Sunday, January 28, 2007


One advantage to having a boyfriend, it turns out, is that they can see things you cannot. For instance, your back.

One night while I was in Seattle, Z was rubbing my back and discovered this thing that he thought I should have checked by a dermatologist. He didn’t technically discover it as I had already made an appointment to have it removed, and maybe I sounded a little defensive when I told him this because the next thing he discovered on my back he kept to himself for several days. One night he couldn’t stand it any longer and finally said, “What IS that?” He peeled up my shirt and discovered a price tag for $19.99 plastered between my shoulder blades. For days, he’d thought I’d had some deformity about which I might be self-conscious. Despite being mortified that the evidence pointed to bad hygiene on my part, I laughed with him about it and felt a little warm that he cared enough not to verbally note my every flaw.

My dermatologist, on the other hand, has no problem pointing out the flaws. She’s a bit flakey on a good day, but when I had the non-price tag removed she was in rare form. I hadn’t seen her for two years when I’d had a little thing sliced off of the side of my nose, so it struck me as odd that she shuffled in, looked at my face and said, ‘Oh, it looks good!’ Only what she was examining was not the two-year-old healed place but instead a chickenpox scar I’ve had since 1974. She complimented her own handiwork and then suggested that I let their new cosmotologist micro-dermabrase my face to smooth out the remnants of what she thought was her scar. She went on to tell me how this amazing cosmotologist would fix all manner of problems and could even wax eyebrows. When she saw I wasn’t signing up for a makeover, she went on to announce that she was trying to drum up business for the woman because nobody in my town seems interested in spending money to look better. I suspect it’s just that people here are accustomed to having their eyebrows done at a salon and not at a doctor’s office. Isn’t it a bit like going to the dentist and having her try to sell you lipstick? I suppose I’d appreciate it if my hair stylist noticed something on my head (a price tag perhaps) and suggested I go to the doctor to have it removed, but somehow when a doctor does it, it smacks of a snake oil selling. Do I NEED microdermabrasion for some medical reason? Are my eyebrows going to cause me long-term health problems if not cosmotologically altered?

And now, on to a skin of a different color.

I’m a fairly intuitive person, so why does it surprise me that when I do some dumb thing an inner voice tells me not to do, it doesn’t turn out well? More importantly, why don’t I just listen to myself? I’ve come to the conclusion that either I am slightly mentally retarded or I have a dual personality: one of a benevolent, intuitive parent and the other of a petulant, rebellious child.

I’ll spare you the details, but bottom line, despite a niggling voice telling me I was about to make a mistake, I violated the pricey iSkin—a Shrek-green condom that protects my iPod from all manner of bumps and spills—in the interest of its fitting into a stereo dock more efficiently. It didn’t work, and furthermore, within 60 seconds of making the last snip, I discovered another way to attach the iPod to the stereo that won’t affect the skin at all.

Because I do not like to cry over spilled beverages, I opted to fix the situation by gluing the silicon sheath back together with nail glue, which on any other day could be used to reattach previously conjoined twins. I frequently glue my fingers together when using it, so when the little niggling voice told me this experiment would also fail, I told it to hush because I know all about nail glue.

Maybe they taught this kind of helpful stuff in high school science classes on a day I was absent, but it turns out that quick-drying nail glue does not dry so quickly when applied to silicon. Instead, it makes a sticky mess. Despite both my intuition’s best attempt to save me from myself and despite my own resolution to be more frugal in 2007, there is now another Shrek-green iSkin on my Visa. I considered not buying a replacement, but the niggling voice said, “Your iPod needs to be protected from people like you.”

With Z and my intuition watching out for me, all I have to fear is, um, myself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Other Side of 40

It seemed like a good idea to just go ahead and get the cold and sore throat from Z this weekend. Our minutes together were ticking down quickly and it felt as if one of us (me, probably, since I was the one with the plane ticket and penchant for over-the-top comparisons) was on death row waiting for a pardon from the governor that wasn’t going to come, so why not? But now classes start in three hours, the cold has lost all of its romantic appeal, and I’m wondering how my students will hear my scratchy voice today.

Other things you should know: security has been breached and Z has discovered the blog. I spent a day at DEFCON 1, re-reading all previous posts to see what secrets he’d learned. My face would turn red when he would reference something, like, “Apparently my laugh should be made a ring tone.”

