Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lesson #2 You Get What You Need

So off I go with my grocery list in its foreign language

- replacement strings
- bass amplifier
- guitar strap
- straight to right angle cable

Patience-less and wanting it all yesterday I go to guitar center – mostly because I know where it is in Florence. I walk in and notice two things immediately. I am the only person in the store with mommy parts and I am old enough to have used those mommy parts to give rise to all the people in the store. GREAT.

I mill around hoping someone will ask if I need help, but there are lots of conversations going on around me that seem based on their intensity like they may be discussing WMD or nuclear disarmament instead of Steve Harris and DD Verni. I wait, but the impatience wins out and I finally ask someone for help. He immediately calls up the bass specialist when he sees my list.

A very nice young man of about 25 comes up and introduces himself as Andy. I tell him what I need hoping I pronounce all those foreign words correctly and don’t look like a total douche. His first question is one I can answer. What kind of bass is it for? I have prepared and studied for EXACTLY this question. Fender Squier P-Bass I say confidently. Andy nods. Sweet. Seems I have passed. His next question seems meant to ferret me out for the poser I obviously am. Are these things for someone you know? Uh – oh! RED ALERT!!! I am about to be busted. I hang my head and mutter to my shoes No its for me. Andy obviously couldn’t hear me since he was not in the vicinity of my chucks. He politely says What? I pick my head up and look andy in the eyes and say No, It’s for me. REALLY? He holds out his hand in a gesture I luckily recognize means he wants me to likewise curl up my hand and touch it to his – something known as a fist bump. Luckily I have practiced this with my younger brother who has introduced me to the fist bump. The exploding fist bump and variations thereof). I fist bump Andy and his face lights up like I have just told him he could go backstage at a Phish concert. I can’t help but smile back.

Andy whirls around and pulls a bass down off the wall and hands it to me. It is an exact replica of my new toy in slick and evil looking black. (I flash for a moment and see myself dressed in black and looking an awful lot like Joan Jett and playing this bass). Deer in headlights as he swings an amplifier around toward where I am standing and it becomes increasingly obvious that he wants me to plug into the amp and play the shiny black evil bass so I can hear how the amp sounds. OH HAIL NO!! I laugh and tell him that I’m just starting and that unless he wants a quiet night it is best if HE plays because I will clear the store. Andy plugs in the shiny bass and I watch as his face becomes a reflection of black bass playin bliss. I would recognize that face anywhere and I wonder quietly - when will I get that? I sit down and pretend to listen to the amp giving him a reason to play for about 20 minutes. I am not in that big of a hurry that I would make him stop. That I would yank him back into reality.

We proceed around the store as Andy fills all the items on my list. Introducing me to all the employees as we went. It was like being accepted into a great new club – yunno the one with the cool kids. When he ushered me up to the cashier he again introduced me and said – This is Mary. She’s learning to play bass. And she’s like MY MOM’S AGE! I had to laugh because that was true. I was learning to play bass and I was probably his mom’s age.

But there was an odd sense of admiration and awe in his voice. That made me stand up a little straighter because I was surprisingly still worthy of being part of his club.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eternally re-forged.

This one says WANTON.
That one OBEDIENT.
The next one CONSERVATIVE.

The scraps
scattered about the forge
no longer useful to the smiths
Forgotten in the dirt.

Welded together by the sculptor
Who sees BEAUTY
Who sees ORIGINAL.
Who births ART.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Big Rack

I can still remember the first time I heard Heather B read her piece entitled "My Big Rack" at the WWfaC retreat in Melbourne, KY. This was my first taste of how Women Writing worked. I found it to be infinitely supportive and loving and have been hooked ever since. Heather had me laughing so hard as she chronicled her ongoing relationship with her boobs. I heard her read that piece again a year later. That was still some funny shit. Really great writing for me is not only profound in the moment – but hangs around and makes me think. Heather’s piece made me contemplate my relationship with my own sizeable rack. Unlike Heather, I found no humor there. I was not enchanted by the parade of bras or in love with my own body.

The summer between 5th and 6th grade, I got boobs. Seemingly overnight I went from a surfboard to a snapping turtle. A couple nights later it seems the boob fairy got a little wand happy and I found myself now sporting some C cups. Catholic middle school girls at my school wore uniforms with bibs on the top from 1st until 7th grade, at which time they were allowed to remove the bibs and wear only the skirt and standard white school blouse. My new boobs or newbs meant that my uniform no longer fit. My mom, always practical, called Sr. Maureen and asked if she could remove the bib a year early so as to avoid having to buy new uniforms for me. GROAN.

