Distinctive Similarity

Sitting on the front porch, cup of Lapsang Souchong, messaging a Brit friend of mine, and watching the remnants of Nate pass thru… Siri had been at my side, but then she saw a chipmunk and took off. I messaged this to my Brit friend, and then i got to thinking. A few Google clicks later, i discover that there are no chipmunks in England. Seriously. Zero. But i’ll bet they still have rodents that dig up the bulbs in their garden. He bet that his cats, familiar with chipmunks or not, would chase and eat one.

They don’t have groundhogs in the U.K. either.  But i’m sure they have some other kind of cute-but-destructive whistle pig.

I have friends in Australia… If i went there and saw a Tasmanian Devil, i’d be awed, even tho we have our own version of the “Trash Panda”, the American Raccoon.

I suppose it is natural to assume that all places and people are both the same and different. Parents work, kids learn, and politicians make rules that they don’t follow. But not all parents work an eight hour day and come home for supper. Not all children get to go to school. Not all politicians are criminals. All cultures have music, but each has it’s own melodic sound. We all eat bread, but indigenous grains make it taste different in different cultures. And we all tolerate idiots, regardless of what language we speak. Same in principle, different in detail.

Let me tell you a story:

During the Gulf War, i spent time in the Middle East. Even having a full schedule with my Navy duties, i still occasionally had time to explore. For example, a friend and i had heard about this great hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant on the edge of the city where we were temporarily stationed, and ventured out one night to go there. Now, the city wasn’t a large place, but somehow we still got lost. We ended up in an outskirt neighborhood after dark, and one of the local kids came over to us.

“My mom says this isn’t a good place for you to be. Why are you here?”

“We were looking for a place to eat that we heard was very good, but we got lost.”

He runs to his mom and tells her. She motions us over. She is stirring a big pot over a fire in what could essentially be considered a dirt floor garage. There are other women around her, and a whole mess of kids running around playing. Thru her son, who is maybe 8 or 9, she tells us we were nowhere near where we were headed, will never get to the restaurant on time and were welcome to eat with them instead.

We take her up on her hospitality. Some of the kids stick close by to translate. I ask about her recipes, her husband, her family. She asks about our children and what it is like to be a woman in the military. Someone starts playing music… Unfamiliar to me, but upbeat and pop-ish. Periodically, a young weedling will come tug at skirts. I can’t understand the words per se, but i’m sure it is something like, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYY!” Sometimes, after this, i see Mom’s eyes roll, and then she looks at me and laughs. She knows i know what it’s like.

We shared a delicious, if humble, meal of lentils and flatbread. More talking and laughing and friendship afterwards because, tho of different backgrounds, the concepts of “Family” and “Meal” are universal. Tho literally on the other side of the globe, as women, as mothers, we are sisters.

As we got up to leave, we handed the woman money. She vehemently refused. Her son let us know that she would not take money from our children’s mouths. Hospitality was part of their culture, and the exchange of money wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t til we explained that we had been given this stipend by our government specifically for eating, and that it was not taking anything from our family, that she relented. We reasoned that our experience that evening was something every government should encourage. And then we laughed and hugged, and her son gave us directions back to our hotel.

I relay this story because even tho from two different worlds, the woman and i were the same. Different language, culture, lifestyle… Everything that, on first glance, would make you think we had nothing in common. And yet, we were both “Mom”, both curious, both building a bridge with a total stranger. Our children were dressed differently, would be educated in a completely different way, and certainly had different opportunities… But our kids were all loved, raised, and taught to be kind. She had likely never seen a chipmunk, and i have never seen a jerboa, but we both know a rodent when we see one.

Differently the same. Similarly different. All of us. Everywhere. We all have blessings. We all have problems. We all know friends and family and music. We all know bills and illness and assholes. We all seek the pleasure in little things. We all seek the occasional epic event. We all cope with politicians. We all deal with rodents.

But maybe those last two are the same thing.

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51

At this age, the main thrill you get from a birthday is that you are still alive and enjoying it. Tho some birthdays are benchmarks, like turning 50, the noteworthy numbers are fewer and farther between at this time of life. It doesn’t mean that the date is bad. It’s just harder to muster enthusiasm for a number of years that doesn’t have a specific relevance attached. So turning 51 yesterday was kind of anti-climactic.

