Monday, January 31, 2005

Desperate to be Housewives?


Though I have any number of believable explanations for why I’m still single in this two by two world, the fact that I’m a smarty-pants was never one of the patented excuses I regularly trotted out. Until now.
Now I’ve read about the study conducted by four top British universities that concludes that for women, being intelligent is about as sexy as a head full of curlers and a face full of complexion creme. It’s a turn off… a no-no… a quality better left as secret as your ability to chew your own toenails or your addiction to peanut butter and head cheese sandwiches. Ick. Yuk. Gag. Keep it to yourself.
In spite of the feminist movement, laws designed to legislate equality, and the ratings success of the Mary Tyler Moore show, it appears men still prefer to marry women whose IQ score hovers significantly south of their own. The study actually detailed a 40% drop in marital prospects for every 16 point rise in feminine smartitude; and if that weren’t bad enough, the polar opposite was true for men. It seems their chances for getting spliced soared by 35% for a corresponding 16 point rise in their Intelligence Quotient. And the more successful the man, the more likely they were to be married than the more modest earners at a difference of a full 8%. (Though how successful those marriages might be and on whose terms figured no where in the report.)
But the implication is impossible to ignore: according to studies, the majority of men desire a relationship with an intellectual inferior – an inferior who presumably won’t show them up in everything from power, to earning potential, to doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. In ink.
Typical.
I’m too bright to be a bride.
But perhaps – just perhaps – the study failed to take into account another significant factor: in their race to the finish line of academic publication, one wonders if the scientists checked to see if there was any correlation between being an intelligent female and an aversion to the wedded (for the sake of being wedded) state. In other words, were they assuming a population of lonely brainy broads, or did they for a moment consider that some of these chicks might have used their IQ points to suss out the fact that delightful as Bride’s magazine and classic fairy tales might make marriage appear, that the reality might not always be as glowing or glamorous. And that many a woman on studied reflection might conclude that marriage – particularly to a man who given his druthers would prefer a dumber edition – just didn’t compute.
Was it smart women's chances that were dropping as their IQ's rose - or was it their desire to be married that hit the skids?
It’s a brain teaser alright. And not the sort you’ll find on the puzzles page of your daily paper…
But maybe it’s more than that – and maybe intelligence is only one of the component parts. And maybe the message that has been blasted for as long and as loud as it has – that without a husband, a woman is incomplete – is fast becoming irrelevant. From my viewpoint, society still questions a single woman of a certain age, but it’s less, and less insistent. No matter how hard the media and the movies continue to push outdated fantasies of maids snagging millionaires and powerful men pursuing moronic models, a lot of smart women, I’m here to report, are happily single.
Speaking as someone who’s lived mostly alone for most of my adult life, the notion of trading all this – autonomy, privacy, being the Queen of EVERYTHING – for an immediate loss of autonomy, privacy, and being Queen of EVERYTHING seems like a pretty poor bargain. And I wonder if what you lose on the swings you really do make up on the roundabouts. I wonder.
There was a time when I assumed marriage was in my future – just a very far distant future I couldn’t quite imagine – but one receives so many messages from infancy to onset of puberty and beyond that the married state was the only True Path, that the assumption was as much a part of my makeup as, well, my makeup.
But as the years rolled by and the fianc├ęs came and went, the real learning was that the desire, far from becoming greater, was definitely on the wane. I realized that there were plenty of men – even really good men – just not plenty of really great men who would make me want to give up my life to share theirs.
But children. This is the sticking point and the only one I can now see (as my childbearing years do a slow fade) that would make sense of having to share a bed and bathroom. For me, since I always assumed everything I wanted would always be there, and that the natural laws just didn’t apply (I thought this – and to be honest, I still sort of do) and since unlike some women you hear about, I’ve yet to experience the ticking of the biological clock – the physical and emotional necessity of giving birth – I was always happy to wait and simply include other people’s children in my life. And now that I’m here, possibly on the other side of that dream, I’m still not tortured by what might have been, or the fear that my old age will be lonely, empty and childless. I imagine that if I keep doing what I’m already doing – which is to make genuine friends with children separate and apart from their parents and maintain those friendships – I can pretty much continue to write my own ticket surrogate child-wise.
