Friday, January 29, 2010

Naked Is Not the New Black

A college friend and I have recently been reminiscing about her husband's first roommate, who went on to be one of the most remarkably bad boyfriends of my life. We have since reconciled, largely because we were friends for a long time before the Dating Disaster, but at the time- let's just say that Eternity for Men still makes me a little ill to this day.

He had clothing issues, i.e., he didn't like to wear clothes and went without whenever he could. As "one of the guys", I quickly learned that I had to clearly announce my presence before so much as knocking on their dorm room door our freshman year. Because he wasn't modest in the least, my friend's husband would make sure he was decently covered before I was allowed in.

When we moved on to dating in our junior year, he was the night-call guy for the county morgue, which operated out of a funeral home situated in an historic house. Since I was a good girl (and uninterested in getting knocked up at twenty), when I went over to study, we actually studied. About a month into the relationship, though, he decided to up the ante.

I got to the funeral home around 9 o'clock to find that he was not waiting for me at the back door as usual. Since that part of town was a little unsavory, he'd always watched for me and come outside to escort me in. This time, I crossed the parking lot quickly and discovered the door unlocked...and his requisite frat boy blue blazer lying in the floor.

When I called out to him, he answered from somewhere toward the front of the building. I moved toward the sound of his voice to find...his tie. Next was the dress shirt and undershirt, followed by belt, then pants, then socks, and then: holy hell. BVDs. At first, I thought it was some sort of joke, and that he'd just strewn his extra clothes all over the floor to be funny.

WRONG.

My idiot boyfriend jumped out of the shadows yelling "SURPRISE!"

Some of my friends may find this a little absurd, but I had never seen a fully nude adult male in my life, and this was not the means by which I wished to gain that knowledge. I screamed, threw his clothes at him, and locked myself in the office. A half hour later, I was still locked in there, sobbing that I was not THAT KIND OF A GIRL as he apologized, swearing up and down that he was fully clothed and it had indeed been a very, very bad joke.

After the breakup, my friends would sometimes call him at work in the middle of the night, put on fake voices, and ask creepy questions about necrophilia. I also wonder sometimes how much he's told his wife about that period in his life. They have a son and I'm just waiting to see how much he takes after Dear Old Dad when he hits college...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beaux Arts Madness

For several years in a row, I attended the Beaux Arts Ball in Lexington. Now, yes, that's a fundraiser, but no, definitely not of the black tie/dance-like-you-need-dentures-AND-depends variety. It's a big, eclectic, funky free-for-all masquerade with a thumping sound track and a true "anything goes" vibe.

One of the challenges for Les Beaux Arts is finding an appropriately off-the-wall costume. I typically trot out the Goth- the last time I went, some UK student kept buying drinks for my leather corset- although the year I flattened my car the week prior, I donned cutoffs, a gingham shirt, and pigtails so I could justify flat shoes as a 'Hee-Haw girl'. The best costume to date, though, was the year that my friend Shane and I found an orange polyester doubleknit formal a la Tammy Wynette at the local Goodwill. He paired it with a platinum wig and long opera gloves; it was a total hit and cost about $20 altogether. You'll literally see just about everything, from buck-naked to dresses made from bubble wrap, to the state cabinet official rockin' her panniered costume from the Venice Carnivale (how that woman got in and out of the port-a-john is still a mystery to me, but I saw her do it).

So the Beaux Arts will roll April 10th, location TBA. I've ordered my boots, and let me tell ya: Sasha Fierce will be in full effect. Be there or be vanilla, my children!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Name That Product!

Obviously the men in Cupertino did not run the name of the new Apple tablet PC past anything with ovaries. iPad? Are you kidding me? Yeah, it's cool. Yeah, it's nifty. Yeah, it came in way under the speculated pricepoint of $750. I might actually have to get one after someone else does the Beta agony and we figure out what all's wrong with it.

However, the name just...sucks...boo. Hiss. I still think it sounds like some Gadgetronic feminine hygiene product. Yuck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That Looks Like It Hurt

There's a young woman in the computer lab right now who has three, count 'em, three barbell piercings through her left eyebrow. I also recently joked with a high school friend who just turned forty that if he'll get the inappropriate tattoo, I'll have my nose pierced. We had a good laugh- since he made it through the Navy without the obligatory tattoo, I think I can continue quite readily without a pierced nose.

