Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gorilla Girl

You know, today was lovely. Awesomely lovely. Normal in every way as I headed toward Target for miscellaneous crap and cat food. And then....

Two hours later I had retrieved not one, but THREE bottles of freakin' Pantene from ten feet in the air. I nearly dropped some patio planter on my head to the utter joy of the slew of toddlers watching, and I put my lower back out shoving Begging Berta's box-o-dishes into her cart.

Do I WORK at Target? NO. Am I a nun out to earn my place in the heavens with good deeds and charity? NO. (did I forget to mention the fifteen minutes I stood with my arms over my head, holding up CURTAINS for this yoda-esque old lady who just "didn't know if they were long enough for my windows deary..." )

My day in Target was brought to you due to my jeans. No, not "genes." The ones on my derriere with the 36 inch inseam.

The saga begins....

My first memory of how absurd the world was going to be was walking into a new class in 4th grade and having a complete stranger--an adult--shake my hand. She thought I was the substitute. Smack you not. Now remember, this is nearly 30 years ago when they did NOT have "cool kid clothes" in larger styles. (cringe) Ooooh, the pictures in my mind....it was frightening. There was lots of polyester. And elastic. (shudder)

I grew so fast I out-paced every ounce of coordination the good Lord gave me. There wasn't a stairwell I couldn't fall up. Cracks in the sidewalk were like engraved invitations for me to faceplant. I misjudged doorways, ate soccor ball nets, and on one brilliant occasion--nearly decapitated myself in my own locker.

And then there was my name. Now seriously, I took french--and I know that it's a french name and that it means "to sing" and all the lovely stuff.....but I swear, it's ChanTEL. Not ChanTALL. *sigh* "Hightower" was bad enough--we won't even GO into "Show-n-tell." Like dude, you get asked out by ALL the wrong guys...

I'd like a dime for every time someone has said to me, "Oh--I'd LOVE to be tall..." Really? You haven't lived until you have wet down a pair of jeans, closed the ankles in the dorm door, and leaned your entire being into stretching them....just....thiiiiiiis....much. Of course, when the roommate opens the doors causing the jeans to whip at lightspeed through the air leaving rivet marks on your face....the night has just begun.

My chest is eye-level for half of America. My cheeks seem to be magnets--attracting the knife-like little pointy ends of umbrellas city wide. Rainy days are LETHAL to me if I have to go downtown....I look like I'm dodging a hive of wild bees or trying out for some kind of circus limbo act.

One of my arms is longer than the other....not that this actually matters since there isn't a single "off the rack" kinda place I can shop for something long-sleeved. I order everything from a catalog called "Long Elegant Legs."

The mail man thinks I'm buying sleezy lingerie....or porn.

I understand that the world isn't fair. We each have our own list of things we'd like to change about ourselves.

However. I wear a size 12 shoe. Swear.

I think I missed my calling. I should have been a bouncer...

Or worked for Target.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I recently saw one of those bumper stickers that says, "My kid beat up your honor student at such and such a high school" which, after a chuckle, gave me pause. While I appreciate the sarcasm, the sentiment behind the words--and the approval given therein, is a bit disturbing. I've been shocked lately by how many things are overlooked or accepted for the mere reason that there is a relationship with the people involved.

I admit it--I'm a painter that uses pigments of such variety and intensity, radiance, hue, luscious color--and yet I am absolutely guilty of black and white vision.

In a world where tolerance and acceptance reign supreme, I find myself the weary champion of common sense and distance. I am on the horse, sword in hand, charging the hoard of justification and explanations, the masses of excuse.

Why does it seem that when a person has a relationship with another--be it friendship, romance, or family--that judgement and perception become skewed as if reflected in a funhouse mirror? Stretched and smashed into a ludicrous replica of reality?

Everyone is quite horrified at the young mother who leaves her children in a state-funded daycare as she ditches work to indulge in "carnal frivolity" for the afternoon--yet the horror evaporates when it's whats-her-head's sister who is "going through a rough patch" with her boyfriend.

We're incensed at "Joe" who quits looking for a job and rides out the unemployment train for 6 months while playing guitar hero and eating nachos--until it's somebody's son who "just really needs a break right now."

"You can't blame poor Jane next door for having an affair--she's so lonely when her husband travels..."

We dismiss selfishness, explain affairs, justify cheating, even excuse stealing--all due simply to our proximity to the situation. What ever happened to distance? If you watched that particular movie on television, with total strangers making those choices, would you feel the same? Are we compromising our morality or are we merely a victim of familiar manipulation?

There is a right and a wrong.

I've lost friends over this, offended family, and irritated total strangers.

I am exhausted from listening to 40 minute defenses of the most irrational and destructive behavior. Since when do I need to agree with something simply because I know someone?? Where has our independent judgement gone?

Perhaps we allow or approve so as to leave room for our own possible indiscretions?

Are we splintering our evaluations? Fragmenting our ethics?

Please don't misunderstand--I am guilty beyond measure of several of the issues I raise....and I know it. Today I listened as a teacher at a local college told me how dumbfounded she was as she had caught two students cheating. And at the end of class, another--previously completely unknown--came to her and said, "I too, cheated." She almost hugged her.

Screwing up is human. Mistakes are not optional--they're part of our genetic make-up. It's how we learn, how we grow.....every chef has burned hundreds of meals. Every dancer falls, every painter paints one...make that dozens, that she covers in white gesso....and begins again.

However--it is in the knowing it is a mistake, in the admission....that is where we grow. To excuse is to stunt.

