Friday, June 22, 2018

Here's how I turned my outdoorsman boyfriend into a proud "buy-sexual"





July 2009

“Does this look okay?”

He is standing in the doorway wearing an oversized, faded red and blue Hawaiian shirt with baggy, oatmeal-colored bathing suit bottoms. There are worn, brown leather sandals on his feet. 

Scottie and I met a year earlier in treatment.  It had been easy to ignore his wardrobe-choices at The Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona.  July of 2008 had been nothing short of oppressively hot (in the triple digits every day) and we were told to bring comfortable clothes for a thirty-day stay (clothes, which we wouldn’t mind getting dirty).   Plus, if his packing experience had been anything like mine (racing around for 45 minutes, hiding empty bottles, blinded by tears), any wardrobe faux pas could be easily forgiven.

But here we are in Los Angeles, nearly a year post-treatment, trying on this new (and highly unlikely) romance.  And he now shows up for our sushi date in  -- well, this. 

“Umm,” I start.  I falter when I see the innocent look on his face.

I feel a match lighting in my stomach.

“What?” His blue eyes are wide with uncertainty. 

I want to just hug him and tell him that its okay.  I want to tell him that what he’s wearing is perfectly fine.  That I'm sure Hawaiian shirts are still “in” some where in the world (but honestly - do they even still wear them in Hawaii?!?).  I want to tell him that I don’t mind his worn, brown leather sandals, but the words stick in my throat.

“No, Honey.” 

It is barely a whisper.  I can’t look up at him. I hear his huge shirt rustling around his rib cage as he takes a few steps toward me.

Oh my God.

“No?!" His tone is incredulous. "Is that what you said?”

I look up at him suddenly.  A surge of heat from that lit match rises from my chest into my throat.

“No, it’s not okay.  In fact it’s terrible.  You can’t wear that old, huge Hawaiian shirt to get go sushi with me.  You can’t wear those swim trunks out in public.  And I hate, I mean I really HATE those sandals.  You can’t wear those either.  Not to lunch.  Not EVER!!"

I’m panting slightly now, taking in big gulps of air while I stare at him.  A year’s worth of "opinion-stuffing" is now out on the floor between us.  He eyes me back evenly and then steps over to a mirror by my front door. Immediately, I feel my body start to cool.

“You mean you don’t like this?  It’s not like I was trying to dress up or anything.  We’re just going down the street to get something to...”

I walk over to him and gently place my hands on his broad shoulders.

“I can help,” I say pleadingly, staring at his eyes in the mirror.  “We can go shopping, okay?  You just need a few key pieces.”

“Seriously, Laura?” he holds his arms out to the side as if I should inspect him further, like maybe I missed something.

“This shirt is REALLY not ok?!”

“It’s offensive,” I say kissing him on his tanned cheek.  “And the bathing suit…”

“It’s not a bathing suit,” he says defensively.  “They’re surf shorts, Patagonia surf shorts.”

I place my finger over his soft lips and face him.  Our noses are less than an inch apart.

“Shhhh. ”  I’m shaking my head as I take a step back. 

“All of this,” I say making a big circle with my hand as if I’m erasing the outfit from his body.  “All of this has to go, Honey -- I’m sorry.  You’re simply drowning in this baggy North-Face-sale-rack-looking stuff.  You have this athletic build and those amazing shoulders.  I know you’ve been in the mountains of Utah for 20 years but you live in LA now.  We need to get you clothes that fit. Clothes that people wear in CITIES when they go to lunch.  Clothes, preferably from this decade.”

I smile widely at him and move in for a kiss. 

“Trust me?”



April 2018


“Honey, you’ve got another package from James Perse?”

I’ve kicked the box as I opened the front door.  As it appears to divide in half, I realize that it’s not actually one box but two.

Scottie comes striding toward me from the kitchen with a grin on his face.

“Hi Honey.  That’s my jacket I hope — and maybe that button down I've been waiting for...”

I drink him in for a moment.  He is wearing jeans that are the perfect wash of dark blue.  The fit makes his legs look even longer.  He wears a thin, white button down shirt under a black cashmere sweater with a slight V-neck. 