Not that I'm averse to piercings; my Cherokee ancestry dictates that I just can't have them without some kind of problem. My ears were pierced by my family physician, and I followed the aftercare instructions to the letter; they still got infected. I let the piercings close up.

The first time I saw a pierced nose 'in the flesh' was on the girl working the desk at my college in England. Since Koo Stark, the porn actress, dated Prince Andrew, nose piercings were on the rise among girls of non-Indian descent in the United Kingdom. It looked waaay cool, so one of the girls in my group asked where one could get it done. You could hear her mother's anguish all over the Greater Cincinnati Airport when we got home. So much for being a trendsetter!

I would probably be first in line to forge the permission slip for a slightly less-than-average piercing if I were sixteen or so right now...but I'm not. I'm looking at this and feeling old and curmudgeonly. To my friends with children: good luck. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard...Spock

[This originally appeared as a Facebook note, and its publication led to encouragement from several of my friends to begin blogging in earnest. My sister requested that I take it down because, and I quote, "Everybody from back home will know who this is about." It's deliberately written from my POV and, quite obviously (I hope), with affection. The gentleman in question is the pseudonymous 'Hopkins', so named by me following this writing for his choice of university. If you knew me in high school, then there is relatively little pretense about his identity. Since this first appeared, I have learned that not only did he attend the college where I am currently employed- at the time it was a branch of the university in which I was enrolled. Fate has a horrific way of intervening just about the time you think you might be getting back on level ground. In our own way, we each managed a derailment of epic proportion in both our personal and academic lives; I'm still sorting through the ashes twenty-plus years after the fact. Every once in a great while, one of the few truly sunny moments will come back to me- the crosswords and the handprint sweater are two of them. These were the oases in two lives in constant, deeply concealed upheaval. Because of his profound shyness, these rare glimpses of who he really was are things that I will always cherish. So few ever saw them, and in that I am truly privileged.]

A few things occurred to me a couple of days ago on the way into the library: one is that two history degrees might not have been such a great idea, and the other is that in some ways, I'm a hypocrite. I was just as prepared to leave home for the Ivy League as any of my friends, but I had seriously failed to consider how the reality of the departure East of one specific person a year ahead of me would take hold. After one of my college friends started posting pictures of our merry little band of pranksters from UK today, it gradually sank in how committed I was to trying to forcibly obliterate it from my mind, while drinking myself into a stupor most of my junior and senior years.

Scene: Concourse of Green County High School, approximately April, 1986; it's sunny and people are mlling about before the first bell. Two students, a boy and a girl, stand facing each other at the top of the room near the school doors. She is reading a letter. It's supposed to be good news; for him, it is, but for her, the world is rapidly falling away in shards- she's holding his acceptance letter from a very competitive university back East. She is one of the select few with whom he entrusts this information. She is suddenly sick.She has also just done the first preliminary interview as a prospect for Yale University one year from this date. It's finally hit her that she's got one more year of High School Hell without him. It's looking pretty bleak. The room is beginning to spin. She manages a credible (she hopes) ten minutes of smile-and-nod before excusing herself to go vomit in the girls' restroom opposite their locker.

Over the course of the next year, she will interview for Yale two more times and be rejected on the basis that her guidance counselor failed to send in his evaluation form- she will enroll at the state flagship school (her largest scholarship offer) where only one of her classmates is attending with her. She spends her whole freshman year plotting to transfer to the East Coast school he is attending. Fortunately for all concerned, she fails. It's famous for its med school, its science programs, and its university press. She is a humanities and social sciences student...and in the meantime, although she doesn't know it, he's headed home, anyway.

He'd done the odds before graduation. He never planned to come back. He gave her The Friendship Speech. She limped inside the house from his car at five-thirty in the morning on graduation night, hobbled by the heels she thought made her look graceful at the party (they kept sinking through the slats of the host's porch instead). She got up the next morning after praying all night that she would die. Three weeks later, she packs her bags and leaves to attend summer school at a nearby regional university on scholarship in a program for rising seniors. All eight weeks, her mind is hovering around a hog farm back home. In August, she returns in the middle of band camp, hurling herself full-force into a senior year about which she no longer cares.

