Little Old Ladies

Well, I met them. The two little old ladies responsible for the stereotype of little old white-haired ladies being timid and helpless. They were at Bodega Head.

I’ve been cooped up in my house because everything indoors is closed due to Covid, and it’s too smoky to walk from your parking spot into the grocery store without bringing your own oxygen tank. But I’ve been watching purple air dot com to see when the air cleared at the coast, and it happened at noon today. I changed from my pajamas into better pajamas and hopped in my car, well aware that half the county was probably doing the same thing.

I’m an old enough woman that at the end of the forty minute drive I had to pee. This has made the pandemic a bummer because a lot of public bathrooms have been closed. When the coastal parks first opened back up, the bathrooms remained closed for a while, and I didn’t bother going then. But they’re open now, and I knew about the secret bathrooms on the inland side of Bodega Head and went to that parking lot first. Only three cars! I got my toilet paper out of the back seat (can’t be too careful) and walked through the glorious 20 AQI air to the bathrooms.

“Closed for repair.”

Mother of… I’d have to go to the crowded parking lot. Hopefully THOSE were open, or I’d be going right back home. The main lot was almost full, but I did find a spot and could see that the door to one of the two bathrooms was wide open. Thank the Creator! I got my toilet paper and put on my mask.

About six feet away from the doors stood two frail-looking white-haired ladies with no masks on. I looked at them like “Are you going in there?”

One of them said timidly, “The note says not to use the lock or you’ll get stuck in there forever.”

Sure enough, there was a big hand-written note taped to the inside of the door that said, “Do NOT use this lock unless you want to be stuck in there FOREVER.” I said a silent prayer for the person who necessitated the use of that sign and looked incredulously at the faces of the women, who looked like they truly believed they might get stuck in there FOREVER. Like their friend wouldn’t go get help if they got locked in.

When I was younger, I didn’t think much about this stereotype, but now I know enough to know that those women MUST have faced scarier situations than getting stuck in a bathroom with your friend right outside. If they had children they certainly had during childbirth. And they appeared to be there with husbands, so even if they hadn’t had kids, you know they’ve spent a night or two in a fart box.

I said, “Oh it looks like they duct taped the door so it can’t latch.” Because they had. It didn’t look like the women were going to go in anyway, so I went in myself, figuring they’d be there to tell someone not to barge in through my unlatched door while they waited for the other bathroom.

I used my toilet paper in one hand to open the door and my toilet paper from my other hand while I was in there, and when I went to push the door open with my foot, the door opened on its own. An old man looked at me with surprise. I looked at the old ladies with disgust. Apparently they don’t know that rule where you tell someone not to go in a bathroom when you know someone is in there.

I walked back past the cars and down a 20-foot path through iceplant to a little ledge where I like to do tai chi. I’m usually there around 7 AM and have the place to myself, but I forced myself to do it even with people right behind and above me. The old ladies and their men were up there looking out at the crashing waves beyond me. I stood in wu chi (good energy) and practiced snake creeps down and some circling exercises, and as I half squatted in wide wu chi I thought to myself, “I bet they’re jealous I can hold this for 90 seconds,” a less than “good energy” thought for which I will probably be struck with Covid from their stupid old maskless mouths.

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Traditional Vows Renewed

Let’s face it. After a few years of marriage, you realize those vows were a little vague. Here’s a more airtight version you might consider for your first vows or your renewal vows. You can thank me later.

I ______, take you ______, to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife/spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward except on the days when one of us fucking just needs some space, not to exceed three days a week. For better, for worse, unless you purposely caused the “worse,” in which case we’re going to have a serious talk, and even if it wasn’t purposeful but you just keep making the same blunder over and over and my friends are starting to shake their heads in pity. For richer, for poorer, as long as the poorer isn’t caused by a gambling or shopping addiction. In sickness and in health, because I’m not a monster, but you better not be faking it in order to get out of cleaning before your mom comes over. To love and to cherish, including but not limited to one back rub and three compliments per day, and they don’t count if you’re doing them to make up for some dumbass comment you made about me when you thought I was still outside watering the plants. Forsaking all others, which does not mean I’m not going to leave for “sibling weekend,” and obviously I will still have lunch dates with Taylor, you know our relationship is totally platonic and I’ve known them longer than I’ve known you. Til death or breaching of this contract do us part.

