Monday, October 17, 2011

#12 Birth date on a ring - or a tattoo or - ...(identity theft...?)

There is a jewelry company that advertises in the New Yorker (my dad has bought me a subscription for several years, I love that magazine although I am only now working through my back-to-2008 backlog) and the Roman numerals in their ring dates (the chunky dates are the basic ornamentation of the rings) always catches my eye.

I have looked at the website a couple of times (John-Christian.com) but couldn’t justify the price since I have so much other jewelry – hahaha, who am I kidding, readers know I have probably spent more money on less stuff but I could not decide what numbers to put on my ring. My birth year? My birth date? My wedding date – naaaahhhhh…

Also the site seemed to be about gifts for others – those you have been born by, and given birth to – not to buy for yourself. Well anyway that was my guilty take on it. My kind-of-happy-to-discourage-self-from-buying take on it.

Then I wondered, in this day and age of identity theft, when we are told not to leave a purse hidden under 30 blankets in a car trunk for even 5 minutes if that purse contains a drivers license or social security card, should I wear a ring with any personal info? Am I at risk just for ordering that ring?

In general I think the only way we can protect ourselves is to keep monitoring our online accounts for odd activity – so many places of business demand our DOBs and Socials and you know, I know, they don’t keep them as locked up as they could/should – think about this, it is usually very low-paid people who do insurance billing. And guess which person in the doctor’s office has your personal info… Once someone used my credit card on a porn site and it was right after I had been to the doctor’s office. And you can believe or not that I had not been using that particular card online, so the doctor appointment was my only risk factor. (Actually – although this makes a pretty good story it may not be accurate, the risk factor may have been my ordering tickets to a comedy club by phone. Gynecologist, comedy club – you can see why I didn't go with exact details.)

If a ring puts me at risk, would I be less at risk getting personal details as a tattoo? It would be attached to me...

One of this year’s tattoo ideas (yep a wide range of creativity and crazy) was getting my date and maybe even hour of birth on my arm. Now, I do think that Angelina Jolie tattooing the latitude and longitude of where her kids entered her life (I read that she recently added Brad’s place of birth in Oklahoma too, as line #7) helps a tiny bit to take away the association of numbers-on-arms with what was done to the Jews by the Nazis.

Hmmm…Angelina Jolie – Sarah Bowie – even I struggle to make this connection. How else do we resemble each other...

We are not in the same category. She is so extreme – has covered up her ex Billy Bob's name (nope I do not have a Craig tattoo, which I think he sees as a lack of my faith in our relationship) and Angelina has gotten many other tattoos – pictures, pictures, words, Asian, Roman, things that meant something to her at the time, although surely she has evolved past some of it by now - yep, has had a few do-overs.

And then given her career, every time she makes a movie they have to cover up the artistry. Oh! That is my connection to Angelina! I have to hide my tatts too.


(If we are seriously expected to believe this is something on Angelina's body – I have to also believe it was taken from about 5 miles away and clumsily enlarged. Hard to unflatter Angelina but they have done it.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#11: No Alien Tattoo (I don't think...)

Yes I did in recent months take a web printout of a leggy, big-headed green creature into the tattoo salon. And I was impressed that the intern/office manager or whatever he is – semi-bossy guy who doesn’t do tattoos himself... I have identified the pink-haired Receptionist and the body-hairy (hair amid his tattoos – lovely) Body Piercer and 2 of the Ink Artists but I’m still not sure what Bossy Guy is/does, other than bark at me not to put my purse on the floor (theft risk? health code violation?). How is it really cleaner to place your purse, which has been all over stores and public restrooms and worse in its past year with me...to put that purse on a table or chair where the next client will sit?

Anyway, bossy guy lectured me on the importance of having an overall plan, a pre-plan for my tattoos. I shouldn’t just stick an alien next to the red-crown princess on my left arm. That placement would mean the alien would show only on the back or side of that arm. I didn’t quite see the problem of that – didn’t need the alien to be front & center, I would know it was there like I know the other tattoos I have to keep covered up during the day at work are there – but I did understand his concern about integrating Alien with the artistically rendered Princess which itself was copied – oops, inspired – by an original painting by a non-tattoo artist (painter).

