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 don’t recall how the discussion of vibrators arose. Only that it came up while I was riding home on a sweltering school bus filled to the gills with students of every age – as is often the case with private, parochial schools. A popular, older boy named Jerry mentioned that someone had a vibrator and his comment was received with fits of laughter from the more mature kids, all of whom were crammed into the last few rows – because the back of the bus was, is and always will be the coolest place to sit.
As a fifth grader at a new school, I was anxious for friends. Especially older friends. One’s market value could easily be assessed by how many older kids you knew. Particularly if those older kids didn’t give you noogies or shoot spitballs at you. And making people laugh was a good thing. Bill Cosby made people laugh. I could hear the audience roaring in the background when I listened to my father’s copy of Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow Right! on our record player. Fonzie made people laugh every time he told someone to Sit on it! And everybody loved Lucy, including the band leader with the Cuban accent thicker than my yet-to-be-tweezed monobrow. Being funny could garner me significant clout, particularly if the people chuckling were old enough to grow wispy mustaches or wear bras. Their laughter was my clue that something about vibrators was humorous. But what?
Fortunately, I knew all about vibrators. Our family shared a heavy one with a rounded, spaceship-style head the size of a large bagel and used it to massage the kinks in our muscles. After a long day at work, my dad would often say, “Cristy, go get the vibrator and rub it over my lower back, would you?” It worked wonders on my calves after a Saturday afternoon of riding my bike non-stop through the neighborhood. My mom stored it in one of the drawers of her nightstand, so technically I considered it to be her property, but I was permitted to use it whenever the need arose. As I balanced my small frame sideways on the edge of the bus seat, my book bag and Tupperware lunch bucket resting on my knees, I pondered why the kids around me considered vibrators so darned amusing. I supposed ours was funny looking in a way, but its appearance had never made me giggle out loud. Then again, if you used it on your neck and spoke at the same time, your voice sounded a bit like a robot. Perhaps that’s what all the fuss was about.
So without hesitation, I loudly announced, “My mom’s got one of those!”
ignorant: (adj) lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated
stupid: (adj) lacking intelligence or common sense; can’t be fixed
dumb-ass: (adj) see stupid
– Oxford Dictionary
A couple of weeks ago, while celebrating my 1,000th subscriber, I hosted a contest in which my readers could post topics for me to write about. Though many intriguing suggestions were submitted, the clever and insightful blogger, Wandering Voiceless captured my interest by proposing that I pen a tutorial on “How to Deal With Stupid People When They Don’t Know They’re Stupid.”
Initially, I was puzzled. Are there stupid people who know that they’re stupid? You know, ones who don’t wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I shouldn’t run for President just because Pa did it; I’m a dumb-ass.” If so, I’d like to photograph them and, perhaps, write an entire book – a tome, if you will – dissecting the psyche of the stupid animal who possesses the self-awareness to recognize just how stupid it is. For years, I’d always assumed that, by definition, stupid people are clueless to the fact that they’re stupid. That’s what makes them stupid as opposed to ignorant, a condition which can be cured with information and a few episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show. And, as my grandmother never actually said, but it sounds folksy to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Case in point, the other evening my hubby and I were meandering around downtown investigating every nook and cranny of the most historic section of the city that we have recently decided to call home. A serial photographer, I was snapping away at the most banal things: chained doors, abandoned fast food bags crumpled in the dying light that seeped through an abandoned, spiderweb-draped shop window, local street art, and a turn of the century building constructed of coquina stone. A few yards ahead of me, a car pulled up and parked on the side of the road.
Since we were standing directly across the street from a small, fenced park where the homeless tend to accumulate on its shaded benches during the day (known by locals as the Hobo Gardens), I hesitated, curious if the vehicle owner was the as-yet-unseen person who chases the vagrants from their zoo-like existence in this little corner of respite, before locking the gates each night. God forbid, a transient dude should fall asleep on one of the benches. In the dark. I mean, it’s not like the City didn’t give him all day to catch up on his sleep. And I’m pretty sure they provided him with lavender-scented eye masks to block out the searing brightness of the sun. But like most urban outdoorsmen, he’d probably wasted his daylight hours in conversation with his homeless buddies or weaving dead palm fronds into rosebuds to sell to the tourists.
Allowing an intinerant to enter into REM sleep at night in an unlocked park that is entirely avoided by non-housing challenged locals during the day would certainly be a travesty. Clearly, the highest and best use of such a space is to snap a Master lock on it and force the drifters to wander the streets as shadowy figures who can then be enjoyed by downtown bar patrons. After all, when you’ve just finished off a few yards of Guinness, what better than to take a swing or two at a ragged, old man with spittle in the corner of his mouth who is enjoying a conversation with the three other voices in his head? Big fun, I say.
Moreover, by forcing the homeless to roam the darkened streets, our city is providing a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline rush for many of the tourists visiting from places like Dubuque and Wichita and Billings, who rarely are assaulted by a request for spare change accompanied by the aroma of cough syrup mixed with the eau de parfum of general stankiness. In fact, it is said that many visitors return home with gallant tales of near death experiences which invariably involved the tourist tossing bills or coins at the bare feet of a transient – who, as per their description, was likely black, male, 8 to 9 feet tall, angry and foaming at the mouth – then running as the drifter chased them down a back alley, pounding his chest and bellowing, “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of a Caucasian man.” Hey, moments like this are what vacation memories are made of.
I began to wonder what a person would say in order to extricate the vagrants from their little Garden of Not Eatin’. Dragging a billy club along the fence, would the Evictor-in-Chief evoke the memory of every prison movie ever made before sneering, “Git yer bum asses up and moving. This ain’t no Holiday fuckin’ Inn.” And he’d be right. The park is much nicer than a Holiday Inn.
Or would he approach the men and their assorted knapsacks and overflowing plastic bags with fear in his eyes, but the law on his side? “C’mon guys. You know, it ain’t up to me. Look, don’t make me pull out my cell phone. I’ve got 911 on speed dial.” When they ignore him, does he whip the flip phone out of his pocket, point it at them threateningly and say, “The safety’s not on. And once I dial the cops, that call will be recorded for quality assurance.”
Perhaps he’s read about Pavlov’s dog and has trained the park’s transients to simply haul their aching bones up at the rattle of his chains and lumber towards him, drooling like a lesbian at a sorority pajama party, their hands extended in anticipation of the small bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 he gives each one as they exit Vagrant Village. Regardless, this is a person tasked with a stupid job by stupid senior government employees who are told what to do by stupid politicians who think that locking up a lovely park at night makes my community better and safer. And I doubt any of the parties involved have a clue that they’re stupid.
