Paul thinks we need to consult a personal stylist. To his credit, he was wise enough to say, “I need to,” but I believe the inclusion of me is clear.
Maybe this revelation has to do with the old sweatpants I was wearing the other evening that have a large vertical rip down the center of the buttular area.
Maybe it’s because everything we wear looks like we went out of our way to find something frumpy and ill-fitting.
I’m amazed by people who look well put together, and I’ve always assumed they were born knowing how to dress. But then I recently watched a documentary about Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and it seems her father demonstrated how to dress well. So she learned about this even though a large part of her DNA was stamped with “Oleg Cassini” and “Chanel.”
Perhaps Paul’s right. I’ve been less than pleased with my reflection in the mirror for years, and it’s not just about being overweight. I look like someone who’s been dressed by a person with a vendetta against me.
Maybe if I had nicer clothes, I’d take better care of them too. The other day I noticed that I’d popped a button on the waist of my favorite summer pants, which loosened the flap above the zipper. The result was the semblance of a bellybutton that was trying to escape through my blouse, Alien style.
I will eventually replace the button, but meanwhile, I just tuck the waistband flap into the top of my underwear, and my belly fat keeps it cinched down.
If we do get a personal stylist, they’d better have an emergency hotline number.
When I go too long without something to outrage me, I break out into hives. So I’ve added “lack of anger” to amoxicillin on my list of known allergies at the doctor’s office.
This condition is called “IED,” or intermittent explosive disorder, which I officially have because I found the term online. “IED” also stands for improvised explosive device, which means I’m fun-loving in an extemporaneous way, and people enjoy my company because they never know what’s going to happen.
It’s also great for Paul because I help keep his life on track by way of constructive nagging. Like the other day as he headed to work, and I thought he was late for his weekly meeting. I tried to resist the urge to say something about it, but I did anyway because my disorder forced me too.
He grunted something unintelligible, which I assume was “I’m so grateful for your concern. Without your supervision, I couldn’t even tie my shoes.”
After he left, I remembered that he teleconferences in the car until he can be at the meeting in person. I texted an apology even though I didn’t need to because I have a disease.
I was happy and not worried again, which was really upsetting. Then I read the newspaper. I feel better now.
I just read an article on the Internet that says millennials are obsessed with personal grooming. I haven’t particularly noticed this phenomenon, mostly because I rarely leave the house.
However, I have met quite a few young people who enjoy talking about how amazing they look in the mirror, but this may have more to do with the large amount of time I’ve spent in live theater. Now that I think about it, age doesn’t seem to be a barrier when it comes to aesthetic self-praise, so what’s your point, Internet?
I do blame the millennials for my growing lack of concern regarding my own appearance, though. I believe each new generation absorbs positive qualities from its predecessors, leaving older people husks of their former selves with Medusa hair and Howard Hughes toenails. I find this point of view preferable to accepting responsibility for running a comb through my hair and using the nail clippers.
This rationale, combined with Paul’s poor eyesight, is perfect for me, especially during times like last night. I was wearing one of Paul’s raggedy light-grey shirts when I noticed an old butter stain in the interboobular area. I thought that wasn’t very nice looking, so I changed from that shirt to one of his old hunter-green shirts. (The fact that I use terms like “hunter green” means I have a keen fashion sense.)
Paul said nothing about my wardrobe change, but as the evening wore on, I realized the green shirt looked like it had been on the losing side of a Gatling-gun butter fight in the Spanish-American War.
It was during one of the more famous charges led by Fabio, an Italian mercenary whose signature battle cry was “I can’t believe it’s not mantequilla—I mean burro!” after which he was drowned in a vat of olive oil by his own troops because he couldn’t tell the difference between dairy products and pack animals. Besides, it was siesta time, and the tapas delivery guy had just arrived.
So that’s how I ended up changing back into the light-grey shirt with just one stain.
Paul never noticed the switches in wardrobe, and I’ve chosen to believe it’s because his vision is clouded by love and not nearsightedness.
I’m feeling thankful for some lessons I’ve learned, and it’s only right that I express my gratitude.
