Wednesday, January 30, 2013

79 Days - A Hobbit, A Spy, and Wait, George Michael is GAY?

This is a tale of the two faces of Eve.

When I was young, a passport seemed about as foreign as that little Italian grandmother on Haverford Avenue who would yell something at me most mornings on my daily walk to school. I didn’t have a grandmother and I didn’t speak Italian, so the entire concept of her and what she was about left me clueless, but not clueless enough to put a ton of thought into, sort of like a passport to seven-year-old. By the time I was old enough and, well, wealthy (take that lightly) enough to travel overseas (we’re talking Caribbean here, as if that even counts), it was pre-9/11, which meant you could still go to most islands in the Caribbean with just a photo I.D. and your birth certificate, and which further meant that the idea of a passport still didn’t cross my mind much.

Enter, age thirty.

With one divorce and no kids under my belt I decided it was time to act like a big girl, so I moved in with my parents. Oh, that’s… not the big girl part, obviously. I mean, I moved in with my parents (because of the divorce) and saved every dollar I made from the two jobs I worked for the year leading up to my thirtieth birthday. The plan? Do something I had always imagined doing: travel, alone if I had to, to Europe. I was ready. My time had come and no person or thing was going to stop this reality. All I needed was a few thousand bucks (check!), six months of Italian lessons (check check!), and my passp… fuck.

“Ma’am, you can’t smile in these photos. The gov’ment won’t accept a smiling passport photo.”

“Um, the ‘gov’ment’ can kiss my ass, Miss Rhonda. I look forty in that non-smiling one.  And what the frigg is up with the lighting in here, anyway? It‘s worse than the DMV lighting. I didn’t think a picture could look worse than a DMV picture. Thank you for blowing my beliefs out of the water today. Let me guess, you think George Michael is gay too, don’t you? ”

(Growing impatient, or as we call it in Philly, Post Office Syndrome.) “Ma’am, you’re gonna pay me money today to take your picture, and you’re gonna wait your four to six weeks, and then you gonna come back to me and tell me that I need to take your picture again, and we don’t do freebies. You do whatcha want, but you’re gonna have to see my face again if you don’t do it right this first time. And George Michael been out since ‘98, so, yeah, I do think he gay.”

“Okay Rhonda, you made your points. Take the damn picture.”

Rhonda won but only because Rhonda was right (was it really ’98?) and so I waited my four to/or six weeks for a tiny envelope to arrive from the United States Department of… (Googling)… STATE (total mindfart there), and lo and behold, I was now the proud owner of my very own U.S. Passport. I don’t care who you are – be it guido or hipster or hick – if you are the bearer of a passport and have never once thought of yourself as a person who could wear a tux, drink a martini, carry a pen that doubles as a fighter jet, and be involved in some sort of international espionage while a Sheena Easton song plays vaguely in the background, then you’re a blatant lying fuckface and we can’t be friends. In fact, stop reading this blog right now. NO! NO GO AWAY! I NO MEAN IT!

This thing – this little leatherette booklet with its official seal and its hologrammed pages – it, well, I guess it always felt so empowering to me. It meant that I could do the things that my parents not only didn’t do on their own for themselves, but also didn’t do for any of us, like take us to faraway lands, or fill our minds with the belief that roads are meant to be travelled, and surround us with different cultures, foods, or music. It was my ticket to getting out. The beginning of what would be my lifelong love affair with continents afar and languages a-plenty. I held in my hand the key to the beginning of the rest of my being and my life, suddenly, was headed where I had only before dreamed it could go.

Enter, age forty.

“Isn’t there a box or something you can stand on? I mean, no offense, but you’re much littler than I. Maybe the light at your angle is casting a dark shadow on my face. That picture is (sighing)… I can’t use that picture. I look deformed. “

“Ma’am, it’s for a passport. I really don’t think the department of immigration is going to judge you by your laugh lines. Or that… is that a mole?”

“Oh, you are fuhhhhh-nnny (for a hobbit).”

“What was that, Ma’am?”

“I said ‘you are funny; would you stop it?’ I’m forty, kid. I know what it’s for, but you don’t know what it means. See, there’s a difference here, and it’s much more than just the eighteen years between us and the fact that I wouldn’t look good in that official U.S. Postal Service sweater vest. What do you call that color…? Shire blue?”

 (Taking my paperwork and old passport from me.) “You understand that you won’t be getting your original passport back, right? And you understand that you have to pay by check or money order?”

“I do, and I do,” I said, watching as Peregrin Took went about his fastening, stapling, and no-eye-contacting, until, just for a second, I saw him pause and then, look up. He looked at my face as if to determine that the person whose photo he just despisingly took was the same as the one on the old, worn, and beautifully used passport before him. I watched his eyes trace my aged face in fractions of a second before he glanced back down at the envelope he was mindlessly stuffing with my official State Department documents.

“It’s one-hundred and sixteen dollars. You should receive your passport in fou…”

“… four to six weeks, yes. I’m well aware,” I said knowingly, and looked, one last time, at my first ever passport before it was slipped into a letter-sized cardboard envelope, never with my eyes to be seen again but often recalled in the memories I had made with it. All those countries. All my stamps! Oh, I’m going to miss them, so.

