Feeling Stupid

There are times in your life when you really don’t know something and you really should and you feel stupid about it.  There are times when you think these times should mostly be in the past and you realise they’re not.

The first time I remember I was getting my nails done for my Bat mitzvah.  Yes … I know … get over it.  So I must have been 12 going on 13 although in terms of ‘girl stuff’ I was more like 5 going on 6. The stuff my girls knew about nails and hair and how to dress and do make up at that age so far surpassed my current knowledge it’s scary.  But there I was getting my nails done and the woman said ‘cut or push back’.  I said, what? She said, your cuticles, cut or pushed back?  Well, I had no idea what she was talking about but right then and there I decided I had a new rule in my life: if someone asks you something that you don’t understand and it has the option for cut in it, go for the other option.  In this case it didn’t really matter and if I recall, the push back option had its own set of pain involved but that’s not the point.  I felt stupid. I thought I’m here getting my nails done and I don’t even understand the lingo. Welcome to womahood my ass, how about we skip the torah reading and go straight to debutante school because honestly in life, knowing that stuff is going to come in a lot more handy than a bunch of words I can decipher how to pronounce but don’t know what they mean and I think, had I had that option, I would have found that would have panned out to be true.

So I had my rule #1 which morphed into other rules along the way.  For example, I was boarding a boat in a small town in Italy, my Italian being ok enough to speak but not really understand. You know the thing; you sound out very carefully how to ask for directions or a restaurant or where’s the bank and figure between hand signals and the random word you will get the idea enough to understand the answer.  So it was as I was buying a train ticket.  I could ask, very smooth, 1 way to La Magdalena, but I forgot the other basic rule of people in small towns, not usually inundated with tourists, unhappy at their job at the train ticket window are not likely to be using your dictionary level language to respond or even elucidate enough for you to infer some sort of answer. So I got a one word question back.  It went like this, “1 way ticket to the island please.” “figenhemisteria?” And a blank impatient stare, awaiting an answer. Well, when you’ve been all cool and practiced your little sentence and spit it out rapid fire like you’re a native you only get one “huh?” before it’s repeated and then you’re due to answer.  So building on my ‘cutting’ rule I added to it my ‘no’ rule.  If you don’t really understand the question and out of pride or stupidity or some combination thereof you feel bound to respond then go with ‘no’.  It’s just safer. In general I just believe it just is.

So that’s how I found myself on an overnight steamer, the sole american and nearly sole female, sleeping on the floor with the entire inducted freshman class of the Italian Naval academy training school, going over to Sardinia for cadet training. If you can picture, not a fox in the hen house, but a hen in a fox house, that kind of sums it up. I also learned the word for ‘room’, as in “would you like a room with a bed and some privacy” is camera.  I’m sure she said something longer in Italian like, would you like a to spend this night on the floor or would you like a “camera”? But I didn’t get that at the time.  So instead of looking stupid I arrived for my new job, after a night of no sleep and a neck cramp to beat the band.

This brings me to today.  I hadn’t had coffee yet so that is my excuse and I’m sticking with it, but I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason frankly.   I went to use the infamous spa certificate and decided a salt rub thing might be fun, by a professional, since I can get a massage anywhere (like my gym, not like on the subway from the groper guy standing next to me). Having been already exposed to some salt and it was pretty nice I thought in a legit setting it might be special.  So I go in, in my little spa robe,  into a room with a massage bed covered in plastic and an apparatus on the wall that looks like 3 sets of grapefruit sized headphones connected to a water pipe, in other words some kind of fancy shower. I’m instructed to put on some weird throw away thong underwear, a head band and a shower cap.