I’m grateful to my in-laws for helping me understand that their concept of “family” is similar to what I learned as a child. The rollicking adventures of verbal abuse, taking advantage of others for a profit, and a pervasive sense of enraged entitlement give me a comforting sense of consistency. What a warm feeling.
I’ve especially enjoyed the holidays during the last couple of decades because that’s when my mother-in-law’s affectionate verbal punishments ramp up. It’s such a joy to be a punching bag, and when I pop back up like one of those inflatable clowns in a playroom, there she is like a champ, ready to pop me another one. Kapow! What fun.
I’m also grateful that my brothers-in-law have pointed out that I’m a greedy jerk for being upset that they didn’t pay the money they owe us, as they scampered off with a fat payday at our expense. They were correct to tell me, “You’re all about the money, Cindy.” What wisdom.
I’ve learned great lessons from my in-laws, especially about my own shortcomings. And even though I don’t speak to most of my biological family, it feels like I never left the hornets’ nest. What a cozy feeling of hearth and home.
I’d like to make an appointment with any local clergy person who can perform an exorcism on our electric stove. I’m an atheist, but I’m flexible when freaked out.
After dinner the other night, our oven decided that “off” is more of a suggestion than a law of physics. Long after the appliance should have been cool, it was still spewing heat.
Everything was switched off, so Paul assumed it was a mechanical issue. I assumed it was satanic possession. As Paul ambled to the breaker box to shut things off at the source, I took a more direct approach, flinging the oven door open and spitting “I’m not afraid of you!”
As I slammed the door shut, Paul returned to the kitchen and suggested we wait a few minutes, and the oven should cool down. I flashed the range a look of “I dare you to continue this nonsense, you bastard.”
It eventually cooled, and as we went to bed, no longer worried about setting our home on fire, Paul felt reassured that he’d figured out the problem, but I know who really solved it.
I’m sure this in no way reflects my religious indoctrination as a child, combined with the amount of wine I’d consumed that night, and also possibly as a child.
(Update: We’ve ordered a new stove, and the salesman assured me it would be free of evil spirits as he maintained eye contact with the store’s security guard.
Until it’s delivered, we have to switch the breaker on and off when we want to cook. This process started smoothly when I stood in the laundry room, glaring at the breaker box and shouting “Where the fuck is the switch for the stove?” Paul replied, with more patience and less condescension than warranted, “It’s the one marked ‘range,’ Sweetie.”)
I’m an expert on local crime trends because I listen to online police scanners every day.
I’m also an efficiency expert because I play time-management genre video games while I listen to my crime.
Did you know that Seattle has more annual murders by way of sword or machete than any other city in the United States? This is a fact I just made up, which bolsters my status as an expert on crime.
When the temperature rises above seventy-five degrees in this city, every would-be samurai and ninja cracks open the weapons cabinet and starts swinging. I’m not surprised, and I’m certainly not criticizing.
I get it, which is probably why Paul won’t let me keep anything sharper than a butter knife in the house. But this is impractical because it’s just going to take me that much longer to kill someone on a hot day, which would undermine my reputation as a time-management expert.
I think Paul should set up the air conditioner soon. Either that or I’m going machete shopping on the next eighty-degree day. Watch for my crowdfunding page, “Cindy Raises Bail.”
Maybe I’m more cranky because of hunger than heat. I’ll try having a little lunch, some leftover flank steak. I should be done in three hours.
I miss the days when someone could dive-bomb a military base without getting shot out of the sky.
Many years before 9/11, but a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mother decided to get her private pilot’s license. I mention the third item here because I believe in grouping disasters.
So one day in the ‘60s, my parents are flying a Cessna in circles over the desert, either lost or pretending to be a fuel-powered vulture. Suddenly Mom spots a landing strip, yanks the yoke, and takes the plane into a sharp bank towards the ground.
Dad is concerned because he’s always worried about having married a lunatic, but now he’s got more reason to worry because everything he sees—hangars, aircraft, ground vehicles—is decorated in camouflage.
In as casual a manner as possible, he says, “Please don’t land here.”