“That jacket you said you wanted the other night?” I say with a pout.  “I was going to buy you that jacket for your birthday.”

“There’s a Rag & Bone blazer that I’ve been eyeing too.”  He scoops up the packages without missing a beat.  “Wanna see?”

*  *  *

As we’re lying in bed that night I grow impatient waiting for him to put his laptop down so that we can snuggle and watch the season finale of Homeland.  It’s all we’ve both been talking about for a week and now he seems preoccupied.

“Whatcha looking at, Hon?” I say reaching for my reading glasses so that I can see his screen.  His eyebrows are knit in concentration.  He gives me an absentminded, sideways kiss on the cheek as if to say goodnight.

“I had these pants in my shopping basket.  The soft, black track-pants I told you about? Now I can’t find them anywhere.”

“Honey?” I say with some bass in my voice.  “Homeland, remember?  Any second now someone’s going to post a spoiler!”

“Got 'em!” He startles me as he raises his arms suddenly in triumph.  He turns to me with a wide grin.  He looks giddy with relief. 

“Let me just buy them, Honey --  so I don’t lose them again. And then we can watch, okay?”

He gives me another kiss, only slightly better than the one before.  His eyes are glued back to the screen.

Lord - what have I done? 

"Honey," I say, willing him to look over at me.

I sit there digesting the fact that I've actually created a clothes monster when I remember an article that I'd read in the Sunday New York Times. The article had coined a term for "hetero" men who really like clothes.  A term for men like Scott.

"Ladies," it read, "If your guy has great taste in jackets and his shoe closet rivals yours, you might be lucky enough to have stumbled upon of rare real-life version a fashion-world 'urban myth'- the 'Buy-Sexual' man..."

"Almost done, Hon," he calls out (as if I'm not inches away from his head).  "This is all your fault, you know," he smiles.   "You can't really be mad at me."

At least they're all really great pieces.  And he hasn't even needed input from me in years...


“Okay Hon," I smile.  "Take your time." I kiss him on the forehead and settle back against my pillows.  “And by the way, Hon?  Those pants?  They are really, really good.”


Photocred: JW


Friday, June 1, 2018

Sending out a group text or a mass Graphics Interchange Format (aka GIF)? Well here’s a tip for you: You can miss me with that s#it (for real)


“Let’s see how many hearts of love you are willing to give.  I’ll be waiting on mine…”

Ugh!

I turn off my already parked car and angrily open my Facebook Messenger settings.

Audrey, Audrey, Audrey…

How the fu@# can I block this woman? 

Just as I think I may have succeeded in blocking Audrey I get another message notification.

“It’s a blessing to have a friend like you…”  This GIF has flashing diamonds and gold hearts.

Michael?  Who the hell is Michael? I don’t even know this person. 

I look up his profile and see that he is “friends” with about 100 of my distant relatives (none of whom I have ever actually met or spoken with).  I turn back to Messenger and scroll back up to settings.

“It’s NOT a 'blessing' Michael! You know why?  Because I’m not your friend!!!”

My yelling startles a woman walking by my car. She quickly looks the other way and picks up the pace.

"Happy Mother's Day!" This GIF is from someone named Amy.  "I hope I get one back!"

Answer me this, Amy - is it really a Happy Mother's Day message when you're asking for (demanding) one in return?  Have I even ever met you in real life, Amy? Where is this sense of entitlement coming from?

“Hallelujah!"—  Hails a gold, sparkly "Jesus GIF" from someone named Terry.  “Just a lil something to brighten your day.”

I don’t know what I resent more — the assumption that I am a Christian and will appreciate this religious image, the implication that my day needs brightening or the use of that lazy contraction, "lil" (which also happens to be a favorite prefix for many rapper's names).

I want to message each of them back in all caps: DON’T YOU DARE ever, never, ever - SEND ME NOT ONE MORE MASS GIF! EVER!!!

