Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Scarf Ace

Ever wonder, as another year positively zips by, reminding you that somehow every other day is Thursday, the week is just two days long, the month a week, and a year? Well, a year can now be measured in the 12 or so national holidays; the distance between Thanksgiving and Christmas barely long enough to wash and dry the Tupperware between one set of left-overs and the next. (Though it has to be said: you can never make too much stuffing.)
Monday was the day it picked up speed: the arrival down at the communal condo mailbox of the Sears Christmas Wish Book. So it’s not just me blinking uncomprehendingly at the swift passage of time, the media (which includes advertising, marketing and the selling of Santa-related goods during an August humidity alert) is taking an increasingly withered and demonic hand in the phenomenon as well.
It’s the kind of whack upside the head by a thousand or so pages in glistening, gleaming colour that snaps you out of your comfortable torpor and into wondering with this light-speed movement of time, just who or what you’re going to turn into when you reach an age-related outpost previously identified as laughably inconceivable
Take your pick: 40, 50, 60 (not the 30’s, they’re just the slightly dog-eared 20’s, evinced by the inability to party so long or so enthusiastically, and a newfound interest in moisturizer) and see if you don’t experience one of those involuntary shudders as the unthinkable date shows every sign of drawing inexorably nearer, proving you wrong, or at least as human as the rest of us.
I am still more than a few seasons removed from the age I could never quite wrap my head around, but much as I acknowledge its future calendar reality, the actual reality just does not compute.
Until I saw a woman yesterday – and I don’t know what it was, but I felt a genuine ping (or a pang or a twitch or a twinge, you know – one of those) thinking: “I recognize you – you’re the future me.” And my fears became palpable… or at least visible.
I think she was somewhere around 50, taking what looked to me like a brave – though misguided – crack at her mid-40’s; very attractive, but missing the mark by several years and just a soupcon of dignity.
She wore a conservative beige skirt, yes, but she had matched it with a camisole and blouse in acid green and chromium yellow respectively, a combo that made one wince at the colours whilst simultaneously stifling an indrawn hiss at the fit and fashion. Mutton dressed as lamb, cow as calf, desperate aging dame as fresh-faced hopeful.
It’s a thin line…
But it wasn’t just the clothes and the colours, or the kitten heels or the pale pink lipstick; it was the attitude – attempting hipness with a gang of individuals several decades to the south.
We weren't really at all alike - I'm younger, shorter, blonder, weirder - so what was so familiar? What clinched it?
More like what cinched it...
It was the scarf.
A scarf I recognized – a scarf she had tied jauntily around her waist – a scarf similar to the one I had also been toying with tying around MY waist that very morning, wanting to spice up an otherwise insipid outfit of conservative black on black.
That damn scarf! Why didn’t I see it before? It’s the total dead give-away of the incipient senior citizen. I have a drawer-full. Some older than me – the last silky vestiges of my mother – some are vintage, faux Hermes and the like, but some fellow fashionistas, some are new. And in their newness, telling a tale so worrisome I’m just surprised I didn’t see it coming a mile away - or at least a decade ago.
Though I haven’t worn any of the patterned squares as yet (I keep my pants up with old ties or – such ingenuity! – a belt) I keep hauling them out and trying them on, waiting for the moment when one of them fits naturally with what I’m wearing.
What I didn’t know – didn’t realize – was that what I’d actually been doing was trying on my old lady self to see if it fit each and every time.
I comforted my self then – I comfort myself now – with the knowledge that I’ve always unconsciously and naturally placed the scarf back in the drawer and stepped away from the implications, the truth being that I am still just grasping gently (never clinging!) to an ageless youthiness that I plan to maintain for another decade or so. Damn the calendar, full speed backwards.
But I notice small changes – and they’re not in my body or wrinkle count – but in my choices; a little backpedaling perhaps, a little downplaying, a little less va-voom, a little more… well, yes, dignity; the word heavily laden with intimations of maturity and, yes, (ack) age.
For one thing, my necklines are going up.
Never one to hide any asset under a bushel or a turtleneck when given the plunging opportunity, I’ve begun thinking about – if not always completely acting upon – adding a little subtlety to my fashion mix. Ditto shorter skirts going a little longer, crop tops disappearing virtually altogether and less eye makeup during daylight hours.
There’s something sort of sexily compelling about a fresh-faced youngster flirting with smokey dark eyes and lashes as thick and bristly as tarantula legs, that sends a different message altogether if the possessor of said kohl-rimmed peepers is somewhere in the neighbourhood of ‘that certain age’.
It’s not the horror of the arrival of ‘that certain age’, just the dawning realization that I’m not going to be able to side-step it as I so naively and originally (and confidently) assumed.
There is a bright spot. One I initially overlooked as I plunged into horrified recognition of the scarf-lady; in retrospect I could see she really didn’t give a crap what anyone else thought of her look.
(She honestly couldn’t have and still left the house looking like that…)
But she had a style which she chose to exhibit without any noticeable shame at her temerity in having one. She laughed and talked with the 20-something’s and they laughed and talked right back to her without any discernable eye-rolling or outward disgust.
I think she was happy – and comfortable – with herself. It was what was so attractive about her.
Perhaps she’s simply in a self-accepting, fully conscious transition: from regular, common or garden typical tax payer, to crazy old broad with a wardrobe full of anachronisms and kitten heels in every colour.
And scarves; scarves to add whatever personal statement or flash of personality might be missing from her particular get-up on any given day.
As long as she refrains from giving a crap I suspect she really will maintain that ageless youthiness I’m also hoping for. And with her in mind if I hang onto just a soupcon of dignity – and my scarves – I may be able to achieve it too.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Doggie Diva

So I’m at the vet the other day, waiting to put more money into the paw of some wealthy pet pill-pusher, when a name is called and a woman stands up.