So what does intelligence have to do with any of this? Maybe just being smart enough (emotionally) to know that you’ll survive being single (and still having gorgeous relationships… on your own terms) and being insightful enough to know for sure that being with a man who resented your brain, and therefore so much of what made you, you - would be true torture.
Maybe it’s not about the men who aren’t marrying the bright women – maybe it’s about the bright women who aren’t marrying the men.
Don’t get me wrong – I know many happy marriages; the interesting thing is, in my unorthodox and highly non-scientific study (my opinion), the best ones are with the smartest women – and the men who adore that about them.
I love men, and even as I write all this, I’m not for a moment suggesting I couldn’t or wouldn’t still get married and burrow in and sink into a state of profound wedded bliss – I even hope so; just that I’m still holding out for someone who loves me mostly for my mind.
Though, to be honest, I’m just dumb enough to want my ass to come a close second.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper The Toronto Star has come out with a brand new design for its Sunday edition. And according to the editors, a brand new philosophy as well.
The idea, apparently, is to provide a paper that doubles as a magazine: you get all your world news and weather and obituaries and stuff, but in addition, you get more colour and larger photographs and wacky fonts and a number of ‘think’ pieces woven throughout.
(The editors suggest you leave it on the coffee table for the next week – leafing through it at your leisure Monday through Saturday, cherry picking the stories and reviews you were too busy to originally read, making the Sunday Star a permanent resident of your living room if not your recycling bin.)
Not that I’m complaining. Today, leafing through the second edition since launch, I see more of what they’re trying to get at, though I’m not sure if the change isn’t purely cosmetic.
The weekend papers are always more gossipy and literary and leisure-licious than the workaday editions, so if I’m seeing more, or reading more, I’m not quite conscious of it yet. And since I have plenty of time on Sundays (unlike the busy, productive types who presumably have to mete out their leisure pleasure over a full week) I go through the whole thing in one shot in bed, two cups of coffee, then bundle it up for recycling and it’s out the door, heigh ho, bound for I know not where, demonstrably not strewn across my coffee table, or any other surface either. I get through it all at approximately the same rate as before and with approximately the same insight load I reckon.
So I’m not complaining, but I’m a little disappointed. When the editors first started making noises about the BIG CHANGE COMING, I got all excited, imagining an actual Sunday magazine in the tradition of the greats: The New York Times maybe, or one of at least three of the best British newspaper Sunday mags ( you know – the sort the National Post tried several years back, only with interesting stories and fashion pictures where you could actually see the fashions in question instead of the supremely irritating arty photography) all shiny paper and stapled together and with the word ‘magazine’ prominently displayed somewhere. The sort of publication you actually can leave on your coffee table or rolled up in a basket in the bathroom, unlike a newspaper, particularly a broadsheet, which even the most talented and experienced folder-backer will at least occasionally lose control over.
It’s messy is what I’m saying, and not particularly convenient, and at a distinct disadvantage when your average householder is scanning the horizon looking for that which can be ejected at the earliest possible opportunity.
But the question remains: is it different? Is it exciting? Will it change my life by even the trifliest? So far, I think not.
Not that I’m complaining; if my life needs change I’ll begin with obedience classes for the dog, or a revamp of my kitchen (easily the stupidest kitchen ever) or a new haircut I can obsess over until it grows back to the same length it began at before I decided I was in need of a change.
And now that I think about it, if I properly organized my desk I bet it would really make a difference. (Seriously. If I only threw out the dried up pens and highlighters I’d have acres more space – and maybe even something to write with first go.)
