Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

Vacation: Memory Lane

Hey Fat,
I’m not being a bitch and ignoring your Face Time request. I’ll call you back later – if you’re calling because Chelsea isn’t giving you enough treats in my absence, you don’t have my sympathy.
Inclement weather means it’s family night and we’re watching a video of a man-wolf thrust provocatively while singing that Gloria Estefan song, ‘Bad Boy’. Hilarious comments of his prowess have long since been made and his dry-humping teeters on ubiquitous so we’ve wandered into an awkward family silence. We’re sitting here eating our pizza and looking from one another wondering who will reach for the remote and fast-forward to anything other than this sad man who probably anticipated this role would be his ticket to stardom. It seems like a good time to casually take out my phone and email you in order to distract myself from this prolonged moment from a strange 1994 home movie.
I suppose this email has thus far offered more questions than answers – Dad had our old camcorder footage transferred to DVD and we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Believe it or not, this wolf-man who ripped off the moves of a Chippendale’s dancer is actually performing in a Beetlejuice show we saw at Universal Studios back in the mid-nineties. I can only imagine what Yo Gabba Gabba and the Doodlebops allow at their children’s shows… complimentary LSD with admission, perhaps. Kids today are much more advanced.
Also in watching movies of us in Disneyland, I can’t help but notice the bright orange hat I wore in the California sunshine. Across the front it reads, Sweet Thing. It’s almost a beacon to a pedophile, isn’t it? Dodged a bullet on that one. Ah, the nineties.
Speaking of old times – I found my prom dress tucked away in one of the closets when I was looking for a sunhat. You know me; I love to play dress up. Get this, the dress still fits.

IMG_2303[1]Putting it on, I feel exactly like I did at seventeen when I tried the dress on for the first time. The saleslady must have watched too many bride shows because when I came out of the dressing room, she handed me a tissue and said I was having my ‘perfect dress’ moment. Unfamiliar with how the process normally occurs, I dabbed my armpits with the Kleenex and handed it back to her – it was sweltering out after all. I later realized she anticipated a single dramatic tear when I saw my reflection in the wall of mirrors; I’d be too choked up to make a sound and I’d just nod emphatically as if to say, “This is it. It’s perfect.” Nobody teaches you how to deal with situations like this, what was I supposed to do?
I’m so delighted to be able to wear my princess gown again, I made an afternoon of sashaying around and pretending to be somebody majestic (I’ll pause to let you make some kind of sarcastic comment, Fat). Of course, when meandering down memory lane and wearing a prom dress, my aunt asked me about my prom date. I could maybe pick him out of a crowd, but his name eludes me. I want to say it was something ordinary like Paul or Josh or something. Clearly, he was special.
It’s funny; I never really spend time thinking about the faraway past. It’s kind of fun, like witnessing somebody else’s life because I’m so far removed from it.
Update: The man-wolf has disappeared and we’ve cut to some footage of cannonball contests at the hotel pool. And – oh crap. I just got hit in the face by an overenthusiastic stepsister. This film just turned around, I’ve got to watch this. Hope everything is well at home, Fat. See you soon.
Love,
Boss

 


  

 Boss,
We’ve got a code red situation. Chelsea brought her boyfriend over to feed me tonight and he called me Wilbur (which, by the way, is the name of a gelatinous pig in case you were wondering). Things are falling apart here. Take leave of your home movies and old-ass prom dress from a graduation dance that occurred before the birth of Christ. I’m serious. Get out of the past and come home NOW.
Fat

Conversations That Ease Abandonment

“I thought you said you were going to putter around the house today? What’s this nonsense you’ve got going on?”

Fat sits right in front of the plastic cup I’ve placed on its side on the carpet. She looks to where I’ve repositioned the coffee table — out of the way, beside the cloudy window of the patio door so I have more room.

I briefly take my eye off the brilliant pink of the Volvik ball in front of my feet. Instead of answering, I let my arms swing back and there’s the nice sound of the golf club connecting to the ball. Our heads move in unison as Fat and I both watch the pink sphere roll across the carpet. If my aim were better, I wouldn’t have missed her by a foot. However, this ball lands closer to the cup than my first one; the latter found a new home under the couch.

“So again I ask, what on earth are you doing?”

“Putting.” I give the feline an exasperated look with my answer, “Obviously.”

“And the outfit?”

“Pretty, yes?” The putter becomes a fancy cane that I lean on and strike a pose. I’m wearing my white golf skirt, teal shirt, matching shoes and glove that ties the ensemble together in a neat little bow. I figure if I’m going to play terribly and get drunk off beer at the golf course, I might as well look good doing it. I use the putter to manoeuver another ball from the remaining three into position.

