Tuesday, August 12, 2008

G-d Bless Ye, Ass-men, Everywhere!

When you’re a married woman, busy raising a family, you tend to lose track of certain things: world events, names of former co-workers, and, oh yeah: your ability to attract men. Once you’re elbow-deep in diapers and breaking up sibling warfare, you tend to stop caring whether you‘re a “hottie“ or not. You’re too busy working to “work” it, and you don’t care that your unwashed hair is tied up with one of your kids’ socks.

But when you find yourself “unhalved” and on your own after a decade or two, the differences between you and the other gals tends to get spelled out in vivid relief. Suddenly, little things begin to loom large: the glowing skin of younger women, the ability of their breasts to defy gravity without the use of pulleys, weights and levers, the sounds of males necks snapping as they swivel to get a better look. Meanwhile, you've got new problems: turkey-like loose neck skin and wisps of scowl-hiding bangs getting caught in your crow‘s feet. You’re darned right, it’s not for sissies.

The hell with it: post-divorce, I’m going to work at a nursery. Plants, that is, not kids. Primarily because plants don’t talk back or look at you funny when you try to flirt. Plus, the clientele at the nursery tends to be sweetly unthreatening: gentle retirees, young moms toting pre-schoolers, lost husbands seeking anniversary gifts.

But as it turned out, there were unexpected perks to the job, the perkiest one being something I had been sitting on all my life, only I never knew it. I don't want to brag, but it turns out I have a cute butt. Yes, my behind, which I had never noticed (mainly because it’s not in front of me) was suddenly attracting a great deal of attention from my male co-workers. I’m convinced that when they filled out their Applications for Employment, there was a space next to “Gender - Male/Female?” with the question: “If Male, are you an Ass-man? Yes/No. If "No," please do not continue.”

I seemed to have stumbled upon a Secret Order of Worshippers of the Female Gluteus Maximus, and they had made me their Goddess Divine.

Now, there are those of you who think I’m being all conceited, so let me just say to you: Shut up. I have gone from being a nondescript “Ma’am” to a “Spank-a-licious Mama,” and if you ruin it for me, I will hunt you down and stick my finger in your eye.

“Are you going to wear those black rayon pants tomorrow?“ our 21-year old Houseplant maven, Paul, asked anxiously. I had to laugh: that was Paul’s day off, and he didn't want to miss The Show, starring my Lil Ol’ Moneymaker. Pinch me: younger dudes were anticipating my outfits and hoping for wardrobe failure!

Our 27-year-old Pond-and-Chemical guy, Sean, was particularly pointed in letting me know that he wanted to take my ass-thetic attributes out of the showroom for a road test. It’s flattering, but it’s not the chemistry that’s stopping me, it’s the math: as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been sexually active longer than he’s been alive, and it’s my policy not to erase the fine line between “Who‘s the hottie?” and “Is that your son?” (See my essay below, "Death to 'Ma'am!'") But when Sean invited me out to a bar recently to meet his friends, I figured, why not? By the time I got there, he had already had a few drinks, and greeted me warmly.

“You made it!” he called out. He gave me a bear hug and lead me over to one of his friends for introductions. I got a glimpse of the young man’s face before Sean turned me around, pointed at my bottom and announced, “Dude, check out this righteous booty!”

Before I could say anything, Sean was leading me around the bar, backwards, so my still-fine behind could have a meet-and-greet with the rest of his posse. I didn’t get to see what they looked like, and G-d forgive me, I didn’t care.

I've written a song for Sean, for my co-workers, and for Dorsal Appreciators everywhere. It’s a bar ditty, of course, to be sung in an Irish accent, in Sean’s honor. Please keep in mind, this song is not about me, but a tribute to Ass-Men everywhere. It's best sung with a cold one in your hand, and begins with a hearty “Ohhhhhhhhhh!”:
Oh, back her on in
And feast yer eyes, lads,
On the finest caboose in the land!

It rides firm and high,
From her back to her thighs,
In a way altogether most grand!

Oh, the way that it sways
Makes the angels sing praise:
"Hallelujah! We've seen the Divine!"