And if ever there were closets in need of a clearout – and okay, my dresser drawers too – they’re right here: closed and locked and straining against the weight of the millions of ping pong balls, or whatever it is I keep in there that makes me afraid to even consider cracking the door open for a peek. (Apres that, the deluge.)
I should steam clean the couch and the carpet, refinish the oak floors and repaint the baseboards. The silver needs polishing, the kitchen cupboards need re-hanging and I need to put down new tile in the stupidest kitchen ever. I need to empty out the cleaning supplies under the sink – how many three-quarters empty squeeze bottles of Fantastic does anybody need anyway? – and arrange my epicurious.com recipes in a file and my cookbooks in a row. Where I can find them. Which is not under the bed.
And don’t get me started about under the bed! My step aerobic steps (which I actually use and are handily stored there) are concealing a cache of overdue library books, cookbooks, board games with pieces missing, dust bunnies as big as your head and the odd sock or long-lost earring. There’s also a box of photos I hate, but will probably appreciate and think are cute when I’m ninety. So I can’t throw them away, but should find all this crap a new home before like the Princess and the Pea I’m bumping my head on the ceiling and waking up with such a backache – oy vey!
If I really do want change, I really must untangle the computer and telephone and speaker and tape recorder and printer and monitor and lamp and cable wires before I actually need to one day, and have to partake of the Gordion solution. I should re-hang the pictures, wind the clocks and dust the top shelf of the bookcase. Make that bookcases.
I should shave my legs and do my nails (top and bottom) and give my hair a deep conditioning. I should write that speech I’m nearly paralytic with gibbering fear of giving a week Tuesday, get my files and papers and ideas in place for the big meeting with the big boss next week and clean out the contents of my purse in order to find the ripped out, tiny scrap of paper with the address of just exactly where it is I’m meeting him.
It would make a significant change to my wardrobe if I took the HUGE bag of dry cleaning to the actual dry cleaners, and press the blouse I bought and loved but never wear because it always needs pressing. I need to re-sole one pair of boots and re-heel two pairs of shoes. I should sew the button on the black sweater I find so versatile until lately when button-less, it’s not really all that versatile at all.
I absolutely have to learn how to program this cell phone, or at least learn how to answer it without hanging up. I should sort all the fashion and horse magazines and dispose of any that pre-date shoulder pads or the Italian seat (horsey reference – don’t ask).
And my bathroom needs re-tiling around the faucet. Okay; so it’s been forever since the taps were replaced; but the prospect of seeking out pale green subway tile circa 1939 to replace the broken and missing tile makes me want to pick up a copy of the Sunday Star and read the book reviews until the need to change my life fades…
Hey! Sunday Star! Thanks a million - change is good!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to kill

If you saw TV newsmagazine show 20/20 last Friday, then you now have (as have I) a brand new understanding of the word ‘surreal’. (Think also: ‘appalled’, ‘embarrassed’, ‘horrified’, ‘despondent’ and ‘grief-stricken’.)
Barbara Walters, who was supposed to have surrendered her TV anchoring duties several happy months ago, was back on the tube Friday evening, as smooth and unlined as a plastic dolly, primped and coiffed and smiling; her old program 20/20 ready to devote an entire hour of prime time to her exclusive interview with George W. and the Mrs.
(Pity Elizabeth Vargas the putative replacement host, who must wonder from time to time whether the old bat will ever give up the anchor desk, or permanently retire to that increasingly revolting and irrelevant daytime yakfest ‘The View’. She’s obviously a wiley old broad; they’ll have to beat her to death with a mic stand I’m thinking.)
Though 20/20 is a longtime ABC Television Network news program, you could be forgiven for thinking the scene of the crime was being broadcast from a FOX studio. So cloyingly supplicating were the queries, so un-followed up were the responses, and so peppered with sucky irrelevancies like endless filler segments (especially the ones featuring Barney the Scottie studiously ignoring the President, or Laura touring Barbara around the newly refurbished Lincoln bedroom, the carpet upon which the famous furniture now stands the best argument for further bad behaviour from the Presidential pet one could possibly make) that I fully expected Bill O’Reilly to pop up from behind a rose bush or a secret service agent and beat Barbara over the head with that mic stand in order to take back what Fox executives clearly feel is their territory: positive presidential promos disguised as nightly news.
