You know your workout isn’t off to a great start when your husband challenges you to do a chin up and you immediately wonder, “Which chin?”
Hey, it’s a serious question. Do I need to pull all of my body weight up towards a metal rod of random height and merely touch the tip of my chin to the bar – or do I have to haul my waddle up there too and dangle it over the other side? I bet you George Lucas wonders the same thing all the time. Do I stuff all of my waddle under my shirt collar or do I allow it to drape over like Miss Snarky Pants’ muffin top?
Oh yeah? Well, the dialogue in Star Wars sucks. Hear that, fat man!
In my case, the issue was moot because I can’t do a single chin up. Nor could my hubby. In my defense, after six weeks of working out, Hubby is only up to four. Not four reps of ten, but four chin ups. Of course, he’s only 140 pounds soaking wet, so he doesn’t have the same, erm, challenges that I have. I’m not just pulling myself up; I’ve got a monkey on my back. Make that a full-grown gorilla. With hypothyroidism and a penchant for eating anvils.
In practical terms, imagine that you’re a person of average weight for your height, unless you already are – in which case, imagine me glaring at you because you insist upon mocking me with your perfectly fit body. However, despite the fact that you are constantly rubbing your toned abs in my face like I’m a puppy that’s pooed on the carpet, I’m still a thoughtful friend. I’ve bought you a lovely, sturdy belt for your birthday – and then, because making a point is ultimately much more important to me than your friendship, I’ve looped that belt through the handles of six, one gallon cans of paint. Though you wish I’d given you a book or maybe some earrings, you still fasten the 60+ pound belt around your waist. And when I ask you to go ahead and do a chin up, you tell me to fuck off.
“Do you realize that I’m wearing enough Sherman Williams to paint the White House?” you ask.“Inside and out?” Of course I do; welcome to my life.
While researching the elusive chin up, I came across an article on stronglifts.com which insists that “[y]our body-weight is not the problem. Strength is. If you want to get stronger at Pull-ups & Chin-ups, do them more.” Let’s see now…if I do 5 times the chin ups I’m doing now, I’ll have done, erm, zero. Great advice, douchebag.
I was surprised to discover that even my slimmer and testosterone-infused friends are similarly challenged. My friend, Evan, recently lamented to me that he can’t complete a single chin up – or pull up, depending upon your definition – unaided. The worst part is that he has to rely on the “assisted pull up machine” in the gym to train so that he can eventually accomplish this tremendous feat of strength. “As soon as you climb onto the assisted pull up machine, you’ve just announced to everyone in the gym that you are a pussy you can’t do a chin up on your own,” he complained. “Having the muscleheads know this is worse than not being able to do a damn chin up in the first place.”
This reminded me of when I used to work for a pharmaceutical company that formulated a little, blue pill which lifted the, erm, heads of many a man. While I was practically assaulted in the waiting rooms of each and every doctor’s office I visited by decrepit, old codgers just dying to shoot their wad, not one of them accepted my offer of a pen or notepad with the pill’s name on it. No, they wanted samples – a request that only their doctor could fulfill – and lots of ’em. Prescriptions were useless as they announced to everyone working in the pharmacy that Flopsy was not the name of a member of your four-legged family, but the pet name for your, erm, member.
Still, I’m perplexed by why this seemingly simple exercise is so damned difficult. By the age of six, I could complete hundreds of one-armed chin ups in a row, hang upside down from the monkey bars until all of my blood pooled in my brain, and contort myself in such a way that I once crammed my entire body into a pillowcase. Why can’t adults do something that kids can do so effortlessly?
I suspect the answer lies in knowledge. As children, we don’t know that we can’t do things, so we just do them. Second graders don’t know the first thing about their Latissimus Dorsi…and, frankly, neither did I until I Googled it. Apparently, it’s not the name of the roguishly handsome, but tragic hero in an Italian romance novel as I’d initially believed – and instead are big ol’ muscles in your back that make a pronated (overhand) grip pull up/chin up possible. My problem lies in the fact that I’m aware that muscles are involved in exercise, thereby making chin ups an impossibility for me. Moreover, my back muscles and I aren’t on speaking terms and haven’t been since I allowed numerous cars to plow into mine over the years.
Were I to try a supinated (underhand) grip instead, I could rely more heavily on my biceps – which is kinda like Tony Stark relying on the phrase, “Stop! I’m a rich dude” to halt criminals instead of donning his Iron Man suit and crushing them beneath his metallic red foot. However, my biceps cooperate only when alcohol is involved – and it’s simply too difficult to attempt a chin up with the stem of a wineglass clamped between your teeth.
So for now, I will celebrate the fact that I’ve lost 9 pounds (and have been placed in the Witness Protection Program so that they can’t find me again and re-staple themselves to my ass cheeks) and, thanks to the miracle of technology, I can watch Bravo on every single cardio machine in the gym. As Hubby conquers one more chin up after another, I will have to revel in the knowledge that if he brags about it and pisses me off, I can easily crush the ego out of him by merely sitting on his lap.
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Chin Up: Menshealth.com
George Lucas: Georgelucasneck.tumblr.com
White House: WhiteHouse.gov
Sixteen Candles Chin Up: Tumblr.com
Latissimus Dorsi: Wikipedia.com
I’m a terrible person. If Jennifer Aniston had married me (which would have been creepy because she doesn’t have a penis), when we finally divorced and I posed for photos with Angelina Jolie (not nearly as creepy because I’m pretty sure she does have a penis), she would have told the press in that whiny manner of hers that I have a sensitivity chip missing. Blog success came early, along with the accolades that often accompany this lowly profession (erm, if profession means something I do to while away the hours after I’ve completely emptied my bottle of Ketel One each morning) and, as a result, I’ve been uninterested remiss in acknowledging and responding to some of the lovely awards that have been bestowed upon me by my fellow bloggers.
I am a tithing member of the Church of the Holy Crock Pot. Though I dutifully praise the Crock Pot’s glories on a regular basis, take it to all the best potlucks, and actively witness to others about how the power of the Crock Pot has changed my life, it occasionally lets me down. This was the case a few months ago when I was cooking a pot roast in the depths of my early 1990s era Crock Pot. The kind with three settings: Off, Low and Scorchingly Fucking Hot. It was a housewarming gift from my mother when I moved into my very first apartment – the one with mauve carpeting.
For readers under the age of 25, let me explain that mauve is a horrid color that infiltrated the décor of the late 1980s and early 1990s, much in the same way that a CIA mole recently infiltrated al Qaeda’s plot to detonate an underwear bomb during a US-bound flight. Except mauve didn’t have good intentions. Often accompanied by its evil cohorts, peach and sea foam green, it permanently damaged the retinal cones of senior citizens and Floridian condominium owners, forever impairing their vision and, thereby, reducing their decorating choices to creamy pastels, shell motifs and stucco.
Despite my devout Crock Pot cookbook study sessions every Wednesday night, one cannot expect the Holy Crock Pot to simply reveal the secrets of the universe to just anyone. Particularly when that universe involves pot roast. That evening, I’d clearly misinterpreted the scriptures in The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook concerning the preparation of the sacred, potted calf, letting it simmer on Low, when it should have been bubbling away on Scorchingly Fucking Hot. With dinner not in our immediate future, Matt and I headed to a local restaurant with a great bar for a few cocktails.
As we slid into a booth in the bar, we noticed that seated to our left was a well-dressed gentleman accompanied by a woman who’d likely been a blonde bombshell twenty years earlier, but was now just clinging to her svelte figure by a thread on her leopard print blouse. As we sipped our drinks and pondered the appetizer menu, Matt and I couldn’t help but overhear our neighbors discussing their new waterfront condo and raving about how much culture they’d discovered in our seaside town. Yes, it’s true. In our little city, you can’t throw a stone without hitting an art gallery specializing in oversized paintings of a beachy sunsets that will perfectly match your sea foam-colored sofa and table lamps with sea shell-filled glass bases.
And then I saw her. Megan.
Memories of gatherings filled with hippie types came crashing back like a teenager returning home in his father’s purloined car after a keg party. I’d eaten my first piece of sushi whilst swinging in Megan’s Sky Air chair. I’d cheered her on as she’d scaled the interior stone walls of the infamous Generic College hangout, Coblin House, in order to reach the second floor, where she’d proceeded to dance barefoot on a slim plank of wood that framed the opening to the loft – even though the fall could have killed her. My date to Megan’s wedding was our mutual best friend, Todd, who had handed me tissues throughout the reception held on a boat cruising up and down the bay. And as soon as all of Megan and Jarrod’s elderly relatives had returned to their hotel rooms, we had converged upon their rickety wooden house that squatted on the edge of an orange grove for the real reception – a blowout that extended until dawn and didn’t officially end until the last drunken guest had awakened from his supine position on the dining room floor, and mumbled “Congratu-fucking-lations!” before stumbling out the door – and into my car. As vodka and I hadn’t yet been introduced formally, I’d driven a lot of people home that day.
