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Category: humor

Relax Your What?!

Sometimes I’m startled that I am as old as I am. Because despite the maturity that comes with age, I can’t help but occasionally revert back to juvenile middle-school behavior that I’d thought I’d outgrown.

In my attempt to be mature and worldly, I enrolled a few years ago in my first yoga class. I needed to learn how to chill out a little bit, and figured being in touch with my inner Zen would help to center my balance, achieve yin-yang, and maybe I’d get a little feng-shui thrown in for good measure.

It was great. First class, I learned my sun salutation, stretched limbs so tight from lack of use that they deserved to snap like tree branches. My instructor, a former type-A New Yorker-turned-Yogaville devotee whose chosen Yoga name, Suraya, more closely resembled that of an Indian guru than someone from the Bronx, was very serene. His soothing voice tranquilized even the tensest of class members: me. In his calm coaxing tone, he encouraged us to rid our minds of any pollutants, to focus on our center, and be at peace within. Fine, I was on the same page at this point. I’d really started feeling that I could change, become a woman unfettered by the stresses of life.

The final fifteen minutes of class were devoted to complete relaxation. Cool, I thought. That is right up my Type-A alley. We all lay on the floor, eyes closed, focused on our own inner universe. The mesmerizing music on the boom box washed over me as Suraya talked us through letting go of whatever tensions remained. He began with the toes, worked his way up ever so gradually to calves, knees, thighs.

And then came the clincher.

“Relax your anal sphincter,” he said, as serious as an executioner, not even remotely cracking a smile.

What? That’s impossible. First of all, It defies the laws of nature. And secondly, even if we could, just think how nasty that would be! We can’t do that, I thought. Like a naughty kindergartener whose head is supposed to be face down on the desk during naptime, I snuck glances all around me. No one but me thought that was the funniest line ever uttered.

I could feel my laughter erupting, and from my unrelaxed belly it rose. I tried desperately to suppress it, but it was of no use. I cackled so loudly that the entire class opened their once-relaxed eyelids and glared directly at me. Even Suraya looked a bit uptight.

As the class drew to a close, the peaceful silence destroyed, I slunk from the room, somewhat embarrassed at my level of immaturity. But I actually felt more relaxed, having belted out a good chuckle.

Yes, I realize I have gone from middle school to middle age, but isn’t it nice to know that you don’t always have to totally grow up?

I read recently about a new yoga craze: hot nude yoga. Please, dear Lord, let’s hope Suraya’s not teaching that one.

Beauty School Drop-Out

I long ago recognized that I am the ultimate beauty school dropout. And I’ve made peace with this. I do what little I must to get by, and don’t lose too much sleep over it. Although lost sleep could be at the root of my beauty faux pas…

I’ve long recognized that we all come to the table with our pluses and minuses. Back when our oldest child was ready for elementary school, it was the trend to hold back children so they had the advantage of that extra year of physical and mental maturation. At the time we thought it crazy that we actually had to contemplate holding our kindergarten-ready child back a year because everyone else was. Fact was, our son was ready for it. So despite his shortcomings—he was small for his age, he was young for his age—we decided that he needed the challenge of school and would be far too bored without it. Unfortunately, this meant that his peers would be driving well before him. And that they would most likely have the physical advantage over him in sports.

But I realized when my babysitter’s mom told me that her daughter was so upset because she was “too tall” for her age that we are what we are. When I was her age I thought I was too average. Others think they’re too short. No one is ever quite satisfied with the status quo. So you do what you can with what you’ve got, and hope for the best (and throw in the occasional beauty products as a talisman against too much fugliness).

Anyhow, while I was not so lucky in the fat ass department, I was more lucky in the complexion department. Which meant I’ve been fortunate to avoid “necessity make-up” over the years: make-up has often been optional for me, for better or worse. In fact, it wasn’t until my first book came out and I started having to show up in public places on a regular basis that I realized I had to do something about this. I was downright stunned to see what magic that Mac cosmetics associate (the one with about ten piercings in her face and bright pink eye shadow on her lids) worked on my face. I wasn’t used to anything on me, yet all of a sudden she’d presented me with a daily 20-minute face-presentation regimen. Damn. It was so simple back when all I had to do was wash my face in the morning.

.

I went through a month or two when I stuck to it. I had to, between the signings, the TV appearances, the speaking engagements. I just realized I looked pretty pathetic without it—-like the <span style=”font-style:italic;”>before</span> picture. Which is I guess the whole point of those before and after pictures. I was the damned poster child for the <span style=”font-style:italic;”>before</span> picture. I just hadn’t known it.

Over the summer, I got used to my slovenly routine. Less to do with the book. Kids were home, thus less running around. Pool days here and there. Make up? Hell no! Got to be where my biggest beauty aid was a good night’s sleep. Not that I ever actually get a good night’s sleep. Case in point, recently,  at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m. our crazy dingo dog who’s deathly afraid of thunderstorms awoke to one seriously ominous storm. She actually hurdled the 4-foot tall gate in the mudroom (switching on the light in the process) in her haste to flee her loneliness and seek out her human counterparts. Meantime, the Labrador? My son says she’s like the prisoner who takes advantage of the power outage to launch a food fight. Yes, while the crazy one was freaking out over weather, the food-driven one was ravaging the trash can, littering my house with very messy garbage. Needless to say, I didn’t get back to sleep last night.

I’m convinced I can ditch the mascara if only, if only I could get some more sleep. Just a <span style=”font-style:italic;”>little</span> here, a little there. Avoiding make-up as much as possible. Maybe throw in yoga for peace of mind. And happiness, because nothing makes you look as good as a burden-free face with a warming smile.