Consequently, I arrived in class the first day of 6th grade without a bib and with my new home girls right out there for everyone to see. The only 6th grader w/o a bib. Every boy in my class suddenly followed me around like a slavering idiot sporting a chubby in his pants. Every girl in my class hated me for that same reason. 7th grade girls shunned me for daring to take away what they saw as a strictly 7th grade privilege. It was perhaps one of the most lonely times of my childhood. I loved school, but this made it unbearable. I began to hunch my shoulders and always carried a stack of notebooks to hide my chest – something I still do almost 40 years later. That is until 6 months into the school year when Pam Connery bloomed and surpassed me. The boob fairies gave her D-cups and blissfully I became yesterday’s papparazi fodder and I was left alone by the boys. The girls would take longer to come around. Generally about the same time that they too began sporting their newbs.

That summer I played softball like I had the previous two summers. Softball was the only organized summer sport available to young women at the time. Having grown up playing hardball with 3 older brothers who did not play down to me, softball was almost too easy and I was quite the phenom. Until that summer. I struggled trying to adjust my batting swing and my throwing to accommodate my newbs. I won’t even mention the difficulty I had in charging around the bases with all that bouncing. Self conscious and unable to adjust to it my game suffered. My phenom status was passed on to someone whose chest was undeveloped and I continued to hate the boobs I was developing.

By the time I graduated hi school my C’s had continued to swell into D’s. By the time I graduated college they had become DDD’s. I weighed 140 pounds across that entire time so the boob growth had nothing to do with overall body weight gain. Conversations with a boy’s eyes were a rarity. Being considered a serious scientist and not just a busty brainless bim was equally rare. It was probably about this time I first mentioned having them made smaller. My mom, an OR nurse, subtly discouraged this with her surgical horror stories. I don’t know why she did that. 30 years later I think she sees more clearly the problems that my boobs have caused me.

Because I know you are now wondering – they are I’s.

I do not go out in public without a bra. Ever. Not even to the mailbox. I have not worn a bra without an underwire since hi school. Constantly enduring broken wires jabbing into the underside of my boobs or underwires working their way out of the bra at the most inopportune moment. I am patted down every time I fly. There is not a single day where my back does not scream painfully as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. I have grooves in my shoulders from the constant cantilevering weight. I cannot stand and press my shoulders flat against the wall. They have become permanently rounded forward. Protecting still those boobs which are no longer new.

My relationship with my breasts has not always been so negative. I enjoyed them during my 20’s when I was actively dating, then they seemed to serve some purpose other than wrecking my back. Then they were truly something to celebrate. And they brought me great pleasure and joy. Knowing what I do now, I wish I had studied a little less and gotten naked a lot more. Because at that point, my body was a thing of beauty. I take comfort in the fact that my fifth year of college I spent hanging out, not with the science majors, but the art majors. That brought out a bohemian wild part of my soul that hadn’t been seen before and hasn’t been seen since. There are lovely portfolio pieces, paintings and photos of me then in my 20 year old naked glory. Knowing they are out there somewhere and that someone admires that woman makes me smile.

I got a chance to revisit this part of my life a couple years ago when I briefly dated Ben, an old college crush. We were reminiscing about our college days – how we would discuss James Joyce, cook dinner, break into impromptu Shakespeare or the Ramones, things I had forgotten. Pulling out a book after dinner, we flipped thru laughing and crying until we came to a page that contained pictures of the annual art students come as your favorite art or artist party. There we found a young woman with long forest green hair whose skin was a wild splash of oranges and greens meant to look like a Gaugain canvas. She glances over her naked shoulder at the photographer. Not coyly at all. Her eyes are so clear and direct and slightly inviting. I love her instantly. Just as I had loved her 30 years before when Ben had caught this feral fauvist faun in his viewfinder - right before she disappeared forever.

Two weeks after that photo was taken, I was raped by a guy I had shared a couple dates with named Steve. At that time there wasn’t a name for this crime like there is now. I didn’t know that it routinely happened to other women. I imagined that I had brought it on myself with my behavior. I withdrew from social life. And college with all its freedom and raucous joy came to an end. That little bohemian piece of me fell away before I really even got to know it. I returned to the self-protecting 11 year old carrying her binders, shoulders hunched to protect her boobs and the devastated heart beneath.

As my 20’s gave way to my 30’s and my body succumbed to the physiology of undiagnosed PCOS my weight skyrocketed, my boobs got even bigger and my dating came to an abrupt end. I focused all my attention on work and hanging out with my friends. Ok if I am honest that is where I hid. My funny drunken friends who seemed to fill the hole in my life, but who really just kept the hole from healing. 15 years sped by while I slept in Bacchus’ embrace. 15 years of empty hollow thinking. 15 years that I cannot get back. 15 years of blaming myself. Blaming my boobs. Blaming the faun. Always looking at my body with hatred and turning to the bottle to make it stop. Finally not looking at all. Not caring.