Yes, I would probably have hated a green alien grafted off-center onto Red Princess but I did still sort of want one somewhere on me. So, OK – could you do the alien on my inside arm above the Princess? (trying not to think right at that moment about how I nevvverrr show that mushy part of my arm outside sleeves – well I guess I could admire the upper-arm alien in private, like when I shower or change clothes). Again, bossy guy discouraged me. “That is prime real estate!” (Yes I was laughing in response to that.) I said, OK you’re right, I need to give this some more thought.



Yes!, I was disappointed about not getting an alien that day but I agreed it was a recent inspiration (I won’t say impulse) and could maybe use more cogitation. I like that Bossy Guy was looking out for me and presenting the professional advocacy element of a tattoo business (we won’t take your money for an ill-advised tatt) but I had loved the…yes..the impulsiveness! of the idea of getting a small green alien tattooed on my body.

Which I did not do, that day, or yet. Now how will the mother ship find me…without my special mark…

Fortunately for that week’s need for instant tattoo gratification (I got a Thursday estimate for a Friday lunch-hour tattoo, the salon is not far from my office and lunch hour always sounds like a great idea until the thing starts HURTING afterward and I have to sit at my desk, bandage covered with a sleeve, and pretend I am fine and did not create a further dress code violation on my lunch hour…LOL). But I still managed to get 3 words arranged around my Eye of Horus tattoo that Friday, which I do not consider impulsive although – yes – it was done within a couple of weeks of the thought. This is what I consider (careful wording) a tattoo ENHANCEMENT. Look how beautifully it balances my right arm ink – and the right arm now balances the left. And hopefully the enhancement words will help calm? pacify? explain to? (typing this I realize, belatedly, that I should not have to explain to anybody) those people who have a horrified look as they ask barely disguised versions of this question: is that the evil eye?


(No my arm has not swollen to the size of a ham hock. But I don't like to ask Craig to photograph my tattoos, since he doesn't like my tattoos, and it's a weird angle when you point a camera at your own arm, trust me.)

I do still want my alien. Maybe I won’t do it till next year – or won’t do it next year – maybe I can and should, maybe I could, wait. But, and still, where would I put it if I got it? Prime but hidden (maybe hidden does not make it less prime) real estate of the upper arm? Leg/ankle, that I cover with slacks (haha, really with grubby khakis) at work anyway? Shoulder? back? – both heavily covered areas. I guess I am out of potentially uncovered skin spaces. Although I could show a leg tattoo in capris (not shorts at this weight!) in summer.

Maybe – I don’t know. I don’t like waiting for things I want, have decided I am ready to get. But I don’t want a misguided alien placement either. Thank you, Bossy Guy. I guess.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Birthday Series #10 - October can be too warm for sweaters and too cool for tee shirts

Yikes! The caption of this image I stole online is, "Portrait of a senior woman sitting in front of a birthday cake smiling."

She is wearing a sweater – 2 sweaters – so she fits this post. However, to my chagrin...she looks ancient! Which I am not. Anyway...

Usually my birthday weather is at least cool in the morning – cool dew and sun that kind of makes my sinuses flinch, swell, reverberate – something uncomfortable – when I leave the house in the a.m. And I usually leave the house at usual commute time – only a few 10/19’s have been vacation days.

On one really misplanned birthday vacation day I scheduled an appointment for a dental cleaning (at my friendly efficient dentist’s office, usually a win-win experience) but for whatever reason, that turned out to be one of my most uncomfortable cleanings ever and the one that has made me ever since demand gas for anything I experience while in the dental patient chair. (Sometimes I tolerate pre-gas x-rays, but just barely.) I remember what I was wearing because I dressed cute thinking I would have my usual chit-chat with the office staff, several of who also have October birthdays, and get their birthday greetings – of course they would note my day – and skip out, carefree and painfree, to my birthday afternoon in my navy tee shirt, jeans and navy & white polka dot Keds (I loved those shoes – may they RIP, worn to a respectful Goodwill burial).

