Monday, February 22, 2010

Laid Up Leg Up

I started writing this about a week ago, but I'll admit being laid up in bed with not a lot of energy doesn't exactly inspire brain waves to move toward creativity. For those who don't know, I broke my ankle about 2 weeks ago and have been quietly mending since then. Now on day 16 of invalidism, I finally feel up to finishing what I've been trying to write down for weeks.

Literally slower than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. I have never been more frustrated with the inability of mobility. I was fine with a resting state of inertia before this happened, but too much of a good thing in this area is a lot worse than simply eating an entire box of cookies. I haven't felt like doing much of anything because every time I exert myself my body decides that it's had enough and tries to wimp out on me. I loathe this feeling so much that even the idea of sitting in a French government office all day is starting to sound pleasant. I am not going to lie for the sake of pleasantry and say that it's really not that bad, because it is. It completely sucks (if I had a better synonym to describe this feeling I would have used it, but there isn't one) and I want to cry and scream about it most of the time. Yes, I have crutches; two pair in fact (one polio style and the all-American underarm burners as well) but before you wonder why it's such a big deal, please go to your nearest hospital with two broken bones in your ankle, have them cut you open so they can drill 7 screws and a metal plate into your bones so you look like a junior high carpentry project, dope you up on morphine for days only to take it away so it then forces you into immediate detox (withdrawal) for the next week until you just can't vomit anymore and then.... Lift yourself up and down on one leg anytime you need to urinate (because let's face it, all of those opiates are going to keep you nice and constipated for a few more days) and do it all in another country where you are in such a state that speaking your mother tongue is difficult enough, let alone any other language.
We all remember the kid that broke a leg in school. We drew asinine pictures in magic marker on their casts, tried out the crutches and thought they were cool, and were jealous that they were able to obtain a get out of jail free card for at least 2 weeks of school. My bubble is officially burst. Being an adult with broken bones is just pathetic and sad.
I suppose I should start at the beginning and explain how this less than blessed event came to pass. I was leaving a friend's place after a lovely evening of dinner, wine, good company and some dancing. Being that in France most elevators, lifts or ascenseurs are rarely made for more than two small nose to nose people and there were three of us leaving the apartment, I opted to take the stairs. It was four flights down, but I didn't make it past the first. Most buildings have large, wooden circular stairs with carpet that is being bolted down by metal rods and screws. I was wearing my cowboy boots as I would any other day, and slipped on the last two steps, which buckled my foot under so when I landed it snapped my ankle perfectly between my body and the stairs. I must have been in shock, as I have very little recollection of what happened directly after that. My friends lifted me and put me in the elevator to go back up one floor to the apartment. They got my boot off and assessed the damage which led to the calling of an ambulance. I was convinced that it might not be that bad and so I would just wait it out until morning. I did know I had done something really bad to it because I was in some seriously unfamiliar pain and normally have a pretty high threshold when it comes to that sort of thing. The next morning after I had to crawl to the bathroom for fear I would wet my pants, my friends took me to the hospital. I must say that if one finds him/herself in such a predicament that might require an emergency room (in Paris) I highly recommend 8:30am on a Saturday. Completely void of people, I was immediately whisked away to an exam room with a very sexy doctor from Luxembourg and his handsome little intern. Mind you at this point in the game I fear my pride was wounded far worse than my ankle, especially when they removed my socks to uncover the hairy legs of winter and non-pedicured feet. Only after that mortification did I discover my right ankle to be twice the size of the left. After the intake, I was supposed to go to "radio" on a rollaway gurney only to be left waiting in the middle of a giant hallway for about an hour. I watched a handful of doctors and nurses walk by who were all well above par in the looks department. I suppose if one is forced to wait, enjoying the sites is always a viable option in time passing. A woman came and asked me something in French about "radio" and I really still had no idea what she meant until I saw the x-ray machine. Duh....radiology. Meanwhile back in the vacant waiting room were my patient friends Jeremy and Thibaut. Both sleep deprived without any news of me they sat and waited. While they were there, a gigantic (meaning tall and wide) man walked up to the nurses station in sweat pants, huffing, puffing and sweating - registered, asked the orderly for a plastic bag, then decided the best seat of the forty empty chairs spread generously across the waiting room would be the one right next to Jeremy. He proceeded to sit down and vomit profusely into the small, clear plastic bag he had requested. This made me burst out laughing when I heard this from Jeremy. By that time I was fresh with the news that I needed surgery and would be admitted to the hospital only to perhaps find out there might not be room for me on the orthopedic surgeon's schedule that day. Oh, and did I mention they put me on drugs too? Yeah, that did make things much more hilarious and able to digest. Come to find out I was in a brand new orthopedic wing at Saint Antoine Hospital which is supposedly the best in Paris. However, the fresh out of school nurse who came in to take six vials of blood from me, left giant bruises as she couldn't seem to decipher what veins looked like. I wanted to stab her several times and see if that might improve her skills so as to keep her patients from looking like heroine junkies. The reality of all this felt as though it had barely set in when they wheeled me to be prepped for surgery. I had never broken a bone, had surgery or been admitted into a hospital since the day I was born. Still a little out of it I tried to decipher broken French and English with the nurses, surgeon and anesthesiologist