So what’s your beauty secret?

In the Trenches (preferably sans Charles Manson)...

Pity the man who looks like Charles Manson. Because no matter if he’s a perfectly sane accountant from Dubuque with 2.5 children, a wife and a home in the suburbs, most everyone will snap to judgment that he’s a crazed maniac with murder on his mind.

Perhaps the thing about Manson that set him apart was that maniacal glint in his eye, the very anti-twinkle that translated into the suggestion of the evil of which he was capable.

Thus was my thinking at my very first book signing. I was already apprehensive about the event, feeling an enormous sense of pressure to perform well, to sell enough books to justify the efforts the booksellers had gone to on my behalf. To not be a complete loser.

So when I ended up at a bookstore that was located in the sketchier part of the unfamiliar city in which I was signing, I was a little dismayed. Most of those entering the doors of this bookstore had more piercings on their faces than the sum total of pierced anythings on my entire street back home. These customers didn’t strike me as the type willing to pony up a moment of attention (let alone seven bucks) to learn about a book titled Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Nary a happy (or unhappy, for that matter) housewife meandered into the store for the first 15 minutes of my signing. That’s who I was on the lookout for: a wife, a mom, the type of person who would most definitely get the humor behind Sleeping with Ward Cleaver because let’s face it, there’s an experiential element to the novel. If you’ve been there, done that, with my protagonist Claire, you’re going to be far more receptive to randomly picking up a book you’ve never heard of and spending money on it at the behest of a newbie author, especially when you only went into the store to purchase a book for someone else in the first place.

Now, I’d heard warnings from authors about book signings:

Prepare yourself for everyone coming up to you, looking enthusiastic and ready purchase your book at first sight, only to instead ask you directions to the nearest bathroom.

Expect people to come up to your table just to grab a handful of the free candy you’ve got on display.

And expect the nut jobs, the ones who show up at your table with no intention of leaving, prepared to regale you with endless tales of their public transportation experiences and parents who don’t love them, all the while helping themselves to half your candy stash.

So when the Charles Manson look-alike ventured into the store about 30 seconds after I’d sat down at the signing table, I wasn’t surprised. It was fate, I knew it. As soon as our eyes met, I immediately averted my gaze—I couldn’t not. I mean come on. Who wants to encourage a mass murderer over your way? But the eye contact had been made, and I knew, I just knew, sooner or later Charlie boy would wend his way over to my table.

Now I should mention that yes, this guy had the grizzled, unwashed look of Charles Manson. He had the creepy glint of madness in his eyes. He also was lugging a small watermelon beneath his armpit. Don’t ask me why.

Charlie didn’t come immediately to my table. Perhaps because the bookstore employee was nearby, who knows? But within ten minutes he’d made his way back to my lone desk. He looked at me. He looked at my candy. He looked at me. He looked at my candy. He then proceeded to pick up a copy of my novel from the pyramid of them stacked in front of me, and feigned interest. In case you haven’t seen my cover, I’ll describe it. It’s a campy 1960’s-style green, pink and aqua cover that triggers the tune of “I Dream of Jeannie” whenever I look at it, what with the Judy Jetson-lookalike woman perched atop the bed, her striped pink hair pulled back in a headband a la Marlo Thomas in “That Girl.”

Trust me, this is not the cover that normally lures 40-something men (and certainly not those who look like they’ve just been sprung from court-mandated rehab. Again.). I have yet to have a man pick it up and leaf through it out of interest, unless their wife is along or unless it’s someone I know.

So I was onto Charlie. I knew he wanted something from me, and it wasn’t a humorous 300-page novel about a housewife in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

I tried to make small-talk. But Charlie didn’t talk beyond a few indecipherable mutterings. It was like being in the presence of Sherry and Lambchop, or a ventriloquist from the Ed Sullivan show. Or Charles Manson.

Instead, Charlie plunked his watermelon onto my miniscule tabletop, knocking over books in the process, picked up my signing pen (and his dirt-encrusted fingers did sort of bum me out, since I knew I’d soon have to touch that very pen myself), took one of my business cards, flipped it over, and started to draw.

Now the first thing Charlie inked for me looked suspiciously like a puerile attempt at a set of naked breasts. I forced a weak smile, unwilling to ask exactly what he was illustrating. But he finished it off with what I soon realized was a mouth and eyebrows, and it dawned on me that he’d drawn a rudimentary smiley face. Okay, I was hoping Charlie was done at this point. I thanked him for his lovely illustration. But he continued. His palsied hand trembling in classic heroin-withdrawal fashion, he then sketched out a Keith Haring-like stick figure that had a hint of Mr. Bill to it. And topped off his masterpiece with his illegible signature. What do you think of it?


For all I know I am in possession of a work of art by a famed contemporary pen-and-ink master who took a wrong turn in life. Who once knew of fame and fortune and now wanders aimlessly, unwashed and odoriferous, with a watermelon tucked in his arm like a pigskin cradled by a running back. As much as I was oddly charmed by my newfound artwork, I wasn’t particularly interested in having Charlie block my signing perch from the few mom-like individuals who ventured into the store that night. So I immediately offered him some kisses (the kind from Hershey’s, not my lips), which mercifully satisfied his need. Grateful, he wandered off, peeling the silver wrapping and discarding it in his wake.

And leaving me well aware that I’d experienced one of my first rites of passage as a published author. Armed and ready for the next one to come along.

Excuse me, can you tell me where the bathroom is?

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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·Jenny-:¦:-
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