Raise yer stout and yer beer,
For we're all Ass-men heeeeeeeeeeeeere!
Thank the Lord for the Female Behind!

G-d bless you, Fanny-fans, one and all! We know you're behind us 100%!

Tales from No-Man’s Land

I’m sorry, it simply can’t be a coincidence that they make you spell out, if not whisper, the name of the only department in the hospital where abject humiliation is the daily fare: O.B./G.Y.N. Nobody has to say, “I‘m looking for the X-R-A-Y Department.”

Like the contents of their wives’ purses, most men don’t want to know what goes on “in there,” and who can blame them? It’s bizarre. Where else does a woman lie naked on butcher paper, staring at a Garfield poster on the ceiling, with her legs in “joy to the world” formation, confident that at least her bra and panties are well hidden? All while someone in a white lab coat tells her, “Try to relax.”

That’s life here in No-Man’s Land.

There aren’t enough accolades for the men who actually dare to venture into the trenches (ahem!). Like my gynecologist, Neal (and isn’t “kneel” a perfect name for a man who works in No Man’s Land?) who also happens to be a friend I see socially. In keeping with O.B./G.Y.N.’s weirdness, I get to pretend it’s perfectly normal to nibble wine and cheese with the man who’s more familiar with my uterus than the father of my children.
Neal helped deliver my oldest son -- that is, I think he did: it’s all kind of a blur. They discovered the baby was almost out of embryonic fluid, so they had to wheel me quickly into the delivery room, “Stat!“ (I love saying that!) and induce labor. I’ll quote the description from the wonderful comic, Dianne Nichols, and say my experience was similar to being “worked on by an Indy 500 car crew in a pit stop.” Instead of jumpsuits, surgical green-garbed blurs whizzed around me, the bright lights glinting off their shiny metal tools. A few pushes and I was back on the road, good as new.

All in a day’s work in No-Man’s Land.

One of the delivery nurses I do remember clearly was Carrie. She had lovely long fingers and always asked permission before doing one of those “Dispos-All” checks - you know, where they poke around and see how much your cervix has dilated. Not everyone asks, and after a few times, you do begin to feel like the garbage disposal, with people sticking their hands in there like they’d heard chicken bones being ground up. (Mans-lation: it would be like someone giving you a prostate exam without warning, only you get to watch it happening.) Carrie and I became friends during labor, and I found out between contractions that she was single and enjoyed biking, movies, fine dining and long walks on the beach. I gave her number to a single guy friend, and when nothing came of it, I didn’t hear from her again.

Then, ten years later, I ran into Carrie at a different clinic -- she was now a nurse practitioner, and by sheer coincidence, she was assigned to me for a routine exam. We happily caught up: I told her about my son, who now had two brothers, and she told me all about her training for this new job and how much she loved it. Then I said, “Last time I saw you, you were single and . . .”

The look on her face stopped me cold.

“Yeah,” she said, rather sadly, “I never did find the right guy, and I really wanted a baby. So today after work, I’m getting inseminated.”

Gulp. This is one market American Greetings has yet to tap: “May all your dreams be realized/Good luck getting fertilized!”

Really, what do you say? All I could do was hold Carrie’s long-fingered hand and make sympathetic noises while she told me about her struggles with this decision, her plans to return to work and how her parents will watch the baby.

“I’ll be praying for you,” I offered.

As we finished up, I looked back at the poster on her ceiling. It was a spoof of a Calvin Klein underwear ad (no Garfield for this gal!), with a buffed-out dude photographed in requisite shades of gray. Except that this guy was holding the front of his tighty-whities out and staring down, enraptured. The caption read, “Obsession.”

“Hey, Carrie,” I said, “Do you know what ‘klein’ means in German?”

She had a German-sounding last name, so I was taking a chance. But she thought a moment and burst out laughing, “Small!”

It was good to see her laugh. You don’t get many laughs in No-Man’s Land. It’s a tough room.

