cuss words

Though I don't make it a public practice, I'm really quite good at cursing. The reason I hold back is because I've learned that there are some skills you shouldn't show off. No one is impressed. And if you come across an individual who finds the talent intriguing, it's the sort of interest you might get when admitting to having a tongue ring. Their main point of concern is thinking about where your mouth has been.

Why do I mention the absence of cusses? Because I've been reflecting on my writing voice and notice that I still can't use a good swear word
. I can't bring myself to do it because I've watched in horror as my mom strangled herself on a few of them. And like hers did, my public vulgarities tend to get stuck on the roof of my mouth. If they make it onto a page at all, it's a drooling, sticky mess. But you can still give me plenty of credit for enthusiasm, even if the actual delivery falls flat. Believe me, the skill is there.

dd to that ability, a fact: My father was a sailor.

I was born to curse.

But I've been put off by my mother's choked attempts. When given both opportunity and motive to deliver a verbal branding, she'd chill the heated and reckless words. At her angriest, I imagine a sailor's vocabulary did a hot dash up her throat only to a cram on the tip of her tongue. There, she'd strip the Adults Only rating, then free the sanitized version to rush from her lips like a too-big bite of watermelon

Though mom's vocabulary during these fits was suitable for a saint, her body language suggested a fury on the level of a Cat 5 hurricane. Even in the chilly Northeast, I seemed to repeatedly provide the right atmospheric conditions for those storms to develop.

Conducting chemistry experiments was how I liked to spend my time after school. I'd lock myself in the bathroom and pull out every tube and bottle under the sink, choosing a liquid of each texture and color. I'd mix them one by one and intensely study the bubbles, fizzes, and pops. If my work took too long to complete, mom, suspicious and concerned, broke head first into my laboratory. The sight of the sink's oozing mess seemed to directly result in a lowering of barometric pressure and the light drizzle of profanity.

"Dog_gone It!"

I once got too enthused about the curve in a pair of cuticle scissors and how it neatly fit onto the line of my brow. In response to my trimming, my mother was able to gather herself into a pretty decent sized squall.

"Give me those scissors! Look what you've done, you GOSH [stop] DARN kid!"
That was a pretty good bluster considering her earlier attempts resulted in nothing more threatening than, "OH!" (pause for the weather report) "go fly a kite!"

There was a time I made her so mad that she wound herself up like a Kansas wind storm. This happened when I found unexpected success in striking a damp and stubborn match, then tossed the incriminating evidence in the trash. As my mother heaved pots of water into the basket, her expression tornadoed into an unrecognizable rearrangement of features. Roiling clouds of emotion expanded and crackled in the space between us. Moisture gathered around my eyes and I wondered how hard she'd swing when adrenaline finished its pump through her popping veins. I stood frozen while she searched for speech, and when it was located, her tone suffocated me more than the pantry's whirling smoke. The woman had wrung herself into what I thought was a hopelessly tangled knot. I stood balled in tight fear and waited for the whipping sound of fast unraveling, or maybe even a thunderclap release of fury, but she suddenly stopped billowing and gave up. Instead of reaching out and wringing my neck, she opted for a higher road and pulled herself into a posture more proper. I still wasn't sure I should trust her hands, but after flying up high in a LordHaveMercy maneuver, they landed safely, one on each slim hip.

"I cannot bloody be-lieve you've done this!"

What you would have said to yourself, were you standing there with us in the middle of a storming ghetto kitchen, is that she was quite properly and royally pissed. That was the first time I considered the effects of trying on a more White and British voice.

Snake Charmer

A summer party is where I, wrapped in standard issue Clubbing Uniform (breast-ratcheting halter, fat-arresting jeans), pose for the inevitable face-squishing female lineup, the "aren't we fun? aren't we hot?!" photographs meant to capture time itself, a singular moment never to be repeated. At least not until next weekend.

