January 5th Uninspired

January 5th 2007

The stupidest thing I saw today. I got a copy a list of classroom adaptations for my younger boy. It said he would be allowed to “utilize consolidated classroom techniques”. What the hell is that?

The stupidest thing I did today. I wasn’t too stupid today.
The nicest thing I saw to day.
The nicest thing I did today. Guess I wasn’t too nice, either.

Something that made me cry. Ha! I didn’t even cry once today!

Something I wanted today but couldn’t have.

Something I ate today but shouldn’t have. Why oh why? Because god is punishing me. God is big on punishment.

Or as I like to call it when it happens to my kids, “divine retribution”. Yesterday I ate the stupidest thing. It was a waste of my life, the calories and the cottage cheese of my thighs. The thing is, it all comes from greed. Greed is the bane of my existence. But I started with good intentions.

My mom used to do stocking for us kids, then the grandkids. And she did it weird, but cool and fun. We alwalys got some small junk food, which for us was the little boxes of cereal. That was ‘junk’ because it wasn’t plain Cheerios or Wheaties or Cornflakes. Pretty much that’s what we ate for breakfast. No candy-coated-sugar-bombs for us.

Remember back about 30 years? When you could cut open the little cereal box and pour the milk right into the box and eat it? It seemed like such a technological innovation to me at the time. They don’t encourage that anymore. One too many kids drove the steak knife into their thigh while cutting the box open, I guess.

Anyway, we always got little cereals, pineapple juice in little cans, a gigantic red delicious apple, a gigantic navel orange, candy canes and some silly small present. Usually something practical, but special because it was for only us. Like one year we all got shampoo. Our own shampoo. Laugh if you want, but I was enthralled. I think my brother got green apple, one of my sisters got strawberry and I got a very grown up golden bottle of Flax Enriched something.

I read the back and was awed by its promise to “heal and strengthen the hair shaft”. It had protein for strength and shine. It had jojoba oil for bounce and luster. I was going to have the most strong, lustrous, bouncy and shiny 12 year old hair in the world.

Another year we got jars of olives or packages of pepperoni. All to ourselves. Or entire packages of gum, like the 10 pack strips of Wrigleys.

Well since my mom died, I’ve tried to take on the torch of the stocking stuffing. My sisters helped me out t his year. One brought packs of gum, the other brought little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cream Pies and Marshmallow Murders. I found one of the cream pies yesterday while I was cleaning up the shrapnel of Christmas.

Before I knew what I was doing I had eaten it. What is wrong with me? It was greasy and dry. It was so sweet it hurt my teeth. I should have stopped after one bite, but I didn’t. I ate it. I think they used to be better. Or I used to be hungrier, because, yeeeuch, it was icky.

Moments of Gastronomical Excellence… Right.

Missed opportunity.
Goose bumps.

Food horrors.

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Life’s Greatest Lesson

My mom always said life’s greatest lesson was one so many people didn’t get. It was this, “If you didn’t like it when you were a kid, don’t do it to your kids.” That simple. We had some back and forth about whether or not I had learned the lesson. There was no doubt that she tried to live by it.

She asked me at one point if I was remembering the lesson. My take on it was as follows, and it made her cry when I told her. You know, life can be so quietly disappointing.
I have thought about life’s greatest lesson. Im not too sure this will be a clear idea, but I’ll try. The problem with that lesson is that even if you try to learn it and work it into your life, you can only do so much. You were trying to make sure we didn’t have the nightmares you had as a child. And I think you did a damn fine job of that. But while you were fucusing on that, other troubles snuck in the back door. We can’t anticipate what is going to be horrible for our children, I think partially because it’s just so hard to be a little person.

Little people think we have it all under control. They think we know what we’re doing. They don’t know yet that we;re just bigger people guessing about bigger things. I ‘m big enough to know you did your best with your situation. You tried really hard and we still got hurt. Not only that, but your were trying to live your life.

I don’t think you were too selfish. I think you were trying to protect us with the tools you had. Just like I’m trying to do for my boys. I hope they have as many warm, happy memories of childhood as I do. And I hope they have fewer bitter and sad ones. I assume you hoped the same for us. I assume also that you suceeded. I hope I succeed with my boys.