We said goodbye, and I gave her my son’s picture, for good luck. I got off the butcher paper, retrieved my bra and panties from their hiding places, got dressed and left. As the radio played the oldie, “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number,” I prayed that the nurse practitioner with the nice, long fingers who helped deliver my son would successfully conceive from an anonymous sperm donor.

Just another normal day in No-Man’s Land.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Man-Ho, Ho!

My co-worker, Jim, has been a Navy man since before “It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure” was its slogan. All it took was the three little words recruiters used back then - “See the World” - and it was “Anchors Aweigh” for Jim. Now in the Reserves, he’s biding his time at the Nursery where we work until his retirement. But to a sailor, even a land-locked one, well, shore leave is shore leave: Jim likes the ladies, and the feeling is more than mutual. By that I mean, I would call Jim a “hound,“ except that hounds have been known to lick themselves - Jim has the ladies do that for him.

I’m always dazzled by the Monday morning tallies, and even more impressed with his masculine finesse as he catches a smoke over by where the bags of soil get loaded into ladies’ cars. It’s not the only manure flying, believe me. These ladies, who definitely have fertilization on their minds, arrange with Jim to “meet later,” and he assures me the encounters are anything but “garden variety.” (Aren’t euphemisms fun?)

But one story of Jim’s had “No Fair!”-ness written all over it. It seems that Jim visited an old “swabbie” buddy in San Diego, a Navy town second only to Subic Bay in the Philippines. Apparently, there is a breed of girl who “follows the Navy,“ another euphemism, meaning “Sailor Slut.” Understand, I do not mean that in a derogatory fashion - I completely know what it’s like to go weak in the knees over a hot bod in tight white pants - I came of age in the era of Disco, after all. I‘m just being blunt about someone who has turned a hobby into a lifestyle. (I, for one, can say without shame, that I am a “It‘s a Wonderful Life“ Collectible Whore.)

It seems that Jim’s buddy found him a shipshape “Follower,” and told him, “Bro, Tiffany’s gonna be with you this weekend.” Apparently, Tiffany concurred, and they were off to the races. No muss, no fuss, not even money exchanged - just Jim and Tiff “partying” all weekend long (more euphemisms). Sunday night, he stepped back on a plane and was home in two hours, probably smiling the entire time.

It’s here I must cry, “No Fair!”

This is what I want to know: Where, I ask you, oh, where is a similar party for the ladies?? I’m not talking about the shrieking, faux-flirtations of a bachelorette party - why on earth would I use an impending marriage as an excuse to lose my inhibitions? No, no, no, I’m talking about a visit to the house of a friend who really, really knows me, where she puts my hand in the large hands of a tall, gorgeous man and says, “Stephanie, this is Francesco. He’ll be taking care of you.”

Francesco’s warm blue eyes would lock into mine, he would kiss my fingertips, and the rest would be a blur. No feigned interest in his life. No pointless blather. No judgment about what others might think. No wondering “Where this is going?,“ since I’d already know. Just Francesco and me, and more Francesco.

That’s what I’m talking about, cousin Sigmund: that’s what women want.

Unfortunately, most men’s efforts to encourage us ladies to “carpe diem” (seize the day) end up more like “carpe doofus,” a la Pepe Le Pew. Case in point: an email culled almost verbatim from a Europlayer trolling my online dating service, on which I appear sans makeup. Cue the ooze, and:

"I am empressed (sic) . . . What a wonderful idea it is to be naturally yourself. I like it. By the way, why wear makeup at all when you are blessed with beauty? Ah! Being beautiful naturally has its benefits. Look at the money saved not buying makeup. . . Something, about me . . . When I meet a woman and begin to know who she is, I would ask to see her without the makeup. You see, if and when two people become involved, a time may come when the two of them may share the night. So here comes the morning, that is when you see each other at your best. I feel you are understanding what is to unfold. So this is why I am so empressed (sic) with your truth . . . and I await your reply . . ."

I’m glad Pepe is “empressed with (my) truth,“ but I don’t think his “understanding (of) what is to unfold” and mine are remotely similar - for example, “comes the morning,” I am definitely not at my best.

