Sunday, August 30, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
What could be better than the Island? A massage at a fancy spa, perhaps? I wasn’t expecting this to be the case. I had a gift card to cash in, from my wedding, otherwise I never would have booked a treatment at the Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt hotel in Yorkville. The prices are outrageous. And for what? Last time I got a gift certificate to a snooty spa, I hated the whole experience. The girl who did my manicure was obnoxious. The “hot stone massage” was a total bust. Lying on top of hot stones is not much more enjoyable than lying on top of cold stones. Therefore, I had low expectations of my spa experience.
Imagine for a moment that you’re me.
It’s the weekend before last. You’ve been cooped up sick for two weeks. You finally have enough energy to walk more than one block. Where to go to refresh your senses? The Island of course! It’s hot and sticky in the city. The cool Island breezes will be a treat.
You reach the ferry docks. Surprisingly, it’s just as warm here right by the lake as it was at home. No matter – that will all change as soon as you get over to your own personal paradise. You squash onto a crowded ferry boat. A girl’s Barbie backpack is pushing into you from the left, while your upper arm is stuck up against some stranger’s sweaty arm to your right. But you’ll be there in a few minutes, and everything will be OK.
You reach the Island. It’s freaking hot and sticky as ever. There are too many people here. You line up for the bathroom, which takes forever, because half the stalls are out of service. There is no usable toilet paper in those stalls, because it’s all in horrible, wet mounds on the floor. The floor, come to notice it, is one huge puddle. Women in open sandals pick their way through the swamp on tip-toe. There is no soap in the dispensers. Water from the sinks overflows onto the countertops, and drips onto the tops of your feet, soaking into your socks.
The sun is too bright. The sense of fresh, open space has been destroyed by crowds and humidity. You’re still too tired to walk far, so there’s no chance of escaping to the less populated areas of the Island, away from the amusement park. You take a quick tour of the grounds. All the animals in the little zoo are napping or grouchy from the heat. Finally you give up and go back to the mainland.
It’s the next weekend. Time for your spa treatment. You make your way to the check-in desk with anxiety. Being naked in a new, strange place isn’t high on your list of comfortable experiences.
You are provided with a fluffy, white bathrobe, a pair of black flip-flops, and a locker in an immaculate change room. The entire facility, for that matter, is spotless. There are staff in white uniforms whose only job it is to clean and tidy up constantly.
Once you are changed, you take a seat in the “Tea Lounge” where there are complimentary refreshments available. Other clients in fluffy bathrobes and slippers help themselves to lemon water and biscotti.
A massage therapist shows you into a room lined entirely with tiles. You lie face-up on a padded table. The lights are turned down low. The masseuse does origami with towels to protect your modesty. She slathers your neck and shoulders with lotion that has the consistency of buttercream icing. This lotion smells indescribably good, as though someone custom-crafted an aromatherapy formula to please you personally by reading your mind.
The treatment proceeds with much kneading of flesh, the application of vapour rub, and steaming hot towels. At a certain point you are asked to turn facedown. A clarifying mask is applied to your back, and then layers upon layers of hot towels. You find yourself believing that steaming hot towels are the answer to all the world’s problems. There is no one to disagree with this opinion so you adopt it as your new religion.
Just when you thought that life couldn’t get any more decadent, the now-cooling towels are lifted away and replaced by a lovely, hot shower. A seven-headed shower attachment is above you, and rivers of muscle-melting water wash you from neck to toe. It’s like being in bed sleeping, and having a wonderful shower all at the same time!
Just when you feel your toes beginning to prune, the water is turned off. The masseuse does some tricks, like pulling a tablecloth out from under a fully set table without disturbing the wineglasses, to cover you with sheet-sized dry, fluffy towels and remove the sopping wet cloths that were protecting your bathing suit areas.
She tells you to take your time, and leaves the room. When you go to get up, you find your muscles are so loose and floppy that you can barely stand.
So, you see my point. The spa wins hands down.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I was in my naturopath’s office when the first rumbles of thunder became distinguishable from the traffic outside. We were sitting in his consulting room. A door stood open to his acupuncture treatment room, where there’s a skylight and a big picture window. The lightening flickers coming in through the door were so constant and regular it looked like there was a big TV in there, left on and tuned to static.
The wind outside picked up. Rain lashed against the windows. The rolling and crashing of thunder was almost constant. And yet, we were nowhere near the centre of the storm.
By the time our session was over, the storm was receding. The rain was still coming down in sheets, and it was twilight-dark outside much too early, but the worst I suffered from that storm was soaked feet as I ran to the subway.
Others were not so lucky.
I found a seat on a subway train among other damp and dripping folks. At the very next stop, a man around my age took the seat next to me. He was talking to himself.
“Six… dozen… chicken wings,” he said, jiggling his left leg nervously.
He murmured some inaudible comments, and then suddenly, with a big flourish, he whipped open the plastic bag he was carrying and pulled out a hairbrush. His hair was wet and messy from the storm.
He brought the brush up, and over his shoulder. He tapped himself on the back with it several times, between his shoulder blades. He threw it in the air and caught it, twice, with great concentration. That done, he dove back into his plastic bag and put the hairbrush away. He leaned back in his seat.
“Strong and powerful,” he said. “Strong and powerful PUNCH! PEANUT PUNCH!”
At this point I was having a very hard time keeping a straight face.
“Nutritious food,” he mused. “Sweet potatoes. Okra. Ackee.” Mumble mumble. He got off at the same stop as me. I walked slowly to fall far behind him. He paced off energetically, presumably in search of something to eat for his dinner. Six dozen chicken wings, perhaps?
