Lyrical Laughs

Friday, January 31, 2014

I just want (my hair) to be understood

Wanted: Breakup advice.

Nobody wants to admit when something that started out with such promise starts to crumble. But you can ignore the signs for only so long. Even if your instinct is to make excuses, outwardly defending the relationship, for too long now inwardly you have been screaming, "You're not listening to me!" 

Yes, you've ignored the lowered eyes and half smiles when you come back to the office after a long lunch, slipping into the restroom to gather your composure. And you can't help but wonder if their silence is a sad indication that, in the end, they (and you) know the result is always the same.

Then one day you go home and you take a long look in the mirror. With tears streaming down it suddenly hits you. It's wrong. It's all just so wrong.

And that's why I need to break up with my hair stylist.

Look, I know it's difficult to find someone who really knows your hair. Once upon a time I had that someone. We were in a committed relationship. Every appointment was a new experience but with the same knowledgeable, caressing hands under the sink tap. The anticipation was almost palpable each time I sat in a swivel chair, eager for her to massage my scalp with shampoo and conditioner, gently squeezing the water out with a warm, soft towel. 

Often I came in with pictures of the style I was aiming for (keeping my expectations to mostly nameless models over Demi Moore or Julie Roberts because - really - I wasn't going to suggest even my hair could look like that), and she would usually nod her head in approval. Occasionally her lips would purse and she would offer an introspective "Mmhmm." Then she would playfully tousle my conditioned tresses and study my reflection in the mirror, and in her amazingly accurate way of visualizing the end result, she would suggest something else. I knew with my whole heart and damp head that I was in safe hands. Inevitably, I would come out of that salon into the light of day ecstatically aware that I Looked Good.

Then I moved away.

That was 16 years ago and I'm still adjusting. In the beginning I just floated, getting by with one-station-stands for a time. But everyone knows you can only live that kind of life for so long.

For a few years I found the perfect hair stylist here in Maine. I followed her from one salon to another, and even to her own for a brief time. But she wanted to get away from the chemicals while she was pregnant, which I understood, more or less. I was counting on her remembering that her true calling was with my hair.

She never came back. I had to accept that she had chosen parenthood over my needs, and I was sent wandering the streets for someone with a hairstyle I could admire, maybe even envy, so much so that I might gather the will to approach and ask, "Who does your hair?"

For quite a while now I've been the recipient of a very generous gift card to a certain salon every Christmas. With that gift card came the possibility of discovering that vital connection again once again, and finding The One who knew how to shape me in a way that I didn't have to dread the morning after, when I was on my own.

Maybe I should briefly explain something about how I approach spending money, even someone else's money. I am a coupon cutter. So even though someone has been pretty much handing me what amounts to a wad of plastic cash and giving me permission to spend, spend, spend on myself... I don't. I still need to feel like I'm getting a bargain. A value. A good deal. Even on someone else's dime. It's just me, I can't help it.

Now, when it translates to my hair, I'm not looking for a quick fix. In fact, the older I get the more I become aware that the strands that remain on my head are reverting back to my childhood - wispy in spots, wavy in other, and basically all around intolerable at 6 in the morning when I step out of the shower and attempt to (loosely termed) style it.

Still, if I am handing over a $100 gift card for a hair cut (because, no matter how the brochures try to name it - lock luxury, scalp orgy, whatever - it is a hair cut), and I wind up with a $32 credit remaining after one use (not including tip, for which I probably had to cash in three year's worth of coins from my change jar - goodbye, weekend in Boston), I'm thinking... why is George Clooney not washing my hair and complimenting my shade of lipstick? Why wasn't Gabrielle Douglas performing her short gymnastics program for my entertainment as I sat in the waiting area - on the arm of a sofa that's six inches off the ground and which I could not possibly pull myself out of - for 15 minutes past my scheduled appointment that I took time off from work, hoping to make an instant impression when I rushed back into the office?

At that price I feel I am entitled to amazing results. People should be approaching - no, accosting me on the street, envy dripping from their icy, yet admiring stares, demanding the name and location of my stylist. That's not happening. In fact, the last couple of times I've had my hair styled, the word style does not seem to really be part of the equation. I've walked out thinking I have something new, then get back to work or home and realize there's not much of a change. Definitely not $68 worth anyway. Plus the tip. I just can't let go of that part, apparently.