Well I understand the first 2 items, not that I care about whether or not this ridiculous excuse for underwear is going to cover anything but maybe the masseuse who rubs the bodies of 100s of people daily has prude issues. It definitely wasn’t for hygiene, the plastic on the bed took care of that and for as little as it covered visually it covered less in terms of….well…let’s just say it didn’t cover anything. The head band to keep your hair out of the way, duh, even I could figure out that. But the shower cap, this is the item that befuddles me. So I said, the shower cap now? She looks at me like yes you idiot, but only says ‘yes now’ and leaves the room so I can ‘dress’ in privacy.  So I put on the 3 items and I’m standing there thinking, ok, what’s with the shower cap? Am I going to shower first? Do I smell? Should I have showered before coming? I mean it IS 9am and I suspect most people do this after work, so who would come all clean just to get scrubbed? Do I wet up first and then she’s going to salt rub me and maybe that’s easier than just salt on dry skin? How does this work? Why am I confused? And what should I be doing? Should I actually get in the shower? As I’m running all this through my mind she opens the door, sees me standing there and says, you’re supposed to be face down on the table, and I can tell she’s a little disgusted I’m so stupid.  As I roll what she said back through my mind I’m sure she said that ‘after putting it all on get face down on the bed’ but I realise as soon as she said shower cap I got fixated on that and that was the end of listening. So I just drop my towel and get on the table and she’s turning away like, really? You were supposed to do that and be under the blanket before I got back. Not like I’m so hideous, but this bitch obviously has body issues and I’m thinking in the wrong industry. I, on the other hand, made another rule about 20 years ago.

I was giving birth to my second daughter, literally giving birth, spread eagle, pushing, blood, screaming, you know that scenario.  My other daughter’s pediatrician poked her head in and said, hi, I heard you were here. I said yup, your next patient is on the way. She said, oh good.  well, good luck, I see you’re kind of busy. I said, yeah a little, will see you in a few days and then everyone re-focused at the matter at hand.  So the rule made that day was, I’m pretty sure after chatting with people with a human being sticking half way out of your body, any modesty you had can now be let go of — and I didn’t have a lot to begin with.  It’s less of a rule than a statement of fact but it partially explains my ease at dropping a towel. And, not to mention, we’re in a massage room, not Times Square.

So after tossing aside my robe in my are you kidding underwear she says to me, have you ever done this before? Aka “are you always this stupid or did you just arrive on this planet and have no idea what a massage entails.” I said, well not a salt rub, the turkish bath incident notwithstanding, but I’ve had plenty of massages.  And here I am feeling stupid again. Feeling like, I’m failing salt-rub-101. I’m sure there are plenty of other women, come right in, lay down, put on all the little things, know how long and when to use the shower (apparently I took too long in that too. I wanted to get ALL the salt off, I mean come on!) I’m just not one of them.  I’m just never going to be, I have to reconcile with that. In this life time I am just going to flub stuff up, feel 5, even when I’m 55 and what’s worse, is I suspect those moments get MORE not less as the world changes and you can’t keep up.  I can’t even keep up with the stuff I know how to keep up with, so gosh, don’t expect me to be at the controls of the transporter beam, it’s just not a good idea.

I did have a cup of coffee on the way home and life did become a lot clearer so really leaving the house pre-coffee was the problem. That’s my new rule: except for walking the dog and only around the block, no street crossings, no interaction with the outside world until I have some caffeine and how to make a cup of coffee is something I know.


Ain’t Science Wonnerful?

I read an article the other day about a mouse whom had a human foreskin sewn onto him and they were growing hair on it.  What’s funny is the thought that I have just paid about 5,000$ to have the hair burned off my legs and I’d pay another 5,000$ to have it thickened up on my head so the thought of a mouse with a dick on his back sprouting hair must hold some irony which escapes my ability to vocalize. However I think if anyone considers it for not too long, it’s apparent the joke  looms large.  The test was to grow hair on something which normally didn’t have hair on it and I think they pretty much nailed it with the foreskin.  I don’t know, there might be some women out there who have experienced otherwise but I’m guessing they checked this one for follicles just in case.