He couldn’t have done it better than Barbara though, who in the first few minutes managed to squeeze in mention of a new puppy (who actually did pee on the Oval Office rug) a jolly reminder of how familiar she already was with the White House, and a little bit of smug back-pattery disguised as information as she reminded the President what he no doubt already knew: that she was the only interviewer he had agreed to speak to between the election and the inauguration.
It was also the onset of the seriously surreal, practically ‘woo-woo’ moments unaccountably not edited out of the show:
“So,” says Barbara to the Presidential pair, “are you ready to begin the torture?” (She did. I swear - she actually said "torture".)
“Yes,” replied the completely oblivious leader of the Free World. “That’s why we chose you.”
Gak. Yikes. Cut to commercial.
And when we return, the interview proper has been set up, though strangely – with all the refurbishing that has reportedly been going on in the historic household – in what looks like the middle of a hallway: three chairs, three people, not even a potted plant to point out the difference between that which is non-human and that which nominally appears to be.
(“Just plunk it all down anywhere,” the producer must have said. “And don’t bother lighting it all that well. There’s not much you can do with a set of stiffs outside of Six Feet Under that’s going to make a hell of a lot of difference…”)
And so begins a softball game so light and harmless it might just as well be a backyard set-to between three prissy 3rd grade girls all dolled up in party dresses they'd been admonished not to smudge. No one’s going to hit anything all that hard, no one’s going to tag anyone out and no one’s going to fade back into the weeds to catch a pop fly – if the ball goes out of bounds, they’ll just leave it there and go play something else.
Barbara: “Mr. Pwesident, there are those who say you’ve never acknowledged a mistake. (Internal dialogue: Not me – never me!) Now that it’s been admitted there were no WMD’s found in Iraq and the stated reason for war has been disproved, what do you say now?”
Mr. Pwesident (smiling): “Well, I guess I’ll just have to be more careful about how I say things. Don’t want people to get the wrong idea!”
And so it goes. With boners and bullshit flying past like so many shuttlecocks (looks like the girls traded in their whiffle bats for junior badminton rackets…) and Barbara sitting, smiling; as still and stiff as a fashion doll wearing celery green Chanel. Perhaps she was waiting for staff members to pick up the dropped references, obvious lies and tangled metaphors. Perhaps she has a bad back. Perhaps her movable joints have seized up.
Barbara: “Mr. Pwesident, the fighting still goes on, what is the point of holding the elections at the end of January?”
Mr. Pwesident: “Well Barbara, it’s like this: everybody just loves freedom. Who doesn’t love freedom? (You get the feeling he’d like to meet these freedom haters – at a distance of several thousand miles and buffered by thousands of expendable soldiers – and give them a lesson in what freedom means!) We’re going to bring freedom to the people of Iraq. Look how we brought freedom to the women of Afghanistan. They’re free now! That’s the sort of thing we like to do. Love freedom. Freedom, freedom, freedom. I love freedom!”
Barbara, clearly moved by the notion of freedom reigning supreme throughout the war torn country, bright eyed and bushy tailed come the morning of February 1st, forgets to follow up on the alleged happy fate of Afghani women. Oh well – can’t be helped! Moving on…
Barbara: “Mrs. Bush, as you tour through the hospitals safe and sound on American soil, meeting the wounded soldiers and the parents of those who died, is it enough comfort to them to tell them freedom will soon be reigning supreme throughout Iraq? I mean, like, do any of them, like, care about, like, Iraq?”
Mrs. Bush: “Well Barbara, I don’t know if it is any comfort; I don’t know if they care about Iraq or not. I don’t know…” she flounders. She just remembered: she doesn’t know! Oh no, not now – not here on national TV, she must pull it together, she must come up with an answer – something, anything… yes! She sees the shuttlecock float by and gives it a whap that sends it tumbling end over end over the net and out of camera range and out of trouble.