However, after taking several more photos, no one emerged from the parked car. My husband strolled away to examine the old lettering on the side of a building, leaving me standing alone on the sidewalk. As I rounded the corner of the building, a young man wearing a knitted winter cap in 85 degree weather (I’m Stupid Clue #1), a tee shirt and plaid grandpa shorts hung so low the most experienced limbo dancer couldn’t squeeze between their hem and the asphalt (I’m Stupid Clue #2) jumped out of the car, skate board in hand, and began serenading me in a brash, intoxicated voice. “How can I get just one fuck? How can I get just one fuck? I guess it’s got somethin’ to do with luck…” (I’m Stupid Clue #3)
At this point he leaned towards me, dropped his skateboard and stretched out his arms, as though he was preparing to lunge at me, but I deftly sidestepped him, turned around and crooned, “But I waited my whole life for just one…,” before spinning back around and walking away. Behind me, I could hear his friends howling with laughter. The woman whom skater boy had figured was so white-bread that she’d shrink from him like a penis at the sight of a butcher knife could not only finish the lyrics to his crappy rendition of the Femmes’ “Add It Up,” but clearly wasn’t intimidated by the miniscule lump in his Scooby Doo boxers, either. Hell, that song had been my mantra when this kid’s mother was still smoking pot and giving out free hand jobs under the high school bleachers. I was tempted to return and inform him that until a decade ago, I’d regularly worn combat boots, but then I remembered my niece’s response when I’d told her the same thing in an effort to prove how cool I had been in my youth.
Me: Of course, I know who Jack White is. I used to wear combat boots practically every day of my life.
My Niece: (incredulously) Why?
Okay, now who’s stupid? It was a momentary lapse, I swear.
When I found my husband a moment later inspecting a chunk of exposed coquina shell, he asked, “What was that about?”
Shrugging my shoulders, I replied, “Just some stupid ass serenading me in the street.” It was obvious that the aforementioned stupid ass didn’t think he was stupid. He and his friends, I’d surmised, found him to be amusing, much in the way my orange tabby finds rubber bands endlessly entertaining. And my cat is stupid. We love him, but he’s a dumb ass. Everyone knows it…except for him. Just last night, while our other two felines – both infinitely more intelligent than our short bus kitty – were hanging out by the water bowls, one of them rolled her eyes and exhaled a deep purr before saying, “I caught Dumb Ass eating one of the fake plants. Again. I mean, there’s fresh fucking basil growing in a pot in the living room window and he’s chewing on a plastic cactus.”
“Well, at least he didn’t keep you awake last night licking the outside of the kitty litter bag,” the other cat replied, twitching his whiskers. “If he pulls that shit again, I am so gonna bite him on the nape of the neck and dominate his ass. Fucking retard.”
Considering that the plastic cactus in question has more bite marks than all the characters in The Twilight Saga combined, it’s apparent that stupid isn’t an affliction that can be easily cured. Trial and error has zero impact on those impacted by this disease.
As I thought about the subject of stupidity even further, I began to realize that stupid people not only fail to recognize their own stupidity, but they assume that everyone else is stupid. For example, yesterday afternoon, I’d traveled to the beachside town where we’d lived until recently for a doctor’s appointment. After having lunch with a friend of mine, I’d stepped out into the bright afternoon sunshine, smart phone in my hand. For those of you who’ve read my most recent post, you may recall that my husband and I recently met a couple from Atlanta who chose to move to this particular beachside town because they believed it to be sosafe. For the record, they also turned out to be pretty stupid.
I’d just made it to my car, when I was accosted by a hysterical woman with bleached blonde hair, smudged makeup, wearing hootchie mama shorts and a tank top sans bra stretched across her ample bosom, accompanied by a disheveled, tattooed, middle-aged man who smelled like a Mexican restaurant dumpster in mid-summer on the last day of a long, holiday weekend. “I just lost my iPhone!” the woman screeched, pointing a dirty fingernail in my direction. “I have to use your phone to call it.”
This was one of those moments in life in which I wished I’d had the time to order a coffee and sit down to ponder all the reasons why my phone would never, ever be released into the custody of Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants. However, as the ho-with-no-phone was demanding the use of mine asap, I only had time to consider a few:
1) iPhones are expensive, but the color of this chick’s brittle tresses appeared to have been achieved by soaking the bottom ¾ of her hair in a sink filled with Clorox;
2) Neither of these folks looked like Mac users, though I was pretty sure they were using something that began with the letter M;
3) If Tits Mountain was to be believed, she’d already lost one phone. Why in the hell would I trust her with mine? Let her start with something small. Something no one would miss if it were misplaced. Like an infant.
“I’ll call it for you,” I replied, as my fingers curled themselves tightly around my phone. “What’s your number?” Tits Mountain’s face drew a blank.
“Okay, I’ll run over there and listen for it,” she finally said, trotting across the street and stopping at the corner. Her friend reached out his grimy, crusted hands, seemingly very anxious to hold my phone – as if it would make the iPhone reappear or, even better, turn into a naked breast.
“The number?” I repeated. Again, the man reached for my cell, his index finger actually stroking its corner this time. Clearly, he believed that his touch would magically relax my iron-clad grasp on my Android. Like I said before, not only do stupid people not know that they’re stupid, they think everyone else is stupid. However, the chances of me allowing him to dial a single digit on my phone at that moment was up there with the odds of Tori Spelling winning a Pulitzer for her 17th memoir entitled, MasturbaTORI. Taking a step away from him and the pervasive stench of rotting refried beans, I waited patiently. Finally, the man rattled off a seven numbers.
As the phone began to ring, Mr. Grabby Hands leaned towards me, greedily eyeing my phone, his fingers twitching like an amateur poker player’s eye. Ms. Hootchie Mama Hot Pants watched from across the street as I lifted my cell to my ear, then she proceeded to run around in several small circles on the sidewalk – not unlike a dog locating the best patch of grass upon which to squat and poo – before throwing up her hands in frustration and dashing back across the street towards us. Apparently, she believed – or wanted me to – that she’d lost her iPhone somewhere in the four foot radius of that particular corner. I mean, you never know. Perhaps she had an invisibility app on her iPhone? Maybe she was beta testing the iPhone 5 for Apple and the new phone was so slim, it was possible to lose it in a hairline crack in the sidewalk? I almost asked her, “Where was the last place you saw it?” but I had the feeling the answer would involve a motel that charged by the half hour or the discarded mattress lying next to the dumpster behind Mi Pueblo Restaurante.
When it became clear to Dumb and Dumber that the phone would have to be extracted from my hand with the Jaws of Life, they quickly dropped the charade, half-heartedly thanking me for my help. Within seconds, they approached a group dining outside – not more than three yards away – who, having just witnessed the World’s Lamest Scammers Ever Getting Hosed, picked up their steak knives and shook their heads. After unsuccessfully hitting up two biker types on the sidewalk with the same story, the couple finally admitted defeat. As I drove off, I passed them strolling hand-in-hand down the street – headed in the opposite direction of the corner where the alleged iPhone had been lost.
I couldn’t decide what was worse: that these grifters thought that I would fall for their scam, or that they continued to press forward with the hope that others in the immediate vicinity would not see through a story as transparent as a cheap dry-cleaning bag? Clearly, these were stupid people who thought everyone else was more stupider and, like George Dubbya, figured that we would misunderestimate them too.