So why in this world of perpetual hair removal, from the time you’re about 15 until the time when you run around trying to keep it on your head, is there not some equal balance in the world. For example, for you each one you remove another pops up in a place where there are already some wanted (eg you pluck an eyebrow a hair grows on your head) and in the process of elimination we would end up with hair where we wanted it. 

Or, the larger question is, what is hair really for?  There’s the heat factor. And there’s the to direct fluids, sweat etc away from the skin because I’m pretty sure my underarms don’t need warmth.  So those are two pretty basic functions of hair. Cosmetically it’s an indication of health – a good swath of healthy shiny hair is usually indicative of good health, ditto on the chompers but barring passing on good genes, that’s more cultural than genetic survival I suspect. So the pretty people with better health and good hair find mates and pass those genes on.  Ok.

But back to the sweat and warmth thing because this is what I don’t get….as you get older do you not need warmth? Do you stop sweating?  Have you not met a woman in her fifties in the throws of menopause?  Is evolution just telling you to hitch a ride on the next ice floe because you’re going to freeze to death or pollute yourself with your own body fluids anyway? If good hair equals good health is less good hair a quick stairway to heaven? I know bald people who are healthy. I think they’re healthy. If hair growing out of noses or ears is in direct proportion to hair loss on you head, it goes back to the lost-one-grow-one equation but it also goes back to what’s the purpose? Does your nose need warmth? I’ve seen people sprout it on the top of the schnoz so it’s not just inside. Maybe it’s for keeping things out. Maybe older people need more help keeping things OUT of their noses and ears.  Like sounds and smells.  That way you can’t really hear that they’re plotting to push you off onto the nearest ice floe or smell the rat poison they’re putting in you pie because when IS that inheritance going to get to them anyway?   And if the explanation for hair in your nose and ears is to keep  stuff out, then why does it grow longer, actually sticking out, which then acts as a conduit? Does that make sense? Or is it the human body is just prepping you to be sent out on that ice floe and good luck with that.  Wrap that nose hair around your neck for warmth buddy, because it’s a long way to Russia.

And what about eyebrows? Did you see Andy Rooney before he left us? I mean it was something between an upper shelf and an umbrella for shade and he definitely didn’t have them as a young man. More curious to me was, for all the stylists they must employ at CBS did not one of them say “er, um, Mr. Rooney, we need to deal with those because the users can’t see your eyes any more”?  And he’s not alone. I see older men, mostly who between their eyebrows and their elongated ears, there’s really nothing left: kind of a shiny bald orb with 2 furry arches and elephantine protrusions sticking out. And they’re usually out looking for a young wife (and don’t get me started for when they find one and actually start a family!)

What’s even curiouser is it’s the hair which keeps growing even after you’re deceased! I mean think about it. You’ve spent a good portion of your life fighting with the stuff, coloring it, plucking it, adding it, removing it, brushing it, braiding it, rubber banding it and then life stops.  Breath stops, eyes stop, muscles stop but hair …. Keeps going.  I mean, what’s with that?  Nora Ephron once said “I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” But the jokes on her because it still goes on.  I think the upside of death is not having a mirror, frankly, but that could just be me.

So back to this mouse and his hairy dick.  On his back.  Does he know it’s there? He can’t lick it like most animals seem to be able to (sorry, human fellas – jokes on you there!) Does he know it has hair on it? Was it even a male mouse? I mean think about it! Maybe they chose a girl to make sure none of the natural hormones would interfere with whatever it was they poured on this poor thing.  Spend a moment rolling that thought around; there’s some little female rodent running around with her own dick but she can’t even access it! And it’s furry! It’s like reaching for your vibrator and not only finding out it’s been so long since you’ve used it that it’s grown mold on it but it’s just outside your reach. Every time you reach for it, it just rolls away one more inch out of reach.  It is there but not there…tantalizing but … maybe not really.  (Kind of like when you’re ready for it and you hit the ‘go’ switch and nothing happens, dead batteries.  It’s SO frustrating — um, I mean that’s what I’ve heard.)  I mean if my vibrator was covered in something soft and downy I’m not sure the tantalizing factor would be very high but then again I’m not a rat. I don’t [yet] have fur on my nose and paws and I’ve removed what I can off my hind quarters so I think we’re dealing with a different set of standards.  Slightly different anyway. 