She has met a new boy at college, another rising senior on the fast track to a National Merit scholarship and the valedictorianship of his class...quite a coup. It's all very forced, but that's what your senior year is supposed to be, right?: the right boyfriend, the right parties, the right dances, the right test scores, the right applications. And it means nothing- her heart and mind are in Baltimore, Maryland. School? She's phoning it in. She manages to maintain the facade of a good relationship with the boyfriend until prom night, when he dumps her so he can attend his school's prom with another girl- something she doesn't learn until she meets his best friend in college the next year- the official reason being that he is attending a university a hundred miles away from her and they will never be able to see each other. A hundred miles is ridiculous compared to the six hundred that crushed her spirit a mere eight months before. She accepts his excuse only because she never genuinely cared that much in the first place.

A year goes by. College sucks. She's where her parents chose, not a school of her own choosing. If not for the Honors Program, she would be suicidal. She makes it through and comes home for the summer, hiding from everyone and waiting for it to end. Early in the fall semester, her sister nearly dies in a car accident. In the midst of reevaluating her life, she dumps the boy she's been seeing and starts coming home frequently, where she learns that *he's* back. She doesn't give a damn that he might be embarrassed by it; she's just deleriously glad he's there, relieved that he's close by. What could be worse than having your sister nearly die? Having your wings clipped and ending up back under your parents' roof only a year after you made good your escape? Oh, a bad date. A date so epically bad that she's writing this now in the knowledge that they haven't talked since that night, although they have crossed one another's paths a couple of times since.

She does not find her feet or realize who her friends are until late in her undergraduate education. She lives in England over a summer. Life goes on.

I have a lot of regrets. I dwell too much in the past (historian?). But ambition was something that we all had, the ambition to get the hell out of Dodge and not look back. In my vanity, I had always assumed that I would not be dismissed like everyone and everything else as he blazed his trail out of Green County. I was. And this long after the fact, it still hurts. There are a few axioms in this world that are quite true, but one I would posit to which you should pay some attention is do NOT date your friends. Do not even TRY. It will only end badly.

I received a critical hit in April of 1986, and a night in late May finished me off. If I am honest about it, I have never and will never fully recover...I am One of the Guys. I am Such a Nice Girl. I have Such a Pretty Face, But. I cannot accept the bald truth, that I did not matter as much as I would've liked to have believed. He never asked for this and he did not cause it. I have brought this on myself, and because I cannot dismiss it, it haunts me. I struggle to value what I have, and I should let go of my angst about what was never mine to begin with; some days it's more in my mind than others. I wish I could forget, but to forget means letting go of him forever.

La, La, La, I Can't Hear You...

While attending Southern Regional University, my sister acquired a black Lab-Chow mix who eventually ended up living in Smalltownland with our parents. His primary residence was our parents' laundry room. I used to say that he'd hide in the darkness and fulminate toward the side door like the Hound of the Baskervilles whenever anyone came to visit, emitting this resonant "WOOF!" It's a technique he developed early on, defending my sister's apartment from unscheduled, illegal visits by her landlord- their first encounter was unpleasant, since the man had a habit of letting himself into his tenants' apartments when he thought that they weren't home. Noonie came as somewhat of a shock, but it didn't happen again.


One of Noonie's favorite tricks was demonstrating his dislike of my sister's boyfriends. He was a big dog, tipping the scales at nearly a hundred pounds, but he could fold himself like a piece of origami. He'd climb up across the back of the sofa and drape his head and shoulders between Little Sister and her beau. If the gentleman in question moved closer than Noonie found acceptable, he'd turn and stare the young man squarely in the eye. Typically, they'd get scared and leave. One erstwhile swain bent over to scratch Noonie's belly and got sprayed in the face with an accuracy that baby boys would envy.


He also talked back. If he didn't want to hear what you had to say, he'd shake his head from side to side making a sound that I swear was "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah", the canine equivalent of "la, la, la, I can't hear you, la, la, la". Scolding him was pretty useless.


