Friday, January 28, 2011

In which Doris reaches out to me by sending me her used books and three mail-order catalogues

Doris complains to Primo that I reject her frequent attempts at friendship. Such recent attempts have included The Airing of the Grievances, Parts 1 and 2, at Primo's New Year's visit to them. Sly and Doris would probably be shocked to learn that what they tell Primo does not fall under the seal of the confessional but is in fact shared with me. Every. Single. Word. Some might say that in the interests of marital harmony, Primo should not tell me what his parents say, but I say in the interests of good blogging, he should reveal it all. Wouldn't you agree?

Other recent friendship attempts ("Reaching Out," as Doris terms it. She REACHES OUT to me ALL THE TIME) include sending a Christmas card. I don't send them one, but that's because they are Primo's parents, not mine. He is in charge of their birthdays and Mother's Day and Father's Day and their Christmas; I am in charge of these events for my own mother.

Marriage does not automatically confer responsibility for card and gift giving on the wife. They are still his parents. In Primo's defense, he has never asked me to take care of these things, although I was not pleased that we had to leave 30 minutes early for a play last month so we could go by the post office to drop off Doris' birthday card so it would get to her in time.

"Did you not know your mom's birthday was December 10th this year?" I asked him. "Did they change the date from its usual December 14th?"

Another Reaching Out was the request that I return to Doris her mother's wedding ring, which Doris gave to me when we got married. I actually don't mind sending the ring back so Doris can give it to Primo's niece (who is named in my will as the recipient of the ring), because I don't like wearing rings and it just sits in my jewelry box. I do mind that Doris asked that a gift be returned to her.

I mailed the ring last week. As my own Reaching Out. Doris sent an email to Primo yesterday telling him that she had received the ring and for him to tell me thank you.

Even Primo thought that was lame. "After you go through all that trouble to send it, she couldn't write an email to you?" he asked.

After New Year's, she sent some used placemats back with Primo. Told him we could give them to Goodwill if we didn't want them. As Doris and I do not share the same taste (see how gracious I am being? "we do not share the same taste" is a nice way to say that my house will never be filled with plaster, ceramic, bronze and iron pigs), the placemats will go to Goodwill after they have sat in a drawer for a suitable amount of time. I did not write a thank-you note.

The most recent Reaching Out was when Doris mailed me from her book collection a novel I had already read, a 30-year-old guide to opals, a gardening book, and three mail-order gardening catalogues.

No note.

Just used books. And mail-order catalogues.

I took the books to the library, tossed the catalogues, and debated what to write in my thank-you note because of course I have to write a thank-you note or else I am an ingrate.

First decision: paper or email? I prefer paper with Doris because it doesn't give her a chance to respond. If I email her something, she will answer and if I don't answer her answer, or even if I do answer her answer but my answer isn't long enough, then I am Rejecting Her Reaching Out and then I am stuck in an infinite loop.

But I guess I can exchange a few emails with her if it will make Primo's life easier. I guess.

I write her an email telling her that I had read the book for book club and had really liked it. I toss in the conversation-starting comment that the guy who always find something not to like didn't like the book because he thought the writer was too hard on the Germans.

It was a World War II novel. About the occupied Channel Islands. Written from the English perspective.

The Germans are not the heroes here.

I mention a few other books we have read in book club. Point out the cranky guy's response to those books, one of which was a memoir by a man who escaped from China. (We are being too harsh on Mao and the Cultural Revolution! Who are we to judge? a comment that got Lynn, the second-most liberal person in the group to snap that in this country, people are not shot or starved or tortured for their political beliefs.)

An email to inspire conversation, right?

No answer. None.

So now do I get to complain that I have Reached Out and Doris is Rejecting Me?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In which I am Late and decide to go back on the pill

Don't get all squeamish on me just because I'm going to talk about Female Things. First, this is the blog my mother does not read and even if she came across it accidentally, she would know to stop reading immediately because I had not told her about this blog and if I hadn't told her, there was a reason and even more importantly, she is not a boundary violator the way Sly and Doris are, and second, I wrote about having a miscarriage. Surely, I can write about a far more common occurrence. To quote my friend Heather, "We're not statues, you know." Although she used a modifier for "statues" that I am not comfortable typing, so your imagination will have to suffice. Basically, she was describing something statues can't actually do, so you're not missing anything.

I am 47 years old. Despite Kelly Preston and John Travolta's recent happy event and their claim that she conceived the old-fashioned way (and indeed, she may have), it is not that common for women of my age to find themselves in the family way without a lot of medical intervention.

Nature is smart: unless you are very rich and can afford a nanny to watch your kid, a maid to clean your house, and a cook to prepare your meals, it's not the wisest thing to have an infant at this age. We pre-AARPers need our sleep. I wear earplugs just so I don't hear the cats whining at 8:00 a.m., demanding to be fed.