“I wouldn’t worry about your picture, ma’am” Pip said as I gathered my belongings before leaving for home. “I think you look better in this one. Not that you care what I think. I am, after all, just a hobbit in a sweater vest.”

And with nothing more than a slight smirk on my face and a bit of pink in my cheeks for more than one reason, I turned on my heel and headed for the door, hoping to find Jason Bourne or James Bond waiting for me somewhere in the parking lot.

Hopefully, with a goddamned martini.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

93 Days – Tales From the Sinkhole, Part 1: How Do You Barter in Marriage?

“Happy Monthly Anniversary…”

Ah, the sixteenth.

Let’s face it, there is a complexity in marriage unlike any other we have known in life. It has been written about in everything from nineteenth-century poetry to twenty-first century trash novels. It’s been laughed about on stages across the world, sung about in dive bars and mega-venues, and cried about by grown men, bitter women, and children of the divorced aforementioned. Marriage is the eighth chapter in a well-written novel of your life; your character has been established but needs the next eleven chapters to define itself, though never fully, until either death or separation gives the reader the climax it knew would either ultimately happen or never saw coming, no matter how many bloody battles they had read about. Marriage, for me, has been as edifying as it has been laborious, but it is the path I have chosen to take as a person whose nature is to want to explore. And so there are days when the road is wide and free of litter, and days when I catch a glimpse of a beautiful hawk, circling alone above a field not very far off. There are days when even the lushest tree can’t shield me from the rain that is torturously beating down on my skin, and days when I legitimately know which way I am headed, to even my own surprise. As cliché as it is –and it is, without a doubt—marriage is a path, or rather a section of a path, in a little flattened town somewhere south of the Canadian border known as Lifeville. But unlike songs you’ve heard on the Gospel or Soft Rock stations on your car radio or in your salon of choice, it is not a path you walk with someone else. It’s not. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you walk this section alone, amigo. Fully and completely solo, so before you walk it, you might want to take some time and research walking shoes. Consumer Reports is a good place to start from what I hear.

On the sixteenth of every month since May 16th, 2004, I have been wished a happy monthly anniversary by the man I married, or rather, the man who married me. For a while it was a competition—as most things are in our marriage—to see who would remember first, but in the last one hundred and four months since that beautiful spring day in Asheville, North Carolina, I’d say I’ve won that game about three times. Maybe twice if I’m being honest with myself. And every month it surprises me that he still keeps the tradition going, in the same way that it baffles me that he remembers to place my reflux medication on the breakfast bar next to a rocks glass of tepid water every morning for me to take, because he knows how terrible I am at remembering to take care of myself. He knows when the oil in my car needs changing. He knows when I’m due for my teeth cleanings. He changes the blown out light bulbs without ever being asked. He schedules the kids’ pediatrician appointments.  He even edits, successfully, anything that I write for publication and will edit this very post likely on this very day. He is by all accounts, “The Fixer” for a woman who has always considered herself “A Fixer” and yet I would trade all of it in a heartbeat for the things I categorically need from him. He’s a thinker—thoughtful at times and overthinking at others—but how do you tell a thinker that you just want them to stop thinking? That you would trade every pill and greeting and light bulb for a chance at a particular happiness that has long been deprived of you? How do you barter in marriage?

“Easier said than done” is as overused as “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” and yet I can think of no more fitting adage to sum up the sinkhole I have found in my path that is keeping me from taking another step forward. What do I do? Do I turn around and go back? The frigging thing is HUGE. There’s no way I can jump it alone; that’s not even an option. Do I turn and walk through the needle-thick forest risking cuts and scars so that I can simply find a second path that will take me into an even more unknown unknown? Do I stand here and wait, hoping that the hole will just fill itself up on its own? Or do I fill it? Do I spend the time—years even—building it back up using dirt and branches and litter and sticks until it’s at least high enough for me to jump down into, stumble across, and hopefully climb back out of?

Every month except two for the last one hundred and four months I have been wished a happy monthly anniversary by that man who married me. Why have I only done it two times? Because I didn’t think about it, that’s why. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t important, but what it does mean is that I was in my marriage… being married… living my marriage, and there is a distinct difference between being in something; the feel and taste and smell of it (think, three dimensional), and thinking about something which involves thought alone (two-dimensional). One isn’t better than the other, but there are times and places for both and even situations where neither is needed. Thinking. Being. Thinking. Being. Thought. Action. Thought. Action.

