March 4, 2012

My Body Double (amazing likeness)

“I’m not bringing my car, so I can’t bring my magical tickle trunk this time.” I hear the sigh in Alanna’s voice. “Guess I can only bring one bag this trip.” My best friend of 34 years tells me as she gets ready to visit from Vancouver Island.

Alanna is known for her extensive collection of clothes and stunning shoes. I felt a tad deflated as one of my favourite things to do is walk around in her 6 inch leather Prada sling backs, multi-patterned Lamb pumps or Chinese laundry wedge sandals. It was much easier to parade through my one bed room carpeted apartment instead of my family home where I live now, with the hard wood floor and stairs. Still, I grab onto the railing dressed in my bathrobe and march down to the living room as if I just woke up from a coma and am learning to walk again. Alanna tells me she is willing her entire shoe collection to me when she dies. I have a vision of myself at 86 years old insisting on wearing a pair thigh high black leather boots to dinner in the assisted living residence where I live.

This visit though, I only find a pair of Guess jeans of her’s to try on. And they fit perfectly. So perfect that I instantly wanted my own pair.

“Do you mind if I get them in a different colour?” I ask.

“Of course. Make sure to get them a little tight though. They stretch out a lot.”

Searching the internet, I told her I’d try to get them in distressed black. I’m okay if my jeans are upset, just as long as I’m not.

I have been battling with my peri menopause paunch for a year now. None of my jeans or pants fit as they use to. I haven’t gone up a size, which would have been easier as all I would need to do is buy larger pants. Instead, everything fits except the snug waistband around my developing muffin top. Whatever the reason for this body change, it’s an even better way to justify my incessant quest for the perfect jean.

So, when I happened to find myself in Pacific Centre mall at lunch this week (amazing since I don’t work downtown), I decided there was no harm in at least taking a gander in the Guess store. At first I thought I’d just look around and then leave when none of the salespeople helped me, but a gorgeous young woman, with her own perfect pair of guess jeans in yellow, came right up and found four pairs of the same jeans in slightly different washes. Without my reading glasses, I could only get a blurred vision of the price of each. I decided I’d take a closer look if I found something.

I tried on the black pair first and walked out of the change room.

“Oh, those look great on you.” Another sales person tells me.

“Yeah, but their a little tight around the waist.”

“Oh, they’ll stretch, so it’s good to get them a little tight.”

I try on another pair, this time in a washed out denim. Nice, but I want something a littler dressier.

Finally, I grab the deep blue pair. As I try to focus in on the tag attached to the waistband, I notice the word Swarovski. Doing them up, I realize that the button has a Swarovski crystal in the middle of it to match the trademark Guess triangle on the back pocket. A little blingy for me, but I’ll try them on – just for fun.

I walk out to view my whole self in front of the 3 way mirror. Looks good. I bend my knees and then rise. Still looks good. I slip an index finger around the waist. Good fit.

I get my glasses out to take in the cold stark reality of the price tag. Oh shit. More than I would have ever spent on a pair of jeans to date. I sigh and wonder when the bar started getting higher and higher on what I would pay for jeans.

I walk around again. Then try on a less expensive pair. Finally try the same pair on again.

My sales person comes back. “These fit a lot better, and of course, their the most expensive.” I say to her.

She smiles. “Yes, well, they both look good on you.”

“Yeah, but these are way more comfortable.” I wait for my justification to be reinforced. Surprisingly, she lets me stew about it myself, offering no gentle pushes towards the pricier pair.

I cringe, as I walk out with the pile of jeans.

“Did you find something?” I place the chi-chi-pooh-pooh pair on the counter.

“Yeah, I did.” Whip out my clear VISA card before I change my mind.

For God sake’s I’m pushing 50. Someone sub-in as my Mum and reign in my Swarovski crystal ass in. It still doesn’t stop me from walking out carrying my large bag with the trendy, sexy half-dressed couple advertised on it.

I’ll deal with myself later.

Dad sucked on tic tacs ever since I was a kid. When the orange flavor came along he kept a pack especially for me in his car. He used them to refresh his breath; I used them to shove a handful in my mouth, roll them around for a few seconds and then crunch them all down, that is, if he wasn’t paying attention.