So as it stands, I have failed Wandering Voiceless because there is no tutorial for dealing with the stupid. There are things in this life that are simply immutable. Sarah Jessica Parker will never have a petite, up-turned nose. Anderson Cooper will never marry…a woman. Kim Jong-un is never going to appear on the cover of Playgirl.
What you can’t change, you must accept. So stop sending dictionaries to New Jersey Real Housewife, Teresa “Ingrediences” Giudice. Don’t waste your time arguing with Trump about the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate. Desist with the petitions to have Ann Coulter lobotomized.
Unless Stupid is the name of your new puppy, you can’t fix stupid.
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.
As some of you may know, last week I hit a bit of a milestone. And not with my car. That was a wall and it’s really just a tiny scratch. I always thought four doors on a car was a bit bourgeois anyway.
No, as of last week, over 1,000 kool-aid swilling lemmings beautiful, intelligent folks out there with fucking amazing taste in blogs have subscribed to read my paltry meanderings. This made me feel like a rock star. No, not like Rick Astley, Kitchen Slattern – not that there is anything wrong with a little Rick-rollin’! And by “Rick-rollin’,” I don’t mean the You Tube meme; I mean dancing around the house in my underwear crooning “Never Gonna Give You Up” into the handle of my Swiffer.
But back to feeling like a rock star. I’m talking about someone like Pink. Especially when she sings the line, “So what! I’m still a rock star, I’ve got my rock moves and I don’t need you…” Except I do need you. It was you, my loyal apostles readers, who brought me to this point…dancing around in my underwear again, this time singing into my hairbrush while wearing fluffy pink pig slippers. And I just want to say, “Thank you!”
But people say “thank you” a lot. When they don’t really mean it. It’s just a thing you say when a store clerk hands you a receipt or someone holds a door open for you out of habit. It’s the phrase you spit through gritted teeth at your obnoxious co-worker who just pointed out a mathematical error you made in your TPS report during a meeting with your boss’ boss. Worst is when it’s said really snarkily – “Ohhhhhh. Thaaaaaaank Yew!” And in a blog, it’s hard to know what kind of thank you you’re getting. Because you can’t hear me. You can’t see me. You don’t know if I’m sneering or smiling or cleaning out my toe jam to save in a jar for tomorrow’s breakfast when I say, “Thank you!”
So, in an effort to prove the sincerity of my thank you, I have decided to turn over the reigns of my paltry meandering brain to you, my servilelackeys subscribers, for a single post. Instead of writing about what I want to babble about for 2000+ words, I’m going to write about a topic that you assignto me. But there are over 1,000 of you.
Thus, the Tell The Taller Than Average Woman What To Prattle On About Next Contest has been created. Between now and Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5 p.m. E.S.T., you can submit up to 5 topics in the Comments Section below for me to pen a blog post about. Topics can be broad (Kim Kardashian’s ass) or extremely specific (the amoeba who lives on the mole on Kim Kardashian’s left butt cheek). Nothing is forbidden, although any requests from Stacie Chadwick, my blogging bestie and uber-attractive author of the high-larious blog, Gemini Girl in A Random World, to write about her naturally gorgeous face and fit body will be utterly ignored.
I will be the sole judge, though I will likely consult with my hubby and/or a psychic, the homeless drag queen who dresses to the nines while pushing her shopping cart down the street adjacent to my condo, and the bottom of my crystal wineglass. Especially that last one. I may have to consult it daily. Several times. Bottles of wine that mysteriously show up on my doorstep with a worshiper’s subscriber’s name attached will not be considered…a bribe. Particularly if they are bottles of pinot grigio or a nice, unoaked chardonnay with a high alcohol content.
The lucky winner, of course, will be featured prominently in my post with a link to their blog. And a photo should they opt to send me one. Unless they’re ugly. I mean, it really wouldn’t do either of us any good to have a photo of an ugly blogger included in my post. Unless, of course, the winner is unusually ugly. People are drawn to freaks like handcuffs are drawn to Lindsay Lohan’s wrists.
And now without further ado, let the games commence!
Your Humble Blogger,
P.S. Part II of Yoga Is Not A Character In Star Wars will be published Monday morning. Set your alarm clock. It’s going to be a great day. Unless you’re me. I think I may have pulled something.
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
And if you’re not already subscribed to my blog, click on the button that says, “Follow this blog – it leads to treasure.” Now. Right now. I don’t care if your baby just fell off the counter and is screaming her head off. How long does it take you to click on a freakin’ button? What idiot lays a baby on a kitchen counter, then sits down to read a blog? Seriously. If you’re really a stalker a fan, feel free to follow me on Twitter and on my FB page. I promise to continue to share humiliating stories about myself and others, if you promise to continue to read them.
If you’ve read my previous post listing the 10 reasons why David Sedaris, the uber-talented writer and humorist, won’t marry me, you’ll be interested to know that tonight I met the object of my affection in person…and proposed.
Okay, I halfheartedly suggested that he enter into marital bliss with me, knowing full well that our love would be a lie and, in the interest of full disclosure, admitted to him that if he agreed to make me Cristy Carrington Lewis Sedaris, both us would both likely be charged with bigamy – a third degree felony – by local authorities in the State of Florida. In the unlikely event that it was the fear of an unattractive mug shot that was the source of hesitation on David’s part, I was prepared to present him with a well-researched, legal defense, complete with a loophole and lots of Latin words – all of which would be written in italics to make them more intimidating. Florida law states that “Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries another person shall, except in the cases mentioned in s. 826.02, be guilty of a felony of the third degree…” Sounds pretty cut and dry. Except that the very first exception mentioned in s 826.02 (1), Fla. Stat. indicates that the bigamy penalties shall not apply to someone who reasonably believes that their prior spouse is dead.
As I would technically be the bigamist in the relationship, it would appear that any reasonable uncertainty about whether or not my husband, Matt is dead would serve as the loophole which could permit David and I to marry without being charged with a felony. How you may ask? Am I planning to take my husband sailing, toss him overboard like in a bad Ashley Judd film, then claim six weeks after his body fails to resurface that he must have become a tapas treat for a giant octopus (Matt loves calamari and payback’s a bitch)? After all, Matt possess a nice, lean body – attractive to a wide variety of deadly sea predators. But no, that’s not the tack I would take. The idea is to avoid criminal charges – and the badly lit photographs that accompany them – not to incur a six page spread in People magazine dedicated to nothing but David’s and my mug shots. Plus, I’m a girl who wants her cake and wants to eat it too. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a cake, if you think about it? I mean, if all you can do is look at the cake, that’s so fucked up. People like that are masochists, salivating over cream cheese frosting they’ll never allow themselves to taste. David may be my key lime pie, but Matt is my chocolate lava cake – and both have their place in my life.
