I’m posting this week about the best days in my life. Here’s another one of those days:
My Wedding Day. November 30, 1991
(Yeah, I know. Not very original. But true.)
I was a forty-year-old bride – and pretty close to being a forty-one-year old bride at that.
I wore a traditional bridal gown. I had been worried about looking foolish wearing a wedding gown at my age. I even felt foolish at the bridal store. I only tried on two gowns (both samples on sale) and bought the one that fit me better. My mother wanted me to try on more but I refused. I said that I just loved this one and the price was great, so I didn’t want to second guess myself. But in truth, I felt silly. Like any moment someone would snicker behind my back. I only had one fitting, and the feeling persisted, and I cut the appointment short. I didn’t try on the veil until the day before the wedding.
My father walked me down the aisle of a lovely old church while a big pipe organ played some wonderful piece that I don’t even remember now. But I do remember how everyone I loved was there. Everyone I loved was smiling. My mother was beaming. (She certainly had long before given up all hope that I would ever marry. Faith restored.) My boss was there and he gave me a little wink.
All that painful self-consciousness left me at that moment. All that worry about looking foolish trying to be bride at my age. Gone.
The gown was not foolish. It was gorgeous – and for the first time I acknowledged that it was gorgeous - and so was I.
In the whole preceding forty years of my life, I had never once felt beautiful. And now I did.
And there at the altar was my very-soon-to-be husband all scrubbed and polished in a nice tuxedo. And he was smiling.
And now at those (frequent) moments when I really want to kill him, I remember that amazing, transforming walk down the aisle and I give him just one more chance.
Next week I’ll be celebrating the anniversary of one of the best days of my life.
Just thinking about that day led me to consider what other days I would choose as my favorite days.
So leading up to The Big Event, for the next couple of days I’m posting some of the runners-up.
I can’t rank these really – they are so different from each other. But here goes:
PERFECT DAY NUMBER ONE:
Happy Unbirthday, Summer 1963
I was a gawky 12-year-old. Skinny, undeveloped, and a little tall for my age, I was impossible to buy clothes for. A dress that was small enough for my tiny shoulders and non-existent bosom was too high-waisted and much too short – and this was way before miniskirts. (And way, WAY before a girl could wear pants anywhere except the backyard.) There was one store in my town that carried what they called pre-teen sizes. Sometimes they had as many as two dresses to choose from.
On the outskirts of Hartford there was Lord & Taylor. Most of my clothes up to that date had come from the Montgomery Ward catalog. We’d been shopping at Lord & Taylor a handful of times. Mostly just to look. It was as remote and glamorous to me as Paris. They even had a restaurant right inside the store.
And one day that Summer of ’63, my mother took me shopping at Lord & Taylor. Just the two of us. No older sisters, no little brother. That alone was sweet. We had lunch in the restaurant, which was called The Birdcage. And I had a Reuben sandwich, which I had never had before, and which I still love like crazy. And a cup of coffee. Just us girls.
And they had a BIG pre-teen department, and I bought a dress that actually fit me. And was cute too, and didn’t look like a little-girl dress. It was brown, which I thought was incredibly sophisticated (not to mention that it matched all my shoes). I almost looked like I was in high school. (Well, not really.)
As Mom was at the register, I browsed around the nearby counters. They had odds and ends - gift-y type stuff displayed on tables with actual tablecloths. And there was an awesome jewelry box. It was a little upright piano – white, decorated with flowers. And when you opened the top it played a song – “Fascination.” It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I stood silently admiring that extraordinary jewelry box for a very long time.
My mother came over the table and picked up the little piano box. I didn’t say a word. But Mom said the most the amazing thing:
“Isn’t this pretty? Let’s buy it for you.”
And she did!
We weren’t rich by any means, but my parents had always done their very best to give us kids wonderful Christmases, and there was always one special gift for our birthdays. But an expensive present for no reason at all? Never!
My beautiful mother bought me a beautiful jewelry box just because she loved me.
I kept that box on my dresser long after I should have outgrown it. All through high school and college, and for many years after, it played “Fascination” for me every time I opened it. Twenty years later I gave it to my niece, and it was still perfect.
And that day was perfect.
Several years ago, I had a minor health issue while my doctor was on vacation, so I went to see the MD who was covering for him.
Months later, I went back to my regular GP, and I happened to see the note that the fill-in doctor wrote on my file:
“Patient is an anxious, middle-aged woman.”
I am middle-aged (but I don’t look it).
No way, Jose.
Maybe I USED to be.
It’s actually rather amazing that I am as relaxed as I am, considering the stuff I worried about as a kid.