At that rate in a few generations we’ll have perfect little childhoods. But not everybody learns the lesson, or learns it right. I t hink that adds depth to our family and our lives. Me, I could stand a little less depth. Shallow is underrated. Not everybody thinks as much as you and I. And even for all our thoughtfulness, we still hose things up.”

My mom said she couldn’t respond because she was too sad. It’s true. We work so hard. And then we die. And in between we don’t giggle nearly enough or experience the pitch-near-madness excitement we think it’s all about. What can you do?

Magic

I can’t remember the first time I knew I had magical powers. And when I tell you about how much I enjoyed my powers (only use your powers for good, Lisa), you will like me a little less, maybe. But I think you’ll get over it. You might as well know. I probably didn’t hide it that well anyway. You might have known about the powers because you had them too, or because you were enchanted by someone who did.

Now there are those of you who think you know about my magical powers, but you’re wrong. I used to be able to, and still can to a certain extent, predict what people are about to say or what they’re thinking. That wasn’t magic. It was a parlor trick. The truth is, people aren’t that tricky when it comes to conversation. They say what they’re supposed to say to keep the conversation going, or they make a joke that surprises you. Even the radio is easy– I used to predict that, too.

One of the first times I remember knowing I had magic was when I got my first pair of white Levi 501s. I remember walking to work, along Portland Avenue in my white jeans and a pink tank top. I was barefoot likely as not, carrying my shoes. I was probably 16, and I thought I was cute.

And can we digress a little here and say, that thinking you’re cute is half the battle? It isn’t the whole battle, and I know that. I know because of a number of uninvited thong sightings (whale tails, in more ways than one) I’ve had. Thongs rising out of cleavage that made me pray for deliverance and have flash-backs to Nam. But women know where their ass-crack and underwear are as a general rule. If more than an inch is showing in public, its because you think it’s cute. And that confidence, in my opinion, leaves you halfway through a battle with not much more than a carnage strewn field to show for your efforts.

So back to thinking I was cute. I knew I was cute, but I remember for the first time that guys in cars were honking or whistling at me. Guys I didn’t know. They looked over their shoulders at me. It was like magic. Like being famous. Or maybe just like being 16. But I swear to god, I could feel the blue electric charge every time it happened. Zzzing! At a stop sign, at the gas station, walking home, I had power. I felt like Samantha from Bewitched. And I loved it. I loved it. I started walking all over town, facing the traffic so I could see if guys were looking at me. A lot of them were. It was intoxicating.

I wasn’t make-your-eye-teeth-hurt, beautiful. I remember the girls who were, Tressa DeRider, Tracy Ybarra. That kind of beautiful is something I can’t really comment on much. you might ask my sister about it. People she doesn’t know buy her drinks. Once in MinneapolisWhen we were kids, an Indian guy yelled at her and told her she was a witch. I think even then, people could tell she was going to have a lot of magic.

I didn’t have much more than 16, cute and confident going for me. But it was enough. And the hard part of this story is that at some point in the last few years, at a stop light, I realized that I had become Everymom. I am becoming invisible. Shake your head at my vanity, tell me I’m shallow and wrong, but deep inside I know it’s on its way out. I’m sure it’ll be replaced by something else maybe even more meaningful and blah blah. Cut me some slack, OK?

I was a clumsy, tiny, afraid-of-the-ball kid whose mom had to browbeat the basketball coach into letting her play during games. I took piano lessons for 7 years and to this day cannot read music. No matter how hard I tried, and I did finally start to try in high school, I couldn’t be orderly or organized. I was flat chested and four-eyed.

But goddamn it. I was cute, I was even sexy, and I loved it. I enjoyed it. I didn’t take it so much for granted, as I was unable to grasp its perishability. Even when, as I was admiring how cute my round little butt looked, in my bandeau-waisted, wide-waled maroon corduroy pants, my mom said to me, “You think you’re going to always have that perky little butt, don’t you?”. I thought I was. What did she know

I wouldn’t remember it if it didn’t make some sort of impression on me. But I couldn’t understand it in the way she meant it until pretty recently, having more disappointing results with some different pants and an entirely different butt. And you know what? I love my mom, but I think it was mean of her to even try to warn me.