that I was a singer and if they were going to knock me out or have to intubate for any reason to use a small tube and be extremely careful with my vocal folds. Ultimately I opted for a nerve block that would simply keep me from feeling any sensation below the waist for a few hours and was fully conscious in surgery (aside from the awesome sedative and morphine combination they injected into my bloodstream - intravenous drugs really do have their up side). For those of you who are a bit squeamish I would advise you read ahead. I wanted to watch the surgery, but they wouldn't let me. I did get to see them draw the giant Frankenstein-ian marks on either side of my ankle to use as for the cutting and suchers reference +++++. I laid there for about an hour and then started to hear what sounded like a power drill. It was complete with flying liquid and debris, and brought with it a smell I will never forget. At first I thought perhaps it was burning flesh, but then I realized that scent was coming from the hot screws being drilled into the bones of my leg. It was reminiscent of a barbecue near a slaughterhouse. I watched them roll the cloth and fiberglass around my leg. It's an odd perspective to watch people handle a part of your body that has zero sensation. It might as well have been someone else's.
By the time surgery was over, my less than opaque hospital gown was completely torn and falling off (not that it prevented one from seeing everything in the first place). For perhaps the first time ever, I had a Garden of Eden moment of bashfulness, when I realized I was naked in a room full of strangers. My friends had been with me just before I left for surgery, and brought some bare essentials, reading and writing materials. I imbibed in a perfectly wretched hospital meal that night and met the over night nursing staff. They were three jovial women that came in laughing and singing, but whom did not speak English, so this forced me to fight through my drug ridden haze to communicate. By this time I had a roommate in the bed next to me in the form of a 75 year old French woman who appeared to have fallen and dislocated her shoulder. She was wearing the same transparent gown as I, and let me tell you I don't ever want to see that much wrinkled nakedness again until I'm staring at it in the mirror 40 years from now. I didn't think I could feel much worse until I needed to urinate. It had been a few hours since surgery and I figured I'd call a nurse to help wheel me over to the bathroom in a chair....but no. This crazy heifer brought me a nasty, white, post-war bedpan and stuck it under my ass. Whatever miniscule sliver of remaining dignity I had, took a flying leap right out the nearest window. I sat on that stupid bedpan for about an hour in various positions trying to convince myself that it was "okay to pee in bed." I confess, I was a bed wetter as a child until about the age of 9 I would say. It didn't happen often, but it was humiliating nonetheless and I always hated having to tell my mother because I knew waking her up in the middle of the night with this news was never something she was happy to hear. So, at this moment I had to fight past the fear of being scolded for wetting myself, plus doing it in front of two other human beings. I just couldn't make it happen and the bedpan was starting to dig into my rather plump ass cheeks, so she took it away. At 3am they came in to give me a new dripping bag of drugs and asked if I wanted to try again. It still took some time but when the nurse returned she asked if I was successful and then threw her arms in the air with cheer as I confirmed that I had been. Then she wiped me......that.....I can't.
I am a very proud, independent person who never asks for help from other people, and therefore is not used to accepting it. When I have asked in the past for help from my friends or family I'm always ridden with guilt while doing it. However, it appeared in this scenario I didn't get to make the choice as to whether I would accept help or not. I have learned (mostly the hard way) that when we are resistant to making certain decisions, life will eventually make them for us, but never in the way we expected. So, at the risk of negating or retracting other things I've said about not depending on others and doing everything on my own..... I see that I need to learn how to let go of pride by allowing others into the parts of my life where I feel weak or vulnerable. That accepting help and needing to depend on people is okay and should not carry shame. My parents have said to me on numerous occasions that I was the child they never worried about because I always wanted to do things my own way without help. I wish they had known that even though I have a strong will for independence, I still needed to be taken care of like a child and taught that people can be dependable even when you think you don't need them. Some lessons come later, and life has an interesting way of teaching you when you refuse to learn on your own.
A few days after surgery I was allowed to go home, but still had to face one flight of stairs to the 6th floor as the elevator stops at the 5th. I really need to acknowledge these amazing people who were at my side these last couple of weeks in some of the worst moments of my life. I have only known them for a few months, yet their kindness, generosity and care have shown what lovely people they are. Jeremy stayed with me and made sure I was settled into the hospital with a working phone and a list of phone numbers. He visited me every day, has done grocery shopping and comes over at 9am every Thursday to let in the nurse who takes my blood to make sure my platelets aren't going to kill me. Tara has been so helpful and amiable when it comes to making sure I'm comfortable, have everything that I need and brings me delectable chocolate. She and Thibaut even had me stay at their place for a few days and they waited on me hand and foot (not to mention that I took the first bath I've had in France and clean hair for the first time since leaving the hospital). Thibaut is in the field of naturopathic medicine, so he has taken on the responsibility of getting me to and from the hospital, doctor's appointments and dealing with all of the paperwork in French to make sure I know what is going on. He even did my gross and disgusting pile of dishes....and yet somehow still wants to be my friend. More thank yous to Sylvain, Hanaye, Nanci (Camille and Juliet's mother) and everybody who keeps checking in on me via phone or skype. I have more fun stuff to share and tell, but I'll wait until tomorrow to bombard you all some more.