I picture Terry, Amy, Audrey and Michael sitting eagerly in front of their desktop computers in their living rooms waiting for responses to their respective GIFs.  (Living rooms, which I’m sure are filled with plastic-covered sofas, needlepoint pillows and porcelain knick-knacks)

They’re probably smiling and thinking, “This is definitely going to brighten someone’s day” or “Maybe this person could really use some random, bouncing multi-colored hearts in their lives,” or “This person will know that they have a TRUE friend now!  As evidenced by this glittery, flashing, neon friendship sign!

So yes - I’m kind of a Scrooge when it comes to ANY KIND of mass message.   For instance, an ill-timed group text can send me over the edge just as easily as a mass GIF.  This past Saturday, as some of you know, was prom for many LA-area schools.

The first group text came in Sunday morning at 5:45.

“Just wanted to share some prom pictures!”

Even without my glasses I can see that she’s used at least 20 “cheerful” Emoji’s.

Emoji over-use. Right up there with people who call me while chewing...

I place (slam) my phone back down on my nightstand, cursing her COMPLETE lack of consideration. 

Before six on a Sunday morning??? Who does that?!

Just as I am drifting back to sleep, the responses start coming in -- making my phone vibrate like an angry swarm of bees.

“Awesome!”

“So handsome!”

“Time really flies!”

“Good looking couple”

“Good job, Mama.”

What the….!!!!  Don’t any of these people know how to reply OFF OF the text thread?  How can they not?  And what are all these people even doing up?!?

It makes me wonder -- who actually likes these things?  I mean do you care for group texts and their inevitable chain-responses?  Do you enjoy mass GIFs? Do you read and appreciate all of those bulk holiday messages (Happy Cinco De Mayo!).  And if you do like them, do you ever respond to them?  And if no one is responding, why do people keep sending them?!?

But let’s just assume for discussion's sake, that I am ALL ALONE on this.  Let’s say that I am the only one who has ever growled out loud at a mass GIF — that I am the only person whose daily serenity has been ruined by the unbridled hemorrhaging of obligatory responses to some random group text (or email).  Am I not allowed to be frustrated?  Pissed off?  Fed up?

And my rant would not be complete if I didn’t include one more major pet peeve of mine: New acquaintances who send you one or two word texts first thing in the morning.

“Hey” or "Hi" (These seem to be the most popular)

 Or another favorite:

“Good morning" 

Huh? Good morning?  

Well, not anymore!  In fact, you may have just ruined a potentially good morning by sending me this incredibly irritating text at 7:00am.

And just how am I supposed to respond to Hey, Hi or Good morning?  Should I send a meaningless one or two-word text in return?  I mean are they asking me to begin an entire daylong, monosyllabic text-exchange? 

I’m sorry but this is not “cute." This is not a conversation starter, people, this is a passive/aggressive friendship-ender.  You’re texting me but you're not really saying anything.  Why?

I'd rather you just call and tell me what's on your mind (or just don't send a text if you don't know what to say).

Either way, I'll have more respect for you.


So, shall we review?

No more mass GIF's to “brighten my day” (and just so you know, I will NEVER pass anything you send to me along to 10 "friends" - EVER).

No more group texts where I receive multiple responses, please.  Seeing all those replies pour in one after another makes me want to smash my phone (over your head).

And lastly, no single word salutations from anyone (but especially from new friends).   They make me instantly hate you (plus I refuse to take the bait). 


And no, I’m not ever responding to any of the above — ever.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Did I ever tell you about the time I stood naked on a tabletop for six months? True story…





“Do you ever, um shave that area?”

I am standing on a tall, round plywood pedestal.  He is pacing around me in a circle like a lion stalking its prey. With me up on the pedestal, my bikini line is just about eye level for everyone in the room.

Yes, my bikini line.

Actually, my naked bikini line.

Did I mention that I was naked?

I try not to focus on the fact that my exposed nether region is just inches away from the ever-present cigar in his mouth.  I hold my breath and turn my head ever so slightly so as not to be forced to breathe in the cloyingly sweet, voluminous clouds of smoke that envelope my head whenever he opens and closes his lips around it (the cigar, not my nether region). The smoke coats the inside of my mouth like a film and tastes vaguely of Texas barbecue.

