Welcome Back: A Bitch’n Look at Growing up in a Far Out Time

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Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

70s Mashup – Revamp

When I was a young child, we moved from our little house on the prairie to what my parents dubbed the “wild kingdom” of Ohio. My best friend, Rhoda, lived next door and had migrated from the streets of San Francisco. She had hair of gold, like her mother. That girl got what was happening in our South Fork neighborhood. She knew why McMillon and his wife were at odds with the Partridge family. She understood why the Waltons disapproved of Alice’s courtship of Eddie’s father and explained to me what made Mork and Mindy such an odd couple. Chillin’ in our saddleback Dittos and rainbow knee socks, we would have long hart to harts about our cute neighbor, James, age 15. We’d puff candy cigarettes, sip Shasta and listen to WKRP in Cincinnati all afternoon, delighted in the dream he’d think we were hot stuff.

 
Laverne and Shirley were our classmates. Something always happened whenever we got together. Phyllis was the chick who thought she had the lowdown on everything. In the dark shadows of our homeroom, Room 222, she first laid down the groove about the facts of life. Our funky friend, Maude, lived with her nanny and our professor, Dr. Quincy. Maude claimed to have the skinny on love, American style. She insisted Phyllis should get her mouth washed out with soap for spreading such a load of phooey. “Get real!” Donny and Marie chimed in, “That’s totally bogus!”

 
For P.E., we learned Kung Fu from Mr. Kojak. We had yearly assemblies where Trapper John, M.D. informed us what to do in a medical emergency. Police Captain Barney Miller explained how we should duck and cover should S.W.A.T. ever show up at our school. Our principal, Ms. Mary Tyler Moore, would do anything she could to make our dreams come true. “C’mon! Get happy!” she would chant to us. That schoolhouse rocked!

 
Occasionally, Rhoda would come and knock on our door. We’d hop on our banana seat Schwinns and ride to hang with the McCloud twins, Starsky and Hutch. Those boys were making their way the only way they knew how always setting their course for adventure. They would try to get us to play “the newlywed game.” We read enough Teen magazine to realize they were just trying to catch a peek of our hee haws.

 
Those were happy days with our friends and family. I was the oldest of three girls with five brothers. My mother, a true wonder of a woman, always wanted more kids. “No. No!” my dad would bellow. “This is it! Eight is enough for this mod squad!” We would all laugh in unison at his attempt to be hip.

 
It wasn’t always good times, though. Our friend, Chico, and the man next door feuded with Mr. Sanford and his son, Logan. “Run!” we exclaimed the day we saw Logan walk out of his house, carrying a loaded Baretta. He wanted all of us, especially Chico, to move away. After he fired the firearm into the air, the gun smoke lofted behind him like a white shadow. The whole gang booked out of there faster than Evil Kenevil.

 
We got inside as quickly as we could. “Wait ‘til your father gets home,” my mother counseled. “He’ll know what to do.” Later that night, my father explained that Logan had been involved in something called Operation Petticoat during the Korean War. The experience had left him a bit “mashed in the head,” as my dad put it. “Best to keep our playtime all in the family yard,” he declared.

 
During summer sleepovers, we would get freaked out telling tales about a mysterious man from Atlantis. At night, a gallery of fish would lure unsuspecting humans to his fantasy island. Our Saturday nights came alive when we ventured out with the Dukes of Hazzard Street. That didn’t sit well with our mutual friend, Beverly. “Hillbillies!” she would call the boys. “I’d much rather go with the Jeffersons or Bob Newhart. Now he’s an incredible hulk!”

 
I have fond memories of life at 2367 Columbo Lane. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything, not even six million dollars. Man, we sure did enjoy our childhood! We approached life one day at a time. We developed roots. We lived our lives based on the words of my father, Charlie: “Angels,” he would call us, “You can be whatever you want to be: rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief — it’s all up to you.” Those were the days!


This piece contains 80+ television show titles and theme song lyrics.

Did you catch them all?

Stop Drinking the New Normal Kool-Aid

This sucks and we all know it

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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

OK. I’ve had enough of the bullshit. Up to my salt-and-pepper roots with the candy-coated viewpoints. I’m removing my homemade sock mask and screaming:

NEW NORMAL SUCKS!!!

Damn thing stinks anyway.

If you follow me, you know I’ve gone through varied stages coping with pandemic pandemonium. I threw one killer of a pity party, tallied my blessings and cowered in fear. Yet, I seemed to have missed a stop on the Kübler-Ross grief train, so I’ve double-backed. The Metro has dumped me at the Anger Depot and is no longer in service. I’m off the rails and plopping my Jabba-the-Hut ass down for a sit in. If needed, I’ll beg for necessities, “Sister, can you spare a square?”