While wondering if this indifference was justified, i had the bright idea to Google the number.

It wasn’t just me.

I mean, there were some very cool references: 51 is the number of Doc Hudson in the Cars movies, it’s the direct dial code to Peru, and it is the source of speculation that is Area 51 (For you non-U.S. citizens: This is a government facility that supposedly is for flight testing but, according to popular tale, also harbors recovered alien aircraft and extraterrestrials).  But for the most part, the references were mathematical: Cyclic Gilbreath Permutations (Which apparently have something to do with the shuffling of cards), Stormer numbers (Which, oddly, do not reflect on the weather), and Perrin numbers (Which have nothing to do with steak sauce). Kind of interesting, if you’re bored enough. But there was nothing in there that was like, “WOW! How did i not know that?!?” Nothing that made me think i should be excited about it. I’ll bet, if i conducted a survey, it wouldn’t even be on anyone’s list of favorite numbers.

Not that it’s bad. It’s just “meh”.

I didn’t really expect this birthday to be exciting. And i didn’t expect it to be particularly depressing. So i shouldn’t be surprised that 51 isn’t a magic astrological number, or the number of calories in a cup of  Häagen-Dazs, or the average number of dates a single, middle-aged woman has in a year. (Tho it is the atomic number of Antimony… Which, if it were the opposite of matrimony like it sounds, would be a great thing…)

I suppose, in the end, i got what i expected… Another year on this Earth to make people smile and laugh. Another year to watch my weedlings grow to become extraordinary people. Another year to try to make a positive difference in my little corner of the world. So even as i find out that 51 has no celestial promise for magnificent mojo, or a free facelift, or a surge in calorie metabolism; i am a lucky woman indeed.  My expectations were fulfilled.

And i have already checked… 52 has promise.

A Knight in Battered Armor

This is where i admit that i’ve a soft spot for people, men and women both, with a bit of grit. I’ve never been one for the pretty boy or the stately beauty. Show me callouses, scars, and the look in their eye that, in spite of all they’ve seen, they still find me worthy.

Those lists – the ones made by fashion and gossip magazines – of the hottest celebrities… Rarely do they show the kind of people i lust after. The millionnaire bachelor with his perfect cheekbones and professionally trained physique hold very little allure for me. Don’t get me wrong, i understand why others carry the torches. The aesthetic of the Hollywood-groomed woman, of the couture-suited man, they beg to be noticed. The ones who have acquired that old-style grace, and the ones with the dry wit… There is a reason they are PR’d that way… Because the masses love it.

The perfect bit of 5 O’clock shadow. The golden skin and curve of a silk and tulle clad breast. We all wish we had it – Either for ourselves or in the form of a lover. But to me, they have always rung as a bit fake. To say you’ve had a man with cut abs and  larger than life junk in his trousers… When i was young, i thought that was a great accomplishment. I thought it proved something about me. And i suppose it did.

It proved the shallowness and short-mindedness of youth.

Physical attraction is important. Yes, scientifically, it ensures the continued population of the species; but more importantly, attraction means sex. And sex is good for our physical and mental health. It’s one of God/Goddess/Universe’s greatest and funnest gifts. It is an affirmation of life. Or should be, when it is done well and with the right person.

Each of us has our own idea of the “right person”. What attracts us, engages us, and keeps us entertained is different for each person. One may like a chiseled face. One may like a muscular ass. Others are all about the hair. More power to them. As for me, i want someone whose face and body tell a story of survival, passion, and depth.

Show me the scar where he got his ass beat getting his best friend’s back. Show me calloused fingers where she worked her way up in a man’s world. But most of all, show me that look in their eye. Those eyes that have seen pain and joy. The ones that hold lust and wisdom. The ones that promise their heart if you can get thru to it. I want someone who has seen a lot, been thru a lot, and respects others who have done the same. THAT is someone who i can open up to and melt for. That is a degree of sexiness that won’t diminish with age, circumstance, or loss of limb.

