Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Your Sugar Shock for the Day


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Aly

This month 15 years ago I met Aly. I was raw, new to boarding school and scraped free of parents, those unfortunate two years in America and all my illusions about my new home - which I had waited 5 years to finally get into. I was a Junior in high school - so was she - with two years left to experience Africa, experience this wonderful school (which had been pushed to mythical proportions in my feverish imagination thanks to those pesky 5 years of waiting). I knew that I was on my mettle. I knew that I'd be meeting paragons of cool, self-possessed, devil-may-care missionary-kid-dom. And Aly did absolutely nothing to vanquish my nervous prejudice. Perfectly white-skinned with a mane of wavy chestnut hair and impossibly large, crystal-blue eyes, she was easy and friendly and self-assured. And funny. And the way we met was most peculiar. Back then we bore a passing resemblance to each other. I, too, had wavy dark-brown hair, white skin and lighter eyes, though mine were green. I also contained breezy self-assurance, though Aly's was apparently all serenity and amusment and mine was borne of anger and cynicism. Anyway. We looked a little alike. [The similarity increased later when we found out that we both sang rather wellish (back then she was THE soprano of the school and I was milking the sultry alto thing. To death. I have videos.), though that wouldn't reveal itself until later.] And I got there a day before she did. As I tremblingly met group after group of classmates, their reaction was similar - before introductions they'd peer at me, say "hey", and comment on how I wasn't supposed to arrive until tomorrow. With the obvious friendly ease of people who already knew me. Instant - and I mean instant - fame ensued when I (still trembling - I'd shake for days after) laughingly informed them that I was new and had no idea who Aly was. This was my entrance into boarding school society. On the coattails of one of the coolest girls in school.

And she wasn't one of the stereotypical, "Heathers"-like popular girls, either. Our boarding school didn't have many (if any) of those. She was popular because she was beautiful and, like I said, breezy and self-assured and funny and friendly and quite terribly kind. To everybody. And she was the best singer there. And for the first time in my life, I didn't feel jealousy for my position as a singer.

You have to understand; I was raised believing without doubt in an amazing gift I was given from god to sing. I was groomed by my family and teachers to sing wherever there was a stage, and since we were in church every time the doors opened there were many, many opportunities. All the get-togethers with other children and teenagers had talent shows, and I remember consciously thinking, if things weren't going terribly great in the making-friends department of these conventiony-things, "Well. Wait until they hear me sing." I even didn't do as much personality-crafting as I could have (I still haven't ordered Dear Abby's booklet, "How to Be Popular". It really exists.), since singing to a group would elicit instant attention and either adulation if I did well or sympathy if I'd screwed up and amusement when screwing up inevitably led to me doing something funny to pass the mistake off. So - all of this to illustrate that the fact that I could sing, and I'll say sing well, was perhaps the most important thing in my life up to that point. And beyond.

[For your information, I was NOT disabused of this belief until well after college, when I chickened out on pursuing a musical career and entered the office world, where no one cared that I could sing and no one would ever hear me anyway, since the office never has a stage (pity - we could enact our silly dramas there) and I don't do well with karaoke. It's been a good, if acutely painful, lesson.]

Every other singer I'd met had been an object of veiled hostility to me. Every other singer was in competition for my share of everyone's attention. I was a diva from the womb, it seems, and nobody was welcome in my trailer with the white carpet, white couches, white walls, white flowers, celery sticks and Kabbalah water. Or on my stage. Stupid, right? Well. [sigh] I was a child, rather a histrionic one, and raised for the stage. And I'm still wildly hyperbolic.

I wish I could tell you why I didn't care that Aly was the best singer. I have no idea. She was totally rival material, but I couldn't dislike her. In fact, I was kind of smitten with her. I remain smitten to this day. [Not in that way, perverts.] I wish I could go beyond the endless descriptions of loud laugh, dulcet tones, crystal eyes, mane-of-hair, breezy what-have-you, kind heart, razor-sharp mind descriptions and really plumb for you what makes Aly amazing beyond being beautiful and smart and funny. She entices men and women alike - she catches the eye. She's wildly intelligent without ever being boorish or overbearing. She's beautiful without ever looking unearthly. She's kind and yet without equal the most honest, forthright person I've ever met - thwarted as she sometimes is by her own mountanous sense of diplomacy. Which I believe is borne of her deeply held, innate desire to give the truth without doing harm. Her laugh is loud but never irritating or inappropriate. Her voice is sultry, sacred, cool, warm, thin like winter air and rich as loam. Most wondrous of all - she is hilarious at the expense of exactly no one.

