That’s my new tagline – and one that will take up residence on my newly-designed website in a month or so after all of my Paltry Meanderings’ readers have caught on. You may have noticed that I’ve got a new name and look. It was time for a change or, as David Bowie would put it, it was time to turn and face the strange.
However, my blog makeover is only one of several metamorphoses I’ve undergone recently. In fact, during my brief August sabbatical:
1) I’ve Become A Vegan:I know…I may as well have just confided to you that I’ve moved to Oregon, stopped shaving my legs, taken to rubbing a chunk of crystal under my arms instead of deodorant, started wearing Birkenstocks, and sold my televisions in order to donate the money to my local farm co-operative. Of course, that’s ridiculous. I don’t even use deodorant. For the record, although I love all critters, I decided to eschew meat and all animal-based products because I had some addiction issues to conquer – namely my lifelong enslavement to one particular substance – not because I wanted to have an excuse for wearing the fugliest shoes ever created. Breaking this dependence was critical to my relationship with my husband, my parents, my friends and my waistline.
They say, Admitting you have a problem is the first step.So here I am to announce to all of you today that I, Miss Snarky Pants, am an addict. I can’t remember not drinking. I suppose whole milk was my gateway drug, but then my mother further mired me in the Swamp of Dependency by introducing me to Nestlé Quik. Within days, I was a chocolate milk junkie. Mom enabled my new addiction by permitting me to slug down a glass every Saturday morning – as long as I woke her first and asked permission. Of course, I scored half pints of the stuff in the school cafeteria; you’d be amazed what you can get in trade for an apple, half a Twinkie and a bathroom stall blow job.
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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Many of us are guilty of this. You know what I’m talking about it. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. A lot of my friends have done it. Heck, I do it all the time. The other day, on the way to a funeral, I did it in the car – multiple times. Why? I dunno. Boredom? It was, after all, a long drive. Anxiety? I was, after all, going to a funeral. Narcissism? Oh, yeah. Of course, that’s it. After all, I’m a blogger. We’re all a bunch of self-absorbed sociopaths who don’t care about anyone else but ourselves. It’s all about me, me, me! Right? Is that what you’re trying to say?
Okay, I guess I could have involved my husband. He was in the car. Driving. Also bored. Anxious to be meeting everyone in my entire family – at once. I suppose I could have shared my attention with him. That’s what you’re thinking. Except he hates for me to do that kind of thing to him when he’s driving. He puts on this extremely tense, unsmiling face every time I attempt it. He says it distracts him. It could cause him to have an accident.
So I take photos of myself instead. No, not naked. Wait, what did you think I was talking about? Perv!
I was talking about the coy photos I take of myself. The ones that are shot from peculiar perspectives so that my chin looks like an acute angle in a geometry text book, and my eyes are the size of ostrich eggs. The ones intended to make me look waifish, like Kate Moss back in the day. Yeah, I hear you. There is no angle out there capable of making me look like an emaciated super model. Okay, what about elfin? For you literary types, how about a Dickensian orphan? Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Does this help?
Yes, I realize the hoops and frilly jacket make me look like an orphan who fell off a pirate ship. Why are you so judgmental about poor children who are all alone in the world? Vagabonds who are manipulated into stealing for a living. Innocent souls forced to labor 18 hours a day in a workhouse. Not working for you, huh? How about this, then?
Don’t you dare think a dirty thought about her. Yes, she is lovely. Yes, I wish that Orlando Bloom was single and really a long-haired, towheaded elf named Legolas Greenleaf who would marry Kelsey so that she could live in a fabulous Tolkien-esque fantasy world. And we’d be in New Zealand right now, hangin’ with Peter Jackson and Frodo, filming The Hobbit. Still don’t see it? Okay, I’m pulling out the big guns. My friend, Vivian, is the queen of the shot-from-above photo. In fact, she can make her chin virtually disappear. She’s perfected this technique by practicing – a lot. And if I looked like her, I’d take my photo all day long, too. Naked. That was for the perv who asked earlier.
This brings up those photographs people take of just a portion of their face – like the other half of their cheek is a State secret requiring security clearance and a pat down by a guy in a black suit wearing a suspiciously large wristwatch. My friend, Transman, who records his life as a transgendered dude on his blog, The Adventures of Transman , also likes to take photos of this nature. I’m pretty sure that if you visit Wikileaks, the other half of his photo is now available – and someone’s going to prison over it. You can’t just release that kind of thing willy-nilly! The plans for of a U.S. nuclear arms facility could be tattooed on Transman’s other cheek. Or the recipe for Krispy Kreme doughnut batter. Or the lyrics to Johnny Cash’s last original song – yet to be recorded by anyone.
Partial portraits seem to be all the rage with the advent of Facebook, Flickr and cell phones that not only make and receive phone calls, but take photos, whiten your teeth and poach a perfect egg – simultaneously. I’m a big offender in this category as well. What? You never noticed my Gravatar pic?