So now does this mouse have to be concerned about trimming it so the hair doesn’t grow so long it falls into his/her eyes? Does Mini Mouse need to worry about a comb-over? What about grays? Can’t you just hear it, you see, I never wanted to grow hair on my pecker because I was afraid it would grow in gray and now what am I supposed to do? There’s Betty Beauty{TM} I suppose but really? The curtains have to match….uh….the curtains?

So now that we have a mouse with a furry appendage, or perhaps his second furry appendage, will all those guys on the online site be able to take off their baseball caps? Or do the caps stay on but the pants come down because while they seemed to have created every mohel’s nightmare it doesn’t yet prove that Mr. Clean can grow a pony tail and go join a grunge band.


A Day at the Spa

Recently a friend wanted to take me – as a fun thing – to the Turkish-Russian Baths in the east village.  It wasn’t something on my bucket list but it was kind of one of those things that I’d been wondering about since a boyfriend got us a day at a day spa – a nice one – years ago but came back a few days later with a card from the Baths. I never asked how he happened upon it.  Some things fall into the category of TMI.

First, a note about bucket lists. Do people really have a list of ‘before they kick the bucket’? and where did that expression come from anyway? Did a lot of people die milking cows? Or standing on a bucket to hang themselves?

Frankly, I don’t have a bucket list.  I’m not going to kick the bucket. That sounds sort of, oh, you keel over quietly and knock something down on the way into the great beyond. I walk into stuff or hurt myself on sharp objects on a daily basis.  It’d be nice if on my last day on earth I could just not. It seems like dying would itself fulfill the I can’t seem to get through a day without something going wrong, don’t you think?  So instead of a sort of slo-mo falling over, I have other plans.  I’m going kicking and screaming, clinging onto whom and whatever is within grasp, shouting Lawdy Don’ Cha Take Me Yet, even if I’m 105, like a tenant I have. The one with the life lease. I don’t think there’s a going kicking and screaming list and if there is it’s too long to be a cute saying anyway, so I’ve just discarded the whole concept. Soup to nut buckets.  

So I’m in the baths, back to the story, and there’s the cold dip which makes your feet cramp at the touch, I can’t even imagine where next to me the guy’s balls were, there’s the regular steam, the sauna which is hot, the even more crazy hot sauna where your fake metal earrings start to burn the skin beneath them, the aromatic steam which if you have any sense in your 5 senses, will make you nauseous after about 3 minutes and there are the massage rooms where massage and god only knows what else, goes on.

The person I was with disappeared into a massage room with a Russian guy named Ivan. 

After a dip in the pool, well that killed 3 seconds, and some steam time and some sauna time I was now 9 minutes into waiting for my buddy’s 1 hour massage to be over and wondering what to do.  So I sat down. Do I not know better by now? Walking = moving target, sitting = stool pigeon. However there was only so much walking one could do up and down a narrow hall without appearing like some psycho neutoric, so I sat.

Sure enough, a guy with long hair and a long white beard asked if I would like some salt.  I passed on the urge to ask if it came with a margarita underneath and said yes, sure.  I mean, when in Rome…. So he reaches into what looks like a feed bag hanging on the wall opposite me and hands me a handful of salt.  As promised.  I wasn’t completely sure what to do with it, as it came out of a feed bag I was afraid I might have to eat it, but figuring we were all there, walking around in just a smidge over naked, it must be meant for smearing – or schmerring as this was – after all – the lower east side.