I believe that sort of thing is frowned upon when it comes to human babies.

Yet it does happen. Change of life babies are not unheard of. I thought it was unlikely for me given the miscarriage so I hadn't bothered to go back on the pill after the miscarriage.

But a few months ago, I found myself with very bad skin all of a sudden. Not just the mild breakout you get on the forehead from wearing the same hat over and over to shovel snow. Who knew a hat could harbor acne bacteria? But the deep, slow, cystic pimples that take about a month to run their course, not including the fading of the scar, which takes months, and that meanwhile, sit on the forehead or the chin or both in raised, red, not coverable by makeup insolence, drawing attention to themselves so that they are the only thing visible. Neon flashing pimples announcing to the world that they are here! HERE!

What the? Why was I breaking out like that? It had been years since that had happened! I started slathering Clearasil on my face like it was sunblock.

Then I didn't get my period.

Shrug. OK. No period. Big deal. I'm a 23-29 dayer. Used to be a strict 28-dayer but that was in my 20s. I'm getting close to the Big M and these things happen. I thought the extra few days were just menopause sneering at me, spitting in my face and saying, Hahahahahaha! You might exercise and wear sunblock and color your hair, but beneath it all, you are still getting old and your ass is mine!

But then - still no period. Thirty six days and nothing?

"Maybe you're pregnant," Primo suggested.

"No," I answered firmly. "No way. I cannot be pregnant. I do not want to be pregnant."

Still, I was concerned. The formula for pregnant last time was bad skin + late period.

"You could be," Primo reiterated a few days later.

"I better not be," I snapped. I moped around the house, shoveling chocolate into my mouth. I was cranky and brusque.

"Maybe you should take a pregnancy test," he suggested.

"No!" I said.

"But why not?" he asked.

"I don't want to take the stupid test," I told him through gritted teeth. Then I moped some more. And moaned, "I don't want to be pregnant!"

Primo started moping, too.

"What is your problem?" I snapped.

He hesitated. "Is the reason you don't want to be pregnant is that you don't want to have a baby with me?"

"What?! No! No!"

He looked unconvinced.

"I just don't want to never sleep through the night again and I don't want to be putting a kid through college when we're going on Social Security," I told him. "I like our life the way it is. Yeah, it would have been nice to have a baby a few years ago and we would have adjusted, but now? We're just too old."

I also mentioned the bad genetics on his side: his sister was mentally ill and his nephew is retarded. Combine that with old eggs and it's a recipe for a sick baby. A healthy baby would be hard enough, but a sick one would be unthinkable. Who would take care of him once Primo and I were dead?

I convinced Primo that I loved him dearly (easy to do because I do - he is wonderful, lovely, the best thing in my life) but still there was no period.

Day 39, we were getting ready to go out of town. "Don't you want to know one way or another?" he asked.

"No!" I shouted. "I want to be able to hope that I'm not! If I take the test and it's positive, then it's all over. Our lives change completely. I want the possibility that I'm not."

Primo, who is, as you know, an engineer and very logical about almost everything, was baffled by my response. "You know that's crazy, don't you?" he asked.

"Better to cling to that sliver of hope," I told him.

But he prevailed. We went to Walgreen's, my face announcing that we should spend some time in the skin-care aisle, and bought a kit with two tests in it, just in case there was a positive that we wanted to double check. We went home and I drank a diet Dr Pepper, which takes about five minutes to run through me. (Like beer, you don't buy diet soda, you rent it.) I went into the bathroom, closed the door, because we do not pee in front of each other, and did what needed to be done.

Zipped, told Primo to come in. We both watched the stick, fingers crossed.


Oh we were so relieved. Yes, we would have overcome our surprise and shock and would have converted the guest room to a nursery and we would have been happy to do it, not the least because a baby would have been the perfect excuse not to travel to visit Sly and Doris for at least the next five years because who exposes her kid to drunks? Or mean people? and of course they couldn't come here because there wouldn't have been room for them to stay, as Primo and I are no longer willing to sleep in the basement just so they can have our bedroom.

Plus who doesn't like babies? It would have been fun to have a baby. We would have adjusted. We would.

But. Negative.

Loved that pink line.

My period finally showed up five days later. I emailed my doctor and asked for a new prescription for the pill. I can't go through that kind of drama again, even if it means I throw away the unused test.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In which I take a customer to lunch and he gets way too personal so I slap him down

Back when I still had a job that paid money, as opposed to the bone-wearying labor I do now of keeping a house clean for two people and two cats and watching soap operas the rest of the time, just waiting for the moment that Primo goes on a business trip so my boyfriend can come over, I interacted with customers. I was the marketing manager for a corrugated box used for high-value produce, which might not sound very glamorous and that's because it wasn't, but I still liked it.

Not everything: there is nothing like going to a produce trade show in Orlando over the weekend because of course nobody would schedule such a show during the week because that would mean that people would miss work and we couldn't have that, could we?

