the golden rule – temporal variant

Today, an errand that should have taken an hour took quite a lot longer. And that’s okay.

This afternoon, I hiked out to a friend’s house to feed the cat, water the plants, and check the mail while the family is away. I didn’t realize that an elderly neighbor (an acquaintance of theirs and of mine) had seen me pop in the door. When I emerged, she instantly opened her front door — with a rapidity suggesting she’d been lingering there waiting to catch me — and waved me over to her porch, where we stood chatting out of the rain.

The neighbor (I’ll call her N) managed to tell me how happy she was to see me even as she railed against the unkindness of life, the unfriendliness of all her neighbors, the misery of New England weather, and the stupidity of requiring someone to visit a cat.

When she asked me to step inside, I hovered for a moment on the edge of escape. I really mustn’t, I have so many errands to do floated through my mind.

Then I thought how lonely a person must be to lurk by the front door for half an hour on the off-chance of some conversation.

I went in, we chatted, she showed me around, and she advised me in far too personal terms about my upcoming marriage, my reproductive future, my schooling, my health, the upkeep on The Fella’s car, my potential income, his potential income.

She told me which of their neighbors were likely to die soon, and told me how little she liked the friendly cat I was caring for and how useless my task was.

She told me how much she liked Obama, and how happy she was that that other man (“who, let’s face it, is going to die soon! How can they think he won’t die? And then she will be President!”) didn’t get elected. [This was a little bright spot in the conversation, this and when she was talking about her late husband.]

She invited me and The Fella out “anytime! Spend the night! Plenty of space!”

When I started saying my goodbyes, she stopped me long enough to advise me once more on marriage and babymaking.

It’s little wonder she’s lonely.

But if she waves me over again next time I’m on cat patrol, I think I’ll go for a few minutes… if only because I hope someone will be patient and friendly to me when I’m a cranky old broad (which I think is a dead certainty), and especially if I’m a lonely cranky old broad.


For the ages

The Grim Reaper age estimator consistently assesses me as ten years younger. I could pretend that student life keeps me fresh and hip, but we all know it’s the hopping, the hopping, the incessant hopping that makes me look like a goofy kid.

Can you guess a stranger’s age? I’m woefully inaccurate, unless I perceive the stranger to be objectionably dressed or groomed, in which case my ability spikes eerily. Odd.

Are you a sweet widdle baby on Jupiter?

The graphic representing the sudden and astonishing popularity of my first name (which, N.B., is not Elsa) will crush you all!* See how popular your name has been over the decades, at The Baby Name Wizard.

*When I was 17 and working in retail, I was routinely assaulted by chastizing maternal voices scolding me. “[Elsa], put that down!” Each time, I would spin around, startled by the vehemence of her order, only to find it was yet another mother speaking (of course) to her five-year-old daughter.

A couple of years ago in a college classroom, I was musing over the popularity of the same name for the 18-year-olds sitting around me; it was not uncommon to have three or four of us in a 50-person class. Then I was truck by a jolting realization: these 18-year-olds were the same generation as the five-year-olds. I’m the one who’s fifteen years late.

Under my skin

As I edge up to the ripeness that is 35, I have been wondering if is time to refine my skin-care regimen. This is easier than it sounds, since my “regimen” consists of scrubbing my face with a shower glove and borderline-fancy soap. Almost any change that doesn’t involve rubbing my face with a Microplane would be a refinement.

But I can’t do it. Every attempt I have made to look into the subject of skin care is hampered by my resistance to the undertone of desperation in the advertising, by the absurd prices, and by the patently silly names. So pervasive is the implied female fear of aging that I was pleasantly surprised to realize PrescriptivesLast Chance URL is their clearinghouse for discontinued items, not the name of a night cream.

(To blatantly steal a joke from quote Matthew Baldwin Jeezum crow, lookit all these links. What is this, Memepool? I mean: Memepool?”)

Something to look forward to!

Today in my archaeology lab, we reassembled disarticulated fish skeletons, which was much more fun than it sounds. (Well, it would almost have to be, wouldn’t it?) I was assigned Hippoglossus hippoglossus, the Atlantic halibut.

During this task, I learned (or relearned — it has the ring of a fact distantly known, as in early childhood) that H. hippoglossus is born with an eye on each side of its head, and as it ages the left eye migrates over the top of the head to the right side of the face.

I’ve tried to accept philosophically the inevitable changes that come with age, but I am in no way prepared for this.