No, I propose that we simply confuse the court with science. Why wouldn’t that work? If you’re a Republican, you are likely already befuddled and all I did was write the word, science. Specifically, I suggest utilizing the Schrödinger’s cat theory, which purports that if you place a cat in a box, you can’t know if the cat is alive or dead while it remains in the box. It could be either dead or alive, and both possibilities are entirely reasonable. Schrödinger clearly didn’t use any of my cats while proving this theory because they whine, screech, and use their cage as a litter box to signify their dissatisfaction when confined to a small, locked space (the opposite of a “dead” give away, I suppose). Moreover, the longer this experiment goes on – assuming that the cat box is not opened to provide food, water or air – at some point in the future, the odds of the cat being alive go from 50/50 to 99.99/.01, and not in the kitty’s favor. Regardless, I suggest that we put Matt in a such a box, drug him and seal his mouth with duct tape to ensure that I really have no idea of his status on this earth. Alive or dead? Who knows? And in that entirely reasonable moment, I could marry David Sedaris without censure. When Matt emerges alive, albeit irritated as hell that I’ve put him through this all so that I can marry a homosexual man who doesn’t know me and collects owls, I doubt there’s a court in the world who wouldn’t let me keep them both. And David has lots of room. We could move in with him. He’s apparently downsizing his owl collection – and then there’s all that space between his teeth.
In the alternative, I did propose to David that should he choose to reject my offer to become his betrothed, he could provide me with the 11th reason as to why he and I will never get hitched. The bastard chose the latter.
So, without further adieu, here is the 11th reason why David Sedaris won’t marry me:
As David Sedaris sketched this vagina with his Sharpie, he said, “Well, I assume this is what it looks like.” Close enough, David. Close enough.
So the other day, I got a black eye. The first one I’ve had since I was ten years old.
In 5th grade, I made the grave mistake of standing too close to an exit door at school. It was one of those enormous, heavy duty numbers with the long, horizontal bar across the inside that had to be pushed with two hands in order to open it. The kind with absolutely no warning sign on the outside, cautioning you that young boys liked to charge full speed down the hallway towards that bar so that the door would slam open and flatten the face of anyone attempting to open it on the other side. It is remarkable that my nose wasn’t broken. It is not remarkable that a boy named Bubba received a detention – and a severe Indian burn. After all, there’s no cautionary call like there is in golf or warfare to alert the innocent that they are about to be bombarded with pain. The twittering of the birds outside had drowned out the squeal of Bubba’s sneakers against the commercial grade linoleum flooring as he lumbered towards me and my once perfect nose. He was clearly at fault. I was the victim. Though Bubba attempted to garner sympathy from his friends by complaining about the punishment I’d later inflicted upon him, in the eyes of our peers, his slightly-inflamed wrist was a mere slap on the, erm, wrist when compared to my swollen nose and a shiner the color of grape jelly.
After all, black eyes were not the norm at my parochial school. Any self-respecting, God-fearing parent made sure to beat their children in places that were covered by their uniform. It would have been unseemly for a kid to show up at school with a hand-shaped bruise across their cheekbone or a cigarette burn on their forearm. Those parents clearly didn’t care about the image such reckless wounds promoted. These were the days of corporal punishment – both at home and in the principal’s office, but it was generally agreed upon that bruises and belt marks were best reserved for the buttocks, lest people know that your child misbehaved regularly. Denial wasn’t just a river in Egypt; it was piped into the water supply throughout the country. If you couldn’t see it, it never happened. We were all perfect children…who tended to sit very gingerly.
Sadly, as my accident was witnessed by several of my classmates, I wasn’t given the opportunity to maximize the popularity quotient that accompanies a serious injury by concocting a brilliant story about how I’d suddenly come to resemble Rocky Balboa more than Kristy McNichol. Not that I didn’t spend an entire evening in my canopy bed dreaming up exciting tales about how I’d obtained my painful shiner. In one fantasy, I’d chased down a mugger who’d stolen a little old lady’s purse. Though he’d surrendered the bag to me without a struggle, the far-sighted, ancient crone had beaten me in the face with her cane when I tried to return her pocket book – an early case of my poor self-esteem rearing its ugly head.
In another, I was attacked by a desperately jealous Dionne Warwick after she overheard me singing her hit, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” from my room (because her limo was always driving through random, lower middle class neighborhoods in Miami). As I trilled, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa… ,“ my song was cut short by one of the diva’s rhinestone encrusted platforms crashing through my bedroom window, striking me square in the eye. This fantasy was quickly discarded since none of the kids my age actually listened to Dionne Warwick. Had I chosen to offer this story up to my classmates, they likely would have blackened my other eye just for knowing the words (or simply “whoa-ing” as was the case here) to a song from our parents’ mortifying generation.
Without a juicy explanation about my shiner, I had to be content with a slight peak in peer interest which manifested itself in an invitation to sit next to Wendy Swipe at lunch and being chosen 6th for kickball during P.E. – which, as it turns out, was a personal high for the rest of my education. Not much of a reward considering I had to be a “mouth-breather” for a good week which, after the novelty of my black eye wore off, became a reason for students to kick the back of my chair and demand that I stop breathing so loudly. Nor did I enjoy the endless poking. Nothing like a kid’s dirty fingernail stabbing you thirty or forty times a day just millimeters from your eyeball, then hearing the inevitable question, “Does this hurt?” I’m certain there is a reason why the words purple, poke and pain start with the same letter. P must be the long lost, evil twin sister of the letter D (death, devil, divorce, Dokken).
This time around, however, things would be different. As part of the moving process, my husband and I returned to our previous rental home the day after we moved in order to give it a proper cleaning before turning the keys back over to the owners. After spending hours dusting baseboards, filling nail holes, dismantling the chicken coop in the living room, carting the Iron Maiden and wax-soaked altar out to the curb, freeing the imprisoned servants from the basement and hosing down their community urinal, I finally attacked the refrigerator. After emptying the contents, I sat down cross-legged on the floor and proceeded to remove the door shelves, one by one. My friend, Anthony, retrieved two shelves from me at a time and washed them in the sink, while I wiped away the remnants of frenzied moments with my true love, A1 Steak Sauce, from the inside of the refrigerator. As Anthony requested the remaining two shelves, I easily grasped the first from my seated position, but the butter compartment shelf eluded me. Stretching vigorously – because standing to reach something too high to touch while sitting on the kitchen floor is officially against my religion, just as arranging the throw pillows on the sofa properly is against my husband’s – my fingers finally stroked the cool plastic shelf. Pushing up against its white underside with my fingertips, I managed to dislodge the object of my desire, but like many things in life, I could not capture it.
But my face did.
I won’t explain the physics for you, mostly because I never actually took physics, but I can assure you that a hard piece of plastic with the heft of at least a pound or so falling at a high rate of speed towards the cheekbone of a short-waisted person hurts. A lot. Kinda like being hit in the face by a large steel door driven by a fat kid named Bubba. The fact that I am extraordinarily short-waisted is critical here because were I long-waisted, I would have been much taller in my seated position and either (a) would have easily grasped the butter shelf in my hand, completely avoiding said face catch, or (b) my face would have been much closer to the subject shelf thereby reducing the velocity at which it was plummeting when it struck me.