From your favorite Paris gimp,


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Les Ennuis Terribles!

Last night before I went to bed I started to recall and write the story that led me to become a singer and the events which followed landing me in Paris. However, after this morning's minor debacles I've decided to finally put together all of my annoyances about being here in France. Don't misunderstand, as this city is completely gorgeous and every time I go outside it makes me smile in some fashion or another. My favorite thing to do is take a walk. The nuance of romance is built into nearly every building be they Romanesque, Baroque or Neoclassic. Much like Rome, it's difficult not to stumble upon some sort of great monument. The boulangeries are ubiquitous, the open air markets are filled with fresh items to indulge any and every gluttonous desire, and there is never a shortage of curious side streets to help one become lost in another world. What could I possibly have to complain about, right? HA! I'll go out on a limb here, while using fictitious statistics based on different articles I've read, and say that 80% of home grown Americans have never left the country and I'm sure at least half of them have made some antiquated generalization about the French or France that is based in myth or hearsay. The craze of "Freedom Fries!" is a perfect example of those who are quick to criticize a land they've never bothered to set foot in, let alone outside the gates of their trailer park to investigate (not that there's anything wrong with a good old fashioned double-wide). Of the 20% of Americans with passports, I'm sure Paris might be a romantic or educational destination and perhaps they'll come home with charming anecdotes of their week long experience, but that is hardly enough time for gathering information to make assumptions. I will also not pretend to be fully versed in the ways of the French, but in the last four months I have come across the same bag of irritations that makes a bout with poison oak seem pleasant.