And here she was. I hadn’t seen Megan in close to a decade. She was sitting with a short-haired man dressed in linen who resembled Val Kilmer. Where was skinny, long-haired, goateed Jarrod? Had they divorced? Quickly, I glanced at her ring finger to find her sparkler still in place. Was she having an affair with this man? For a few moments, I studied her body language. Always a flirt, Megan was leaning forward, smiling, laughing that husky laugh. For chrissakes, her pupils were dilated. She was into this guy. For a minute, I was filled with a loyal rage. How could she do this to poor Jarrod? He’d always been the Ethel to her grape-stomping, Vitametavegamin-swilling, Harpo Marx-imitating Lucy. Not a Ricky. Ricky would have demanded some “splainin’,” but Jarrod had always gone along with Megan’s antics because she was a light that couldn’t be dimmed. A flame that couldn’t be ‘splained. Was it any surprise that her favorite color was yellow and her preferred blooms were sunflowers? Megan glowed…and we all basked in her radiance and felt the better for it.
The moment we locked eyes, her lips spread into a brilliant smile. Within seconds, I was up and we were embracing one another, jibber-jabbering about how long it had been. Clueless as to why I’d bounded over to hug a woman he’d never met, Matt stayed planted in his seat, until I loudly announced that I was married and urged him to rise and meet Megan. Still slim and casually elegant, she wrapped her arms around my husband, her long golden waves shimmering in the warm hue of the bar lights. My slender figure was petulantly hiding back in 2005, mocking my chubba wubba voluptuous curves from the space time continuum. To make matters worse, I was growing out a pixie cut that was in desperate need of a trim and, instead of it drawing comparisons to Audrey Hepburn from the restaurant patrons, my hair was likely spurring sudden, subliminal desires to order the smoked mullet.
Once Megan released my husband, she gestured to Val Kilmer and chimed, “Matt, meet my husband, Jarrod.”
What? I gave the imposter-posing-as-Jarrod the once over, resisting the urge to blurt out, “ Look, Iceman…I loved you in Real Genius, but I can’t allow you to turn my Megan into a Jezebel.”
But as I studied his strong square jaw line and soft brown eyes, the Jarrod I remembered began to emerge – a hippie trapped in the body of a washed-up actor. Fortunately, it wasn’t the bloated Val Kilmer of late, but neither was it the shirtless, volleyball-playing fighter pilot whose photo had adorned many a dorm room wall. The worst part was that Jarrod didn’t recognize me either. Fuuuuuuuuuck!
“Jarrod, it’s me, Cristy.”
Without a flicker of recognition in his eyes, Jarrod nodded. “Umm. Yeah. Of course. You changed your hair, didn’t you?”
Yeah, but at least no one mistakes me for Molly Ringwald. “I was blonde the last time you saw me.”
“Oh yeah. That’s it,” he said, with a smile. That and the fat suit you’re wearing.
By then, the condo purchasers had become enraptured with our conversation…listening to every word while carefully staring off in the distance, but not so far away as to eclipse our presence in their peripheral vision. Once Megan returned her attention to me, she immediately asked about my writing. When I admitted that I had recently completed my first novel and was penning a humor blog, she broadcasted to the entire bar that I was a great writer, an introduction that could result in only one thing. Utter humiliation. The minute I revealed – to bar patrons who were complete strangers – that my novel wasn’t actually published and that I was looking for an agent, their interest level in me dropped faster than a toddler down a well. A dry well. I’m pretty sure I heard a thud as their enthusiasm hit the dirt like a skull.
As Megan and I swapped stories about the last decade, Matt began chit-chatting with our bar neighbors. Within moments, they were sharing inside jokes and laughing together as though they were frat buddies who’d hijacked the mascot of their school’s biggest competitor back in the day. Meanwhile, I began to get the impression that Megan’s life had not turned out the way she’d expected. A teacher for many years, she told me she’d quit her beloved profession and was answering phones part-time at a friend’s business. When I asked what precipitated her decision, Megan squirmed noticeably and offered a euphemism to the effect of, “Oh, I just needed a change.” She expressed an interest in writing. I encouraged her to keep at it and offered to read anything she was working on if she felt like sharing.
But then Megan began doing the things that Megan always eventually did. Compete. Complain. And charm the socks off everyone in the room…except for the people who know her.
“What happened to my glass of wine? It was right here. I wasn’t done,” Megan announced to the room in general. Waving the waitress over, she whined, “I had a full glass of wine sitting right here. Did you take it?” When our server denied responsibility, Megan refused to drop the issue – like a dog with a mouthful of stuffed, squeaking, faux dead duck. I swear she even shook her head from side to side vigorously – as if to break the waitress’ neck with the ferocity of her convictions. “Yes, you did. The glass was full. I’d only had a sip, ” she insisted, the alcohol on her breath strong enough to sanitize the road rash on the butt of a man whose scooter had collided with a fertilizer truck. “You need to bring me another one immediately.”
I was reminded that one of the reasons we basked in Megan’s glow so willingly was that the rest of the time in her presence could be like Juneau in the dead of winter. I wrapped my cardigan around me a little more tightly. Despite the fact that it was Megan and Jarrod’s wedding anniversary, our golden girl couldn’t resist an audience. So as she entertained our bar neighbors with a slew of stories I’d never heard about motherhood, dancing and cotillion, any hopes I may have had of sharing a meaningful conversation with her were dashed. Megan was driving this car, pedal to the metal, and we were passengers clinging to door handles just hoping she’d slow down before she ordered us to jump. Within minutes of meeting these people, Megan was throwing out invitations to Dexter-themed parties to come. And discussing country clubs. And yacht cleaners.
Country clubs? Yachts? What happened to the barefoot Megan who always had a daisy tucked into her hair?
And then Megan steered the conversation back to just the two of us. And Todd. Oh. Dear. God. We have a decade to catch up on and this is what she wants to talk about. “Whatever happened to Todd, Cristy? I haven’t heard from him in years.”
I know, I thought. If she had, she would know that Todd had gotten engaged. And married. She’d know that Todd had moved out to the West Coast and was working on his graduate degree. “You know, Todd,” I responded lightheartedly, not wanting to be the bearer of tidings that would likely piss her off. “He’s so bad about staying in touch.”
“Haven’t you heard from him?” she asked. I nodded weakly, admitting I had. “Oh. Well, I’ve left messages. I even called his mother and…nothing.” My smile was toothless and pained as if it had been painted on by an artist with Asperger Syndrome. Even I knew a call to Todd’s mother usually accomplished…well, nothing. In fact, for years, she called me for updates about her son. “Well? Where is he?” Megan demanded.
“Oregon. He’s in Oregon.”
“Why?” she persisted. “What’s he doing out there?”
Freezing his ass off. Carrying an umbrella. Gradually turning translucent. Getting all the really “in-jokes” on Portlandia. “He’s in school. He’s working on his graduate degree. He’s doing really well.” C’mon, just say you’re happy for him and drop the fucking duck.
But Megan’s competitive streak had reared it’s angel-faced head because I had the audacity to know something about Todd – a person she still considered her best friend despite the fact that they hadn’t spoken in a decade – that she didn’t know. “Why did he have to go to school out there?”
Because his wife is a huge Pink Martini fan and wanted to live closer to the band. Because that’s what people do…they move away. Because he’s not your minion, Megan. “That’s where he and his girlfriend moved.” It was only a little lie. Not really one at all. After all, Todd and Raina were only engaged when they moved out there. I mean, technically, Raina was just a girlfriend with an uber nice ring on her left hand.
“He’s got a girlfriend?” Megan hissed. And that’s when I realized it. Her claim upon Todd was as real in her mind as a forty-niner’s staked claim to a vein of gold in California. This was jealousy, plain and simple. And suddenly, it occurred to me that this conversation was never meant to be about catching up on our lives. It was an intelligence gathering mission about Todd.
“Ummm. Nooooo. Not anymore.” Though the terms girlfriend and fiance could easily be considered interchangeable, this was not the case with the word wife.
Megan’s face suddenly brightened. “Oh. So he’s single, then?” I prayed that Val Kilmer wasn’t overhearing this bit of the conversation.