So schmear I did and it felt good.   Thankfully he didn’t jump up and scream “what are you doing! That’s salt! You’re supposed to eat it!”  Of course it was free but not completely, because free is sometimes a relative term. I got a lecture on the ingredients, on what he did, which I can’t relate here because it wasn’t really clear. Something with music and youtube and oil and salt. As he was giving away the oil and salt I wasn’t sure how the “I make a living” fit into it but as we weren’t on one of my excellent could-you-possibly-be-my-next-life-partner dates, I didn’t really have to care.  Instead  I got the low down on every person who walked by, on how long he’d been coming there, where he lived, the life and death of the husband of the yoga person who had the body of a buff 20 year old but was obviously 60 and yes I was jealous.  I got the low down on ‘guys only’ days at the spa and who goes to those. (3 types of people – gay men {doh}, Hasidic men who don’t want to be around women {I guess also doh} and Hasidic gay men, who therein combine the best of both worlds. Why the existence of this latter category surprised me I’m not sure. But there you have it, a victim of my own stereotypes.) 

After I’d run out of salt and he’d run out of stories …. Wait…. Let me correct that.  I’m pretty sure this is a guy who had a thousand more stories so I’m going to say he just paused long enough for me to take a reprieve to wash down the Morton Girl.  When I came back he had moved into one of the saunas and I took a place on a different bench.  Different angle, different view point?  Well, a different angle anyway.

Soon enough a guy is walking by and stops to chat.  A big guy with a huge belly.  Not just a little, gee, a few too many Coors, but more like wow, is it triplets and are they due next week? This wasn’t really the disturbing part. What was interesting was his face was covered in a green schmeary mask which was dripping into his face hair under his nose and on his chin.

Once, when I worked for Club Med, I did a skit as Roseanne Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner – google it if you don’t know it) about ski instructors whose noses would run and get caught up in their beards and freeze and they would have frozen snot in their beards. It goes with the character trust me.

Well this was that guy except it wasn’t cold from skiing it was avocado goop from being metro sexual.  I have nothing against metro sexuals. If men want to spend time and money making themselves look better for women I’m all over that. God knows, if they started now and every man on the planet began doing nails and masks and trimming “the hair down there” it’d still be eons before they even begin to catch up with the hours women spend in 1 year doing all that. So that wasn’t the galling part in itself. What was amazing was large belly, unkempt beard and green drippy face mask aside, he just thought it was fine and cool to chat up a woman while looking like a character from a sitcom where you say, ‘that’s ridiculous, no one would answer the door looking like that’. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure, even on all girls day,  no one walked around with an avocado, or other fruit/vegetable, face mask on and felt comfortable enough to chat up ANYONE of any sexual persuasion. No woman. Anywhere.  No way. But men, he was just all, hey baby, why would you not want me? Men, really, you gotta love the hubris.

It was educational. I gave him credit for being that self-confident or pity for being that oblivious or whatever that takes.  Ok not all that much credit, but some still.  After an in depth conversation about face masks I was finally liberated by the massage being over and escaped into the locker room.  

The last shocking locker room experience I had, and I might have mentioned this before because it kind of scarred me a little, was in Seattle.  I had just gone on a Brazilian wax jag, I think I was in the still leaving a ‘runway’ stage, and I went to a public pool in Seattle. Of course we got changed in the locker room and let me tell you, the contrast between my New York decorative hygiene and the never saw a razor blade nevermind a scissors hygiene, well to say the least — it was shocking.  I really had to wonder about the cultural differences on the 2 coasts.  It’s not just about Birkenstocks apparently.  Who knew?

I don’t think I’d find anyone with an avocado mask on in Seattle, but then again I wasn’t in the men’s locker room, so what do I know? I’m not sure what it is about this country that we feel that we can take food and mash it into our skin instead of eating it. I’m pretty sure there are places on this earth that if you took food and put it ON your mouth instead of IN your mouth they would look at you pretty strangely if not actually run you out of town.

For a Christmas present a friend got me a certificate to a day spa. (Are people trying to tell me something? Do I smell?) I’m debating between the carrot and sesame body buff or the elemis exotic lime and ginger salt glow.  I don’t know if I’ll come out looking any better but I’m thinking at least I won’t be hungry.