I do need to take some responsibility. My stylist may very well be bored with my demands of her guarantee that I will need to do nothing more than wash, towel dry, and (on the days I remember) condition, whip the dryer around my head for 20 seconds while running my fingers through (I have yet to master the blasted round brush), and it will simply fall into place so that I leave the house ten minutes later with a perfectly coiffed mane. And no hair product.

I really don't see why that should be a problem.

In the meantime, I still have this $32 balance left on my card. I calculated that I would need to come up with another $50 on top of that in order to schedule another appointment this year. That might explain why I find myself either holding off on hair cuts for six months at a time or slinking off to some sort of express cut place to get by in between, which then means I have to deal with the fish eye from the big bucks stylist when she lifts a few willful tendrils and mutters something about not recalling seeing me for a while.

Note to self: Do not upset a person with access to multiple pairs of scissors.

So what do I do with this whopping $32 balance? Well, I've been looking at the salon's other services, such as manicures, massages, laser hair removal (that last category is a blog in itself). And I've decided to splurge for my next appointment. I'm confident you will recognize me after I've blown it all.

I will be the person with the one-hand manicure.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Employee of the Month? Can it wait?

My husband is not a guy who expects recognition for much. He is happy to do his job, help out where he can, and be rewarded with a good micro brew at the end of the day. So it was a definite surprise to him when he received a pat on the back recently - though as it turns out, they just about had to hogtie him to accept it.

As a bio-medical equipment technician at a hospital (you know those blood pressure monitors/ventilators/dialysis machines? he keeps doctors and nurses from throwing them out the window when they don't work), he is never sure what his day will look like.He might start out with a plan and even estimate how long it might take - without interruption. Really, though, there is no such thing as without interruption. The norm is that he starts off running, like on this particular morning.

A call had come in to his phone right off the bat (it's supposed to go to a central phone but sometimes staff somehow forgets that number and goes more direct - which gets a quicker response) about some equipment that needed attention as soon as possible. As if anything in a hospital is not needed on an "as soon as possible" basis, right?

So off he went to fix the problem, which my spouse happens to be very good at, and loves doing (because - well, he's a guy). A little while later, as he was elbow deep in tearing apart some piece of equipment, he got another call, this time from the lead tech.

Figuring this was going to be the call telling him to do what he was already doing, he skipped the hello and went right into "I already got the call." The lead, thrown off by this announcement, stuttered his reply.

Lead: Oh! Okay, so - see you in a few?

S: Yeah, sure.

You have to know this meant only one thing. They were not having a conversation about the same subject.

A short time later his phone rang again - same lead tech.

S: What?? (in a slightly edge tone)

Lead: Are you right around the corner?

S: What are you talking about???

Lead: Um... we have a meeting. Employee of the month. Everyone needs to be there.

S: Can't you just do it without me? I'm in the middle of --

Lead: No. We can't do it without you. You need to get down here.

This would be a pretty obvious clue that something is up, wouldn't you think? Apparently, only if you are not the man I married.

Mr. Cooperative headed to the meeting with just a twinge of resentment for being pulled away from his project, and - as you (but not S) would suspect - he was greeted by his coworkers (who were probably hoping for coffee and donuts) with an award for November's Employee of the Month. Obviously, his winning personality and shy demeanor helped to secure this bit of recognition.

I believe he was not averse to this calling out of his efforts, but he will be the first one to say he just does his job. Hey, it can't hurt to point out someone's work ethics, and his are stellar. As long as there's not a SpongeBob marathon on.

Seriously though, S is one of the hardest working guys you will ever meet. I've nicknamed him Joe Volunteer (which probably annoys him since his name is Chuck), because nine and a half times out of ten, he will drop everything to help a friend - yet there is not a room in our house without a half-finished project begging for attention. I know I'm far from the first wife to mutter something hostile under her breath whenever she finds herself eating breakfast around tools left on the kitchen table.

The only problem with being Joe Volunteer is that people expect you to finish what you started. That, my friends, is a tall order.