Erm. Fuck it. My thighs were aching from dancing around the truth for the past few minutes. She needed to know the facts. And I needed to order another martini. Hopefully, she’d then move on to less stressful topics like tsunamis and waterboarding. “No, Megan. He’s married. He got married a couple of years ago.”
Though the conversations around us continued unhindered, the silence in the eight inches or so between our heads was deafening. Finally, Megan asked, “Why didn’t he call me?”
“I don’t know.” I didn’t know. The disintegration of Megan and Todd’s friendship had never been discussed. And I hadn’t asked. It was none of my business. “Maybe he didn’t have your number?” I suggested weakly. Maybe he found out that you are a possessive psycho friend prone to interrogating the innocent.
Megan insisted that her number hadn’t changed. “We haven’t even moved. He knew how to find me,” she spit, as though I had assumed the role of Todd’s personal correspondence assistant and should share in the responsibility of this faux pas. “Well, did you go?” Megan’s halo of blonde hair suddenly began to singe my corneas like an interrogation spotlight.
Awkward. If I tell the truth, she’ll be hurt and I’ll feel like a bitch. If I lie, Megan will eventually find out, and then I’ll be a lying bitch. I can’t win. “Yes, Megan. I was one of his best men.” Her face fell. Then her nostrils flared as the realization hit her that I had been a member of the wedding party. Which meant I must have been in on the conspiracy to keep her off the guest list. And I probably knew who shot Kennedy and if astronauts really landed on the moon. “Look, I don’t know what happened between you two–”
“I know what happened,” she interrupted. Then, leaning in even closer, she whispered, “You know, Todd was always in love with me.”
Of course, he was, I wanted to say. Because it’s all about you, Megan. At that moment, I realized I couldn’t remember ever spending any time alone with Megan. Just the two of us. No lunch dates. No girls’ night out. In fact, every time we were together, we were usually surrounded by her friends – friends who were typically straight, single men. Men who basked in her glory. I hadn’t just told Megan that Todd’s life had changed drastically without her permission input; I’d confirmed that he was no longer one of her back-up dancers. Someone else had captured his attention. Permanently. And he was happy. Really happy.
And who knows, maybe Todd had been in love with Megan eons ago. I was once a size 4 and strutted my stuff in a fashion show that aired on MTV. That and $14.50 will get you a mochaccino at Starbucks. “And now he’s in love with Raina,” I said firmly. “She’s his best friend now. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” And I meant that. I’d included those words in my best man’s speech that romantic evening in New York.
Megan abruptly ended our conversation and returned her attention to our condo-buying acquaintances. It turned out that the couple were from Atlanta and had firm views on the MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation system. “You know what MARTA stands for, don’t you?” the aging bombshell asked us with a wink.
Oh. Dear. God. How did Matt and I meander into a bar that could provide not one, but two really uncomfortable moments in less than a half hour? Give her the benefit of the doubt, Cristy. Maybe they’ve come up with something that isn’t incredibly trite and racist. “No. What?” I asked, my eyebrow cocked in warning. Don’t fuck with the eyebrow.
Tittering, the cougar whispered loudly enough for people in Georgia to hear, “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.”
Oh, no she didn’t! Then I heard Megan giggling. Since when do hippies laugh at unimaginative racist acronyms? “Really?” I said through gritted teeth. “Funny, but the last time I rode the MARTA, I didn’t notice many black people on it. And the people I did notice looked like commuters and students. But then, Atlanta’s African Americans are some of the most educated and wealthiest people in the country. I’d imagine that most of them don’t need to take public transportation.”
The woman pursed her lips. “Well, the MARTA’s gotten really bad lately.”
“In the last five years?” I asked. Maybe they’d switched to really uncomfortable seats. Or worse, maybe they’d begun playing Muzak over the loud speakers.
“Oh, yes. It’s bad. Our friend won’t let his college student son ride on it.” I resisted the urge to ask her if their friend also believed in the Mayan calendar and had a basement stocked with automatic weapons, canned goods and bottled water in preparation for the end of the world. “In fact, we avoid the downtown area altogether.”
Stifling my laughter, I replied, “Heck, the last time I was in Atlanta, I used to power walk from my hotel downtown all the way to Olympic Park. It seemed perfectly safe to me.” My husband just sat there, stone-faced. He has little tolerance for racists, and even less for pussies.
Megan suddenly chimed in. “You’re brave. I can tell; you’re fearless.” Without a hint of irony.
Huh? Me? Walking around a city in broad daylight hardly constitutes brave. This was not the Megan I knew. For years, I’d admired her free spirit. Her willingness to dance on a strip of plywood ten feet above the ground without a care. Hell, a few minutes earlier, she was inviting absolute strangers to visit her home for a serial-killer themed party. But they were white. “Are you telling me you wouldn’t take the MARTA, Megan?”
“It’s not like New York, Cristy.”
Damn straight, it’s not. It’s a hell of a lot safer than New York. What was she trying to say? The population is, erm, darker in Atlanta than it is in New York City? “Okay, how about D.C.? You’d ride the Metro in D.C., right?” She couldn’t say no to that. Matt and I had just visited D.C. a year earlier. While my husband attended a conference, I’d ridden the Metro all over town and walked the streets alone…with only my lip gloss for protection.
All four of them – even Jarrod – just stared at me uncomfortably. Matt’s silence, however, was brought about by pure shock. He hadn’t been surrounded by so many pussies since he visited a strip club in college.
“You forget,” Megan said, viewing my furrowed brow and slack jaw, “that I was agoraphobic for two years. Jarrod and me – we got mugged in Tampa.”
“Really? I’m sorry to hear that, but I don’t think I knew you then.” Agoraphobic? Next thing, she’ll be telling me that she hoards newspapers, magazines and those little plastic round things that you pull off milk cartons.
“I think you did,” Megan insisted.
No, I’d remember knowing that someone is agoraphobic. I mean, how would I even meet that person? I’d have had to just go knocking on random doors and asking people, “Do you leave the house? No? Great, wanna hang out? I’ll bring Chinese take-out.”
The Atlanta couple was terrified of Tampa, hence their decision to buy a condo with 24-hour security in our safe little corner of Florida (which actually has a higher crime rate than Tampa…but let’s not allow silly things like facts and statistics to mar the absurdness of this story). They related a tale about driving to visit a particular business in Tampa. Supposedly, as they drove into the neighborhood where the business was located, white men wearing neon orange vests waved them on – away from their destination. Raising their eyebrows, the couple gave us all a meaningful stare. One that puzzled the fuck out of me.
“So who were they? Construction workers redirecting you towards a detour?” I asked hesitantly. The woman shook her head.
“No! They were telling us to move along because we didn’t belong there in the ghetto,” the woman declared. Her boyfriend nodded his head solemnly in agreement. Clearly, fear and stupidity are bedfellows. “And when we finally got to the right place, all the brothers were eyeing our hubcaps.”
Did she really just refer to African American men as brothers? “What do you drive?”
“A Honda. It’s a hybrid.”
As a hybrid owner myself, I notice that a lot of people eye my car. Some of them happen to be black. And, yet, my hubcaps have never been stolen. “Did it occur to you that the brothers, as you call them, might have just been wondering what kind of mileage your hybrid gets and whether or not it’s worth it?” Or maybe they were thinking, “Check out the cougar! If you whistle in the vicinity of her cleavage, I bet you’ll hear an echo.”
The couple exchanged glances that said, “These poor people are so naive.” The look on Megan’s face made it clear that she thought that Matt and I were probably paying the brothers for protection – and that’s why we’d never been mugged.
I couldn’t take another minute of this conversation. Downing my martini, I racked my brain thinking of an excuse to leave…immediately. The Holy Crock Pot turned out to be my savior. “Oh, honey! We’ve gotta go,” I exclaimed, slapping my forehead with the heel of my palm. “I nearly forgot about the pot roast.”
That night, the Holy Crock Pot had shared its divine wisdom with me. It had removed me from the confines of my home and my comfortable friendships with people who share my values – and placed me in the presence of people who no longer did. As much as I sometimes long for those carefree days of staying up all night reading poetry, playing drums, and discussing philosophers I really didn’t understand with Megan and other friends, I realize that I can never go back to those days. Or to high-waisted jeans. Make that any jeans that don’t include the word stretch somewhere on the tag.
Why? Because I’ve changed. I understand those philosophers now. Okay, I might have thrown away the books by the ones who bored me – which would have been most of them. Regardless, I stopped searching for who I was to become and simply became that person. A person who will sit next to a Muslim on a plane just as comfortably as I would sit next to a white woman – unless that white woman has a screaming infant in her lap. I’ll take being sandwiched between an overweight Muslim dude using a seat belt extender and a loquacious Born Again from Branson, Missouri on a non-stop international flight – riding in coach – to avoid that particular form of torture.