I am theoretically sitting down on a patch of dirt in front of this massive sink hole, waiting, I guess, for February 16th to arrive, but for some reason, it looks like someone left this pair of cool 3D glasses on the side of the road. I’m going to keep them, just in case.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

106 Days - No, Judd… THIS is Forty.

My husband and I went to see the Judd Apatow movie “This is Forty” on Monday afternoon – New Year’s Eve –not unlike many other middle-aged couples grasping to convince themselves that *this* New Year was going to be different than all the rest; that they were going to spend more time together as a couple (so let’s start with a movie!) and remember what it was like to actually like one another (how about drinks afterward? Many drinks!) and that they were determined – DETERMINED – to start new/fresh/over and have it be different/unique/special. And so we went, popcorn-free, to watch a flick about just how different/unique/special we are not, and to be frank it was probably the perfect way to start the year that will bestow upon me a fresh new number to start my age with.
I’m a Big Paul Rudd Fan, and like most Big Paul Rudd Fans I’ve been a BPRF since the first time I saw him in the movie Clueless. There is something just so adorably irresistible about him in every bad movie he makes which keeps me coming…
…back for more.
He’s my “one”… ya know, the one who your spouse gives you the pass on if you ever get the chance to sleep with the person. Todd’s totally cool with my choice of Paul Rudd. I think it’s because he’s not threatening. A Hugh Jackman can be threatening. Tall. Muscular. Sings. Dances. Speaks in heavy Australian accent. Looks that would make the Queen of England moisten her britches. Potential to blow you across the room with tsunami-like orgasm. Way fucking threatening. Way, way threatening. Not Paul Rudd. Black hair. Blue eyes. Short. Kind of pudgy. Hairy-chested. Skinny-ankled. And likely not very well endowed. Todd knows that if I rode the Rudd train I’d still be back to spend the rest of my life with him, so he’s given me the hypothetical okay to get my ticket stamped if the situation ever presented itself. Best. Husband. Ever.
So there I was, next to my guy, watching so much of our current life unfold on the screen in front of us. I think I didn’t cry for about a ten minute stretch, and it’s a fucking comedy. It hit so close to home that I found myself not focusing on the movie so that I could think about whether or not our house had been bugged or if there could be hidden cameras planted in shower heads and fireplaces. So much of my life was on that screen for all of Winter Park, Florida to see. And people were laughing at it, and I wanted to scream at them, “Hey, you, YOU… the twenty-four-year-old douchebag with the running shorts and the freshly done highlights… that’s going to be you, too, asswipe. JUST YOU FUCKING WAIT. MAKE YOUR BOTOX APPOINTMENTS EARLY, DICKWAD!” I wanted to but I didn’t, and so I sat in a tear-soaked theater seat holding tightly to my partner’s hand as we laugh-cried at our life as we know it and silently thought one similar thought…
“This year is going to be different/unique/special.”
I’m no Leslie Mann. Well, meaning I’m not whiney. I am actually a bit more like Paul Rudd’s character in the movie (Spoiler Alert) meaning I’m likely to be the one secretly eating cupcakes or staring at Megan Fox’s tits wishing I could grope them and wondering what she’d be like in the sack. I’m definitely the one who sneaks to the bathroom six or seven times a day just to escape. I’m clearly the one who would call Todd in to make him look at some weird growth on my labia or discoloration of my poop and I sure as shit am the one who would rather listen to Alice In Chains than Lady Gaga. Actually, that’s both of us (thank you, Jeebus). But Leslie’s character and I had some similarities. The constant cry of “I want us to feel passion like that again” was not lost on either of us as she watched Megan Fox get plowed during business hours on the counter of the clothing boutique that Leslie’s character owned. With the door unlocked. In broad daylight. I remember days like that. I remember the outside shower at our friends’ beach house when everyone had already headed home. I remember the locked bathroom door of the nightclub I worked at while a line of people waited outside trying desperately not to pee their fishnets. I remember the parking lot of a Buckhead design center and the yet-to-be finished walls of a yet-to-be-determined building. I remember, even now, at almost forty, and I, like Leslie’s character, might be trying too hard to hold on to those moments instead of simply recalling fondly that they were had; allowing them to be memories instead of forcing them to be goals. I walked out of the movie theater ready to come to terms with the fact that I am not twenty, or thirty, and that I am not in the best shape of my life and that I won’t have a four-hour sexual experience without one of us complaining about our sciatica. But I also walked out convinced that I’m not ready to give up, either, and that I can still look great “For Forty” and be cool “For Forty” and rock the fuck out… for any goddamned age.
So, this is it. One-hundred and six days left. This Is Forty, and Forty is dry skin and insecurity and laugh lines and cellulite and stretch marks and bad eyesight and graying hair and thinning lips and fatigue and weird lumps and regret and emotional outbursts and technological ineptness and mammograms and sore muscles and colonoscopies and wine for breakfast and bittersweet symphonies and girdles and support hose and sunscreen and arthritis and fiber.
But those laugh lines developed over years from genuine, hearty laughter, of which I’ve had loads of. And those stretch marks came from the two beautiful children who give me reason to wake up every day. That cellulite? From the eggplant-stuffed pork loin I made on Sunday night that I served with a lovely Meritage. The sore muscles are due to years of dancing on seven-inch platform heels with my best friends on Saturday nights. The support hose is for all the time I spent on my feet working so that I could send myself to Europe on my thirtieth birthday. The gray hair is inherited from my mother and serves as a reminder of her whenever I see it in my mirror. And the fatigue is proof that I did all of these things and that I would do them all again if I were in my twenties or thirties. But, I’m not. Well, almost not. I’m almost in my forties.

And it’s awesome.