Murdering My Inner Frump

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.

Victorian_Woman_fashion_public domain
How I see others
old peasant woman
Me, headed home from the store

 

The Chump Factor

I love a good bait-and-switch, especially when I’m the target. Especially when I feel appreciated for being me and not just my willingness to write a check.

I’m always surprised when movie characters are surprised that an artist sees them as walking billfolds, but I’m even more surprised at how surprised I am that it can happen to me.

It’s like that moment in every thriller where someone tiptoes into a pitch-black basement to see what’s making that mysterious noise. The urge to scream “Don’t be an idiot!” is overwhelming, and the result is predictable.

I’m supportive of artists trying to monetize a craft, but if I’m lured to spend money on Project #1 because I’m so wanted as part of the process, then I’m rejected from Project #1 and redirected to Project #2 because it needs more money, at some point my instinct is going to say, “If you go into that basement again, you deserve an unpleasant encounter with a chainsaw.”

So thanks in advance for any further spending artistic opportunities, but:

Maybe you should reach for someone else’s wallet next time

 

I Put the I in IED

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.

plague
Rats didn’t bring the plague. It was sustained happiness. Chumps.

 

Image by Wellcome Images

 

 

The Battle of the Butter Spatters

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.

RoughRiders_public domain
Post-San Juan Hill Summit, where Teddy’s battle buddies persuaded him to edit his immortal phrase from “Speak softly, and carry a big stick of butter.”

 

 

Of Frying Pans and Fires

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.

Thank you, all. Seriously, there may be tears.

The_Borgia_Family_by Dante Gabriel Rossetti_public domain
My adopted family, the Borgias. Advantages: more exciting sins, and they’re all dead.

 

 

The Satanic Stove

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.”)

Worship me
You are wise to worship me, for I have cursed the stove.

 

Seattle’s Gettin’ Stabby

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’d better set up the GoFundMe page first.

Samurai Japan Miyajima Itsukushima Hiroshima
What every sword-wielding jackass in Seattle sees in the mirror

What they really look like

 

Badass Samurai photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Invasion of the Toll Plaza

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.

Desperate for attractions, New York gives this toll plaza its own Facebook page

Pembroke Service Plaza
Another lovely New York State Park

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.

stuck-in-pembroke-page-001.jpg
Image brought to you by paper, scissors, and kindergarten skills because I haven’t bothered to learn my photo-editing software. I don’t wanna talk about it.

 

Communicating with Clicks

I’ve wanted to learn a second language for years—besides cursing, which I’ve yet to master, so I keep practicing.

But I just realized I do speak another language, and I understand when others use it. It’s ghosting with clicks. I’m going to call it “Ghostickit.”

When I recently had no idea what to say in an uncomfortable electronic confrontation, I asked Paul for advice. Big mistake. I prefer being straightforward, and he’d rather confront Ebola than interpersonal tension.

Predicto-Paul said, “Just ignore the message.” Click. Offline. Ghosted.

This person had the courage nerve to question why she was being ignored, and despite savoring the sensation of being an asshole, I decided to be candid. I feel better, but I still feel like a jerk, so it’s a win-win, I guess.

But this shit happens to me too. Like with the justifiably overpriced hair salon I used to enjoy.

One day the receptionist, who previously appeared sane, had a monster meltdown at my expense for me. It was the fun kind of moment where you can see yourself being interviewed by a local news crew. “She always seemed so quiet. I never would have imagined she could shoot up an entire lobby full of customers. Good for her that she’s finally expressing herself.” Or something like that.

When I told my stylist—let’s call her Avoidy Girl (AG for short) because she’s great at addressing issues—she was unsurprised and offered a heartfelt shrug, which made me feel special and appreciated.

When I expressed my fear appreciation to the manager—let’s call her Fluffy because I take her seriously—she took a generous bite out of my ass for being so unkind about a woman whose husband had died two months before. I agreed that it was appalling and inconsiderate of me, not using my telepathic powers to figure out why this woman was losing her religion all over me.

Still, I didn’t want the honor of being Among the Many Dead the next time I wanted a trim, so Fluffy told me, “Come see AG again. We’ll make sure you don’t have to deal with the front desk.” When I questioned how she could manage to make that happen, she said, “No problem. I’m fantastic at my job as long as nothing is going wrong.” Or something like that.

So the next time I was foolish wise enough to go in, there’s Batty Betty, greeting me with a smile as she hid an Uzi behind her (I reasonably suspected). AG rushed to me and apologized for not greeting me first, then said, “Oh, I should have told you I’m at a totally different location once a week. You didn’t even need to come here to have your hair done.”

At this point, despite my gratitude for being charged more for one visit than my weekly grocery bill, I decided to move on. That was a couple years ago, and I’ve calmed down. Mostly.

So I decided that because I don’t go to the salon often, I’d give the outfit another chance—as long as I don’t have to deal with Mercurial Mona and Fair-Weather Fluffy. I figured that’s pretty magnanimous of me, and there would be truckloads of gratitude.

So I contacted AG on social media, and you guessed it. I got ghosted, which is chickenshit but fair. I get it because I speak Ghostickit. So I wished her well—and surprised myself by mostly meaning it. Then I blocked her. Click. Ghosted.

So it turns out I do speak another language, and I certainly understand it. Good for me.

Annie Oakley_public domain
“AG is ready to see you now.”

Bonus feature:

Me explaining why sticks, grass, and total isolation are better than people.

The Diagnosis is Right

During my latest annual kidney cancer screening, I anxiously sit in the waiting room until the x-ray technician throws open the door and shouts, “Cindy Valleley, come on down!”

I jump up and down as I run toward him, my old-lady boobs alternately slapping my knees and face as Paul and I try to hug each other. The three of us race down the hall to the examination room and high-five people carrying blood samples, sometimes smashing the vials against their palms because we’re all just really glad to be on TV, win or lose.

When we enter the x-ray room, I get to play a game involving golf, math, and beating a clock. I’m not good at any of these things, but I try. When I lose, it doesn’t mean I have cancer for sure, so I still get to have the x-ray. I’m having a great time as I wave to Paul in the audience.

Then the tech pins my x-ray to a huge wheel. There are two giant sticky notes above and below the picture of my lungs. One says, “Cancer,” and the other one says, “Suck it, Cancer!”

I give the wheel a mighty spin and cross my fingers as I hear Paul shouting “No cancer, Sweetie!” As the wheel slows, I start to sweat, and just when I think I’m going to pass out from the excitement, it lands on “Suck it, Cancer!”

I can hardly believe my insurance pays for this. I’m grateful they do, and I’ll never tell them how enjoyable the experience is just in case they believe suffering is the only thing they should subsidize.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s CT scan. It’s so much fun to lie in the tube and rapid-fire punch the panic button when I get bored. The techs love it when I do that.

V0025809 The "sink or float" method of seeking out witches. Woodcut,
Float Test in the ancient game show, “Are You a Witch?” Same one my doc uses at CT scan time. Given my body fat level, I’m gonna nail this one.

 

"I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position." – Susan Lowenstein, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

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