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Shelter in Place Standup

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Do you like my shelter in place mullet? I cut it myself. I actually have a secret about my mullet. I started cutting my hair myself seven months before the shelter in place. Everyone’s posting pictures of their terrible quarantine haircuts and I’m posting mine like “OMG you guys isn’t it horrible how we can’t go to the salon?” I fit in for once. But no, what really happened was that last August my hairdresser moved away at the same time I happened to lose some income and I decided that no sane hairdresser would give me the mullet I’d wanted for a while and so I decided to do it myself. I’d had a really nice pixie cut. And it was just getting to mullet status when the salons all had to close. My friends on social media all knew about my mullet. I was proud of it. I posted pics asking whether it was long enough to be called a mullet yet. And finally, finally my friends declared it a mullet, and the coronavirus hit. Mere coincidence? Anyway, now I fit in, in this world of bad haircuts. Miley Cyrus got a mullet a couple months ago and she got an article about her calling her a trendsetter. I beg your pardon. I saw it coming two years ago. You can search my Facebook memories. I called it, and I started growing it out. I didn’t get an article.
There are some nice things about not feeling like you’re pretty. You can grow a mullet and not feel like you might be ruining anything. You can not shave your legs. I mean what the hell. I say it’s because I think it’s a part of infantalizing women, and it is,  but if I thought I were pretty, would I really choose that hill to die on? One good thing about knowing you’re not pretty is that you will never be catfished. The other day I got a comment on a post by a guy whose last name, according to his page, is Phish. P H I S H. And I’m ready for him. If he starts in telling me I’m pretty, I will see right through it. If he says “Hey I noticed your profile pic,” I’ll say “Sure you did.” It’s right in his name.  I mean, his first name wasn’t  cat-related or anything. Like Tom, or mean little a-hole. I have a pretty friend who fell for one of these fakers. They started an online “relationship,” and after a while, he asked for nudes. The next day he was blackmailing her. Since she’s a badass she told him to go to hell. See, it never would have gone that far with me because the guy would have given me a line about how I was beautiful and I would have laughed him all the way back to MySpace. Anyway this guy’s last name is supposedly phish, and I’m ready for him.
I never had a MySpace. I’m so behind on technology that by the time I joined the social media world MySpace was a thing of the past. I’m still on Facebook. I figure I might as well ride it all the way down and join whatever is happening then instead of jumping from newest thing to newest thing. Facebook is my jam. There are some great, innovative shelter in place videos out there. I don’t know how to do any of that. People are playing multiple characters and splicing the videos together somehow. They LOOK like regular people, but it seems like they must be some sort of geniuses to me. I’m writing a standup routine in a free version of a WordPress blog with no pictures because I can never get them where I want them, to be performed in my living room in one spot. One take. One outfit. No magical wardrobe changes. I was thinking of wearing a powder blue tux. Or shoulder pads. They’d go with my mullet.
My mullet which may or may not have brought about the whole Covid19 debacle. Actually, if I did start the pandemic, it wasn’t because of the mullet, it was because of a wish I made. Last August i got kicked out of a band, and I was mad, and I wished that no one would ever hire them again. I expected the whole Bay Area to be mad on my behalf. I mean is that too much to ask? A couple million people can’t hold a simple grudge for someone they barely know? What is the world coming to? Anyway, I got kicked out and lost that income and started cutting my own hair, and I wished for them to never get hired, and I started putting together my own band. And it was going to be better than my old band. I took my time assembling it like a bunch of superheroes. It wasn’t easy because I wanted all women. I was done with being the only woman in bands. I found the singer based on the recommendation of a trusted guru of a voice teacher. Hired her voice unheard. I called one old friend from college and one old friend from teaching. I asked around about a woman drummer and the woman I knew as a woodwind teacher at the music school I teach at turned out to be primarily a percussionist. She was like that one member of the superhero team who’s trying to hide the fact that she has a superpower. It took me a couple months,  but finally we started trying to nail down a date for our first rehearsal, and the coronavirus hit and the county closed down. I moped for a long time before realizing with horror that my wish had come true. My old band wouldn’t be getting hired, and neither would I. It’s like that old episode of Fantasy Island when some dipshit wishes to be Marie Antoinette without realizing what happens to her in the end. Those who don’t know their history are doomed if they ever visit Fantasy Island.
So yes I’m writing this in an antiquated blog while random families of five in the outskirts of some Kansas town I’ve never heard of are recreating Hamilton, with the baby playing King George or some shit. I’ll be lucky if I remember to hit record.
Thank you, I hope you’ve enjoyed the mullet in all its homegrown glory. You’ve  been a great audience!

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A Trip to the Store for Toilet Paper (Pandemic Edition!)