I became a person who doesn’t make the following announcement to every Indian customer service rep I encounter on the phone: If this call is being recorded, I want it known that these jobs need to go to Americans. You don’t deserve these jobs. You hear me! (Yes, I once had a boss who instructed me to do this. I refused. She, in turn, refused to believe that most of the customer service reps in India actually have graduate degrees – which they do.) I’m a person who doesn’t tighten her grip on her purse strap because someone darker than a latte is walking behind her on the sidewalk. A person who doesn’t believe in gay and lesbian rights, but in human rights – for all people. Because gays and lesbians are humans, first. And Kathy Griffin fans, second. A person who rejects fearmongering disguised as patriotism. Yes, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA – I’m talking to you. Obama’s not going to take away your precious Second Amendment – or your storeroom filled with freeze-dried astronaut food and gold bullion.
I know. I know. How mighty white of me to establish what an open-minded, perfect human specimen I am. But this is how I roll, and it’s how I rolled 20 years ago. But being mugged – and the fear that came with that act of violence – apparently caused Megan to just roll over, pull the bedspread over her head and hide. She didn’t evolve into the person I’d expected. If anything, she’d devolved into a person with irrational fears, still clinging to her youth as it’s wretched from her grasp – man by man. And fear is the basis of racism. Fear fuels the hatred that inspires acts of bigotry. How do I know this? Because one of the most respected entities in the universe said so: Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. – Yoda, Grand Jedi Master and yoga aficionado. You don’t argue with the owner of a lightsaber. No, the one you bought at Comic-Con doesn’t count.
So as you go about your day, allowing your fears or your past to guide your decisions, consider the rhetorical question posed so succinctly by my sage Blogging Bestie, Stacie Chadwick in a recent post: “When did taking the road less traveled morph into plotting the easiest path?”
And then answer this question in your comments below: When did taking the road less traveled morph into hailing a cab because you’re too afraid to take the subway?
As always, names have been changed to protect the innocent and the assholes.
This is Part II of my two-part post, Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars. If you haven’t read Part I of this series, click here now. Or what? I’ll kick you, that’s what!
When I saw my reflection in the plate glass window of the lawyer’s office, I immediately knew that I should have stuck with the Ikea pajama bottoms. Or perhaps starved myself for no less than 7 weeks before deciding to take a yoga class that required me to parade my ass around downtown in a clingy tee and a faded pair of black workout pants. One glimpse out the corner of my eye confirmed what I had suspected back at home: my camel toe was no regular camel toe. It was a camel toe of Sally O’Malley proportions. My only hope was that my muffin top would shade my crotch area sufficiently to hide this fact from bystanders.
Note to self: Must stop writing about my vagina. Damn you, David Sedaris!
If only I’d run out and purchased a yoga mat. It is true what they say: No adolescent boy should be without a notebook and no 43 year old woman wearing the equivalent of black Spanx with a racing stripe should be without a yoga mat. Preferably a yoga mat that is unrolled. And wrapped around her body.
But there I was, sweat waterfalling down my neck and off my shoulders, sauntering down the historic streets of Wouldn’t-You-Camel-Toe-Fetish-Pervs-Like-To-Know on my way to my very first Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class. I know…what yoga newbie wouldn’t sign up for a class with a name like that. As soon as I had read the class description, memories of Disney World’s Flying Dumbo ride merged with images of Brian Setzer jamming on a vintage Gretsch surrounded by people doing the jitterbug – in space.
Make that people with camel toe doing the jitterbug in space.
The accompanying photo had looked so nurturing. Alluring. Supple bodies cradled in mid-air by a swath of white silk dangling like cocoons from the ceiling. They had looked so relaxed just hanging there. Perhaps I could crawl into one of those magical exercise hammocks as a vodka-swilling, Splenda-sprinkling, callus-shaving, head-sweating, stanky feet-stinking, cynical caterpillar and emerge as an decaf tea-sipping, corporate coffee-banning, organic granola-munching CYC (Cool Yoga Chick) with perennially-tanned feet, a green thumb, lush sun-streaked locks knotted on top of my head and feet always smelling of freshly-mown grass, rosemary and sunshine. How could I resist desiring the pedal appendages of the only people who can provide restorative powers to Chuck Norris?
And yet, these people were essentially lying on their backs. Perhaps my secret hope that I could sleep whilst doing yoga wasn’t just a pipe dream. I mean, I’m exceptionally good at lying on my back. Hell, you should see me on my side in a fetal position – and these swings were certainly womb-like. Maybe I would be one of those savants who strolls into a yoga studio for the first time and leaves an hour later as a Jedi Master? I’d carry a lightsaber to class instead of a yoga mat because I wouldn’t need a mat. Yoda never sat on a mat. Perhaps the Yoda of yoga I was. See! I was already doing it.
I clutched my no-name denim bag nervously as I rounded the corner and the studio came into view – with an image of Buddha on its sign. Though Buddha wasn’t lying on his back in a swing, I had to admit he looked extremely peaceful with his eyes closed and his hands resting gently in his generous lap. Then it hit me. Buddha was fat! Yet there he was – maybe not as chubby or undressed as I’d seen him previously – sitting in a lotus position exerting no effort at all. Hell, I could practically hear him snoring. This was definitely the place for me. Squaring my shoulders, I strode like a rooster down the sidewalk, owning it. Soon I would be enveloped in a cool, dark space hung with silken cradles. Wisps of patchouli smoke, and the sound of crashing waves mingled with the haunting, hollow clickety clack of bamboo wind chimes would sooth me into a meditative state of REM sleep, and when I awoke, I’d have biceps and killer abs.
As I entered the building, I immediately removed my shoes and stashed my belongings in one of the cubbies provided. Closing my eyes, I breathed in deeply. Hmmm. No patchouli. They probably wait until class starts so that the students don’t zone out before they even sign in. I craned my ears, listening for sounds of ocean waves lapping on a tropical sand beach. Nope.
But I did hear something.
“Could you help? Get the door! Get the door! We’ve got a bug,” screeched a woman, poured into a pair of tie-dyed leggings. After stamping an industrial-sized dust mop down on top of a frenzied cockroach, she pushed it towards me. There was fear in her eyes. I opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk on my toes – not because I was concerned about coming into contact with the roach, but because I was afraid that I would dirty the soles of my carefully grated, cleaned and moisturized feet. As the poor critter was swept over the threshold and out into the cruel world, it staggered and squinted in the sunlight, one antenna bent at a precarious angle. Clearly, there were no Jedi Masters inside this establishment. I would be the first.
Once the danger had been allayed, Fern, the instructor and studio owner, asked me to sign two waivers absolving the studio of any and all liability should I be injured, be maimed or die during the Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class or any of the other classes. Die? Did people die doing this? Funny, but the glossy website didn’t mention anything about death. “Excuse me,” I said. “These, uh, waivers mentions the word death – more than once. Is there something I should know?”
Fern smiled and rolled her eyes in a way that said, “Pshaw!” Leaning towards me as if she was about to share a deep, personal secret, she asked in a breathy whisper, “There’s nothing wrong with your ticker, is there?”
“Erm, no. No, my ticker is, uh, ticking along just fine, thank you.”
Throwing her hands up in the air, she released a laugh that seemed to have crawled from somewhere deep in her gut. Must be that yoga breathing technique I’d heard so much about. “Then you’ll be fine.” She nodded her head knowingly. “Sometimes, we get an old fogey in here who just wants to check out the girls. And sometimes, their hearts ain’t so good, if you know what I mean.” She winked. Somehow, my imagined yoga experience never included winking.
The former contract attorney in me cautioned, “She’s just covering herself. Then again, maybe this is danger –“ But she was quickly interrupted by the soon-to-be-Jedi-Master in me who snapped, “Don’t be such a fucking pussy! It’s a piece of paper. What’s a piece of paper to one who carries a lightsaber? What’s a piece of paper to one who has harnessed the powers of The Force?” Yes, my Jedi Master sometimes cusses like a sailor and, I suspect, smokes a cigar. I scribbled my signature on both forms, then followed Fern into the studio.
