Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fig #39: Leg Waxing

I decided to have my legs waxed for my husband's return from war. I know. Maybe I should have planned a party or at least a night out, but all I could manage was a leg waxing, which was decided upon one morning while I happened to drive past a European Wax Center next to Trader Joe's. I was post-yoga, wearing knee-length yoga pants, a tank top and patent-leather ballet flats. I roped another mom into swapping kid-watching duties, as she wanted a pre-cruise waxing herself. She was going for a bikini wax. I was not.

When you get your first-time wax with European Wax Center, you get a complimentary wax - lip, brows or underarms. I was there for my legs, of course, but since I got a free hair removal thrown in, I chose underarms. Fifteen minutes later (who knew you needed an appointment?), I was told to strip down to my underwear.

Wait. WHAT?

I only needed my legs waxed, after all, and my armpits. What on earth did she need to have full-access for? The waxer (I'm sure there is a professional name for this, but I didn't think to ask), just smiled and looked at my yoga pants with a hint of resignation.

The worst part of having oneself waxed, by far, is standing there in a freezing-cold waxing room, with a woman (thank God it was a woman) you've never met, who is at least ten years your junior, in a nude-colored maternity thong and the evidence that you have never waxed before, anywhere.

Okay, well, that's her job, right? And I have to say she was a gem about it all. Very sweet and non-judgemental and efficient. So, we got down to it.

European Wax Center uses their own wax, which is very thick and kind of blue and requires no fabric strips at all....just the wax, which is applied with a large tongue depressor (and a bit of flourish). It then hardens and is ripped off one's body in a fell-swoop.

It HURTS. I mean, it hurts. It's as if you can feel every little tiny hair being ripped from its home, and each little homeless hair is screaming and clinging and begging not to go. I like to think they're all like little tree-hugging environmentalists chained to their favorite Redwood, facing down a large bulldozer with brave determination.

Okay. It hurts. I ended up only doing half a leg, because let me just tell you that it doesn't take just one little waxing. No. When you've never waxed at all, you must have several layers of wax applied and ripped off your leg to get each and every last hair, and it only hurts less each time because you become sort of numb to it. My legs were bright red. She kept applying more. She tried to distract me with the art of conversation (I think I've about got her signed up for a stint with the Peace Corps), but there is no getting away from the pain of this experience.

The legs were done. Sigh. Each leg was waxed about five or six times, certain areas more than others, stubborn hairs dealt with appropriately. Then my legs were rubbed down with some sort of soothing lotion (which was offered to me for purchase later), and my hair-removal-friend prepared for my underarms. You can imagine my fear and trepidation. I knew, now, what I was getting into, and I also knew my underarms had to be more painful than my legs.

I was right. It hurts more, if you can imagine, albeit in a different way. It's hard to describe. It's as if the different hairs have different personalities and respond uniquely to torture.

I had to have my underarms waxed 7 times each to remove all the hair. By the end I was sweating. I was holding my breath. It was like the moment just before a pap smear, when you try to be all calm and nonchalant but inside you're thinking: hell. not again. i've already had two kids for pete's sake.

I was done. The hair-removal woman was very excited. I tried to be very excited too, because this was my first waxing experience, and I was assured I'd love it, become addicted and be waiting with heady anticipation for my next appointment. But it was hard to imagine any such feelings with legs as red as lobster tails and pits to match.

The disappointment set in when I got home, took off my pants, showered and applied lotion. I had....stubble? Could it be? Yes. There was stubble. I had a friend feel my legs (I know), and she was also surprised. An avid waxer, she assured me there should be no stubble. "Baby soft," she said, and we both shook our heads. Hmmmm......

I was pretty sure I could get a softer, closer result with a plain old-fashioned razor. And truth-be-told, even the hair-removal expert at the Wax Center admitted she did her own legs with a razor at home. Still....I'd paid my money.

That night, I got out of the bath and was drying off when I felt my leg throbbing. I mean, it actually hurt. I looked down and was shocked to see swelling, redness and a blue streak between my calf muscle and ankle. I looked closer. I saw a large vein bulging and throbbing at the surface of my skin, and the entire area was red and hot.

As some of you may remember, I have a thing about the veins in the backs of my legs, and I realized with horror that the waxing had actually pulled a vein to the surface of my skin, and I had a slight panic attack with the idea that it may never go back. I may have a large, bulging vein there for....ever.