I had been relieved when I’d received my “instructions” for posing the day before. His studio director, Laurie called and asked if I had a few minutes.

“Of course,” I’d said.

“Your job will be very simple.  You will pose for 8-hours per day.  You will have a ten-minute rest break every 50 minutes and a one-hour break for lunch.  It is extremely important that you keep conversation to a minimum.  Really it works best if you just respond to him when he speaks.  Do you have any questions?"

It sounded good to me. I had been rehearsing lame small talk with him in my head for the last two weeks.  I was actually happy that I wasn’t expected to chat with him.

“No, that sounds fine,” I said with a smile.  “Thank you.”

But now Robert has removed his cigar from his mouth and is staring up at me with a disarmingly intense gaze.

Ayyee! "Do you ever shave down there"? — that’s a question! 

I want to pretend that I didn’t hear him.  I want Laurie and her assistant to be instantly incinerated.  Most of all I want to disappear myself. But Robert Graham has asked me a question and now he is watching me with an air of impatience, waiting for an answer.

Suddenly my throat is unbearably dry.  I cough slightly and cover my mouth.  Instantly a clear, glass of water is placed in my free hand. A square, white linen napkin replaces it after I take a few sips.

It is the best glass of water that I’ve ever had.  My throat feels both cool and silky-smooth as soon as I swallow. I wonder briefly if they’ve added something to the water to make it taste so amazing.

“Thank you,” I say quietly.

I turn my attention back to Robert who is still staring up at me.

“Umm, I haven’t had to --  much” I say, starting to feel light-headed.  “But I can?”

It is barely a whisper and is more of a question than an answer.  But I can’t bring myself to talk about this highly indelicate, extremely private subject in front of these strangers any louder than that.

“Good,” he replies.  His voice is a cannon boom.

He is examining my knees and thighs now, holding his cigar in front of him vertically for perspective.  “Do that then and we’ll start tomorrow.”

*  *  *

I feel every breeze “down there” as I shift around in the doorway of his studio the next morning.  The sun seems high for 9:00am in the sky above Venice Beach and I wonder frantically if I am late.  By the time Laurie’s assistant (Beth, I think) opens the door, I’m in a complete panic.

This was a huge mistake! What were you thinking?

But I know what I was thinking. I know that this is no ordinary statue.

Robert Graham has asked me to pose.

Robert Graham?  You know who he is.

The sculptor. The legendary, notoriously private artist who was married to Angelica Huston?

Remember he always wore those clear spectacles, crisp, white cotton shirts and black pants? He had that leonine mane of black and gray hair?

Okay, well, maybe you’re familiar the iconic, Detroit landmark -- that 90-foot, 8000b fist that is the Joe Louis memorial?  What about those archetypal torsos he did for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (at the front of the LA Coliseum)?  Have you seen those? And for you New Yorkers, surely you've come across that 8-foot tall, bronze Duke Ellington memorial in Central Park?

Yes, that Robert Graham.

And now this 26-year old commercial director’s receptionist is inside Robert Graham's inner sanctum --  the tomb-like quiet of his actual, private studio.

Wow…

Beth discreetly points me toward a robe that hangs from a red and gray partition in the corner.  A ticking wall clock quiets my panic as it assures me that I have arrived early enough.

8:47

I suppress a smile that plays with the corner of my mouth.

This is fu*#ing  surreal…

“I should change now?” I whisper.

Why am I whispering?

She nods silently as she backs out of the room, closing the door carefully behind her.  It makes an almost imperceptible snapping sound as the lock clicks into place.

I begin to undress slowly, listening intently to the profound silence around me.  Walking to the window, I can see people talking and moving around outside on Market Street but I can’t hear anything at all.

Maybe this place is soundproof?

Back behind the partition, I step out of my dress, letting it fall to the floor and pull on the robe as quickly as I can.  Grabbing my Sony Walkman from my backpack, I prepare for another “only naked person in the room" humiliation. Holding my chin up, I brace myself and step put from behind the screen.