The above photo is one I took the day of the funeral – with my cell phone. I was wearing glasses for three reasons:
1) I think they make me look smarter. As the first person on the paternal side of the family to graduate from not one, but three, institutions of higher learning, there is a lot of pressure on me to live up to that image and appear to have earned those degrees. I suspect my relatives know that sexual favors and envelopes packed with greenbacks delivered to the appropriate people at matriculation were also involved, but I like the delusional little world I live in. The one in which I play a genius and Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory, people!) is my best friend.
2) They are slightly tinted and protect my eyes. I have perfect 20/20 vision and I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible. Did I mention that I’m 43. And have perfect vision. Jealous much?
3) The frames are thick, black and totally nerdy. Translation: I think they make me look like a hipster. As I foolishly revealed earlier, I’m 43. Looking hip at this age is becoming increasingly difficult. I’d get a blue Mohawk – because everyone knows that anyone with a Mohawk is hip – except I have really large ears that stick out. A lot. This is why I can communicate with bats. And yes, they want to suck your blood, but it’s bad for P.R. Anyway, I digress. The Mohawk is a hair style that tends to emphasize large, prominent ears, and it’s really hard to feel hip when some teenager is sniping behind your back, “That’s what you’d get if Marge Simpson and Barack Obama made it.”
Regardless, I don’t think the glasses worked for their intended hipster purpose. Why? As soon as I posted the me-in-glasses photo as my blog Gravatar, another blogger, Gemini Girl In A Random World asked me if I wanted to be her blogging “bestie.” Now, that was truly a nice thing to do. However, I think that she was subliminally influenced by my photo, which I can’t help but notice makes me look a tad bit like Mayim Bialik’s character, Amy, also of The Big Bang Theory. What does that have to do with Stacie Chadwick wanting to be my “bestie?” Everything. Amy is obsessed with Sheldon Cooper’s neighbor, Penny, and refers to the girl as her “bestie.” It’s practically her catch phrase. Coincidence? Perhaps. I’m certain Stacie would say that the two things are completely unrelated. But like I said…it’s subliminal. She doesn’t realize that it’s the glasses and the unflattering photo that drew her to me and to use the word “bestie.” Still think I’m crazy? Check out this photo of Mayim Bialik as Amy:
Now imagine her without the lower half of her face. If you need to, you can scroll back up and take a second look at my photo. It’s uncanny, I tell you. By the way, Stacie Chadwick is now my blogging bestie. She swears my resemblance to Amy has nothing to do with it.
So whatever happened to the full frontal portrait? And what is it in our society that is bringing about its demise? Drought, disease, war and global warming can safely be ruled out – and that’s a concern. Normally, everything can be blamed on one of these four factors. Thus, we must look outside the box. Or perhaps, inside our very souls.
Why would any of us want to hide part, but not all, of our face? Have we compartmentalized the visage above our necks in the same manner we have our bodies for years? Shoulders: slumpy. Tits: perky. Abs: non-existent. Hips: child-bearing. Butt: bootylicious. Legs: very long. Feet: hidden by non-existent abs. For millions of years, it’s been completely acceptable in many cultures to hide certain body parts. In fact, in most cultures, it’s required. If the fire department ever had to knock out a wall in your home in order to remove you from it – and nothing was on fire – it is preferred. Even public beaches have an unwritten canon by which one must abide. For example, if you think you look good in an itsy bitsy thong bikini – and your clothing size is higher than the average age of a kindergarten student – beach etiquette says, “Uh-uh. No way.” Butt floss is perfectly acceptable under clothing, but flossing in public is considered rude. And, no, the spray tan you got before you headed down to Florida doesn’t make you look any thinner. Being tanorexic doesn’t make you anorexic. Unless it was applied by Dumbledore himself, it’s essentially paint, not magic.
Few cultures require the covering of the face. If they do, it is usually for religious or modesty reasons, not because millions of women don’t like their shriveled upper lips or think their nostrils are too bulbous. If a person is unhappy with their facial appearance, it is the custom in some societies to change the offending feature or features with plastic surgery. The results are generally pleasing, thus making it unlikely that the person will feel the need to hide his or her face.
Of course, there are always exceptions. And in some cases, society, as a whole, may wish someone would hide part or all of their face – despite them having had plastic surgery. The fact that the person refuses to do so suggests a strong need and desire to keep the facial features revealed, if at all possible.
So the question remains why someone would not photograph their whole face. The following possibilities remain:
1) They have deep, permanent scars from a werewolf attack. A full frontal portrait would both reveal the scars and serve as a manner in which to identify a serial killer who murders once every blue moon. Okay, every full moon, but blue moon sounded so poetic.
2) The person is actually Two-Face from Batman and he’s trying to find love on Match.com. Even comic book villains need affection. Except who’s gonna answer your ad when your profile photo looks like this:
I don’t care how much you claim to love romantic walks on the beach, gourmet cooking, giving foot massages or socializing with super heroes, most single girls out there are turned on by a little mystery. And if they can see what’s wedged between your molars even when your mouth is closed – technically, anyway – it can be a deal killer. While most women appreciate a sinewy man, none of them want to actually see the sinew. Yes, there’s a difference.
