When I’m writing I try to focus on life’s ordinary happenings, and in doing so find some extraordinary or curious point of consideration in which to view them. Some jump out at me, and I can’t get home fast enough to write them down, and some require my brain to marinate in them a bit in order to attach any words. It’s humbling either way to sit down and do what feels quite arrogant—put my words down for anyone to read but–luckily life likes to humble me, or us, whenever it can. It’s so quick to put us in our place precisely just when we are deep into a lofty thought or selfish reflection.
I actually like it when life “keeps it real.”
For instance, the other day I had just finished getting dressed. Makeup done. Hair done. A glance in the mirror and I quickly assessed that it was going to be a good hair day. Good hair days are something that curly-haired girls never take for granted. On this particular day, not only did I have shampoo ad hair, but I also noticed that it was a “cute” day all around. You know what I’m talking about? Some days we just look better than others. Maybe we got more sleep or we lost a couple of pounds recently and our jeans are showing it—it was that kinda day. Before I put my shoes on I remembered that I wanted to trim my toenails—being that it’s winter, pedicures are not in full season. I lift my leg up over the bathroom sink and begin, “clip, clip, clip…,” With about the third “clip” a toenail shot up into my face. I looked up on the mirror and around on the vanity wondering where it went, and then I saw it.
Just hanging there, stuck in my freshly glossed, “Pink and Proper,” bottom lip–was my damn toenail.
Now I’m not fond of toenails. My friends and family know that toenails, even feet in general, can trigger my gag reflex. When I was pregnant, just hearing the squeak of my husband’s toenail clippers in the other room made me sick.
I have a group of girlfriends who, one year for the Christmas season, decided we would all go together and do some volunteer work…one suggested we go to one of the Catholic churches on a certain day when they “wash feet.” My reply back to her was immediate and emphatic, “I’m out.” Everyone has to know their limits and that was mine.
There’s always that pause when something humbles me like that. I like to soak up the moment and gain introspection from what the universe is telling me. On this day it was probably something like, “Oh just get over yourself, Miss Priss.”
I sighed. Ingloriously plucked the toenail off my bottom lip. And just like that my ego was back down to earth…in fact the universe had stuffed my ego into a plastic bag and tied a knot in it, choking off any air to it at all. Lord knows the universe wouldn’t want a girl to feel good about herself for no darn good reason on any ordinary Tuesday. What’s the point in that? The universe saves most of that for proms, weddings, when you’re in a coffin–important stuff.
That’s when it hit me. What if I had left the house with a toenail stuck to my lip? What if I had answered the door to the cute, flirty UPS deliver guy or I had shown up for an important job interview with a little, pointy, half-moon of globular protein hanging from my lip? What if I had met a friend for lunch and proceeded to take a bite of a sandwich and my friend had to stop me saying, “Hold on. I think you have a piece of toenail on your lip…” ???
I’d have to move to a new town.
Life just likes to remind you who is charge from time to time. It’ll throw you down with a glass of wine in hand onto at stone walkway, throwing wine and crystal everywhere (me). It’ll let you have a TP tail coming out from your smock as you come out of the ladies’ room at the fancy hair salon (me). You’ll have your top on inside outward but won’t realize it until you are at the end of the day, and you recall all the places you were that day with people probably thinking you were drunk (me, and no I was not).
You’ll be sitting in your dermatologist exam room with your legs hanging off the table, and you’ll look down and realize you have on two different shoes (me, again, not drunk, I swear).
You’ll be at a fancy work function trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism, swing your purse around, start an avalanche of beer bottles tumbling to the floor and if that’s not bad enough you’ll accidentally press up against the light switch at the same time so just in case someone in the room of 200 people couldn’t quite see who was making the ruckus–you spotlight yourself like it’s last call at a dive bar (actually not me, for once).