Where should I begin......ah yes, this morning. I woke to make coffee as I always do after my eight hours of psychedelic dreaming and twenty minute morning meditation (alliteration makes me giggle with joy). I sleepily went to fill the kettle with water to heat on the stove, which I use to pour over the lovely Italian coffee grounds that will steep in the heat to bring me that glorious first sip of caffeinated goodness. I turned on the faucet which began to exhibit signs of a choking victim by wheezing and spitting out bits of water. About a week ago there was a notice in the entry way of my building informing the tenants that the water would be switched off from 8:30am - 5:00pm on Monday, February 8th. Well, that works out for most people with normal jobs, but I don't have school until noon on Mondays and then I come home before going to work to teach a class from 6-9. I tried to remind myself how I needed to get up early yesterday to shower, make coffee and brush my teeth, but alas my body decided to sleep through any chance I had of that. Also, the last time they threatened to turn off the water it didn't seem to happen until three days after the fact (this is very typical French) so I admit I felt my chances of getting a shower in would still be quite favorable. I woke up at 9 a.m. startled by what seemed to be elephants parachuting down though the building walls. As, I stumbled to the kitchen I was indeed met with disappointment. Just to be sure, I turned on the bathroom sink and shower as well, which only brought back the angry elephants in the walls instead of water. I had to accept my smelly fate for the day, brush my teeth with sparkling water and use what was left in the kettle to make a small cup of coffee. Of course there was still no water when I returned home and left again at 5:30. My class ended early last night so I rushed home in the hopes of having a shower, but to avail. I turned on every faucet and left them on until the water finally came rushing out (or up, as I am on the 6th floor) and in full disregard for water conservation I let them run until hot water appeared....not really, the hot water never came out. The thought of a cold shower in winter was less appealing than toughing it out until this morning. So, you can see how I might be a little more than perturbed by the kitchen sink spitting at me for the first five minutes of the day. I decided sit here in my own filth before having the glorious shower I've been looking forward to, as to keep me in a state of irritation while writiting......ooooo so method of me! Or is that just for actors.....

Some group is always on strike for some reason. It took me two months to receive my modem and cable box because the La Poste was on strike twice for a two week period. My landlady received a subpoena from her property management company because she hadn't responded to the billing notices for the taxes on my apartment that were stuck in the mail limbo due to this ridiculous strike, and guess who got to answer the door to the daunting man who served the papers? There is not a lot of room for logic in the French system and you must succumb to their way or the high way when dealing with them. There are people who are paid to push paper to slow you down and make life miserable. I am not exaggerating. The government has no problem paying for these types of positions be they public or private. However, if you like to try to shoot for a sense of efficiency, that does not exist unless it serves the interest of the particular French agency. They will put you off until they feel like dealing with you without any consideration of your circumstance. I had all of my paperwork in to get my work visa after receiving a student visa, but I had to wait six weeks in order to get a mandatory chest x-ray to make sure I wasn't bringing tuberculosis into the country before they decided to approve a work permit. I could have taken out all of Paris faster than the bubonic plague in a matter of six weeks if I were that disease ridden. If it is their fault that something has not been done on time, they will always immediately absolve themselves and punish you for not making the deadline. I guess they would have another American to blame for destroying France.

Alright, THAT'S IT! At this exact moment while I sit here complaining, there is a bit of a ruckus in the hallway. There's always something or someone disturbing my peace, but this is the same noise over and over and over again..... I just now went out to investigate only to discover there is a man tinkering with the elevator. I use the word "elevator" loosely, as it is hardly designed for more than one person and moves at the pace of the simile involving January's molasses. The man appears to be pushing the button...and pushing the button...and pushing the button... and receiving the same response one might hear when a car's battery has died. This is not good news for me. As previously mentioned, I live on the 6th floor. The lift only goes to the 5th, but one flight of spiral stairs is better than six. My right to bitch and moan has just been validated. Buildings with old romantic nuance are pretty to look at, but a pain in the ass for modern living.

Let's keep going down the laundry list of complaints, shall we? Oh come now, my pain can be your pleasure. You know all of those lovely walks I like to take? Well, I spend more than half my time with my eyes glued to the ground so as to avoid the fresh piles of steaming dog poo left on the street by the very powerful canine community here in Paris. Dogs seem to have more rights than I do in this city. They take their masters everywhere without leashes, often determining the route and pace of travel. They stop and defecate anywhere they like without having to clean it up and no one says boo about it. There have been days when I have taken no more than one step outside my front door and walked directly into it. The animals are carried everywhere by the master if it's raining (which is ALL the time in winter). Dogs are allowed inside everywhere and if they are not then they are allowed to be tied up directly inside the front door, so this way the entire establishment has the luxury of listening to them yap at the top of their voice box until their "master" returns. Yes, most of these are yappy little dogs. I will never understand the choosing of dog breeds in Paris. It's worse than New York. The population of white, long haired, short, small yappy dogs is simply ridiculous. I really do love animals and am a dog person, but I also remember that I am the human and they are the pet. There's even a specialty, high end, doggy clothing store just up the street from where I live with designs by Jean-Paul Gautier. I mean really, imagine for a moment if I wandered around wherever I liked in my Gautier jacket, spewing excrement all over the sidewalks, screaming at the top of my lungs inside every store I entered and then whined for someone to carry me so I wouldn't get my feet dirty, I'd be known as the town crazy and probably be thrown in jail!

