Posting a few other Muses from the past while I wrap my brain around Mother’s Day…more to come.
The Naked Truth
It’s my birthday next week — time to renew my driver’s license. The past two times I renewed the license it was by mail, so this time I have been kindly invited by my good friends at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to pay a personal visit, give a thumbprint and get my photo retaken. Which is a blessed relief because I look like a psycho bank robber on my driver’s license.
My current photo was taken just after my 12-year-old was born. I had the “Mom” haircut – that nondescript bob that looks as bad before it is washed as after. I carried the dark smudges of late-night feedings, my eyes were glazed over from lack of sleep, my gaze shifted to the side and my lids half-closed. My smile is, well, let’s just call it “forced,” because there are no take-overs at the DMV and when you have to stand there for 30 seconds waiting for the flash, the smile weakens, the lips begin to quiver and the light goes out of one’s eyes. So, frankly, I can’t wait to get a new photo ID, no matter how long I have to wait in line.
Birthdays and appointments for new identification cards are good times for introspection. Better yet, they’re time for chocolate. I always get a bum steer on my birthday, because it is just after Ash Wednesday, and I often make the foolish vow to give up chocolate for Lent. That’s 40 days, for the uninitiated, between Ash Wednesday and Easter, when you sacrifice something you love (a thing, not a person, silly) as a spiritual exercise. My kids talked about giving up the Sims (a popular and very addictive computer game), and my middle daughter had a moment of vegetarian virtue and suggested giving up meat for 40 days.
I tried to be the paragon of righteousness and said I’d do only positive acts for 40 days, like good deeds every day, or spend time meditating or reading enlightening spiritual literature or scriptures. We nattered on about these sacrifices for days, until the jig was up and Ash Wednesday arrived. The result? My youngest gave up Spicy Cheetos, while my middle daughter kept quiet; when pressed later, said she couldn’t decide so she gave up nothing. (My eldest doesn’t fit into this equation because she is In College now and can’t be bothered with these trivial details when there are Issues with Roommates and a New Work Schedule at Starbucks.)
My “positive sacrifice” – or cheat, depending on how you see it — was to try to live mindfully for each day. I promised myself I’d breathe deeply, appreciate nature, try to enjoy spiritual moments as they happened, and yes, contemplate the existence of my soul. In other words, I gave up nothing and have been enjoying my daily ration of chocolate. That being said, now I feel guilty and will not be able to enjoy any chocolate at all. I should have just kept my mouth shut. Next year I will.
All this talk of chocolate, however, brings up another point: one of my goals this year is to run a 5K race. I know that’s not very far, and I’m not a very fast runner, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I’ve been running on the treadmill at the gym (which is where I go to make amends for the chocolate – the full length mirror is the best kind of confessional). I do a good workout at Mariner Square Athletic Club. Sometimes I swim, or ride the stationary bike, and do a circuit or two on the weight machines. Afterward, I take a sauna and steam and soak in the hot tub.
Somehow, it seems, every time I am in the hot tub, I meet people. New people, people who recognize me from the newspaper or magazine, people I’ve met at the kids’ schools, former coworkers, friends of friends – they’re all passing through the locker room at precisely the time I’m soaking in the hot tub – stark naked.
I usually say hi, and I didn’t know you worked out here, and when the conversation dies, as it inevitably does when a person is naked, move rapidly on to, “See you later.” I am perfecting my confident smile, but inside I’m thinking, “For the love of Pete, I am naked! Can’t you see that I’m naked? Really, I am. Can we talk later?”
It’s as if I have some kind of magnet for slight acquaintances – people I see at the grocery store or bank are suddenly sitting in the tub with me – naked! I have chatted with members of the Chamber of Commerce – naked! I recently had a lengthy conversation in the sauna and tub with a fellow writer, and I wanted to give her a business card or jot down her number, but I couldn’t, because I didn’t have any pockets or pens or cards – because I was – the N word.
I know it is completely groovy and wonderful to be naked. I know there is no shame. I know I am a creature of God and that my imperfections are part of the wonder of me, blah blah stinking blah. But there is just no ignoring the fact that at least one of us is not fully clothed. And while I do some of my best work naked, still, the fact remains that nudity is not the time for business conversations. When I show up at your club to give a talk about the delights of being a writer, I want to picture you naked, not vice versa.
How does this fit in with my birthday and the new photo ID? Even though my photo ID looks like a psycho, it is a psycho who is 12 years younger. Now for the next 10 years or so, I’ll look like me at this age – this little slice in time. And it’s not just my imagination — my birthday suit is getting a little, um, dated. I’m working on it, trying to run, trying to floss, trying to live mindfully and breathe deeply and not mind being naked in front of half the population of Alameda. Birthdays are funny things. Even though 40 is the new 30, and we’re not getting older, we’re getting better, and we’ve come a long way, baby, still, it’s a birthday. If I have to have one every year, do I also have to get a year older?
Hey — I think I know what I’m giving up for Lent next year. And it ain’t chocolate.