It was only after I successfully pried the butter compartment from my eye socket, that I realized standing would be inevitable, as I now had to reach the icemaker to obtain chunks of ice for my swelling cheekbone. Yes, the iconic bag o’ peas were packed away in a cooler. The slab of raw steak had been consumed the week prior. Anthony, bless his heart, stopped washing long enough to laugh his ass off at me. At which point, my husband entered the kitchen to find me blubbering incoherently about the horrendous ache that was streaking through my eyeball like a lightning strike – though all he could make out was “Wine! Get me a damned glass of wine! I’m in pain, goddamned it!”
Once he’d run across the street to borrow a corkscrew, he quickly poured me a glass of unoaked chardonnay – oh, don’t tell me you clean an empty house without a bottle of wine handy – then said soothingly, “Bitch, I done told you twiced!” But he hadn’t. My man had not told me twiced, he’d not told me onced, he’d not told me thriced, he’d not told me…erm, I’m not sure what comes after thriced, but he had not ever warned me, “Be careful. You’re a klutz and the refrigerator shelves will fall on your face the way rain falls in the Amazon.” Okay, he may have mentioned my klutziness in the past, but the concept of shelving hailing down upon my head had honestly never been discussed.
Nor had Anthony warned me. As the straightest gay man we know with a penchant for worrying and cautioning everyone about every possible catastrophe (If you swallow a watermelon seed, a watermelon will grow in your stomach!), he never once voiced any concern about me not being long-waisted enough to really look good in a bikini or to reach the butter compartment while seated in a lotus position. Still, as I wailed that my facial collision with G.E.’s butter shelf of steel was definitely going to “leave a mark,” Anthony attempted to console me.
“Honey,” he said, “that’s what makeup’s for.”
“No,” I retorted, “my regular face is what makeup’s for. Do you realize how hard I have to work to just look this good?” My husband shuddered slightly. He sees me first thing in the morning. Well, he did once. He quickly learned that it’s best to look away because staring at my bare visage before I’ve coated it with putty a dollop of Loreal’s Visible Lift Line-Minimizing Makeup is kind of like staring directly into the sun. It burns and has been known to cause permanent blindness. “Now I’m going to have to contend with covering a shiner,” I continue. “There isn’t a foundation thick enough. I’m going to need spackle and primer and one of those rubber skin prosthesis.”
It’s just a shame that this disaster occurred on the last day of March instead of the last day of October. Had it been Halloween, I could have turned lemons into lemonade by converting my black eye into a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills costume – you know, the blonde one who also “done got told twiced” not long before her estranged and abusive husband got the payback he deserved committed suicide.
Anthony shook his head solemnly, then said, “That’s just not true. God created makeup to make women look less disobedient.”
And there it was. My life had come full circle. Just as the welts from childhood beatings at the hand of my father wielding a leather belt were hidden beneath the skirts of my plaid uniform so that others wouldn’t know how naughty I was, my shiner would now be concealed by makeup so that people wouldn’t know how stupid I was. I mean, if you’re hiding a shiner, it’s only because you done been told twiced. Right? Someone who’d never been warned at all shouldn’t have to hide their injury. I mean, it’s not really their fault. It’s an Act of God, if you think about it. No bitch should feel shame for getting a black eye when she hadn’t done been told twiced.
Perhaps I could turn this around. Perhaps I didn’t need to bear the brunt of the guffaws that were likely to come. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to endure the rolled eyes and the constant whispers: Why didn’t she listen? I hear her husband done told her twiced. Tossing my ice into the sink, I smiled smugly to myself as my cheek puffed up like a Pepperidge Farm pastry. A little while later, the doorbell rang, announcing the arrival of our property manager, Theresa, who was accompanied by a potential tenant. “Cristy, this is Beverly. Cristy can tell you how great the neighborhood is, how family-oriented it is. Right, Cristy?” she crooned, her voice wavering a bit as she stared at my swollen eye, which had taken on a distinctly lavender hue.
As Beverly extended her hand to me, I shrank back, throwing up an arm protectively. “He done never told me at all. Not even onced. Definitely not twiced!” I shrieked. And they believed me. The outpouring of sympathy was immediate. I didn’t need an elaborate story involving an aging diva and a fabulous shoe. I only needed to state the facts. I hadn’t been warned. And everyone knows that a bitch has gotta done be told twiced before you can take a swipe at her – or allow her stupidity to place her in the position of being struck by falling appliance shelves. There would be no makeup. I would bear my shiner proudly. This time anyway. After all, now I’ve done been told twiced.
(Though I make light of it here, domestic abuse is no laughing matter. If you are being abused or know someone who is, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. It doesn’t matter if he done told you twiced!)
When I met my husband over eight years ago, we each had two cats – mine were female and his were male. We fell in love and, upon combining our households, became the feline version of the Brady Bunch – except I had slightly better hair than Carol Brady and our backyard wasn’t covered in astro turf. Like the Brady’s, our kitties bunked together, fought frequently over who got to use the clubhouse, and shared a single bathroom.
When we married five years later, we decided against breeding (kids, not cats) after weighing the pros and cons of Kids vs. Kitties. The Kitties won and here’s why:
1) Fur hides bruises better than makeup. (No, I don’t beat my cats. I find whisking makes them fluffier.)
2) Though socially unacceptable in the United States, it’s not illegal to kill and eat your felines if facing starvation. Do that with your kid and your nickname in prison will be Donner Daddy.
3) Annual cost to raise a child: Approximately $13,000. Annual cost to raise a cat: Approximately $700. You do the math. For the amount it takes to raise a kid, you could adopt well over a dozen kitties and gain yourself an official title: Ailurophilia. That’s Greek for “cat lover.” Of course, there’s the unofficial title that the neighbors will call you: Crazy Cat Lady. And if you go overboard, you’ll end up in a shit-filled hovel that serves as a giant litter box for your zillions of kitties and the star of the next episode of Hoarders. So stick with just a couple of felines and buy yourself a nifty sports car instead.
4) Annual day care expenses for infants and young children can range from $4000 to $10,000 per year. Cats, on the other hand, are self-sufficient. Their day care looks something like this:
5) If one of your cats mysteriously disappears, people will say this, “Awwww, so sorry Fluffy ran away. You must be so sad.” Not this: “M’am at the time of Fluffy’s disappearance, do you have an alibi for your whereabouts?” Or this: “Neighbors reported hearing you shout, ‘Bad kitty!’ several times the night before Fluffy disappeared. Were the two of you having relationship problems?”
6) When your cat is whiny and uncontrollable in the car, you can lock it up in a cage. Apparently, this practice is frowned upon in at least 47 states when children are involved. No matter what Boost Mobile says.