Staring directly into the bright side has scorched my retinas. All I see is red.

I’m spent — plain tuckered out. Too pooped to shovel this crap any longer. (Yes, I know, I’m referring to excrement quite often. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a shit.)

The spoonful of sugar technique has been attempted repeatedly. My gag reflex is too resistant for such deception. Taking a cue from my Maltipoo, I’ve tried covering the bitter pill in peanut butter. It regurgitated like cow cud.

Safer at home? Tell that to my psyche. I’ve been simmering in my juices for far too long: Marinating in my anxieties, both past and present. How much longer until my connective tissue is fully dissolved, severing my tethers to humanity?

Exactly what are the benefits of our so-called safe havens? Commercials are already referencing our “places of refuge” in their “We are all in this together!” campaigns. Life in our humble abodes tranquilly portrayed like a utopian Westworld scenario. Not in this habitat. The only area shielded from disarray is what can be viewed through my Zoom Happy Hour camera. Eau de nursing home toilette wafts throughout: Lysol mixed with flop sweat and not-so-quiet desperation.

My childhood dreams did not include me being unwashed, unshaven and unemployed, gleaning style tips from Tiger King. (They say animal prints are never passé.) My pits and pubes so overgrown, I am contemplating repurposing my barrettes and hair ties. Note to self: Watch YouTube video on French braiding.

Aren’t you tired of adulting? I’m fed up with rebooting, repeatedly switching to a new alternate reality. I need to vent before all hell breaks loose.

It’s time for a collective temper tantrum. Join me in my fury that is far from insignificant. Six feet provides plenty of room to pound and kick the pavement. I’m not stopping until life goes back to business as usual — or maybe until someone brings me a gallon of Rocky Road.

I’m done with playing Pollyanna. I’m taking my ball and going home. F@#$! I’m already here. :/

10 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Hysterectomy

Exam - Clinical notes on uterine surgery  with special reference to the management of the sterile condition (1886)

Disclaimer: This is neither a medical endorsement nor a recommendation. It is merely a personal account of why I am grateful to have discarded the center of my wombiverse.

We are expected to speak about it in hushed tones, especially among mixed company. Uttering the simple statement of “I’m menstruating”—or the detailed, “I am currently shedding the bloody lining of my womb through my vagina”—may summon the full wrath of the curse. All females are conditioned from prepubescence to speak in code when talking about the monthly sloughing of excess uterine baggage. My favorites include:

Bitchy witchy week
Code red
Crimson tide
On the rag
Red badge of courage
Shark week
Taking Carrie to the prom

To appease the sensitivities of readers who have a hard time discussing such delicate feminine matters, I will use the vernacular adopted by my friends and I when we joined the hematic sisterhood: Aunt Flo. The following are the 10 reasons I chose to renounce my membership in the menstrual sorority.

1. Barren economics: No supply = no demand: Aunt Flo insisted on luxurious accouterments when she visited: super cotton plushness delivered in a pearl case plus a scented, winged pillow on which to rest her head. Not to mention the numerous pharmaceuticals required to keep her from descending into a hysterical rage. Estimated yearly savings: $1200.

2. Embracing the whiter shade of pale: It is now possible to don white attire without apprehension. No more incidents of “exploding ketchup bottles” or “leaky pens.” The peace of mind of sitting on pallid furniture without a prior crotch check is exhilarating.

3. Be gone you tipsy temptress! My uterus preferred a more relaxed or “tipped” posture — directly resting upon my spine. Perhaps she fancied herself as Cleopatra seductively reclining on her chaise. Succumbing to her allure always came with a price. Any visit to her lair, be it for pleasure or medical exam, felt like a blunt sword repeatedly ramming my vertebrae.

Cleopatra

4. Less is more: I can now carry petite evening bags without lamenting the fact they are unsuitable for concealing bulky cotton sausages.

5. I love N.A.! I am free from the perplexity of trying to remember the exact date of my last period when completing medical paperwork.

6. Back to our regularly scheduled program: Aunt Flo was a huge fan of frequent surprises. She couldn’t wait to see me each month and often didn’t wait more than three weeks. I felt so appreciated! (And bitchy and bloated and sore.)