Mom lovingly asks, “Why the hell not? We need directions.”
“I wasn’t looking forward to being shot today.”
Mom mutters something about “being a wimp,” and she dives for the landing strip.
Dad doesn’t need to worry, though. They receive a festive greeting just like when tourists land in Hawaii, only with way more machine guns pointed at them.
I inherited my mother’s excellent navigation and listening skills, although I don’t have a pilot’s license, probably for the same reason that Paul doesn’t want me to get a gun permit.
I’ve always felt directionals—such as east and west, for example—are arbitrary suggestions, like stopping at red lights or not flossing in restaurants.
This belief has led to many exciting adventures, especially when we lived in Upstate New York, a land riddled with mysterious natural phenomena known as “toll roads,” thirty-mile-long stretches of wasteland where drivers can be trapped for days, not being allowed to stop anywhere except at Antarctic-sized service plazas populated by angry motorists, vending machine snacks, and restrooms that are always “Closed for Cleaning. Thank you for your patience!”
My favorite is Pembroke Plaza. It must be because I accidentally drove there four times in two months.
The second, third, and fourth times I headed home, Paul said, “Remember, even though you want to head west coming home, you have to take the 33 East to do that.”
I replied in a patient tone, “You don’t need to tell me that. I know where the hell I’m going.”
Every time I reached the 33 West exit, which I unfortunately had to encounter before I got to the 33 East exit, an invisible force took control of the steering wheel, jerking the car onto 33 West.
I was quick to realize my mistake, usually within the first mile. Then the locals were treated to a lilting twenty-nine-mile soliloquy of swear words until I reached, once again, Pembroke Travel Plaza. So it was a great time for everyone, really.
I always had to buy a phone card to call Paul and tell him I would be home a little late because I didn’t have the sense to buy a cell phone. And I also enjoyed it every time he asked, “You did it again?”
I’m looking forward to the day when science can find the part of a person’s DNA strand that says, “Can’t navigate for shit” and replace it with “Great singer.” I know Paul wishes for this too, especially when I sing in the car.
I’m doing great with my commitment to hating spring. Last night I arrived at the portion of the program where I stay up too late on a work night, drinking vodka and watching such springtime classics as Natural Born Killers and Marilyn Manson videos.
It’s my own seasonal festival where I celebrate hating the world and myself, and somehow I revel in it.
I’m also feeling proud that I only missed, by one month, my most recent prediction of Paul’s youngest brother’s (let’s call him “YB”) latest Pabst-induced call to howl, “my life isn’t what I want it to be and why aren’t you fixing it and by the way you never call or visit me and that makes me mad even though I never take the initiative to contact you and also fuck that damned Cindy for causing all of my misery, starting twenty years before you and she even met, or the Big Bang, whichever came first.” Again, I paraphrase.
These conversations typically happen about twice a year, and even when I haven’t spoken to the guy for two years, somehow I’ve got the power to flush his life down the toilet. I feel mighty. Paul tries to tell him, “Cindy’s got nothing to do with this,” but to no avail. It’s flattering having someone obsess about me, I suppose.
I don’t feel cruel about this, and I do hope that someday the kid can pull himself together. It’s tough watching an intelligent person—and probably someone who’s got niceness buried below a six-mile layer of rage—destroy themselves. I know because I look in the mirror every day and yell, “Augh! What the fuck is that?”
But I can’t afford to care too much or get overly involved. I did that a long time ago, and I was rewarded with many late-night rage calls punctuated by the sphsss of beer cans being opened and honest-to-God growling.
(And before you start judging me for being judgmental about drinking, I refer you to the first paragraph.)
I’m mostly just indifferent and a little amused by the accusation that I’m destroying someone’s life, sort of like a wealthy person who makes small wagers at the track. There’s a little surge of adrenaline when I bet on the lead horse, but then it’s pretty much a meh after that. My predictions are usually spot on, but they don’t add much joy to my life.
On the plus side, just when I’m feeling crappy about life and wishing I cared enough to do better for myself, here comes YB to remind me how badly a person can trash themselves.