Garry the Pervert Part 2

I stayed long enough to not seem rude. And knowing what I know now about kids and poker faces, I’m sure I showed enough in my face to titillate him. By the time I ran home (skipping, so as not to give my self away), I was shaken. Why I felt like I needed to pretend I didn’t see anything, I don’t really understand. I think it has something to do with a sense of guilt at having seen, having been there at all.

After all, what if it was an accident? But also, playing it cool seemed like the only good option in case it wasn’t an accident. On some level I knew if it was on purpose, he was looking for a reaction; and by reacting, I would be letting him win.

I felt bad. Sick to my stomach. Hot in my face. Isn’t it strange how just seeing a part of this adult’s anatomy set off this whole adrenaline response cascade? He never, ever laid a hand on me. I don’t think I said anything to my mom or dad. I never would have told my dad. It didn’t seem like an option. That was definitely the feeling that I had done something wrong. That I had been contaminated by what I saw.

The second time it happened, he actually made an excuse to go and change (read that as remove his underwear and put on his short-shorts). I think my sister was there with me. This time when his one eyed wonder worm made an appearance, I knew it wasn’t an accident. I again played it cool, felt sick, and left the scene. This time I told my mom. I don’t remember what she said, but I’m pretty sure she told me not to hang around over there anymore. I know she told me not to go into his house under any circumstances. I never did.

He did invite me in a couple of times. The only thing I ever did was go with a group to watch the brick smashing. All of this happened over the course of years, I was probably 12 the last time I went over there. I must have been a really stupid 12 year old. I still can’t figure out how or why I ever went over there again. He did have a lonely, whiney quality about him that made it hard to say no to him. Other than that, I don’t know why I went.

But I did. And the last time he really got me good. We chatted a little bit, his mom was in the house yelling at him from time to time. He told me he needed to change his clothes and he had a problem with his screens. He talked to me through the window.

“I got these screens, see. They’re the kind that you put on so you can see out, but people can’t look in, right? But the stupid thing is, I put them on backwards, I think. So people can look right in here, and I can’t see them. Isn’t that dumb? I want to fix them today, but first I gotta get changed. So I can talk to you, but I can’t see if you look in here, understand?”

What an idiot I am. I peeked. Of course I peeked. And he wasn’t just changing. He was standing naked in front of the window talking to me. Telling me not to look “So you’re not looking in here are you? Because I couldn’t see if you were.” He was looking right at me. What a mind-fuck to do to a kid. I guess maybe I still have a little anger when I think about it.

I don’t remember if he had an erection or any details other than an impression of something wrinkly, ugly, red and wrong. And a feeling of being caught in headlights.

I think most girls have had experiences like this. I wasn’t an unusual child, I don’t think. But how would I know? Maybe I tell myself that so I don’t feel weird about it.

Can someone tell me why this is fun for these guys? And why I ever felt guilty about it? And what would be a really clever reaction, sure to deflate the flashers? I’m at a place where I think of them as common losers, not deeply evil, not even all that rare. I don’t feel permanently traumatized.

There was the old man rubbing himself at the library while he watched me do my homework. He was sitting far enough away that he could see under the desk to my crotch. It took me a while to figure out what was going on,I thought he was just nuts. But eventually I made the connection between crossing and uncrossing my legs and his urgent whispering. Yuck.

There was the guy in the hot-rod who regularly happened to be driving by when I got off the bus in high school. He had probably gone around the block 3 times before I looked in the window of his car. He had one hand on the wheel and the other wrapped around his cock, and man! Was he ever glad I finally looked over. He actually turned up a few times over the course of a couple weeks. My mom told me if I saw him again I should ignore him or point and laugh. I think I started getting rides home. But not from him.

