Monthly Archives: January 2019

Happy Birthday, Weirdo

I have finally resigned myself, after many years, to a certain aspect of my character. I come from a time when name calling was taken for granted, and can finally accept the fact that I’m a weirdo.  I was thinking about this today because it’s my birthday. I’m not going to put any numbers down since I write young adult fiction and don’t want to lose my street cred as a really hip person. Too late, you say? No one says hip anymore? Oh, well.

Four days ago I was flying to San Diego with my daughter Michelle when I had the Weirdo revelation. I was about to board the plane when the steward asked if I was okay sitting in an exit row. I barely stopped myself from answering with this bare faced lie: ‘I’m a paramedic and can handle any situation.’ Why would I do this? Because I wanted to make myself sound better than I am. I’m short, too talkative and can come off as scatterbrained. While it’s true that I am occasionally bewildered by life, in an emergency I’m extremely cool headed. But no one who looks at me ever seems to believe this.

Michelle and I were among the first people to board. Since I knew we weren’t taking off for a while, and I hate sitting, I decided to just stand in front of my seat. I begged the pardon of the woman on my left, but tapped the young man to my right on the shoulder. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ I immediately said. ‘I touched you without asking. But it’s okay. I’m a mother.’ He gave me a look that was impossible to read. We never said a word to each other after that, but it’s when I realized that the aforementioned label fit. It’s true that I love talking to strangers, and also true that it bugs my kids. They feel its unsafe, while I feel like it’s my job to connect with all kindred spirits all around me.

I guess I’ve always been a bit weird. I was described this way by others as a kid, but almost everyone had some kind of unpleasant handle back then, and mine wasn’t such a bad one. The more I think about it, the more I realize how true it is. I talk to myself a lot, and when my husband was alive, he’d pop his head in the room and I’d have to give him a look. ‘Oh,’ he’d say when he realized what I was doing. ‘Carry on.’

When something exciting happens on TV, I will address the actors. When I’m writing and one of my characters takes me by surprise, I’ll actually shout aloud. ‘You weren’t supposed to kiss her yet!’ Or, ‘You killed him! I can’t believe it!’ (As if I’m some stranger reading the words instead of the actual author.) As I walk around my home, I will have little arguments with myself. ‘Should I go for a walk?’ (I ask this out loud.) ‘Should I vacuum?’ This is why people have pets…so they can pretend there is someone actually listening to them. I don’t care how it looks, either. Maybe its the writer in me, but I have a vast interior life that is quite entertaining to me, and I don’t mind addressing that life out loud.

I also talk at a pretty good volume to my dead husband, which is okay since I’ve been told almost everyone does it. I just hope he can hear me. Lately, I’ve been telling him how right he was about practically everything. It’s sad that someone has to die to win the argument, but its true. You won, honey. I hope you know it and get a fist bump from someone up there with you.

Anyway, the older I get, the more comfortable I am just being myself. I don’t care what strangers think of me (obviously) and my friends and family formed their opinions years ago, and likely won’t be changing them. If this is the title I carry with me until the day I die, I’m okay with it. So happy birthday, weirdo. It’s going to be a great one. (Self pep talk–also out loud!)

The Handmaid’s Gymnasium

handmaid's tale   As I left my weight class this morning, I realized that Charles Atlas was right. Nobody wants to have sand kicked in their face at the beach. There’s something about feeling stronger that’s so empowering, like maybe I can wade into a fight and help someone weaker than me. Which, unless they’re a child, is a stretch.

While I’m working out, I’m like all the other gym class submissives. Our bondage mistress, Aunt Tracy, carefully disguises her leathers and whip with gym clothes and a water bottle, but we’re not fooled. And yet, when I finish my morning workout, I swagger out of the gym feeling extremely proud. Unless its leg day. Then I’m humbled and hobbled, and feel a bit more like…a handmaiden. The Margaret Atwood kind.

We do this routine called ‘Moby’ where the name Sally gets thrown around a lot. Not quite sure of the spelling, but it really should have Dick after it, because that’s the kind of move it is. There’s not many lyrics, its mostly a dark rhythm that doesn’t sound too horrific, unless you’ve spent time with Sally in the past. She’s the one in the song ordering us to move up and down in squats and lunges, or while messing around with kettle bells heavy enough to take our heads off. At least four times in the song, we hold our positions, because those segments are thrown in for extra torture. We hold. We hold. And we hold. I’ve heard some cursing, (okay, it’s me) and more than a few prayers. ‘Oh God, let it be over, my thighs are about to explode.’

I find myself praying for an open wound or some heart palpitations, so I can leave. What is this feeling? Oh, right. I’m a gym handmaiden. Nothing sexual, of course, unless you count almost impaling myself on the end of my dumbbell. Aunt Tracy is not meanspirited. She is like Wonder woman, and has a vision for us all that some (me) are having trouble grasping. Really? I ask. This is possible? And worse, am I growing used to the pain? Am I liking it?

I accidentally attended a class on New Year’s Eve where the whole hour was just that damned Sally and her up and down Moby Dick moves. ‘This is helping me,’ I reminded myself grimly as I clung to my ring, or my kettle bell, trying to remember everything the commander…I mean, Tracy…had said. Tighten stomach, tuck in butt, don’t jut your neck, shoulders down. ‘Yes, mistress,’ we reply as she strolls past, whip water bottle in hand. She’s always smiling, calling out pleasant comments like, ‘Are we having fun yet?’ Well, of course we’re not.

But having said that, by the time I’d finished my 8th class, I’d gone down a whole pants size, and when not hobbling around after a leg workout, I feel kind of amazing. I do believe my robe is looser, and the white hat can’t hide my cheerfulness once I’ve managed to escape  leave class. Anyway, all is well with the occasionally foulmouthed sisterhood of the loosening pants. And while you won’t find me entering any weight lifting contests, snow shoveling is a lot easier now. In northern Canada, that’s a plus. So, in case you’re wondering, will I go back to having my ass handed to me in weight class? You bet.  Besides, I paid upfront, and I kind of like it. Oh, mistress Tracy. You win again.