All posts by dw99xb

Super Zeros

supermanHas anyone else grown weary of the overabundance of superhero movies in theaters lately?  Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman,  X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, Captain America: Civil War – to name just a few of the releases this year.  I suppose we can spread the blame over several sources: China’s increasing influence in Hollywood, risk-adverse studios that only care about the bottom line, the popularity of Comic-Con, and the  coveted 18-35 dude demographic that  marketers always seem to be lusting after.

But how many of these movies do we really need?  Isn’t Captain America getting tired of saving our dumb asses?  You know the genre’s getting saturated when a movie now has to have at least 3 or 4 superheros – one isn’t enough, and Ben Affleck circles back yet again to reprise his role as  Batman…does anyone really want to see another Batfleck?  I didn’t much like the first one.

I think it’s time that Hollywood put some of their sizable resources into making  newer, more relevant superhero movies – with more interesting protagonists and  villains we can all actually relate to, since I doubt I’ll need saving from the Green Goblin anytime soon.  I have a few I’d like to suggest:

The Sperminator

The Sperminator would be a strong  female superhero.   Her weapon of choice would be a Spay Ray, which she would use to instantly sterilize any man or woman who did not seem capable of raising productive, well-adjusted  citizens.   Many of her heroic battles for humanity would take place in Walmarts ,  DMV’s, and at Oakland Raiders’ Games.    The total tool whose favorite word is faggot?  Zap.  All of the guests and most of the audiences of every Jerry Springer and Maury Povich show ever broadcast?  Zap.  The trailer chick using her kids’ food stamps to buy smokes and lottery tickets?  Zap.  The all-around mouth breather that knows everything there is to know about the Kardashian clan, but can’t name one Supreme Court Justice?  Zap Zap.

Supperman

Supperman would be a Clark Kent inspired hero that frequently makes supper for his wife and family…just because he can.  After they have both had a long day at work,  Supperman would never turn to his wife and ask moronically “So what’s for dinner?”  Supperman understands that  both sexes are equally responsible for making sure appetites are sated, nourishment is received, and life is sustained.   He does not look at a stove and ask “How does this contraption even work?”  Supperman is always up to the challenge. His greatest weapon?  A frying pan and a spatula, and he wields them frequently.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden would be primarily known for her feats of strength.  Her primary mission?  To infiltrate health clubs across the country and ensure that all the bros that have set up camp there, – i.e., the ones who spend hours standing around staring at their muscle-shirted reflections in the gym’s mirrors, oozing testosterone, grunting, slamming around weights, and generally making working out an extremely uncomfortable experience for everyone else – were swiftly and appropriately humbled .  Deceptively diminutive in size, she would patiently wait for the right moment to make her move. The spray-tanned guy bench-pressing 350, huffing and puffing like he is birthing a child, and leaving his sweat everywhere?  Well, the Iron Maiden would quietly slip in after him and, after ensuring a captive audience, would ratchet the weight up to 400,  and then complete her set with little or no fanfare, before casually heading over to the next machine whilst blithely ignoring tan-man’s gaping maw.  Boo-ya!

The Real Spider Man

This is a different Spider Man than the guy who shoots his sticky stuff everywhere and wears that weird full body sock…kinky.  This superhero is just as heroic though, because he takes care of spiders, anytime, anywhere.   He knows that they are good at keeping down pests like flies and mosquitoes, so Spider Man goes out of his way to relocate them, if possible. There is no spider too small, too large, or too freaking hairy and scary for him to take on – except for maybe a Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula or a Sydney Funnel Web Spider – but Spider Man generally steers clear of Australia.  He’s brave…but not stupid.  His weapon of choice is a stiff piece of paper and a recently used glass, but occasionally he has to bring out the big guns – a can of his girlfriend’s hairspray to temporarily immobilize the beast before it can be transported safely to the outdoors.

Wondering Woman

Wondering Woman asks the questions that we all want to ask, but for some reason don’t.  Like -what’s the point of Wonder Woman flying around in an invisible airplane when everyone can still see her inside it?  Why can the Hulk grow ten times his size but his clothes remain somewhat wearable, when the rest of us eat a single piece of cheesecake on our period and we can’t zip up our jeans?  Why does the Riddler keep leaving Batman clues?  Is he stupid?  Why isn’t Elongated Man a much more popular superhero?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Bling

Thing’s  cousin from the hood, Bling is also known for his hard exterior, however in his case, it is because of all his man jewelry. His superpower is rumored to be that he is bullet proof, but the bullets might just get deflected by all of the large gold medallions that hang from his neck and double as shields.  His weapon of choice is his diamond grill –  but he only uses it when extremely provoked, like when he was attacked in a nightclub by a crazed Tyga  and his she-devil Kylie Jenner,

Of course this list is not all encompassing – they are mere suggestions.  But I think it’s time for a new Caped Crusader in Gotham City.  How about you?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/discover-challenges/superhero/

Another Idiot Abroad

monaI recently had the distinct privilege of spending 5 glorious weeks traveling in Spain, France and Italy.  I made some amazing memories, met some wonderful people, and – besides a decent tan and a really great purse – I flew home with some additional insights about myself and human nature in general. Here are just a few:

 I Suck At Languages.

It’s a good thing I learned to speak English as a toddler, because other than some primitive grunting and obscene hand gestures, that’s all I got. I know they say that the locals appreciate it when you at least attempt to speak their language, but I wasn’t buying it.

For example, In Barcelona, you’d think they’d speak Spanish, but you’d be wrong.  They speak Catalan – which is a lovely blend of Spanish and French.  They are proud of their distinct language and culture, so I figured someone like me trying to speak the little Spanish that I do know, namely  – Chalupa por favor?  Donde es la bana?  Puta madre! – would come off as insulting or vaguely threatening, and might even land me in jail.

On the flight over, our show-off flight attendant did her announcements one after the other,  in perfectly flawless English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian.  Who are these people who can transition from one language into the next so seamlessly and with such capable tongues?  I hope the men at least  realize that they could actually use this superpower to score as effortlessly as Leonardo DiCaprio..  Is it hot in here, or is it just you?  would make just about any woman roll her eyes and immediately walk away from the offending beast. But Il fait chaud ici, ou c’est juste toi?  Well, now… that’s a different story entirely.

Expect The Unexpected

No matter how meticulously you plan your trip, I learned that at some point, your plans will go ridiculously awry. You have to be okay with that.  And frankly, sometimes it even turns out better that way.

My anal tendencies were fully engaged as I  planned the trip to end all trips.  I was going to be a goddam travel rock star.  My husband David would have to do nothing but be awestruck in my presence as I masterfully guided us from one perfectly planned location and activity to the next.  I had a binder that had all of the details of each destination separated by dividers.  Hotel confirmations, train transfers, tour bookings, and listings of various restaurants and things to do that I had carefully vetted from various travel websites. You’d think I was selecting a sperm bank donor instead of merely choosing a place to eat.