My family didn't have a video camera, so Noonie's best trick is lost to time and preserved only in memory. He liked to scratch his behind on the chain-link fence surrounding the back yard. He'd back up to the fencing, squat as low as possible, and then buck upward like a rodeo bronco. With each leap, he'd bark. He'd travel up and down the fence line until the itch abated.


Noonie lived to be around ten years old, defending the laundry room from all comers and protecting Ethel, our Cocker Spaniel/Papillon mix, who lived out there with him. We've had a lot of dogs in our family and loved every one of them, but he was probably blessed with the most unique intellect of the lot. I never worried about my sister or my parents when he was living either place. He was a good old dog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Does She or Doesn't She?

It's the pitchline for the old Clairol campaigns. My hairdresser knows because I told her, by the way...home haircolor has improved to such a degree that I can do my own dyeing and it looks pretty natural (man, that always makes me think of funerals: "Don't she look nachral?").

Long about my sophomore year of high school, yes, high school, I started going gray. There was this tiny cluster of about seven or eight white hairs that sprouted right up front at the forward edge of my part. Since I was a whopping fifteen years old, my brilliant solution was to pluck them, or when I could get away with it, add a little unnatural highlighting in purple, brassy gold, or red to cover it up.

As time passed, the little patch proliferated until, by the time I hit my first full-time library position, I had a pretty good streak going. My stylist back home lamented that it wouldn't "take" color, since in her vast experience pronounced streaks like mine didn't. In any event, I was only twenty-five and baby-faced; I believed that the gray lent me an air of maturity. I let it ride.

Several years later, my best friend's wedding was approaching. She'd requested that all the attendants allow their hair to grow long so that we could wear updo's- being the Maid of Honor, I took it pretty seriously and also turned out to have been the only one who actually listened- but along with the rest of my hair, the grey streak grew out as well. Its increased length made it oh, so obvious. That's when I discovered the joys of coloring my hair.

Recently, during the holidays, with my professorial promotion folder due and both Thanksgiving and Christmas chores looming, I let my hair go a little too long between touch-ups. My sister came up, tweaked the front of my hair as I was making casseroles on Christmas day, and said, "I think you should leave it alone. It looks distinguished." Okay, I am a professor, a real-live, full-time, card-carrying Academic, but I am also forty, still baby-faced and able to pass for about ten years younger. Distinguished be hanged.

The next available window of opportunity found me planted in my bathroom with vinyl gloves and enough bottles and tubes to set up a pretty good chemistry experiment. You be distinguished, Little Sister- I'm going to be brunette until I dye it all right on out of my scalp! If they ever introduce home Botox, I'm there, too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Llama Llama Ding Dong

My sister has a way of getting into *ahem* unique situations. Last summer, while outside the house where she cares for several mentally challenged adults, she encountered a llama. It was the middle of the night, and in the yard was this llama, just standing there, minding its own business.

Since llamas are not indigenous to the Big City, she called 9-1-1. The dispatcher asked if she'd been drinking, told her to go somewhere and sober up, and hung up on her.

She went back outside and was confronted with...a different llama. The first one was black-and-white, and the new llama was that medium-brown llama-color. She called 9-1-1 again, and their reaction was, you got it, the same as before.

She tried calling Animal Services, to no avail. She left a message on the zoo director's voicemail. it was clear after a while that the llamas were her problem and hers alone for the foreseeable future.

Eventually, her cell phone rang. "Um, ma'am, did you call 9-1-1 to report a llama at your residence earlier this evening?" Oops. Someone had reported their llamas missing. She told them yes, she'd called twice about two llamas, and yes, they were still hanging around. In the meantime, as she waited for Big City's Finest to arrive, she went in to feed her charges their breakfast. One of the llamas marched up to the kitchen window, prompting a resident to yell, "HEY! That's a LLAMA!" One of the others responded, "NUH-UH!" and so it went until all of them were crowded around the kitchen sink, staring out at the llama.

When the police finally arrived, my sister went out to talk with them. She told them, "Whatever you do, don't chase the llamas. They're skittish. They'll only run."