So the reason for sharing this dental story is that it is an example of warm-weather dressing in Dallas' October. Somehow the wearing of my slightly oversized navy Target tee shirt under a dental bib, looking down at my polka-dotted shoes, on feet flexed in response to dental-scraper discomfort is still in the front of my mental file drawer. And we are talking 90s here – late 90s, but 90s. No – I don’t get past memories quickly.

On a birthday a year or two after that, I canceled birthday lunch with my aunt on short notice because Craig had surprised me by taking the day off from work and inviting me to lunch. This is my Dallas aunt who doesn’t forget my birthday – love her for that! – but Craig was my husband – my fairly new husband. Now yes, something might be a little suspicious in that hubby takes off the whole day from work, to take wife who does not take off from work (it was my first year in a new job) to lunch, but it was marriage year #3 and I didn’t think I should refuse him. Aunt gave lip service agreement to my making my husband a priority, but she also made a follow-up call to tell me I had hurt her feelings by canceling. I always appreciate honesty (yes really) but the situation was confusing for a newly married, motherless daughter who appreciates the mothering aspects of her local aunt.

But anyway – let’s return to wardrobe. A few weeks before that canceled aunt lunch I had bought 2 all-cotton striped men’s sweaters at The Gap. On reflection I realize they were in all ways unflattering to me – shape, color, length. But they were new purchases, they were sweaters, and it was cool that morning – so I wore one. Yes I was warm when I went out at lunch – with my husband, not my aunt. Can’t quite remember if I wore the brown-based sweater or the black-based sweater (both, again, ugly – but soft cotton and comfortable). I know I wore black pants. Because I don’t think I had brown pants then (in my personal experience, black pants have been perennials while brown ones have been occasional) – why in the world I remember this distinction, I do not know – so it must have been the black & multi stripe sweater.

Also, I can’t remember where we ate – but I had lunch with my husband! And apologized again to my aunt.

Not bad priorities, really. Probably? (Yes, I struggle with these questions.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#9 in the Birthday Series - 600+ Facebook friends (Facebook birthday)

As my subscribers/readers know, I am not a person immune to guilt. (HA!)

Facebook brings a lot of publicity to birthdays. Facebook aside – I have been yakking about my birthday for weeks. Partly from pride and joy at attaining the 5-0 milestone as an at least semi-functional adult – partly from negative emotions that I’m trying to process (that’s what the Internet is for, right?, processing with an audience...I love that about the Internet).

I have allowed, even encouraged, the Internet to make my life public, and this is a not unexpected aspect. Ahem.

Now, if on the 19th I get 200+ (just an estimate) birthday greetings, courtesy of FB reminders, should I:

1. smile inwardly and take no outward action
2. obsessively click “like” to each birthday comment on a prompt basis
3. spend hours writing a “they like me, they really like me” thank-you message that can only be addressed to a limited number of addressees and becomes a logistical hassle like last year (FOR EXAMPLE).

Guilt – hmmmm – when Facebook reminds people of a birthday, do they feel guilty if they don’t say HBD? That would be guilt #1. Then my reading and response-lack of response-2nd guessed response would be guilt 2/3, depending on timing and degree.

Geez – is this worth it?

Yes, I think so.

As in a zillion other ways, the Internet brings mixed-blessing enhancements. It’s an automatic birthday reminder, and provides an automated means for response. That doesn’t eliminate sincerity – hardly brings it into question – but it’s an alteration of previous experience (which wasn't all so great, IMHO = Internet lingo for, In My Humble-haha Opinion).

But as with almost everything else Internet-wise…do we want to go backwards?

Me…no.

At least, not till after my birthday.

P.S. A humble, apologetic, shy?, anti-tonight post may be coming soon.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

#8, a continuation of #7 - Birthdays with a Father

My 13th birthday, which was soon after Mother died, was celebrated with a Sunday lunch at our family friend Shirley’s house. She made a special effort that day, shopped for a nice 1970s preteen gift, a pale blue suede wallet set, and made a pot roast. I know she was not a confident cook and this entrĂ©e could not have been easy for her – I know that because I remember it being a little hard to chew. Well, so is my own pot roast hard to chew, even with a crockpot I invariably get the wrong cut of meat or don’t cook for enough hours (fortunately Craig would prefer meat to be too chewy than too soft, he is that kind of carnivore)…whereas an old-school cook like Mother made pot roast in a pressure cooker so it was consistently soft.