I love the apartment I'm in, mostly because I get to live by myself, but it's not without its limitations. If you've talked to me or read other postings you know about the miniature shower situation. At the risk of handing out too much information, or TMI as the youngsters like to say, I am rediscovering what a hairy woman I can be. Shaving is just not worth it, unless there is the rare occasion when I wear a dress or have a date, and it always proves to be a most vexatious incident. Speaking of hair, the blow dryer situation is something I fear will never be resolved. In the States, a good hair dryer would melt off your eyelid and blow away your lashes if you let it, but here it's more like the hot desert wind of the Santa Ana's. Riding on the back of a Vespa without a helmet would be a better solution. This of course, has to do with the allowed voltage in this country, which has recently been changed to make the world a greener place to live (although green as a color is not what I would use to describe Paris, however kudos for trying). That brings me to the next complaint of electrical wiring and number of outlets. If I run the radiator and blow dryer at the same time, I must extinguish any lights. If I turn on every light in my apartment it is only slightly brighter than that of Abe Lincoln and his candles. Each electric outlet (I have three) only allows one plug at a time, and of course I have a power strip, but with the limiting number of four plugs. OH! And, did I mention that because each wall outlet is 2 prong, one must also have an adapter for the very strong 3 prong power strip.....? Er go, this leaves me with entirely too many things to plug in and not enough room to use them. I am constantly forced to have to choose between the computer, modem, two telephone mounts - one via the internet and one land line (which is why some of you have TWO phone numbers for me, incase I need to unplug one....) - the keyboard, the printer, the lamp and the several chargers for any number of "rechargeable" electronic devices. Enough said (photos included).

Let's move on to local shopping for ordinary household items. Toilet paper. I just want nice, normal, white, unscented toilet paper. It seems a most outlandish thing to request. There is a rather large section of an aisle in the grocery store dedicated to this necessary paper product, however it is overrun with colored paper coordinated with a corresponding scent. Examples include: peach color/ peach scent; pink color/ rose scent; green color/ pine scent; lavender color/ lavender scent. There are some "fashionable" unscented colors such as bright orange-red or black, but something about black toilet paper just feels wrong to me. As I said, I do not wish to dye or scent my delicate areas, and (avert your eyes to the next sentence for another TMI moment) I would like to know the color of my bodily fluids without having to use a color wheel to figure them out.
I can't seem to find any cleaning products with bleach in them. Ammonia is as good as it gets, but I have always hated that smell. No economy sized Kikkoman low sodium soy sauce, in fact most "ethnic" foods are non existent except for the abundance of coconut milk for some strange reason. The import Mexican food products are all made by Old El Paso, and the thing that really makes me sad and nostalgic is peanut butter. Being that there are no peanut farms in France, there is no such thing as French peanut butter. You can get jams, marmalade and Nutella inexpensively by the bucketful, but a 4oz jar of Skippy in the "international food" section will cost you 7 euros. For a country that claims to have the best and highest cuisine in the world, their ability to innovate and fuse gourmet items from other countries and cultures says a lot about their ability to adapt in general.
In my opinion, that is probably the biggest problem with the French. They pride themselves upon being very well educated, learning the art of gastronomy, developing sensitive palates for wine and cheese, believing that travel is an important way to discover the world, and yet at the end of the day will insult everything they have seen, tasted, smelled or experienced outside of France. It is truly preposterous. No wonder they are filled with such a sense of ennui. It's as though they are inveterately bred for nothing other than to keep an idea of loathing for outsiders, and to exclude any antipode to their opinions for fear it might rouse suspicion that their way is not the best!

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Do Not Go to the Garden of Flowers!"