Or you’ll be in such a hurry trying to make everyone else’s life happen on time that, after paying, instead of replacing the nozzle back on the pump you’ll just jump back into your car to pull away…taking the nozzle and half of the gas pump with you (nope, not me either).
Or you are skinny dipping with a bunch of your girlfriends, and the cops show up to see who’s making noise at the pool after midnight And all your girlfriends grab their towels and run as screaming ninny’s into the bathroom leaving you to talk to the police officer with only a terry cloth drawstring bag that either covers one “part” or another, but not all “parts.” Take it from me, your ego leaves the building–actually it leaves you and goes to find a building. It’s hard to look cool while you’re standing naked in a drippy puddle in front of a uniformed stranger with a gun.
Or you’re in a costume shop hunting for something to wear to a big Halloween party. You see an “I Dream of Jeannie” costume. Loved her! You grab it and run into the dressing room. You shimmy it all on in a frenzy, including the cute, little pill box hat with the chin scarf. You turn around to gaze at yourself. No doubt Barbara Eden looked adorable in it, but you look like an organ-grinder monkey.
Get it off! Get it off!
Or you take a drink of your Mountain Dew while you are riding your bike and run straight into a parked car on the side of the road.
Or you are feeling pretty cute, again, because you have a first date with a new guy and just as he’s supposed to show up your old boyfriend rings your doorbell and “wants to talk”…as he’s telling you that he doesn’t think you should get back together your first date pulls up into your driveway…so you spend half of your first date apologizing to the new guy for the old guy. Life just likes to let you know it has a sense of humor, it’s in charge and when you’re getting too big for your britches.
Or you get your side zipper stuck on your dress pants and you work in an all-male office. And you’re wearing thong panties that day. Call it Murphy’s Law…I think even Murphy was trying to help me get my pants zipped up that day. At one point, I caught myself looking up asking, “Do you even work here?”
Or you’re in 5th grade and as you reach into the cage with the class pet mouse, Pinky, she jumps up inside your blouse sleeve. Panic ensues. Teacher drags you off to the girls bathroom to retrieve the mouse who is elusive in the shirt sleeve. Discussion of Plan B-mouse retrieval, aka Plan Boobies, then occurs, and the teacher tells you you’re going to have to unbutton your shirt to get the mouse out–In front of your female classmates who came to the bathroom with you as a show of moral support–and you didn’t wear a bra to school that day (yeah, that one was me).
Towering Oaks Baptist School had not had such a nudity scandal since the janitor, Mr. Gene, was outside the girls bathroom talking to a teacher about who was smoking in the stalls (not me). I came out of the restroom one day, heard the discussion, and in my “name-taking, do-gooder” Barney Fife attitude said to them “Yeah, there’s a lot of butts in there…”
I heard it the minute it came out of my mouth. Life keeping me in my place again.
Or, one of my personal favorites–when I wrote a long, scathing comment to a company who misused the plural form of Notary Public. I wrote on and on about how it was “Notaries Public,” and I knew because I had worked for the National Notary Association (dork). The company responded to me thanking me for bringing their attention to the error, but also wanted to bring my attention to the fact that I had spelled Notary Public as Notary “Pubic.” That one still haunts me. The universe again saying, “get on with your bad self now.”
These are the moments that keep you in check with your inexperience and our powerlessness. They level the playing field for our egos and teach us humility and how to laugh at ourselves, and if not in that exact moment, years later. I appreciate that life likes to keep us real. Plus, lets face it, after you are over the discomposure and the painful awkwardness, they are what the good stories are made of.
Then there are the ones you can’t completely blame yourself for but you certainly feel the sting. Example: when your Kindergartener, after rushing to catch the bus with him on a hurried, crazy morning, hears you sigh, and as he takes one step on the bus turns around and announces to everyone at the bus stop and the church deacon bus driver, Brother Carl,
“Shew! MOM! Now you can go back in the house and have your Martini!”
I don’t know why he said that. He was mistaken.
We all know he meant “Margarita.”
Keeping it real.