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Monday, June 25, 2012

Hair and Other Things

When my kids returned from camp or college, they’d look around the house and comment, “You moved the furniture again.”  It’s true.  You couldn’t live in our house if you were blind:  you’d be knocking your shins all over the place.
I live with one furniture arrangement furniture for a time, but then I think, “hmmm what if the couch were over here?" and I’m off, dragging and pushing.  I used to move the pictures, too, to suit the new composition, but now I just leave everything on the walls alone.  Otherwise one tends to focus more on the pincushion effect in the wallboard rather than the art.  But the furniture?  That’s fair game.  Why not?  If I don’t like the configuration, I can move it again.

Clothes, too.  If I buy something and notice that when I go to wear it, I don’t quite like how it fits (oh, yeah, like you’ve never made an unfortunate purchase), I’ll think, what if I take in a dart, or a tuck or contour the seams?  Why not?   If my amateur tailoring doesn’t work, I can unpick what I’ve sewn.  If that fails, well, I wasn’t wearing it as it was anyway, now was I? 

I confess to a rather cavalier approach toward hair, as well.  I like having long hair, and so I grew it for years.  I enjoyed brushing it, and I got pretty good at an Edwardian roll, a French twist and even a little Topsy that I wore over one shoulder.  I enjoyed playing with it, but I never thought that it suited me when I wore it pulled back, which, since I hated it swooshing in my face, was all the time. 

Three weeks ago I opined to my stylist, the ever-fabulous Chris, that I wanted it short, but I’d spent a fortune in barrettes.  He said no problem and lopped off six inches which still left enough to fasten back.  I liked it, but it lay scratchy on my neck in the summer heat.

Back I went, this time with a picture of my daughter’s haircut, stacked in the back angled to a smoothness in the front.   So cute!  Her hair is a finer than mine, but Chris said it would work.  He layered the back up another couple of inches, and I had a veritable riot of curls swooping long and smooth in the front.  He knows I won’t blow it dry.  I won’t flat iron it.  I won’t, in fact, do more than wash and scrunch it, and this cut was perfect.   Or almost perfect.    

After looking at it in the mirror for two days, I wondered what if I had curls toward the front, too?  I mean, I have all this wave in back whereas the front was just hanging there.  Let’s face it, I’d already more than spent my hair stylist allowance, but I bet I could do it. 

I got home from dance -- glorious dance where I’d held my bangs back with a little flowered clip -- and I took out my hair scissors.  (Oh, yes, I’ve done this before.)  I studied the angle of the cut in the back.  I mean, it’s really difficult to cut your own hair in the back, because, you know, you can’t see back there even with a second mirror. But the front?  Why not give it a try?  

I worked from the ears forward in three sections and snipped just enough to get the layering that encourages the waves.  And if it didn’t work?  It’s just hair; it grows.  It’s just a blouse; you can unpick what you’ve sewn.  It’s just furniture; you can rearrange it. 
What if?  Why not ?  Those are the questions I ask, occasionally followed by, “What the hell?” or “What the hell!”  Oh, and my hair looks adorable.

Friday, June 15, 2012

And I Dance

Stand with your left hand resting lightly on a chair back or the kitchen counter, feet together.  Tighten your bottom and rotate your legs from the back of the thighs.  This will cause your feet to turn out.  Don’t let the toes turn out further than your knees.  Feel like you’re zipping up an invisible pants zipper deep in your stomach.  Stand tall, belly to backbone.  Don’t forget to breathe.  Drop your shoulders and open your chest.  Make your back broad.  You should be able to feel your back muscles engage.  Remember:  breathe.  Keep your butt down or your back’s going to hurt.  Feel like the top of your head is stretching up to the sky.  Don’t lift your chin.  Are you keeping your thighs turned out?  Breathe!  Okay, now slide your foot out.  Keep turning out.  Keep pulling up.  Point your toe as hard as you can; push your heel forward.  Stretch long.  Stretch tall.  Turn out.  Are you forgetting to breathe?  That’s ballet, and you haven’t even moved yet.  Believe me, it ain’t all daisy crowns and pink tutus.