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I didn’t hoard. “The shelves will get restocked before we finish our twelve rolls,” I told myself.
Eight rolls later, I started getting a little nervous, so this morning I got up after three hours of sleep to get to the grocery store at opening. Well, not opening, but opening for non seniors. I was the first non senior in the door.
Donning my stylish latex gloves on my hands and forest green long sleeved tee around my face, I pushed my cart directly to the paper aisles.
Empty.
Shit.
No, don’t shit! Don’t have your period! One square for pee!
Fairly sure my “mask” wasn’t doing anything other than threatening to slip and rub against my eyeball, I headed for the bakery and scored the dessert my daughter wanted.
Next on my list was soup. Technically they did have some cans, but nothing anyone in my family would eat if they weren’t starving. I skipped the soup.
“I’m definitely going to need my tai chi today,” I thought.
You see, I have gone from tai chi once or twice a week to every day without fail. I might not be able to control the virus or the government or the idiots still going to church, but I can fucking caress the moon. I can snake creeps down, and I can hug the fucking imaginary tree.
They didn’t have fake butter for my lactose sensitive husband or pedialyte pops for my daughter. Real butter and pedialyte juice it is. A different brand of peas. A lesser flavor of ice cream.
As I was walking out the door, a man yelled “Ma’am?” He was trying to tell an older woman that she had forgotten her groceries. She looked embarrassed and said “I was trying to get out so fast.” I think she called herself an idiot. I should have told her that I’ve done that even in normal times. Because I totally have.
At home, I washed my hands, threw my jacket, sweatshirt, jeans, and “mask” directly into the washer, and put away the groceries in my tee shirt and underwear.
And that’s when I noticed. My legs look fucking amazing from all the stress tai chi. And isn’t that what life is all about?

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How to Look Great at 73

It all started when I was watching Big Bang Theory and I saw Sheldon in his 73 shirt.

I was born in 1973, so I ordered myself a copy of Sheldon’s, just for fun. It is reminiscent of Dr, Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts, so when I wear it to a gig, the bass player calls me Thing 73.

Well, last week was my mom’s 73rd birthday. I thought it would be cute if I was wearing the 73 shirt when I picked her up for brunch. She chuckled. When I got home I snapped a selfie of just me. Now I don’t wear makeup, but I took one look at that thing, slapped some concealer on the dark circles under my eyes, and retook the selfie.

I posted the selfie on Facebook with the following text: “Went to Acre with Mom for her 73rd birthday.”

I thought all my Facebook friends knew me well enough to recognize me, but there’s one woman I’ve never met in real life who commented, “Wow I never would’ve guessed her age! Hope I look that good at 73!”

Okay, folks, I’m FORTY-FIVE.

There’s a reason I don’t use a picture of myself for my Facebook profile pic, and the reason is that when I did use my photo, and when I posted my feminist comments on public pages, I’d sometimes receive a disparaging remark about my looks from a man-troll.

So I already struggled with my self-esteem, I mean what woman doesn’t in our society just a little? I mean, I don’t mind being 45 and I don’t mind looking 45, but it doesn’t feel great to be asked if I qualify for the senior discount. But no! I was going to be part of informing people! I was going to be the change!

So I went to Twitter. Twitter, for those who don’t know, is where you can fix society with one tweet.

I wisely posted my picture again with the following text. “Took this of me for my mom’s 73rd. Someone said she looked great for 73. I want to hide away, but no. This is what 45 looks like. #NoMakeup #NoDye #NoBotox.”

I realized the #NoMakeup part wasn’t strictly true, but with only so many characters allowed on Twitter, why quibble?

There. Fixed society.

Logged in the next morning. Someone retweeted me! Here we go! I clicked to watch society changing! I clicked to see history in the making! I clicked for real women everywhere!

There was my tweet. There was my picture. There was the retweeter’s quote. “This is what a no-makeup person looks like at 73!”

I give up. I’m just going to tell people I’m 73. Don’t I look amazing?

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What to Worry About A to Z

There’s always something to worry about. I’m an expert. But how can I use my expertise to help others? I know! Here’s a list for those times you feel disconcertingly at ease. One of these things is sure to strike a chord and get you back to your usual panicky self.

Allergies 

Did you know that you can develop life-threatening allergies at any time? I had a friend who wasn’t allergic to bees, and then she was. She almost died. Next time you get stung, you probably will, too.

Branches

Falling trees kill a hundred Americans a year. Okay, that’s not as many as I thought it would be, but still, one of those hundred could be you. Tread carefully.

Cancer

But if you don’t use those trees for shade, thereby avoiding the branches, you’ll probably get melanoma and die.

Car Accidents 

So you probably won’t get stung by a bee today, and you might not walk under trees, and melanoma won’t get you immediately, but chances are you’ll get in a car very soon. And you’ll probably die.