(I hate blogging without illustrations – none of the ones I found for pot roast were quite right but this image was the least fancy – sorry, Shirley!, but I don’t think you served it on a platter with parsley – so I’m going with this one.)

Actually I loved eating at Shirley’s house. We drank Cokes or Tabs (this was the era of Tab) on ice in tumblers, ate fresh brownies (yes, made from a mix but that seemed exotic since my family recipe, thriftily made with cocoa, always came out dry), chocolate chip cookies, and her breakthrough side dish, green peas mixed with mashed potatoes. (I remember her saying proudly, “I realized they get mixed together on your plate anyway.”)

I Googled to see what day of the week my birthday fell on that year of the pot roast lunch – actually the 19th was a Saturday, the day before our lunch with Shirley. My mother had avoided cake mixes for many years but at some point we discovered that spice cake mixes, especially with lots of homemade frosting, were very good - if I'm not mixing up memories my mother's mother, a true baking authority, tipped us off to that. I think it was birthday 14 when my sister made me a cake. She insisted she was old enough but she didn’t follow the directions enough to make a product that pleased me. I think the frosting was more like a glaze (maybe she melted butter instead of creamed it), which of course tasted fine but set off my perfectionism – that cake was one more disappointment (I felt disappointment even when I felt guilty for expressing it), one more thing in my young life that wasn’t right.

What was right was a visit to Shirley’s. Shirley made me feel she was treating me as an adult but there was a good amount of mothering in there too. I’m not exaggerating when I say that arriving at her house always felt like a 5-star hotel to me. It was perfectly cooled (our house had loud, uneven a/c) and lovely – a custom home in the woods. Of course I didn’t care about the outside, never went out there, but the green view was nice from the windows. She had clean carpet (I don’t remember her having pets) (and our house was all lineoleum), brand-new bathroom fixtures (my family’s bathroom tiles had green stuff at the edges), a wetbar ice maker, and a guest room TV with a timer that would take care of you after you fell asleep. Even when having my sister Rachel along was a requirement of me sleeping over at Shirley’s, it was worth it. (Shirley had been Rachel’s kindergarten teacher, and Shirley had been a good friend of Mother’s, and my brothers’ piano teacher – the connection was strong.)

Not too long after the Sunday lunch, my dad made the pronouncement, “I think you like to go to Shirley’s because she makes a fuss over you.” This was heard by me as a criticism and even with adult perspective, I believe it was intended as that. My self-employed, newly widowed father was struggling with his many responsibilities, including paying Mother’s medical bills (he did not have group insurance) and he probably didn’t see me as needy enough, in the family scheme of things, to be made a fuss over. I guess I had absorbed a lot of that perspective because on the night that Mother died (in our house, in her own bed as she had wished), when Rachel and I were sent to spend the night at Shirley’s, I remember feeling like a fraud, someone taking advantage of the situation. Mother’s body had been taken away already and I wasn’t consciously upset, wasn’t grieving, I had known Mother was about to die and now she had died and our household would continue its adapted routine of not being led by Mother. Sure, I would rather sleep in a room with its own TV set (Shirley’s guest TV was bigger than my family’s den TV) but did I “need” to be there?

I didn’t begin to understand how to relate to my dad until I began to help him with his writing, about 10 years ago. Typing the letters he wrote as a very young soldier to his family, and then editing his childhood memoir written in recent years, I finally understood my father as being an emotional person. A bright, curious, sensitive child, born in a family he didn’t quite fit in with, before the decades of psychological labels, self-awareness, the psychologized generation.