Thanks to Mom and Grandma, mostly, I had all kinds of phobias.
I knew that if I stuck my toe in the lake twenty-nine minutes after I ate, I would surely get a cramp and die.
I knew that if I played with a stick I would poke my eye out.
If I took a bath in a thunderstorm, I would be electrocuted.
If I sat on the ground in winter, I would get a cold in my kidneys.
If I crossed my eyes, they would freeze that way.
If I rode a boy’s bike, I would never have a baby. (That one actually came true. But I don’t think they were necessarily correlated.)
And thanks to my sisters and the other older kids in the neighborhood:
If I stepped on a nail, I would get lockjaw, and the doctors would have to knock my teeth out to feed me.
If I got bit by a darning needle dragonfly, it would sew my mouth shut.
If I ate a watermelon seed, it would grow in my stomach until my body exploded.
Ghosts are everywhere.
Thanks to the nuns at my elementary school:
If I forgot my hat on confession day, I would burn in purgatory.
If I forgot my homework, I would burn in purgatory.
If I skipped Mass on Sunday, I would burn in hell.
And it would all happen really soon, because any day now the communists were coming to kill all the Catholics.
And thanks to the movies, I knew:
That birds could pluck your eyes out.
Most dogs were rabid.
King Kong could reach through your bedroom window and grab you.
Any mud puddle might be quicksand.
If I climbed a tree, I would fall out and be paralyzed.
My parents were likely to die at any moment, and I would be sent to live with someone really mean.
Ghosts and vampires and monsters were everywhere.
It is a miracle I can even leave the house.
And now I have recently learned that one oft-repeated warning is a REAL and IMMEDIATE danger:
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T EVER SWALLOW YOUR GUM!!!!!
All I have to do is mention Mrs. Sweeney and my husband starts to seethe.
Here’s the story (that I have heard about forty-six times):
Mrs. Sweeney was my husband’s first grade teacher. A few months into the year, his mother came to school for a parent-teacher conference. And as my future husband sat by his mother’s side, Mrs. Sweeney said to his mother: ”Your little boy is L-A-Z-Y.”
Well, my husband may have been only six, but he knew how to spell. And he was furious. And he still is. “I hate that vicious broad,” he said last month, when I said the word “lazy” in a whole different context. Mrs. Sweeney insulted him sixty-two years ago.
You could say that my husband can hold a grudge.
Which brings me to my point.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my frustrating but sort of hilarious interaction with online customer service as I tried to return a necklace. Many people were amazed that I was not irate.
Well, I was. For about five minutes.
One of my few talents is Getting Over It. I am extremely good at letting go of anger. I admit that it could be because I am L-A-Z-Y. I just don’t have the energy to stay mad.
But for those who may need a bit of help, I have devised a little chart.
You may have seen Quadrant Decision-Making if you’ve had any business management classes. I actually used a quadrant chart several years ago when I was deciding to quit my job. Surprisingly, it helped quite a bit. So I figured why not construct one for grudges.
I call it: The Duration Of Mad.
On the horizontal axis is the continuum of your self-worth. Some transgressions against you attack your self-worth more than other transgressions. A bad break-up can really humiliate you. An argument with the returns clerk – not so much,
On the vertical axis is the measurement of cost: financial, time, sleepless nights, etc.
So you can plot your anger on this chart: Low Cost plus Low Impact on Self-Worth is the lower left quadrant, for example. Like my email exchange with the returns clerk. Fits easily in the lower left:
Yeah, all those emails cost me some time and aggravation – but didn’t threaten my self-esteem. So clearly not worth staying mad more than a minute or two.
On the other hand, several years ago I was cheated out of a bonus that I really deserved. My boss just said, “Sorry. My Bad.” That anger lasted a bit longer. And deservedly so:
Let’s say you got fired for something you didn’t do. It cost you your job, your financial security, and you feel like shit too. Feel free to block that in the space labeled: Your Whole Life.
But on the other hand, say you get fired for doing something really stupid. That may hurt you financially, but in the long run may actually improve your self-esteem, as you grow up and act a lot wiser. Maybe that starts out in the Five Year category, but drops down under One Year – and stays there.
Now your turn:
Match the Anger to the X on the Duration Of Mad:
A. Someone dents your fender in the parking lot and takes off.
B. Your boyfriend breaks up with you because he isn’t ready for a commitment, and then marries your friend six months later.
C. You get charged for 3 pounds of bananas when you only bought 2 pounds.
D. Your spouse bought a new TV on a whim.
E. You got cancer and your insurance company won’t cover your treatment.
Brilliant, right? I’ve taken the guesswork out of anger. Thanks to me, you don’t have to stay mad unnecessarily. You just have to graph it out and schedule your resentment accordingly.