My sister Wendy liked tic tacs, too, but even at four years old she preferred to store her candy away for weeks or even months, untouched. One time our father gave us a pack each. Mine went in a day. Then it was time to take Wendy’s. But my ten year old brain knew that until the seal of her pack was cracked, I couldn’t pilfer anything; it would be too obvious. So, one Saturday afternoon, I prodded Wendy to pull out her pack of tic tacs.

“I just want one.” I say as she runs away from me with the slim clear pack clutched in her little hand. “No.” A sharp retort as she laughs, dizzy with little person power.

I try to grab the back of her cotton shirt but miss. Her red runners grip the floor easier than my leather moccasins. She runs into the bathroom and stands on the fluffy green rug, its rubber backing securely stuck to the linoleum floor. Standing in front of the vanity, she opens the tic tac pack and shakes out a little white mint. She rolls it around between her fingers and turns to face me while she carefully places the tic tac in her right nostril.

“What are you doing?” I shout. “You can’t do that. It’s dangerous!”

She laughs. I can tell she’s mocking me. Then she looks into the mirror, pushes her thick blonde hair out of the way to get a good look at her profile, her big brown eyes fixated on her nose.

Realizing the candy pills are perfect for her little nostril, she shakes out another and shoves that one in with even more confidence. Then, satisfied with its position, she holds one more tic tac in her hand, ready for entry. I look on with astonishment. Noticing I’m still there, she reaches for the door and slams it shut in one swing with more force than a skinny little kid should have. Before I can even think to get the nail scissors from Mum’s bathroom to shove in the door lock to get in, I hear her pull out the drawer. Now the door is blocked and there’s no way I can enter.

This is bad. I have to stop her. I think of all the times I reached the bathroom first as we ran through the house with Wendy close behind me. If I was the one barricaded in that bathroom, she’d stand on the other side and jam the scissors in the lock anyway, slamming the door against the open drawer, just for effect. My brain bulb flickers and I run down the hallway to Mum’s bathroom.

I fling open the only drawer in her vanity and rifle through the various pins, Q-tips, emery boards and lipsticks in several shades of pink. I pick up a plastic container shaped like a long tube and open it up. Oh yeah, it’s to store those white things. What are they called? I can’t remember right now. I can’t think straight. There should be at least one pair in here.

Finally, under a Kleenex pack I find what I’m looking for. Three pairs of nail scissors. I choose the pair with the straightest point.

I rush back and plunge the tiny scissors into the lock while yelling “Get out of there right now! Let me in!” I plaster my face in the two inch gap I have now secured between the door and drawer. Silence on the other side of the door, but I can still feel her presence. I cram my mouth into the door opening, prepared to bellow as loud as I can. “I’m telling, you’re going to be in trouble!” Guilt comes over me, and I now know the inevitable next step has come.

I run downstairs. “Mummy, Wendy shoved tic tacs up her nose and locked herself in the bathroom.” Mum stands in front of the kitchen sink drying a bowl while I continue. “I told her not to do it.”

She looks at me a moment, then shakes her head. Tea towel still in hand, she walks up the stairs with me close behind. “She’s got the drawer out, so I can’t get in.”

When she reaches the bathroom, she does a brisk three-tap knock. “Wendy, open the door. Right now.” I hear the drawer close. The door opens.

Wendy’s face is scrunched up and red. “I can’t get them out” she says in a nasally, panicky voice, one nostril closed tight. What if they don’t come out? We’ll have to call Dad to come help. He’ll bring his doctor’s bag and have to take the tic tacs out with those really long skinny tongs. Or maybe we’ll have to go to the emergency. I’d know what to do if Wendy fell, but I don’t know anything about tic tacs up noses.

Mum puts her arm around her. “Pretend to blow your nose.” Wendy lets out a little snort and one tic tac flies out onto the floor. She touches her nose gently on both sides. “There’s more.” She cries.

“How many more?” Mum asks as she looks over at me, astonished.

“I saw her shove three up there,” I rat.

She sighs. “Well, keep blowing.”
Wendy gives two short snorts and another tic tac sails into the Kleenex that Mum has now taken out of the sleeve of her sweater. Then the third one slips out.

