Plain ole beautiful

This one is tough.

I’ve gone back and forth on wording, feelings, intent, and whether or not to even share this…..Typing.  Deleting.  Typing. Saving.  Deleting.  I’m afraid that this will either sound like a pathetic cry for commiseration, a whiny rant about my childhood, or worse yet fishing for compliments.  It is NONE of these things, but it is something that as an adult I have considered on numerous occasions…..beauty.

It has occurred to me that I am completely unable to take a complement.  I stare awkwardly at my feet, blush, stammer, or make some comment about the speaker being wrong.  I, like many others, seem to have some sort of self inflicted (or self enforced) inability to see my own beauty for what it is…..MINE.

It has already been mentioned that this is not a cry about my childhood.  This is not rooted in some weird ‘mommy-daddy issues’.  I was blessed with parents who would have (and continue to) support me in all endeavors.  We were rewarded for intellect.  We were praised for showing intelligence and perseverance to learn.  Beauty, being ‘pretty’, was not something I ever gave thought to as a kid.  I wanted to be the best.  The smartest.  I wanted to please my parents for what they had taught me was important.  We were complimented on our accomplishments, not our appearances.

As I grew a little older, starting to observe my classmates, it occurred to me that they cared a lot about hairstyles, make up, fashion….being pretty.  For all that I had learned from books, I had no instruction on ‘pretty’.  Somewhere along the way I just chalked that one up to ‘things like sports that I’m not good at’.  I’m not good at shopping or make up, and have been known to refer to myself as ‘just plain ole me’, and became quite alright with that.  My primary group of friends were guys who didn’t care if I wore make up or padded bras.  I got compliments….because I could change the brake pads on my truck or catch the biggest snake at the creek.

Teenage years aren’t easy for anyone, especially when it seems like people who are essentially strangers feel the need to be critical.  The Sunday school teacher says, “Your hair would look better in a perm.”  The dentist tells me he knows I don’t like my crooked teeth, and should make my parents get me braces.  “Don’t let yourself get fat like……” I became incapable of hearing a compliment without scoffing it off as a lie, or a jab.  After all, why would they say nice things to plain ole me?

I chose to study harder.  It didn’t matter if you were pretty.  Smart girls get into college.

I went to college.  I dated.  I still always felt like the odd ball.  Never comfortable in my own skin.  One semester, some girls in my dorm decided to take me on as their project.  It was short lived.  Apparently I wasn’t redeemable by their standards either.  Again I persevere, graduate, and get a job that put me in front of people every day.  The uniform requirements meant I didn’t have to think much about clothing.  Only minimal make up was encouraged.  I was complimented on my job, knowledge, enthusiasm for learning and teaching.  Again, no thought was given to ‘pretty’.  It was a very comfortable time in my life.  I was happy.

A few years later, during grad school, I had a terrible mountain bike accident and broke my face.  Thirteen fractures.  Pain meds that essentially deleted a month of my life.  Looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself.  I’ll never be able to explain that moment to anyone.  Scars.  The actual shape of my face had changed.  Most people who wake up to those changes have elected to pay a surgeon for them.  I didn’t even have insurance to pay one to fix me.  All the while people are saying how great it looks ‘considering’….and it’s not hard to imagine how that is interpreted.  It was a tough road.  A few years later, I met a little girl who had been run over by a vehicle.  She had the same facial fractures as me.  In that moment it occurred to me how inauthentic it was for me to tell her she would all be alright when I wasn’t alright.

Years later this is the face I know.  This is the body I love.  It’s the only one I have so I might as well take care of it and stop being so critical.  A very wise member of my Memphis family once told our group, “You are glorious perfection.”  I am the only ME on the planet.  As far as ME’s go, I’m perfect.  To hell with dentists trying to sell orthodontic gear.  Yes my teeth are crooked.  My hair is straight and not some unnatural flashy color.  I have scars…and have earned EVERY one of them.