Umm yeah…so much for good intentions.  I failed to take into account a few things.  For one, many of the smaller train stations and older hotels do not have elevators.  This means that you have to use your own muscle power and balancing skills to transport your massive suitcase up and down multiple flights of stairs.  Bringing 7 pairs of shoes seemed like a good idea when I was packing, but not so brilliant when I was a sweaty, heaving, cursing mess dragging around what felt like a boulder with a handle on it.

I also failed to grasp the fact that apparently all of Europe shuts down on Sundays and holidays.   And I’m not talking American Sundays and holidays, which just means the mega churches and brunch spots swing into action while our stores mercilessly convert every last drop of sentimentality or goodwill into a shamelessly commercial endeavor.  No these people take their Sundays and holidays very seriously.  Their places actually close.  And they don’t care if you had planned on renting a car that day, or doing laundry, or buying groceries.  Oh well.

Another thing – unions in Europe apparently go on strike a lot.  While we were there, there was an air traffic controller strike, a train strike, and a museum worker strike.  I’m not sure why you’d strike if you get 32 holidays and 4 weeks of vacation a year, but I’m now convinced that we Americans are absolutely getting a bum deal.

We Are Really Into Ourselves

This one I’m still trying to come to grips with, since in my mind it is a reflection of a declining culture that views individuals as social media brands, and panders to our basest and most narcissistic natures.  We are all now the photo-shopped, oh-so-carefully crafted star of our own Facebook page, Instagram account, or Twitter feed.

The number one tourist souvenir that vendors were hawking everywhere was a selfie stick. The ancient Roman Coliseum?  Selfie Stick.  Venice in the moonlight?  Selfie Stick.  Michelangelo’s statue of David?  Selfie Stick. I saw people taking smiling selfies in front of the Nice memorial.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Eww.

While attempting to look at The Birth of Venus by Botticelli in Florence, we couldn’t even get near it because of all the people crowding around it waiting to take their selfies.  They weren’t actually looking at the painting – no, of course not.  It was merely a backdrop for their photo op.   Another time I literally saw a young woman spend an entire hour taking pictures of herself in front of the Pantheon in Rome.  Who is that for?  No matter how hot you think you are, does anyone really want to see a thousand smiling selfies of you in front of various architectural wonders?  Back in the day, narcissists just commissioned artists to paint their portraits and hung them in their own houses, so we weren’t all forced to look at them 24/7.  Can we please go back to that?

Driving in Europe is Not for Amateurs.

Drivers in Europe do not have patience for mistakes.  Horns are used liberally and taxis careen through the narrow streets like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland.  We even witnessed a road rage incident involving a priest right outside the Vatican. He actually got out of his car and was ready to fight the other driver.  Apparently celibacy makes you very angry.

We also ended up on the autobahn by accident more than a few times.  One wrong exit on the roundabout and – Bam! There you are, whether you intended to be or not.  We made multiple loops around a few roundabouts after that just to be sure.

It took us awhile to figure out the whole toll thing too.  Like a couple of monkeys trying to get a banana out of a vending machine, we simply couldn’t harness our combined brain power to figure out how to pay at one of the toll booths.  Our only option was to back up and ride the ass of a big semi off the toll road before the guard rail crashed down on us.   We managed to do so, but not without setting off an alarm so loud you’d think its use would be reserved only for alien invasions.  We spent the next hour looking in the rear view mirror waiting for the cops to come after us. We needn’t have worried.  Apparently there are no cops on the autobahn.  People can drive as fast as their car can go and lanes are a merely a suggestion.

Another time, David decided to toss the coins in the bin instead of merely drop them in.  The coins flew up in the air and landed…on the road.  Now don’t think that this was some tiny little chute which would require the skill of a Seth Curry for the coins to hit their mark. No…picture something the size of a kitchen sink literally right outside the driver’s side window.  I’m still not sure how he managed  to miss. Those also happened to be our last coins.  There were impatient cars behind us, and we were too close to the booth to open the car door – so that little mishap cost us a 10 Euro bill for a 1 Euro toll.

Now, lest you think I am too focused on the mishaps and trials of travel, let me add this final thought:

To Travel is To Truly Live

Remember the awe you felt as a child when you saw your first rainbow, or lay on your back – far from city lights – and gazed at the tapestry of stars above?  Remember the thrill of the wind in your hair when you finally rode a bike without training wheels or Dad holding on to the handlebars?  Travel allows us to sustain that child-like sense of wonder throughout our lifetime.

Travel enriches my soul.  It takes me to places, both literally and figuratively, I never imagined I’d be.  It helps me be a more tolerant person.  It gives me historical perspective.  It teaches me to think on my feet.  It helps me to understand that people everywhere are more alike than different.

And that’s the most important thing that I learned on my trip.

The Fear Factory

fearI was thinking about childhood fears the other day. Yes — I’m kind of fun like that.

It happened when I was looking at some old family photos and came across this gem from a visit to SeaWorld:

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What the heck even is it?   What is  that growth on his face and why is he wearing a captain’s uniform?  I can’t believe I got that close to it – my brother must have double-dog dared me.

Fear is a funny thing when you’re a child.  You fear a lot of things – but usually not the things that are likely to actually cause harm.  I remember I was afraid of clowns,  spiders, storm drains, and Peggy – the scary, fat neighbor lady who was always yelling at her kids  and whose house smelled really, really bad.

Death was also a pretty big fear, although I didn’t know that much about it other than I was pretty sure it would hurt – a lot.  In my single digit years, I was convinced that when death came for me, it would likely arrive in one of the following packages:

Piranhas : Like so many unfortunate incidents from my childhood – I blame my brother.  He would spend  hours watching episodes of Speed Racer.  From my observations of the more murdery version of NASCAR that they apparently enjoyed in Japan, I quickly learned that finned killers could be lurking in virtually any body of water.

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A face not even a mother could love

You could be taking a dip in the local lake, crossing a trickling stream, or even taking a bubble bath, and suddenly – like zombie synchronized swimmers – they would pounce. Thirty seconds of roiling water and blood-curdling screams later, and all that would remain of you would be your bones, picked clean and bobbing on the water’s surface like scattered pieces of white-washed driftwood.

