age 14: The high school assigned each new student a locker and a lock, sternly admonishing us to record the combination somewhere safe to avoid the cost and inconvenience that would come if the maintenance staff needed to lop off the original lock and replace it. Confident that my enormous brain could hold a 3-digit combo, I threw away the scrap with the number on it… and promptly forgot the combination. I wasted weeks and weeks muddling along in classes without most of my books and notebooks, hoping to remember the combo before everything was gassed beyond repair by the tuna sandwich also contained therein.

age 17: I struggled in vain against the Krazy Glue with which I had inadvertently (well, duh) bonded my hand to a metal banister in the now-empty rehearsal room, counting the minutes as they ticked away, making me later and later for homeroom.

age 23: Sitting at the counter of my favorite proto-hipster diner, I was chatting away with Terry, one of the servers there. Apropos of nothing, Terry waved vaguely and chirped, “Hey, Elsa, you know Matt, right?” I responded not “Matt, the graphic artist?” or “Matt, Chuck’s friend?” nor even “Gosh, I know a bunch of Matts. Which one?” No. I pealed out, “Matt? Matt with the basketball head? Sure, I know Matt. Why?”

Terry blinked slowly, his face otherwise unchanging. I slowly realized his vague wave was a gesture of reintroduction, just as he announced in measured tones, “Because he’s standing right behind you.”

How I failed to see the shadow cast by his big enormous round head, I’ve never understood.

age 25: I celebrated the bright warm spring day by wearing a (brand-new!) light and gauzy skirt and sweater in soft pastels. My lunch break came along. Eager to enjoy the air and sun, I quickly hit the washroom, then bustled outside. I spent the next thirty minutes walking around the center of town. Just as I exited work, a woman walked up to me, eyes on my skirt, hesitated, then said, “Pretty skirt.” I beamed my thanks.

At the corner, a woman walked up to me, paused, stammered, and finally said, “Pretty skirt!”

In the town square…

In line at the coffee shop…

As I walked down Congress St….

My lunch break drew to a close. Just as I reached the door to my place of work, a woman stepped up to me. I smiled at her, readying myself for the compliment. “Um,” she said, then dropped her voice to a hiss. “Your skirt is tucked up into your waistband.” I reached around to discover that I’d been walking around for 30 minutes with my flanks and one buttock exposed to the fresh spring air.

age 27: On a fine summer day, I propped open the door to the posh boutique where I worked. In the process, I somehow slipped off the doorsill, tumbled onto the sidewalk, and found myself sprawled on the curb, limbs in the street, my fine linen frock tossed up over my head baring my panty-clad bum to the denizens of my small town. I stood up, smoothed down my skirts and frills, waved reassuringly to the small crowd that had assembled (including a car that screeched to a halt a few feet from me, to help or to gawk), and went back to work.

age 38: Donning the fuzzy fuchsia slipper-socks sent (along with an adorable handmade nightie) by my sister, I announced, “These things are slippery. They’ll kill me.” That might sound like hyperbole, but The Fella knows me well enough to hear the truth when it’s spoken: he urged me not to wear them, even for a moment. I scoffed, “Hmmph, I think I can survive one night.” Three minutes later, he heard a series of ominous thumps and slamming sounds, then me meekly calling out, “I’m okay!”

This barely skims the surface of embarrassments. Half-expect this to become a series. Category, even.



My vision is astonishingly poor. My first instinctive act upon waking is to reach out for my glasses; if my hand does not immediately fall upon them where they were carefully placed at night, a small panic ensues because, you see, I cannot find my glasses without my glasses.

I cannot read without my glasses or contacts. If I hold a book close enough for the blurs to resolve into text, my own face blocks out the light necessary for reading.

All I’m saying: these glasses, they are powerful. One old boyfriend would urge me to hand them ’round the table at the coffeehouse, assuring his friends, “When you put them on, you can see through time.”

For the first time in many years, I have new glasses, with a markedly stronger prescription. Understandably, it takes a while for the visual cortex to reconcile itself to the exciting new world outside the brainpan. I’m having just a smidge of trouble with depth perception, by which I mean I am banging about like a drunken raccoon in a blindfold. Some notes to myself on the fine-tuning of perception:

– That butterfly flittering charmingly about you is a few inches away, not a foot or more, and if you inhale sharply it will be perilously close to getting sucked into your mouth.

-Yes, those are your own feet, so tiny and distant, on the pavement. It is not strictly necessary to watch them at all times.

– Quit blinking already.

– Perhaps you should wait for the walk signal and not cross against the light, no matter how reassuringly distant that car seems to be.

– Those large starfish-shaped blobs moving around outside your field of vision are people. They, too, are closer than they appear, and you know some of them, so it is acceptable, nay, desirable, to look at them and say hello.

– It is not strictly necessary to look directly out the exact center of your spectacle lenses at all times; you are allowed, even encouraged, to use your (now sadly limited) peripheral vision, which will save others the sight of your disconcerting new tendency to turn the entire upper body toward any object of interest, you freak.

– Look out, you’re gonna walk straight into that stop sign! OUCH! … Told ya.

Buckling under the pressure

Hypothetically speaking, if a man you barely know notices you staring at his belt buckle, should you defuse any possible awkwardness by brightly chirping, “Nice belt buckle!” or does that just cement in his mind the fact that you were focused intently on his belticular region?

Also, is it better or worse to follow his, “Er, thank you,” with the question, “Is it malachite?”

Hypothetically, that is.

No, really. I’m asking.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

This is terribly dull, but for some reason I needed to say it.
For me, diet serves as a clear index of stress level. In my usual busy life, I aim for a diverse and healthful range of foods. Although I used to cook fairly elaborate dishes, since starting school I rely on very simple foods. The most involved cooking I do these days is the weekly breadbaking.
On a normal December evening,

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Too few degrees of separation

Yipes. I just had one of those internet-only creepy experiences.

I stumbled across an ex’s weblog. I was link-stepping around from blog to blog, looking for fun new territories, and read an entry in which the writer describes a sudden sense of loss and anxiety, then noticed the post was on my birthday. Then I noticed the familar name on the copyright.

My first thought: Can I resist reading the whole thing?

Ethically, that would be a disastrous temptation. If I read his blog, it would only be to satisfy a dark, unhealthy curiosity — the carwreck impulse, to invoke a threadbare metaphor — and I’m hoping that doesn’t fester within me.
My second thought: Gosh, for someone with such a dark backstory, he really is dull.

So, that temptation vanished before it fully materialized. Phew!