Sorry I've been on hiatus lately. I could say "I've just been so busy" which in the past was always code for: I don't feel like talking to anyone. The truth is, I got into a really odd sleeping pattern coupled with wildly vivid dreams of piloting a helicopter, riding a pink bicycle up a fictitious 13th Ave in New York City (I hate pink) and being the principal of a school where I threw out Itzhak Perlman for racially discriminating against one of my students. Hmm......I guess I have been busy after all. In turn, that has made most of my writing a bit nonsensical and fragmented. I wouldn't have wanted to torture anyone with that. However, an email from my lovely Aunt Rebecca gave me that little extra push I needed.

I watched Almost Famous the other day. Although there are plenty of bandwagon sayings I can lay down that made the movie itself famous, the one I always related to most was when Cream Magazine Editor, Lester Bangs said, "I'm always home! I'm uncool!" For some reason, people seem to think I'm cool and the truth is, I've just learned to play the part. I am SO not cool. I am a nerd. I have always been the weird uncool girl, but not in a death-metal-kill-rodents and wear a vile of blood around my neck, kind of way. Just in that I'd rather study music, math, literature and science, so I guess that makes me a geek way. I do admit to getting very caught up in the "industry of cool" that has in fact taken over the world and left it with such superficial priorities where Aristotle himself would probably be one of those guys wandering the streets of Manhattan with a homemade cardboard sandwich sign spouting his philosophies in magic marker, and we'd either walk quickly past him (for fear he'd smell of dirty ass) or give him a name like "apocalypse Joe" or something. We've stopped listening and looking for the concrete truths because we'd rather play with our iphone (and all its very cool programs). I'm not leaping out against technology because if I wasn't able to type away all the crazy thoughts in my head, my fingers would bleed with ink stains and arthritis might set in sooner from gripping a pen with all my might. I had a point.....oh yes, I'm not cool. It's all a facade. Or, perhaps what really makes me "cool" is that I don't believe there's just one way of doing things. I believe in questioning rules and ways of life that try to bind, pigeonhole or define us simply because others need to throw us into a category of something they can comprehend. I tried that for far too long so that I might fit in and be accepted by my peers. Once I learned the formula for being superficially cool, I used it to my advantage and I will admit it is a good skill set to have.

When I first moved to New York I remember hearing two questions that I had never been so confronted with in my entire life: What are you? and, What do you do? My first answer was always....I'm a woman (or then, girl) from California, but that was never a good enough answer for the deep rooted cultures of New York Italians, Irish, Jews or Puerto Ricans. It was like a qualifier question so they could judge whether or not they were supposed to like me. I found it really annoying and so sometimes I would just make things up for fun to study their reactions. Once I had an entire Irish pub convinced I was from Argentina with a Spanish father, went to university in London (which was why my English was so good) had a ski chalet in Switzerland and a beach house in Cinque Terre. The story developed over a few hours and several scotches, as did my strong "Argentinian" accent. The second question was not so much of a mystery as to why they asked it, I just simply found it almost rude or condescending. Mostly because I hated having to answer: well I work as a make-up artist, but I also sing opera. I'm sure all artists feel this way to a degree, as though they have to explain to the people with "real jobs" why it is we do what we do. I once dated a computer programmer who was from a family of scientists and engineers, and his sister asked me, "Did your parents freak out when you told them you wanted to study music?" I laughed because both of my parents are musicians and the thought of them freaking out about any of my decisions just seemed absurd (mostly because after a certain point they gave up trying to tell me what to do). You can't really make someone who isn't wired the way you are comprehend how you really don't have a choice in the matter. I'm good at other things and could have been an accountant or surgeon with no problem, other than my creative side would have been nagging at me so much it might have turned me into some miserable shrew for denying it. After the initial answer, there always followed a myriad of questions which used to bore me to tears trying to explain to people who knew nothing about opera. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to talk and me is a great subject, but I prefer conversation that requires the exploration of ideas rather than a series of 20 questions. My favorite was when someone would try not to offend me by saying they didn't like opera in a nice way. I would let them squirm in their excuse for a few minutes and then finally let them off the hook by saying, "Don't worry, it's not for everyone." Although, I do admit that my ornery side would come out if someone even mentioned Phantom of the Opera to me. My hair would stand on end, I would raise one eyebrow, half-smile and in my most soothing and charming voice put them back in their place with some mild condescension and humiliation. It was a sure-fire way to change the subject and keep them from the requesting that I "sing something!" See? I'm still not cool.