3) The person is hiding a deep-seated duality (i.e. split personality) and displaying both sides of their face in a single photo is like making them face (Ha! A pun – it’s like I’m pun-ishing you. Oops, I just did it again. On purpose.) the reality that two people are living in a their single brain. This is akin to two people sharing one of those tiny Ikea store dioramas that masquerade as examples of apartment living. Someone like Mel Gibson. For years, he seemed like your typical Hollywood actor: charming, normal, Jew-loving and Holocaust-believing, but it turns out that once the star has a few shots in him, he morphs into a bigoted psychopath who no longer believes in history. From the photo below, it appears there may be yet another personality swimming around in that space between his ears.
4) The person held the camera too close to their face when they took the photo, resulting in only a partial portrait. The result is regretted, but they didn’t take another shot, so they post it anyway because they have low self-esteem and aren’t the perfectionists they should be. I know. This theory is extremely unlikely.
5) They have short arms…and thus held the camera too close to their face when they took the photo, resulting in only a partial portrait. Since God loves short people best, they are forgiven and the discussion is closed.
6) They have a deep-seated hatred for one specific facial feature, but are too deep and non-superficial to ever consider plastic surgery. They probably live in Portland, Oregon. Their favorite song is by Phish. It is also likely that they are over-educated, liberal and poor. The reason that they’re poor is because they spend all their money on organic food and that shit is pricey. Thus, they suffer through their pain and compensate by taking only partial portraits of the facial features they like. Bragging about the fact that they will never be the kind of idiot who’d get Botox is a pastime.
7) They think partial portraits look artsy, edgy and hip. And they are…if you’re artsy, edgy and hip. Me. I’m 43. We’ve already had this discussion. This is my attempt to look all of the above.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking I look like a corpse. If I wanted to act, this could be my headshot for my audition as Dead Hooker Number 3 on CSI: Special Victims Unit. Either that or a mannequin – a really creepy one that comes to life when its owner is asleep. One that has a knife that flashes in the candlelight. (Don’t ask me why they have candles lit! It’s ambiance.) My eyes are all glassy and I’m working the Clockwork Orange lashes. If I was humming “Singin’ In The Rain,” you’d all be running your asses off right now.
If you’re 19 and gorgeous, you can pull the partial portrait off. You can also wear a plaid shirt and let your hair just hang and not wear much makeup – and look perfect. If she had a pair of thick, black nerdy glasses on, Kelsey would be the ultimate hipster. If she was dating the lead singer of The Decemberists, she’d be a legend – and she could borrow his thick, black, nerdy glasses. Instead of mine. That’s a lie. She doesn’t borrow my glasses. She lives in another state. She’d probably like me to buy her a pair of thick, black nerdy glasses, but her birthday isn’t until August. And she’s hip enough as it is. Anyway, I really want her to end up with Orlando Bloom.
Likewise, the partial photograph works well for women well over 19 who are also stunners. Again, my friend Vivian is a perfect example. I’m not sure why she chooses to hide any part of her face, but it does, indeed, serve to make her look hip. Which is probably why she dates a much younger guy who’s an artist. And she hangs out with really hip, artsy types. And goes to lots of hip, artsy events. Okay, I hate her. Not really. Hate is a strong word. I reserve that for Will Wheaton. If you were Sheldon Cooper’s best friend, you’d understand why.
During that car ride I mentioned earlier, I tried to take an eye photo. I wasn’t trying to copy Vivian because I hadn’t yet seen the above photos, but I was still very desperate to appear hip. My attempt wasn’t quite so…well, cool. Perhaps because it came out blurry. Now, there are a certain number of fuzzy, yet hip, photos out there. This isn’t one of them. In fact, the first thought that popped into my head was Cyclops – as viewed by a person who doesn’t have 20/20 vision. Like me. Jealous, yet? Hey, I gotta work the one thing I got goin’ for me. The eye shot also accentuates the Tammy Faye Baker mascara I was rockin’ that day. What? Doesn’t everyone get super dolled up for a funeral?
When it became clear that my eyes are scary as opposed to hip, and best hidden behind thick, black, nerdy glasses – even if they make me look like Amy Farrah Fowler – I decided to focus on the lower half of my face. My lips, after all, are generally considered one of my best features. Naturally full and always balmed or glossed, I’ve often been accused of having them enhanced. Which is funny because I was going to have anything enhanced, there are so many other places I’d start. But I guess I’m a bit Portlandia in my attitude towards plastic surgery, so I’m all natural. Still, the fact that people have thought my lips were fake does raise a red flag. Do people say that when your lips look gorgeous…or Real Housewives of Orange County-esque. This photo answers that question.
Lord, I look like I’m auditioning to become one of the Jolie-Pitt clan. Angelina…you can have a full-grown child with big ass lips like yours, but you don’t have to get pregnant. And I’ve already been to college. And I’m already married. With cats. You could have grand cats. And I’m weaned. Very important to know when a potential child has lips this big. And open. Like I’m ready to suckle. So gross. No wonder that perv asked me if I took naked photos of myself. Okay, to make up for scaring you with my photos – several times – I offer you my version of an apology. Remember those plastic surgery freaks that society wishes would cover up, but refuse. Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have to see full frontals of them? Just for you folks…