Archive for November, 2010

November 15th, 2010

» not the valedictorian

This confession should surprise no one: I hate to get things wrong. I like reading instructions; I like to be able to think about a thing, logic it out or intuit it, and then pick it up for the first time and be able to do it, at least passably. I prefer to skip over the awkward stage where you really suck at a thing, where you’re just glaringly bad and mess it up, and all the ensuing attention. That I’m a failure and everyone’s looking at me feeling.

That’s why I hated gym class. Hated. I was a shy, chubby kid who loved books and math and making up elaborate relationships between plastic horses. Being forced to attempt a pull-up in front of the entire class was torture on par only to being made to do team sports with the aggressive, athletic kids, who wouldn’t scruple to kick a soccer ball full power straight into your face. It took me a long, long time to find any physical activity that didn’t make me want to curl up and die of humiliation. (Step aerobics. I can do it at home in front of my tv where no one can see me. It is bliss.)

Anyway, so, I like to be right the first time, and I really like routines. I like figuring out the best way to do something, and then doing it that way, every time. (I have, for instance, perfected how to cut a banana so it is absolutely perfect in a bowl of cereal. Well-cut bananas are a predictable spot of joy in almost every morning.) It makes me a bit of a stick in the mud about some things, obviously, and it takes me longer than the average person to come around to new ways of doing things. I know I sometimes miss out on other people’s awesome banana shapes.

Which brings me to the other hand: I also like, sometimes, to push my own boundaries a bit. It’s a good lesson to myself that I don’t always have to be right the first time. I’m not very good at finding the joy in trying, but — I’m trying. This is partly what my hair salon policy grew out of. When I go for a cut, I always try to make the stylist decide what to do. For the most part it’s worked fantastically for me. I’ve had a couple I’m meh about, but the majority of the time I leave the salon feeling like a rock star. Sometimes it scares the pants off me, and those are the best times.

Yesterday, for instance. I don’t go to the salon very often (maybe three or four times a year), so I usually let myself splurge on it. I have a lady I really like at this fancy-pants place, but she’s expensive. Really expensive. So yesterday I went to Fantastic Sam’s. I don’t think I’ve been to a place that doesn’t take appointments since…ever? The stylist is great: we have a chat about the atrocity of people wearing tights with short shirts but calling them leggings, and how you’re basically half-naked in public; and about picking out nipple colors after breast reconstruction surgery; and about role-playing documentaries. I say yes to everything she proposes. When she whips out the thinning shears and starts hacking away halfway up the length of my hair I do have a moment of dread. It’s like mini skydiving, a whisper of the feeling of kneeling at the edge of a plane. She’s right, though, and it all turns out great.

Anyway, I’ve gone a bit astray from what I originally meant to say, which is: I am not (as Dooce would phrase it) the valedictorian of driving stick shifts. My dad taught me how when I was sixteen. He’s the perfect kind of person to teach driving: kind, patient, unflappable, and able to clearly explain each step and feel. If I ever scared him half to death he never let on — which was good, because I had enough anxiety for both of us. He taught me how in an old Suzuki Samuri, which he then let my friend and I paint blue with gigantic yellow and orange flowers. I’m still flabbergasted he agreed to that. Anyhow, I stalled that thing and lurched through gears all over town for a couple years, then went off to college and didn’t touch another stick shift for almost a decade.

And now I find myself in temporary possession of a manual. I swapped with my boyfriend (and babe, if you’re reading this, I promise I haven’t stalled it or lurched through any gears [yet]), who sadly has a broken arm. (Jury’s still out if he’ll be able to swim in Bali next week — but he’s still very capable of sitting on a beach with a book and a frosty drink, so: silver lining!) I am exquisitely glad my dad taught me to drive a stick all those years ago, but I’m still out of practice and would be very embarrassed to have any passengers. I’m currently in the stage of over-analyzing everything I do with the car, in a sort of low-level panic about the damage I must unwittingly be doing, in constant dread of having to down-shift or, horror of horrors, stop on an uphill slope. In my illustrious stick-shift-driving career I have yet to roll backwards into anybody, but there’s always tomorrow.

Thankfully, interspersed with all of this neurotic apprehension come moments of euphoria. I love, Love!, upshifting from second to third and third to fourth. (Third is my favorite gear.) Every time I think I’m going to do something hideously wrong but it ends up working I feel like a genius and I want to grab someone and shout I downshifted and didn’t die! or I drove through the parking lot!. I really love my car — it’s gotten me through some pretty dicey situations, over a whole lot of ice and snow — but driving it is at best a time to zone out to an audiobook (not a bad thing really) and at worst a dreaded chore. The manual, though? The manual is a little push out of my comfort zone. It’s a chance to get the heart rate up a little, and to pull the key out of the ignition feeling like I have just conquered the world.

November 2nd, 2010

» the t-shirt drawer

Sometimes you have a bad day. It’s not one thing in particular — a lot of little things maybe, or some little things and some not-as-little things, just all the dumb stressful stuff pressing in, everything moving out of step, creeping up, so that you don’t even really realize until you get home what a shitty day you just had. So you want to take it easy, chill a little, only that turns out to be exactly the wrong thing; you just get all wound up in your head, walking in circles, dwelling.

It’s the kind of day where the filing doesn’t come together, the dust rag leaves behind lint, the radio’s all commercials. Everyone’s busy, no one to help you out of your head, reassure you you’re not useless. No ice cream in the fridge, not a sliver of chocolate in sight, bubble bath’s not going to cut it.

What to do? Tonight, turns out the best medicine is reorganizing the t-shirt drawer. Everything else feels like a ruin, coming apart at the seams, but that drawer is as close to perfect as matters. So, I guess this is a shout out to anyone else on their no good day, and a reminder to myself next time I need it: try starting with the t-shirt drawer.