I’d be a bad secret agent. For instance, if I didn’t really want him to read the blog, why would I have told him I kept one? And once I told him, why would I give him breadcrumbs big enough to find his way to it? This is one of the great mysteries of being me, the shy exhibitionist.

So this is me on the other side of 40. When I started this, I never would have guessed how delicious the flavor of life is on this side of the great divide. Had I known, I would have turned 40 years ago.

The day itself was perfect (and I’m not just saying this because the Object of My Affection will probably read this). In the history of birthdays, this one couldn’t be improved upon. It started with an apartment festively decorated by Z, a phone call from my mother, and excellent presents opened in bed. From there, we moved the party to downtown Seattle where we ate at the Cheesecake Factory, and via the Monorail, we visited the Experience Music Project. The building itself is more fascinating than the exhibits inside, though we did produce sound effects to accompany a Disney cartoon and learn to play “Louie, Louie” on the guitar. We had artfully decorated hot chocolate at a cafĂ© across from Pike Place Market, and then went to see “Borat.” Z treated me to a delicious steak at Ruth’s Chris’s. Eventually, we ended up at Kell’s, an Irish pub in Post Alley where all of Seattle was celebrating the Seahawk’s victory and (short-lived) promise of glory in the play-offs, though I pretended all were celebrating my birthday. Though the majority of people at the bar were in their 20s, it did not make me feel old, just lucky to be with Z and listening to music I love. When we got back to the flat, we shot off confetti bottle poppers and decadently drank champagne in bed. I’ll stop with the narration there in the interest of modesty. To recap, it is the first birthday ever (including all childhood birthdays—I was a weird kid), where I did not lament the passage of time. Though I am unwilling to share Z with friends and others turning 40 this year, my advice to them for a similarly happy birthday is to be with a person who makes their teeth itch with desire and do exactly what they want to do, all day long, even if the neighbors complain.

The days following my birthday are a blur of happiness and general contentment. We saw some movies, ate some meals, took some walks, and did some shopping. I can’t help but think the residents of Seattle are glad I’ve left. Z and I behaved in ways that would have made me throw up just three months ago. We held hands walking down the street and made other people walk around us. We kissed at stoplights and grinned at each other stupidly for no reason other than we were happy to be in the same zip code for a few days. After one kiss while waiting for a light to change, Z said, “I hate people like us.” I felt only marginally apologetic for our public displays of affection, though it did cross my mind that perhaps I should have been handing out the suppositories I’d been given for nausea at the beginning of the trip to all who were forced to look at us.

I’m paying the price now. I cough. I blow my nose. I try to remember that less than 48 hours ago I was delighting in the simple things in life like a $5 dollar bottle of champagne or Z’s new-used and slightly hideous sofa from Craig’s List or the way my Thermolite mitten fits perfectly in the palm of his Darth Vader-style glove. Instead of beautiful cups of cocoa, I must content myself with mugs of gritty Swiss Miss, warm memories of a decade started right, and potent cough syrup.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bridget Jones Goes Bad

Z and I just got back from seeing Notes on a Scandal. We knew nothing of it and picked it only because of torrential rains and winds, and because Judi Dench is a favorite of Z’s. It was good. Tight writing. Strong characters. Stellar acting. Interesting throughout. Somewhere around the midpoint, however, I started to get a bit uncomfortable because I realized that despite the beautiful Cait Blanchett’s character’s ill-advised affair with her fifteen year old student, the aged spinster would be the “baddie.” Not the woman with loving husband and fairly decent home-life who decides to stray with her art student for no real reason other than minor dissatisfaction. No, Cait remains sympathetic throughout. It is the spinters we must beware. Judi Dench’s character keeps a meticulous journal (complete with gold stars and other bits of ephemera—the sort of journal that normally makes me feel warm inside), while judging others harshly, and having only one meaningful relationship: with her ailing cat, Portia. This let’s us know right away that this is a person to be judged and found lacking. Pitied, possibly, but mostly reviled.