I’m in charge of our household budget. To me, this statement is as frightening as “Nuclear missiles are headed to Seattle.”
Mostly I do okay, but last December I accidentally paid the mortgage twice. Then I did great for three whole months, and just this morning I accidentally paid an extra half-mortgage payment.
I know what you’re thinking: “How does someone accidentally pay extra on their mortgage?”
Why the hell are you asking me? Haven’t you figured out I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing?
After I confessed my newest interesting financial move, Paul and I figured out the necessary adjustments to our accounts, and we’re fine. But I’m freaking out. I keep thinking, “What is my next mistake, and how big will it be?”
(I do understand that there are far worse financial errors I could make besides accidentally paying extra on our mortgage principal. I’m not stupid, entirely. But still.)
After the latest mini-crisis, Paul and I had this conversation:
Me: So do you still trust me with the finances?
(Translation: Please take this shit off my hands.)
Paul: Sure, I do! You’re doing great!
(Translation: You scare the crap out of me, but I sure as hell don’t want the job.)
Me: Well, okay. But at least you’re checking the budget spreadsheet updates I send to you, right?
(Translation: I’m totally alone in this, aren’t I?)
Paul: You bet! Well, I skim them at least. Mostly. From time to time.
Or at least sincerely offered support for the endeavor.
One of the fun things about mining my life for memoir material is that I thought it would be about dishing up dirt on those who’ve wronged me or I was sure intended to wrong me or at the very least would wrong me if they thought of doing it and had the chance.
But I’ve gotten some advice about including more than just revenge-based tales: “Allow yourself to be vulnerable. This lets the reader empathize and feel connected with you.”
I took this to mean that there will be sections in my memoir where the reader will become misty-eyed in wonder at my courage through such trying times.
This was going to be fantastic. As emotionally walled off as I can be in person—despite how much I blab about myself—this memoir stuff would let people see the softer side of Cindy. I’m a bit uncomfortable about it, but I’ll try.
At least I felt like being a sport until I realized, just this last weekend, that an honest memoir lets people see the shitty side of Cindy too. It’s as though someone’s thrown a bucket of cold water on my burning cross.
Despite this shock, I’m going to try the honesty thing about an incident I’ve been telling myself “really isn’t relevant or potentially interesting to readers, but I don’t feel this way because I’m ashamed. I respect people’s time, and why bore them with”—you understand the kind of horseshit I’ve been shoveling.
When I left my second husband, the air force officer, in 1988 and moved back to Seattle, I naturally moved in with an ex-con. It made sense to me because Brad the Felon had done his time, so that would make him honest. He was charming, skilled at reading people, and manipulative. I was so desperate for someone to love and care about me, I’d do anything. It was a great match.
Shortly after he moved in with me, Brad got into an argument with my landlord. I was a loyal girlfriend and stood up for him. So everything worked out great for the landlord when he evicted us and I went bankrupt from attorney’s fees that Brad didn’t help pay—because he was busy relaxing at the end of a workday while I took a second job as a stripper—and my credit rating went from triple-A to in-the-crapper.
If you’re at all under the impression that I’ve just confessed the shameful part of this story…
Even after this episode, plus his late-night gambling-and-whoring escapades while coming home and calling me his “plain Jane” in a tone that nearly approximated affection, I was still so craven in my need to be loved, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to impress him.
One day Brad told me he and a buddy from prison were working on the details for robbing a casino. I raised my hand like Hermione in class and begged to be included in the caper. And there’s my shame.
It made me nauseous to even imagine committing a crime, let alone having to pee in front of someone in prison. But in those moments, I had an overwhelming fantasy of sitting in separate prisons but mutually in love at last because he’d finally realized what I would do for him. Sort of Bonnie and Clyde with hopefully way less murder.
I don’t know if Brad ever hit the casino, and he’s dead now, so I can’t ask him. I don’t really care either way anymore about either of those things.
I do know that he saved me from myself. He declined my offer of assistance—which hurt like hell at the time, but seriously reduced the nausea—because I’m a world-class oversharer. Great for blogging. Bad for crime.
"I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position." – Susan Lowenstein, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy