Monday, March 22, 2010

What is that music?

My mother is number 2 of 11 children. The "middle" pack of siblings are of the hippie generation. I remember the long hair, headbands, peace signs, and the other stereotypical things we think of when we think of that era. Not surprisingly, many of her siblings are of the liberal ilk, and are much more open about their life and their experiences than the people of her generation.

So one of my mother's sisters is married to a tattooed, motorcycle-riding guy who has always liked to keep busy with his hands doing landscaping, yard work, arts and crafts, etc. For a long long time they lived in this house that had the greatest back yard ...orchards at the very back, a swimming pool, plenty of yard to play, and this great patio. Together they created this two-part patio ... half was covered, and half was not. The uncovered part had a koi pond, a sitting area, and heaters. The covered part was unremarkable, just what you would picture it to be. The best part, though, was the speaker system. My uncle wired a bunch of speakers and mounted them on the patio cover. They could hook it up to their stereo and pipe music outside whenever they wanted.

One night a few years ago, the Ex and I were visiting. We were sitting outside near the koi pond, drinking beer and chatting, with my aunt, uncle and their two grown children. We were listening to music, and the conversation turned to the mounted speakers and the music that was playing. We were wondering whether the neighbors ever complained about the music, which lead to the following story.

One night my aunt and uncle had been watching an adult movie together and had it hooked up to their surround sound. They didn't know it, but it was also hooked up to the outside speakers. They were broadcasting the "oh oh ohs" and the bow-chicka-bow-bow to the entire neighborhood!! I asked if their neighbors had said anything and they said that strangely, no one had. But the neighbors were averting their eyes and avoiding their gaze as well.

Can you imagine? I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Only in my family, I swear!

Monday, March 15, 2010

No More Eye Jousting!

Sweetie is a scaredy-cat. Despite the fact that he is approaching his 8th birthday, this kid is afraid of everything. He's getting better, but seriously, everything freaks him out. Knowing this about him, I was hesitant to take him to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, but he begged. He "promised" he wouldn't get scared as long as we didn't go to the 3-D version. Ha. Famous last words.

If you're familiar with Tim Burton's work, you know that he is "dark" and, some would say, a bit twisted in his vision. Though I am generally a sunny person and prefer the bright and happy things in life, I like Tim Burton's work for the genius of it. He definitely has his own vision and he puts it in everything he does. I love that about his films. His vision shows again in Alice in Wonderland. He takes the famous story and adjusts it. It begins with Alice as a young girl having a recurring nightmare, where she goes to this strange place called Wonderland that has all of these strange characters. She explains to her father that she thinks she's going crazy because she sees a purple disappearing cat, a blue caterpillar, a mad hatter, and various other odd creatures. Her father - a visionary who has been called nuts more than once in his life - assures her it is only a dream, and if she gets scared, she need merely pinch herself and she will wake up.

Fast forward 13 years; Alice's father has died and her mother is attempting to marry her off to a nobleman. After the young man proposes, Alice needs a moment, and she runs away to think. She follows this little white rabbit she keeps seeing running in the bushes of the garden. She is peeking down a hole and she falls ... all the way down to Underland. Things have changed over the years, but the same characters are there and they've been waiting for her. According to an ancient scroll, she will slay the Red Queen's champion on a particular day (which is coming soon). They've been looking for the "right" Alice so she can come and do the deed.

The movie is full of trials and tribulations for Alice as she tries to figure out what to do. Not surprisingly, there are chases and battles. In one of the chases early in the movie, the famous doormouse pokes a needle in the eye of a beast, pulls it out, and saves it as a trophy. Though blood did not squirt all over the place, the gouging was pretty obvious. Sweetie flipped out!! "Mom, did you see that? That mouse jousted out his eye. Oooooh, let's go, I don't want to see anymore eye jousting." That was it for him. I refused to leave - he insisted on seeing the movie and we just got there - so he wrapped his arms around my upper arm and buried his head. "Tell me when the eye jousting is over." Despite my many promises that the eye "gouging" was finished, he hid his face for quite awhile.

As the movie progressed, some "creepy" things happen. In one scene, Alice must hop on the severed heads - left over the from the Red Queen's "off with his head" declarations - in order to cross a river. Sweetie flipped again. It took awhile until he finally settled again, though he leaned over and said, "Mom, I really want to go. I know there's going to be more eye jousting." Steadfast in my purported lesson of "finish what you start" I did not budge.

As the movie was building to the denoument, the final battle erupted; the red knight (a brilliant surprise by Crispin Glover) and all of the red cards were fighting with the odd characters of Alice's tea party. And wouldn't you know it, someone gouged out another eye! Sweetie sat up, looked at me with wide eyes and said "you said there wouldn't be anymore eye jousting, but they just did it again. I'll wait for you in the hall!" and I'll be darned if that kid did not get up from his seat and beat feet out of the theater! We were so close to the end I tried to coax him to hold on just a few more minutes but he remained committed. He said, "really, Mom, I'll just sit right outside the door. No more eye jousting!"

So I stood at the top of the aisle, with him outside the door, and I watched the last five minutes of the film. When I walked out to meet him, I chuckled and said he was just being silly, that it wasn't that bad and the rest of the movie was fine and he stood right in front of me, looked me straight in the eyes (pun intended) and said, "Mom, I have a new rule for movies. No shooting, no blood, no hurting animals, and now no more eye jousting!"

Well. So there it is.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm not ready to meet Kevin yet!

I grew up in a non-religious home; my parents were forced to go to church as children and hated it, so they never made my sister and me go. I remember going to various churches with friends growing up, but we did not have a family church and I do not recall ever attending church with either of my parents. I am not a religious person, though I have been on a personal spiritual journey for the past few years. The Ex claims to be an atheist, so I'm sure it's no surprise that our children do not attend church and have not had any formal religious training.

Sweetie is a thinker, and he has lots of questions about everything. I've mentioned his spirituality before; he's very new age-y, especially for a child at the ripe old age of 7. When he asks questions about death, God, love, etc. I try to answer them honestly. I tell him that nobody knows the answers for sure, and lots of people believe different things. He knows I believe in God and his dad does not.

Stinker has never asked any questions about God. So imagine my surprise when the following conversation took place:

Stinker: [after explaining the safety rules at school] So I make sure I don't run on the sidewalk, or let go of one hand on the monkey bars, or any of that other stuff so I don't fall and crack my head open.
Me: That's good, honey. I'm glad you keep yourself safe when you're playing at school. You definitely don't want to fall and hurt yourself.
Stinker: Yeah, because I'm not ready to meet Kevin yet.
Me: Kevin? Whose Kevin?
Stinker: You know, Kevin. The man in the sky who meets you after you die.
Me: There's a man in the sky named Kevin?
Stinker: Yeah. He lives in the clouds and sits in a big chair. He has a place up there.
Me: Are you talking about God? In Heaven?
Stinker: No, his name is Kevin.
Me: Sweetheart, I've never heard of anybody in the sky named Kevin. But I believe there is a man named God who some people think lives in the clouds. And he lives in a place called Heaven.
Stinker: Nope, not that guy. I'm talking about Kevin.

Oh. My. Gosh. I could not stop laughing. It took me awhile, but I think I figured out what happened. One of his little friends in pre-school lost his father last Thanksgiving, and he was telling people that his daddy died and was now in Heaven. I think Stinker mis-heard, and thinks he heard "Kevin." His 4-year-old little brain translated that information into a guy named Kevin who lives in the sky, and that's who you meet when you die.

There's no arguing with a 4-year-old once he has figured something out. At least I should be glad he isn't ready to meet Kevin yet.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pukes Today, Leaders Tomorrow?

I was going to start this post by asking "what's wrong with kids today?" but I realized the inspiration for my post is not really the kids but the management of the McDonald's where I encountered these kids.

I took my boys to McDonald's for dinner. (Shhhhh, stop judging!) We were there at the peak of the "family" dinner hour and there were lots of little kids there in addition to mine. Unfortunately, there were a bunch of teenagers in there, too. One group in particular had three booths in a row and took up an entire wall of the restaurant, right next to the fountain where every customer had to go for napkins, drinks, straws, ketchup, etc.

Now I know that teenagers are a species all by themselves. I get that they are loud, and they're full of hormones, and when in groups they are flirting and playing. The volume was not what bothered me, nor did I care that they were mouthing off to each other. What bothered me was the girl who really thought she was cool, but she was actually nothing more than a bully. She yelled the F word, loudly, at least 3 times while there were small children - including mine - standing 5 feet away from her. She hit one of the boys in the face after calling him a name. She pulled one of the girls' ponytails. She sat and threw french fries across the table at one of the boys. She was mouthy and abusive to everyone. In short, she was a puke. I do not understand why the other kids were friends with her, but teenage friendships are often a mystery to me.

What I want to know is, why didn't the manager of McDonald's do something? Shouldn't the manager have said something to this girl? I'm not suggesting the girl should have been kicked out - though I probably would have applauded if that had happened - but at a minimum one would think a simple warning was in order. "This is a family restaurant so foul language and physical contact will not be tolerated." How hard would that have been? As a bonus, it might have got the other kids to calm down just a little. Really, is the loss of a teenage customer a match for the loss of families as customers?

The scary thing? These kids all had the same club/group name on their backpacks that suggested some kind of leadership program. So am I supposed to be impressed that the pukes of today are the leaders of tomorrow?

I think I want to puke.

Are we going to cook Gigi?

Sweetie is a really spiritual and thoughtful kid. He believes in karma, reincarnation (though he doesn't know that's what it's called), and magic. He believes in God. He believes in the Golden Rule. He loves animals. Over the years I've learned that when someone tells him something or something happens, he ruminates for a couple of days, sometimes weeks. If he has questions, they will pop up randomly some time after the fact, usually while we are riding in the car.

A couple of years ago, Mama G and I had our estate plans done. I needed to get mine done because I am a single mother with young children and needed to make sure they are cared for should their father predecease me, and I wanted to designate someone to handle their inheritance until they reach a certain age. Mama G was most interested in granting a financial power of attorney to someone (not me) and a healthcare directive to control what would happen to her should she become sick or injured and incompetent to make her own medical decisions. As part of this discussion, she told me very clearly that she wants to be cremated.

Sweetie must have heard us. About two weeks later, while we were driving in the car, Sweetie said, "Mommy, what's cremated mean?" He was about 4 years old. I am one of those parents who tries to be honest with my children even when it's uncomfortable, so I told him the truth in as simple terms as I could manage. I said that when some people die they want their body to be buried and other people want it to be cremated, which means that it is burned. Unsatisfied, he asked me how the body is burned, so I told him there are special places that do it and they have really big ovens that they use. (Gasp!) That seemed to satisfy him. About a week later, again in the car and again out of nowhere, Sweetie asked "Mommy, are we going to cook Gigi?"

I think he understands the concept of cremation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Las Vegas Debut

Some years ago - early to mid 1990s - I made my stage debut in Las Vegas. Seriously.

I have an uncle who lives in a suburb of Las Vegas proper and has for a very long time. When I was younger, my mom and I would go to his house for Thanksgiving every year. We became very predictable: Big beautiful dinner on Thursday, day-after shopping on Friday, and some sort of show on Saturday. Keep in mind, I'm talking about the old school shows, before the big production shows they have now. We also went to the off-beat shows because none of us wanted to pay for full price shows; we just wanted to go out together to a show. My uncle always liked to see groups from his youth. I remember we saw The Four Lads once, and we even saw Frank Sinatra, Jr. In the year of my debut, we decided to go see Sha Na Na. Laugh if you must but I'm not kidding; we thought it would be hysterical.

I grew up watching Sha Na Na on television. My father loved 50s music and he thought Sha Na Na did an okay job of covering some of his favorites. He cracked up at the silly costumes they wore, and used to tell me stories about "greasers" and "bobby soxers." We amused ourselves by trying to impersonate John "Bowzer" Bowman's ginormous mouth and incredibly deep voice. I have vivid images of my dad standing in our living room in jeans and a white tee, flexing his bicep and rotating his fist from front to back, opening his mouth as wide as he could. And then it was my turn. It was even funnier when I tried; I have a small mouth anyway, and I was just a little girl. He used to get so tickled. And then we would sing the weekly sign-off song: "Goodnight, Sweetheart, well it's time to go. Goodnight, Sweetheart, well it's time to go. I hate to leave but I really must go. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." He would laugh at my inability to carry a tune and tell me, "Poor baby, you inherited my singing voice."

Fast forward. My dad passed in 1991.

Fast forward to the Las Vegas show a few years later. There were four of us sitting at our little table. I was in the front, so I had the back of my chair to the table, leaving me with my back to my mother and my aunt and uncle. Sha Na Na was calling for volunteers from the audience to come up on stage. I did not know it at the time, but all three of those Judases were pointing at me behind my back, hoping they would pick me. And Donny did.

Donny was the greaser in rolled up jeans, converse sneakers, a striped shirt with cigarettes rolled in the sleeve, a duck's ass haircut, and sunglasses. He grabbed my hand and pulled me on stage. The other volunteers were young children, so I had a strong feeling this was going to be terribly humiliating. Luckily, I knew the chances of me seeing anyone I knew, especially at a Sha Na Na show, was slim to none so I decided to just enjoy the moment.

Basically, I had to hula hoop, do the limbo, and dance a couple of lindy steps in a "contest" with the other two contestants. I kicked those kids' asses, but it was rigged and I got robbed. Despite losing to a couple of snot-nosed kids (who, by the way, should NOT have been at a Las Vegas show on a Saturday night in the first place!), I must admit it was really fun. Donny was really cool and we laughed a lot. He was tickled to hear I had watched their TV show when I was a kid, though he said it made him feel old.

After a couple of obligatory bows and a wave to the crowd I returned to my table, parched and out of breath. My mother had the biggest smile on her face. After I sat down she leaned over and said, "Your dad would've really loved that."

You know what? She was right. My dad would've LOVED it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's Almost So Big Ya Gotta Wipe It

I love concerts. I went to my first concert when I was 15. I wasn't allowed to date until 16, and a boy-friend invited me, so I was sure my mom would say no, but she didn't. I was so thrilled. I remember my friend Scott had a pea-green truck and he agreed to drive but we had to find gas money. We searched between cushions, under seats, in our lockers and backpacks, etc. until we finally came up with enough to get us there and back. It was awesome. The year was 1981. The band was Journey. I had a wicked crush on Steve Perry - why? I have no idea. We had bleeder seats but I didn't care ... I was seeing and hearing Steve Perry LIVE.

My love for concerts has not waned at all, though I have noticed I'm becoming less tolerant of the crowd. I often go to concerts by myself, after deciding some years ago that people are non-committal when you have to purchase tickets in advance, and if I wait for someone else to make a decision, I miss my opportunity. Having been stuck with tickets - sometimes expensive tickets - after someone changes their mind, I just order one ticket and go alone. It's fine. I'm pretty social and I usually have no trouble making friends, and I have always had a good time.

Tonight I went to see Bon Jovi. Know this: I luuuuuuuuuvvv Jon Bon Jovi. If this were chick lit I might say I lurve him. I haven't always loved him. His hair was too big and his music too "metal" for me in the 80s. He came on my radar in the 90s, first when he did a few episodes of Ally McBeal - remember, he was the painter/carpenter/handyman? - then when Bon Jovi's music changed to something a little less metal and a little more traditional rock, and then he was on Sex and the City. I swear, the man just gets better and better with age. Yum. I got a chance to profess my love for him on a giant birthday card. As he said, he turned 21 for the 27th time. Or, he's 18 with 30 years experience. (See? He's even the perfect age for me. Too bad he's happily married. And a famous rock star. Whatever, I can fantasize!)

The concert was really good. They've been doing this for 27 years and they still look good and sound good. I like Richie Sambora but I don't lurve him. He looked a little puffy. And what's with the tail hanging out the back of his jeans or shirt or whatever? I'm sure it was cool in 1983 but now? Not so much. Jon hardly has any wrinkles, especially given his age and number of years on the road. I alternated between swooning and panting the entire two hours they played. And let me just say, for the record: Jon Bon Jovi cleaned up in his every day rocker-ish style and probably smelling good? Yum. Sweaty Jon Bon Jovi? Yummier. Sweaty Jon Bovi in a tight t-shirt? Oh. My. God. I feel like a school girl but I can't help myself ... the man is so hot.

Some observations: There were too many school-aged children there. I don't care if they're off track, and I don't care if they stay up late. A rock concert is no place for a 10 year old on a Tuesday night. It's too loud, people drink too much, and too many people are practically having sex in their seats. Which brings me to the next complaint: Why is it that people feel like it's okay to engage in porn-movie kisses and ridiculously heavy petting at a concert? Don't they realize that we can see them?? I had a particularly lovey-dovey couple in front of me tonight and I would probably hate them except they were clever and nice and I liked them. I had the tantalizing trio across the aisle: a guy in his late 50s or 60s and a young couple. I was trying to figure out that situation; I think the older guy was her father, perhaps chaperoning a date. If he wasn't her father, she was awfully hands-on with her date's father. And if he was her father, her date had some big balls, what with all the manhandling and smooching going on right next to Pops. I had the obnoxious grandmas behind me. You know these ladies ... the ones who were probably too old for Bon Jovi in the 80s but have continued to follow them around. The woman right behind me had speech peppered with colloquialisms I hear the kids saying. She actually said "he's hella hot" and "I want to get closer, yo." She was at least 60. The few times I tried to sit down she had her foot in my back. And speaking of grandmas, we had the wearing-clothes-appropriate-for-someone-about-half-your-age grandma near us, who apparently had a tiny bladder because she was up and down about 10 times. She had on skinny jeans, spikey heels, and a sequined tank top with no bra. There is no way to explain the experience of seeing her rocks-in-socks bouncing up the stairs. Many, many, many women were wearing clothes similar to what they probably wore when they saw Bon Jovi in the 80s. I kid you not, I saw off-the-shoulder tops, black tops with denim mini-skirts, leggings and acid wash jeans. No lie. The piece-de-resistance, though, was the inspiration for the title of this blog and she deserves a paragraph of her own.

This woman was probably in her 50s and at least 40 pounds overweight, all in the butt and chest. She had long jet black big hair - probably with a bump it at the crown - and heavy eye makeup. She kind of looked like a rode-hard-and-put-away-wet trailer park version of Elvira. Her clothes were all black and skin tight. I swear she had on leggings and a low-cut shirt that she's probably had for 30 years. I saw her in the ladies when I first got there and she definitely caught my attention, mostly because of the size of her chest. It was HUGE. I mean, like, she probably has to special order bras in a cup size I've never even heard of. There used to be a blonde woman who would run out on the baseball field after games - Yankees, I think -and bounce her big bosom around. She had nothing on my Elvira. And to make matters worse, Elvira stuffed these pontoons into a shirt that was five sizes too small.

So we're sitting in our seats - me on the aisle, the lovey-doveys in front of me, and a very nice couple about my age to my left - before Bon Jovi comes on and all of a sudden here comes Elvira walking up the stairs. The woman of the couple next to me covers her husband's eyes and says "don't look, honey." Um, okay, how can he NOT look? His eyes bulged out of his head and the three of us stifled a giggle. Then the male part of lovey dovey gets a glimpse of her. I swear, it was like slow motion action. He was talking and looking around and suddenly he stopped, mid-sentence, and started to stare. And then he realized he was staring and slowly turned back to female part of lovey dovey. Female says "you're so rude, stop staring" and he says - as God is my witness this is a direct quote - "Wow, that's almost big enough ya gotta wipe it." The guy next to me spit out his beer and we all howled. There were high fives all around, and tears in our eyes from laughing so hard. She remained a source of entertainment for us the rest of the night. Male lovey noted her backside was almost bigger than her front, and that's saying something. We noted her impeccable balance as she tottered down the stairs in her high heels, overinflated rescue boats, all while holding a beer in each hand.

To quote Jon Bon Jovi himself, "It doesn't get any better than this. Thank you, and good night."

When Hairy Met Smelly ...

I'm pretty hairy. Not Sasquatch/Chewbacca hairy, and not Mediterranean hairy, but German-and-Irish-light-colored-hair-everywhere hairy. And now that I am in my mid-forties, I'm starting to get grey hair in odd places (my eyebrows!) and short thick whiskers have moved in on my jawline. I really should wax. A lot. Or maybe try electrolysis. Unfortunately my skin is also fairly sensitive. It and The Wax do NOT get along so I do not have high hopes for the success of electrolysis. So I use a depilatory, I shave, I wax a little bit, and I pluck. It's really not pretty. Maintaining a hair-under-control environment is time-consuming. Some things go by the way side. Lest you have your mind in the gutter, I am talking about my legs. It's cold so my legs are always covered. I sleep alone. I don't date. I let the hair on my legs get too long. So? Don't judge me.

This year I am going to lose the extra weight I've been carrying. I know, I say that all the time. But really, I'm going to do it. I'm not kidding. Notice I didn't say "try" I said "going to." Positive declarations lead to success (or so they say). So I've been tinkering with my schedule trying to make time for a regular appointment at the gym. I scoped out the gym near where I'm working right now. I put a gym bag in the car for those (very rare) times when I have some time to kill and would normally go sit at a bar. As Spongebob would say, "I'm ready."

Today I decided I would go to the gym in lieu of lunch because (1) it was lunchtime, (2) I wasn't hungry, and (3) I am not on a deadline. I was so proud of myself, praising me for having that gym bag in the car. I get to the gym, battle for one of two available parking spaces, and march proudly into the ladies locker room. As I'm opening my gym bag, I remember that I put shorts in there. And I can't remember the last time I shaved my legs. Seriously, I have no way to even guess.

I'm blessed with the realization that I am not the center of the universe and most of the time no one even notices me. I'm a middle-aged, non-descript, totally average-looking person whose carrying around extra weight. Except to the fat-o-phobes and the meanies, I am non-existent to strangers. It's cool, I don't mind. If I want to step into the light, I can. But I digress .... Normally, the fact that I haven't shaved my legs and am about to put shorts on at the gym wouldn't bother me even a little bit. Seriously ... nobody's looking at me, nobody's paying attention to me, I'm not cruisin' for a date or anything. But I've just finished reading Bitter Is The New Black - a memoir by Jen Lancaster - and have just started reading Bright Lights, Big Ass, her follow up. Jen's "shtick" - if you want to call it that - is observing and making fun of people (including herself). So suddenly I'm thinking the next Jen could be in the gym, noticing my hairy legs, and all of a sudden I'll be the topic of some stranger's blog and later a character in their New York Times Bestseller's List memoir.

Rather than pack up and leave - my first instinct after Jen's skewerings pass through my mind - I come up with a solution. I will find a treadmill in a corner, or in the back, where the fewest amount of people will see me and be near me. As I walk to the bank of treadmills I see one, against the wall, with a broken treadmill next to it, no one on the one behind it, and a vent blowing air from behind. Yes! The gods were shining on me. Or so I thought.

I'm doing my Couch to 5k workout - a story for another post - and I can feel the cool air blowing from behind me. No one is next to me. In fact, no one has even glanced in my direction. Told you. Then I noticed The Smell. It was awful. Seriously. I can't even think of a word that can describe this odor. I turned around and a very sweaty man was on the treadmill behind me. He was right in front of the vent, so his stink was blowing directly at me. Thank God I had my back to him; a direct hit from the smell might have mortally wounded me. I had flashes of Sweetie and Stinker covering their noses in the perfume section of the department store, screaming "Ow, Mommy, my nose hurts. What's that smell?" I tried to stay focused, but the smell got stronger and stronger. Just as I was thinking I have never smelled anything so rank in my entire life, I was reminded of that one time, at band camp ... er, in Germany, c. 1988.

After college, 3 girlfriends and I backpacked through Europe for 3 weeks. We're talking old school ... we paid for the trips ourselves (none of this happy-graduation-here's-some-money-to-go-travel-the-world stuff for us girls), stayed in hostels, slept on trains, used Eurail passes, etc. We spent a LOT of time on trains because it felt like it was cheap since we had already paid for the passes. One day we were traveling from Frankfurt-ish to Munich-ish and we made the bad decision to go on a Friday evening during rush hour. The train was PACKED; even the little seats that fold up into the side of the train in the aisle were down and occupied, making it difficult to pass under the best of circumstances and really difficult while schlepping a giant backpack.

Anyway, we finally saw a compartment that was empty save for a newspaper and a briefcase. What luck! The 4 of us got all excited, got up to compartment, opened the door ... and practically passed out. The absolute worst case of B.O. came emanating out of the compartment. Seriously, there was no person or animal in the compartment, but it was spewing forth by far the stinkiest smell I have ever encountered (then or since!). We were coughing and choking, our faces were turning red, and we were trying to figure out what to do, all the while laughing so hard we could hardly remain upright. We collectively decided that whoever stunk up the place must have left, and if we opened all of the windows to let in some fresh air, we'd be fine in no time and would have the compartment all to ourselves. So we scrambled in while holding our breath, heaved our backpacks onto the overhead racks, opened all of the windows and sat down. It was October, it had snowed the night before, and it was cold outside, but we didn't care. We had our turtleneck collars folded up over our nose-and-mouth areas (I have photos!) for a little bit but after a few minutes the brisk air cleared out the stench and we could relax a little.

And then HE entered. The source of the smell. Apparently Sir Stinks-A-Lot came back for his briefcase. He was a giant man, greasy hair, bad teeth and just as pleasant as can be. He walked over and immediately began closing the windows. He smiled and nodded at us as he moved his briefcase and plopped into the chair. He said something in German to the four of us in general and my girlfriend (who was fluent) responded. Then, all of a sudden, she stood up and started to get her backpack off of the travel rack. "What are you doing?," we asked. She turned to us with her eyes wide, a strained smile on her face, trying very hard to maintain control of herself and she said, "Why, I'm getting ready to get off the train, of course. This is our stop." The other 3 of us were puzzled; we just got ON the train and expected to be on it for a couple of hours. "But this isn't ..." one of us (probably me!) started to say, and she looked at us again, surreptitiously rolling her eyes to the door, and said, "You'd better hurry and grab your stuff. The train is stopping and WE HAVE TO GET OFF!" We scrambled to get our things, and as we were being herded like cattle down the aisle to the door of the train car, she turned around and said, "That man - and his awful stink - is going to Munich, too." When we inquired why we couldn't just switch cars she started to shake her head and said, "No way. I can still smell him. It's so bad that I'm sure the whole damn train smells like him. And then we'll have to smell him again anyway when we arrive in Muich and he gets off at the same train station. No way, no how. I'll take my chances with the next train."

Turns out, I have smelled something so rank. Something worse, in fact. And I survived. So I focused on breathing through my mouth and finished my workout.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Naked Time!

What is it about men and nudity?

I grew up with one man in my life, my father. He lived with us but he wasn't around a lot because he worked really hard. (In hindsight, my father had an absolutely incredible work ethic.) I don't have a ton of memories of him from when I was a child, but one that stands out is the underwear. My father liked to walk around in his tightie-whities. I didn't think much of it as a little girl, but it was SO embarrassing when I hit junior high school and just mortifying when I was in high school. To this day I can picture him walking down the staircase, turning through the living room - even when we had company over! - and going into the kitchen for a glass of water or something.

When I was a teenager, my father had drilled it into my head that boys only wanted to have sex with me, and of course I was a good girl who would never dream of having sex while in high school, so boys remained a mystery to me. I had a couple of boyfriends, but nothing really serious and nothing long lasting because if I felt like things were progressing physically, I cut bait and ran. But one of the boys I had dated ran naked through the half-time show during The Big Game when he was a senior. At the time, while laughing nervously because everyone else was laughing, I thought "Oh my God, that boy is naked ... in front of hundreds of people." (By the way, the now-infamous streaker was and probably still is one of the nicest men I've ever known. He's good people.)

In college, I discovered I liked to hang out with men. I became friends with my first gay man. I had sex for the first time (no, not with the gay man). I fell in love for the first time. I made some really good male friends. Though many of the college memories are fuzzy, I remember just about every guy I knew was always looking for an opportunity to take off some or all of his clothes; they were BA-ing people, taking off their shirts, skinny dipping, taking a steam, you name it.

I lived with a man for the first time when I was in my mid-twenties. He loved to be naked. He would get out of the shower, dry off, and then walk around the apartment stark naked. He completed his entire morning routine in the nude. He finally, begrudgingly, put his clothes on only minutes before he had to leave.

I don't want to tell tales out of school about the Ex, but suffice it to say he was not averse to nudity and leave it at that.

I remember seeing a Comedy Central special years ago by comedian Dana Carvey, who had two young sons at the time. He told stories of the troubles he and his wife had trying to keep clothes on those kids. Figuring it was useless to require clothing at all times, they decided to focus on time, place and manner restrictions to the nakedness. They implemented "Naked Time." They let their children run around naked for an hour or two, every day, at exactly the same time. He said they would sit there, hands ready to remove clothes, saying "Is it time yet? Is it time yet?"

So here I am, a single mom to two little aliens, uh ... um, I mean, two little boys. These boys beg me to let them be naked on "stay home days." Sweetie is starting to show signs of modesty when it comes to some things, but is he modest when it comes to parading around the house with not a stitch of clothing on? Nope. In fact, he likes to call attention to his nakedness - his "booty" in particular. Stinker comes to me with a big grin on his face and says "Look, Mama, I'm naked!" And then he runs around the house for awhile.

I'm sure I'm prudish as a middle-aged divorcee whose self-esteem has not recovered from a bad marriage and a divorce, but even when I was at my thinnest and most confident, I did not run around naked. Not even when I was alone.

So what is it with men and nudity?