Her faults - she has them, trust me. Two of the biggies? She cares too much, about everything, and she believes maybe 20% of the previous paragraph.

Darling friend, knowing you is an honor I can't express. You are a gift - a bright light in the lives of everyone who knows you. You matter most sincerely to the circle of people who love you and who now anxiously watch over you in this new chapter of your life. I don't fear that you'll change or become someone I no longer know. I rejoice that you are inevitably becoming more truly yourself, and I can't wait to meet the new bits of you that are slowly, painfully being revealed. I love you more than I can ever fathom.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Be Happy. Period.

[Note to faithful reader(s). This next post is about menstruation. Mine, specifically. You've been duly warned.]

Always is my menstrual products brand of choice. I select for my Womanly Time their most advanced, absorbent, and thinnest pads, called (I'm not kidding) Always Ultra Plus Nighttime. I will not share with you why I must use their most industrial-strength version, save to mention that I wish that my reproductive circumstances were otherwise.

The point to this blog entry: if you click on the link above to, (men, be advised that if your computer is registered to a male-sounding name the monitor will promptly explode) you'll see in the upper-right corner a clickable banner that says, "Have a Happy Period". OK - [leans into the microphone] - does anyone besides me find this new marketing ploy beyond absurd? Really. Come on. It's on the facing on the actual pad as well - you know, the tear-off bit that exposes the adhesive? There it is, every time I'm alone in the bathroom stall, staring at me: "Have a Happy Period Have a Happy Period Have a Happy Period Have a Happy Period" like a manic chorus-line of pale tangerine false cheer. Gah.

Why, you ask, is this slogan so abhorrent to me? WHO IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S HOLY HAS A 'HAPPY' PERIOD? You? You, ma'am? You, sir, does your wife ever seem happy during her sacred feminine time? Anyone? No. I thought not.

My period's not happy. A week beforehand I experience PMS. I'm lucky in that there's no physical pain involved. This is sadly not the case for many of my sistern. However, mentally I'm not in a good place. Geez, you know how much I hate false gender labeling bullshit. People accusing women of PMS-ing when they assert themselves at work or what have you gets me hotter than hell (not in a good way), but I'll be honest. I go berserk about a week before I menstruate. Berserk. I can feel it rising like heat in my brain, a buzz of irritation at work, at myself, and especially at Ramon, poor fella, because he's there. Eventually it'll get so bad (especially if I didn't mark my calendar and am therefore not aware of what's happening) that I personally, mentally will not be able to process the fact that he's left the water-sprayer on the bathroom sink again instead of hanging it on the shower caddy where it belongs and go after him, claws extended, guns blazing. Sometimes it just comes out as one snarky comment and then I snap awake: "Wha...? Whoa. Did I just bitch at you about the water thingy? I did, didn't I? Must be PMS. Sorry, babe. I'll mark my calendar." Sometimes it escalates into a straight-up fight (featuring shrieking ultimatums from me and sullen obstinance from Ramon, our specialties) followed by sobbing hysterics from me and THEN a crazed realization that this ruined evening was brought to you by the letters Pee and Em, and by the number 5 (5. S. PMS. Get it?)

[Irrelevant side note: I've finally figured out why women, when they're excited or upset, cover their nose and mouth with steepled hands (a dreadful-looking habit, in my mind). It staves off hyperventilation. Try it - much faster than a paper bag, right? I figured this out when Ramon and I were tussling and suddenly I couldn't stop laughing. Covered my breathing apparati and everything calmed down at once. A miracle. It works for screaming hysterics as well, I found. No need to thank me.]

Honestly, sometimes PMS doesn't manifest itself as much at all, thank goodness, or nothing more than a passing irritability that brushes right off.

Then the real deal a week later. Heavy, heavy flow, backaches, craving for all things edible (as long as they're wildly unhealthful), headaches, fatigue and a totally new and exciting bowel schedule. You'd be surprised how big of a deal that last one can be. The whole thing's not that bad, really, since Ibuprophen and those ubiquitous, cheerful tangerine pads keep me up and functioning more or less normally. I have it so much easier than so many women, y'all, so don't think I'm complaining inordinately. But my period is. Not. Happy.

I beseech you, Always, to rethink this last ad campaign. For me? How about "Have a Reasonably Livable Period"? Or "Please Don't Kill Anyone This Period"? Or "Everybody Understands If You Strangle Your Houseplant This Period, Really"?