I remember being in high school and starting to hang out with some of the rebels in the drama department, mainly because there was a boy I had a crush on. He was best friends with this really cute girl who was what we'd call "slutty" and she smoked, drank and cursed all the time. Being an impressionable Southern Baptist girl who was never exposed to this vein of life, it left me very curious. My parents didn't drink, so there was never alcohol in the house, swearing was strictly forbidden (my mother used to threaten the 1950's method of washing our mouths out with soap if we ever did so) and of course there was never any talk of sexual behavior, activity or orientation. In fact, the time my mother forced herself to have the "reproductive talk" with me, was on our way to my 4th grade basketball championship (nice timing ma) and that was the last I heard of it from the adults in my life. I was the first born, so I never had an older sibling to test the waters and let me in on the do's and don'ts of deviancy. Needless to say I had no idea how to get this boy to like me because I had zero experience in his fields of interest. I thought I'd start with cursing. My parents would never know if I did it at school and I wouldn't have to worry about side effects or hiding mysterious odors or unwanted pregnancy. Since never cursing before (and too ashamed to admit I barely knew what any of those words meant) I just went for it full-bore. I started telling a story and throwing in the foul language wherever I could. For a moment it was going quite well as I mimicked their "fuckin' this and fuckin' that," then I said, "and we went to some shit-load little town" first there was confusion, then came the laughter, which was of course followed by mockery. It was one of those adolescent moments where you want an ever so handy, time traveling, trap door to drop beneath your feet. At that moment my uncoolness was ever so apparent and I vowed to never let that happen again. For a while I just laid low, stayed quiet and agreed with anything people said. I turned it into a science experiment, watching their behaviors and interactions as if it were my own little petri dish. By my senior year I had it down to a science and had a whole new group of friends. I still wasn't cool, but I could fake it when necessary. However, the worst part was I felt like a total fraud and was constantly riddled with anxiety that they'd finally figure it out and expose me. For years afterward I would always describe myself as a "social chameleon" which is still very true in ways. I am able to be relaxed in any social setting and talk to everyone without a problem, but now I don't pretend to be anything other than myself. I can attest to the truth that that works out best. There is no longer a need for a little liquid courage, a bump of superpower, or a toke of relaxation to create a false sense of social bonding. It's more fun to just be me and keep everything else in the petri dish. It's gone through the phases of "please like me" to "fuck you if you don't like me" to "It doesn't matter if you like me I'm fine with who I am" to "oh, you like me? That's nice."

I am sure most of us have no idea what is written in our yearbooks from days of old, but there was always one entry that burned itself in my memory. It was from a guy I had known since we were little, we had the same group of friends in high school, were on the swim team together and I thought we were friends. He wrote some type of poem about flowers and how they compared to me and it seemed very sweet until at the very bottom it said, "No you're not! YOU are a WEED!" which was probably funny to him because it rhymed with my last name, but I remember being hurt and it bothered me the few years after whenever I thought of it. That came to mind a while ago and instead of having the insecure little girl's reaction I laughed and thought....he was so right! I began to think of my dad out in the landscape of the beautiful gardens he'd created at our house with his weed-whacker and how irritated he'd get that they would keep coming back, bigger and stronger than the rest of the flowers. They were harder to kill, never easily defeated, and weathered the bleakest of climate conditions.
I decided to see what wikipedia had to say about weeds and I found some relevancy that made me smile:

"Weedy plants generally share similar adaptations that give them advantages and allow them to proliferate in disturbed environments...weeds have adapted to grow and proliferate in human-disturbed areas....The weedy nature of these species often gives them an advantage over more desirable crop species because they often grow quickly...Some plants become dominant when introduced into new environments because they are freed from specialist consumers; in what is sometimes called the “natural enemies hypothesis,” plants freed from these specialist consumers may increase their competitive ability. In locations were predation and mutual competitive relationships no longer exist, some plants are able to increase allocation of resources into growth...."