Mrs. Bush: “I don’t know if they care about Iraq… but I DO know they care about September 11th! And all the terrible things that happened on that day! And they know that they’re doing the right thing. And their children too. Dying, dying, dying for September 11th – that’s what they care about. That, and (suddenly remembering she’s sitting next to the most powerful man on earth… she gets a naughty tingle…) and freedom! They love freedom!”
Stunned into silence by all the tingly feelings she herself gets when September 11th and Iraq and freedom all fit together in the same sentence, Barbara smiles. She thanks her new friends and her audience (“I’m so happy to see you all again,” she says straight into the camera. Hey! Just what can she see? Is this a magic camera?) and brings another great hour of journalism to a close.
Time to take down the lights and put the chairs back where they belong. Time to roll up the cables and pack away the equipment and the protests of the young script girl who is nearly apoplectic at what she has heard the 43rd president of the United States of America get away with. Time for three sleepyheads to bid each other a fond farewell, promising to do it again real, real soon.
“Next time,” says new best friend Barbara, “next time we’ll play Barbies!”
“Oh,” says the confused leader of the greatest nation on earth, “I thought we already were.”

Saturday, January 08, 2005

My left (and right) breast

Meet my breasts: Patty on the left and Selma on the right. But that’s from my perspective; if you’re facing me, simply reverse the order and you’ll have an accurate handle on the thing. Not that I’d let you handle them – they’ve been handled plenty just recently and I’d like to take them out of circulation and just let them be for a bit.
Funny, breasts. I mean, there they are and always have been –as ubiquitous to the female frame as any other lady-designated bit or piece, designed for babies, usurped by men – and still they cause so much comment… excitement… horror, fear, longing and loathing. Too big, too small, too funny shaped, too differently shaped, too lop-sided, too… whatever. So few of them resembling the images in the pages of Playboy or FHM, all giant Pamela Anderson and Tara Reid-ish, impossibly round and melony. Cartoonish, but seemingly standard issue these days. (If you’ve never, check out one of those websites that show extremely non-sexy type photos of the various typical sizes and shapes; even I was surprised by the extremely wide, non magazine-like range of boobs. All perfectly normal, though en masse, somewhat surprising.)
But just to be contrary, I’ve always been fine with mine – and I’ve experienced them little and large as a result of birth control pills – but for all the play breasts get in the media (and elsewhere) I don’t think mine have ever been a particularly big draw. For whatever reason, the kind of men that are attracted to me don’t seem to be breast fanatics. It’s a waste really, but honestly? I really don’t think about them too much. They’re just there. Fine.
Until I had my first mammogram the other day. Way later than I shoulda – my mother died of breast cancer some 23 years ago – but in the no-news-is-good-news vein, I’d been dodging and weaving around the issue since the subject first came up about 5 years ago. Here’s the trick: you just don’t do it. Your doctor’s far too busy to check up on you and if you wait long enough, and studiously put it out of your mind long enough, she’ll likely forget too.
Not that the rest of the world ever will.
Breasts. Bosoms. Boobs. Tits. Hooters, Knockers. Melons. Rack. Headlights. Shirt puppies. Ta-ta’s. (Also Bodacious ta-ta’s.) The twins. Seal pups. Cans (Cans? I really don’t get this one… see also: bazookas, bazongas, gazongas and guns.) Bumpy Bits. Bristols. Baps. Airbags. “Hey my eyes are up here’s”. Jubblies. Funbags. (Hate that one.) Sin cushions. Dirty pillows. (Ditto and ditto.) Cupcakes. Duelling banjos. Floaters. Flotation devices. Fog lights. Hand warmers. Warheads. Woofers. Tweeters. Chi-chi’s. Back stage passes. The things I like to squeeze. The Grand Tetons. Mosquito bites. My 2 best friends. The girls. My home girls. Teets. Jigglers. Two midgets. Tig old bitties.