Beyond the cosmetic, what if I'd done something terrible to that poor vein and then it shut down the flow of blood to my feet and I started getting some kind of awful, poorly-circulated blue foot and I had to start wearing support hose and orthopedic shoes?

I swore then-and-there to never wax again. Ever. Not only had I possibly damaged my body, but I'd done it at great pain and expense (okay, $40) all so I could have stubble.

I was done. I swore it off. I admonished myself for another small, petty beauty treatment that highlighted my vanity. I shook my head, literally, and made myself a solemn vow: I'd never again do anything to my body that I couldn't do in the comfort of my own home.

And then.....just when I'd settled it all in my mind and felt noble (much like my tree hugging friends), I happened to raise my arms above my head and was shocked....amazed.....overjoyed?

I had NO ARMPIT HAIR AT ALL.....nothing. No hint of a 5-o'clock shadow. No stubble. No dodgy razor burn. No bumps. No red spots. Nothing but smooth skin.

They were the underarms of the Hollywood elite. I was Halle Berry, SJP, Nicole Kidman......I was shamelessly smooth.

I spent the next two weeks in awe of my armpits. They remained smooth and baby soft for weeks. Not hours. Not days (please). But weeks. And when the hair grew back in, it wasn't all short, prickly and dark. It was soft, dewy baby hair. Even if there was hair there, it wasn't offensive and unseemly. It was....lovely.

And just like that, I became addicted to waxing. The 411 on waxing? No legs (ever) again. I'll likely never muster the courage to get my bikini line waxed, and Lord help me if I ever consider the full down-under, which involves (I've been told) getting up on all fours, buck-naked. No. No, no.

But my underarms? Oh.....yes. Yes, yes, yes. I will be back...for my underarms.

Some things are worth the pain.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Quote 19 of 52

I realize I have a lot of quotes to make up. In fact, I'm getting a little tired of the quotes. I may substitute some poems for the next few weeks instead....I mean, how many inspirational bits does a girl need? They're all starting to run together. But maybe I'm just overwrought with moving, living out of a hotel and facing the thought of unloading my entire life in another town and another home after four days on the road with two kids and a husband who says things like: dear, you don't have to drive it like you stole it. (referring to the car, of course).

This morning's quote I love, however. And I think it's a helpful reminder for me, particularly when it feels my life isn't quite my own, what with the Army and the moving and the fact that my husband brings in all the cash.

How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.

Anais Nin

With that, I'm signing off and heading south....taking the kids to Disneyland. This is going to be fun-fun. I can't wait.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Fig #8 - Finding My Signature Scent

As figs go, and as life experiences go, finding one's signature scent shouldn't be difficult, thought -provoking or enlightening. It should be simple and fun, take maybe an afternoon, and when one is finished with this task, I can't imagine one should feel anything other than a small sense of satisfaction and pleasure.

Not so for me.

I began my search at Nordstrom, and that was a little disappointing in and of itself. If I had lived in a larger, more glamorous city, I would have begun my search at Neiman's, Saks or (if I were in Paris, for example) a small, independent perfumerie with a little women in an Hermes scarf who could take one look at me, sum up my personality as intelligent chic and come wafting out of the back of her shop with the perfect blend of delicate florals, a hint of spice and a touch of something none of us can really put our finger on.

I started at Nordstrom, with my daughter sullenly in tow, and I just said this: I want to find my signature scent. I like floral perfumes that are light and classic. I don't like musky scents that are heavy....you know, like 'Opium' from the 80s.

The salesgirl gave me a dozen samples. Chloe. Prada Orange and Prada Iris. Several Chanel (I really, really, really wanted my signature scent to be Chanel). Gucci. Hermes. Versace.

The salesgirl gave my daughter a sample of a Coach perfume, which was very sweet. I mean, I wouldn't wear Coach but little M. was in heaven.

Okay. I took them all home in a little silver bag and put them on my bathroom counter and began plucking them out each morning (my eyes closed) and spraying them at my neck and wrists and then spending the day sniffing on and off to tell if one or the other took my breath away and screamed: I.Am.Yours.

