Get ready to rumble

So. My parents came for a week. There was some yelling. There was jealousy directed at Monk and my brother for having too much on their schedule to enjoy my parents’ company nearly as much I did. My mother came up with the idea that my brother should try a career as a piano tuner. I suggested maybe he look into massage (or, why not professional cheese tasting? If we’re grasping at random straws here). My mother replied that he would probably need something more challenging and less routine. There was the taste of blood as I bit my tongue to keep from responding in howler monkey-like fashion re: how much I appreciated her belief in my career choice. But, best of all, there was this:

See the Princess Barbies sitting around, talking about their perfect little lives... Enchanted Barbie stands up to show off her new dress.

But hang on, Cinderella Barbie has suddenly noticed that Enchanted Barbie is wearing a dress that looks familiar.

“What the falafel?!” Shrieks Cinderella Barbie. “Tha’s mah dress, playah!” She throws herself across Snow White Barbie at Enchanted Barbie, who backs up into a beer bottle in terror.

“Gimme back mah dress!!! Gimme back MAH DRESS!!!”

Snow White Barbie blocks Cinderella Barbie from clawing out Enchanted Barbie’s painted eyes.

“Hold me back!” Cinderella roars, as the audience goes crazy, “HO' me BACK!”

More shrieking.  Barbies flying through the air.  Four year-old niece screaming with laughter almost tumbles out of her chair. Parents and sister less than amused.   

Don't worry, the Barbies hugged and worked out a joint custody arrangement for the dress after bathtime.  Except for Snow White Barbie.  Somehow she fell off the table and died.  But you'd have to ask a certain four year-old about that.  


Oblivious, Awkward, Delicious


I'm sitting at dinner with a friend/massage contact I've known for over a year now, digging into the plate of fried pickles we've recklessly ordered to start the evening off (surprisingly good, by the way, if you can get past the fact that you're eating... well, fried pickles), listening as he regales me with stories of his latest fire-eating job, and wondering when the conversation will turn to inquiries about my brother, as all inevitably do these days.

Eventually, after the stuffed shrimp arrives, he asks me how things are at home and I attempt to sum up the situation without being too long-winded, trying to avoid being the conversational downer I fear I have become whenever I talk about my brother's status. I'm nervously gesturing, hunting for the appropriate descriptives, hoping I sound calm and mature, etc., my ring blinks in the bright light of the cajun-themed restaurant, and I hope I haven't just flung rice off my fork and into my lap. Fire Eater interrupts me:

"So, you live with your sister?"

I stop, confused. "No, my sister lives about 15 minutes away from us."

"Us. So, you live with...?"

"Right now it's my brother, me, Monk..."

"And Monk is...?"

Okay, this is getting a little weird. "My husband?"

If a facial expression could convey the image of a train derailing, that is what I would say flickers across Fire Eater's face. Just for a second- two, tops- before everything is as composed and bland as it has been. "And why haven't I met this husband of yours?"

"Um." More confusion. I laugh, unsure of what is happening. "You HAVE met him. I introduced you last year at [haunted theme park], remember?"

So. I guess the question now is: Who's the idiot here? Him, for not getting that I'm married, despite the ring-wearing, constant mention of Monk and a face-to-face introduction last October? Or me, for quite possibly dating this guy for the last year without realizing it?

I'm sorry, Monk. I'm sure you had no idea we were in an open relationship. But in my defense, neither did I.


Insert Foot

My sister is cutting my hair (too short, ALWAYS too short. You'd think, in one's cosmetology class they'd teach you to LISTEN to your client, but whatever, a free haircut's a free haircut I suppose) and telling me about her marital problems. They've gotten to the point where a separation, and the logistics thereof, have been discussed. This is amazing timing, as our parents will be arriving Friday night for a week-long 'visit' that will be high-stress enough- appointments (read: confrontations) scheduled with my brother's counselor and psychiatrist, discussions re: his long-term plan, our role in his (lack of progress), etc. Everyone knows my sister's marriage is flailing, but she dreads the conversation (and parental judgment to follow) about how very bad it's become.