E. Coli

Did you eat today? Anything at all? It probably had E. coli on it. You’ll probably die.

Fires

Did you unplug the toaster? Are you sure? Did your neighbors unplug their toasters?

Global Climate Change

Hope you can swim.

Guns

You don’t even have to be near one. A stray bullet could come through your living room wall right now.

Hantavirus

Breathe near the wrong mouse’s poop, and bam.

Infection

Is it supposed to turn that color around a cut? You know, some infections are resistant to antibiotics. This one probably is.

Jazz

”Lisa, stay away from that jazz man!” When was Marge Simpson ever wrong?

Kryptonite

I see you smirking at this list, Superman. Not so funny now, is it?

Legionnaires’ Disease 

Breathe while digging in the wrong soil or standing near the wrong water mister, and bam.

Leukemia

If you don’t get melanoma, there are plenty of other kinds of cancer. Do you feel fatigued a lot? You probably have leukemia. You’ll probably die.

Medication

Have you SEEN the list of side effects? If you take a medication, you’re probably going to die.

No One Likes You

You’ll probably die from one of the things on this list, and you’ll probably die alone.

Otters

The one animal you thought would never attack you, right? Think again. (Seriously. Google it.)

Paranoia

Is it true that no one likes you? When you tried to think of something to worry about that starts with “P,” all you could think of was “pee.” Are you paranoid to worry about what people would think of that? Will people think this blog is funny? Are you paranoid because you don’t want to go inner tubing on the river anymore because of that otter thing? There’s also that dangerous bacteria in the river sometimes. You should definitely worry about whether or not people think you are paranoid.

Rivers

See above.

Strangers

This is a handy one because strangers are almost everywhere. If you can’t find something to worry about, you’ve always got strangers. One seems to attack someone about every week in my town. And don’t think you can stay in your house with your doors locked to avoid worry, because you’re more likely to fall in your bathroom than be hit by a falling tree branch.

Tubs

See above.

Tubas

Obvi.

Worry

Still worrying about whether people think you’re paranoid? If worry doesn’t make everyone not like you, it will at least give you a heart attack or something. You should be worried about your worry.

Zoos

I put this because I said it was A to Z. But now that I think about it…

 

 

 

 

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Why You Should Never Tell Anyone Anything Ever

ONE. THEY TRY TO HELP.

I answered the phone. My parents are, of course, the only people who make actual phone calls anymore.

“How is your ear?” My mom asked. “Do you feel tired in general?”

“I think it’s mostly mental,” I said. “I’m just so tired of appointments.”

“Well you have to go.”

No shit. Note to self: Always say “I’m fine,” to Mom.

I was 18 when the movie White Men Can’t Jump came out. I remember exactly one thing from that movie. Rosie Perez and Woody Harrelson are in bed and Rosie says, “Billy I’m thirsty.” Billy (Woody) says he’ll get her a drink, and she gets mad because instead of offering to get a drink he should have said “I, too, have thirsted.” At 18 I thought this was ridiculous, and it kind of is, but I didn’t understand the truth behind the circumstance. Don’t get me wrong, I accept my mom’s help a lot, but people don’t always want to hear solutions. They want to hear, “That sucks.” Or in this case, “I, too, hate having eight doctor’s appointments in one month.”

I messaged a friend with my mom irritation. No reply.

TWO. THEY DON’T TRY TO HELP.

I guess there’s no pleasing me. My mom said the wrong thing, and my friend said nothing at all, leaving me to feel like I’m a needy friend who messages complaints too much. I’m a terrible friend. And I’m a terrible daughter. My mom does so much for me! She brings me food and drives my kid places and takes me clothes shopping! Why can’t I keep my mouth shut?

The next day I ditched the doctor, because no one including my mom tells me what I have to do, and also it was going to be one of the last summery days at our Northern California beach.

Someone else texted me before I left for the beach. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m going to the beach instead of the doctor, and if I die of infection, oh well.”

A minute later I received MY TEXT QUOTED BACK TO ME, followed by, “Sorry, wrong button.”

“Did you just try to send my text to my sister?”

“I’m concerned about you.”

“Well please don’t do that.”

“Well when you talk about dying…”

“Okay, I won’t say things like that to you anymore.”

THREE. THEY TELL OTHER PEOPLE.

That is not the first time I’ve found out someone told other people what I’ve said to them. I’m keeping some doozies of secrets, people. It is possible. But what I’ve realized, rather late in life, is that if you don’t want everyone to know, don’t tell anyone. Not one person. I have considered going to counseling for the secrecy aspect, but 1) they don’t keep EVERYthing a secret, and 2) I know what they’d recommend, and the things they’d recommend that I want to do, I’m doing, and the things they’d recommend that I don’t want to do, I don’t want to do.