So what changed?  Nothing has fully changed, but I hope it’s in the process of changing.  Growing up we weren’t told we were pretty.  Not that we weren’t pretty, but there were simply other priorities instilled in us.  Going forward, part of this endeavor is to stop thinking of others as liars.  How is, “You have pretty eyes.” any less valid than, “I like your scarf.”.  I’ve decided that I am beautifully ME.  No one else is me, so there is no sense in comparing myself to all of them.  I’m the most beautiful ME on the planet.  I know it sounds like the preface to a self help book, but this is my truth.  It feels pretty good to let go of feeling ugly.  It feels pretty good to hear ‘him’ tell me he loves me just as I am….because today I do to.

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The things we do when our menfolk go away

Me and my ‘not husband’ always take one solo vacation a year.  I usually visit my “other family” in Virginia, now Mississippi.  He usually grabs a tent, grub, bike, some clothes, and heads far from cell service….which we do together frequently, sans bikes.  He bikes cause I won’t.  I’ll admit my trepidation in being out of contact while he makes solitary extreme sports, but then there’s that other part of my brain…you know the part.  I bet you have it too.  This is the part of your brain that takes a certain perverse level of enjoyment at doing all the things you would never do with this other person present.

This list of odd, often self-indulgent, behaviors might make us uncomfortable to do outside of our solitude.  Okay, so there is probably no real perversion, just a sense of nonconformity to your ‘us’ routine.  I think all of us do this, men and women alike.  Looking back in my childhood, I can even recall my mother acting on her own indulgences when daddy spent the night at the fire hall, or on rare occasion traveled for work or fun.  When daddy left for the night, we ate different things.  Momma (and I) LOVE chicken livers, and I stand by my momma making the BEST chicken livers ever – but daddy did not agree.  When he was away we ate chicken livers, rice with peas, and ramen noodles with beef and almonds.  Momma would tell us fancy sounding names for all these foods, and we reveled in them.  We stayed up late, played board games or watched VHS movies and ate popcorn in our bean bags.  There was no national news.  There was no ‘adulting’, just fun stuff that I now know to be the reassurance that it was okay for us not to all be under the same roof for a brief time.

As an adult, and without much intent, it occurs to me that I have my own list of things that I do when I’m left to my own devices.  Having chatted with a number of lady-friends about the subject, I know I’m not alone.

We watch stuff we don’t think you would enjoy, stuff that makes us cry, and stuff we’ve watched 247 times already.  It might be a chick flick, a documentary on the manufacturing of pie crusts, or the movie Pitch Perfect….again.  There are always 2-3 things on the DVR that you regularly ask if you can delete to make room for Kung Fu movies or football.  We always say no.  THOSE are the things we watch…possibly while wearing one of your button down shirts and laying in your chair or spot on the couch.  Borrowing the significant other’s clothing without asking also appears to be a commonality.

We eat the foods you won’t, or from the places you don’t like.  I’ll probably eat chicken livers at some point this week.  Tonight I ate a can of organic garbanzo beans right out of the can.  In order to make this less barbaric, I added some salted Transylvanian cave cheese, black pepper, and a dash of vinegar.  I’m not a cave man after all.  I’ll probably make up some of the childhood staples this week,  maybe some other foods my fella doesn’t enjoy as much as I do….or I may just eat more beans from cans.

Eating out of a can serves a dual purpose.  Another thing that seems to be common when we are left unobserved, is the tendency for entropy to take a greater effect.  All dish washing, counter wiping, floor sweeping, and laundry folding will be put off until the last possible scrap of time before the mate’s safe arrival home.  By eating out of a can, we prevent the need to clean much more than a spoon.  The same could be said for fast food, take out, or delivery.  It’s all merely a means by which to save ourselves the unfortunate moment of scramble to show how helpful, tidy, and diligent we were while our mate was gone.

I will partake of some fine adult beverages.  Many of us will partake.  Tonight it’s orange spiced ginger beer….Tomorrow?  Wine, whiskey, or whatever I want to partake of, because I’m a grown up, damn it!  I am not advocating a path of solo drinking.  A minor amount of solo partaking is completely okay, and helps a person sleep better alone.