Quicksand: Slate journalist Daniel Engbar tracked every appearance of quicksand in film. (Don’t ask why, just be grateful.) According to him, I grew up during quicksand’s peak era – the 1960’s – when 1 out of every 35 movies featured it in some way. You’d think, based on its popularity, that we were losing people by the thousands to this granular menace.

quicksand1Of course, any wily yet wary child who has ever gone exploring — whether it be deep in the Amazon jungle or in the slightly creepy woods behind a suburban cul-de-sac — is always on the lookout for danger. What appeared to be a puddle of mud only a few inches deep, might actually turn out to be a bottomless vortex of death . It was common knowledge that – once in the quicksand’s grasp – no one could save you. The more you struggled, the deeper you’d sink, until finally just your panama hat would remain, sitting – an ominous farewell – atop your makeshift grave.

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Apparently, B.C. stood for “Babe Central”

Hot Lava: Again ( an ongoing theme here ) movies fed this particular fear. To be more specific, 1 Million Years B.C. did. Back when prehistoric cave women looked like a ridiculously hot Raquel Welch in a perfectly ripped animal-skin bikini. Back when caveman fought dinosaurs, even though dinosaurs were extinct over 60 million years before the first humans ever joined the party. And – as if constantly battling dinosaurs and other prehistoric tribes didn’t suck enough – they also had volcanoes and their pent up anger issues to deal with. At any time, hot magma could envelope vast swaths of the earth’s surface, indiscriminately taking out any living thing in its path.

I remember facing a similar fate . Surprisingly, it was a common childhood occurrence – usually when my brother and I were extremely bored. The floor of the living room would suddenly transform into a churning sea of molten lava. It could kill you in a literal hot second, but (as long as your Mom didn’t yell at you to stop messing up the room ),  we  knew that by leaping from sofa to coffee table to scattered cushions to chairs, we’d remain safe from the seething cauldron of rust colored shag carpet below us.


Flying Monkeys:
Flying Monkeys were also at the top of my list, because  – duh…The Wizard of Oz. Granted, I never witnessed them actually kill anything, but they certainly did a good job of dismembering the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, which wflyingmonkeyas pretty brutal to watch as a child. The Wicked Witch’s minions were also horrifying for several other reasons. They were blue, and wore red lipstick, which was weird. They dressed like cute little organ grinder monkeys in their caplets and fez hats, but anyone could tell by looking at them that those were apes, baby. Oh yeah… and they could fucking fly. Need I say more?

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Bees 101 – Keep your mouth closed

Killer Bees — The horrifying, yet inevitable arrival of killer bees was a frequently invoked fear throughout my childhood. Scientists genetically engineered these stinging mofos in Brazil back in the 1950’s to produce more honey. And then … like what always happens in every scary movie  or book — when will we ever learn?… Oops! Some idiot let them escape.

I figured the killer bees would arrive in a massive black cloud darkening the Southern California sky, preceded by an ominous, buzzing rumble like thunder. People would run screaming for cover, bees mercilessly dive-bombing them like kamikaze pilots. Nothing could stop them. I shuddered at every news update of their relentless migration north – reporters breathlessly describing various killer bee sightings like they were witnessing the Rapture. It might take weeks, months, or years — but I knew that they were coming. And apparently they were extremely pissed.

Army Ants: Like Killer Bees, Army Ants’ strength is in their sheer numbers. The ant’s individual capacity for self sacrifice is its strongest suit of armor, when it embarks upon the take-no-prisoners, military operation of relocating a restless queen. When these ants are on the march, they are a moving river of black death. Anything that stands in their way gets devoured in short order. I don’t know about you, but I’d take one good chomp to the jugular over a thousand stinging nibbles any day.

ants
Come on Chuck – we all know that you were a big NRA guy, but a gun is not that useful here…

I remember watching The Naked Jungle with Charlton Heston. In the movie, his character desperately tries to protect his Cocoa Plantation from a 2 mile wide, 20 mile long column of these vicious marauders. Watching the movie, all I could think about was what kind of moron decides to homestead in the Brazilian jungle? Apparently the same guy who didn’t realize he never left earth and isn’t actually on an alien ape planet, and the same guy who didn’t realize that a food called Soylent Green is probably not made from anything remotely related to soy, and might even be jankier than hot dogs.   Next time, I would suggest buying a sugar cane plantation in Hawaii, instead of opting for the Darwin special, Captain Dumb Ass.


These days, I’m almost 100% sure my demise will not come from any of my childhood fears — although they could separately, and especially in unison,  be the makings of one truly epic obituary.

The only volcanic eruption I ever experienced was with teenage acne.

I couldn’t find a recent recorded case of death by quicksand unless <insert any politician’s name here> drowning in their own bullshit counts.

The last time a flying monkey scared me was  a year ago in Costa Rica, when they were howling in the tree tops overhead and flinging their feces at me and some other hapless tourists. Not fun, but not exactly life threatening either.

Killer bees? There have been approximately 1,000 deaths since the late 1950’s. Nothing to sniff at, but as far as I know, they haven’t descended like a biblical plague quite yet.

Piranhas—meh. Maybe one death is reported a year, but even that number may just be manufactured publicity for the next Syfy channel movie starring Lorenzo Lamas as a hunky marine biologist and Tiffany as an esteemed scientist researching genetic mutations in fish .

As far as I can tell, after reading my list,  the only thing  I actually have to fear is Brazil.  Quicksand? Check. Volcanoes? Check. Monkeys? Check. Killer Bees and Army Ants? Check, check.

Brazil – you apparently have all of my childhood bases covered. We can all agree that Carnival, your spectacular butts, and a never ending supply of Victoria Secret Angels earns you a certain amount of goodwill from the folks up north. But really — enough is enough. Time to stop scaring little children.

Sincerely,

birthday2

My Six Year Old Self

Alan Ginsberg’s Ghost

Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening.

― Allen Ginsberg,
from On Being a Writer,

I have now been here for 5 days… I can’t say it has been a cake walk – but it has certainly been worthwhile.  I have enjoyed meeting some truly lovely people.  I have continued to push the boundaries of my comfort level.  I have walked my ass off.  I have napped without guilt.

And I think I’m really starting to get this whole “my body is a temple” thing…especially given the fact that more often than not, I have treated my body like the homes of those hoarders you see on TV. I’ll just wallow in my shit, your shit, everybody’s shit – and then desperately cling to it when people try to help me clean it all up.

Honestly, the only thing I wish I had done differently, was to have found a similar spot but without the religious overtones.  No one has been pushy with it, but I continue to feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I actually envy people who are so certain – certain about the meaning of life, what happens to us when we die, who God is, what kind of food he wants us to consume and not consume, which words offend him, which political candidate he wants us to vote for.  I am not a true believer in anything – other than perhaps this statement:

All I Know Is That I Don’t Know Jack.

Could I start a religion around that?  Probably not. I would need at least ten commandments, but all I’ve got is Thou Shalt Not Profess To Know That Which Ye Does Not.

