It had been gray and rainy for about 73 straight days last spring and everyone was little cranky. It’s like living inside Tupperware. I was fixing to turn 55 in a month and AARP was hunting me down like a wounded deer. I’m pretty sure it was actually AARP that found Osama Bin Laden. But I didn't give a rat's ass about terrorism at the moment because I have a First World problem: the enlarged middle of a matron along with chicken skin and back fat. Walking the dog, I think people in the park take pity on me when they smile, like “Oh geez, her life’s going down the toilet.”
So I foolishly decided to try to talk to my then husband about this existential anxiety which is the kind of stupid decision a gal makes after 73 days of rain. The car is always a good place to talk men because it’s like we have them hostage. I did that with my boys, teaching them to drive. “You need a licensed driver, son. Your butt is mine.” As they white-knuckled their way through stop signs, I’d be having the “sex talk” exhorting them to “Always put a helmet on that soldier!” and such. They were a hostile but captive audience, like any guy in a car, so I decided to broach my crankiness with a grown up male when we were pulling out of a parking lot in town.
“I’m really feeling kinda blue,” I said softly, “You know, not really like myself.”
“They shouldn’t allow left turns out of this parking lot,” he responded.
Mother of God, what was I thinking?
I recounted the story later that day at a baby shower, sitting on a couch eating avocado chocolate mousse with my girlfriend homies from the work.
“Phyllis you dumb ass,” Martha said, “You should have used the phrase ‘blow job’ in that sentence. As in ‘I’m depressed, want a blow job?’ He’d a heard you, trust me.”
“Damn right,” Betsy chirped in, “He’d be like ‘Oh yeah, depressed huh? This’ll make you feel better.”
Dang, it’s like men go to Knucklehead School at night and all learn the same stuff. When I was walking through the villages of Nepal the men would be outside their huts, laughing and smoking while the women slaved in the fields and carried huge loads of stuff around. The male gorilla in the zoo hangs in the hammock, scratching his gorilla balls while the female pulls insects out of the kids' hair. I'm no scientist, but my informal anthropological research shows that male blindness is a cross-cultural phenomenon.
What to do about the blue, about back fat, the AARP-inator, the male brain, my endlessly churning hormones? I don’t drink much, but I probably should drink more. I pretty much stopped in my 20s because I’m a happy stupid dancing drunk – cheap to boot – and will gladly jump up on a table to shake my money maker at a moment’s notice. Some inhibitions are good, like keeping your shirt on in public, but there are days I miss how much fun it could be to just be an idiot.
On the way home from the baby shower I decided to drown my sorrows in a book store. A little blue book grabbed me, titled 'F IN EXAMS: The Very Best Totally Wrong Answers. I opened it, and soon was snorting in the aisle. Here's an example of the biology questions and real answers from high school kids:
"What is a fibula?" A little lie.
"What is the highest frequency noise that a human voice can register?" Mariah Carey.
You get the idea. And I laughed until I hurt and people were looking at me probably with pity again; I'm sure my back fat was jiggling but it was better than any beer or bong I would have picked up in my 20s. I bought the book, went home, and the sun popped out. Me and Chopper went to the park, and all the neighborhood kids came teeming out onto the streets riding bikes and skateboards, kicking soccer balls. My neighbor, holding her one year old, waved the baby’s hand at me.
"Hey, you're starting the garden!" I said.
"Yep," she replied, "The lettuce is yours for the picking."
And that's the way it goes, folks. The agony and the ecstasy of being a human bean. As Roseanne Roseannadana used to say: "If it's not one thing, it's another." Tupperware, left turns, girlfriends and chocolate mousse; chicken skin and kids on bikes. My neighbor offers me lettuce not yet even grown and I get to start all over again.