I’ve always held this view, but it’s been made worse by binge watching Game of Thrones.  Too many sexy scar-bearers in that cast. And me, laid out on a lot of bedrest after some surgery… Filling my time by ogling them and getting wrapped up in the drama. (You think you’ve found the perfect fantasy character… Then they either get killed or do something terribly evil…. It’s a tease of volcanic proportions.) (If you think about volcanoes for a second… The waxing and waning of smoke, and the lava overflowing or not, depending on the whim of the gods… It makes even more sense.) 

Friends have told me for a long time now that i would love this show. It is the kind of epic fantasy that i devoured as a kid, but have less time for as an adult. After watching this series, tho, i think i need to start making time for it. No, i won’t get to ogle the sexy people as easily in a book; but a good writer brings that sense of duty, honor, and passion out in a way that is even more sexy. (And then you get to picture them in your head and make them your own… There is no bigger tease than the one we create in our own mind.)

And why am i writing about this today? A combination of too much rest (I’m not good at “resting”) and post-op narcotics, i suppose. This idea has been sitting in my draft bin for over a week, but i was afraid to publish it til i had been off the pain pills for a bit, lest i regret it in a literary “morning after.” The equivalent of waking up with your best friend’s little brother after a drunken dinner party. Except the brother has armor. And a sword. And a convoluted claim to a crown. And a scar across his cheek. And that look in his eye….

Oh my.

 

 

 

I Am Isis

I miss being a badass.

There was a time when i felt like i was capable of anything. I was strong: physically, mentally, spiritually. I was fearless. I was on a warpath to make things better. An everyday superhero with an invisible goddess cape and Lynda Carter’s boots. Except mine were silver instead of gold. I always did prefer silver.

I knew what was right. And what was best. I was powerful. And i was a part of the Special Forces that was going to set the world to right. Seriously. Don’t laugh. I was. I really was. I was Chuck Norris with tits.

I’m not sure what happened. One morning i woke up and put on an outfit of mom jeans instead of my kevlar bustier. Left my amulet behind and took my cell phone instead. I got so involved in the boring shit of daily life that i forgot i was supposed to be part of the Justice League.

Over time, i forgot how to deflect bullets. I stopped training. I lost my thirst for a cause. My biceps became bat wings, and the cape and boots moved to the far back corner of the closet.

My weedlings are badasses. My oldest has a searing sword for those who would stomp on the rights of others, especially her sisters. My middle daughter has an internal fire of the type the Navy used to tell us just to push overboard, as it was too fierce to fight; and it burns hottest for those who cannot fight for themselves. My son is still Robin, wanting a cause, but still learning his place in the Real Live Comic Book Realm. They are awesome.

Somewhere along the way i became Alfred.

Not that Alfred is a bad thing to be. The world needs Alfreds. I just miss being a Shero.

I know it is still in there – Hidden in the deep recesses of my mind. I can pull a Molly Weasley and crush any bitch who would threaten my children. (Sorry, you Marvel fans. Molly is a Superhero. End of argument.) I will kick your sorry ass with my sensible penny loafers. I burn your thin skin with my menopausal heat. I will smack you with my bat wings like a bad, bad donkey, til you’re begging for mercy and embarrassed as hell that you got beat by an old broad. I will.

I’m out of practice –  i’m not dead.

But in spite of that, i still miss the presentation, the aesthetic of my badass self. I miss feeling strong and sure and champion. I miss that confidence, that rogue. I need to steel my thighs, center my mind, tighten up my hi-Helen’s, pull my SuperSuit from the closet and duct tape my fluffy self into it. There are things that need doing in this world, or at least in my life, that i can tackle. I can fight. I can win. And i can do it with style. I just keep forgetting, and real life takes over.

Momma Hol is pretty cool, but there used to be a deeper truth. Well, there still is. It has just been slumbering, it isn’t gone. Now that i need it again, it’s time to wake it up.

After all, my friends don’t call me The Mighty Isis for nothing.