Try to imagine a panting, overweight cop as he runs up a fairly busy suburban residential street, chasing a fleeing llama. They should've listened. [Ed. note: According to my sister, the police were chasing these animals with guns drawn. She stood in the street yelling at them, and they'd stop to flip her off or threaten her with arrest. ~Airedalebrarian]

What happened is this: some teenagers got drunk and let the llamas out of their pasture near the Big City Zoo. They drifted to the neighborhood where my sister saw them, where they were captured after hot(and sweaty) pursuit by the Big City PD. The owner, in lieu of fines for unrestrained animals, agreed to provide the police with llama-wrangling lessons.

Everytime we see anything with a llama motif that's not too expensive, we buy it for my sister. She also presented me with a llama finger puppet, in honor of my having had everyone we know call and leave a message on her phone: "LLAMA LLAMA LLAMA LLAMA!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blowing the Doors Off

In the wake of a truly epic breakup in college, I decided on the way back to Smalltownland from State Flagship U. (a distance of 100 miles from the Virgin Vault to my parents' house) to see how fast my car would go. It was a sporty coupe with a big-bore 6-cylinder engine. I had, thanks to my father's lead foot and high-order gadgetiness, what was, at the time, a state-of-the-art radar detector. I was blowing up the parkway, headed for home, when a carload of my ex's fraternity brothers passed me.

They recognized my car, honked, and roared past.

Not to be outdone, I laid the Black Bomb to the floor and blew out the cobwebs, reaching 120 m.p.h. as I easily overtook them. I gained about five or so miles before the radar detector lit up like a Christmas tree; I checked the rearview to see the bretheren gaining on me. In a slightly evil moment, I braked and let them slingshot by me at probably a hundred miles per hour.

The next time I saw them, they were sitting at the shoulder trying to explain their attempts to break the sound barrier to one of the KSP's finest. I innocently tooled past doing the speed limit, and remembered to wave...'cause you know, my momma raised me right.

Y? Because We Like You.

A few years ago, when I was promoting from assistant to associate professor, I drove to North Carolina the week before my promotion materials were due and got pinned down at my best friend's house by an unpredicted snowstorm- a massive storm that dumped six inches of snow and ice on North Carolina. I was trapped. I'd already worked myself into kind of a frantic state over the promotion like a chipmunk on crack. Calm was not part of my vocabulary.

In the midst of this, my BFF and I discovered that we'd run out of toilet paper...yes, TOILET PAPER, the one essential without which nobody can survive a snowstorm! Therefore, since my car was parked closest to the street in their driveway, I was elected to drive.

A hard shell of ice had formed on my car, a 1996 Camry. I managed to start it, and stood in the snow, tapping on the shell with the ice scraper, hoping for it to crack so I could pull it off in sections. My friend stood in the window with their dog, Ty, watching as I paced around and around the car, tap-tap-tapping away. As I rounded the rear deck, I gave a nice sharp thump, and lo and behold, the Y popped off. In my hysteria, I plucked the offending letter from the snow yelling, as Ty yapped at me through the window, "Y? BECAUSE WE LIKE YOU!" and doubled over in the snow, laughing like a maniac.

From that point on, my life revolved around automotive trim cement. I had to wait for the weather to warm up, so for quite a while I drove that fine automobile, the Toyota CAMR. I got the Y back on, and then the C departed...so I was driving the AMRY. I found the C, but before I could get it reattached, the A and Y fell off, so I joked to my gay friends that I now had the perfect car: a MR. Eventually, I got all five letters back on at the same time, but it never failed that one or more wouldn't stay put. It was like fruit basket bingo; I didn't know from week to week what I'd be driving.

As of midsummer, I now drive a Subaru Tribeca, aka "The Dogmobile". I sincerely hope that nothing weird happens with a. the weather or b. the lettering on my car before next Friday. Since there are no Ys in 'Subaru', I could end up driving any of the following: a SUB...a BAR...a SU or RU...or anything in between...Y? Because we like you!

The One with the Handprint Sweater

Since I blog about him with some frequency, I have lit upon the idea of referring to my long-suffering partner in nerdiness as "Hopkins", for reasons that anyone from back home will understand.