It turns out I’m a pretty good person to tell my stuff to. I never ignore myself, and if I say the wrong thing, I just tell myself to shut up.

So how am I? I’m fine. My ear is fine, my relationships are peachy, and life is fucking great.

How are you?

 

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Nine Books That Changed My Life

M.L. Millard Books and Writing

If I were going to list my favorite books, this list would include Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, the novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and some of Wendy Mass’s middle grade and young adult novels, but I wanted to make a list of books that positively changed my life in less subtle ways than the change that comes simply from reading a beautiful book. These are in no particular order.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

As a kid in the early 80’s, there weren’t too many girl main characters I could identify with. These days, great girl characters abound, but not so long ago they were almost as rare as female American presidents. And the secondary female characters were never anything like me. Then came Harriet. Harriet, much like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Madeleine L’Engles’ Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, was a MESS. I loved her. I loved…

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

You have pee in your bladder.

You’re stuck in the car.

You hope there’s a bathroom.

You hope it’s not far.

So with pee in your bladder and awkward-crossed thighs

You stop at McDonald’s and guilt-buy some fries.

The bathroom is customers only, you see

‘Cause God forbid women do something for free.

You’re back on the road for not half an hour more

When your bladder sends signals you cannot ignore.

And because your cloth car seat you don’t want to douse

You wonder if someone nice lives in that house.

“It might be a murderous, creepy ex-con,”

You think to yourself and decide to drive on.

“Fuck this small bladder, its two-teaspoon yield!

Am I gonna have to squat down in a field?”

You wish once again you could pee in a cup

Or had one of those things where girls pee standing up.

You wonder if this is where all your pride ends.

You wonder if you should start wearing Depends.

But what’s that ahead? A remote port-a-pot?

Do you care who it’s for? No you fucking do not!

No, you screech to a halt and though part of you dies

You just hold your damn breath and you ward off the flies

And you open the door and you don’t look below

And you think to yourself Oh the Places You’ll Go.

 

 

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Master of Tai Chi (warm-up exercises)

Several years ago I bought a tai chi DVD. Aerobic exercise makes me feel like I have a heart problem, and I know I’d hurt myself on exercise contraptions. (Friends no more clumsy than me have broken their feet dropping weights and injured joints falling off the treadmill. The threat is real.) Walking always seemed like enough exercise to me, so I don’t remember why I bought the video, but I ended up loving it. Not aerobic, no bone-crushing items.

One thing I loved about tai chi was that you always keep your spine straight. Your hips, shoulders, and head stay in alignment. You never twist or bend. Knees stay slightly (or more) bent, and you breathe deeply and slowly at all times. Some of the warm-up exercises involve staying in a bent-knee position and staring straight ahead for as long as your legs can do it. Perfect for me! I can stare at a wall for hours and not get bored. It’s one of my strengths. Unfortunately my legs can only handle it for a couple minutes.

Another thing I love about tai chi is that when I do it before leaving the house, for the rest of the day I breathe more deeply and do everything with better posture than usual. I’m one of those people who will melt into your couch when you invite me over. I might lie down. Sitting up is exhausting. But if I’ve done tai chi, I’m a model guest. Not nearly as embarrassing unless one of your other guests voted for He Who Must Not Be Named.

The video has six or seven warm-up exercises and then the “form,” which is what you see people doing in the park and think “Hey there’s someone doing tai chi,” but if you think about doing it in the park yourself you imagine everyone thinking “Hey, there’s a crazy person.”

So I stayed in my living room, blinds closed, and did “play guitar” and “snake creeps down” and got better and better at crouching lower and staring at the wall longer. The prep exercises were going great, so I moved on to the form. The guy in the video did a move and then pivoted. I pivoted, too, and here’s where the problem with tai chi videos becomes evident. At this point you have to turn your head to see the TV. I thought, “I’ll just turn it for a second and then get right back in position.” I turned my head and everything felt out of alignment. My body said “THIS is not tai chi, you idiot!” It didn’t matter anyway. Looking for a second didn’t help. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing by looking for a second.

Next I tried watching the video for a few seconds, pausing the video, and doing that portion of the form. It was no use. I had to watch each three second clip dozens of times and still wasn’t sure I was moving the right way. Short of having a TV on each wall, I’m not going to be able to learn the form from that video. A class would be nice, but there are none near me during the day, I’m busy evenings, and I’m cheap anyway.

So years later I’m quite the tai chi prep expert. Coming to a park near you.

 

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