“Sure, Boss.” Fat doesn’t move. She’s seen my skills and she’s clearly not worried about me hitting my target. Fat is smart like that sometimes.

Concentration and intention pour from my brain into my hands. My head tilts to Fat, then to the ball, then to Fat, then back to the ball. The golf club lifts gently off the ground, the hips swivel slightly, eye on the ball and…

“The dress-up thing doesn’t surprise me.”

I sigh and lower the putter to the ground. The sun comes out and light drifts into our dismal living room. I offer her my silence in exchange for an explanation.

The good doctor smiles as though she’s won something, and maybe she has. “You like to dress for occasions, don’t you? There’s this golfer outfit you’ve got here, when you fixed the closet door handles you gussied yourself up in coveralls, the rare times you bake there’s always an apron and the matching oven mitts, you even have a bandana for changing oil in a car. It kind of gives a clue as to why you’re old and alone.” Fat pauses, giving me time to make some sort of realization.

I twirl the putter around since I have nothing I should contribute to the conversation. I want to make a comment about being self-sufficient, but I’ve fallen into her traps before. It keeps my rage in check if I don’t give her a reason to make me feel like an idiot.

“There’s no kind of costume or Personal Protective Equipment for being in a relationship with you. It’s a wonder anyone has ever signed up to be your boyfriend.”

“PPE? Like goggles and safety vests?” I hesitate to ask, because I worry Fat will take the conversation to a XXX kind of place. Those S&M folk play dress-up too.

“More like a metaphoric jock strap. It’s almost like you truly don’t want to find somebody. Ever.”

I revoke my full attention and line up once again with the golf ball. “You think I’m a lot more harsh than I actually am.” I hit the ball without forethought, and it ricochets off the wall with much too much force. “Why don’t you think I’m fine without a man, Fat? This isn’t a hundred years ago. I’m not even close to old maid status.”

“But you would be such a beautiful bride. And, if you don’t mind my saying so, a great mother too.”

I frown and my mouth puckers like I’m tasting pink grapefruit. “You’ve supported my single life in the past. Whose agenda are you pushing?”

The feline scratches her temple and she bears a confession face. “I was maybe corresponding via text with your parents under the guise of your identity.” Her sheepish face switches to scorn, “When were you going to announce that you’re leaving me for a week?”

“My parents, of course. They can see my older brother about more grandkids, he’d love to add to his brood.” He’s planning a wedding next year too; that should take the heat off of me for a couple more years at least. “And stop playing on my phone.” I’m going to need to change my passcode.

In all honesty, I had no intention of telling Fat I was leaving, she would figure it out once Chelsea showed up to fill her food dish. I think euphorically of my plane ticket and lazy Okanagan plans. A week of freedom starting tomorrow. G’bye, Fat.

The feline squints at me. “What is that ridiculous smile for?”

There and Back and None the Saner

“Did Mutt serve as a pack mule for your travels?”

Fat has a brief moment to spy the mud-spattered dog before he charges into the apartment leaving me in the hall with my bag of dirty laundry and his bag of prescriptions, food and toys. I honestly think I packed more stuff for Mutt than myself. By the time I lazily kick the bags into the apartment and shut the door, Mutt has Fat pinned on the carpet. Her back legs kick out in protest as he chews on her ear.

“He’s happy to see me. Why is he happy to see me?”  Fat’s grey face pokes out from being smothered by Mutt’s cream-coloured fur. “Get this thing off of me. Get him off.” Urgency fills her sentences and the good doctor sounds on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

My hands grab around the dried mud of Mutt’s hind legs and I propel him off Fat with a wheelbarrow manoeuvre. Mutt’s face turns over his shoulder, giving me a look of pathetic misunderstanding as to why his front legs keep getting forced forward in awkward steps. He then sees his travel bag of goodies tipped over in the hall and he dashes out of my grasp to chew on his stuffed alien dog.

“Fat, don’t deny his affection. You should be grateful that somebody in this apartment cares so much about you.” I pull off my hoodie and drop it on the hall table. “How did things go well I was away.”

“How did it go?” Fat slowly repeats the question to buy herself time to remember. “I watched that movie Bernie – I dare say it is Jack Black at his finest, I had a sleepover with my cuddle buddy on Saturday – I didn’t think you would mind. Oh. And I spent the entire weekend drinking out of the toilet.” She smiles at me, but it doesn’t appear to be a happy smile.