I liked them all. Some were heavier than others. Prada were especially clean and crisp. I never wore one and then felt, later in the day, that it was awful or gave me a headache....I never wanted to take a hot shower and be done with any of them. And yet, none of them grabbed me, made me want to throw down $100 for a tiny bottle and call it my own.

One afternoon my daughter wanted me to share her perfume sample, which I'd all but forgotten about. I indulged her and sprayed some Coach 'Poppy' on my wrist, doing a mental eye roll because let's face it: I'm not a Coach 'Poppy' kind of girl. I'm a Chanel kind of girl. I'm a Prada kind of girl.

I didn't think a thing about it until I sat down to watch 'The Good Wife' that night (I so want to say that I sat down to read a copy of The New Yorker instead), and I was sitting there and I realized that I was smelling my wrist, over and over again, and I couldn't stop. It was lovely. The smell was lovely and I didn't want to stop smelling it. I remembered then that I'd sprayed on the Coach that afternoon, and I sat there watching 'The Good Wife' with my wrist all but glued to my nose.

I went back to the Prada, Gucci and Chanel for two more months. I tried very hard to love them. My husband returned to the States, and I tried very hard for him to love them so that maybe I would love them even more. Finally, I went to Nordstrom and asked for my own sample of Coach 'Poppy.' I put it on one afternoon before car shopping. I forgot about it, of course, and as I was shopping for a new car, I kept thinking: wow, this dealer has great smelling cars.

Of course, it was me.

And so it is that I have found my signature scent: Coach 'Poppy'

When I wear it, it smells like me....only better. (Should I be in marketing?)

I love the way it mixes with my skin and my own natural scent. I love smelling my clothes after I've worn it. I just love it.

I realize some stuff about me that maybe was lurking in the back of my head (as all realizations usually do) about who I am, how I view myself and how I want other people to view me. I know that sort of thing shouldn't really be illuminated via a perfume, but for me that's how it happened.

I have to ask myself why I want a signature scent to begin with, and when I do ask that question I realize that I want OTHER people to view me a certain way: classic, timeless, established. When I think of women for whom these adjectives are used (Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Michelle Obama),I want to be like these women, and maybe a part of me feels that if I set all the exterior conditions, I will be.

So I try to buy cashmere, wear neutrals, keep my heels a decent height and remember to polish my nails and trim my cuticles and forgo the red. I wear my hair in a classic style, try to limit the make-up and carry a buff-colored leather handbag that I'm sure will last a lifetime. And even if I am not aware of it every minute of every day, I am, in my own way, trying to create a certain kind of person in myself.

That woman does not wear Coach 'Poppy' - which is only a degree or two separated from Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.

Except, I do. I wear Coach 'Poppy.' I love it. I can't take my wrist away from my nose.

So, when the move is final and we are settled, I'm going to head to the mall and plunk down my $100 for a bottle of perfume that maybe doesn't fit into the idea of who I want to be but that fits in perfectly with who I already am.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Back....with apologies.....

I am back and with a big ol' SORRY for being absent for 2 months. Life has been hectic and eventful. My husband returned from Afghanistan, we've been given new orders to move and I'm actually on the east coast now looking for our new home. Most of you who read this blog already know this, but for the passerby, this is my best and strongest case for my silence.

The good news is that even with all these changes and big events, I've managed to tackle a handful of figs. I know! A handful.

Here is a list of what I've experienced over the past two months:

1. I found my signature scent. I can't wait to blog about it.

2. I tried absinthe.

3. I bought the perfect, classic, timeless dress (and heels to go with it).

4. I visited Grandpa Bob.

5. I visited Napa.

6. I had my legs waxed.

7. I visited Yosemite.

WOW. I just made the list and now I realize how much I've done and I'm feeling that I kind of rock!

I learned a lot from each one. Some lessons were poignant and some were less-so. All of them were an experience, and I'll try to write about each one over the next few weeks. I'm also plugging away at 'Good Poems' and loving it. I read a few poems to my husband each night before we fall asleep, and it's a really lovely little way to end our nights. He lies in bed with his eyes closed, his hands clasped at his chest, above the sheets, a little corpse-like but quiet. He doesn't admit to liking it much, the poetry, but he chuckles now and then so I think he's getting something out of it. It's like trying to listen to self-improvement tapes while you sleep I guess.

For those of you who remain faithful and check in, even braving O'Keeffe's slightly dodgy photo....thank you. Really.

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