When I was 13, my Mom took me to Princeton’s McCarthy Theater to see the ballet Midsummer Night’s Dream and, in a whisper, guided my eyes.  I’ve been a balletomane ever since.   When I did a college semester in London, I lined up overnight night at Covent Garden to score tickets to Nureyev and Fontaine in Sleeping Beauty.   Whenever I had a chance to get to New York I saw the New York City Ballet or the ABT.  In Moscow, it was the Bolshoi every six weeks like clockwork.

I began lessons when I retired.  Watching me in class isn’t pretty; I’m worse than you might imagine.  I’m not being modest here; I’m just, er, mature for a ballet student.  When you begin ballet as an adult, then have to skip two years, then begin over again only to have to go easy for a year because you’ve torn your meniscus, and then, through shear stubbornness, keep on, well, let’s just say you don’t expect to audition for the Washington Ballet.  I’ve got no flexibility -- never had much, to tell the truth -- and I’ve got next to no turnout.  My stomach muscles are not what they should be, and I have a bad habit of leaning.  What I do have is enthusiasm.

After the first ten minutes of class, I’m sweating to the beautiful music.  After an hour, I’m panting.  By Reverence at the end of the hour and a half, I feel great!  I’ve justified my existence for the entire day.   Not much in this world gives you so much bang for the buck.  

Most of the students in my classes are better than me and always will be.  Some are professional; some may as well be.  They pant and sweat right alongside me although, let’s admit it, the results are rather different.  Sometimes I’m frustrated but never disheartened.  I’m there for personal growth not competition.  If I just keep at it, I’ll get stronger (and, with luck, thinner).   I’ll never be as good as the 20-year-old in front of me, but I’ll be better. 

And in every class, there are those few, glorious moments when the world is reduced to music and movement,
                    and I dance.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Hate That

You know what I hate?  I hate it when the tab on the cereal box won’t go in the dratted slot.  You’ve just opened a new box of cereal, and you’re going to keep the freshness in and the ants out.  You scrunch up the plastic wrapper, punch through the slot and, voila!  No not voila.  Un-voila.  The dratted thing won’t slide in.  You punch out the slot more thoroughly.  Nope.  You wiggle and waggle the tab around.  No, no, no!  Grrrr.  Eventually you push and shove enough to force the tab through the slot, and the entire box stands there listing to one side.  You give up and put it in the pantry and hope you can forget about its drunken, leering stance until you have to face it the following morning. 
I hate it when you’re changing the sheets on your bed, being a good housekeeper, and you run slam into the bed frame practically breaking your toe, and you’re hopping around, and blood’s dripping down, and you’re swearing and you can’t even kick anything.  What kind of reward is that for good behavior?

I hate it when you think you’ve paid a bill, but the next bill comes, and it’s almost twice as big as usual, and you figure out that you misread the previous bill and paid only part of it, and there’s no one else to blame it on, and what were you thinking, you idiot? 

I hate it when you buy something at the store -- especially something for a child -- and it’s in that heavy plastic packaging that can’t be opened, no way, no how.  You pull out a heavy pair of scissors or even some metal snips and jaggedly slice the stuff, risking slicing your hand opened on the stiff, sharp plastic in order to extract an object your Perfect Grandchild is dancing out of his or her pants to play with.  I hate that stuff.

I really hate it when you’re sound asleep, it’s 5 AM and you are awakened by shrill stabbings of sound.  The pastoral life is all well and good, but what’s a bird doing bursting his lungs with song at 5 AM?  By six, your eyes are a-goggle and more sleep is hopeless. By the time you drag yourself out of bed, the bird is silent.  Stupid bird. 

I hate it when someone tells you their store is two miles past a well-known landmark and, yes, come in any time during regular business hours to pick up that replacement part.  Then you drive out there, and it’s freaking seven miles past, plus five of those miles are under construction so the traffic’s been reduced to one lane, and, instead of half an hour, it takes you an hour to get there.  You get there at 3:05 only to find out that “regular business hours” to this person means 8 AM to 3 PM but not between noon and 1 PM which would be lunch, and no one will answer your tapping on the window or anything, and, well, Long Fence, yes I do mean you.  Then you have to turn around and drive a half hour home completely empty-handed and frustrated and exhausted.  Man, I really hate that, don’t you?