I got myself dinner at a food court, and got back on the subway to go home. There were some girls who looked to be around 15 years old, standing in a little clump, talking loudly amongst themselves. Skinny jeans, hoodies, big gold bangles, neon pink and neon green nail polish.
Two stops later, another bunch of girls got on the train. I still can’t figure out if the two groups were loud, obnoxious friends trying to freak out all the other passengers, or if they genuinely would have liked to tear each others’ eyes out with their manicured fingernails. But the verbal bust-up that went on for the next five minutes had me ready to push the “Emergency Stop Get Help We Are In Danger Eeeeeeeeeee!” security strip over my seat. They were yelling and screaming at each other, calling each other every possible disgusting name, and making violent threats.
Finally one of the groups got off. There was some banging on the train windows before we pulled away to safety, but whew! No one’s eyes were gouged.
I got off at a transfer point, only to be almost destroyed by a team of adolescent boys who were running for the train like a stampede of charging rhinos. I threw myself up against a wall and felt the sleeve of the closest boy’s T-shirt brush my upper arm as he raced past. I would have been knocked flat on my back I hadn’t jumped out of the way.
Anyway, I finally made it home all in one piece, and found my home all in one piece, at the end of the evening. My roof was not ripped off. I was not struck by lightening or flying debris. I wasn’t attacked by a crazy man or evil teenaged girls. Nor was I squashed by teenaged boys, or even a subway train.
I’m feeling lucky!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
With friends and family I'm a lot more likely to avoid uncomfortable issues. I hate fighting. It's such a painful, raw process. And when I'm not in a position of authority, I'm vulnerable.
Fighting with Ken is the worst of all. I usually don't talk about our conflicts on my blog. A) It wouldn't be fair to him because you'd only be getting my side of the story and B) he reads this blog so he'd know if I were whining to the world at large. I like that he reads here. It keeps me honest and accountable. His rule is that I can write anything about him that's true. I think that's more than fair.
We fight around once every couple of weeks. I think that's probably normal. Do you fight with your significant other, those of you who have them, more or less than that?
Ken and I have a co-dependent relationship. Full on, in your face, we are totally wrapped up in each other to the point where sometimes we drive each other crazy. Each of us finds it impossible to pull back to an emotional distance that would allow us not to worry about what the other one is feeling.
For my part, if Ken is upset, I'm upset. I can pretend to be Even Steven, going about my business, but if he's stressed out, I can't keep my head on straight for long. I'm worrying about him, suffering with him, feeling his feelings, and generally freaking out. I can't "be strong" for him in a reliable way if he's upset for more than a couple of hours. Intellectually I realize that this is screwed up, and I should be able to do better, but even my stubborn will isn't enough to make that happen. I fall into the same hole every time, even when I can see it coming.
Ken has his own way of being entwined with me. He's great at staying strong and comforting when I'm down. In fact, he never fails to rise to the occasion when I need someone to cling to. He's good at taking care of people; he's done it all his life. He has his own soft spots that make him sensitive. No matter what I may feel is true, I've re-worded the sentences numerous times but I still don't feel I have the right to expose Ken by listing the specifics.
Let's just say when we fight, it's awful. We don't enjoy making playful , witty jabs at each other. Neither of us gets a high from being self-righteous or sadistic. It's pure misery.
Usually it ends with Ken saying he can't take anymore. He puts his shoes on and goes for a long walk. This is an improvement from the days when he used to get into his car and drive like a maniac to blow off steam. At least I know that he'll probably come home safe from his walk, and that he won't go far.
It's also an improvement that I let him go. I used to go wild when he headed for the door, overcome by my terror of abandonment. It's been enough years, and enough fights, that I know it's best for him to go get some fresh air, and space. I've learned to trust that he'll come back.
And usually by the time he comes back, we've both calmed down. A little time and distance, even 3/4 of an hour, can work magic. And in the worst case scenario, if he goes to bed angry, he'll wake up as cheerful and fresh the next morning as if the fight never happened. I've never known him to hold onto a conflict overnight.
I'm different. If I go to bed sulking, I wake up sulking. I come from a long line (on my mother's side) of champion grudge-holders. Ken is more the type to explode in the moment, and then when it's over, it's over.
My father (who reads this blog: Hi Father!) says that it's actually good for couples to fight on a regular basis. It allows accumulated tensions from the relationship to be blown off, so they don't pile up too high. In the long run it's healthier for the relationship.
How do you fight?
Friday, August 14, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Yes, I have a few hoodies, I must admit. They're still in pretty good shape. I have:
- A pink, cable-knit, Tommy Hilfiger zip-front cardigan. It was a birthday gift many a year ago. It's getting worn out, but I still get compliments on it.
- An olive green, fitted, fleece pullover with 3/4 length sleeves and no pockets.
- A couple of short-sleeved, zip-front, cotton hoodies. One is robin's egg blue with a pattern of little blue flowers. The other is white with big blue and orange, Hawaiian-style flowers.
I do like how they look. I tolerate hoodies in my wardrobe because the drape of fabric as it falls back from the neckline over the shoulders can be very flattering.
On the other hand, if the fabric is too thick or the hood is too small, the hood can bunch up at the back of one's neck, creating an undesirable hunchback effect. The worst-case scenario is when hoodies are layered, under or over other jackets, or even with other hoodies. The padding effect can spoil even the best posture, and makes a normal neck look stunted.
The other problem I have is with the zipper of zip-front hoodies. The second one bends over at all, the zipper is compressed into a series of bulging curves. If the hoodie is longer than midriff-length, you only have to sit down to get this unflattering effect. I am a big fan of button-front cardigans for this reason. Or pullovers, if you prefer.
What's your take on the hoodie?