7) Cats are unable to verbalize their complaints about what all the other felines in the neighborhood are allowed to eat, watch, play with, or how late they’re permitted to stay out. Though they may attempt to do so by crying, “Meeeooow, meeeeowww, mow, mow,” all we hear is “Meeeoow, meeeeowww, mow, mow.” Sorry, don’t understand a single word. Not one.
8) Kids beg for expensive sneakers, video games, designer purses and cars. Cats beg for that little piece of gristle that you spit out onto your plate.
9) Pot is illegal. Catnip is not. Likewise, it is illegal to get your kid high in order to give them an “attitude adjustment.” Not so with felines. Adjust away.
10) If your teenage cat gets knocked up, you can just give the kittens away. No paperwork. No red tape. No DNA testing to determine which of her boyfriends is the father. No arguments from your cat that she’s a grown up and that she and the baby daddy are gonna raise little Moonbeam on their own – right after they score a little catnip.
11) Euthanasia. Is. Legal. For. Cats. Note to cats: Don’t be expensive. No cat is THAT cute.
12) If you pet your kid for a half hour straight, you’re a pedophile. If you pet your cat for a half hour straight, you’re just a person covered in cat hair who clearly loves and adores their kitty.
13) With children, there’s no way to really use and enjoy all the skin and hair they shed on a daily basis. Ed Begley, Jr. would call that a waste of natural resources. A cat’s fur, on the other hand can be culled, woven into yarn, then knitted into a lovely sweater that leaves a nearly invisible carbon footprint paw print. Moreover, it only takes about 24 cat skins to make a coat, which means that Mr. Buttons can live forever…on your back.
14) Cats rarely cry, but when they do, it is for very specific reasons. They are either hungry, thirsty, in pain, locked in a closet or desiring attention. Unlike babies, however, once said need is met, they stop crying. They. Stop. Crying. This is HUGE.
15) Cats don’t attend college or technical school, nor do they take dance classes, gymnastics, or piano lessons. Cha-Ching! Likewise, they don’t play team sports. This means no after school car pools for you, nor will you be forced to spend your weekends watching little Jimmy miss the hoop again. And again. And again.
16) If you’re an ounce overweight, your teenager will be the first to let you know. “No, you can’t borrow my scarf. You’ll totally stretch it out.” The bigger your lap and belly, the happier your cat.
17) Unlike children, cats don’t hog the television. You will never have to listen to a purple dinosaur sing songs about loving everyone, nor will you learn what an Elmo is, why it talks so much and why you have to wait in a line outside of Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving to acquire one for your child. No Hannah Montana. No iCarly. No Suite Life on Deck. Family television is for suckas! Let’s watch Showtime!
18) Cats don’t watch porn, so keep yours lying around if you like. Your friends probably already know that you’re a perv.
19) Cats won’t steal your Vicodin and Valium, but make sure you don’t leave the lunch meat out on the counter. Honey-cured ham is like crack for kitties.
20) Because cats don’t attend school, you don’t have to help them with their homework. Of course, this means that you will forever be dumber than a fifth grader since you won’t be relearning all that stuff you studied in grammar school.
21) Can’t cook? That’s okay. Friskies has done all the work for you. You can open a can, right?
22) Kids have been known to steal money from their parents. It’s called an allowance. This is a foreign concept in the cat world. Kitties don’t wear pants and, therefore, they don’t have pockets. Thus, there is nowhere for them to hide money or carry it to a mall to make a purchase. A cat’s only currency consists of bouncy balls, mousies, toys involving a stick, a string and a collection of feathers, and a small stash of catnip. It is acceptable (meaning: preferred) for a cat be naked throughout the day. It is illegal for your child to run around in the buff once he or she is in grade school, so don’t try to avoid the whole allowance thing by refusing to buy your kid pants.
23) Kids start out as babies and, during this time, expect to be fed every few hours – regardless of the time, the fact that The Walking Dead season finale is on, or that you’re just sick to death of letting them suck on your sore, shriveled tit. Cats are fed once or twice a day. You set the schedule. Your breasts should NEVER be involved.
24) Sick of hosting ALL the parties at your place? Feel like it’s time for someone else to shoulder the burden? Guess what? Up to 25% of people are ALLERGIC to cats. The next time you’re asked to host Superbowl Sunday, your response can be, “Wow! We’d love to, but we recently adopted Whiskers and Puffball – and I just heard that George and Larry are allergic to cats. Man, who knew?” Apparently, there are no known allergies to children; though kids are often irritating to adults, it’s apparently not sufficient enough to cause a rash, sneezing or watery eyes.
25) To date, no cat has ever murdered its entire family in a hate-fueled rage. I’m not saying that they don’t think about it, but the lack of opposable thumbs makes it impossible for them to wield a weapon. That said, if you die in your home and are not immediately discovered, a cat may dine on you instead of reporting your death to the proper authorities.
26) Unlike young children, cats bathe themselves. In fact, if you try to aide them in this activity – particularly using soap and water – they will become extremely agitated. In addition to being self-sufficient in this area, they are also exceptionally diligent – spending up to a third of their waking hours grooming themselves. Compare this to a child who spends approximately a third of a minute grooming himself.
27) Average cost for a funeral for a human: Approximately $7500. Average cost to bury a cat: Free. Unless you don’t own a shovel, in which case, the cost goes up to about $25.
28) Your teenager practically never wants to curl up in your lap, rub his face against your calf or nuzzle your cheek. If he does, he’s probably retarded. Sorry.
29) Purring has been known to induce sleep in insomniacs. Your teen’s favorite music vibrating through your bedroom wall has not.
30) The jury is out on whether or not having children increases your lifespan, but studies have proven that owning a cat can ensure that you spend another two or more years on this planet. Granted, they’ll probably be the most unpleasant of your life since you’ll be an old codger who’s sick, wrinkled and craps your pants – plus, your friends with cat allergies won’t visit you – but you’ll be here!
31) A cat will never beg you to buy it a puppy.
32) Cats won’t drink your vodka while you’re away and then fill the bottle up with water to hide their deception.
33) It’s often difficult to convince a child to go anywhere near a bug or lizard. Cats don’t have this fear. Not only will a cat capture any small creature that wanders into its territory, it will also toy with it, kill it and then leave it in a convenient place for you to find for disposal purposes. Granted, that convenient place might be your pillow, but at least you won’t be surprised by a cockroach running across your toes in the middle of the night.
34) Unlike kids – especially teenagers – cats don’t like clothes. Period. Or costumes. Or reindeer antlers. Or fancy, frilled collars made of colorful fabrics and bells. This will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year. Unless you’re one of those cat owners. You know, the kind who insists that cats enjoy wearing silly outfits. The kind who thinks that cats want to walk on leashes. The kind who thinks your cat can read your mind. The kind who is hoarding canned food and weapons because he thinks the world is going to end on December 21rst.