One very important aspect of this technique: Notice that if your self-worth is not dramatically affected, you never need to be mad longer than one year, tops. Even if your first-grade teacher calls you L-A-Z-Y.
The tricky thing about writing fiction is that it can’t be too fictional. You’re supposed to create a real world that the reader can believe. Real Life. Believable Real Life.
The funny part is that Real Life is not like that. Everyone has experiences that are completely Unbelievable.
The following crazy little event actually happened. Just like this. I swear.
Years ago we had a black cat named Casper, who was as enigmatic as his name.
Casper ate his food in a straight line from right to left. He preferred his water out of stemware, making it imperative that we watch our glasses at all times. He would not lie down on a bed or blanket that had a wrinkle. He would often jump up out of a nap and run over to the piano and play a few notes. As if he had a song stuck in his head. Then go back to his nap. He had Feline OCD.
Casper liked to sit outside and watch the world. He wouldn’t exactly come when called, but he would show himself, and let us know he was okay. He came and went as he pleased. He was a cat.
When he was about seven, Casper had a temporary but serious medical condition, Between the weakness caused by his illness and the side-effects of the medication, he had to be kept indoors. He was miserable. He’d stand at the door and cry and reach up and turn the doorknob. (When he was healthier, he had sometimes managed to open the door. Truly.)
At his follow-up visit with the vet, I mentioned how unhappy Casper was to be cooped up inside, and the vet suggested we take him out for a little walk. On a leash.
We were dubious (to put it mildly) but we stopped at the pet store on the way home and bought one of those little harness-type leashes for cats. We figured out how to put it on by trying it out on our dumber cat. Then we put it on Casper and took him outside.
My husband stood in the yard with a cat on a leash. The first time for both of them. They were both very quiet and still as they tried to figure out whether this would work and what to do next.
And a little bird flew over and landed on my husband’s knee.
That’s what I said.
A BIRD FLEW OVER AND PERCHED ON THE KNEE OF A MAN WHO HAD A CAT ON A LEASH.
And the cat – who had not moved – moved. He jumped up and caught the bird and ran off. Until of course the leash yanked him short and the bird flew out of his mouth.
Casper was incensed. He crouched down for a second or two, and contemplated his situation.
Then in one graceful motion, he slid back his head and his front legs – out of the leash – and walked away.
This story has a happy ending though.
And we got our money back for the leash.
It started just before Christmas.
I was driving home after work, and as I looked in my rear-view mirror. I saw Santa Claus. Actually, I saw a big cardboard cut-out of Santa perched on the chimney of the house behind me.
I wonder how they got that up there? I thought. And I took another look.
And it was gone.
Santa was not there.
The next morning, travelling in the opposite direction, I searched all the houses for that Santa I had seen. But there was no Santa. You’d think if I were going to start imagining things, I’d imagine a real Santa, and not a cardboard cut-out. But oh well. It must have been some optical illusion.
But perhaps a good omen. Santa on the chimney must be good. Right?
And then Christmas Day, I had another strange experience.
I was standing in the center of my den, trying to envision it as my expected company would see it, because sometimes, you know, you just don’t even see a mess that you made yourself. Or perhaps a surprise that a cat left. Anyway, right that moment I smelled my father.
When I was a little kid, my father smelled like cigars and soap and machine oil. It was a really nice smell. Especially now, when I miss him and I am also not standing downwind of an actual cigar.
My father’s scent must be a really good omen. We had a nice Christmas dinner. (and no one stumbled upon any cat puke).
Then the day after Christmas, I had another sign.
Back at work (and no cardboard Santa, although I checked), I log onto the company’s bank to check our balance. The website asks me for my password, and I type in “LUCKY.” I won’t tell you what the password is, but I can assure you that it is not LUCKY. I don’t know what made me type that. Perhaps someone passing by in the hall had been talking about being lucky. It was odd, but I didn’t think too much of it.
But the next day, I did it again. I have never used LUCKY as a password for anything. But perhaps it was in my subconscious from the previous day.
I figured that it was kind of cool to be typing LUCKY automatically. Maybe like a Ouija board, but not effin’ scary.
And today – weeks later – it happened again. I log onto the bank’s website and enter my password as LUCKY.
It’s a sign.
I’ve seen a phantom Santa, I’ve smelled my Dad, and I’ve typed LUCKY several times. I’m lucky!
And sure enough. The sign came true.