A party is also an event I attend while wearing a personalized version of the prescribed uniform only to find that each one of my friends has made a very similar personal choice. The revelation always comes when I see the Windows 7 version of my XP halter, and a copy in each color currently offered by The Limited. Some kind fashionista wearing the amped version will always try to make me feel better about the State of My Chic. I pay no mind to the word emphasis or verb tense.

"Oh, I remember that top in yellow. It looked so cute in that color."

Parties are where I drink just enough to blur the leading edges of an upcoming Monday, and where I dance the precise number of moves to preclude a breakout of frizzy hair. I'm a fairly decent hip jiggler. My riders are always slung low and at the ready, but at last Saturday's festivities I found myself hitching up the waistband. (better to make a run from the dance floor). I was on the lamb to avert a snake-charming professional.

I'll be the first to admit that I really do enjoy making the figure eight movements of a lithe bellydancer, but it's more often the gentle and flowing hand twirls that capture my imagination. I think there's a lot to be said for the smaller, unrehearsed gestures. Last Saturday's hostess was not of the same opinion. She'd invited a professional to treat us to whole body lessons.

As soon as I heard the finger cymbals, I hid behind my sister. Unfortunately, I was spotted. It's not my fault the girl is so petite.

A call to the dance floor is one I eagerly answer, but this time the sound of my name was like hearing drive-by Eminem over your Jack Johnson cd, a disruption you try your best to filter. I made a real effort to appear otherwise engaged and suddenly began a one-sided conversation about the proper mojito muddling technique, but the testing of my previous drink trials had made it impossible for me to appear anything less than loose and ready to party. I finally looked up at the chanting group lined on the dance floor and made a dismissive wave.

"",  I mouthed in silent capitals and with extremely round vowels, then turned back to the topic of lime-to-mint ratios. But the rappers were persistent.

By the third request I noticed the group's movement toward me (stage-left!) and made a sudden break for it. I moved toward the kitchen, but was followed by the Poobah. The Grand Mistress. The Empress. The Bellydance Instructor Herself.

Herself found me behind the club soda. She told me she'd heard that I love the snaking movements and was very good at it. She been told (rat faces) that I would love the lessons. I could see the pinched little snarking going on behind her. The act of snarking took a lot of gall coming from girls with scarves around heads and bells around hips.

I don't do well when cornered, and so I lied. I couldn't help it. It just flew right out of my mouth like a trained messenger bird.

"I'm sorry, I can't."  

I punctuated my apology with a grave look, a semicolon for the benefit of onlookers.

" ; "

"Not since I had that horrible bellydancing accident."

To my (veiled, of course) delight, the confession was met with real horror. I heard a couple of screeches from people with active imaginations (stilettos, rug, snag) or maybe (snake arm, bracelet, bra strap). I can't say. People began to seek verification of the rapidly spreading rumor.

With a sharp intake of breath each conspiratorial whisper came. 
"I heard you had a horrible bellydancing accident."  Apparently the idea of such an abomination bears verbatim repeating. I did not falter, just hung my head in an expression of disbelief that was mistaken for shame. What did I care? The trick was working. I was working the trick.

"Yes." I lied in a tone so low that it seemed to carry a resounding volume. And then, feeling the weight of my bald-faced lie, I grew bold and indignant. "Well it certainly wasn't on purpose!"
I'd turn away, snaking hip first.

"Accident" has, as of 11pm Saturday, become my default reason to explain away or avoid anything embarrassing. I've since decided that what really happened to the roof of my car this past February, the day I pulled the roof up to find tears in the seam, was actually a converting accident. The fact I recently had to rip up the carpet in my closet was not due to flooding, it was caused by an air-conditioning snafu, and while I'm at it, I'll tell you that if this post contains any errors in grammar or spelling, it is due to an awful writing mishap.

tung ring

(previously written)

I might have stepped off the edges of my uneventful day-to-day sometime between 8:00 and 8:30pm last night. What I believe happened is that I lost the groove, skipped a beat, hit a scratch in the record. At any rate, I'm kind of worried about this day. And I really need some sleep.