Take, for instance, a couple we know that had a finicky dishwasher. When he received a request to just look it over (one of his many previous jobs was fixing dishwashers), S and I headed over for a visit and diagnosis. It turns out the switch was bad. He hot wired the dishwasher so that it would work until a new switch was available. That was... oh, I'm going to guess a year and a half ago. In his defense, he did try to go and replace the switch one day last summer, I believe. But the lady of the house - you know, the only person who knows where everything is - was not at home at the time to show him where the new switch had been put away, just waiting for its day to come. It's still waiting.

In the meantime, our friends sent a check and a note of thanks to S for his efforts. It never got cashed. Some time later a gift card was received with another thank you from the couple. It still sits on top of the microwave. Finally, he got a third card in the mail to "officially thank you" for helping out.

At that point I sent a message to the friend pleading, "Stop, please! The guilt is overwhelming - he'll be over soon to actually fix the dishwasher!"

I truly am proud to be married to such a hard-working man. And while he basks in the afterglow of his Employee of the Month award, he also deserves credit for all those at-home projects that never seem to end. Sure, on occasion I might have to beg, threaten, or throw things to get him to finish something. But I really can't complain.

After all, the Christmas decorations have been put away - and it isn't even Easter.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

When I fall, I fall hard

Ah, true love. That magical, mystical feeling that can melt you, give you chills, cause you to lose sleep and smile at the silliest things. That moment when you know you've fallen head over heels for someone - that's what I'm talking about, right?

Mmm no.

I'm talking about falling. Like - on the ground.

I am a self proclaimed klutz. Gravity and me? Not friends. At the end of a long week when I have been sitting in front of a computer screen for endless hours and trying to fit some healthy activity in between work and laundry, dinner, and ignoring the moss growing on my kitchen floor, sometimes I fall down. Or at the very least, tilt.

About five years ago my right hip decided to call it quits. Its alleged excuse was chemo treatments, but I know my body not-so-secretly harbors a grudge for the years of scattered, feeble attempts at physical activity, exacerbated by a massive consumption of peanut butter and chocolate (as if anyone could really overindulge on peanut butter and chocolate). I've cut back on the latter and attempted to fit more exercise into my schedule these days. I don't think it's ever too late to feel better physically. But I'm convinced this falling down thing is here with me to stay.

After two hip surgeries on the same hip, one in 2009 and the other in 2012 - the first replacement and I never quite lined up, so to speak - I can walk with the best of them... as long as "them" is tripping (literally) down the sidewalk like a four-year-old holding an ice cream cone in one hand and the leash of a mastiff in the other. The worst of it is during the six months of winter in Maine when I live in constant fear of falling.

This winter I have found staying upright particularly challenging, partially because the walk to my office from the garage where I park my car could be the training grounds for a new event at the winter olympics: Ice Skating Between Cracks on a Slant. The sidewalks in Portland are mainly brick, which adds to the ambience of this lively but quaint city. In the summer.

Since December I have taken to carrying a bag of sand to and from the office, tossing small handfuls of it in front of me and stepping timidly along in little baby steps. As I crawl along at an embarrassingly slow pace each wintry morning I am reminded of the many hours I spent watching this guy as a kid, laughing hysterically at his shuffle, never imagining he was probably walking faster than I am during this time of year.

The humiliation of falling down when I am in public is the least of my concerns. I'm no stranger to shame after years of kids, surgery, and employee reviews. It's the part where I have to get back up that terrifies me. Seriously - being witness to my personal contortion act accompanied by guttural sounds as I attempt to pull myself up from the ground has actually frightened small children and some dogs. Even in my own home I avoid anything that might cause me to be sprawled out on the floor, knowing I would have to convince my twice-replaced hip to support me while the other hip pretends to be steady just before it sends a silent message to my knees to buckle on command.

Oh yes, my knees. Ever hear the loud crackling of wood in a blazing fire? Wood's got nothing over the ear-splitting Snap, Crackle, Pop-Pop-Pop of cartilage that goes on when I so much as bend over to pick something up from the floor. Hence the reason I will usually stare plaintively at whatever fell until someone else reaches for it.