At lunchtime I got an email from Lucky Brand Jeans. A sale! 25% off!
I love Lucky jeans.
They fit me great. And they even have a little message on the inside of the zipper. It says, “Lucky You.” My husband says this is for teenage boys who manage to unzip their girlfriends’ jeans. But I think “Lucky You” is meant for me personally.
I click on the email and there they are: the perfect jeans.
Now I have a few pair of Lucky jeans already.
Specifically, I have 10 pair:
- Dark wash skinnies
- Medium wash skinnies
- Light wash crops
- Medium wash straights
- Medium wash bootcuts
- Black bootcuts
- Black skinnies
- Burgundy skinny cords
- Green summer ankle skinnies
- Coral summer ankle skinnies
But on the website they had Light Wash Skinnies. As anyone can see, I could use Light Wash Skinnies. Obviously.
And I got a sign.
And shipping was free!
Dear Customer Service:
I recently ordered two necklaces as gifts. However, when they arrived one of the necklaces was broken. Since the breakage appeared to be due to poor quality, I am returning both necklaces. Please email me the return label, as described on your website.
Dear Ms. Roman:
We are so sorry you were disappointed by your purchase. We will send you a replacement necklace for the broken one. We are happy to hear that the other necklace met with your satisfaction.
Sincerely, Customer Service
Dear Customer Service:
I do not want a replacement necklace. The other necklace did not meet with my satisfaction. I would like to return both necklaces for a full refund. Please send me the required return label.
Dear Ms. Roman:
We are sorry for the misunderstanding. Can you send me a picture of the damaged necklace?
Sincerely, Customer Service
Dear Customer Service:
I am attaching a picture of the damaged necklace. Please send me a return label so I may return both the broken necklace and the other necklace which I no longer want.
You do not need to return the damaged necklace, so there is no need for a return label. We have issued you a refund for the broken necklace.
Sincerely, Customer Service
Thank you for providing the refund on my account. I believe I still need a return label for the undamaged necklace that I no longer want. Please refund my account for BOTH necklaces.
This is Geoff, part of the Crackerjack team. I apologize for the misunderstanding. You are correct. You will need to return the undamaged necklace in order to receive a refund for that necklace.
There is no return label attached to your email. Will the return label come in a separate email?
Thanks, Nancy Roman
Sorry about that. Here is the return label.
Sorry, but there is no return label attached.
Oops. How about now?
Yes, thanks for the return label. However, in today’s mail, I received ANOTHER necklace. I do not wish to replace the broken necklace. I want a full refund for both necklaces.
I’m sorry. I don’t know how that happened. Please be assured that we did not charge your account for the replacement necklace. If you have not returned the original necklace, please just include the additional necklace with the same return label.
Thank you for all your help. I am returning both the second and third necklaces, but per your instructions, I am not returning the damaged one. Please ensure that I have not been charged for ANY of the three necklaces.
Sorry for the all the confusion, as soon as we received the merchandise, your account will be refunded in full.
I just opened the mail and surprise! A FOURTH necklace! I am now beginning to wonder whether I have entered the Twilight Zone. Will I be receiving a necklace every day for the rest of my life?
OMG! I can only apologize again. This is certainly some kind of glitch in the system. If you have already returned all the other necklaces, please just throw the new one away.
To show our appreciation to all our fabulous customers, we are sending you a $20 credit coupon that you may use on any of our wonderful merchandise.
The Crackerjack Team
So I no sooner finish
bitching remarking about a couple of ways in which my body is letting me down, when I find I have to backtrack just a teensy bit.
As I reported, my skin is dry, but my eyelids are greasy. I can’t get eyeshadow to stay put.
And as I also reported, I have NEVER EVER EVER used moisturizer on my eyelids, so I was completely and furiously mystified.
And then, I got ready for bed.
And removed my eye makeup.
I started wearing eye makeup as soon as I started high school. And that was September 1965. So forty-eight years and four months of shadow, liner and mascara.
And taking it off every night.
Not every single day, of course. I had the flu a couple of times. And my gallbladder out. And I had a colonoscopy and they wouldn’t let me wear makeup, although I still don’t see why a little mascara should matter to pictures of my colon. But, anyway, not every day. Only 17,000 days.
Yet I was baffled by my oily eyelids.
On the other hand, after forty-eight years and four months of baby oil, I do not have crow’s feet.
A year ago, I wrote about a few strange things that seem to be happening to my middle-aged body (Corporal Mysteries).
I was especially concerned about my eyebrows. And I have written three separate posts about eyebrows, so I guess my concern may be bordering on obsession. But nevertheless.