I’m just someone who needed some perspective and tranquility for a few days.  I can’t fake a persona any deeper than that.  No dramatic spiritual awakening for me – but better mental and physical health is not a bad thing to leave with considering what I could have left with after other vacations (i.e. – Vegas.)

ginsberg
Wasn’t he on Arrested Development?

I have kept busy. I ‘ve had two massages.  I’ve done yoga.  I was instructed on meditation (fyi – there is no right way to do it but I learned some tips that helped me stay focused).   I went shopping.  (Yes – they have a boutique here.  Believe me – I can and will find them.  I am the Shopping Sensei.)  I went on a tour of the community which, from what I can gather, is primarily baby boomer hippies of independent means.  Alan Ginsberg was actually one of three people to purchase this property along with the community’s spiritual founder – I’m pretty sure I saw his ghost lurking in the woods outside my cabin last night…but then again, maybe it was a crazy mountain man stalker.

The food has been decent, just a little heavy on the Mung Beans for my taste.  Everything is vegetarian with vegan and gluten free options as well.  Although I have never been a huge meat eater, I still find myself, both physiologically and psychologically…waiting for the entrée.  There is nothing in this place that anyone could possibly construe as toxic or bad for you.  (Believe me – I’ve searched high and low – these folks have no vices other than going on an occasional Chia bender.)

However – and you’ve probably noticed this phenomenon yourself whilst shopping at your local natural foods co-op (see  http://www.mybeautifulwickedness.net/2014/04/my-co-op-flop/ ) – people who should be so healthy and symptom-free based on their pristine diets, are almost always intolerant – please insert appropriate description here – Gluten, Meat, Dairy, GMO, MSG, YAD (yummy and delicious) – whatever it may be.  Why are they such hot house flowers?

I just dined with a woman who had to break open and sprinkle the contents of her probiotic capsule over her cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce because otherwise she would – I’m trying to understand here – be what?  Constipated?  Gassy?  Have symptoms of Dysentery?  Yet I can consecutively order in two separate fast food drive-throughs, after consuming copious amounts of alcohol, and wake up to nothing more than a slight headache and a feeling of remorse.  (This is just a hypothetical situation, mind you.  I would never actually…uhmm…do something so pathetic.)

I guess I am like a highly trained athlete – dedicated to the daily practice of Eating Well.  Meaning:  WELL…someone put this plate of food in front of me, so of course I can’t be rude.  WELL…somebody left donuts in the breakroom, so I guess I better eat one before they get stale.  WELL…I could fix myself something healthy to eat, but opening this bag of chips would be quicker and not make such a mess.

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Me, looking all Zen and shit.

But before this turns into a gripe fest, which is definitely not my intention…here is is my favorite spot, just steps away from my cabin. Yep – that’s a reflection of the sky in the lake, motherfuckers!  As an added bonus – there is a temple for meditation next to said lake.  Inside there is a life-sized statue of some holy dude, placed here so he can inspire you during your meditations.  (Personally, I think it’s to discourage horny teenagers from defiling the place, but again – we already know I’m going to Hell.)

Just wait until I get back, y’all.  You have no idea how obnoxious I will be in my new-found spiritual and dietary superiority.

Pirate’s Booty

Introductions.

I had the best of intentions.  I was going to be dropped off with no car, no snack food, no wine, and with very limited phone and internet service.  Just my faith that – hey, I could survive anything for a week, right?  But the closer I got, the more frequently I found myself watching the passing In-And-Out Burgers, Starbucks, and Costco’s in my rear view mirror with mounting panic.  What if I found myself starving to death? (which is what we Americans call having a genuine hunger pang.)  Or what if my junk food detox left me holed up in my cabin – crazed, like some rabid beast?  Then what would I do?

After driving for 10 miles on a steep windy road and seeing nothing, knowing that my turn off to the retreat was just a couple of miles further ahead, I felt my stomach sink.  Too late!  Why didn’t I stop before?  You fool – now it’s too late!  Then – like a beacon of light in a stormy sea – there it was.  Mother Trucker’s Market.

Feeling like this was either a test of my faith or a Hail Mary Touchdown moment, I hastily parked and hurried into the tiny establishment, basket in hand.  What had I been thinking?  Like any mom with a big purse knows, you should always have a few snacks squirreled away, just in case.  By the same token, I was ashamed by my complete and utter lack of anything resembling courage or willpower…I didn’t want to wimp out completely.  So ultimately, here was my compromise:

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That, and a little dark chocolate.   I reassured myself that they were labeled fair trade, gluten and GMO free, and could both be purchased at Trader Joes – how bad could they be? And I immediately felt better tucking them both into the corner of my duffle bag…my secret stash, my preeecious.

20160403_141224The retreat’s setting is absolutely beautiful – ridges and valleys filled with green meadows, groves of oak and pine trees, colorful bursts of wild flowers and tulips, and small lakes and ponds where frogs croak and geese congregate.   You can walk quiet  streets with names like  “Brotherhood Way” or wooded pathways leading to tranquil spots with benches for meditation.  I’m not kidding.  This place is transplendorific (my word) – it’s no wonder people come from near and far to stay for a weekend, a month, or even longer.

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I arrived early in the evening, when it was still light.  The lady who checked me in at the reception desk was exactly who I was expecting to greet me…picture anyone in an Exploring Your Inner Goddess Through Astrology workshop.  Silver tinged wavy hair, sporting a J. Jill tunic, REI khakis and Tevas with socks.  She also had one of those voices reserved for yoga instructors and therapists – extremely calm and melodic.

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It’s name is “Calmness”.

As she showed me the common dining room, the temple where I could practice yoga and meditation twice a day, and the clusters of buildings housing the retreat’s guests, I felt a huge sense of relief.  Everything looked normal enough.  As a matter of fact, my little one room cabin is actually very sweet and cozy, with a little porch and windows looking out over the foothills below.

However, despite the idyllic setting, for the first 12 hours, being here did not prove relaxing for me at all.  Everyone I met seemed so…happy.  Not obnoxiously happy.  But annoyingly happy nonetheless – with their slightly upturned smiles, serene gazes, and knowing nods.  I had a flashback thought to the classic 1960 movie “The Time Machine”, based on the HG Wells

eloimorlocks1_468x595
I’ve been told I have an overactive imagination.

novel by the same name.  For those too young to remember, the time machine inventor finds himself transported to an Eloi commune, which as far as I could gather, at least from watching the movie, was basically a home for mentally challenged Swedish models.  So of course when the gong signaling meal time rang out in the morning air, I immediately thought it was trickery and we were actually being summoned by Morlocks.

