Monday, June 22, 2015

Aspiring to Spry OR Waiting for the Towel to Drop

I wonder what age it is when you become “spry.” If you Google the word you get: “lively, agile, nimble, lithe, graceful, limber.” The first hit on the web uses it in a sentence, “She continued to be spry and active well into her eighties.” Well, thank goodness, I’ve got a ways to go! I’m hoping that I can work up to spry, because quite frankly, nimble, graceful and agile I have never been.

I was musing upon this yesterday as I lounged at ocean’s edge, a Gin and Tonic in my hand. We are on vacation, you see, in a seaside resort in North Carolina. The thought occurred to me as I watched a young man come up from the beach carrying a surf board. He had already opened his wet suit and had pulled it half way down to his waist. He had a deep tan, sculpted muscles and six-pack abs. It was hard to look away. He used the shore-side hose to rinse the sand off his legs and then got a towel from the hotel cabana. I bent slightly to reach for my G&T on the nearby table. When I glanced up again, the towel was wrapped around his middle and the wet suit lay in a rubbery puddle on the ground. “OK,” I thought to myself, “This is interesting.”

What happened next was pure ballet. Lissome as a dancer, he glided his bathing trunks up under the towel with nothing more than a graceful pas de bourree. The towel remained neatly cinched about his waist until he whisked it away as though it was the last flourish in his dance. It took my breath away! Such confidence. Such ease. Such elegance.

If I had attempted that maneuver, it would be more of a comedic clog-dance routine than a ballet solo. I’d be holding the towel under my chin, wriggling like an eel, wrestling with cotton over wet limbs, losing grip on the towel, catching it in my teeth and ultimately toppling over to fall flat onto my keister.

As I had done just moments before. Wading along the shore, I had decided to take the plunge and challenge the crashing waves. This would be an uncharacteristic move for me, but some kids were frolicking in the breakers, laughing, shrieking with each swell of cold ocean that washed them toward the beach. It looked like such fun. I took a step into the water. My right foot touched soft sand that yielded as the wave rushed out and suddenly my leg sunk up to my knee. A second wave side-swiped me and toppled me into the surf, my left leg shooting upward and my rear end plunging downward; tuchus over teakettle. If I had landed in a rip current, I could have been shark bait for sure.

The struggle to upright myself was even more awesome than the wipe-out. I returned to wading on the hard-packed sand with sea foam lapping my toes. There might have been a chance that the hundreds of people on the beach would not have noticed the acrobatics.

During the subsequent onshore restorative G&T sipping, I pondered how some people just seem to be born with gazelle-like grace. I believe they are innately adept at physical tasks. Some of us others are natural klutzes.

A childhood friend could scramble up our crabapple tree to reach the high fruit. I picked up the bruised apples that lay on the ground. She could leap over picket fences by placing both hands on the top rail and vaulting aloft with her two legs in a half-tuck. I usually tore my pants attempting the less-athletic step and hoist maneuver.

My dad taught me how to ride a bike. He demonstrated the classic dismount, swinging one leg in a long stretch behind him and then arcing around to touch down and run a couple of steps to come to a stop. To this day, I have to brake fully and get both feet on the ground before stepping over the crossbar.

High school gym class was a misery of being yelled at for my reluctance to perform a backward somersault. I’d get stuck with my legs halfway over my head and, as I lacked the momentum to roll any further, I seriously worried I was about to break my neck.

Skiing was an impossibility because I’d get T-boned by the T-bar every time.

My golf swing would scare gophers.

My swimming stroke isn’t so much Australian crawl as it is, “Call the lifeguard! That woman is drowning!”

“Don’t rock the boat!” is the cry heard whenever I try to board one.

No, some of us are meant to arise out of the ocean like a mythic King Neptune with a surfboard tucked under his arm and deftly change into clothing under a towel. And some of us are meant to sit shore-side with a smart cocktail, admiring such grace and abs. Did I say “abs?” I meant, agility. Yeah, that’s it. Agility.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Hair Raising Tale

Just in time for Father's Day, comes this: a news item about a trend in beauty routines for women. Shaving. Our faces. 

I find this disturbing on a number of levels.

First of all, I feel bad for men. Really, I do. For hundreds and hundreds of years shaving has exclusively been the male domain; ok, except for the Bearded Lady in the circus. Generations of dads have beamed with pride on the day their sons take razors to facial growth. Now, women will coach their sons AND their daughters in this coming-of-age ritual? Will we gals encroach on barber shop bastions asking for, "A shave and a haircut, my good man, and leave the side burns a bit longer this time."? Frankly, I find the idea of standing in front of the mirror every morning scraping off stubble alongside the Mister interferes with the mystique we have cultivated all these years. He has never even so much as seen me pluck a stray chin hair and I intend to keep it that way.