 

 

What To Do When You Find Yourself Accidentally Almost Bald

So, the faux hawk wasn’t growing out well. Because of my cowlicks, it wouldn’t stand straight up without looking like Kid ‘n Play. And if i tried to lay it down, it looked oddly lumpy. Still not time for my next hair appointment. So i grab the clippers that i got to clean up my back hairline. I strap on the #8 guard (Which is an inch and a half). Mind you, the hair on the sides and back is short enough that the blades don’t even touch it. But as i get further up to the top, it starts coming off with a pleasing buzzy sound.

When i get to the front, i don’t push the clippers all the way to my head and instead leave a bit of a forelock.

I look down in the sink, and realize exactly how thick my hair is. Even just this trim has a HUGE ball of hair sitting there, staring at me like something from a Sesame Street sketch. I half expect it to jump out and shout “Mah-na! Mah-na!” I leave the almost-muppets be for the moment and hop in the shower to wash off all the scratchy little hair bits.  Then i break out my makeup mirror so i can see the back of my head better. Oops! there’s a bushy spot. Gotta fix that.

Plug the clippers back in and take them to my head. One stripe. Two.

Ut oh. That wad of hair looks way too big to be what i was aiming for. I mean, it was only a little uneven, and this looks like a granddaddy dust-bunny.

Oh, no. I couldn’t have. I mean, did i? Please, God, no. Hesitantly, i look at the clippers.

I had taken the guard off.

Oh, shit.

Oh, SHIT!

I run back and grab the mirror again. Too hard to see for sure…. Or maybe i just didn’t want to believe it.

Grab my phone and try to take a selfie of the back of my head. After 20 or 30 tries, i finally get something usable.

OH, SHIT!!!!

The back of my head looks like there are two well-used slopes open at Telluride.

To keep myself from hyperventilating, i close my eyes and take a couple deep breaths. I imagine my happy place: A cafe in Palermo, Sicily. Cannoli, Arancia candita, Sigaretti, Cassatelle, Marzipan…. Aaaahhhh. I open my eyes and look in the mirror again.

Any takers on the next word to come out of my mouth?

I allow myself a few seconds to mourn. Then i pull myself together because, really, the only thing i can do now is even it up and paint it purple so it looks somewhat intentional.

I snap the number one guard on and buzz the back of my head and around my ears. Then i jump up to the three guard and do the sides and top, pulling it longer in the front. Back into the shower to rinse off.

My scalp can feel the breeze of the ceiling fan.

A moment of truth as i take a peek at the back of my head again.

The scalp streaks are still there, but not quite as noticeable. There are still a  couple spots that i would like to touch up, but i’m afraid i will make it worse if i keep messing with it. I mean, i’ve only got 1/4″ of hair left on most of my head… I can’t risk cutting off more!

Please, God, let tomorrow be national cowboy day, so i have an excuse to wear a hat.

Pleading for a good response, i take a picture of myself and send it to a couple of select people. They tell me i look like a pixie. Because i only showed them the front. From the back? It’s more like a pixie that went to boot camp, and unfortunately got the new barber…  The day after he graduated from Trump Barber School.  I got some “Whoa”s, and some “Oh, wow”s. My stylist was less than pleased, and i don’t blame her, but even she  came up with some positive remarks. And everyone reminded me that my hair grows really fast.

Then terror sets in, because tomorrow is Friday and i have to work.

I send a note to my closest coworkers and forewarn / threaten them not to laugh.

**********

The next morning, after deciding that it wasn’t work-appropriate for me to show the amount of cleavage it would take to make the hair unnoticeable, i put a little extra effort into my makeup and pick an outfit on the more feminine side (Well, for me, anyway). I practice my casual everything-is-coming-up-roses walk to fake some confidence. I am trying to own it, but i am failing miserably.

I should have gone with the cleavage.

At first, nobody says anything. Then a couple of the women tell me they kind of like it. Not so much praise as to make me think they are lying thru their teeth, but enough to let me know it isn’t stylishly apocalyptic.

Man, i love my coworkers!

**********

Two days later, and the bald spots are starting to fill in. I’ll bet i can #1 guard the back tomorrow and it will at least all be even. This isn’t a style i’m likely to come back to. I mean, i scared the crap out of myself walking past the mirror this morning, because i thought i was a maniac burglar.

