Observations From the Other Side of the Coin
Definition of a Gig: A job that is temporary or has an uncertain future
First, a disclaimer. This is my view though one shared by many of my fellow Grandmothers. It is not, God knows, a widely acknowledged, admitted or maybe even, true for the masses view. So, there is no need for agitation or death threats, it’s just a gimlet-eyed look at this sacred cow.
I am, one of these sacred cows, myself. And since Christopher Hitchens, has left us and Mother Theresa too, I do think having a new myth to chew on is a good thing.
Men, can ignore this. You will probably not relate, since Grandpas, like fathers, are pretty much given a pass about their roles and behaviors. So this is mainly for us ladies of a certain age (Grandmothers do range from 40’s to death). I, myself am 70 (the new 50, they keep saying) but, that doesn’t really help anything but the hawkers of exercise equipment, yoga gear, plastic surgery and manufacturers of really, really depressing products like, ‘Not My Daughter’s Jeans’.
For want of a better description, I’m going to call this my cautionary rant on plastic surgery insanity; these are all true stories (even as a novelist, I couldn’t make this stuff up). I offer four tales from the dark side.
Recently in the city of Shanghai a contest was held. The Competition was for the title of The Ugliest Girl in Shanghai (which is, a rather massive place). There were 50 finalists. Guess what the prize was? A complete surgical reformation of the winner’s being. Now, try to imagine what must have been, a rather bizarre mix of emotions. “Oh Boy! I won!!! I won! I’m the absolute ugliest girl in a city of 24 odd million people!” Whoopee. Must have been quite a family celebration.
China, it seems, is even more obsessed with physical perfection than America or Brazil or Venezuela (I think those are the other biggest consumers for surgical reupholstery). In China, height has become so mega an issue that (are you ready?) if you are a woman under 5 ft. 1 or a man under 5 ft. 5 there are law schools that will not accept your application nor will the foreign service. In some cities women who are under 5 ft. 3 CAN’T TAKE THE DRIVING TEST.
Personal essays. Mrs. Murphy’s sixth grade English class, Hawthorne elementary school, the un-slums of Beverly Hills, l955ish. The zenith of the personal essay period. I twitch at the thought of it.
Mrs. Murphy, the Mount Rushmore wanna be. A thick, heavy, bovine person; a Newtonian proof; too much gravity in her gene pool—downward, everything seemed to be pulling her down, entire head seemed weighted, by southward bound creases, crevices actually; as if the physical act of smiling had somehow escaped her developmental processes; heavy footed, clunk, clunk, clunking down the aisles, slow spoken in a melancholic, monotonal, whiney voice; as if the very act of having to talk to us requiring every ounce of her remaining life force.
Mrs. Murphy loved essays. She didn’t have to talk. Also sentence diagramming. Loved it. Plodding up and down checking for cheaters, sighing. That classroom, with the too high ceilings and the too high windows allowing the prisoners slaving away below a glimpse of tree tops and cumulus clouds and the possibility of freedom, freedom being up, the apple before the drop, somewhere other than here at this little desk trying to look forward to a life beyond Mrs. Murphy and her ilk. Beyond Mrs. Pearl, the homeroom teacher and frustrated, failed musical comedy Star—or “Light Opera” as she called it; which I had no knowledge of; was that opera without all those fat singers? Mrs. Pearl with her black Clara Bow bob and her huge, purple lipsticked mouth, which looked like an eggplant, though I don’t think I’d ever seen one then.
Mrs. Pearl and her tiny purple smeared teeth sitting at the piano (prisioners, again, we were—captives, an audience without the possibility of exit) for her performances. “Don’t throw bouquets at me, don’t hold my hand too much” no problem there. Mrs. Pearl catching me in the middle of what I still think was a pretty passable imitation of her, mouthing the words, “People will say we’re in love,” dragging me out of the class and slamming me up against the lockers, her face—the opposite of Mrs. Murphy’s—vibrating with energy, rage, mania. “You, you spoiled brats!! You have everything!! Everything!!! And you don’t appreciate it!!!” Was I? Did I?
My husband is addicted to documentaries. His main obsession is with various fairly revolting creatures (spiders, snakes, insects) mating and murdering one another or sharks and other predators of land and sea, doing the same. This is not my thing, but every now and then I am intrigued by one of them and participate, usually while eating dinner (not necessarily a great combo.)
A few nights ago, however, the Smithsonian channel ran a documentary called: The Perfect Runner, which seemed like something you could eat a salad while viewing without closing your eyes. The narrator was a jock reporter and (guess what?) A RUNNER. And the premise with which it began was that the human body today is just about exactly the same as the human body of 200,000 years ago when what we were designed for was non-stop running around.
Now, this made sense for then. First, well, there wasn’t a lot to do and second, running meant either fleeing some of the beasts featured in those other documentaries or chasing after the evening meal. Quite logical, given the alternative (death).
April 7th was the forty-first anniversary of my mother’s death. Grief cracked right through me like some sort of trick, soon to arrive Easter egg, I thought was hard-boiled but had eluded the process. Forty-one years and all that oozing loss still in there.
A very wise therapist who wrote a book about grief, said our problem as adults is we never learn how to grieve, which is a necessary and on-going process (loss being so continual a factor in our lives). All change, good or not so, involves letting go of something.
Simple math. April 7th is just about a month and change before Mother’s Day and thus, on the list of the ceremonial occasions I truly either dread or loathe; Valentine’s Day, Xmas, New Year’s Eve, weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, all events that require performance masks (“this is how you are supposed to feel, dress, behave”), Mother’s Day reigns supreme.
So, my first Motherless Mother’s Day, all those years ago. The mantle, had really passed eight years before when I was twenty and my mother was first operated on for the colon cancer that eventually killed her (or, mercifully removed what little was left of her, effective human disposal machine that it is).
Here’s the deal. I’m going to try and add my two cents to the overwhelming info swirl that we are all wading through. Since I’m not even sure what a Blog is, I hope these qualify, but I do promise I will not repeat myself, name drop or show off and I will be as honest and cranky as I am capable of. I’m a novelist who writes social satire with big plots and numerous characters, but I’m also increasingly slothful (novels take a long time) though not running dry and I realized I might be able to offer some useful observations and social chronicling without having to create all the OTHER STUFF (like characters and plots and dialogue). So, welcome and thank you for reading!