One of my favorite pieces of clothing in high school was a white sweater that had black paint-like handprints all over it, some of which fell in mildly unfortunate places. I wore that thing a lot, usually with leggings or stirrup pants, or sometimes a shortish black skirt.

My dance lesson fell right before quiz team meet departures on Monday nights. Mom would pick me up with my dance bag, drive me over to the teacher's house, I'd change, put my bookbag in her car, and then walk back to the school afterward to catch the bus. I almost always remembered to put my clothes in the dance bag. Almost.

One afternoon I forgot and put my pants in the bookbag, which then went home with my mother. Back in the days before cellular phones, this meant that if she did not go straight home, I couldn't get hold of her once she left my dance teacher's house. Rather than let my teammates down and because I couldn't locate Mom, I sucked it up, put the handprint sweater on over my black leotard and tights, slipped on my flats, and hiked off to the high school and points distant.

The first thing that happened when I boarded the bus was Hopkins nearly falling out of his seat, followed by our coach exclaiming, "WHERE are your PANTS?" I obliged by lifting the hem of the sweater about an inch to show him that I was wearing the leotard, while explaining about my pants going back to the house with my mother. He shook his head and told me to take my seat so we could leave. As usual, I trotted back and plopped down next to the still-shell-shocked Hopkins, who muttered under his breath: "This is going to be bad. Very bad."

He was right. We walked into the tournament school an hour later and every male in the place nearly snapped his neck trying to figure out why this girl just walked in with handprints all over her top, sans pants or skirt. My coach immediately took off his windbreaker and held it out to me; I refused, pointing out that it would only reinforce the notion that I had nothing on underneath. We went on to the first round match.

This is when it went South, fast. The captain of the opposing team made an off-color remark. Hopkins turned white as a sheet and then went livid. We barely eked out a win because he was too angry to concentrate. Things bumped along the same way until we made it to the refreshment break...and the captain from our first-round adversaries took it upon himself to roll up and try to match his handprint to one situated on my posterior.

Hopkins detonated like the Atom Bomb.

At the time (his height increased later, in college) he and I were the same height, which is to say, about 5'6". The boy whom he was telling off was about 6', but what he had on Hopkins in height, Hopkins had on him in sheer rage. "What made you think you could put your hand on her ***!" The guy made a critical error in responding: "Hey, if she doesn't want hands all over her, she shouldn't wear that sweater!" I had to step between them, backing Hopkins away before it turned into a physical altercation. As the rest of our team surrounded us, our coach appeared, shaking the windbreaker at me very insistently. Sheepishly, I accepted it and tied it around my waist for the remainder of the tournament.

Hopkins and I rode back home in stony silence. As we got off the bus, he caught me by the arm and hissed, "Get rid of that sweater!" Fearing for his future safety, I did as ordered. The handprint sweater retired and passed on to a cousin of my general build several counties away; I was also very careful from that day forward to make sure ALL of my clothes remained in the dance bag so I would never accidentally attend another tournament without my pants.

I Look Like a Dominatrix, but I Only Play One on TV

One of the most outward manifestations of the turmoil in my teenage years was my appearance. Sarcastic by nature, I fell into the sangfroid of Gothness very easily. While my mother would've quickly proscribed any attempts at black lipstick, I managed more subtle variations, including an opalescent purple shade more than reminiscent of a really good bruise. My nails were long, filed to a sharp oval, and painted the most outrageous colors I could get away with from Sunday until Friday afternoon, when it was removed for marching band performances. I wore so much eyeliner that I probably looked like a raccoon. Every iota of black that I could sneak into my wardrobe was welcome, although my mother strategically began limiting my access to black clothing because she purchased all of it. Being truly Goth (and strangely modest), this did not involve cleavage or, on most occasions, too much leg.

As college loomed, the summer I spent at what I'll call Southern Regional University revealed that I would probably be thought of as an immature freak if I showed up for my freshman year "in character". In the second semester of my senior year, I began letting my hair grow out, hoping that it would be one length by the time I shipped out. I transitioned my appearance from hardline Goth girl to normal middle class college kid so effectively that friends I made at State Flagship U. didn't really believe me until I trotted out pictures. What I lost in the process, though, was the grittiness that got me through high school and the tangible expression of my inner demons, who didn't take well to being bottled up like that.