If the Good Ship Le Pew is my only option, I’m content to sit on the dock of the bay and watch Jim and his Followers play. But you never know: there just might be a Francesco out there who knows that when it comes to "taking care" of older women, really, it's not just a job - it's an adventure.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whoa, There, Lil Dogies!

I don’t have a brother -- we were all females down at the ol' homestead: a sister, two girl cousins, girl cats, girl dogs, right down to the girl goldfish. As a result, I grew up in a world where food was for eating and not for racing to finish, and vomiting was considered a travesty rather than a punch line. I was in college before anyone ever made the classic request, “Pull my finger.”

So it came as rather a shock when motherhood saddled me with three testosterone-packin’ varmints - Whoa, there, lil dogies! Let’s use our words, not body slams. It’s a lot like living in an Animal Planet special on “Cubs in the Wild:” constant tussling to test each other’s limits. Occasionally, one will push or hit or tease too hard and then, BAM! The payback! It's completely counter to what I intended for my offspring, having grown up in the era of “Free to Be You and Me:“ I swore my male children would loving nurturers who sang Kumbaya to their gender non-specific dolls.

Hah. Now I shrug off a level of violence that would make a hockey fan cringe.

Actually, the only thing that still makes me cringe is the phrase, “Hey, Mom: watch this!” While I’m thrilled that my kids still long for my attention, this request is usually uttered far from where emergency vehicles can be quickly summoned.

“Not today,” is my usual response, “We don’t have time to go to the emergency room.” This line worked until my youngest piped up, “Can you make an appointment for the emergency room, Mom? ‘Cause this stunt will be awesome.”

I must admit, for a while there, I regretted missing out on all the girly stuff - you know, dressing my own living doll in lacy socks and matching bows. Then, one day, while volunteering in one son’s classroom, I came across a group of girls who wouldn’t let another girl play with them. After calming the hysterical child down, I found out that she was being snubbed because, as the Queen Girl explained, “We’re not wearing pink today.” Suddenly, the fart jokes didn't seem so bad.

Those girls got an earful that day, let me tell you. But they weren’t the only ones who learned something: I chose not to memorize the Queen Girl’s name so I could someday anonymously send her articles on liposuction. I think I showed tremendous self-restraint.

I’m proud that I’ve ventured beyond Girl World and managed to go native. Quite frankly, it’s refreshing how unambiguous boys are - they’re simple machines along the lines of the pulley, the lever and the inclined plane. They are brutally frank in their appraisals - things are either “awesome” or they “suck” (we are working on the language); since they are motivated either by appetite or avoiding pain, they are alarmingly transparent (unless they’re willing to risk pain in order to prove they’re right, in which case, you better watch your back); their mammalian “Cubs-in-the-Wild” brains are too hyped on adrenalin to notice color schemes or nurse long-term grudges the way us womenfolk do (see above: “articles on liposuction“). I may not know how to French braid, but I’ve developed the wicked quick reflexes I need dodge flying objects, and I have learned every fart joke known to man.

I never thought I’d say this, but my three testosterone-packin’ hombres have completed my education, and I’m much obliged.

And who knows? There may be a granddaughter someday, and she‘s the one I can cover in buttons and bows.

And teach her the fart jokes. Someone’s got to clue her in early.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Loves Me Some Rascals!

My darling Vixens, I must confess: I got it baaad for Rascals! We've all known them, those devilishly handsome guys with their killer smiles. It doesn't hurt that they're incredibly playful as they flatter, flirt, and sweep us away on a tsunami of romantic validation. They will tease and compliment until your thighs are set aflutter.

Then they act like nothing happened. While our heads are still reeling with confusion, Poof! they’re flirtatious again! And just like that, they're distant again. It's like trying to figure out a magician's trick: how did he do that? Truly, they are the most ingeniously slippery escape artists ever, and the more we try to grasp them, the more elusive they become. More than once has a Rascal left my heart wriggling like a worm on a hook, begging for mercy.

What is it that's so deliciously tantalizing about a guy with that whole “now-you-see-it-now-you-don‘t“ thing going? One thing's for sure: forbidden fruit is definitely the sweetest.

