Since noon Friday, thanks to my plague-bearing peers who “can’t miss any more work”, I have had a nasty-mean cold rolling over me. My throat/neck hasn’t hurt this much since I had mumps at age 29, and no drugs have been able to tame the sweats, chills, head pain, body aches, sinus flares, and swelling in my glands and canals. Normally I go years without catching the crud in a major way, but I am at a new job with a large population of transient patients and norovirus and megalo-tons of stress and coworkers with little ones and things. The extremely high stress is just a carnival barker handing out free tickets for disease to invade my bod with impunity but it makes a big difference, I think.
When I moved into this new apartment a few months ago, I decided that no pantry = no excess food. This plan fails when illness joins the party. Takeout and delivery has been an ungodly expense offering no nutritional support to fight the sickness and enough sodium to wreak havoc on my systolic. This no-backup food plan will change as soon as I can crawl out from under this blanket and death march my way to the store. Saltines, canned soup, frozen vegetables, a backup shaker of Vitamin C…heaven is where you find it. Oh, and OTC cold meds that aren’t from the Crimean War. Those would be lovely too.
And tomorrow I have to go to work. Jesus god no. But missing work on a Monday is a major red flag here, and I’m still in my probationary period, and I am hating life. (Self-care: we are required to preach it but we are constrained not to practice it.) Weird life preserver: working for the gubmint means I get Tuesday off to recover. Hooray? The balance is that, as a gubmint employee, I will also have to haul my ashes to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving. ARE YOU SHITTING ME, GUBMINT?
Break it down:
1. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, in terms of personal preference, but it’s also always been my #1 work holiday since it creates a natural four-day weekend. Historically, this has made up for being denied days off around so-called “family” holidays because I’m usually one of the only people without children or grandchildren. Fine, okay — but don’t deny me my goddamn Thanksgiving!
2. Black Friday? NO WAY. I do not don a cute matching mitten-and-hat set to hit the malls and enjoy the crush of humanity taking advantage of retail specials. Those people (my close family and friends among them) are nuts. Rage-inducing noise levels, gropers, long lines at Starbucks, rude bitches throwing elbows in the sweater department, young parents using strollers as war chariots? This is hell on earth. I like to stay home, nosh on leftovers, sip coffee, and rinse work agita out of my system by reading and napping and pretending the office will be closed for a month. That snowed-in, bacon-for-breakfast feeling. But this year I’ll be dodging crazed drivers on their way to Early Bird Sales and hating a day at the office sandwiched between days off. I know that hospitals and hotels never close, but I bet the patients are tired of me, too. We could all use a break from each other.
3. But I’m so very tired generally. NaNoWriMo has fizzled (got off to a marvelous start, but was derailed by two days crying after discharging a very old person who was heartbroken to be kicked out of The Only Home, bargaining like an eight-year old whose parents are getting a divorce). I need to clean. Honey does a lot but if there is something only I care about, then only I can be expected to do it. Most disappointingly, my diet has fizzled (stress at work: check, low-carb food delivery: no check), and I know the only cure is to get back on the horse. But the horse is, like, 19 hands high and my short little legs match my T-Rex arms and can’t I just cut myself some slack for once? I don’t want to *be* slack, I just want not to hate myself for failure. I know the difference between guilt and shame, and this is hundred-proof shame, straight no chaser.
4. The diet also fizzled because my morale took a gut punch. Mom sent me some very cute, very expensive outfits that are waaay too small for me. The conversation we had about it was really painful. She was pissed that I was fat, she was pissed that I wasn’t thrilled to get a bunch of clothes I couldn’t wear, she was pissed that I had nowhere to wear them (I wear jeans and tennies in the workplace that involves bodily fluids and physical aggression; I wear shorts and Keds in real life. I no longer have a life suited to good woolens and delicate blouses and ballet flats); she was pissed that I wasn’t butt-kissingly grateful that she spent a ton of money on clothes that don’t fit my bod or my life even though (a) she knew better and (b) I have been begging her SINCE JUNIOR HIGH not to buy clothes for me. Unlike her, I am a hard size to fit, and I *hate* exchanging clothes; this is a conversation we have had for more than three decades. She was pissed, full stop, and wanted to fight. I denied her that pleasure as well. But I did not relent and change heart and tell her what she wanted to hear.
Which may have been what prompted her to take it to the next level. She started telling me about how I desperately need a style change and a haircut and so on. She said that she talked about it with my sister quite a bit. One recent conversation was about what hair style would suit me, really be good for me. The answer they came up with? The local weather girl.
I thought this might be interesting, but then I looked her up. And was floored. Is this a joke? She wears one of those bland, lifeless, Sunday-school-teacher style-free cuts that harried young moms get when they give up on looking good. Lank, limp, lame — it’s an insult to say that ANYONE should wear her hair that way. It’s like suggesting a brown paper bag over your head as step toward much-needed beautification. But honestly, step back for a minute. Sitting around and dissecting the style of someone who is not in the room and then advising her on it? That is some grade-A Mean Girls shit right there.
Besides, I don’t have money to spend on self-0rnamentation, period. Even when I was earning a lot more money, I wasn’t spending it on that stuff. It seemed like a huge waste to blow a couple hundred bucks a month on cosmetic resurfacing when it could go to things like books or gin or rent or retirement. I used to, but that was a looong time ago, when I still had a quality stylist who would cut, color, and perm my hair for the cost of materials and I used to go dancing every weekend and needed something to wear. My sister has fake hair, teeth, nails, and boobs, and comes home from her long and challenging job to run on the treadmill so she can look good in tight clothes. I am cool with her doing that and loudly proclaim that she needs no one’s validation to make those choices. But that’s not the life for me. It was when I was young, and still craving male approval, still hustling for female envy, still desperate for influence over the men who had so much power over me, and was still cultivating an eating disorder so that I could have control over at least one goddamned part of my life.
It’s true: I miss looking good in cute clothes. I miss getting approval for my looks. And it’s true that I get snarly about being overlooked and put down for my current weight and appearance. But is catering to shallow people really the answer to my self-esteem issues? Uhhh, no, not really. No one’s gaze (‘cept maybe my honey’s) should matter to me, I think, and it really hasn’t for a long time. But was I ever gutted to hear about my mom and my sis trying to salvage That Ugly Trainwreck, me.