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I’m pretty sure the light follows him around, even at night…

When I first entered the dining hall I spotted a young man who is staying here for a month-long yoga teacher training (I’ve since named him Hot Jesus…and btw – this will be theme because I’m horrible with names.  If I see you every day for a year there is only an 80/20 chance that I will remember your name, and that is only if I like you.)  He was sitting alone at one of the tables, just gazing out a large window that looks out onto a center courtyard.   << Here is a stealth picture I took of him later in the communal living room.

Literally, HJ was bathed in this halo of golden sunlight, his blue eyes lifted upwards toward the heavens, and apparently enlightened and peaceful as fuck.  So, of course, like any normal person, I was immediately on guard, watching my own back like a new prison inmate.

That first morning, for some reason, breakfast was supposed to be in silence.  Don’t get me wrong – I prefer breakfast in silence – if you try to talk to me before my second cup of coffee you’re lucky if you get a warning grunt in response.  But still – not a good first meal for me to have to figure out their dining room protocol.  Why is there a large bowl of plain yogurt sitting next to a bowl of prunes and a bowl of sunflower seeds?  Does anybody actually mix those three things together? 

The oatmeal looked edible, but I watched helplessly as the gal in front of me scraped the last gigantic gob of it into her bowl.  My mind was thinking Seriously Bitch?  But my face was trying to smile serenely …Yessss, Namaste.  I slunk over to the kitchen area and furtively whispered to the cook that the oatmeal was all gone.  Meaning – please refill the bowl.  He looked at me like I was a dullard.  “Yep.  That’d be the last of it,” he stated simply, and turned back to what he was doing.

Let us offer up thanks to the Divine for the blessing of Mother Trucker’s Pirate’s Booty

Thoughts Before Entering A Commune

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my Zen to keep.

If I should somehow be led astray,

Just don’t ever let me wear hemp Aladdin pants in public.

That is all.

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Actually, let me assure you that I willingly signed up for this, with no coercion.  Promise.  But now that payment has been made and my bag is being packed, I find myself more than a little nervous.  I’ve never done anything quite like this before.  Honestly, the closest I’ve ever come to a spiritual retreat is smoking pot at a Grateful Dead Concert.  

The accommodations will be rustic, with no reliable wifi, or television, and only outdoor shared bathrooms and shower facilities.  The Four Seasons it ain’t.  But it looks like a beautiful setting and at least I was selfish enough to book my own cabin  Although I use the term “cabin” loosely and only because that’s what they’re calling them on the website.  In actuality, they resemble more what I would describe as “Unabomber Shack Chic.”

And what do I even bring to a spiritual retreat that promises yoga classes and guided meditations every day, a spiritual counseling session, and one evening of “devotional chanting”?  I have no idea what the dress code is for a devotional chanting other than perhaps something like this…

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…but unfortunately I don’t own anything like it.  Maybe a hooded bathrobe or a smoking jacket will suffice.  I like the idea of wearing yoga pants for physical activity, and a bathrobe or a smoking jacket with or without fuzzy slippers for any of the more formal events.

All meals are communal and described as delicious vegetarian meals which include organic produce from their own garden, as well as gluten free and non-dairy options.  I will definitely give it a go, but I’m probably smuggling in some summer sausage contraband, just in case my carnivorous cravings kick in – I don’t want to be stuck wrangling a wild turkey and trying to whittle a spit to furtively cook it over an open flame out in the woods.  

So why, might you ask, am I prepping for Karmageddon now?  Well, to begin with I turned 50 this year, and I think that’s a pretty good age to push your comfort level. You may call it a mid-life crisis, I prefer to call it a mid-life awakening…or at least a mid-life take-a-closer-look at-your-options.  

I am also in professional transition and feel the need to hit the reset button of my brain to begin my journey down a more creative path.  If someone can help teach me how to live calmly in an un-calm world,  how to occasionally still the constant chatter in my brain, and how to live more mindfully – heck – I’m all in.

Frankly things haven’t been so great lately.  I’ve experienced some trying times with family and friends.  I have struggled with my own sense of self and felt far less healthy both physically and spiritually than I desire to be.  And recently I’ve seen some pretty shitty things happen to some people I love that has shaken my admittedly already rickety sense of faith.

So it can’t hurt.  And who knows?  Maybe I will even learn how to do that blasted Crane pose.  Wish me luck and I will keep you posted.

The De-Evolution of Romance

I have an embarrassing confession to make. Back in my stay-home mom days – amidst volunteering, chauffeuring kids about town, cooking, cleaning and practicing the highly-skilled art of blending interior design with obtrusive, neon-colored plastic play structures – I had the brilliant idea of writing a romance novel.

I am not a fan of romance novels, mind you. Really, I promise. I haven’t even read one of those 50 Shades of whatever books. Not because I don’t enjoy steamy sex scenes, but because I do enjoy good writing. Actually, the reason I decided cheesy romance was my genre was because I figured I wouldn’t have to be especially good at it, and it was something I could churn out during naps or the occasional away playdate.

Needless to say, I’m glad my novel was never completed nor published, because I would not want that crap forever floating around haunting my novel aspirations. Also in hindsight, I realize as a romance novelist, I would never have been able to keep up with the ever expanding boundaries of taste. It’s one thing to be a writer of banal, silly fantasies, but it’s another to make Penthouse Forum seem downright quaint in comparison.

So let’s examine both the evolution and the de-evolution of the romance genre from the 1950s on, shall we?

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What about Office Lush in the background? Required reading for all HR professionals

 

Pulp fiction was a harbinger of modern day romance, pushing the moral envelope with dime store novels featuring murders, mysteries, and minxes. Even in the early days of the Harlequin romance, when their books were primarily authored by men, romance novels had more of a “True Crime”, hard-boiled detective feel.  The formula was pretty simple – characters like Vic Malloy, Fats Pulaski and Jigger Moran solved crimes and captured dame’s hearts.

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Pretty sure he opts for crazy but good in bed

When women starting writing for other women, the genre got a little less murdery but no less weird.  In the 1950s and ’60s, practically every Harlequin Romance featured a handsome but arrogant male doctor and an earnest, young female nurse in a starched white uniform. For me at least, there are some scenarios in this sub-genre that simply don’t work. Psychiatric Nurse is a romance set in – you guessed it – a psych ward, and one housing the protagonist’s mentally ill sister. Remember that this was also around the time people would end up lobotomized for being slightly odd.  Horny yet?

 

fabio

 

Next came the Bodice Rippers, which nine times out of ten had a windswept cover featuring a dumb but uber hot Fabio.  There he would proudly pose, golden mane flowing, muscled chest gleaming, clutching a fiery, heaving-chested beauty whose pouty expression silently spoke “Let me go, Rogue – but only after you ravish me.”  I came of age during this time, and I can assure you that, much to my dismay, I never saw a single long-haired pirate other than Prince, and, although admittedly hot, he was far too short for me.