When I discovered I'd swallowed my tongue ring in the middle of eating a gorgeous yellow pepper with all-natural peanut sauce, I panicked just a little. It wasn't just the little pearl at the end that went missing, but the whole barbell. But I've known a few people who have done the same, so I figure I'll survive. David, who was none too pleased with the piercing in the first place, just shook his head, and a search on the internet for "swallowed my tongue ring" produced messages from high schoolers in full-fledged panic.

"OMG I swallowed my tung ring"

The responses did not make me feel better.

"What?! How could u do that? U R an idiot."

Within the next few minutes, my cat fell off the ottoman. What's unusual about that is not that he fell, but that he took a dive off of such a wide surface. It turns out he had a seizure, and then two more. By that time I'd called the vet, but he advised me that the cost would be tremendous if I didn't wait until morning, that I should monitor him and call back if he worsened. He got no worse, I got no sleep. He's at the vet now, and they're running tests. I'm not really feeling optimistic about this.

On the way to work, I did what I usually do when I have a crisis and called my mom. In the middle of telling her about my Troubles So High, my cellphone stopped transmitting my voice. I could hear her just fine, but I was caught in a black hole. Cut off. The new phone up and died.

My vacation starts Tuesday. I'm torn. I'm sorely in need of it. We are going home to visit family, and made plans for the trip because we fully realize that there are a few members we may not see again. But I wonder whether I will be able to leave our cat, even with people checking in on him. Aside from that, we've no idea what the veterinary costs will be and that's a big pill to swallow 5 days before a trip. Especially for a warm-hearted and generous handyman who takes care of elderly customers, and his idiot wife who likes to swallow stainless steel.

Please send good juju. I'm tired and need to get my groove back.

photo shoot

Right after walking out, I told myself that the tipping point began when she mentioned a detail I didn't think worth recalling. And I did it right after Josh posed us in our fifth consecutive group photo, sandwiching shades of blond and red hair between our sloppy brunette waterfalls. Even in the dimness, I noticed that her teeth remained bared well past the shutter's clench, past the break in the photo huddle. Talking through what instantly became a grimace, she leaned into me with a conspiratorial whisper,

"I just remembered that I wore this shirt before. As a matter of fact it was a year ago, in this very bar. Shit."

"Shit." I instantly echoed her sentiment. She understood it as empathetic. And in truth she was right. Our expletives held the same root, which, were we not in a bar modeling fluffed hair and ratcheted boobs, might have sounded like, "I feel utterly resigned to what the heavy hand of fate has dealt." There we stood, she, accepting the embarrassment of being photographed in same shirt twice, and me, accepting the fact that our gatherings have become routine enough to bemoan that as a horrible turn of events. "Shit", as expletives do, stripped sentiment to such simple form that its universal function was acrobatic. Besides, who am I kidding? "Shit" says it best.

The amateur photo shoots, the horrible shirt or belly dance incidents, and the expletives grow old, but we can't seem to let go of the rituals or begin new ones. We won't let ourselves admit that we're passing time, constructing fun in the easiest (laziest) way we know how. Worse, I can see the same worn expressions on each friend's face when striking the tinny notes in our birthday songs, but we've lost interest in changing the record. Instead, just after everyone hoisted shot glasses in yet another toast, right after Bob offered me a sickly sweet potion with, "You in?" then skipped right past me at the first hint of a "no" headshake, I walked out. The crowd lumbered right, I spun left and kept walking. I made myself push through double doors and ignored the hitch in my step as I reached a Florida summer's perpetually wet pavement. My exit seemed abrupt, but I'd left hints. Like hugging my purse through at least a half hour of telling the stiff and helmet-headed waitress, "No Thanks. I've had enough."

As soon as I'd cleared the parking lot, I phoned David.

"I'm coming home."

The next thing I did was to text message everyone in the group. It was a shitty way out (translate that to: It was a cowardly attempt to save face after a rude exit).

"Drive Safe!" I wrote no "ly" at the end, but included a heartfelt exclamation mark.