If you’re Christian, there’s a whole other list you can refer to:
Chest trays. NFRU (Not for Recreational Use). Pastor Baiters. Mounds of shame. Heavenly canteens. Hooteronomies. The daughters of Lactiticus. Racks of Lambs of God. Communion woofers. First and second Mammalians. Beelzeboobs.
Like mine, there are of course more personalized type names – Thelma and Louise. Abbott and Costello. Bert and Ernie. Archie and Jughead. Lenny and Squiggy. The list goes on, limited solely by imagination and level of silliness tolerance. It’s sweet though; or sweet more often than not – the notion of giving The Girls names – giving each a separate identity (iden-titty?) they generally don’t experience, being, as it were, pretty much always conceived and considered as a matched set.
But sweetness and silliness weren’t the emotions I was experiencing as I waited for my turn in the radiologist’s office. Bone deep fear and an inability to catch my breath were pretty much the order of the day. After all, I’d been putting it off for years, had only recently had an overall physical (also long-delayed, but hey – if it’s not broke, right?) with the attendant ubiquitous feel-up and nipple squeeze, and thought I was home free when she (the doctor) commented on the density of my breasts.
“Your mother died at 52, right?” Dr V. asked. I nodded. “Your grandmother of breast cancer too, right? Have they always been this dense?” she asked, going round for a second time. (It had after all been several years since she’d had the pleasure.)
“Yeeeessss,” I replied slowly, trying to decide if this was the right answer. As ever in such situations, I am prepared to flat out lie if it will get me out of a professional’s office with an ‘Inspected and passed’ sticker firmly slapped on my haunch. But actually, an answer wasn’t what she was looking for: in moments she was skidding halfway across the room on her little stool on wheels, writing me up for a visit to the radiology clinic, wickedly easy to get to and park around, offering precisely no excuses for off-putting any longer.
Quite suddenly, I was extremely frightened.
For the next few days, I could barely keep my hands off them. I was like a teenage boy, endlessly exploring their contours and dimensions, feeling I knew not what; just feeling (like a teenage boy) it was only a matter of time before I got caught.
So I arrived and was ushered into the first exam room with a speed one doesn’t normally associate with the medical profession. Was it something my doctor had written on the order form? Some secret doctory lingo I missed? Was it my breasts themselves? Did they look – even still dressed, under wraps – ready to explode?
Patty was called up first, and the woman whose job it was to position her properly in place for her photographic debut deserves an A for endless effort in placing the old 34 C’s at just the right angle for optimal radiographic viewing. She was tireless. Exacting. Over and over. And over again.
The woman stood me up and pushed me in and lifted and separated and held and pulled (pulled!) and squeezed and said “relax” (in a voice that suggested I was letting her down relaxation-wise) for a good three minutes before she was satisfied that Patty was following orders. The giant clamp descended into place making two stops (tight – ooh, eek – tighter!) before the woman stepped behind the screen and snapped the picture. A second later she was releasing me and eyeing up Selma, who, cowed by her authoritative manner, meekly presented herself for pulling and positioning and squeezing duties, but twice slipping out of frame only to be hauled back with a cupping and stretching sort of action that made me wonder if I was actually going to be lifted and separated from my right breast permanently. Clamp – squeeze… SQUEEZE – and we were back to Patty for her profile.
And so it went. For longer than I imagined, but not nearly as painfully as I’d feared (though uncomfortable as all hell) and with the female radiologist manipulating the girls in a highly professional manner, weirdly personal, yet also totally removed.
Strange the indignities and intimacies we experience with complete strangers. I’d felt like crying a little from fear and cold, but her impersonal professionalism stopped those tears in their tracks. I was grateful to her.