But mostly. It really was fun and it dealt with food, one of my favorite subjects. I didn't travel that much, but when I did, it was to places like California and Florida and Chile to visit customers, who were grape or peach or pear growers and all of whom insisted that I sample their wares frequently. In Chile, even sent me off with a case of tree-ripe peaches (the peaches you get in the grocery store don't even begin to compare) that alas, I could not take back to the US with me, the USDA being the picky nitpickers that they are.

Oh yes I have a bone to pick with the USDA, who confiscated $100 of serrano ham from Primo and me upon our return from Madrid the first time. We declared it on our customs form and when the customs agent asked to see it, we were stupid enough to give him all four packages. We forgot about the sausage in our bag.

The sausage went unmolested because Memphis' sniffer dogs were looking for drugs, not meat. Our serrano ham?

Into the trash. Although we did tell the guy to please at least eat it so it wouldn't go to waste. But we could have given him a little decoy sausage and had the ham all for ourselves, except we were too honest. For dumb.

What made it worse? I called the USDA before our next trip to Spain to ask about the serrano ham rules and the very nice woman I spoke to said it was fine with the USDA if I brought serrano ham into the country. But Customs said no. I couldn't get anyone to come to consensus, so we just stuffed ourselves on serrano ham from El Museo de Jamon while we were there. We eat bacon while we're stateside now. It's easier. (Bacon-wrapped tater tots are on the menu for Superbowl Sunday. Don't you wish you were at our house, sitting in the cold basement with the big TV, eating bacon-wrapped tater tots, watching the Packers win?)

My other customers were the grocery store chains because they were the ones who could put the pressure on the produce growers to buy our very expensive box. The produce manager at the Albertson's a few miles from the office had been really helpful. We had shot some ads in his store. At 5 a.m. Oh that was a good time. He knew a lot about the industry and always answered my questions.

I wanted to talk to him in detail about some of the issues and asked if I could come by the store.

He suggested lunch.

Or maybe I did, thinking that if he was going to share his knowledge with me, I could at least buy him a hamburger. I had a corporate AmEx and wasn't afraid to use it.

I proposed meeting at the restaurant but he said I should come by the store. I said I could drive us, but he wanted to drive. Not unlike Primo, who is a complete control freak and who cannot stand to be a passenger, especially if I am behind the wheel. I am not a bad driver, but he thinks I am too cautious, which is probably true, as I am the one who always gets caught. He drove his car for seven years in Wisconsin without a front license plate as required by law. It wasn't until I was driving to my grandmother's funeral last summer that a cop noticed. I was the one who was stopped. Me. Always me. I am always the one who gets caught.

Back to customer (let's call him "Bert"). Bert wanted to drive?

Bert can drive.

I got into the car, which was one of those low-slung guy cars with only two seats. The kind I snicker at because I assume it is an attempt to compensate for a lack elsewhere, if you know what I mean.

Before I go any further, I should tell you more about Bert. He was a genuinely nice guy. Middle-aged, gray, balding, too thin, too much smoking, too worried. Recently divorced and recently moved to Memphis. Lonely.

Too lonely.

He radiated loneliness.

I had no interest in his loneliness. I wanted him for business purposes and nothing else. His loneliness was not my problem.

But after we got into his car, he put in a Kenny G CD and soft saxophone music wafted out of the speakers.

Then he mentioned his divorce. And his recent move to Memphis. And how he hadn't met many people yet.

I tried to steer the conversation back to plums and tomatoes.

Got him back on track for a little while until we had placed our orders and were waiting for our food.

He leaned over the table, looked at me earnestly, and asked, "How is it that you're not married?"

My eyes popped open in surprise. He was telling me all kinds of personal things - against my will, I might add - but I had not volunteered any such information to him other than my college and that was because his son was getting his PhD at the same place.

I had recently read a Miss Manners column on the etiquette of intrusive questions and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to put her advice into action. Actually, I had been dying to use her phrase.

"I beg your pardon?" I asked frostily.

He started to re-state his question, then my answer hit his brain and he realized I had understood him perfectly. He blushed and his words came to a mumbling end.

He got the point. My frosty haughtiness had put him in his place.

And I felt awful. He shouldn't have asked the question, but I was mean to him. I could have just laughed lightly and said, "Oh Bert we don't want to talk about such a boring thing! Now tell me some more about how you source your treefruit!" I could have re-directed the conversation just fine without shaming him. First, because I still needed his cooperation, but second and more importantly, there is no reason to be mean to someone who is just a bit bumbling. The response Miss Manners recommended was more ideally suited for someone who is obnoxiously pressing. Fight fire with fire. Frosty > obnoxious. But frosty is way overkill for nice bumbling.

We finished our meal. I asked him my questions and made notes in my spiral-bound notebook. We drove back to the store. No Kenny G this time. He understood.