 

prince

 

This leads us to our current state of the genre… which is inarguably pretty twisted.  I won’t even blame E. L. James, whom I’m sure still pinches herself everyday for managing to hit the pop culture jackpot with her inane drivel. Yet we lapped up her slop with a giant ladle, and begged for more. Mr. Gray might be a shocking character to a middle-aged, midwestern housewife who thinks removing her flannel nightgown during sex is kinky, but really he is just the tip of the fetishist iceberg.  There is some seriously strange stuff out there that is now considered “mainstream.”

 

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Meet Kylie James…author of such books as “Doug, My Best Friend’s Dad”, “A Sitter For My Best Friend’s Dad”, and “A Tight Fit For The Sitter.”  Huh?  Unless your bff is the adult daughter of Bradley Cooper, me thinks you have a bit of a weird daddy complex going on. Did I mention that the main character also has sex with her female best friend while lusting after the dad?  Eww.  And I have questions – lots of them.  Is this guy also a time traveler? Because that’s the only way the man on the cover could be the billionaire father of a college student. Why is he so oily?  Also, please explain this title to me…what does it even mean? Shouldn’t sitter be the tight fit for billionaire dude, not the other way around?

 

Wolf

 

There is also an interesting sub-genre dealing with wolves and romance.  They call it fantasy fiction,  I call it bestiality.  I wouldn’t even accept a drink from a guy with a hairy back, let alone have sex with a wolf hybrid.

 

Horse

 

Even more disturbing is the Centaur themed romance novels.  Yes – you heard me right. Centaur. Themed. Romance. Novels.  I didn’t have the stomach to research any of the sex scenes so I can only speculate.  Call me old fashioned, but that’s not at all what I want to picture when I think of riding a horse.

With the aid of self-publishing, and as writers continue to test the waters of what romance fans will dive into, one can only speculate what comes next.   One thing I do know however, is that – at least for now – I’ll be sticking to Jane Austen.

From Granny To Goddess

I’m lucky.  Out of all the times to be born, my cute little newborn butt shot through the mommy hyperloop and  landed firmly in the 1960s.  Granted, I was too young to get in on all the cool hippie shenanigans, but at least I got to enjoy the architectural wonder that was ’80s hair, and experience the  thrill of obtaining an education in a pre-PC/Internet world (think typewriters, library card catalogs and microfiche, young’uns).   But the best part of being born in the latter half of the 20th century is that I get to embrace aging very differently than just the generation or two of women before me.

Last night I was at my friend Wendy’s 60th birthday party, surrounded by fabulous women in their 40s, 50s and 60s.  A slideshow of my friend’s photos from past and recent years played in the background, and as I watched  the rich tapestry of her life unfold on the screen, I felt happy.   Happy because 60 is no longer an age where I am required to give up seeking adventures to plant my ass in a rocking chair and take up knitting or needlepoint, (which I’m sure for me would involve lots of puncture wounds to both myself and others).Happy because if I want to dye my hair platinum blonde and rock a pompadour with shaved sides, instead of a short, sensible silver tinged bob, no one is going to tell me I can’t.  Happy because I can get sassy, drink bourbon, and talk dirty if the mood strikes me and there will always be plenty of like-minded women my age to join in the fun.

GourdMotherfuckers
I do quite fancy this cross stitch though…

Now I’m pretty sure some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking  “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad for women of a certain age back in the day. After all, my grandma always seemed perfectly happy baking, and…well…baking,.and of course, baking.”  And actually, Granny was the preferred choice for women over 40 – certainly better than choice number two, which was being designated a Spinster, or an Old Maid.

Just to prove my point,allow me to share some media portrayals of older dames that I grew up with, in the not too distant past.

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I’ll go with tongue Sam, since it’s on special today.

Take Alice from the Brady Bunch.  An unmarried woman of a certain age who – other than the all too infrequent excuse  to visit Sam the  butcher – really had no life of her own other than cleaning up after the Brady brats.

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Damn you Nancy – things were just starting to get interesting between Carson and I!

Here’s another one – Hannah Gruen from the Nancy Drew books.  Also an unmarried older woman, also relegated to a life of quiet desperation cleaning and cooking for someone else’s family.  I’m convinced she secretly lusted after that dashing DA, Carson Drew, and also despised Nancy, who got to traipse around town solving mysteries and shit.

 

Still don’t beligolden girlseve me?  One of the top sitcoms when I was a young woman was “The Golden Girls.”  It was about 3 widows, a divorcee (whose husband of course left her for a younger flight attendant) and her eighty year old mom, all living together in a house in Miami, Florida.  In season one, it was stated that Betty White’s character Rose was 55 so I can only assume the younger character, Blanche – aka “the skanky one” – was supposed to be around 50.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t plan on donning flowing caftans, chunky jewelry and moving into a ranch home in an “active adult community” anytime soon.

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Contrast the image of the older single woman with the older single male.  Confirmed Bachelor.  Silver Fox. And for God’s sake, somebody please tell me why Hugh Hefner –  a guy who is now married, but to a woman 60 years his junior –  is iconicized as the ultimate male stud?  I’m pretty sure the only child reference in his dubious title as The Original Playboy, should be pedo, not boy.  But I digress…

The cultural climate that I get to grow old in is thankfully better than it was a generation before me.  Not perfect – but better.  The path I travel now is full of forks in the road, detours, and yes, even an opportunity to get lost occasionally .  Because continuing to travel a self-determined path is living your life to the fullest, and it shouldn’t end because you’ve reached a certain age.  I hope that it continues to improve for my daughters, and my daughter’s daughters if I am so blessed.

In the meantime, society can stop dictating what we should and shouldn’t wear, based only on the number that precedes the second digit of our age.  Fashion “experts” – how about encouraging women to wear whatever makes us feel good about ourselves? And – here’s a radical idea – how about the longer we’ve managed to survive in this world, the less – not more – ‘a fucks we ought to give?  People can also lose the mindset that – at least for women – youth equates power,  Sure being young of age, dewey of skin and firm of body is awesome, but so is being wise of mind, strong of character, and erratic of hormones (okay maybe not that last one). Not only that, we can still  – “gasp” – be sexy too.  Or “Sexty” as the age was deemed last night. The cultural climate that I get to grow old in is thankfully better than it was a generation before me.  Not perfect – but better.  The path I travel now is full of forks in the road, detours, and yes, even an opportunity to get lost occasionally .  Because continuing to travel a self-determined path is living your life to the fullest, and it shouldn’t end because you’ve reached a certain age.  I hope that it continues to improve for my daughters, and my daughter’s daughters if I am so blessed.