Wendy’s face is still red as she sucks in her lower lip while taking two big gulps of air. She stands there, looking at the Kleenex. Mum takes the tic tac pack and puts them in her pocket.

“I told her that was going to happen.”

“All right. It’s okay now.” Mum says rubbing Wendy’s back as she leads her out of the bathroom. I stand there watching my sister sit on her bed, still looking at the Kleenex in her hand.

“Is she alright?” I ask Mum.

“She’s fine.” Mum says, leaving for the kitchen once more, tea towel at the ready once again. Over she shoulder she says, “why on earth did she do that?”
“I told her it was wrong.”

I know Wendy will never shove a tic tac up her nose again. I also know that I’ll wait until later to get my hands on that little pack, almost full minus three tic tacs, when Mum gives them back. Then I’ll sneak in and take them from her stash.

At least I will eat them.

After six diplomas over the course of my adult life, I am finally back, yet again, this time to get a degree in Creative Writing. It will literally take until I retire – seven to nine years from now – to finish. I am doing this part time while working full time as a trainer and technical writer (if you want the creativity sucked right out of you, just concentrate on some technical writing), trying to finish my manuscript, submit short stories for publication, be responsible for a mother in a care facility with severe Alzheimer’s, and try to maintain a relationship with my partner Mack. What order in which these starring roles are my in life varies from day to day.

My first class went well. The Prof was easy to understand and had some inventive styles of teaching Philosophy, relating the text to current day examples. I’m the oldest by 25 or 30 years. I could be their grandmother – albeit a hillbilly grandmother as I and my daughter (or daughter-in-law) would have had to be 15 years old when we bore a child.

With this age difference, there are many adult traits I have acquired since being 18 or 19 years old. Namely, I show up on time for class, ready to listen and work. So that’s why I spent several days beforehand studying the readings that were posted online.

Everyone else showed up with an empty binder (I printed out the notes online to read several times). One woman came in, found a seat, and slammed her head down on the desk until the Prof arrived. No one spoke to each other. Three others were late by a half an hour and about eight people didn’t even show up.

In my over-zealousness I ended up buying the wrong text book – due to being old and over-prepared – but it appears that I have until the end of the month to return it.

The Prof – he told us he is old enough to remember all three times the Canucks made it to the Stanley cup, which means he was likely eight years old in 1982 – asked us to introduce ourselves and tell the class what program we’re in, why we chose Philosophy, and one thing about ourselves.

Most kids had no trouble saying that they were in the Criminology program and were taking Philosophy because it was the last course available. But when it came to divulging something about themselves, most sat in silence. Eventually, they eked out an “I swim or “I have an older sister”. One young girl (I do say girl because I think she’s likely menstruating, but I can’t be sure) who was very slim said, “Food. I like food.” I looked around the room smiling, trying to catch someone’s eye and forgot there weren’t any other adults in the classroom.

The Prof, obviously used to young people, replied, “Oh that’s nice, what kind of food do you like?”

The young woman proudly said, “Sushi,” which, of course, is a real stretch here in Vancouver.

I, however, waxed poetic about myself, giving several tidbits such as wanting to take this course because it was as different from my job that I could think of, and that I host a reading series and if anyone wanted to read, feel free to come and see me (no takers so far).

I did chat with a few of them and they’re really, well, young and cute. One woman was brave enough to sit next to me and we have good chats about her other courses, the mid-terms she is preparing for, and that her printer broke and she couldn’t print out our assignment that was due that day. I told her to email me next time and I would print it out for her. Adult’s printers don’t break.

Another young woman, who sits in front of me, is a good conversationalist, and our latest chat was about shoes. I was happy to hear that this is a topic that transcends all ages. The only difference was that she told her mother that they were on sale for $40 instead of $70 (regularly $170), not anticipating the fact that Mum would find out when the VISA bill came. I, however, can spend anything I want and already know what will show up on my own VISA bill.

I have settled in though and last week as I rushed to the cafeteria during break time to be first in line to get my steeped tea from Tim Horton’s, I looked around at the kids shuffling behind me in their Uggs and hoodies, and thought to myself, “I am Yoda,” to these tikes. That is, if their parents told them about the movie this character is from.


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