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.


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