Happy Birthday Wendy – the woman who has survived breast cancer and a devastating car crash, raised two smart, beautiful young women, travels the world, volunteers tirelessly in her community, who has a husband that still thinks she’s the hottest thing on the planet, and friends who genuinely love her.  I say, rock ON, Girlfriend.

Red Rocks and Red Wine – My (Sort of) Spiritual Journey

I recently took a trip to Sedona with three of my girlfriends for an entire week.  We all had different but profound reasons for needing to get away, and we were all seeking our own version of enlightenment.

sedona blogIf you’ve never been there, Sedona is known for its stunning natural beauty, along with a reputation as being a new age mecca of sorts.  It has vortexes, psychics, yoga and meditation studios on every corner, and even alien encounters, if you are inclined to believe in such things.  In keeping with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is also very well-to-do.  I doubt too many people living in Detroit are shelling out $40 for photographs of their auras.

People who know me know I like to poke fun at stuff…and this trip provided plenty of opportunities to do so.  But I did come away with some incredibly profound insights and new discoveries, some of which I’ll share, and some of which I won’t (what happens in Sedona, stays in Sedona, after all – unless it’s fodder for my blog).

Laughter Truly Is The Best Medicine.   I remember when I was very ill many years ago, I was given a book that changed everything for meIt was Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins.  If you’re not familiar with the book, based on personal experience, Mr. Cousins expounded upon the idea that positive energy – one endorphin releasing catalyst being laughter –  can produce healing physiological responses in our bodies which can effectively combat illness.  I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve seen it in my own life and in other’s as well.  If there is one predictor of longevity, it is the ability to roll with the curve balls life throws you…and what better way than by laughing at this mad, mad world we all live in?  During the time I spent in Sedona with my girlfriends, I have to say that I laughed often and I laughed deeply.  Like pee your pants deeply.  And it was an endorphin releasing high that no prescribed drug could ever have given me.

 

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Breakfast of Champions

Truck Stops Are Actually Vortexes to a Parallel Universe.  And a truly frightening universe.  One in which biscuits, gravy, red meat and cigarettes comprise the 4 basic food groups; a universe in which people walk barefoot into public restrooms and consider flushing “puttin’ on airs”; a universe in which teeth are optional but beer bellies required.  I get how elitist that sounds, and I own it – reallyI do.  But after driving for 13 hours and hitting multiple truck stops, sometimes simply to use the restroom, sometimes to purchase my road trip free passes (People magazine and Bugles – don’t judge me), I began to wonder…who are these people and where the Hell are they going? Because I definitely don’t see them anyplace other than at truck stops. Is their universe one big highway with a never ending parade of Love’s and Flying J exits?  Inquiring minds want to know.

 

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Irony is Alive and Well.  As I mentioned, Sedona is somewhat of a paradox. On the one hand, you have this extremely spiritual, Zen-like vibe about town.  But on the other hand, when you see the majority of people walking around in $100 yoga pants and toting $5 bottles of artisan water, it reminds you that it’s a little easier to be enlightened, eat only organic, free range food, and explore your inner chakras when you have oodles of money.  A perfect example of this paradox is when we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  The Chapel is a Sedona icon, a structure that incorporates its natural surroundings seamlessly with both architectural and artistic integrity.  But as visitors revel in the simplistic, innate power of the chapel, you cannot help but notice the obscene shrine to narcissism just a few yards downhill.

 

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“I have to look down at this shit every single day – really?”

 

Rumor has it that it belongs to Nicholas Cage, or to Johnny Depp, or perhaps to the developer of Lasix eye surgery.  I don’t really care if the fucking Dalai Lama owns it.  Unless it has facetiously placed fountains of Neptune and his minions, a duo of white tigers roaming the grounds, and the ghost of Liberace haunts the premises, it is a gaudy and atrocious eyesore in an otherwise pristine and beautiful setting. Vegas? Hell yes. Sedona?  Not so much.

Menopause Blows…No Really – It BLOWS.  Just remember all the people that told you childbirth wasn’t so bad, and breastfeeding was as natural and intuitive as breathing or taking your first steps – admit it:  they fucking lied to us.  I’m going on the record here – menopause is the icing on the giant shit cake you inherited simply by being born without a Y chromosome.   Get used to it.  Between menstruation, childbirth and PMS it’s a wonder we don’t commit Hari Kari with the onset of puberty.  But to me,  it’s really a testament to our resiliency and our strength, as well as the stunning capacity of our tear ducts to  keep the water works flowing.  And because we all possess that dreaded condition known as Hormones (gasp!), I think woman generally bring a higher level of commitment to our relationships than do men.  One crazy knife fight can be chalked up to a hormonal imbalance…after that – and only after that –  do we start questioning the value of our friendships.  Now that’s bad ass.

Planning is Good, But Spontaneity is Much Better.  I’m okay with planning, but to me there is a difference between being prepared for rainy days, and scheduling each and every moment of your life like someone still high off a Tony Robbins motivational seminar.  Some of the best things in life are odd, strange and unanticipated.  If you get to the point that you are unwilling to be open to those experiences, then you, my friend, have jumped the shark of life.  Better to be like a child, full of wonder and blind, dumb faith in a world with equal shares of absolute miracles and lesson learning debacles.

 

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A different kind of Cathedral – Cathedral Rock

 

Forget the Life Coach and Dr. Phil – Drag Your  Ass Into Nature If You Are Struggling With Something in Your Life.  I don’t care what it is – physical, mental, spiritual – there is nothing that a little perspective won’t put into its proper context.  Example: it’s hard to look at a redwood tree or an ancient rock formation that has been around since before Jesus was born, seen wars, revolutions, natural disasters and inventions that would literally change life on Earth as we know it – and somehow think that the fact that you can’t get a wi-fi signal on your flight is worthy of even a minute of the universe’s empathy.  We are privileged like no previous generation, and frankly have a frame of reference that involves a little too much navel gazing …don’t let it be at the expense of a larger understanding – an understanding that we are but a speck on a speck of a planet in a giant galaxy within an infinite universe.  In other words – get over yourself and treasure the gift that is your tiny place in this incredible vast expanse of the mysterious unknown we all share.

 

Female Friendsthelma and louisehips are Like Plants – They Can Be the Very Air That We Breathe, But They Need to be Nurtured and Cared for in Order to Grow and Thrive.   My last bit of insight is probably the most personal to reveal.  I think that woman, much more than men, have a tendency to have unrealistic societal expectations to live up to.  I know that men do too, but believe me – the pressure on women is exponentially greater.  It might involve body image, it might be the common theme that women are only an object d’ art for men and  nothing more, or perhaps it is even the idea that we as women are all in competition with each other, and that if one woman succeeds, it follows that another must fail.  I don’t believe this personally – but unfortunately I know plenty of women that do.  To you women, I say next time you are sipping red wine with your girlfriends, stop the petty gossip and jealousy at other women’s success.  Get real, get raw, and get vulnerable with your fellow sisters.  Forget the Y chromosome –  If you don’t embrace that simple truth incorporated in our female DNA, you will never be a true feminist or the fabulous goddess you aspire to be.