One student had already nestled herself into a silk sack that was swinging slightly, as though she was rocking herself to sleep. Oh, why hadn’t I worn those pajama bottoms? And maybe some fuzzy socks? But all the CYCs had also chosen tight fitting yoga pants and tanks. Didn’t these people like to be comfortable when they rested? Obviously, none of these women were the type who immediately removed her bra the second she got home, unhooking it under her shirt and pulling it out through an armhole. Perhaps wearing a bra all the time was the reason for their exceptional posture? Other CYCs were attaching their swings to chains dangling from the ceiling, adjusting for their height, while two other students lay on their mats and used the low hanging fabric as a mechanism for stretching out their impossibly lean and toned bodies.
Come to think of it, everyone in the room was thin. The kind of people who sink right to the bottom of the pool if they try to free float because there’s just nothing to keep them aloft. The kind with BMIs lower than their ring size. Not one of them remotely resembled the double-chinned Buddha on the sign outside. Perhaps that was my power. Maybe it was my muffin top that would guarantee my position as the first Jedi Master this studio had fostered? But a nagging little voice in the back of my head whined, I don’t want to be a fat Jedi Master. Obi-Wan wasn’t plump. Yoda may have been short and his prominent ears might have prevented him from becoming an official CYC, but he certainly wasn’t portly.
After Fern introduced me as a newbie and provided me with a complimentary “first visit” mat – which she placed directly next to hers – I plopped down. And waited. But Fern had wandered off to help other students. All around me, my peers were stretching muscles that, not only could I not name, but I doubted I’d ever actually utilized in my two score and three years. To my left, a petite brunette CYC, whose upper arms were browned and ropey like strands of hemp twine, bent herself in half, the tips of her fingers cradling her unpolished toes, her chin resting on her knees. Not knowing what to do, I followed suit and also touched my toes – an act made simpler by the fact that I was sitting cross-legged.
Feeling adventurous, I uncrossed my legs and stretched them straight out in front of me. Certainly, I could touch my nose to my knees. I mean, it’s not like it’s an act that involves lifting barbells the size of my Camry’s tires. Really, you just have to let the upper half of your body fall. Presumably, my knees would catch my head before it hit the ground. It’s just gravity, if you think about it.
Except nothing in my body agreed with the principles of physics. In fact, I’m fairly certain that as I leaned forward at the waist, I heard my hamstrings hiss, “Fuck off, Sir Isaac Newton!” Nope, about 16 degrees into the stretch, my body came to a jarring halt. Sorry, but this is as far as you go, my tendons and muscles said, kicking my goal of uniting my nose and knees for the first time in history to the curb like a creepy hitchhiker. Perhaps, I thought, my hamstrings just needed a little bribing. Reaching down, I gently massaged the undersides of my thighs, but they were rigid, taut as guitar strings just on the verge of snapping. As a general rule, I like to avoid the snapping of body parts.
To placate my angry muscles, I pulled my feet towards me, allowed my soles to touch and my knees to drop, forming an attractive diamond shape in front of me. I like diamonds. As I blissfully permitted my thoughts to meander into the realm of gems and how lovely they are in general, the CYC to my left suddenly said, “Look at you. You’re like an old pro.”
What? I knew it. Even when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my future as a Jedi Yoga Master was apparent. “Thank you,” I responded with a brilliant smile, “but I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
Reassuringly, the CYC said, “Well, you sure look like you do.”
Ha! This class was going to be a breeze. For a moment, I considered leaving. I mean, why embarrass all the other students who’ve probably been studying for months, maybe years? Then again, I couldn’t help it if I was a prodigy. And my place was there. In the studio. I had to be an example for others. The lightsaber that would brighten their path to enlightenment.
“Okay, class. Let’s get started with a few simple stretches.” Fern walked us through moves I’d seen before and could easily emulate. I started to wonder why I was paying for this class. I could do this at home. For free. While watching reruns of Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis on Bravo! Stifling a yawn, I glanced around the room, expecting to see multiple pairs of eyes staring at me in awe. But there were none. Dear, lord…I had already attained super star status. Everyone knows that you don’t look directly at the talent. It’s in every entertainment rider in the universe. It makes them – erm, I mean us – feel uncomfortable. You don’t speak to Angelina Jolie. You don’t make eye contact with P. Diddy. You don’t even glance at Mariah Carey. I knew it must be hard for my classmates to stretch whilst trying to catch a glimpse of me in their peripheral vision, but what could I do? It would be rude to ask Fern if I could relocate my swing to the front of the class where everyone could ogle me freely. Not during my first class, anyway.
Once we were warmed up, Fern instructed us to place our stomachs on the swing and lift our appendages as though we were flying. As I complied, I began to wonder when she was going to take this class out of the playground and into gravity-defying space. C’mon. We were playing airplanes, for chrissake. Next she’d be telling us to sit down criss-cross applesauce and would hand out store brand, vanilla oreos and Dixie cups filled with apple juice. “Now, I want you to place your palms on your mat and wriggle forward until the swing fabric has moved from your abdomen down to your ankles.”
Wriggle? That didn’t sound very yoga-like to me. Not wanting to be accused of being a diva, however, I began to wriggle. As the fabric slid away from my mid-section and down my legs – which had suddenly become a good three miles long – I began to feel a burn in my shoulders and arms. My lower back started to ache as my belly sagged towards the mat.
“Cristy, tighten those abs. Hold your body erect while wriggling,” Fern directed me. Easy for her to say. Her stems were only a block in length while mine ran all the way out to the freeway. And she had a six-pack under her tank top, while I was storing blubber in preparation for a long, cold winter. The more I wiggled, the more my upper arm muscles began to shudder. “C’mon, Cristy. You can do it,” Fern urged.
“But I think my arms are having an epileptic seizure,” I whined. “Someone must have turned on a strobe light when I wasn’t looking.” However, just at that moment, I felt the cool silk envelop my ankle bones. I had done it.
“Great job, Cristy!” Fern cried. I could feel every set of eyes turn to appraise my achievement. Except by then, my entire body weight had been redistributed to my spaghetti arms – and when I fell, my knees weren’t there to catch my nose. As I tried to roll to break my fall, my feet became hopelessly twisted in the fabric. I half expected a giant spider to crawl out of the ceiling, encase me in silken threads as strong as steel, then drain the blood from my body.
But something worse happened.
As I struggled to disentangle my feet, I farted.
By most standards, it was a small, harmless passing of gas. It didn’t smell. It didn’t last long enough for a child to recite the alphabet in sing-song manner. No one screamed, “Gas leak!” But it was there. Loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. How do I know this? Because as quickly as my classmates had craned their necks to check out my accomplishment, they’d turned away. Embarrassed. And rightly so. Yoda never farted. Considering Jedi Masters could harness The Force to prolong life and prevent decay, I’m pretty certain that Yoda was able to avoid floating an air biscuit in front of Luke Skywalker. I didn’t know what to do. Acknowledge it with a laugh? Shout Excuuuuuuuuuuuse me, thereby confusing the class with my Steve Martin impression and causing them to forget the fart? Perhaps I could use a Jedi mind trick: This isn’t the flatulist you’re looking for.
Before I could do or say anything, Fern had instructed us to rise and stand in our swings. “Wrap the silk around your wrists once before grasping the fabric above.” Following directions, I clenched my ass cheeks together tightly to ensure that I wouldn’t accidentally blow another butt bugle. “Okay, now lift your legs straight out in front of you, allowing your abs and upper body to support the weight.”
Huh? Erm, I wanted to point out to Fern that after the debacle only moments earlier, my upper body had accepted a position working as one of those wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, and my abs had abdicated any and all responsibility towards supporting my body, financially or otherwise, and were resting comfortably against my intestines.
Not to mention that I’m familiar with this particular exercise. It’s called a hanging leg lift. Typically, you hold on to an easy-to-grasp metal bar above you or your upper arms are bolstered by some kind of support system. People who can perform this exercise properly look like this:
Not like this:
The second I removed my feet from the swing, I could feel my palms begin to burn as the silk fabric slid painfully through my hands. Quickly, I lowered my feet. “Fern, I don’t think I can do this one.”
“Sure you can,” she chimed. “You just need to modify the pose. Instead of lifting your feet straight out in front of you, just try lifting your knees up towards your chest.”
I wanted to tell her that I’d failed just trying to lift my feet – period. But there was Yoda, warbling in that annoying voice of his in the back of my head. No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try. Motherfucker. His legs only make up about a quarter of his body, whereas I’m built like a Japanese spider crab. I’ve got a hell of a lot more to lift. But then the fighter in me reared her stubborn head. I’ll show that bat-eared Jedi that I can do anything. And then I’m gonna rip his little gremlin ears off.