35) You don’t have to carry a kitten around in your belly for nine months. Plus, if you wait until the kitten is weaned, the hardest thing you’ll have to do is teach it to use a litter box. No breast pumps. No nipple pads. No sagging. No pregnancy weight gain. No stretch marks. No morning sickness. No maternity clothes. No labor. No telling your husband, “I fucking hate your guts for doing this to me. There’s a goddamned alien inside of me that is ripping my vagina completely apart. I’m never letting you touch me ever again!”
36) If your cat overhears you and your partner having sex, it won’t scar them for life. Nor will they tell all their friends at school, your neighbors and your in-laws that Mommy likes to call Daddy her “Throbbing Horndog Stallion.”
37) You can leave your cats alone for the weekend without worrying that your lawnmower will be resting at the bottom of your pool when you return.
38) You can’t castrate your randy teenage boy – as much as you’d like to. This practice, however, is encouraged among cat owners. Here, kitty. Snip. Snip.
39) If your teenager is pissed at you, the retail therapy involved to keep her from moping, whining and complaining for the next week could be expensive. If Tabby is ticked off at you, you need merely to open a 99 cent can of tuna fish and the purring will commence.
40) There are two things every parent dreads: (1) having The Talk with their kid, and (2) teaching their kid how to drive the family car. These are moot issues for cat owners. First, there is no Talk. Sex is instinctive for cats. Breeding cats is easier than Ashton Kutcher garnering Twitter followers. Also easy: ensuring that your cats don’t breed. And no, condoms are not involved. Second, cats are too short to drive. Unlike teenagers who have stupid laws on their side that permit them to drive if they reach a certain age and pass a test, the smartest cat in the world is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. And with good reason. What? You’ve never seen Toonces the Driving Cat?
So there you go. Before you jump into the world of breeding miniature humans, consider adopting a couple of kitties. C’mon. Do you really want to give up your freedom for the next 20 – 30 years? Don’t you enjoy going on vacation to a place uninhabited by cartoon characters? Giving up the booze and the smokes for a whole nine months is a LONG time. Still, I sense you’re not quite sure. Here…let me help.
This post is dedicated to Mariah Carrington Lewis. We love you, miss you and think of you every day.
We’re all taught to be nice to others. To treat people as we would like to be treated. Bumper stickers proclaim “Mean People Suck” and “Mean People Are Mean.” And while not terribly eloquent and apparently created by four year olds, their message is dead-on accurate. Mean people suck. But without them, humanity will wither and, eventually, die.
Though some would disagree, many believe that people are becoming more pleasant. Particularly here, in the United States. The manner in which we debate politically evidences this fact. Our politicians actually sing, they’re so happy with one another. They call each other by cute nicknames like “Mitt” and “Newt” and “That Black Interloper in the White House.” One group of conservatives who seems particularly desperate to reach out to others calls themselves “The Tea Party.” Clearly, it’s an invitation. Come on over. We’ll talk tax cuts and why it’s nobody’s fault but your own if you don’t have health insurance, and drink a cup of chamomile (No English Breakfast Tea – they’re bloody Socialists, dontcha know?). I bet they’d serve cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off if you requested it.
This level of friendliness has also impacted the manner in which our country deals with other nations. When U.S. troops visit other countries – without their permission – and in large numbers, this is no longer considered an invasion or war, but an “Operation” – i.e. Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Desert Storm. We no longer kill our enemies, we neutralize assets using smart bombs and surgical strikes. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I’m not sure if we’re running a war or a MASH unit or fixing kid’s cleft palates. The whole thing sounds so civil and professional and medical. Even when we lose one of our own, it’s often to “friendly fire.” Did the deceased soldier feel that the bullets or bombs that took his or her life were particularly amiable? He or she must have because, otherwise, a term like friendly fire would almost be insulting to the families those heroes left behind. And nice people don’t insult widows and orphaned children. It’s inherently NOT nice.
Overall, this may be one of the nicest decades in history. According to Steven Pinker, Harvard psychology professor and author of The Better Angels of our Nature, “Today we may be living in the most peaceable era of our species’ existence.” What? We’re less violent today, you say? That’s just crazy talk! We’ve got non-stop wars going on. We’re armed to the gills. Our ghettos are infested with gangs. Schools employ the use of metal detectors. Someone threw glitter at Newt Gingrich. Paula Abdul was canned as an X-Factor judge. Kim Kardashian has to travel with multiple body guards. Paris Hilton’s house is continuously burgled. Jimmy Fallon’s band insinuated that Michele Bachmann is a “lyin’ ass bitch.” It’s a cruel, mean world.
Au contraire, says TheNew York Times journalist, Nicholas D. Kristof, who recently examined the warm-and-fuzzy worldwide trend in his article, “Are We Getting Nicer?” Actually, he didn’t really say, “Aucontraire.” But he would – if he was here sitting next to me right now as I write this blog. Which he isn’t. He’d also say, “You know, it’s really late. Mind if I take a little nap?” What he did say is that in the 20th century, a time “notorious for world war and genocide,” only about 3% of all deaths involved “such man-made catastrophes.” By comparison, in Native American, hunter-gatherer societies, 13% died as the result of violence, and the 17th century’s “Thirty Years’ War reduced Germany’s population by as much as one-third.” Now either Kristof, like Bobby Fischer and David Duke, doesn’t believe the Holocaust occurred and is leaving out a whole lot of dead people in his calculations – or humans used to be much, much, much more violent. We were bad asses. A few centuries ago, “Oh, no she diddddn’t” was inevitably followed by the previously-referenced “she” person’s head being paraded around the town on a stick. Three hundred years ago, the Grimm brothers wrote fairy tales – for little children – involving cannibalism, the severing of various limbs, a talking dead horse head, kidnapping, murder, imprisonment in tall towers, and talking drops of blood. S&M wasn’t a sexual fetish; it was a religious conversion technique.
Further supporting the theory that society is becoming a kinder, gentler place is The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2010 report, Crime In the United States, which indicates a steady decline in violent crime over the last five years. Between 2009 and 2010 alone, there was a 6% decrease. And since 2006, the incidence of violent crime has dipped over 13%. If this is true, then surely – at this rate – we’ll all be dancing naked and banging drums around bonfires singing Kumbaya in another twenty years, and living in an Egalitarian society in which all food and goods are gifted to one another on the basis of need.
However, if you’re like me, you don’t trust the numbers. Former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, may have put it best when he said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Numbers can be manipulated and our country’s leaders are quick to point that out. For example, Rick Perry emphatically stated in his book, Fed Up!, that global warming and the science supporting it is “one contrived phony mess.” Likewise, fast-food expert Herman Cain recently weighed in on the same issue, calling the whole thing “a scam.” Granted, neither of them possess an actual background in climatology, but they’re wealthy men with good jobs – and they recognize manipulation when they see it. One of them has years of experience running a corporation in which lobbying, greed and corruption are not uncommon, so he’s familiar with collusion; the other is an expert in numbers manipulation himself, most recently with his 9-9-9 Plan (though I personally think he stole it from a Beatles’ song). Just as these political giants dismiss global warming, I’m certain they’d disagree with all these crazy statistics that claim our world is gradually becoming a nicer place.