7. More room in my closet: When my womb was engorged, the rest of my lady parts followed suit. The girls inflated like buoys as if to keep me afloat during the tsunami that was to come. My wardrobe consisted of looking-fine apparel, lay-off-the-cheesecake clothes, and period frocks. (Afterthought: My period pieces just moved in with my chubby garments. Maybe I don’t have as much room as I thought.)

8. Endometrial deprogramming: At seemingly random intervals, chunks of endometrial tissue would venture out of the uterine temple in their quest to evangelize the rest of my abdominal cavity. Pelvic ligaments, my bladder, and bowel were targeted converts. Each month, the devoted cult followers shared in the monthly elixir offered to their provocative leader. As they intensified in their drunken fervor, they distended and twisted, causing me to writhe in torment. A fellow endosister describes the misery perfectly.

9. Ending of nocturnal terrors: The inability to accurately predict Aunt Flo’s timing often subjected me to the horror of waking up in blood-soaked sheets. Godfather — sans the equine.

10. It’s not a tumor — Oh, wait! Yes it was: The final straw was the invasion of the uterus snatchers, aka fibroid tumors. For years, I was subjugated to their aggressive infiltration. Some would make camp for a while, then steal away as fast as they came. Others burrowed in and voraciously guzzled my monthly hormonal surge.

According to my pathology report, the largest had begun to rot from the inside. Like a piece of fruit that has been left on a tree too long, it most likely would have soon burst from the heat of decay. I threw up a little in my mouth when I heard that.

———

For decades, I bowed to the assumption that I was less of a woman because of my malfunctioning reproductive organs. Yes, I have been blessed with two wonderful children, but getting pregnant was clinical and far from romantic. Months of testing were initiated by the humiliating post-coital exam to determine if my vaginal canal was a “hostile environment.” (It was quite welcoming, actually.) Music and candles were replaced by the whir of a sperm washer and the glow of a lighted speculum. My husband joked frequently that he would like to be in the room when I conceived. (He wasn’t.) Eventually, fifteen months of carting his dutiful contributions to the doctor for repeated IUI treatments produced our first pregnancy.

Even after our family was complete, I bought into the stigma that I would abandon my femininity if I had a hysterectomy. Why do we feel pressured to continue to harbor an organ that has betrayed us? Much like an inflamed appendix that served no purpose except to produce debilitating pain, it had to go. It only took me 17 years to accept the notion that I was more than the sum of my procreative parts.

Fertility Statue

I am by no means a physician or medically trained. I am an ordinary woman who chose to do away with the malfunctioning menses dispenser that shackled me with agony every month. Gone are warily counting the days until the next gut-wrenching onslaught. My body, my calendar, my life has been emancipated from the commands of an estrogen-fueled, traitorous goddess. At long last, I am free.


Originally published in @HumanParts @Medium.com

Photo credit: Clinical notes on uterine surgery with special reference to the management of the sterile condition -1886 (Flikr Commons)

Where Have All The Good Malls Gone?

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I was raised a middle-class valley girl. Like, back in the day when you said “Omigod!” complete with mandatory high-pitched inflection, instead of the current, and grody to the max, “OMG!”

My first job was at the mall, selling baked goods and frozen yogurt to assorted mall rats. Amidst the aromas of chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, I traded cookies for records with the rad Wherehouse Music dudes and fended off advances from the gross Florsheim shoe sellers. I received awesome advice from the silver-haired manager of See’s Candies. She used to bring me mint truffles and Bordeaux chocolates. It was totally cool.

This is when it was actually called “The Mall” — not the “Fashion Center” or “Place” or “Square.” When the Mall of America was assembled like a Smithsonian Institution of shopping no other establishment seemed to be allowed to use that moniker.

What-ever.

Instead another breed of mall has arisen — the ambiance more carnival than commercial. Kiosks are the new tents where hucksters promote their magic potions and gadgetry. Hair extensions, convertible purses, and cell phone cases blanket the marketplace. Pretzels, popcorn, and corn dogs fill the food court with county fair atmosphere. Bungee jumping outside one entrance. Two-story carousel at the other. I try to avoid it as much as possible, but the day came when I couldn’t any longer.

I needed a new purse.

After discovering that my desired purchase — a black leather evening bag — was an excluded item on my Macy’s coupon (along with most of the store’s desired inventory); I made the foolhardy decision to enter the main drag.

My plan of attack for the midway was derived from battle skills developed after years of cruising Los Angeles freeways.

  • Change lanes often and COMMIT. Any hesitation is opportunity lost and ten minutes added to your commute.
  • Speed whenever you are able. Sig Alerts happen randomly and often. Cover as much ground as you can before you need to slam on the brakes.
  • EYE CONTACT IS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.

