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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Not Much of a Bathing Beauty


People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. 
The rules are the same.  Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing
 and allow for room to grow.    –Erma Bombeck (1927–1996)

            I’ve never been much of a bathing beauty.


I’m not shy, I’m modest. One thing that has not changed over the years is that it has never been easy for me to get comfortable going out in public wearing what really equates to fancy spandex underwear.  I failed miserably as a Beach Bunny and as a Surfer Chick
            Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done plenty of UVB damage.


In one of my yesteryears when I was hanging out at the Jersey Shore with some kids from the Honduras, I spent so much time in the sun that I got phlebitis. My legs swelled up like huge water balloons. Richard Nixon had phlebitis—but Nixon was like a hundred years old and I was just a stupid teenager.  These Honduran kids had skin like hot chocolate and I stood out like a marshmallow. By the end of the day, I was a red-hot mess unable to sleep, pee, or walk.  I cried all night, praying for something that I didn’t necessarily believe in: mercy. Relief eventually arrived in the form of a Valium and a shot of something warm and tingly. 

Today I regularly check my skin for signs of mercy from my misguided, and yet not regretted, youth.  

When I saw this Erma Bombeck quote I was struck by the similarity to one of my own “theories” in life.  Hey, put enough candles on the birthday cake and you too will have an abundance of theories to keep you warm at night. 

My theory, based solely on observation and conversation, is that some of us (if you’re reading this you are already “one of us”) will take better care of our cars than we take care of our bodies. Think about it. Or maybe it’s just an L.A. thing and I have lost all perspective of the rest of the world.

 For instance, I have a respected friend who is able to keep two cars running, insured, and up-to-date and yet his teeth are literally breaking down. He was lax on the necessary upkeep on the ever important pie hole, trap,yap, blower, word hole, whatever you call it—it’s damn important. My friend is looking at about two to three months of serious work and close to a 40K tug on his bank account. Though oddly, he told me that he’s been saving for this inevitability for quite some time.  If there was a way to calculate, I’d like to know how much he would’ve spent over the past couple of decades (just in dollars, not counting anxiety attacks) to do the necessary upkeep on the 'grill of his ride.’  Just a thought.

As an urban woman I am reminded on a daily basis the pure frailty and challenge of surviving much less having a full set of pearly whites. We are in scary times. Healthcare is a commodity, not a right.  If you really want to be smart, to be politically active, to be on the correct side of left—you need to make every effort not to become a subject of the very system that will eventually consume you and everyone you hold dear. Turn healing over to the machine that sees you as nothing more than a number followed by a series of numbers and the ever important bottom line number and your personhood will not matter.  You will no longer have a voice in the discussion about the quality of your life.

You’re a person not a number. If you’re anything at all like me, and I’m thinking if you’ve read this far we might have something in common, you’ll be mightily pissed off when you get treated like a number.  You’ll want to shout, “I’m an individual, I have unique needs and likes and dislikes. . . “ and on and on you’ll rant, but the number’s keepers do not hear you. Our best option in these tenuous times is prevention. Make our best efforts to prevent a crisis in health, automobile, relations, and anything else that spins your world. Times have changed since Benjamin Franklin’s days—an ounce of prevention could now be worth a lifetime’s fortune.

When I hung out at the Jersey Shore, long before Snooki and that gang were born, we didn’t know about sun protection and such stuff.  The closest we got to sun protection was making out under the boardwalk.  I don’t know if anyone makes out under the boardwalk anymore. Our world has become so polarized it seems everyone sits in their own corner with their own view.  We even have good SPF’s versus bad SPF’s.  

I don’t advocate a puritanical life of total temperance, room temperature weak tea and confections in the shade. I’m talking about exercising common sense, free will, and being pro-active with our health. Use the information that has come our way and knock that Snooki on the side of her over-tanned over-teased head with some good sense.  She won’t listen.  I know that because I wouldn’t have listened either.

In certain circles I also hear talk of excitement, adventure, risk, and to love with abandon. That’s all good too. But people are fickle and life can make us cynical so to counterbalance the thinking-about-life game, we mustn’t forget Richard Nixon, phlebitis, and all the other consequences that might await us.

My sun damage is already done and perhaps the dye has been cast on the future health of my epidermis.  That’s okay, I like hats. I like knowing that if my skin turns hard and blotchy I will have earned it the old fashioned way—by youthful indiscretion.  Put enough candles on the birthday cake and you too will have earned perspectives that are unique to the consequences of your youth of sex, drugs, rock, athletics, studying too hard, driving too fast, drinking too much too often, or sitting alone and never taking a risk.  

If Erma Bombeck was sitting here with me right now, I’d assure her that today I look for the same qualities in a bathing suit that I need in a man.  I look for flexibility with my flaws.


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