With that, I mustered up every bit of strength that remained in my body and lifted my knees. As my feet cleared the fabric, I felt that familiar sliding sensation – the one that made my hands sting as though they were being sliced open with red hot knives. I clenched my fingers around the silk more tightly as my toes quickly inched up and away from the swing – only to plummet back down again just as rapidly. Essentially, I’d performed a mini-jump. As I relaxed my grip on the fabric, a strange tingling traveled up the middle and index fingers on my left hand. Then the sensation disappeared.
Along with all feeling in tip of my middle finger.
Holy shit! I couldn’t feel the top half of that finger at all. It must have gone to sleep. It was a rather boring class, after all. Hugging the upper portion of the swing with my underarms, I lowered my hands and began to massage the numb finger like a veterinarian briskly rubbing the life back into a still-born pup. And nothing happened. I continued rubbing. Then progressed to shaking my left hand back and forth as if that still-born pup had gotten some water in its ears. Still nothing. I could feel the panic rising in my throat. Fuck being a Jedi Master! I’m a writer, for chrissakes. I need that finger.
“Cristy, are you going to give it another shot?” Fern inquired, as I frantically smacked at my lifeless finger.
“Umm. I can’t feel my finger.”
“Did you try modifying the pose like I suggested?” She said the word “modifying” slowly, exaggerating each syllable as though I was both deaf and frantic.
“Yes, I modified the pose,” I spit through gritted teeth, “and now my middle finger is completely numb.” Then I showed her my middle finger. Really showed it to her.
“Okay, then. We all progress at different speeds,” she replied in that nobody-rattles-me-because-I’m-a-CYC-and-my-feet-smell-like-rosemary voice of hers. “After class, I can help you schedule some classes that might be more appropriate for your fitness level.
My fitness level! Was she insinuating that I wasn’t fit? Okay, maybe I’m not Jillian Michaels, but I’m no schlub either. After all, I did walk to the studio. Two and a half blocks. After jogging down a flight of stairs. And I spent a whole ten whole minutes on my recumbent bike last night – on level 2! I burned an entire 47 calories. Not to mention that this was supposed to be a swinging class. Their website mentioned nothing about clinging desperately to slippery fabric with your bare hands while performing acrobatics. Talk about misrepresentation. And now I was maimed. I was fairly certain that this was permanent nerve damage. My writing career was over. I couldn’t pen a blog without using the letters d, e and x. Dammit! I would sue.
But I couldn’t sue. I’d signed two bloody waivers. Damn the soon-to-be-Jedi-Master-voice-in-my-head! It was all his cussing and cigar-smoking encouragement that got me into this mess. As far as Yoda went, I was ready to show him where he could put his damn lightsaber. And Obi-Wan – he could just suck it!
It’s been a week and a half now and I’ve yet to return to the yoga studio. Though the feeling in my fingertip gradually returned after a week, my bruised ego remains the color of a sky that brings with it hail and tornadoes. The disappointment that came with discovering that I would not be the first Jedi Master to grace my studio was difficult to overcome, but throwing darts at my Lego Yoda was surprisingly cathartic. Okay, I don’t actually own a Lego Yoda, but I desperately want one. And if I did own one, I’m sure it would have made me feel a lot better about things. Particularly if I owned this one:
On Saturday, I finally broke down and bought a yoga mat, and last night, I painted my toe nails again in anticipation of Monday’s class. A more traditional class called Vinyasa Flow. The word flow sounds pretty benign. I mean, I go with the flow all the time. Rivers flow and they don’t even try. It’s all downhill, right? I bet I’ll kick ass at it. It’ll probably be easy-peasy. Chuck Norris will be sniffing my shoes any day now. Hell, he’ll be polishing my lightsaber for me after this class.
I’m not a cool yoga chick, a.k.a. CYC. You know, the kind you see wandering into a locally-owned coffee shop (CYCs don’t support corporations and, thus, boycott Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts) still wearing her yoga pants and skin tight tank top, her hair swept up into an untidy knot on top of her head that that looks so fabulous, Gwyneth Paltrow will sport the exact same do next week on the red carpet. A single bead of sweat perspiration rests on her forehead like a diamond bindi – sweat perspiration that says, “I’m a healthy, centered individual and so confident that my armpits don’t dare stink until I give them permission.” The kind who orders a cup of decaffeinated hot tea, then wrinkles her nose when her fingers accidentally brush the yellow Splenda packets as she retrieves a single envelope of turbinado sugar and sprinkles it into her tea. After all, she just did an hour of yoga in a 150 degree room; she can afford the extra 11 calories. And CYCs don’t use artificial sweeteners because everyone knows that they’re made from the ashes of dead babies. So not vegan.
No, I’m the kind of yoga chick who’s never done yoga. The kind who is more likely to quote Yoda than Buddha. The kind who thought downward dog was a sexual position. My idea of meditation is shutting my eyes as I take that first sip of a perfect dirty martini. As far as breathing goes, I’ll breathe when I’m dead. So when I joined a yoga studio online the other afternoon, I made sure to schedule mid-day classes because the 6 p.m. classes are smack dab in the middle of Happy Hour. And I have a feeling the instructor would frown upon me stumbling into class reeking of vodka and blue cheese stuffed olives, though I suspect my muscles would be substantially more…shall we say, relaxed.
To prep for my first yoga class, I figured I should limber up a little, so I rode my recumbent bike for ten minutes. The night before. In my pajamas. You know, to loosen up. For bed. And I had four glasses a small glass of wine. Again, to help me relax. So I could be rested for the next day. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep in this whole equation.
Then I arose early so that I could tackle the slabs of leather otherwise known as the soles of my feet. One of the negatives of yoga is the whole foot conundrum. I mean, my feet are nice enough to look at encased in a pair of knee-high go-go boots, but if you think I’m gonna just put my soles out there for an entire room of people to stare at – not to mention my conjoined, fraternal twin (the one who was not absorbed at all completely in utero) also known as my “badunka dunk” – that’s another question. The bottoms of people’s feet just aren’t attractive. Mine are particularly fugly because we have wood floors – and I’m always barefoot inside – so the bottoms of my feet look like a Swiffer pad after one shitty day of swiffering. Before I crawl into bed at night, I have to rinse the accumulated cat hair, stray bits of kitty litter, small pebbles, dust bunnies, my husband’s toenail clippings, dead leaves that have been eaten by the cats then puked back up in a gray mass, pieces of shaved carrot, a Wal-mart receipt and a yellow Fiat off of the bottom of my feet lest my hubby kick me back out of bed.
I decided to shave my calluses off using a small, egg-shaped device that is essentially the equivalent of a cheese grater. Yes, the Ped Egg. It’s brilliant. This is what you have to resort to when your calluses are so tough, pumice stone turns to dust at the sight of them. The Vietnamese girls at the nail salon don goggles and pull out the Black & Decker electric sander when I come in for a pedicure. Still, after ten minutes of sawing the Ped Egg back and forth against my soles, my feet were as soft as a baby’s butt a well-worn catcher’s mitt. Plus, my calluses were reduced to what appears to be a few ounces of grated parmesan, which I saved in a Tupperware container to serve at a dinner party attended by my enemies dumped into the garbage can. Except for all the bits that didn’t end up inside the egg contraption, but immediately hooked up with my husband’s toenails for some kind of pedal reunion while waiting for me to swiffer them up later.
Then there was shaving to be done. The invention of the maxi dress had a dramatic impact on American society – it meant that women like me (i.e. the three women in the world blessed with sparse, light blond hair on their legs – don’t be a hater) stopped shaving their legs pretty much altogether. Okay, perhaps not entirely. There’s always special occasions that warrant a shave – like pap smears and the random key party- but usually no one notices that I have hair on my legs. Male readers, please stop fondling yourselves. I know this is crazy sexy talk, but have a little control. Unfortunately, my lack of experience with shaving means that I typically find myself with multiple nicks up and down my shins and ankles – each of which bleeds like a Russian prince – so I end up with small, torn bits of toilet paper with bright red splotches in the center of each glued to my legs. Dude! Put the trouser snake back in his house.
Once my stems were smooth and moisturized, I had to give myself a badly needed pedicure. Except I didn’t really get up quite early enough to give myself a full pedicure. Or a mini pedicure. Fuck, all I had the time to do is slap a single coat of bright salmon colored enamel over my chipped toenails and pray that two minutes under the hair dryer would prevent smudging. Unlike me, CYCs don’t fret over things like pedicures because they’re perfectly tanned from spending so much time weeding their organic gardens – and bronzed feet don’t need nail polish. I am not tanned. My toes are the color of Gollum and wrinkled like miniature elephant knees. They need polish in the same way that the Pogues need an orthodontist. It’s just too ugly otherwise.
