Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't give the ghost up, just clench your fist

I watched a few episodes of “Tell Me You Love Me” when it originally aired on HBO, but never understanding where the assorted storylines began and how they ended, I ended up Netflixing it earlier this year. A few of the characters were pretty insufferable – and it’s definitely something you should avoid watching with mere acquaintances (it’s borderline Cinemax fair), but all in all, I found it pretty powerful and true to life as far as the human condition goes. Mostly, I loved a song featured in the last episode. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Killers, but this was my undoing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

To the left, to the left

My left hand has long been a simultaneous source of frustration and pride, an extra pinky toe you whip out for party tricks but later curse when your shoe is too snug. My great aunt Marge’s constant reminder of my good fortune rang in my ears throughout childhood, nostalgic but mournful.

“I was born left-handed, but the nuns made me write with my right hand. They forced me to be right-handed,” she’d say, looking longingly at her now vestigial left hand, wondering what could have been.

This of course brought to mind images of limp, useless right-hand claws contorted around a pencil, under penalty of ruler slaps or school yard laps, or whatever the punishment was at the time. I understood the root of her message – “Be grateful. No one is forcing you to be normal.” And so I let my freak flag fly at half-mast, tentatively exploring the seedy world of left-handed notebooks and scissors, softball gloves and school desks.

The scissors didn’t work. I had to teach myself to be right-handed in that one particular instance. But in every other area, I began to discover a subtle sense of pride in the quality that set me apart from my immediate family and 90 to 93 percent of the general population. My dad taped a newspaper clipping featuring the names of famous southpaws to my bedroom wall, and every once in a while I’d scan the list for reassurance, confidence and conversation fodder. Dan Akroyd, Tim Allen, Harry Anderson, Fran Drescher, Whoopi Goldberg (who also shares my birthday), Terri Garr, Dick Van Dyke. A lot of sitcom stars, a lot of funny people.

When it came to sports, my left-handedness became an excuse I dropped like all of the softballs that missed my special glove and hit the dust below with a thud. “I’m shockingly bad at badminton because I’m left-handed,” I would inform gym teachers, coaches and anyone else within earshot. “I only made one basket in five years of grade school basketball because I’m left-handed.” “That bowling ball flew out of my hand and on to your foot because… you guessed it.”

Truth is, I just suck at sports. Always have and, much to the chagrin of my outdoorsy, athletic husband, always will. But while I didn’t fool everyone, the mystery of what it means to be a leftie confused some gym teachers into giving me a passing grade.

Over the years, involvement in athletics became voluntary, and I opted for the hands-free variety, like running and sitting. I met more people, and therefore more left-handed people, and it just seemed less special. I thought of it only when I’d end up on the wrong side of a restaurant booth, elbowing my dinner companion in the ribs every time I lifted my fork.

Cut to yesterday when I saw the photo of Obama signing the Wall Street reform bill, his left hand twisted at the same painful-looking angle I’m now used to. “He’s doing that so he doesn’t smear his signature,” I thought to myself. This was followed by a “Hey! I forgot Obama was left-handed!” And then I looked it up, and five of our last seven presidents have been. The Washington Post points out that, statistically speaking, we should only have a leftie leader once every eight presidents. Are left-handers born leaders? There are lots of theories on why left-handed people are the way they are – and what it means when it comes to personality. Some characteristics are good (right-brained creativity), some not so good (you could very well be crazy and/or have an auto-immune disorder).

Whatever the reason and the result of this condition, Obama’s awkward bill signing was a good reminder of the pride I once took in my own uniqueness. Plus, with Michelangelo, Luke Perry and Seal in my corner, I’m in pretty good company.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Monahans are, by nature, cold people. Not frigid (although occasionally aloof), but actually, physically cold.

When I was younger, I mostly anticipated our weekly Wednesday night trips to Shoney’s – kids could eat free, and I would pile my chilled, metal salad bar plate high with reckless abandon. But there was a certain dread in knowing that once indoors, away from the humid summer air, the waitress would inevitably seat us near an air conditioning vent or a ceiling fan or the soft serve dispenser, and my dad would ask that we be moved.

While in hindsight it was a perfectly legitimate request – he was cold, and there were warmer spots available, the shame that came with getting up and walking across the restaurant to a new table was almost enough to keep me from enjoying my plate of ham cubes and syrupy strawberries.

Over the past decade, that constant chill my dad experienced has crept into my bones and skin and fingernails with a vengeance. But not only do I feel cold, I’m actually cold to the touch. I’m a pet iguana that likes to sleeps in the microwave. And just as my dad almost always had some sort of extra layer present – a jacket in July, two sweaters in September, I too have my armor. I am obsessively, hopelessly dependent on cardigans.

If I am not wearing one, there is one in my hand, or stuffed in my purse. There is likely one in my car, one on the back of my chair at work and numerous others in my closet at home. The beauty of the cardigan boils down to several factors – it is not a parka, so no one will look at you like they look at those people who wear parkas in the summertime; it is portable; it can enhance an outfit without dominating it; and, if sufficiently substantial, it keeps your arms and torso warm.

Through the years, I’ve accumulated an Imelda Marcos-caliber collection, but for every one or two cardigans I acquire, I’ll loose one. I can only hope that those fallen soldiers are out there somewhere, keeping an office worker warm or a chilly moviegoer comfortable enough to stay for the closing credits. Or even keeping a Shoney’s customer from embarrassing her progeny by moving to the smoking section, just to get away from a drafty window.

Cardigan Hall of Fame

Most angst-ridden: A little navy, wool number I picked up at the Dodge Street Salvation Army store when I was a freshman at Creighton. Its label was stitched with gold thread. I wore it with corduroys and t-shirts of grade school sports teams.

Most worn: A gray v-neck I bought from Forever 21 shortly after moving to Chicago. I know clothing from Forever 21 is supposed to turn to dust when it hits water, but this has been washed and worn more times than I can count. And I am wearing it right now.

Most missed: Kelly green with green buttons from Francesca’s Collection. I loved it, and yet I didn’t love it enough not to leave it in a cab.

All-time favorite: A royal blue, merino wool three-quarter sleeved sweater from J. Crew. It has a small ruffle around the neck. It fell behind the radiator at my mom’s house during my brother’s high school graduation party and went missing for a year. Getting it back was like being reunited with a lost dog, if the dog came back wearing my cardigan.

Most wanted: Something dark orange with pockets for snacks.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The world just blinks

I know I'm breaking the cardinal rule of blogging by being themeless and scattered, but you know what... I really like this song (Frightened Rabbit has some strange, Scottish power over me). And my sister is waiting for me. Normal blogging will resume tomorrow! Or sometime thereabouts.


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