Sleeping.  It happens when it happens, and wherever it happens.  I might fall asleep as soon as I finish this, or stay up till 2am.  Sometimes I’ll crash on the sofa until a dog wakes me to come to bed.  Sleep seems like one of the most central indulgences I have encountered amongst my circle of friends.  It seems that many of us ladies (especially the ones without kids) have this one indulgence in common, and for similar reasons.  A lot of us like to change the sheets, take a long hot shower, enjoy the aforementioned glass(es) of wine, then sleep blissfully naked.

Men/significant others, take note here.  Absorb this information.  Take it to heart.  This is not about being sexy.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Sleeping naked alone in clean sheets with no chance of the reach/grope/hump wake up is some of the best sleep of your life.  It’s not that we don’t love sleeping in bed WITH you.  It is simply that we know our nakedness is just more than you are able to handle and sleep peacefully, therefore we would not be able to sleep peacefully, and sleep is sacred.  Home alone?  Sleep naked.  Sleep GOOD!!

We miss you.  You know this.  We know this.  Solitude is not a bad thing though.  It is quite good and healthy to be able to enjoy time alone.  So we do some weird stuff.  It’s okay. Rock your weird.  Seriously, how can you expect someone to love spending time with you if you don’t like spending time with yourself.

The $1500 cat problem

It was my first work day back from vacation.  I was recharged, refreshed, and ready to go…..or so I thought.

The manager phone rings.  Having answered the same lady’s question phrased differently on 4 different calls, I anticipated it was her again.  Instead, I’m greeted by a very matter-of-fact male voice.  “You need to understand. I have a $1500 cat.”

He began by asking if I had a very tight pullover sweater for the cat to wear.  Suggesting that there aren’t many clothing options for cats and that they are typically less enthusiastic about dressing up, he said he wanted to use the sweater as a harness.  Apparently he had already tried to walk the aforementioned cat using a harness.  The (apparently gold and diamond encrusted) cat had escaped.  I could hear his frustration growing as I attempted to explain that if the cat had escaped a harness, that a sweater would be fairly easy to get out of too.  At this point he became slightly snippy.  He explained his intent was to put a collar through the neck of the sweater, then use the collar to walk the cat.  Hearing that he intended to use a collar, I (apparently VERY stupidly) asked if he had simply tried using a collar.  It seemed to me that if a harness pulled off, a sweater would pull off, and if a collar had already pulled off, the two things together would result in a very peeved escaped cat.  Unexpectedly, he began a verbal tirade, culminating with the question, “Would you escape if I poured a rubber suit onto you?”……..click…….

My many years in the retail world means I am rarely surprised anymore.  I gave up being surprised by people a long time ago.   Now, instead, I might find myself intrigued, baffled, shocked, dismayed, or even disgusted, but rarely am I surprised.  In my pause after the phone line went dead, I was surprised.  I enjoyed that moment a little.  Surprises can be fun….and sometimes a little rubber suited weird.

The people you meet when traveling

It’s the time of year when leaves start falling, the temperature begins to drop, and I get a week of vacation.  Vacation.  Vacate.  Get out of town.  Yup. . . TRAVEL.

Although I am not much on traveling, I LOVE to fly.  There is something about it that still brings me wonder well into my adulthood.  I know it’s not magic, yet the capability of a multi-ton non flapping bird to move hundreds of miles an hour, thousands of feet in the air seems so extraordinary.  Often, however, the delight of the physical flight is unmatched by the people watching that can be done in airports and the confinements of the flying winged can.  Beginning my excursion with a 7 hour delay for a broken windshield wiper, provided a great launching point for observation:

Gate agents:  While my flight was delayed, so were two others.  A seven hour delay is a great time for customer service to shine, or for a gate agent to announce to a crowd at the next gate that the reason their flight is delayed is due to their flight attendant oversleeping in her hotel room.  The gate agents for my flight found us blankets to keep warm, and the airline bought us all breakfast.  You could cut the tension, but they really did a great job.  The agents at the next gate had to retract their oversleeping comment when the attendant came in to a very boo-hiss heckling.  I’m sure someone received some coaching on their professionalism.