I don’t understand why my brows are thinning. Well, actually, I do understand – it’s old age. What I don’t understand is why the stray ones won’t also start a disappearing act. Just last night I found a stray eyebrow in the crease of my eye socket. Growing there. Thick and lush and stupid. But if you have read anything I have ever written, you know that I spend a good deal of time in front of the mirror. How long is a good deal of time? When I am getting ready for bed, I sometimes examine myself for so long that I have to pee again. That long.
So my new eyebrow question is: where the heck did that eyebrow hair come from? It wasn’t there yesterday. It wasn’t just sprouting out. No. It was big enough to start to curl.
And speaking of curling. How come my eyebrow hairs are now curling? My head hair won’t curl and never would – no matter how much Dippity-Do I added. And my eyelashes. If I had just TWO eyelashes (one for each eye – I don’t want to look unbalanced) as long and curly as my eyebrows, I’d be ecstatic.
And in the same general vicinity: What is up with my eyelids?
I have extremely dry skin. I slather on the moisturizer like turkey basting. I’m wearing so much argon, aloe – and something that seems a lot like Crisco – why, the last time I had to have an EKG, the technician couldn’t get the leads to stick to me. All those little suction cups kept sliding off.
But if I skip the oil treatment – even for a day – my skin starts to resemble sandpaper. And I leave sandpaper dust in a cloud behind me as I walk.
But I never ever put moisturizer on my eyelids. So if my skin is as dry as the kale chips I tried to make this summer – then WHY are my eyelids as greasy as a Krispy Kreme donut? I wear eyeshadow for twenty minutes tops.
And about my skin: It is just plan wrong that I have a currently have a pimple on my cheek – right near an age spot.
And as long as I am
bitching commenting on my puzzling body, let me talk about toenails for a minute.
When I was in my twenties, I worked for a program that provided assistance to the elderly. One of my responsibilities was to make podiatrist appointments for old people. Old toenails get so thick that a professional is needed to saw through.
And now I’m THERE.
What the heck???
Do I really need to go down to the basement to use my husband’s bench grinder for a trim?
But what’s even more frustrating is my fingernails.
If my toenails are as hard as nails (so to speak), why are my fingernails exactly the opposite? Aren’t they made out of the same stuff? My fingernails are brittle and broken. So fragile they break off when I type. And except for right now, I am not an angry typist.
I figure I can learn to type with my toes.
If I could only train my eyebrow hairs to migrate a little further down and join my few remaining eyelashes. Maybe give them curling lessons.
Maybe they could be wiper blades for my eyelids.
Because I’ve received a sign! A fabulous omen!
That’s right. Who needs resolve when you really just need a suggestion while you nap?
I have been granted TWO sixty-minute sessions for a measly eighty bucks. And it’s practically guaranteed, given the reinforcement of a follow-up session. I am planning to have the hypnosis dude repeat each resolution twenty times in a session. So forty times total. How could this not work? And I’ve done the math: Figure five seconds for each resolution, which is easy even if he is a slow-talker (which they all are; I’ve seen enough creepy movies). Anyway, that equals twelve per minute, so going through them all twenty times in 60 minutes allows for THIRTY-SIX resolutions!
At $80, that’s only $2.22 for each resolution. That’s a bargain!
So here they are. I’ve kept them short so five seconds each is totally do-able.
- Potato chips are nasty.
- Folding laundry is fun.
- Sudoku is a waste of time.
- French fries are gross.
- Vacuuming is cool.
- Vacuuming under the bed is especially cool
- E-mail can wait five minutes.
- Pizza is disgusting.
- Cleaning closets is a pleasure.
- Finishing my novel is a piece of cake.
- Cake is awful.
- Computer games suck.
- No one needs more than three pairs of shoes.
- Paying bills is engrossing.
- Changing the litter box is delightful.
- Bacon is horrid.
- Washing windows is enjoyable.
- Pie is crummy. (a little pie humor for the half-way point)
- Dusting is exhilarating.
- Cookies are crappy.
- Cleaning fish is amusing.
- Pumping gas is a riot.
- Ice cream is lousy.
- Sleeping late makes you sick.
- Cheap haircuts are fine.
- Cheese is terrible.
- Vacations are for idiots.
- Waiting for the repairman is always worthwhile.
- Makeup is a waste of money.
- Taxes are entertaining.
- Nachos are flavorless.
- Driving in the snow is refreshing.
- Old clothes are best.
- Diamonds are ugly.
- Accompanying hubby to the hardware store is riveting. (a little hardware humor for the end)
36. Chocolate never made anything better.
I figure I’ll be perfect by mid-January.