"He keeps telling me he just wants to get his passport and take off to another country" she tells me, outraged (snip, snip, snipping away).

"Hmmm," I reply mildly, thinking of pixie cuts and a recent post, "that thought has crossed my mind on occasion, too."

"Yeah, but YOU don't have KIDS" she declares, the trump card in every conversation of trial and tribulation.

"True," I agree, and then it just slips out: "Which would probably make the urge that much stronger."

Frankly, I'm surprised I escaped with any hair at all.


Free to Fall

There’s a scene in “Keeping the Faith” where Ben Stiller’s character is coaching a soon-to-be-bar-mitzvahed boy on embracing his breaking, mid-puberty voice, sing out strong and proud the lines in the ceremony that will bring him into manhood, to revel in the process necessary to this coming-of-age ritual. He tells the boy to say to himself “I love that I suck.” For some reason, this scene has been running through my head quite a bit in the last month or so.

On a spur-of-the-moment-but-then-postponed-a-week whim, a friend and I drove down to Austin yesterday for a day of knee-scraping, tricep-taxing climbing that was just what the doctor ordered. The nice thing about climbing with this particular tree frog-like friend is that he has all the necessary gear, knows exactly where to go, and his car gets something insane like 40 mpg. Also, every time I climb with him my ego takes a beating, which I’ve heard is character-building. Nothing like going out of your way to get knocked down a peg or two, I always say.

As we hiked over to the climbing area I didn’t notice the blue river to our left and the rustling of small animals off the path, concentrating as I was on matching TF’s steps over stones and logs, trying not to slip and break my ass before we’d even set up the ropes and opened the trail mix. We spent over four hours finding routes, greeting fellow climbers and pressing our faces up against rock, clawing at near-invisible dents in the cliff surface and reminding each other to “breathe,” “stay with it,” and “be patient.”

TF talks a lot about honoring your body and your limits, where you are that day and the fact that sometimes you’re just going to get your butt kicked by your own (lack of) skills. He has been climbing for six years, has a fluid grace that should have landed him in a rock climbing guidebook by now, and is one of the most supportive, positive people I’ve ever met. I climb with him not only for the unofficial lessons, but for the intriguing combination of being humbled and inspired at the same time.

That is how I felt when, at the top of the last climb of the day, I finally remembered to pause and look out at the view spread out around and below me, take in the impossible hue of the river below, feel the wind blowing its hint of rain in my face, and applaud the fact that I had just completed a medium-grade climb, in a very clumsy, kind of ugly, way. The same way I’d attacked all the other routes that afternoon, in fact. But, as TF pointed out, at least this day trip didn’t include a fall into a tree branch-enema situation…

We hiked out to the car, quietly content with the day, passing climbers who are out every weekend displaying a skill level I can only hope to reach someday in the far off future, and spent the four hour drive home alternating between childhood confessions, bitch sessions about some of the more annoying characters we’d encountered earlier, depression, families, and, of course, climbing, climbing, climbing. I told TF that I feel I am actually at my worst when I climb with him, but that there is freedom in accepting that- I can explore this passion without my pride getting in the way, without having to be the best. I thanked my friend for showing me how to honor myself and my limits, remind me to breathe, and keep me humbled and inspired at the same time.

It wasn’t a day of unleashing my inner badass, proving I’ve earned the climbing tattoo in the middle of my back, or even learning a new technique or conquering a difficult route. But it was a much-needed escape from the recent, just-trying-to-keep-my-head-above-water tempo of daily life, a day to let go of frustration and bond with a new friend. A friend who helps me remember to pause, look around, celebrate my progress and my potential, who laughs because he gets it when I tell him, in a shared moment of contentment, that “I love that I suck.”