Similarly, going to yoga class barefaced was not an option. As the Head and Shoulders commercial old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Not only did I want the CYCs to view me in the best possible light (which is why I snuck into the studio the night before and changed the bulbs to soft white), I wanted to prevent innocent bystanders from being trampled by screaming CYCs, running like a herd of wildebeest at the sight of my naked visage, so I went against the CYC ban on foundation, and slopped on not one, but two coats. Hey, as with any form of exercise, safety first! Twenty minutes later, my skin was glowing, my lashes were thick and dark, and my lips were a natural, glossy pink (if natural means Las Vegas Sparkly).
CYCs are never growing out their hair. It’s either luxuriously long and knotted up on top of their heads like they hate how thick and naturally highlighted it is so they just have to get it out of their sight or they’re going to puke, or it’s uber short and pixie-like, a la Michelle Williams or Ginnifer Goodwin – because CYCs never have ginormous ears that stick straight out. If Obama was a woman, he’d never be a CYC. His ears disqualify him. As a person who is growing out one of those Mia Farrow wispy hairstyles (because I’m what Obama would look like if he was a white woman), my hair is too short to be pulled into a ponytail unless I want to go with the Samurai look and too long to stay out of my eyes unless I’m lying flat on my back. Assuming that most yoga positions won’t involve me being flat on my back because then they’d call it sleeping instead of yoga, I opted to do nothing but flat iron my dark hair super straight. I was bound to look Asian one way or another. It’s a good look for me because it makes my hair incredibly shiny – as long as it doesn’t get wet. Did I mention I am a head-sweater? It can be 45 degrees outside, but if I so much as wave at someone, my sweat glands are activated and immediately drain all fluid from my body – out through the pores on my scalp. Did I mention that I had to walk to the yoga studio? Several blocks in 80 degree Florida heat. No shade. Absolutely no shade…because Captain Idiot here scheduled her classes at NOON so that they wouldn’t interfere with Happy Hour.
I’m embarrassed to say this, but I came pretty close to calling my friend, Christine – who is both the author of the amazing blog,the book of alice and a yoga enthusiast (probably a CYC, but the kind I aspire to become) – to ask her what I should wear. Not a party or a wedding, but to yoga class. I’ve been to lots of parties and weddings, but I’ve only observed CYCs from afar. Truth be told, I only know Christine through the blogosphere, so I couldn’t even secretly follow her to a yoga class or sneak into her house and dig through her drawers (dresser drawers, you pervs!) to see where a CYC buys her gear. Initially, I had decided to go with my Ikea pajamas – black, drawstring cotton wide-legged pants and a matching black tee. Bought at Ikea for ten whole bucks. Came in a sealed plastic bag – kinda like a six pack of socks at Walmart. I know. I know. I’m a fashion plate, but let’s try to stay focused. But I am also accident prone (see The Bitch Is Back…And Shinier) and I started to worry that, while switching poses, I would trip on the excess fabric in my pants. Anticipating that my legs would likely be up in the air for much of the class (suddenly I have the strangest sense of deja vu), the other concern was that my pant legs would simply slide all the way up to my thighs and I would be left with a giant black diaper between my legs. While this would likely hide any incontinence issues that might arise, I was afraid that the CYCs would frown on my failure to follow appropriate yoga fashion protocol. Thus, I switched to a tight-fitting, knee-length pair of black workout pants that, in addition to giving me a huge muffin top and camel toe, also highlight my toilet paper adorned legs. Then I reached for my sneakers.
Except my sneakers reeked. They didn’t stink, they stank. Not stank as in the past tense of stink, but stank as in stink like a motherfucker. Stank is stink squared. This stank can permeate any sock in mere seconds. Which is why I immediately dropped my Converse lest their stank permeate my fingertips like The Bog of Eternal Stench, and reached for the only pair of open-toed, flat black shoes I own: delicate sandals adorned with tiny black diamante. Very sporty. In Monte Carlo. But CYCs don’t have stanky feet. When they remove their sneakers, the airspace around them is flooded with the scent of fresh grass, rosemary and sunshine. It is said that when Chuck Norris gets a little fatigued, he sticks his nose into a CYC’s sneaker, inhales and is completely rejuvenated.
As I picked up my gold Coach purse, I realized that no CYC in her right might would show up to class with a blingy designer bag, so I switched to a demure, faded black denim purse with a long strap that screams, I don’t care about brand names because brand names are created by corporations – and corporations burn babies, then stick their ashes in Splenda packets. Plus, this particular bag has a great story, so if a CYC casually says, “Great bag,” I could tell her how I bought it at the Portobello Road market in London. At a stand on the street. I even haggled with the vendor to get a better price. As CYCs are well-traveled and love outdoor market bargains, I felt confident that I had one acceptable story I could share during class. But what if we ended up ohming the whole time?
Maybe I could communicate all the crunchy granola-ness of my purse in sign language? If I’d had time, I could have typed up a card and simply handed it to anyone who complimented me. It would have read: I have taken a vow of silence for the next hour and a half. Thank you for your kind words about my bag. It has carried me through many countries that I’ve only seen on television. I haggled with a curmudgeon charming vendor in the Portobello Road market in London to get the best price. It’s made entirely of previously recycled materials and was sewn by hand by a blind Guatemalan woman who was paid a living wage for her services. If you see me using Splenda, it’s because I’m infiltrating the company to write an expose about them and the secret baby cremations. Thank you for honoring my vow of silence. Namaste.
Finally, before I headed out the door, I decided to follow the yoga studio’s recommendation that I eat either a banana, granola or peanut butter a half hour before class. As I sat on my sofa spooning Peter Pan into my mouth right out of the jar, it occured to me that the website was probably talking about unsweetened, organic peanut butter sold by some corporation-pretending-not-to-be-a-corporation like Whole Foods. It’s not that I don’t like organic peanut butter, I just think it tastes so much better after I add half a bag of Splenda to it. But I can’t tell the CYCs that. It’s best that I focus on my breathing and meditation. Whatever I do, I can’t think about the blog during yoga. Mustn’t write blog in my head during class – or worse – jot down notes onto my yoga mat with a Sharpie. Oh, and mustn’t laugh at how ridiculous people will look in absurd poses. Mustn’t shout out, “That’s what she said!” when the instructor croons about how amazing a stretch feels. Oh, most crucial, mustn’t fart in class. That would just be namaste.
If you enjoyed this post, please click here to read “Part Deux – Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars,” in which I experience my very first Flying Asana Anti-Gravity Swing Yoga class. Me + Yoga + A Swing + Camel Toe = Comedy Without Even Trying
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While I was studying poetry in college, I was forced to write a sonnet. Forced, you say? Was a gun held to my head? Did a professor surreptitiously slip a pinless grenade into my palm, step back cautiously and demand, “Write the damned sonnet!” No, but my instructor did string my GPA up by the neck with a thick noose and threaten to kick the desk out from under my GPA’s feet if I didn’t write the stupid thing. Even though I write free verse. Exclusively. Rhyming is not one of my super powers. People who’ve heard me attempt to rap know this. My instructor didn’t care. You apparently can’t be a well-rounded poet unless you master the sonnet. Kinda like those chefs who think you can’t truly call yourself a cook unless you can boil water. Snobs.
For those of you who have never written a sonnet, you’re lucky bastards and I despise you. That said, hang in there with me even if you’re not a huge poetry fan because I’ll be humiliating myself in a big way in just a few paragraphs. For those of you who have written a sonnet and who have also successfully repressed “the rules” of sonnet-writing, let me re-awaken the slime-dripping, fang-baring monster that likely haunted your every dream throughout the semester you were enrolled in Poetry 101.
Shakespearean Sonnet Rules
For my purposes, I will be referring exclusively to the Shakespearean (or Elizabethan) Sonnet.
1) A sonnet must consist of exactly 14 lines.
2) Each line must have exactly 10 syllables.
3) A sonnet must consist of exactly three quatrains (four lines) followed by exactly one couplet (two lines).
4) The rhyme scheme in a sonnet must be exactly as follows: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
In English, this means that in the first quatrain, the first and third lines must rhyme and the second and fourth lines must rhyme. Same goes for the second quatrain, but it’s critical to note that the rhymes must be unique from the first quatrain – C and D can’t rhyme with A or B. Same goes for E and F and G.
Note: We haven’t even made it through all the rules yet, but the word exactly has already appeared FOUR times. Starting to see why sonnets and Satan both start with the same letter?
5) Each line must be written in iambic pentameter.