Or Mister S. at Elliot Elementary. I never had him for a teacher, but he always told me how cute I was as I was leaving at the end of the day. “Such pretty blue eyes.” It always made me feel nervous. He started to just say, “See you tomorrow, Blue Eyes.” I blushed and looked away. Eventually a teacher pulled me aside and said, “When someone tells you that you have pretty eyes, you should say thank-you.” But I felt like he was really creepy leaning up against his classroom door, and I didn’t say thank you.

Years later, I saw on the news that he was arrested for molesting a student. I bet she had pretty eyes.

So, an informal survey. Anyone else get visually molested in their childhood or adulthood? I hope I don’t seem to be wallowing and whining about my childhood molestations. Although at the time it was really icky and terrible, I don’t feel permanently scarred by it. I’m just curious about if it’s just me. Believe me, it wouldn’t be the first time I realized, “Honey, it’s just you.”

Garry the Pervert Part 1

Garry was the neighborhood pervert. Or the most obvious neighborhood pervert. He rode around on his 10 speed bike, circling the neighborhood aimlessly. Kids liked him at first, for no other reason than that he was an adult who seemed to have nothing to do. Adults who have time and inclination to just hang around kids are hot properties as far as the kids are concerned. At first.

He had another thing going for him. He knew Karate. He didn’t just say he knew Karate. He knew it. He was a black belt. He had the white suit and the, black belt to prove it (we saw the belt,we were no dummies). On top of that, he could do stuff that looked cool. Once or twice he’d invite a group of kids to his garage to watch him break patio blocks. He did a whole stack of them, with quarters in between each one. It impressed the boys, anyway.

Other than being a grown up who could smash patio blocks and had lots of spare time on his hands, I’m not sure why the girls talked to him at all. If I think back, it was flattering to have an adult (he was my patents’ age) who wanted to talk to me, just to chat. And to a 9 year old, the fact that he was still living with his mother didn’t seem weird. I lived with mine.

So we’d tease him, calling him “Mr. French fry” and pretending to try to catch him on his bike. He always made it point to say hi to us if we were up at the park and he happened to be riding by. Lucky for us, he rode by a lot when we were out. He lived kitty corner behind us, so sometimes he’d say hi to us over the fence. He’d ask us to come and visit and have a pop and chat.

I did a couple times. I remember three times. There must have been times in between that weren’t memorable. How I had the lack of judgment to return the second time, I do not know. And the third time… What the hell? At least partly, it was about not being able to lie convincingly and say I was busy. I don’t know. I was kid. I was dumb and easily lead astray. He was a grown up. He seemed to be so interested in talking to me. He asked if I had a boyfriend, because I was so pretty. He grew up in the neighborhood, so he could tell me about my mom when she was a kid.

He sat on the lounge chair in the back yard, offered me a pop. I sat and chatted with him about god knows what. Eventually as we were chatting Gary put one leg on the ground instead of out in front of him. This allowed his genitals to hang lazily out the side of his shorts. Maybe they were special Karate shorts that gave one’s penis the opportunity to breath deeply of the fresh air. Maybe it was an accident and he didn’t know.

All I know is that the sight of a man’s penis makes me, made me feel afraid. It’s getting different, not so jarring of a fear now that I’m a married woman, but it feels primal. I remember recently reading with great relief and recognition about the typical reaction of men and women to naked people. When men see a naked woman they generally have a feeling something akin to hope or lust. When women see a naked man, she tends to have a reaction of fear, or danger.

Evolutionarily it makes a lot of sense. A naked woman is just one more field to plant your seed in if you’re a man. If you’re a woman, a naked man is possibly about to totally limit your options as far as which crop you’ll be tending for the next 9 months (or 4 years, even) . You have only so many seasons. But I digress.

What Followed Me Home Part 2

When I go through the things I didn’t like about Mary, you will see I am only good about 6 inches deep. The rest of me is shallow and mean. If you are not shallow and mean, you’ll appreciate the following as a dissertation on a how close a retarded person is to God. If you’re like me, you’ll be disgusted. Are you ready? Buckle up and don’t whine. I lived this. You’re just reading about it.