But hey, i set out a couple weeks ago to spice things up a bit. A mostly shaved head is the style equivalent of scotch bonnet peppers, so at least i exceeded my goal.

And really, if i can learn to rock the accidental shaved head, i’d be one hell of a badass, now wouldn’t i? Maybe this is God/Goddess/Universe’s way of telling me that i have more strength than i thought. Maybe this is to help me learn to command myself. Maybe she is telling me to worry less about my looks.

Or maybe She’s just trying to tell me to stay away from sharp objects.

I’d Luv To Kiss Ya, But I Just Cut My Hair…

I am walking that fine line between “eccentric older broad” and “crazy old bat”. Thank God/Goddess/Universe it isn’t a tightrope. It’s more like one of those moving walkways at the airport. And you just hope you don’t trip and fall on your ass getting on and off.

When i went to my hairstylist yesterday and told her i was thinking about going for a faux hawk this time, it took her a good 5 seconds to reply. Now, this amazing woman has been with me for nearly 15 years. She has seen me thru drugstore dyes, quality henna, the decision to let my grey grow out (Twice with me backing out, before my commitment was finally cemented), the decision to let my grey hair grow very long and wavy in hopes i’d look like EmmyLou Harris (I didn’t), and then the decision to buzz it mostly off in hopes i’d look like G.I. Jane (You guessed it… I didn’t).  In any case, she has known me long enough to know i was serious about getting my punk on. I couldn’t immediately tell if she was inwardly rolling her eyes, or just trying to imagine how it would look. When i pointed out that, if we didn’t like it, we could just buzz it again, she nodded her head, and i could tell she had a plan of attack. Scissors, razors, clippers…. It all came out as she got creative with my old head.

Then i told her i was going to tint it purple when i got home.

To her credit, she didn’t laugh. I mean, i’ve done stranger things, so i doubt she was surprised.

She gave me some good advice, and i stopped and bought the color on the way home. Since i don’t want it permanent and i’m still trying to reduce my use of harmful chemicals, i went with a colorizing conditioner. Definitely not something that would score clean on the hazard app, but no ammonia or bleach or skull-and-crossbones on the package. The young girl at the checkout stared at me with frank confusion before shrugging and ringing me up.

The little snipe.

I went online and found a post from a woman like myself who tinted her whites with the product. I decided to follow her instructions rather than the box because, well, lets face it… The instructions weren’t made for old grey- or white-haired broads. Very little that is fun is made for old broads.

As i sit here waiting for my hair to dry post-color, i am listening to my son and his friends play video games and rag on each other about their cyber-fighting ability and manhood. It is pretty entertaining. They aren’t experienced enough yet to really let out a righteous string of cusswords, so it mostly comes out as swear words in comically random order. They don’t realize i can hear them, until a particularly silly string of epithets makes me laugh hard enough to catch their attention. Now they don’t know what to say.

I often have that effect on people.

In any case, yes, i do realize that being an older broad with tattoos and a barely purple faux-hawk makes me eligible to become one of those just-for-fun birthday cards that you send to someone who is depressed about their age. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. And it really doesn’t matter. I’m not setting out to be anything but me, and i’m just having a little fun along the way. The funny part is that, when i was in my late teens, i did things simply because they were different. Now i do things simply because they are fun… And that appears to be different in and of itself. And noteworthy, in a sort of backhanded way.

Because most of us don’t go out of our way to pick the fun option. We pick the cheapest option. Or the fastest. Or the most career enhancing. And truth be told, i do each of those things as well, and far too often. Life is supposed to be more than money, or speed, or work. It’s supposed to be fun as well. And i think, as adults, we sometimes forget that. Even my quirky, weird, old white-haired broad self. It is easy to forget because of the rat race around us. But screw that. The rats no longer interest me.

So i do something fun. Like get a faux hawk. And tint it purple.

Maybe next week i’ll tint it pink.

Go ahead and laugh. Shake your head. Wonder what in the hell i was thinking.

It’s all good.