“Why did you–”

“It’s a whole thing and I don’t want to get into it. Just for the record, you are never to leave me again, okay?” It’s phrased like a question, but this is clearly a demand. Fat, annoyed, licks her paw and attempts to remove traces of Mutt’s saliva from her fur. She shoots me a quick glance. “At least you seem to be doing better. You’re not wearing that stress all over your face. I trust that your trip to the home land served you well.” Fat scowls as she brushes flecks of dry mud from her fur. “Seriously, where did this come from?”

“We went for a hike with my parents before we drove home.” I press the dark pink colour on my shoulder, watch the patch of skin turn momentarily white and then turn pink again.

The feline lets out an obnoxious, insincere laugh that comes to a halt when she sees my sunburnt arms. “I’m sorry. You said hike and I thought it was a joke. You don’t hike.”

“I think I might start… I liked it.” Though, I might consider sunscreen on my next time out to change it up a bit.

Fat seems to have completely forgotten about cleaning her fur. She assesses me for sincerity and the pause in conversation stretches out into sixteen hours. “No you didn’t. You just think you did. I’d bet many dollars that you’ll drop this idea of wanting to be a hiker within a week. I’ve heard stories of your parents – howling at the moon types that they are. Frankly, you probably only liked this morning’s hike because you were still drunk from the night before.”

“You can’t prove that.” The fact that we were up until almost sunrise drinking and shooting pool the night previous is only further evidence to her claims. I keep that information inside my head and smile. I love my parents. They’re a couple of rock stars.

“We’ll see, boss. You’re more of a sayer than a doer. And those times you are a doer, it’s usually done half-assed on the effort scale.”

“I beg your pardon?” Instant rage fills me, then subsides when I decide that I need a shower. Also, I’m kind of hungry. I might want some tea and some quiet time on the couch reading. My thoughts go full circle until I’m back at my stance of being offended.

“Boss. Really?” Fat rolls her eyes, catches sight of the dog as she does so and then looks disgusted. “You even dropped the ball on going on an actual vacation. You were talking about that months ago. You were talking about going to Ontario.”

Oh yeah. I forgot about that.

“Maybe it’s not my fault that I’m a sayer and not a doer. I have intentions, but I lack the memory to remind myself to see things through. Fat, after I shower, I’m going to start doing some things.” I wander into the bathroom and turn on the water.

I can hear Fat still talking in the hallway.

“Do what you want. However, you won’t be going on that vacation. Did you not hear me say you’re never leaving me again?”

I’m Spinach?

“Dare I ask why you are eating a bowl of spinach leaves in the manner one typically munches potato chips?” Fat jumps up beside me on the couch. A leaf is pinched in my fingers, which pause on the way into my food hole. I look up from the phone in my other hand; I finish and send the text before I address the feline.

“Wonderful observation, doc.” My legs cross at the ankles as the coffee table magically transforms into an ottoman. It’s important to look for furniture pieces that double as other things when furnishing an apartment as small as my own. I also use the ottoman/table for a karaoke stage when I’m in that hazy place between drunk and passed out, but that’s another matter entirely.

“So…” The vowel sound continues for seconds longer than is necessary. Fat’s eyes stare inquisitively at the bowl of greenery tucked gingerly into the crook of my arm.

“The simplest ideas are by far the most brilliant. You recall the other day when you suggested I go on vacation?”

Fat nods.

“I thought you might. It really broke your heart after when you found out you wouldn’t be invited.” Fat’s head bends into the small bowl to look at the salad greens up close. She recoils almost instantly.

“S’okay. When you feel guilty you compensate by giving me enough cat treats to trigger diarrhea.” Her smile broadens and becomes murderous-clown kind of menacing. Note to self: convince Boyfriend to change the litter box.

“Gross.” Any desire to consume the spinach leaf held between my fingertips is gone. It falls freely back into the bowl. I bounce back from my disgust quickly; the upside of having three brothers is one gets a lot of practice repressing vomit-worthy thoughts. “So I might go to Ontario for a bit and I might go to Mexico. Maybe both. I don’t know. Still trying to figure it out.” If I could make both work, that would be seven kinds of sensational.

Fat’s head leans back as she dramatically rolls her eyes. “Oh yeah. In that case your current action makes the most sense in the world.” She frowns in judgmental afterthought, “Ontario?”

“One does not go on adventures with a fat ass, dear feline. Therefore, I’m recreating my snacking stance,” I proudly show off my lounging position with a grand arm sweep learned by watching Vanna White on Wheel Of Fortune over the course of my childhood. “I’m still in winter carb mode; I just need to dupe myself into thinking this,” I nearly empty the bowl as I grab a fist full of spinach and wave it under her nose, “is better than it actually is.”