There is literally nothing else in the room but the pedestal and small table with what I assume to be his sculpting materials and a Barbie doll-sized woman's body standing upright on a small pedestal of its own. I walk over to the small pedestal and touch the doll tentatively, feeling the outline and planes of her body with my fingertips.

Is this me?

All at once, I think I hear a soft sound behind me.  The hair on my arms stands straight up.

Wait -- was that outside or inside?

Terrified that he might catch me in the wrong place, I scurry back over to the partition with my heart beating wildly, peeking from behind it at the door every few seconds.

20-minutes later I get up and tiptoe over to the door.

I should have brought a book.

At 9:30, my nervousness is starting to evaporate.

Really, Dude?  I busted my as$ to get here on time and you’ve got me sitting here in this quiet room all by myself like an IDIOT?!? 

I mean I SHAVED God Dammit!!

Suddenly, downstairs I hear a distinct banging sound (which causes me to jump and stub my bare toe on the polished, walnut floorboard).  I cover my mouth to keep from yelping and hop around lightly on my uninjured foot.  I can hear what sounds like a crowd of people hurrying around downstairs.

There goes my sound proof theory…

A woman’s staccato voice gives what sounds like urgent instructions to a man.  I can hear his responses clearly.

“Right, got it.  In two hours?  No, he’s here now.  Okay...”

Is that Robert?

Suddenly the studio door explodes open and in he flies.  His hair bounces like yarn off the shoulders of that infamous, crisp, white, button down shirt.  We make eye contact for a brief moment and he growls an apology for being late.

He indicates with an impatient gesture for me to disrobe.  After I hang it on the edge of the partition, his eyes travel up my body, stopping briefly on my freshly shaved area, then his gaze rests heavily on the Walkman in my left hand.

“Oh,” I manage.  “Is this okay?  I know you’d said we’d start with my legs so I thought it wouldn’t get in the way. I mean if it does, I’ll put it down.”

“Hmm,” he grunts. “Okay for now, but your hand changes the whole position of your body depending on how you place it.  When I get deeper into the clay I must have you posing – ALL of you posing exactly as the figure."  He points to the Barbie-doll figurine.  "Hands cupped in front, shoulders back, chin raised slightly, muscles taut.  ALL muscles must be taut at all times."

It is the most he’s ever said to me all at once (in fact it was the most he’d EVER say to me all at once).  From that moment on, I learn to read his facial expressions, hand gestures and posture.

He wastes nothing.  Every movement for him has extreme significance. Idle chatter is out of the question.  Our personal lives are just that.  We never discuss or exchange any non-essential information.

There is no music, no outside sounds, no television.

Just Robert Graham, me and the ticking of that wall clock.

6-hours, 40-minutes and six months to go.

Me and my Robert Graham torso, circa 2006


Friday, April 6, 2018

I'm fairly certain that you or someone you know made a racist comment today. Read on if you're not sure #Microaggressions

As most of you know, I live with and am in love with a man from the dominant culture (okay, yes -- he’s White).  A couple of weeks ago, Scottie listened with compassion and curiosity as I ranted for a while about an (offensive) personal essay that I’d been asked to read.  As I vented all of my frustration and hurt to him I used a word that he was unfamiliar with – Microaggressions.

 “Microaggressions, huh?  You should write about that, Honey.  People need to know what that word means. And more importantly what it means to you.”

But I waited for a couple of weeks so that I didn’t just hit you guys with “therapy writing” (angry or hurt writing about recent and/or still unsolved issues).  I waited until I could speak calmly about it. I waited until I had sifted through all of my uneven emotions and come up with the reason why the essay set me off like it did.  I decided that it was the second paragraph that first made my “racism antennae” go up:

“I’m watching a rerun of last year’s BET awards, and in my head I hear, or I should say I remember hearing, “Those blacks, they sure do sing nice.” I am appalled, again. In a drawer, I have tickets for Bruno Mars; we saw Hamilton and are saving up to buy tickets again…” 

What???

I stop reading the online article and push my chair back from my desk.  An old, familiar boil begins churning in my stomach and sends a strong flash of heat up through my neck to my face.