Probably because Z was sitting next to me, with promises to take me home and love me, it took longer than normal for my spinster sensitivities to ratchet up to 10. I’ve never been able to truly enjoy Fatal Attraction and it hurt a bit to see what the world thinks Bridget Jones’s future might hold if Mark Darcy gives her the brush-off. On the other hand, as a writer, I know that sometimes there are bad __________ (fill in stereotype here) and they must be written about. The key is writing about them in such a way that you believe the character and forget the stereotype. This writing was good, but ultimately, it still seemed like a cautionary tale for any 40 year old woman who thinks maybe it will be okay to live out the remainder of her days in a single kind of way.

I don’t like cautionary tales. But still, see the movie.

Tonight is my last night of being 39. Z is off at Bartell’s buying me last minute birthday trimmings and so I am in the flat, reflecting. Am I sorry my 30s are over? Nah. I’m sorry I didn’t live my 20s better, but my 30s have been good. I’ve been some places, met some people, written some things. I have found the love of a good dog and the affection of a good man (whose keys are jangling in the lock as I write this). I’m healthier than I was three days ago, and that’s something to be happy about too. Two days of Jell-O and broth eating was not what I envisioned for this trip to Seattle. Today's lunch at the Pink Door in Post Alley was delicious--my first real meal--though I was sorry that the tarot readers and trapeze artists weren't there. Apparently that sort of dining entertainment is only appropriate in the evening.

So, goodbye 30s. Hello 40s. Let’s see what’s on your horizon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rip VanWinkle and the Gastritis Queen

I made it to Seattle before the clock struck 12. Just barely. Z and my luggage were both waiting on me, so I felt welcomed. We took a taxi back to his flat, where he had New Year’s champagne waiting as well as those little confetti bottle poppers. By the time we got back there was precious little time to get anywhere fun for midnight, so we watched the Space Needle fireworks display on television. It’s weird to be one of the last places on the planet to experience the New Year. I kept waiting to see Dick Clark, but he’d been in bed for three hours—2007 was already old news by the time it hit the Pacific Northwest.

Don’t judge me harshly, but I’m a little superstitious. It’s haphazard superstition. I’d walk under a ladder, but I don’t like a candle in my house with an unburned wick. The whole black cat thing annoys me because it smacks of feline racism. One of my superstitions is that however you spend New Year’s Day will pretty much determine the shape of your year. It’s not looking good for us. Z was still horribly jetlagged, so he slept until 6 p.m. on January 1st. Once he was up, we walked to his office so he could take care of some things before classes started and then decided to eat at our (formerly) favorite Mexican place. It was not so good as we remembered, and by 3 a.m. I was up with “gastrointestinal distress.” By the time I woke up the next morning, I was achy and still making regular trips to the bathroom. Between my marathon bathroom visits, we lounged in bed watching Gerald Ford’s funeral. Not really the honeymoon-ette I was planning.

Also, my hair has gone from Meredith Grey to Slobodan Milosevic. Who knew it could get worse?

Z went to work and left me alone with my ailments. He called and suggested I go to the ER around the corner if I felt too bad. I laughed at this. It’s just the flu. We hung up. And then I started thinking about all the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, read up on it on the internet and discovered I had every symptom except a sunburn-like rash. Hmmm. Intuition told me this was an unlikely diagnosis, but the big warning at the bottom Seek medical attention immediately scared me. I weighed the evidence. These really were the worst flu-like symptoms I’d ever felt. And would I be achy if it was Mexican food poisoning.

If you ever have to go to an ER, try to go to one in Seattle. I’m not a regular ER visitor, but based on my experience at my local one in August, I can see a vast difference. I was treated kindly, I was given warm blankets, I was clucked at and reassured. No one made me feel as if I had no business being there. The doctor looked like someone who would turn the heads of both McDreamy and McSteamy’s. She was kind. Kind and beautiful and smart. Imagine.

Z came and entertained me, though I kept dozing off from the IV they’d given me for dehydration. The bloodwork indicated that it was “just” gastritis, so they gave me some drugs, some instructions, and sent me on my way.

So it definitely isn’t the start of 2007 with Z that I was anticipating. He’s been a wonderful care-giver though. I awoke this morning to Post-it notes all over the apartment with well-wishes and numbers where he can be reached and two cans of chicken noodle soup that he had gone out last night in the rain to buy for me. I feel better. The sun is out. My fingers are crossed that he won’t get sick and that the rest of my stay will be good. And also, that my hair will start looking more like mine and less like Hollywood stars and now-dead foreign leaders.