Mary wasn’t pretty. She was heavyset, immense breasts, held in check by one of those sears-catalog-wide-strapped-old-lady-seamed-cup-broad-backed atrocities of a bra. Her skin was very pale, but her hair was dark, almost black. It was hard to tell where the hairline stopped and the eyebrows began. She had facial hair, it seemed like a lot to me.

She drooled. And for me, this was a big thing. Especially when I made her laugh, she drooled. You might as well know right now, that no matter how much I love you, if you drool, I will love you a little less. It isn’t pretty. But it’s true. I have a lot of love to give, so if you have drooled in front of, or god forbid, on me, it’s possible that I’ll still love you quite a bit. But I never loved Mary.

So she drooled. And she had a lot of hair. All over. She was usually wearing shorts. Short shorts, with the contrasting piping around the trim and up the sides. Her pubic hair would peek out occasionally and flash me or my siblings. I was prepubescent and the sight of those daddylong-leggish curls filled me with a combination of fear and disgust. I will never recover from the day she sat, cross legged on my bed, pubic nest hanging out, and farted.

My brother, when reminiscing about our childhood, still covers his face and shakes his head when he remembers looking up to see why I was telling Mary to “Sit like a lady.”

If that wasn’t enough, to put me off, she also insisted on telling me way too many details about her relationship with her boyfriend. I don’t know how or why, but her boyfriend wasn’t the only guy interested in Mary. She sought my advice about whether to “do it” with her boyfriend, with a neighborhood teenager and with the resident pervert, Gary. My advice (as a 10 year old) was as follows:

With the teenager and her boyfriend, she should do it if she wanted to. The teenager wanted her to just go behind the school and do it right then and there. I can’t remember what she did. Same deal with the boyfriend. I know she and her boyfriend were eventually sexually active, whether I pushed her over the edge with my sage advice, I don’t know. But I do know that I told her not to do anything with Gary. I knew he was creepy, plus he was in his thirties. Between his age and the fact that he had already exposed himself to me multiple times, I figured he was not a good bet.

At least I was a teenager when she told me about her abortion. She had a way of saying, but not saying things. Leading people to conclude things without saying them outright. Which is a thing people do when you are not interested in what they have to tell you- and they don’t care. I didn’t care about Mary’s sex life. I didn’t want be lead down this path of clues. It went something like this:

“Well I had to go to the doctor’s office. At the clinic, you know? You know why, don’t you? My mom made me go. Because of my boyfriend? You know what happens, don’t you? If you don’t get your thing? You know what an abortion is don’t you?” Long pauses and knowing looks at the end of every question. I knew all of it. But I SO didn’t want to discuss it with her. Because the next part was the interview with me. Did I have a boyfriend? Were we doing it?

I still find myself in relationships like the one I had with Mary. No more retarded people, but people who are mental in one way or another. Where I make a move either towards someone or on their behalf and I end up tied to them in a way I never intended. Where do I go wrong? I have come to believe I won’t figure it out. Nothing goes wrong, really. It’s just that I’m not in charge, and life is ugly and messy as much as it’s beautiful and delightful. If it wasn’t, what would we write about?

I grew to dread the sound of her ten-speed ticking up the driveway. I literally ran and hid when I heard her coming, but she thought of me as one of her best friends. I hated spending time with her. I hated it. But I couldn’t avoid her all the time, and I couldn’t just tell her I didn’t like her. I felt totally stuck. In fact, I was stuck. Until I moved out of my mom’s house, she would stop by to hang out. It got less and less frequent as she got older and we both got jobs, but she kept coming by. And I kept hating it.

Even after I got pregnant, moved out and was just visiting my mom’s house she kept visiting. She must have been in her twenties, but she still came tic-tic-ticking up the driveway on her red ten-speed.

Someone mentioned to her that I was pregnant (I was rotund by this point). She came to me and said, “I don’t believe it. You’re not that kind of person.” She left not believing I was pregnant. I never got out of my chair, not wanting to cause her to have a stroke.