Here’s a very appropriate quote from his book, “Growing Up in Rose Hill (we were poor but didn’t know it)”, which in its 228 printed pages has only this one mention of birthdays:

"Birthdays on the farm were not celebrated often. If the birthday fell on a Sunday, Mother would invite one or two friends to come after church. I don’t remember having candles on a cake but several times we had hot cocoa served in tiny tea cups (my birthday is in October so the weather would usually be cool). I still have the tiny set of pitcher and cups. Usually on a person’s 16th birthday a “coming out” party was given. These were supposed to be surprise parties. In the summer they included “ring games” and in winter dominoes and card games. Homemade ice cream was usually served with cake. Neighbors and relatives came to our house for my 16th birthday, but I was so shy I probably didn’t speak to anyone."

Yep, I could make a lot out of that last sentence, and what a perfect follow-up to blog #7, which mentioned my own 16th birthday – I doubt my father thought of any connection to my birthday when he wrote the words above in 2004. My reading on introversion has taught me that parents of introverts – especially parents who themselves are introverted, to any degree – push their child not to be introverted, wanting their child to be part of the mainstream, i.e. extroverted. (Shyness is not always defined as similar to introversion, but I think my dad and I were both, so I won’t split that hair in this particular blog post.) My father’s sensitivities were not encouraged growing up, and he didn’t usually see it as part of his parental mission to encourage his own children’s sensitivities – on certain levels, I think he understood our complexities, maybe even felt a kinship – but it was not close to the surface most of the time.

Daddy and Mother had 4 children, and when he started dating as a widower he believed he was more successful when paired with women who also had children. One of my favorites of his dates had only one child, a daughter my age (he used to take me on dates with that mom and daughter and our outings always had Houston sophistication, once we saw a Tennessee Williams play – well, performed at a church), but he ended up marrying a woman with 6 children.

My stepmother did observe everyone’s birthday with cake and card and at least one present, but my father not only delegated birthdays to her from then on (after all, Mother had been the birthday planner when she was alive), but was heard to say things along the lines of – I admit this is not a direct quote – with so many kids you can’t remember everyone’s birthday.

Which is a philosophy that still rankles me. Granted he has multiple stepdaughters and he has numerous grandchildren - but he had 4 original children, 3 living today - his sister and brother and his parents are dead. Can he remember the birth dates of 3 original children? It’s not like he is too old and confused to keep track of dates (he rarely misses doctor appointments or TV shows), and I have heard him mention such a thing as a birthday calendar (maybe sometimes it gets lost under other paperwork - you would have to see his office...). In recent years I have finally mellowed about this and I find it funny when he calls me about something completely unrelated on 10/19 and has no idea that date is my birthday. And guess when his birthday is? Exactly 4 days later. Maybe it’s passive-aggressive that I don’t remind him it’s my birthday when he accidentally calls on the 18th, 19th or 20th to update me on some other happening, but maybe it’s also passive-aggressive when he doesn’t keep track of my birthday being 4 days before his.

I had 2 birthdays after I left the house for college and before I moved to Dallas (after which I counted more on my Dallas relatives for birthday observance). I have no complaints about the first one – I flew from New Mexico for a fun weekend in Dallas, and before I left Santa Fe my college friends gave me gifts, not bad for people you have known for less than 2 months – but the next one was difficult. I went to Dallas for the weekend again – able to drive this time instead of fly, since I had transferred to a Texas college, but the only notification I received from my dad and stepmom was a card that arrived in my college mailbox a couple of days late, signed with the names of all (the few, I am 3rd from youngest) family members still living at home, but all obviously in my stepmom’s handwriting. I think she also drew a couple of little pictures, maybe a flower and a butterfly, which was nice of her – but I was not appreciative at the time.

It wasn’t a phone call on the actual date – it wasn’t a Barbie cake. No child wants to be lost in the crowd of siblings – we don’t ask our parents to have more kids, those decisions are nothing to do with us. We want to be treated as unique.

OK – thank you for listening to my toddler self say that. Whew, this post has been freeing. (Although I felt guilt as I wrote it.)

I like to end posts with an image – I tried and tried to find good examples of vintage teacups (not fancy, probably scratched or cracked) like the kind my dad sipped cocoa out of on his childhood birthdays, but nothing was quite right. The image below is not right in any way at all other than it being “vintage” and “German” – but I like it because the set looks orange. Actually it’s described in the eBay text as painted red, but it looks orange when photographed, so I gravitated very strongly toward it.