If your response wasn’t “Huh?” or “I only speak a little Spanish,” then you’ve clearly written sonnets before – and enjoyed the process. Before things get ugly, you should just muddle on over to the Mensa website because we won’t tolerate any of that Shakespearean-sonnets-are-the-bomb attitude here.
If you’re still going, “What the hell is an i-am-buck pentacle,” then you’re in the right place. First you have to know what an iambic foot is. Though it sounds like something a podiatrist would diagnose and prescribe a brace for, it simply means an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. da-DUM. Iambic pentameter consists of five iambic feet in a row: da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM. Or for those Dirty Dancing fans out there, remember that scene where Patrick Swayze tries to teach Baby rhythm by tapping his chest in time with his heartbeat? ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG-ga-GONG. Yes, Swayze was a hunk and his heart was a master of iambic pentameter. Basically, this is just one more thing that you have to worry about when writing a la Shakespeare – if the correct syllables aren’t stressed in the proper order, your sonnet’s pretty much crap.
So why did you need to know all this? Why did you read this far without anything really, truly funny happening? Because I am now going to share with you the World’s Worst Sonnet Ever! It’s horrible on so many levels, but before I go into detail, I will simply allow you to read it and let it speak for itself.
By the way, it is also my sonnet. Yes, I wrote it. Twenty-two years ago. I am responsible for this flaming pile of poo. Thus, there is absolutely no need to try to console me or assure me that the poem isn’t shit in your comments below because I fully recognize that I have made the world a far worse place by writing all 26 lines of the following sonnet. What? Twenty-six lines, you say? But I thought a sonnet had 14 lines. There you go…you’re already discovering why this is:
The World’s Worst Sonnet Ever
When I saw her, she was shrunken hollow
her body pressed to the back of the cage.
Eyes enormous, spittle wetting the hair
beneath her blond muzzle, six months of age.
Driving her home, our pygmy Lassie peed
on the plush velour seat and my bare skin.
I laughed. She shrank further inside my arms
and froze, ears perked, a doggy mannequin.
She learned to sit, roll over, beg and jump
on command. She could climb up my knees, legs,
elbows and shoulders to the top. Her paws
on my head, eyes open, ready to beg.
She never learned how to play dead until
last week. It took fifteen years to teach her,
fifteen years of loyal love and wet licks
on my hand, as I softly stroked her fur.
Every girl’s dream come true was my Daisy,
even as she aged and became a weight
upon our shoulders, a burden to scorn,
a family member we grew to hate.
Alone I cry as Mother speaks of cysts
which invaded her body like Martians,
feeding it death as they grew in numbers,
her life chained to a grave by Lilliputians.
Daisy plays dead now like an Oscar nominee
As she lies wrapped in sheets beneath our dogwood tree.
I’ll give you a moment to recompose yourself. Take a second. Wipe the vomit off the front of your shirt. And, you, stop ROFLing all over the carpet. Nobody really ROFLs. An LOL would have been satisfactory. Have some dignity, man!
Yes, I wrote this poem about my dead dog, Daisy. I remember trying to write the darn thing about at least ten other topics like flowers and forests and unrequited love because that’s the kind of crap that sonneteers, as they were called, wrote about. But let me clue you in – these aren’t things I spend much time writing about. Really? But that seems so unlike me, right? I’m all about spending 14 lines of poetry to describe the curve of a rose petal and the sharpness of its thorns as they pierce my fingers – and metaphorically, my heart. Here, let me hand you a bucket. Keep that thing handy, would ya?
As the author of such gems as “Amputee,” “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” (about a transgendered person involved in a standoff with the police), and “Upon Seeing Jesus Christ in the Dollar Store,” flowers and unicorns rarely find their way into my verse. Since I detested – no, loathed – all the rules and sonnet regulations, I found the only way I could get through the process with an ounce of sanity was to pen a poem about something I actually cared about. In the process, I ended up with the worst tribute in honor of a beloved pet ever written. In fact, it’s so God awful that Daisy now haunts me like Jacob Marley, weighed down by the forged steel links that the Lilliputians used to chain her to the grave. She claims that if I don’t repent my poetic sins and buy some lame dogs a turkey that they can rip apart at Christmas, I’ll die forgotten and alone. As if my sonnet hasn’t already assured that fate.
Why My Sonnet Sucks
1) It’s Bad! You read it, right? It’s just bad. Really bad. So horrendously bad that it’s the Lindsay Lohan of poetry – a train wreck so terrible that you just can’t look away from the carnage. You’ve got to re-read it again and again to reaffirm that it’s as heinous as you initially thought. Don’t do this to yourself. It doesn’t get any better and you’ll get acid-reflux from all the puking. Or rug burn if you’re one of those people doing the whole ROFL thing.
2) Abominable Descriptions and Similes:
“our pygmy Lassie peed” – Daisy was a Sheltie. You’d think I could have used the word Sheltie and avoided the word pygmy – which makes people think of short Africans, not miniature Collies. And she peed. This may have been the inaugural usage of dog urine in a Shakespearean sonnet.
“a doggy mannequin” – Really? This was the best I could come up with?
The entire second octave – Could I have listed more body parts? How did I leave out breasts, collarbone and ears?
“Alone I cry as Mother speaks of cysts which invaded her body like Martians” – You know those Martian cysts, right? They’re black, can only be destroyed by the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, and will make you “very angry, very angry indeed.”
“Her life chained to a grave by Lilliputians.” – What do little people who live in a fictional land have to do with this? Maybe if Daisy had been named Gulliver this would have worked. But then she would have likely had gender issues or people would have called her “Liver Lips.” You can’t put a dog through that just so you can use a word in a poem after she dies.
“Daisy plays dead now like an Oscar nominee” – Though I’m sure that Meryl Streep can play a corpse like nobody’s business, the hard fact is that Oscar nominees don’t win awards for lying motionless on film. In most movies and television shows, extras and unknown actors play dead people. Dogs who can play dead in the movies may, in fact, deserve Oscar nominations, but the Academy does not yet recognize the contribution of canines to film.
“As she lies wrapped in sheets beneath our dogwood tree.” – For the record, Daisy wasn’t buried beneath a dogwood tree. It just sounded ironic – or what I thought was ironic at nineteen. I don’t actually remember what kind of tree it was. The truly ironic thing is that it died too. Good dog; bad fertilizer.
3) It’s Not Really A Shakespearean Sonnet
It has 26 lines and six quatrains – What part of ” a sonnet must have exactly 14 lines and three quatrains” did I not get? Why would I write 12 lines more than I needed to? I must be a masochist. Or maybe I was punishing my professor. You gonna make me write this crap; I’m gonna make you read a lot of it, a whole fucking lot of it. It will feel like it’s never ending, much like the Star Wars franchise. Perhaps the first three quatrains are actually the prequel for the final three quatrains. And the couplet, that was the animated version. You don’t like it; blame George Lucas.
Use of the word “Lilliputians” put me over my syllable limit – For 23 lines, I stuck religiously to the 10 syllable rule and then I broke it so that I could use the most ridiculous word in the entire sonnet. Seriously, Lilliputians? Sounds like stooped-over, little old ladies who collect Lilly Pulitzer dresses and meet for tea on Worth Avenue.
Final couplet has 12 syllables per line – Just couldn’t shut up, could I? Drag the agony out a little bit longer.
My Rhyme Scheme Uses Most of the Alphabet – If you recall, the rhyme scheme should follow this format: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. My sonnet’s rhyme scheme is as follows: ABCB DCEC FGHG IJKJ LMNM OPQP RR. Now I know my ABC’s, next time write a longer sonnet so we’ll get to Z.
I thought iambic pentameter was B.S. – To be blunt, I just didn’t even try. It was too much work, and it became clear very early on that this sonnet was a box of hardened fudge nuggets wrapped with a decorative Shakespearean ruff. Editing this monstrosity would have been a futile exercise in turd polishing.
So now that I’ve borne my soul naked and bare for you, sharing my most embarrassing writing endeavor with the world, I ask you to do the same. I would love and appreciate your comments on The World’s Worst Sonnet Ever, but I also invite you to share your worst poem – sonnet or otherwise – right here on my blog. Just post it into the comments section. Let’s make this a celebration of suckiness. Let’s make a pact to strive for mediocrity so that one day we may post The World’s Most Average Sonnet Ever.
As I await your responses, I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend, Evan, who loves “How Ironic.” In fact, he claims that it’s his favorite of all my poems. Of course, he eats babies for breakfast, lives in Portlandia and thinks he’s a trickster God, so what do you expect? Anyway, yesterday was his birthday. Happy Birthday, you freak!