I stepped into the bazaar and the ballyhoo began.

“Miss, Miss — do you have a moment?”

“Ma’am — are you happy with your current cell phone plan?”

“Try this!” “Smell this!” “Feel this!”

“Pardon me, Madame.”

He made eye contact. I was hooked.

“My, darrrrhling,” he said. (What mastermind proposed that a syrupy, gypsyesque accent would seduce suburban women to open their outlet wallets?) “You are gorgeous!” His viscous vocabulary oozed like honey. “You must be from Europe.” (Gag me!) “Your outfit — it is so French!” (Evidently, bedazzled fleece had debuted at Paris Fashion Week.)

The mastermind was indeed inspired — I was mesmerized.

“Who? Me? No. This old thing? Why thank you!” Unbelievable! I let him guide me to his salon chair and begin his spiel. “Your complexion needs nothing! But your under-eye area could use some rejuvenation. Let me show you our cosmeceuticals.” He daubed his petroleum-jelly potion on my saddle-bag eyelids.

I hoped he’d ignore my botched eyebrows. I had them “shaped” a few days before. The brow expert had taken cuticle scissors and snipped a notch in the middle of each brow to create more “personality.” I looked like the surprise emoji.

“Beautiful! Let me show you the difference!” He tore off a bit of toilet paper and adhered it to my tacky eye. “See how refreshed it looks!” Stunned by the use of this product at the complete opposite end of its conventional target, I no longer had any idea what he was trying to communicate. I half expected Rosanne Rosannadanna to call me out. He waved his glossy brochure in front of my tissued face and explained their current promotion. Ordinarily the price of a month’s groceries, but — for today only — the cost of an exorbitant dinner. The dollar signs snapped me out of my Svengali state and I bolted for the nearest lane. Merge complete, I proceeded.

Gaining speed, I dashed past the radio-controlled cars, veered away from the knock-off cologne atomizers, and … alert, alert, stroller ahead! Mall gridlock.

The closest carny barker seized the opportunity. “Charming lady, I see you are tired. Here, sit a moment and let me dee-mon-strate the wonders of our Dead Sea min-er-al products.” Repossessed, I obliged.

This time it wasn’t the slick snake charmer pitching, but his lovely assistant. She grasped my wrist and deftly twisted. I was ensnared in the sideshow version of a headlock. Their products are designed to remove all impurities, she explained as her clutch tightened. Now convinced that the under wrist is a bastion of epidermal pollution, I was enthralled. She applied her mineral speckled cream in a circular motion; the illusion began. “See how all your contaminants are extracted?” She asked as small, charcoal grey globules began to appear. “Imagine how it could detoxify your face.” I used to rub Elmer’s glue in my hands as a child and achieve the same results. Apparently, I was way ahead of my time in the cosmeceuticals game.

I snapped out of my spell and began looking for the nearest on-ramp back into traffic. Sensing this, the manager reappeared and began his play to save the sale, a.k.a. the Sympathy Song and Dance. “I know you are struggling,” he cooed. (My bedazzled fleece had migrated from Parisian runway to thrift store, it seemed.) “Let me give you my employee discount.” The lovely assistant finally released her kung-fu grip, presumably so I could take advantage of his magnanimous offer, and I seized my opportunity.

Once back into the flow, I covered my greased eye with my glue-cleansed wrist, certain they were both beacons flashing “Sucker!” to every dealer on this side of the midway. I told myself I was striking a starlet hiding-from-paparazzi pose, but in reality I looked like an accused felon leaving the courthouse. My peripheral vision hindered, I reeled through the midway like someone who spent way too much time in the beer garden.

Abandoning all hope of finding a purse, I caught the calliope melody of the monster carousel and let the tune guide my wobbly progression. The stagger I had acquired soon developed into a pronounced lurch. Traffic parted for me as I appeared to be a carrier of some long-lost contagion. My emoji eyebrows only heightened the perception. Unclean! Unclean! The warning was silently transmitted to all patrons in my path.

I reached a bench and slumped down, narrowly missing a toddler gnawing on his pretzel bites. Staring at the Gap Kids-clad child, I pondered what will be his shopping community. Will it be valley, or carny, or some new society? Perhaps it will be a hub of vending machines devoid of all human contact. A wave of chocolate-chip nostalgia descended and then it hit me — the food court was on the opposite end.

Bummer.


Originally published in @HumanParts @Medium.com