When my hormones get blindsided by the Rascal's flattery, I can pretty much kiss all rationality goodbye. The conversation between my Brain and another part of my Body sounds something like this:

Brain: Cervix, what’s going on down there? Report!
Cervix: (loud Valley Girl groan; impatient texting) WTF do u wnt?!?
Brain: You’re moving way too fast! Pull back! I repeat: PULL BACK!
Cervix: u r over it
Brain: That’s an order! Do you read me?! PULL BACK NOW!!!
Cervix: Not gonna happ3n!!!

Soon, my Heart is ready to beg my Brain to please, please, please let His Rascally Self have me, whatever the terms. But help is on its way: before any damage can be done, my Brain has already been deputized to stop my Heart, by whatever means may be necessary, lest I throw my entire self into the power of the Rascal.

So there‘s my poor Heart, wrapped in chains, dangling upside-down over a shark tank, begging to be freed so the rest of me can be the Rascal’s booty call. And my Brain, bless it, is talking my Heart through the temptation, bombarding it with the downside, so that my Body will finally be Rascal-free at last.

Once the spell has been broken, it’s easy to see why the Rascal purposely puts stars in my eyes: so I wouldn’t be able to see all the red flags, which outnumber the ones in Beijing. That‘s right: all Rascals are hiding their Mr. Hydes. If I’m not careful, I’ll wind up like a woman I’ll call Wilma, who was hung up on an inveterate Rascal named Fred. Wilma lacked assistance from her Assistant: her Brain did not have the power to restrain her, so she pursued Fred relentlessly. Little did she know what she was in for.

You see, Fred was a Rascal of the highest order, and he strung her along by dangling exquisitely vague promises of “maybe-someday’s” and “if-only-you-would’s“ like a dazzling charm bracelet before her. This went on for years as she transformed her entire life to suit his needs: she moved thousands of miles away from her family to be near him; she supported him financially; she did not have the children she craved.

Then, suddenly, Fred died.

At the funeral, the minister announced that “A very special lady in Fred’s life wishes to share some thoughts with you.“ Wilma stood up; not surprisingly, so did six other women, each of whom was convinced that the minister was referring to her. I wish I could say that it was a good thing Fred was already dead, because these ladies would have killed him, but I’m sorry to report that, instead, a cat fight ensued over the dead and smiling Fred.

Last laughs may be hollow, but then, so are Rascals.

I thought that this sad story and my own experience would make my heart immune from the Rascal’s siren call, but recently, a thoroughly delectable Rascal at work finally asked me out:

Brain: Cervix, we have a green light. Do you copy?
Cervix: (texting back excitedly) OMG so stoked!!!

Then he didn’t call. For. A. Week.

When I saw him again, he told me he was “going through some bad stuff” and “didn’t want to start a workplace romance right now.”

Yeah. Uh huh.

Darlings, we have been using this same “Now-is-not-a-good-time” scam to make men scram for years; we need to acknowledge the sad truth when it applies to us: “not now” means “not ever.”Brain: False alarm, Cervix. Mission has been compromised.
Cervix: (texting back) WTF?!?

As I found out later, the Rascal was actually doing me a favor: consummate Rascal that he was, he had several ladies in a holding
pattern, circling the runway, hoping for a safe landing. As bummed as my Heart was, my Brain was grateful to have dodged that midair disaster.

But my Brain was soon summoned to the familiar role of Houdini’s Assistant, because I found my old Rascal-loving Heart beginning to chirp up with a chorus of “Yes, but‘s“: “Yes, but if I quit this job, then he’d go out with me . . . Yes, but he’s so cute -- so what if it were strictly physical?”

My Brain rallied beautifully to work my “Yes-but’s” off, shouting its encouragement as my Heart writhed away in a straightjacket. But ultimately, at the very last second, the curtain was pulled back to reveal my Self in my entirety -- Brain, Heart and Cervix working as a team. How did they do that?

It’s not easy, but it turns out staying true to myself and evading a Rascal is the best Escape Act of them all.