 

Pretty Woman

I almost feel sorry fojolier people that were born beautiful.  You know the kind I’m talking about.  The people who never experienced an awkward stage, as proven by a high school yearbook photo that looked like Angelina’s over here. <<<

 

 

glasses (2)Instead of this. >>>. BTW, this isn’t me, but it easily could have been. When your boyfriend sees your senior yearbook photo, and his only response is a combination of shock, pity, and an “Oh…Honey…” gesture of condolence – well then, that’s when you know it’s bad.

It’s truly tragic…the people who never experienced the horror of waking up to a monstrous zit that instantly turns their entire face into a bullseye.  The people whose hair always looks like they just emerged from a blow-out bar no matter the time of day or weather.  The people who could give birth to a future linebacker and be back in their skinny jeans the next day.  (Yes, Giselle – I’m talking to you.) I wonder – how will they cope when they no longer have that unique form of privilege that is only bestowed upon the beautiful?

As a little girl, I was a charmer. I remember hearing comments all the time – so pretty, aren’t you a pretty little thing, such a pretty girl, pretty, pretty, pretty. Even way back then, I began to wonder if that was the only important thing about me.

I also remember when I started getting noticed in a different way – and unfortunately, like it does to a lot of tween girls, it happened when I was way too young.  Walking home from the bus stop at the age of 12, there was a neighbor – I’ll call him Pedo Phil – that I swear used to lie in wait for me.  Pedo Phil was  in his late twenties, and he would whistle at me and say things like“Hey foxy”, “Looking like a fox today”, “You sure look foxy in those Jordache Jeans.”(Apparently, he had a limited vocabulary, at least when trying to seduce jailbait.)  It was mortifying – especially when he started lurking around in his open garage shirtless.  Thankfully, I had the intuitive Oh Hell No response whenever he invited me to come inside his house, and eventually his mother finally kicked the creeper out.

Once I hit 13, I had an extended awkward stage that lasted so long I assumed it was permanent. Convinced – like almost every girl  that age – that I needed to lose weight, I started the dreaded cycle of yo-yo dieting that only served to pack on the pounds even more.  Combine that with braces, acne, a questionable fashion sense, and some really unfortunate haircuts, perms and dye jobs, and let’s just say I came to accept that my role would be as the smart, sassy girl who had to survive on her wits, instead of her beauty.

Much later, in my twenties, that awkward stage finally wore off.  I emerged, much to my surprise, as something akin to a swan. I admit it was nice.  Even when male attention was unsolicited, it was still comforting to know that I was once again, a Pretty Girl. Like it or not, being a Pretty Girl meant also enjoying a certain intoxicating power that you can wield for either good, or evil. (See Mean Girls if you aren’t sure of the concept.)  People assume you possess positive traits like intelligence and friendliness when you’re attractive.  You get hired and promoted more frequently.  The opposite sex will vye for your attention.  You are more likely to be admired by your peers and forgiven for  transgressions, both big and small.

I understood this because I had also been the Invisible Girl .  I’d had conversations with guys where they couldn’t seem to maintain eye contact – they would stare right past me if any shiny object happened to walk by.  I remember wanting to grab them by the shoulders and shake some sense into them.  “Look at me!  Can’t you see that I’m smart, interesting, and kind?  You’re as average looking as I am!  Why is it that I can  see past your looks, and yet you still have the arrogance to think that I’m not good enough for you because I don’t look like Christie Fucking Brinkley?  Are you kidding me?”

But there is something even worse than invisible. There are the Outliers – the ones who fall far outside the very narrow parameters of what we consider attractive.  Their very existence incites mockery or emboldens morons to make incredibly rude comments. I imagine the morbidly obese and people with even a minor disfigurement experience this uniquely human form of cruelty all the time.

I’ve been an Outlier as well.  It occurred when I lost all my hair to chemo at the tender age of 19 – a side effect of the poisoning I had willingly consented to, because that very poison was also my one and only chance at salvation.  I remember that with every strand of hair that eventually jumped ship from my inhospitable scalp, it felt like I was losing something even more significant – both my femininity and my fragile sense of self.  I did not recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror, and so for a long time I simply avoided looking.

And yes, I was mocked in public – for being bald, as well as for sometimes donning a really unfortunate wig. As bad as I knew that it looked, it covered up the part of my body that announced my illness to the world, whether I wanted it to or not.  The hair helmet allowed me to pretend – at least for a little while – that I wasn’t engaged in a battle between life and death at an age when my biggest challenge should have been maintaining my GPA while spending a significant percentage of my time at either frat parties or the beach.

I remember, when I was bald, running into a guy I had recently dated while visiting a popular hangout in town.  He was surrounded by his posse and he literally turned his back on me, visibly mortified, when he saw me walk in.  What did he think my sick ass was going to do to him?  Tackle him and demand that he make sweet love to me right there on the bar?
Really asshole?  A hug and a few words of encouragement might have been nice though.

It hurt.  A lot.  But it also made me stronger and gave me an appreciation of  my hard won battle scars relatively early on.  I wasn’t just a pretty face waiting for time to inevitably diminish my value as a person.  I was a fucking warrior who understood that what is on the outside can be taken away in a single unfortunate moment, but what is on the inside lasts forever.

Think of beauty as a Tootsie Pop.  Sure the outside is tasty, and has lots of different flavors…but it’s actually the delicious, chewy inside that makes it special. Anyone can be a sucker.  But a Tootsie Pop?  That shit’s got substance you can sink your teeth into.

I try to keep those various perspectives as intact and engaged as possible, although it’s easy to get comfortable, let your guard down, and believe that the person you are now will continue to live on forever. Some people think the trajectory of life should be a flat-line followed by a precipitous drop at the very end.  I get that – frankly it feels good to know what lies ahead.  It also feels good to be comfortable in my own skin, even if it comes with a few more scars and wrinkles these days.

Yet somehow, I think I may still have a few more unexpected points of view, as well as a few more ups and downs.  And guess what? I’m all in. Because nobody should coast through life.  Assume it’s the only one you’ve got, and you are – and always will be – your life’s one true warrior.  Fight hard for it, through every peak – but especially every valley.   Whether pretty, ugly, average, or like me – all of the above – these are fleeting concepts and are not your lasting legacy.  You are far more than the sum of your symmetrical parts, and don’t ever forget you can find real beauty amidst the chaos.