It took a huge cosmic hammer to stop that cycle as it sped around year after year. For me it took CANCER. That wrenched the machinery and I fell onto the wagon and found myself again.

The problem is that the me I found looked nothing like the beautiful 20 year old I remembered myself to be. The woman I saw in the mirror weighed 340 pounds and her stare, far from the clear and direct stare of the fauvist faun, was full of self-loathing.

The eight years since that moment have been the hardest I have ever known as I swam and nutritioned and self-cared that 340 pound woman back to 240 pounds. She will never be that 140 pound piece of lovely that she was, but she has learned to wear her scars and stretch marks like a badge of honor. She is not alone, even though she is single still. And she has allowed herself to know love and lovers in those eight years.

Despite all that work, there was still that underlying hunching 11 year old with too-big boobs. I could not touch that place and find healing no matter what I tried. I have dreamed of smaller boobs since I was 11. Talked about breast reduction since I was 19. 30 years later everything is cued up for that to happen. Two weeks from now.

That is when the bottom fell out. Seems the plastic surgeon and I are not quite on the same page as far as what can be done versus what can be imagined. 2 cup sizes apart. Those 2 cup sizes felt like Palestine – impossible to come together. I was willing to reduce them by half. What he was telling me was that it would most likely be more than half – a C versus the D or DD I had imagined. I was willing to forgo my huge rack. Willing to bear the scars. Willing to lose responsivity in my nipples to be a D. Somehow having him tell me I would most likely end up a C was more than I could think about. I made it to the car, but only barely. That is when the crying started.

2 days of crying. I was not sure what caused it.

But now I am pretty sure that it was a kind of mourning. Mourning for my big rack. Mourning for the 12 year old no longer able to swing a bat. Mourning for the embarrassed 11 year old girl trying to escape being trailed by a testosterone cloud of 11 year old boys. Mourning for the fauvist faun whose exposure was maximal and whose life so brief. Mourning for every lover who has touched them and any who haven’t. Mourning for a life that might have been. A vision that might have been able. Mourning for a woman who took so long to discover that she is more than a cup size.

When this is over a great weight will have been lifted. I will be free. I will celebrate my newbs instead of hating them. That alone will make it all worthwhile. I will walk to Rossford ball field and I will run the bases as hard as I can until I pass out. I will let the faun flash an unsuspecting person. I will drop the protection of the binders and begin to walk my height. I will go to the mailbox, maybe even the store, without a bra.

I will finally just be me and not my big rack.

Changing it Up

There's been a lot on my mind this week. An unusual number of evenings out so that I get up on Saturday to a home that is wrecked from neglect. So, I started by sorting the laundry into piles. Start putting laundry from 2 weeks ago away so that I can see the dining room table. Decided to finally empty 2 moving boxes that have been in the bedroom since I moved in 2 1/2 years ago. They contain mostly clothes - unpaired socks, pajamas I never wear, a few festival outfits, and a surprising number of books I haven't read (woot to the books). It felt awesome to move those boxes out of the bedroom and into the living room where I can now fill them with clothes for Goodwill as I sort thru the dresser, closet and laundry as it is completed. Of course the living room and dining room are now full of laundry piles and boxes, so I'm not sure if that is progress or just redistribution of assets.

I stripped the yummy flannel sheets off the bed. Part of me moaning that I want them to stay because they are so cozy and warm. But it is time for them to go into hibernation for next winter. My choices of sheets to replace them with are two-fold. The sweet blue ones with the ginormous thread count. I have had these for years. They match my blue and watery spirit. In them I feel I am floating on the sea of Dreams. Or the newly acquired brown ones. (Just as an aside - I have no idea why I have these. But they have been in the cupboard for months and never been on the bed. I just dont see myself as a brown kinda girl. So why do I own brown sheets? Exactly my thought). The brown ones also appear to have a significant thread count even if they are not as broken in and soft as my blue ones. WTH. I throw the brown ones on the unmade bed, tote another load to the basement for laundering and come up and spread them out on the bed.

My reaction to them was visceral and so yummy positive. Because when they were spread out on the bed they looked like freshly turned Earth ready for seeding. Part of me wanted to curl up and nap immediately. Wanted to be the seed planted in the earth. The entire Dagara teaching about Earth seems accessible to me if I but lay down and cover myself with those sheets. Lessons of home, abundance and nurturing. Things I do easily for others, but that hang me up when I think about applying them to myself. My body longs for that right now. Longs to lie in the embrace of the Mother. I can't wait to see what Dream seeds unfurl when I do. Do ya think 11:30AM is too early for a nap?

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...