I do it to amuse myself, but if i amuse you in the process, more’s the better. I get it. You can’t bring yourself to have fun yet. You are too busy adulting. I get it. Well, at least you can laugh at me having fun. It’s better than nothing.

Just promise me, if you ever see me on a greeting card, tell me. I would expect royalties.

The Woolworth’s Papers

April is National Poetry Month. You know what that means…. Well, i suppose it should mean that i am writing a poem, but i’m not in the mood for that. Instead, i looked up my old poetry notebooks. I have them for as far back as my sophmore year in high school and on for about 10 years. By the time my oldest weedling started school, i had pretty much stopped. No writing to be found of the score of years between then and now. Just the files of my personal prologue.

Anyway, there are a lot of them. These time capsules of my brain and heart. Most of them have loose papers, napkins, junk envelopes with bits and phrases written on them stuffed between the pages. Some have cards and letters from my oldest weedling and a few special friends.  Today i reread them. Each dog-eared,  yellowed-with-age, annotated and dated one.

Holy shit, was it embarrassing. (I started to say “garbage”, but i can’t really say that. I mean, those feelings, however immature and ignorant, were heartfelt at the time. And writing was the only way i knew to vent them.)

In my school system, your sophomore year in high school was about poetry, public speaking, and other language endeavors that would have been torture in lesser hands. I’ve always enjoyed poetry, but that year, i had an English teacher who was truly outstanding. She enthusiastically encouraged us to write. And to write in our own style. She helped me fall in love with writing by giving us variety of assignments and opportunities. And if she sensed effort, even if it wasn’t gifted work, she coaxed us to do more. I started buying notebooks at Woolworth’s and filling them up with my juvenile angst.

“Nobody likes me! I’ll never fit in!!”

“He doesn’t know i exist! I’m gonna die an old maid!!”

And too many handwritten lyrics to Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” for me to count.

All that usual time-consuming schoolgirl crap of which pink-framed young adult series books and teen magazines are filled. Ironic, since i thought i was alone in all this misery. Turned out, there were billion-dollar industries founded on it. Gaggles of teenage girls lamenting their lack of standing in the social hierarchy, wailing in high-pitched nasal unison. Perhaps because it was harder to express, my legitimate depression  remained well hidden beneath these shallow concerns of youth. The little i wrote about the real demons in my head is clunky and unfinished. Darkness overshadowed by soul-words with no English translation. So much for my Sylvia Plath phase.

But i will say this, i wrote a lot.

Like anything else in life, practice helps. So tho my anguish and inexperience are palpable in those journals, you can follow the growth of my writing if you read them in order. I wish i had continued to write thru  my thirties so that i could follow my personal growth as well. To maybe find that moment when hope gained enough ground that the game went into overtime.  Wouldn’t that be a cool thing to read? To find that threshold, my own Moonstruck “SNAP OUT OF IT!!” epiphany when i started taking all the dismal moments of my childhood and turning them into rebar for the person i wanted to be? We could call it my Louisa May Alcott phase, since it was about finally becoming an adult, albeit well into my fourth decade on this Earth.

But those writings don’t exist. I feel like i’m missing The Two Towers. 

Anyway, I’ve a long way to go before i hit my Maya Angelou phase.  Decades, i’m sure. After all, you have to live the experiences before you can glean wisdom from them. I am pleased to say that i’m starting to have Leo Buscaglia moments, tho, so that gives me hope. (Of course, i still have plenty of Edward Lear moments, too, so it’s not like it’s a constant gaining of ground. But, hey, at least it’s progress.) Maybe, if i live long enough, i’ll get there. A book full of wisdom and humor that will change the world for someone. Wait for me, Thoreau! I may be crawling, but i’m making my way! Don’t give up on me!

In the mean time, i’ll keep writing. I’m sure someday i’ll look back at what i have written lately and shrink at it. The horror of what i currently find amusing or important. And subjecting others to it! Mean and presumptuous! Ok, well, maybe not those things, but i do hope i see things clearer  in the years ahead than i do now. And i hope i write about it more effectively than i do now. Which means more of this rambling. The only way to become a better writer is to write. Right? Right.

And if i’m lucky, someone will read it and like it.