I pull in closer and read on.   My eyes seek out and find other offensive words and phrases throughout the article:

“Silly little ninny,” is used to describe a young, Black girl that the author sees at a bank. 

“Lazy jig-a-boos,” is the phrase that springs into her mind when a Black, male student in her writing class leaves the room several times.

Helpless, angry, tears sting my eyes. I close them and turn away from my computer.

Keep it together, Laura.

To be fair, this author (whose initials, ironically, are L.R.) attributes these words and phrases to the relatives that raised her.  She says that while she admits the phrases are objectionable, she still cannot keep herself from THINKING these things when she encounters Black people (Uh – WOW, right?!?).

So I’ve got news for her (and anyone else who thinks this way) — those words, even when used casually to explain the thoughts and behavior of “others” are offensive.  I will not speak for all Black people or people of color (of course) but I will say that they are offensive and hurtful to me.  And like I told Scottie, they have a name. 

Microaggressions

Microaggression: Is something, which is especially offensive to people of color (brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional that, communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color).

I feel like Microaggressions is kind of a misnomer.  There’s nothing “Micro” about the impact of these aggressions.  They carry all the punch of a regular aggression.  It boils down to this for me.  There are just simply some words and phrases that you cannot say if you're not Black.  Not even when you are giving an “example," not even when you are singing the lyrics to a popular song, not even when “all of your friends are Black.”

Never.

Because, L.R., as a Black woman, I cannot assume that you mean well.  I also cannot assume that you don’t know any better (and even if this were true it’s still not an excuse, you’re a grown-ass woman and an author. You should have made it a point to know better).  And even though you offer the fact that you “dated a Black man once” and that you are saving up to see Hamilton (again) as evidence that you are not a racist, I'm sorry, but I cannot assume that you had honorable motives for writing this article.

But here’s what your use of these Microaggressions DOES force me to assume — that you are either a racist or you are walking around with some serious, unchecked, racial bias. 

And unfortunately, this means that I will never be able to be at ease around you.  It also means that I will never be able to trust you around my children, who are not children now, but young, Black men (or how did you characterize that young, Black student in your class?  Oh that’s right, “Lazy jig-a-boos?”) 

Scottie and I have been together for ten years this summer.  He has a really decent understanding of where and how he can participate when our family discussions fall around the subject of race, specifically when it’s about what it’s like to be a person of color.  In other words, he knows the rules.  When he hears others from the dominant culture straddling that line, using words that don’t belong to them, whether in an effort to connect or an attempt to be hurtful and destructive, he is appalled (and hurt sometimes I think, for me).  He knows when to “check his privilege.”  He knows that that the oppressed can never be the oppressor and therefor, here in America,  Black people cannot be racist.   He also knows that once you say those forbidden words out loud you can never put that toothpaste back in the tube.  It’s out there.  You have shown your true colors (no pun intended).

The last thing I’ll say is that I’m not an idiot.  I know that many people think this way, speak this way, especially when they’re “amongst their own kind” (remember, “shi*thole countries”)?   So yeah, since our Commander in Chief uses these words, I have abandoned the optimistic notion that we might one day live in a so-called “post racial society.” But that doesn’t change the fact that these words are deeply rooted in the racist soil upon which this country was built.   Microaggressions are words that wound and they infect the bloodstream of our society like a toxin. 

And also, these words hurt my feelings when you use them.

The last thing I’ll say (for real) is that there are several other groups of marginalized people that also suffer from Microaggressions.  Brown people, Native Americans, Asian people, people of the LGBTQ communities, Muslim people, Jewish people, etc.  Also in a very real way, other people who fall prey to Microaggressions include; overweight and underweight people, people with learning and/or physical disabilities, people who speak with an accent, people in recovery, people with food allergies or dietary restrictions, people from so-called third world countries, poor people or rich people (although I wouldn't categorize wealthy people as marginalized), but you get my point, the list goes on and on.  

Here are some examples of Microaggressions below:  




That's really all I have to say about the matter (I think L.R. has taken up enough of my precious energy).  But I’d love to hear about your own experiences with Microaggressions.  Please leave them in your comments for me.