Is it in not being a good enough person to enjoy the cling-ons for just exactly who they are? Not being able to swallow my disgust or distaste and accept them where they are? I have friends who can and do just that. But I don’t know, I guess I’m mean inside. Because, other than the initial feeling that I’ve done the right thing by defending or being kind to them, the only joy I get from them is in reveling in how much they perturb and drain me.

I don’t know where Mary is now. I pray that she is doing well and does not find my address.

What Followed Me Home Part 1

It’s an issue. A weakness of mine. I can’t ask you to forgive me for it, because I enjoy my annoyance way too much to let it go. I can’t ask forgiveness until I’m ready to try to change. But I can confess and admit my shortcomings. And you can read about it and be amused or disappointed in me or just grateful it wasn’t you. Better yet, you can sympathize, because I can’t be the only one who gets herself in these situations.

At the end of my block when I was a kid was a school, with the accompanying baseball field, soccer field and playground. This was the era where the parking lot did double duty as the playground. With the rainbow arch and climbing bars planted right into the asphalt. That didn’t stop us from doing our cherry-drops and hoping like hell we landed on our feet.

The day I met Mary, they were doing some sort of excavation, so that there was a huge pile of dirt on the grass near the parking lot. I was near the mountain of dirt, but not actually playing in or on it. The noises I heard from the kids over there were too mean sounding for me. I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but I could tell it was ugly. I was little for my age, and weird. I had no desire to hand myself over to them.

In my kid way, I started to figure out what was going on. There was one girl, heavy and sweaty, straddling her bike. She was the target. And she was crying. Not too much my business, you know? It wasn’t. But more things sorted themselves out pretty quick. Kids can be eloquent, and these were no exception, “Mentaaal Maaareey. Mentaaaal Maaareey”

I looked, and by god, she WAS mental. I guess we didn’t say mental, we said “retarded” or “mentally retarded”. So this was sort of an innovative epithet they had come up with, in a way. But my injustice meter (a consistent bane of my existence) went off. You can’t make a retarded girl cry for fun, it just isn’t right.

I got one of those righteous indignation adrenaline rushes. If you get them, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The wave carried me over to the bottom of the hill, between Mary and those nasty kids (one of whom would later give me the only real beating I ever got from a girl). I hollered up at them “You stop it! Leave her alone. Leave her ALONE” I had my tantrum voice out, and my whole body was shaking. My throat hurt for the rest of the day.

I put my hand on Mary’s bike and told her she could come with me, I’d take her home. To my home. (Big mistake, by the way. If you must be nice to people who need you, do it on neutral ground and go home alone.) The kids on the hill did what they do to losers who walk away, even the righteously indignant ones. They threw dirt and hurled insults at us.

I don’t remember what happened exactly at home, but her mom came and got her, and thanked me. Mary was grateful and asked if I’d be her friend. What can you say to a retarded girl who asks you to be her friend? Can you tell her that no, you have enough friends? Can you tell her that you’re not really decent enough to be friends with her? Can you tell her that, unfortunately for both of you, being her friend will make you the target of mean kids for years to come, and it’s best if you just act like this day didn’t happen? No you cannot. At least not in front of both of your mothers.

I guess as much as she had friends, I was one of them. But I wasn’t a good one. I didn’t like Mary. Not one bit. I just felt sorry for her and thought it was the right thing to do to help her out. It wasn’t even really about her, maybe. It was that what those kids were doing was wrong, and I wanted them to stop. I didn’t want to adopt her, I just wanted her to not be abused.

I wasn’t at all as good a person as she thought I was, or her mom thought I was. Although I could tell my parents were proud of me for sticking up for her, they knew what kind of person I really was. And that was, good hearted, but not saintly. I am not the kind of person who is drawn to the disabled because of their simple goodness, childlike personalities and closeness to God. Not at all. I know these people exist and, like vegetarians, they are morally superior to me. No question.

And if all she was was mentally retarded, developmentally delayed, slow, but otherwise clean-cut and decent? I think I would have been able to hang out with her and not felt traumatized. But maybe not. As it turns out, her intellect was not what gave me trouble.