I moved through college, into grad school, and eventually into professional life as a librarian and professor. During my first two academic library positions, I ran through a lot of pantyhose, pencil skirts, silk blouses, and practical flat shoes. When I arrived at my current job, luckily, we deal with a student population that's scared off by personnel who are too 'done'; I wear a lot of khaki skirts and dressier trouser jeans. Yesterday, I had to teach, so I donned a wool pencil skirt, tights, a black turtleneck, and a pair of Keen flats with a slightly industrial feel. Gratifying though it was to hear about how nice I looked, this is not permanent. Today I'm back in the trouser jeans.

So what's a Goth chick to do? A few weeks ago, my midlife crisis sneaked up and kicked me hard in the rear end. In the midst of heavy retrospection and introspection, I began to realize that I had the urge to drift back to my roots. These days, my Gothness only comes out of the closet a couple of times a year: Halloween, and an annual charity masquerade. It's liberating to be able to 'wear her' again, but why can't I still keep that version of me when I'm not suited up in full regalia? She's a lot more self-assured than my workaday librarian persona...she is the one forged in adversity, and the One Who Survived. Granted, I'm still dry to a fault and sarcastic in the extreme. I just miss her 'can do, forget you' attitude.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Muse and the Mirror

My sister's friend and college roommate, who is known to the blogosphere as Southern Fried Momma, may be in a position to take the credit and/or blame for my emergence into the Wild World o' Bloggin'. I've put up a series of notes on my Facebook profile recently of a bloglike nature and Dejoni, along with some of my other childhood friends, have encouraged me to expand my horizons. Well, for good or ill, here we go. I'll kick off with a serious one, and I promise levity at some point in the near future.

If I had to lay this at anyone's feet, per inspiration, he's the unlikeliest muse in the world...a cherished friend who walked out of my life some twenty years ago. Back in high school, where one went, the other followed on his or her heels- to locate one outside our classes meant the other was never far behind. I reflect on it now and realize how desperately we clung to each other for support, often by proximity as much as any other means.

Today, I'm thinking about the crossword puzzles...Mrs. Tucker, the school librarian, gave us special permission to do the crosswords in the daily paper after the teachers were finished reading it for the day. We'd sit there, quietly murmuring the answers and passing the pencil back and forth until it was complete; it was comfortable, on the order of an old blanket in which you curl up when you don't feel well. It was always obvious to the faculty when we'd argued, since I would go to the library to begin the crossword puzzle without him; normally, unless it was an especially sticky fight, or he was being particularly obstinate, he'd show up and sit down next to me. I made a good show of ignoring him until we fell, out of habit more than anything, into the normal rhythm of things, arguments forgotten as we teased out the more elusive clues. After he graduated, I gave up on crosswords. It just wasn't the same.

The quietude never bothered him, although our personal problems manifested in polar opposite ways: he was quiet and shy to a fault, and I was the brash, loud diva. Frequently, I did over-the-top things for simple shock value. I always knew when I'd gone too far, because he'd regard me with a slightly irritated expression and then attempt to ignore me for several hours. Sometimes it was impossible, which I knew perfectly well- on quiz team outings, as our captain with me as strong second chair, he could not avoid talking to me. If I was in an especially feisty mood, I'd tweak him just to see how far I could get before he lost it, sputtering angrily at me for several minutes while I gazed at him, arms folded, with my right eyebrow arched in amused derision. It would eventually elicit the response, "STOP IT, SPOCK!" (Ergo, if I make reference to everyone's favorite Vulcan, it's usually right at triple entendre: it's me, it's Nimoy's character, and it was his favorite Star Trek character.)

I've devoted a great deal of my career to sheltering, figuratively, the kids like us in the folds of my skirts. I sponsor the college quiz team, when I can put together four decent, reliable players. I sponsor the Gay-Straight Alliance, since in the absence of strongarming him into attending dances, I went with a gay friend who is now deceased. I sponsor the Roleplaying Game Club. I try to recapture the precious little things that I held so dear about him by helping the NextGen of geeklets. Over time, I have discovered that many of them carry similar scars to ours, and it drives me forward whenever I falter.