Much the same as people get referred to as Ben’s Mom or Meghan's Dad the minute they get in proximity of a school or other child-centric locale, at the vet you’re referred to by your pet’s name. Thus when I heard “Fluffy Santiago” summoned I knew it wasn’t “Fluffy” the person who stood up, and I further suspected I was the only one who would appreciate the sentiment, but I couldn’t help myself saying to no one in particular “Fluffy Santiago? What a coincidence – that’s my stripper name”.
And true to form – and expectation – all that greeted my contribution was a resounding, even judgmental silence.
Fluffy Santiago’s mother didn’t look any the worse for having heard the offending phrase, but the other pet owners looked distinctly unimpressed – all except a girl with an extremely odd looking dog (seriously, the legs, body and head were all from different animals – no blending or smoothing – and looked like they’d just been hastily slapped together, perhaps as placeholders until something more appropriate could be found… which wasn’t…) who broke into giggles before promptly wiping the smirk off her face. I suspect the general sense in the (un-air conditioned) pet pain palace was that I had taken a cheap shot, when really all I was doing was letting myself free-associate while nervously awaiting news.
Because I wouldn’t on purpose. Truly. I detest the cheap shot.
But if it was – subconsciously or otherwise – a shot that was cheap, it’s the only cheap thing I’ve done recently, at least in relation to veterinarians.
About a month ago, late on a weekend evening (the time when all children, dogs and teeth routinely act up) Lily had to be hustled off to the animal emergency hospital and ended up spending the night and fifteen hundred of my hard earned dollars on a condition we still have no diagnosis for: just a handful of ominous symptoms and a worry that’s with me from the moment I awake each morning.
(May I just say - Emergency Animal Hospital? Total racket. And a real insight into how it must be for Americans health care and health-care insurance wise. Because pet insurance? Another total racket.)
But to be honest, this is nothing new. Since the day she came home with me 13 years ago, I have been on near constant high alert that Lily was on the brink of death. Struck by a car, kidnapped (it happens – twice in my seemingly sleepy little dog-napping neighbourhood) accidentally squashed, squished or squeezed (she’s very small) or just plain succumbing to some horrible doggie disease, and all in some fatalistic way just because I love her so much.
Remember in Terms of Endearment, the character Shirley MacLaine plays, who shakes awake her peacefully sleeping infant to see if it’s breathing? Done it. Many a time. Through my fears I’ve trained her to be somewhat spoiled, a bit of a hypochondriac and a prime manipulator who only has to let out a squeak or a whine to get me coming on the run.
And now all those worries are coming home to roost as it looks like her time may be limited. She has an enormously enlarged liver (I begged her to put down the vodka – but she just loved those Greyhounds so much…) which seems to be pushing all her other little organs around, making it difficult to breathe, eat, or find a comfortable position in which to rest.
Since the emergency vet, we’ve been to my own vet three more times and have another appointment scheduled for Thursday to see if we can’t find some drug or other to make her more comfortable. The other options surrounding diagnosis are just too risky and painful to consider, as are the options for treatment should we get a diagnosis.
There’s no good news scenario available for Lily, save the hope that she can maybe continue to heave her giant liver around for some time, in as comfortable a state as we can devise for her.
She’s also, quite aside and apart from the enlarged liver, apparently going through premature senility – part of the answer as to why she’s so unsettled – she simply has no memory of the fact she’s been on and off the bed ten times in the past hour. I should have known; I sing to her, and for some time I’ve suspected that I’m not the only one who routinely forgets the words to “I love a Piano” and “Indian Love Call”.
Strangely all her fetishes and quirks remain unchanged: she likes to walk between lines – between the traffic on the street and the edge of the curb stone on the sidewalk. She has to be dragged to the centre of the pavement. (Think Jack Nicolson’s OCD character in As Good As It Gets.) She hates the colour red (and I thought dogs were colour blind) invariably kicking red cushions off sofas, chairs and beds, like Tippi Hedren having a bit of a freak-out in Hitchcock's Marnie.
And she likes to eat dinner twice: once to suck the tasty wet food off the kibble, the second to eat the kibble, but all the while with a long-suffering look on her punim, like a prisoner of war forced to eat sawdust while her wicked oppressors are gorging on chocolate, fresh coffee and creamy Danish butter. (Think The Great Escape.)
The movie references didn’t start out as a theme, but the fact is it’s just a natural association. Lily is without question a movie star type of dog – a diva with a list of ridiculous demands (who was it who had to have the brown M & M’s removed from the snack tray in their dressing room as a condition of performance? And who do you think it is who will only eat her apple if the skin is first peeled?) who deigns to walk amongst her fans, always aware of her effect on people – which is considerable. Folks regularly abandon infants in strollers and puppies and kittens (true story: a woman and her two little girls let their Yorkie puppy wander off into the path of a large cranky Labrador at the vet last week in order to repeat that instantly familiar phrase, “She’s just so CUTE!”) to worship at the shrine of my small, bad, brown dog.
So I’m in a sort of limbo – I don’t know what she has or how long she has to live – but I find I prefer it this way. As long as she’s annoying me with constant demands to be lifted on and off furniture, eating like a small brown pig and begging for her beloved treats with all the fervent need of a drowning victim going down for the third time, then we’re both happy. Well, happy-ish.
And my real stripper name? Based on the traditional method of determination, I’d call myself Charlie 14th Avenue. Which is neither particularly strippery, nor terribly memorable.
If I ever find myself in the act of peeling – clothes or apples – I think I’ll just call myself Lily Wilson. It isn’t particularly sexy either, but it is a name I’ll never forget.