“Seems like the perfect metaphor for your relationship. You’re the bowl of nasty ass spinach and Boyfriend has convinced himself that you’re potato chips.”

“A slight? Really?” I don’t know that I entirely disagree, but I feel like I need to defend my own honour.

It would appear that Fat doesn’t feel the need to expand on the parallel she has drawn. I’m sure my mind will obsess over this comparison for the forseeable future. I’m stunned into silence for a couple reasons, one of which is the cat’s next sentence. Fat’s pulls this line from the holster like a cowboy in the old west, “YOU GAVE ME DIARRHEA.”  I’m not certain how long she’s kept this line at the ready, but it’s a conversation ender.

Fat should write a book on how to win an argument. Sorry, honour, I can’t defend you against a sentence like that.

Office Hours: Two Steps Forward…

“What do you expect to get out of life?”

The wire-rimmed fake spectacles fall down the bridge of Fat’s nose when she looks up from a journal. I was under the impression that particular book of my brain matter was lost years ago; Fat must have led some sort of archeological dig to uncover it. There’s no telling what kind of my nonsense is scribbled in that book. Fat pushes the glasses back into position with the back of her paw as she sits pensively on the coffee table.

I roll onto my side to face her and almost fall off the couch. “You’re not even going to start with something easy like, ‘how was work?'” 

“Nope.” Fat doesn’t look up, her stare is transfixed on the journal page open in front of her. From upside down and slightly sideways, there’s no hope for me to read what has her attention. “Answer the question,” Fat’s tone is that of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada – slightly sing-song yet authoritative and forceful; it gets results. The page flips and Fat’s chin keeps tucked against her chest. It’s hard to have a conversation when I’m offered the top of her grey head instead of eye contact. I’m still not sure how she convinced me to give this another go. All of a sudden I’m on the couch and she’s telling me to make the most of our time together. We both know that she’s not a qualified therapist.

As I stumble through silence, Fat shoots me a momentary I’m-still-waiting glance. Her eyes succumb to the gravitational pull of my written words and for the short-term I’m rescued from her hard stare. That bitch is getting better at this, I’m actually considering how to answer the question.

“To have fun and make it worth my time.” I up-talk, as we Canadians do, making my words sound more like a question than a statement.

“Interesting.” Fat finishes what she was reading and completely disregards the journal as though it no longer holds importance. “And are you making the most of your time and having fun?”

“Not really,” The truth comes out before I even have a chance to filter it. Balls. Fat is going to relish this. My hand gently slaps the side of my face and stays there. I should know better by now, I really should.

Her eyes widen in surprise. “Can’t say I expected you to be so candid, boss. You’re usually so reluctant to share. Now I see you’ve been keeping your dance card rather full. Could one draw the conclusion that you’re not having as much fun as you would like?”

My hand remains glued to my face like a child pretending to be a pirate and turning their palm into a DIY eyepatch. “I’m not suggesting any discontent, Fat. I just feel like I need an adventure or something. I need to meet some strangers, create new stories. It’s boring and predictable around here. Frankly, it blows chunks.”

“I’ll try not to take that as a slight against my company.” Fat sits straighter and the glasses slip down her nose once again. “I need to get some contacts or something. It might be time to pop in for a visit with my optometrist.” Her paw pushes the front of the specs up her face.

Finally, my hand unsuctions from my face and moves to rest on my stomach. “Perhaps if you didn’t wear glasses you stole from an old plastic Santa Claus, it would be a non-issue. I’m quite certain your eyesight is fine.” I try to keep the tone light, but the stupidity of others is one of my hot buttons; the only stupidity I can stomach is that of my own creation.

 Fat doesn’t take my hint, and the phony eyeglasses remain on her furry face. “As for your issue, boss: May I suggest that you…” She drifts off mid-sentence and looks momentarily revolted. “Can you move that blanket?” She nods behind me to the chocolate throw lazily rolled up and left on the back of the couch. “The way it’s folded makes it look like a camel toe. I’m trying to offer some well-founded advice and I’m getting distracted by what looks like a fabric vagina near your head.”

Without turning, I reach backward and my fingers blindly search until they come across the soft fabric. It unravels as I throw it to the other side of the sectional. “You were saying?”

“You should go on vacation. Take some time and get away from everything normal. Where are they at with sending people to live on Mars?”

My arm hooks in an insincere aw-shucks move, “Missed the application deadline, Fat.” My look turns serious, “Besides, you know I don’t like space.”

“But you loved Star Tre–”

To drown out her acknowledgment of my secret shame – the latest films of the space franchise, I speak over her as loud and fast as possible, “Vacation. Yes. I’ll look into it.”