Having never been graceful, it's no surprise to anyone that I continue my clunkiness into my 50s and beyond. My family knows it, so they don't even flinch when they have to help me up from wherever I've landed - for instance, the sidewalks of Times Square - in June (no ice in that scenario, folks). Oh yeah, that was a moment.

My youngest has convinced me to start watching "Once Upon a Time" which is a very twisted version of fairy tales. As much as it's nothing like the original stories, it does provoke memories of these tales. It's kind of made me think about how the fairy godmothers who always appeared to those those poor little waifs who needed someone or something to make things better had it so wrong. The fairy dust should have been saved for women facing hot flashes, mood swings, and mandatory stops at any rest stop within a 15-mile radius.

But then there probably wouldn't have been any evil queens.

Final note: In my attempt to find just the right link to share with you, I found myself stuck in a cycle of Carol Burnett videos featuring Tim Conway and others for nearly an hour this morning. It was not time wasted.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Wrestlelutions

New Years Day. The perfect day to start fresh, make commitments, vow to accomplish/ create/ devote/ let go of.... really?

Honestly, New Years Day is the absolutely Worst Day for me to start something new. I don't know about you but my most accomplished phases were originally developed somewhere around 2:30 in the afternoon on any given day of the week, and occasionally in the middle of the night when I might startle myself awake with some sort of epiphany (which, if I'm thinking somewhat clearly at the time, I will immediately jot down so as not to completely dismiss the thought by daylight).

But resolving to start today and stick to anything? No.... just - no.

And yet, as I was writing this my spouse of going on 30 years just now asked me, "So what's going to be the first thing we're going to accomplish in --"

Needless to say, he was immediately cut off.

There really are a few things I have some type of resolve about this year (this year - not today, not this week - this year, people). Maybe these are also on your bucket list for 2014. Chances are they're not.

1) I was watching a segment from a talk show the other day. My attention span is limited to segments, not whole shows, so it's probably just as well that I need to work full-time to support my writing habit. Anyway, there was this absolutely gorgeous, size 12, 6'2" plus size model (size 12 - thank you, fashion industry, for your warped interpretation of 'plus size'), talking about how women need to learn to love their bodies and stop worrying about being a certain weight. That's nearly impossible, I admit. But it got me thinking... I've spent so much time in the "weight loss" section of Google when all I really need to do is grow. So I Googled "height gain" - the opposite of weight loss (clever, right?). Guess what? WikiHow, YouTube, and several crackpot - I mean, perfectly respectable - websites offer suggestions for becoming taller. They don't necessarily specify how to do it after age 50, but I'm sure I can find something among all these possibilities. By this time next year I could be 6'2" and size 12. Only 14 inches to go. And I don't even care about being a model, so we won't need to worry about that pesky "gorgeous" issue.

2) I'm going to stop cutting coupons. Listen... there is a bright green box on my kitchen counter usually overflowing with good intentions known as coupons for A) things I don't normally buy and B) things I bought 48 of the last time I was at Sam's Club and won't run out of until 2016. Do you all (both) know what this means? It means I will not ever use these coupons, especially since 9 out of 10 times I don't even remember to bring the dang coupon box, and when I do, it's the day after the useful ones expired. I don't clean the coupon box out frequently... I don't clean anything frequently.

3) Table manners will be rewritten. That napkin on the lap thing? Oh, please. Let's just say I am what is known as "well endowed" - though identifies that term as "to provide with a permanent fund or source of income (huh?)" and "to furnish, as with some talent, faculty, or quality; equip..." Okay, well - maybe I am equipped, so to speak. I admit the equipment shed may have migrated to the southern hemisphere over the years. My point is - any morsel that misses my mouth never, ever reaches my lap. In fact, my lap has never seen the light of day. My mother often tucks her napkin into her collar, and I know you may think that sounds laughable. I now deem it Logical, especially when the distance between your mouth and your lap is interrupted by a shelf that could hold the TV Guide and the remote.

So you see, I do have goals, sort of. And as for those of you who have a list of resolutions like:

Eat healthier
Get together with friends more often
Become financially stable

You can't fool me. I know somewhere in your house is at least one coupon that expired December 31, 2013.