I'd forgotten that anything happened, she rounded the corner of the sofa, limping like Peter Lorre.
The landlord's kids are in the vestibule, crying and whining and wheedling the way they do 12 times of 10 they're there, and I'm at my desk seething and grimacing and wanting to fling open my door and either shout at them to shut the fuck up or to go out there and do exactly what the brats are doing, in their faces. Instead, I stay at my desk and say, "Shut up" loudly enough so the parents won't know whether I'm directing it at their red-faced crybabies or if I'm on the phone telling my mom to pipe down.
My biodad and his wife moved to Arizona over ten years ago, and I haven't been out to visit. I think the last time I saw them was in New Jersey in 1999. I always say I'll visit, but I always put it off. I keep thinking I'll wait until June 2013, when he turns 80, but I'm going to go this year, because you just don't know, and (knock wood), what if he doesn't make it to 80 (knock wood again)? What kind of impact would I be wanting to make, anyway, waiting even longer than I already have?
I read an article claiming that mild dehydration is linked to pessimism. "Is Your Glass Half Full?" the title asks.
Seven seconds after reading the article, I went to the kitchen, filled a 16-ounce glass with tap water and six ice cubes, paused for about 14 seconds, and dumped it all down the drain. So, it took me twice as long to be pessimistic than it did to be optimistic, and I didn't even have to drink any of the water to achieve the result. And for that I'm very happy. There's a lesson to be learned here. Or not.
I get to work from home barefoot, in cargo pants or yoga pants or no pants, in a tank top or tube top or no top, with my hair up or down or not brushed at all, and take as many Facebook and email breaks as I want, and a nap at the drop of a hat, with my cat. I can curse as loudly and as often as I like, I can go for a walk on a whim. I don't have a commute. I don't have office gossip. I can have non-stop coffee. Grateful? You have no idea.
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