With little ado, I was sent on for my next bout of exams, feeling like a topless stripper at a two-part interview as I waited in the badly lit, inadequately magazine-ed waiting area, eyeing the other two women also between bouts (all of us unable to focus on anything save each other’s barely draped breasts) until the three of us were startled by an unearthly keening sound: it was yet another woman, in some spare little cubicle around the corner – one who wasn’t here for tests, but rather results; results that clearly weren’t good.
Three strangers, we exchanged horrified glances, then just as quickly, dipped our eyes back down to our out of date Chatelaines; hear no evil, that’s the ticket.
In my head I started singing “Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go… but then have the feeling that you wanted to stay?” That’s how it felt; in my bubble between exams, the bubble where no knowledge – good or bad – was accessible, I was torn between wanting passionately to sit there forever reading recipes for low fat hummus and avocado dips, and wanting desperately to get into another booth with another stranger and GET THIS THING OVER WITH. But of course, it wasn’t my choice to make.
Part two was the ultrasound. The part I’d originally been less nervous of; after all, passing the wand over my breasts while capturing candid snaps was likely uncomfortable only for the coldness of the jelly they squeeze all over you beforehand. Wrong. They press the device very firmly into you, paying particular attention to the nipple area, an area I discovered doesn’t like to be pressed firmly over and over. Gritting my teeth and trying not to wince (I didn’t want the radiologist to get mad and find cancer just to spite me) I focused on the silent, though occasionally (and worryingly) grimacing technician’s necklace.
“How beautiful,” I remarked. “Your necklace – it’s absolutely lovely.”
Remember them – those are magic words. Quite suddenly, the atmosphere in the dark little torture chamber changed; it was as if the sun had come out. The woman smiled widely and looked at my face for the first time, crinkling the corners around her eyes and giving her head a little toss, as if to throw off sparks from the shiny amethyst hanging from the chain.
“It was a gift from the doctor,” she said. “For Christmas. No one else has even noticed.”
“Well, it’s terrific,” I affirmed. “And how kind of the boss to give you such a wonderful gift. You must be very special around here.”
And after that, there was no stopping her. She chattered away, smiling and gracious, asking me questions about myself and how I felt – was I worried, was I frightened – did I want a warm towel to mop up the viscous goo now spread from armpit to sternum and from collar bone to diaphragm? And how about if she scooped up these captures and those of the mammogram and nipped athletically into the doctor’s office so I could find out now how I’d fared – unorthodox, unheard of – instead of waiting for days until Doctor V summoned me in, no news on the phone, just something she needed to talk to me about.
Did I? “Did you ever have the feeling…”
On balance I did.
Ten minutes later the news was good. Very good. Nothing to worry about.
Farrah (for now I knew her name) gave me a hug and a playful swat on the bum as she ushered me out of her dark little lair. A lair I now recall with fondness and warm familiarity. (There wasn’t a square inch of the miniscule, impersonal space I hadn’t examined in excruciating detail during those ten… minutes… waiting...)
I wanted to skip and to grin and to kiss each of the startled staff on my way out of the exam rooms and further, to hug all of the bored and weary reception-type people out front and all the patients nervously waiting their turn to be stripped and scrutinized and grimaced over.
But of course I didn’t. Not everyone there was having a great day, nor receiving good news, nor looking for a hug from a (still) slightly sticky stranger.
I just came home and took off my sweater and stared at my breasts in the mirror.
I’m not just fine with them now. Now I love them.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Ticked Talk

Twice in today’s Toronto Star my brand new poncho was dissed.
On two separate lists of things that two separate listmakers have demanded disappear in 2005 (along with Ugg boots, Paris Hilton and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) was the poncho.
Osama Bin Laden – who actually has disappeared – and peace in the Middle East were nowhere to be found on the lists, but my poncho was right up there in the top 5 on both… the poncho I’d just purchased in a ‘Boxing Week Blow Out (no returns on sale merchandise) Sale’. My timing (as ever) needs work.