Flight attendants:  This job has to be like herding multiple groups of drunk cats, and having to repeat the same monotonous collection of common sense how-to’s.  I suppose they have to crave a break in the routine, so it made sense when our attendant held up the seat belt, saying, “This is a seat belt.  It works like every other seat belt you’ve ever used.  If you do not know how to use it, then you probably shouldn’t have left your home.”  Another flight began with the attendant skipping the standard electronics announcement, and substituting, “If it has an on/off switch it should be turned off.”  I’m a big fan of the straight forward approach and a quicker take off.

The girl in first class with the sunglasses on:  The plane has 14 rows.  “First Class includes rows 1 and 2.  There is no drink service on the 30 minute flight.  You aren’t Paris Hilton.  Please put your lip gloss and selfie taking device away.

The balding seat leaner:  Can a man not sit in a chair for a 45 minute flight without the need to recline the extra 15 degrees for a nap??  This positioned his head approximately 18 inches from my face.  As I stared at the top of his cranium, I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew about the two inch bald spot directly on top of his head.  There was abundant hair everywhere else, just not there.  It’s a pity his loud talking wife wasn’t sitting behind him.

The loud talkers:  AND SHE WAS ALL LIKE…… AND I TOLD HER THAT THAT WAS ……  I know you have experienced this one too.  By the time you make adequate distance from them, you know their boyfriend’s name, the name the girl he’s probably cheating with, the name of her nail salon, and where she got those great heels.  Inside voices.  Use them.

Your new best friend:  I’m all for being friendly or helping a fellow traveler who may not know the procedure at the next airport, but this is more of an invasion of personal space.  I reached my layover with enough time for some lunch.  Chipotle!!  Seeing a nice gate-wait window seat open, I dragged over my limping carry on and started devouring.  Mid bite, I hear “OMG!  I rode the underground thingie all by myself!!”  I stop chewing and side eye to see if she is talking to me, and (lucky me) she was.  She proceeded to tell me about going to Evansville, Indiana, being a cashier at K-Mart, and that she had used nail polish to put her name and number on her phone in three places “just in case she lost it”.  I didn’t have the heart to let her know that if she lost her phone she would be unable to receive phone calls.  She asked all kinds of personal questions that I managed to side step by shoving more food in my mouth.  The sudden craving for coffee was my scapegoat.  Friendly is okay.  Clingy is weird.

Babies:  It is inevitable that sometimes people fly with kids.  Sometimes those kids aren’t old enough to talk, and instead have to cry to let their discontent be known.  I don’t get mad at babies.  My seat mate on the second of my flights had it DOWN.  I approach, the baby is in my seat.  She says, “Oh thank God you’re a woman.  Do you care if I nurse?”  I tell her that they’re made for nursing, not for selling cars and hamburgers.  When you consider that we receive in flight drink service to assist with relieving ear pressure, it makes sense to allow a baby to nurse around climbing and descent.  This seems like a FAR more crowd accepting option than letting the kid SCREAM and handing them a loud electronic toy with no headphones.  Half of that flight consisted of “Duh-duh-duh-duh-Dora” and screaming that would shatter tooth enamel, while the child beside me snoozed and nursed the entire flight.  Parenting win!!

The raised eyebrow, “So, where’re you from?” guy:  How many times have you tried this on a flight, and has it ever worked??  It’s like an airline version of an Axe body spray commercial.  Horny desperation is not a great look for anyone, and I’m the girl who wouldn’t know a flirt if smacked her in the forehead.

This is by no means an all inclusive list, in fact I have an entirely separate story to share next time.  The microcosms we travel in make for such great (indirect) people watching.  On that note, I’ve gotta call it a night.  Traveling is exhausting!!