I am heartsick at some of the twisted shriveled vines that might have been magnificent trees....simply because they excuse, rather than admit.

Two of my favorite quotes:

"Don't compromise yourself; you are all you got." Janis Joplin

"You don't get to choose how you are going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now." Joan Baez

Choose well.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Yesterday afternoon my nine year-old came running into the house to tell me there was some wild bug in the back yard I just had to see. He grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the door while I was laughing and trying to dry off with a kitchen dishtowel; leaving a half carved roast on the counter. We were almost to the door when he stopped and turned my hand over to look at the palm. His fingers were gentle as he touched the rougher thickened spots. "Mom, what are these?" "Callouses honey, you get them from working hard." "Why do you work so hard Mom?"

"Cause your daddy thinks it's sexy."

Sexy. What a universe is contained within such a small word. It encompasses ideas so varied, so open to interpretation....googling it may be more frightening than educational. In this crazy maze of variety and taste, (yes, I did once find a calendar in my college roomie's closet--smack me now--it had overweight men in lingerie. I considered lysoling my eyes.) the ideas of what is "sexy" are as varied as the proverbial fish in the sea.

There is a woman I pass frequently in the grocery isles. I probably pass the same 58 people on a regular basis and never realize it--however she is a tad memorable. Possibly a distant relative of Mimi on the Drew Carey Show, she has a passion for ice-blue eye shadow, meticulously applied orange lipstick, and garish Hawaiian print dresses. She resembles Mimi in more than just appearance, I might add. I nearly swallowed my gum when rounding a corner to hear her say to a small boy, "Ya little cracker, takin' up space with yer stupid boots, move it!" While I'm sure she has an endearing sweet side, the ensuing verbal battle between Mimi-twin and Cracker-mom was enough that I skipped the baking isle that day. Cake is simply not worth that particular mess.

But what occurred to me, was that sometime that very morning, she stood in front of a mirror before she left the house and thought, "Damn, I look good!" Most likely she has a husband who thinks she is the cat's meow...and I am truthfully rather grateful for this. The older I get the more I realize that if everyone liked the same thing, half the planet would be screwed! (not literally, mind you)

Which brings me back to sexy. I really wasn't kidding when I told my son that yesterday.

It was August. You could taste the heat....like salt and yellowed grass and pavement. I had been in my studio painting. My hair pulled up, I had paint--as usual--everywhere. My hands, my neck, my tank top was smeared with the colors of sky and sand....I smelled like acrylics and sweat. When I answered the door he said, "God, you're sexy." I laughed....and then we forgot about going out to dinner.

I was raised on a ranch which resulted with a hard ass case of physical labor addiction. Two days ago I spent nearly nine hours sanding and painting the entire front porch (which looks smashing, I must say) and am still sitting here with bruised knees and slivers in my fingers. But I love it. I adore the ache in my legs and the stiff muscles of my back after a hard day of work. And when nine times out of ten, he comes home to this....

Ummm.....yeah. That's me, week one, just after we bought the house last summer. Drywalling.
Rock. On.
I know, I know--how can anyone find that sexy?? He does. And this sweat inspired arousal is certainly not one directional! I'll never forget the day--we had been dating only a few months--and he had to change the fuel pump in his jimmy. One of those things that you think will take 2 hours and it takes 6. He came in covered with grease and oil and gasoline...I handed him a beer. And then knocked it to the floor as I nearly tackled him. He now jokes about making a Cologne, "Hard Labor," that smells of a garage.....I get breathless just thinking about it.

However, it raises the question: do we find only the aroma of hard work attractive.....or is it more than that? Could it be possible that the very IDEA of a man working hard, who accomplishes things, makes/builds/fixes things....productivity and creativity and sacrifice--that this is what flips my switch? In a world of couch potatoes and complainers, this dude throws down some scraped knuckles and damn, I melt. Perhaps my pheromones have met my perspicacity? Intelligence encounters lasciviousness.

Hang on....he's just turned off the lawnmower. Catch ya later.....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Second

Evening draws near. The day almost done...rain has filled the air with the smell of grass and wood and the last of the lilacs. Air so heavy; condensation ripples down my wineglass...pools on the desk. Dark liquid reflecting the glimmer of merlot. Quiet. My skin damp, kissed by the mist from the window. I can taste him.

May Second. The day everything changed.

First, rewinding....

A summer's night, warm and lovely. A sundress of lace and colors lush...draped over garden tanned shoulders...hours spent thinking, wondering. I had softened my hands with jasmine oil, my pulse fast and slick with anticipation. I glanced up through the restaurant window....my heart paused.


He "never shared his food"... (soft smile) but I switched our plates of crab-stuffed lobster and succulent blackened salmon when he was picking out the second bottle of wine....and he smiled. We ate. I licked the butter from my fingers as his eyes burned into mine.

A month later.

Why does this feel like recognition..........not discovery?

Souls entwined like morning dreams


Sheer threads in a tapestry of color

Is it possible?

This wave of emotion

Threatening to sweep me out to sea

How amazing

To drown and soar in the same moment.

How many of us have hesitated...frightened to take the leap that crippled us the first time. Years pass....and trust grew. The slowest of seedlings. Gentle hands, whispered promises. Dawn, wrapped in one blanket, my head on his chest. New beginnings. Honor. Commitment.

May second.

Dusk. Ivy twined with crystal lights....draped across the mantle, the windows. An ocean of candlelight. Warm breezes caressed my back. White sundress, bare feet.

"I do."

He calls me Butterfly.