But this year – 2005 – will be different; I’m going to work on the timing thing until I’ve got it down to the second and all those missed planes, trains and opportunities will be a thing of the past. I suspect it’ll be something like snowshoeing or windsurfing – a knack thing – and once I’ve got it down, all will follow beautifully; work and relationships dovetailing into each other as smoothly and precisely as a fastener slides up a zipper. Work will present itself, relationships will flourish, and guilt, anxiety and that horrible pressing sense that I’ve just (just) missed the boat will be but a faint memory in my brand new, polished and tweaked life of joyful serendipity and happy fate.
Or not.
Do you ever feel you were born into the wrong time? That you would have fared better in another century or decade? That with your body type and sensibility you would have wiped the floor with your fellow citizens during the reign of Charlemagne, or perhaps the 1940’s, when the padded shoulder and ankle strap shoe would show off your particular assets to their best advantage?
I do.
I think my body would have looked best in Elizabethan-type garb and my sense of humour would have flourished in the 1920’s when women experienced a sudden surge of relevance and bobbed hair was all the rage. I think my career would have done better in the 1930’s and 40’s when men were off at war and sexist and genderist lines were blurred to near invisibility. I would have liked to have lived in Jane Austen’s time for the sparkling dinner party conversation and ancient Egypt for the sophistication of thought and the hot, dry climate. The 1400’s would have suited when chivalry actually meant something (and you could talk to married men without being branded a complete and utter hussy) and centuries old Mexico and China would have been fascinating for the science and medicine and astronomy.
I’m not trying to suggest I’m one of those old souls you’re always hearing about – infants with Churchillian phizes or tweens with sophisticated ideas ahead of their time – just the sort of person who gloms onto platform shoes or kitten heels or ponchos just as their fashion best-before staledates. But in hindsight? In hindsight I’m a trendspotter as up to the minute as Faith Popcorn… though to be candid, the last time I heard of Faith Popcorn I was wearing spandex pants and glitter eye shadow… so using her as an example is about as timely as the disco garb I chose to wear sometime around the Punk era.
You see the problem.
But I’m not alone. I believe we’re all experiencing some sort of crazy time warp, what with 1950’s values making the sort of comeback The Bay City Rollers would kill for, and racial division getting the kind of attention it received before television was presented ‘In Living Colour’. I have the strange feeling I AM actually living in the past – a past where Joe McCarthy, Herbert Hoover and the Cold War were as current (not to mention hated and feared) as Britney Spears and Avril Lavine.
Over in the Ukraine, some sort of retro Get Smart/Pink Panther super secret agency is operating; poisoning the opposition leader’s cream soup and falsifying voting records with all the subtlety and sophisticated espionagery of vintage Spy Vs Spy. (Watch for stories detailing the wide use of poison tipped umbrellas, cigarette lighter cameras and shoe phones when the elections in Iraq get underway.)
I mean, consider the serious media meltdown that occurred when Janet Jackson’s right boob emerged to claim all the publicity it had clearly been denied by staying (barely) put in its owner’s brassiere for so many wasted years. The hue and cry that emerged should have shamed a society that in a more liberated era (say, five years ago) might have named it Time Magazine’s Newsmaker of the Year instead of being the source of the sorts of fines, lawsuits and vast array of explanations and apologies not heard since Bill Clinton snapped Monica Lewinsky’s garter belt.
And religion! Religion is regressing like a middle aged man in a little red Corvette. Compassionate Conservatism has taken a right turn into God-fearing fascism, putting the mental into ‘fundamental’ as never before.
Tick them off on a list: increasingly limited freedoms, hyper-profiling and the US government nosing its way into the nation’s bedrooms like a hound on the scent – this is the Back to the Future scenario that even Orwell never imagined. Someone, somehow, some way has got to stop the reversal and put us back on course before like all those other folks who refused to learn from history, we’ll be forced to repeat it again and again – paying the price for yesterday’s mistakes with today’s inflated currency.
I’m taking a stand.
I’m keeping the poncho.