Perhaps some anecdotal evidence would be more convincing. Halloween is a perfect example. Unlike the Seventies when children were encouraged to go strangers’ doors dressed in strange costumes and rudely scream, “Trick or Treat!” into homeowners’ faces on an annual basis, parents now shepherd their rugrats to the mall, where they now shout “Trick or Treat” into the faces of mall employees. Wait! Isn’t this evidence of the fact that parents are worried about their children’s safety because the world is NOT a nicer place? No. No. Not at all. This is merely indicative of the fact that parents have recognized the burden that Halloween places on the average person. How rude is it to allow your kids to bang on some old lady’s door thirty or forty times in one night and threaten her with a “trick” if she doesn’t give scary looking children (who, in her mind, might be demonic dwarves) candy that she really can’t afford on her fixed income? Especially when she’s trying to watch Hot In Cleveland. You can’t miss a second of that show ’cause Betty “Don’t Buy Me Green Bananas” White could go at an any minute.
By taking children to the mall instead, parents are attempting to mitigate the impact of Halloween’s expense and inconvenience on others. Unlike the elderly woman I mentioned, mall employees aren’t watching television, so the children aren’t interrupting them doing something important. And they’re paid to be yelled at. In fact, they’re hollered at regularly (though less than before, because we are getting friendlier) and they don’t have to bear the expense of the candy distributed to the ankle-biters to get them to run along and harass someone else. This cost is absorbed by Corporate America and I don’t care what anyone says, they aren’t people and I don’t have to be nicer to them.
Assuming the statistics and anecdotal evidence supporting the Amiable Argument, as I like to call it, are correct, how is this a bad thing? Won’t we, as a society, be happier? Isn’t this what we’ve been aspiring to as humans – evolving over the years into more civilized creatures capable of empathy and love? It looks as though we’re almost there. We’re right on the cusp of Utopia, ready to fall off the precipice into the gorge of universal peace.
Yeah, okay. Lemme know when you’re done huggin’ that tree and are willing to put the patchouli incense away. Please. It stinks. Oh, and that crystal you’ve been rubbing under your armpits – not working. It’s like being downwind of a pair of Larry King’s Depends first thing in the morning before his babysitter wife has changed him. Oh, and you – radical conservatives who doubt anything that God didn’t handwrite Himself in your translated-a-billion-times-over King James version of the Bible, I’ve got a question for you. If God created everything, then He created the metaphor, right? Why would the universe’s greatest super hero invent a linguistic tool, inspire one of the best-selling books of all time and not use a single metaphor anywhere in that very, very long book? C’mon – can’t we agree that maybe everything shouldn’t be taken literally? Maybe Christ wasn’t really a vine. Or a door. And maybe seven days is more like seven million years.
So back to why nice people will be the death of us all. Darwin. Natural selection. Oh, let me guess. That’s more poppycock, right? Darwin’s theories are up there with global warming and the Holocaust and the moon landing. Crazy talk! Fine, but the dinosaurs probably dismissed him as well and it didn’t turn out so well for most of them now, did it? No, I’m not saying that being amiable will be the catalyst for the natural disaster that will spawn another Ice Age – for which we are sorely unprepared.
What I’m saying is that when everything’s good, when everything’s easy-peasy, is when our DNA becomes complacent. Instead of developing opposable big toes like Beast in X-Men: First Class or the ability to communicate with one another almost entirely through pheromones like ants, we’re doing nothing. We’re letting our technology do our thinking for us, sitting in front of our computers all day while our muscle tone slowly dwindles, and our girths expand until width is the term used to describe one’s size, not height. I’m no wack-a-doo soothsayer, either. Pixar foretold this future a few years back in WALL-E.
Think I’m crazy? Visit any Wal-Mart or grocery store and see how many of those scooters are now available for shoppers. Twenty years ago, they didn’t exist. They were called wheelchairs – and you brought your own with you. Because you were crippled – not fat and lazy. One upon a time, heavy-set people just waddled up and down the aisles like the rest of us. For us, it was shopping; for them, it was an aerobic workout, but it was better than sitting on your ass because you might get a tad out of breath. Now you have to be careful where you walk at a theme park because you’ll get run down by someone who can’t be bothered to get off their butt (or just wants to get to the next ride faster – those friggin’ scooters have some serious horsepower). And this is bad for us as a species. When apex predators get fat and lazy, they get eaten by new apex predators.
Without mean people, the human race will lose it’s only predator. As apex predators, we are remarkably similar to sharks and crocodiles, neither of which has changed much since the K/T Extinction Event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Still, a long time ago, both were quite a bit larger, but after being the big guys on campus for so long, they inevitably began to take it easy, evolutionarily speaking. Imagine an crocodile thinking to himself millions of years ago, “Wildebeest aren’t getting any bigger. I couldn’t probably lose a few inches of tail, spend a little less time at the gym and a work on my tan more often and still get plenty to eat. Same with sharks. For 14 million years, the 50-foot long Megalodon was, literally, the big motherfuckin’ fish in the big motherfuckin’ pond. Though some dispute that the Great White Shark is a descendant of the Megalodon and the reason for this monster’s extinction has never been determined, it’s possible that Mega Mouth just got tired of chewing (My husband often claims that it’s the most boring of activities) and filling its enormous belly. Maybe he thought, “If I dropped a good 35 tons, I could still rule this roost no problem and I wouldn’t have to feed all the darn time. I could take up Scrabble or write that novel I keep talking about.” And The Great White Shark was born.
Regardless, these apex-predators of the oceans and rivers are in trouble. The Great White is now more endangered than tigers. In the United States, alligators were endangered for years and are now a protected species. Numerous species of crocodiles across the world are currently endangered. Why? Ultimately, because we are the Uber Villain in the comic strip called, “Earth.” We hunt them, we steal and pollute their habitat, we make awful films about gimongous versions of them. Except, as we get lazier, spawn fewer evolved children and destroy our DNA with crystal meth, the chimps out there are eating well, throwing poo (a sign of intelligence and one step away from learning to use an uzi) and are fashioning and using weapons. Whaaaaaat? Weapons? Yep. Santino, a chimp in the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden, began creating disks out of concrete and collecting stones – even after hours – to throw at annoying tourists while the zoo was open. Scared yet?
So keep it up, Nice People. If you do, Planet of the Apes could be your future. Mean People keep you on your toes. They pick on you so that you’re too embarrassed to ride around on that scooter, hogging the damn cereal aisle. They mind-fuck you at work to keep your synapses firing, and cut you off in traffic to keep your eye-hand coordination intact. They beat you up in the playground to teach you how to defend yourself, mug you in the alley so you understand when to fight and when to flee, and steal your girlfriend so you learn to treat the next one like gold. Mean people make your books and films interesting. Conflict is what makes the world go round…not conservation of angular momentum. That’s just more science poppycock. Back me up on this one, Rick Perry.