Second, it has never been easy in the entire history of Father's Day, Christmas, and birthdays to find good gifts for guys. In my opinion, those items you see advertised in men's catalogues are just totally lame ass. Who on earth needs an "executive toy" on their desk or anywhere else for that matter, especially one of those things with the silver ball bearings that swing back and forth clacking into each other? Is this supposed to be meaningful, as in, "Your career is endlessly boring, you poor sap."?  Anyway, at some point, buying him ties, socks, power drills, golf balls and barbecue tools just loses its thrill, doesn't it? With those options exhausted, swanky shave creams and brisk brushes made of badger hair seem like nice luxury items that he alone can enjoy. Until now. With women lathering up, this gift idea is commandeered away from the guys and brought into the complex world of women's beauty products. You can bet it won't be long before retinol will be involved.

Third, I can't get my mother's warnings out of my head. When I was a teen, she was dead-set against me shaving my legs. "You start that nonsense and you'll have to do it for the rest of your life!" she cautioned. I didn't see this as a problem. "And?" was my reply, implying, "Fully prepared to make the commitment, mom." So she came back at me with the mother retort she intended would shut down any debate about the issue, "Well, fine, but the hair is going to grow back in heavier, faster and coarser and pretty soon you'll look like Sasquatch." So, here it is almost 50 years later and yeah, I will admit that leg shaving has occupied my summertime toilette all this time. But do I think I've gone all ape-like below the knees? Not especially. Likely the warning was an old wive's tale. But am I willing to take that chance with my face? Not for a second! What if it's true? If I ever go Paleo, it won't be because of the facial hair.

And fourth of all, when I heard that news story about women shaving, I just thought, "Oh, crap. Something else I'll have to do to keep up with other women." I've only just started to whiten my teeth because I've noticed that other gals' smiles are so much brighter. In that context, if shaving catches on, I'll be the only one with a mustache. Great.

So, what do you say, Ladies? Will you join me in saying "NO to face shaving?" Will we declare, "NO! Thank you! It's a guy thing!"?

Happy Father's Day, fellas! You can keep shaving for your very own!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mysterious Childhood Illnesses

When I was a kid, if I complained to my mother about an ache or a pain she would say, "You must have caught a cold in it." This made no sense to me. I knew what a cold looked like: it had nasal congestion, sore throat, coughing, sneezing and feeling wretched all over. I really couldn't see how a sore toe or aching back involved any of these symptoms. Was my big toe sneezing? No. Did my back have a runny nose? No, it did not. And yet, this was the best she could come up with, "You got a cold in it." 

I mention this because the Mister and I were talking the other day about illnesses we hear about other people having. We are in our 60s, after all, and conversations in our age bracket are liberally peppered with terrible, tragic things that happen to people. We are closer to our ultimate lifespan and demise than ever before in our lives, and ecstatically grateful that we've made it this far, but we just pray none of these horrors happens to us, at least not any of the, "Oh, my heaven, did you have any IDEA it was even POSSIBLE for a person's body to do that?"

I told the Mister about my mother's favorite diagnosis. Seems his dad had similar all-occasion medical advice; "It's just growing pains." Really? Growing hurts? What if I get taller? I don't like pain! I don't want to grow!

What was this dismissive attitude our parents had toward our childhood complaints? Didn't they realize that we overheard their conversations with other adults whispering about people's terrifying ailments? Aren't they the ones that left the Reader's Digest on the toilet tank for anyone, mainly their kid, to pick up and read all those ghastly stories about some poor person with some appalling illness or injury? If I went to my mother with the Reader's Digest in hand and wailed, "Look! Mom! My arm! My arm! I have what this person has!" she'd dismiss me with her patented, "No, you don't. You caught a cold in it."

To make matters worse, their utter lack of concern was totally at odds with the bedtime prayers they insisted we recite, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should DIE before I wake….." Seriously? This could happen? What kind of prayer is that for a kid? What was their agenda anyway? "You're not seriously sick, kid. Heh heh. But MAYBE we'll see you in the morning." Wide awake. For hours.

And their preventative medicine wasn't any hell either. "Eat your oatmeal. It'll stick to your ribs." Well, now, doesn't that sound gruesome? "Eat your shepherd's pie. It'll put hair on your chest." Oh, yeah, that's what a seven-year old girl wants to hear.

To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe our parents' lakadaisical stand was a reasonable tactic to quell rising panic. Kind of a, "Don't sweat the small stuff," approach. Or when you skin your knee and they say, "You're fine. Pick your feet up next time." They might have intended it as preparation for adulthood when we've now learned to discern between a sniffle that will take care of itself in a few days and, "I should probably get this wheezing checked out." 

Anyway, it always amuses me when my sciatica flares up and I avoid going to the chiropractor, thinking to myself, "Oh, you just got a cold in it." No need to panic. 

But I'm canceling the Reader's Digest subscription.