elder porn20180730_22251760

… was a gingham summer dress I’m still not sure about and my Velcro Teva sandals, the kind of footwear favoured by back-to-the-land hippy types as well as senior citizens on a tour of the Holy Land.

Now that’s a Venn diagram to keep marketers on their toes.

I bought the gingham-dress-I’m-still-not-sure-about at the supermarket. It cost me £11.99. At the time, every aspect of this transaction seemed irresistible: the idea you could go into a supermarket to buy bananas and toilet paper and fulfil your wardrobe needs. That you could buy a gingham summer dress for £11.99, and that you could leave a supermarket with toilet paper, bananas and a gingham summer dress and still not have broken a twenty.

I get a little overexcited in supermarkets.

The problem, though, is by the time you get home and have calmed down a little, you realize you’ve spent £11.99 on a garment that looks like it cost £11.99.

I’ve got to stop buying supermarket dresses.

As a result, the gingham-dress-I’m-still-not-sure-about has been demoted to what I wear when I’m home alone and noodling around on my desktop Mac, which is what I was doing a couple of nights ago when I received a very creepy piece of spam:

A sex blackmail email.

The email said that unless I transferred £700, in Bitcoins no less, to a certain URL account, my history as a frequenter of porn sites, along with webcam videos of my, well, sex romps would be posted all over social media.

Who knew I led such an exciting, sordid life?

Or that I was so technologically adept? I can barely connect to Facetime, let alone interact with a porn site.

The next day, a second sex blackmail email came in, this one demanding £7,000.

It was turning into a bidding war.

Irrationally – because this is probably the time to point out there are in fact no sex tapes and no sleazy browsing history — I couldn’t help but feel a little surge of pride, as in, Hot stuff! I’m going up in value.

The tone of both emails was a combination of leering and menacing. Leering in that I was complemented on my taste in erotica. Menacing because an old password of mine was cited with the suggestion of access to others. The message was so targeted, so familiar and chatty that I had to stop and take a few seconds to think, probe the recesses of my mind. Did I do this? Did I actually go to some seedy site one winter night and then forget about it?  Had I brain blocked a whole series of Internet porn sessions?

No.

Hand on heart, eyes on Safari history, I can say there is no truth to these allegations.

But it did get me thinking about issues of supply and demand. This kind of blackmail spam is created and disseminated on the back of technologically sophisticated, research-based algorithms. The sender undoubtedly has a mine of information about me – old passwords, contacts, Facebook activity. This means he/she/it has to have some idea of when I was born, must know I’m not a kid, but, rather, une femme d’un certain age.

Which in turn made me think if they’re targeting meaccusing me of having made sex tapes they’re threatening to put out there, then they must think someone out there wants to watch this stuff; that there are viewers interested in the sex antics of what I’ll call an age-inappropriate performer.

In other words, according to my blackmailer – and who better than a blackmailer to know what’s selling — there’s a potential new audience out there: an untapped market for an as yet untapped pool of talent.

I’m talking Elder Porn.

I’m saying the time is right for us middle-aged-plus members of the baby boomer generation to barge our way into the adult entertainment industry and make it our own.

I have a few ideas.

For example, in an Elder Porn movie, typical porn movie dialogue (not that I’m entirely sure what constitutes typical porn movie dialogue because, as I can’t stress enough, I don’t frequent porn sites) could be punctuated with exclamations like, Ow, ow, my back, and Hang on, my knee’s giving out, culminating, at a key point in the action, with the impassioned cry of, Hey! Are you asleep?

We could even throw in a couple of supermarket scenes, episodes of overexcitement in the leisurewear aisle.

Obviously, there’s a lot to work out, but before I start the process of Elder Porn crowd funding, I want to thank my blackmailers for nudging me into a whole new career direction. No doubt they’ll be the first to demand residuals when my inaugural feature, Pension Babes, breaks all box office records.

Advertisements

rusty foot 2

…was a thick bandage on my foot.

 

What happened is I dropped a wooden board that had a rusty nail sticking out of it and the rusty nail landed between my toes, paring off the flesh the way a grater goes through cheese.

The reason I dropped the board, a two by four with a rusty nail sticking out of it, was because there’s a lot of competition for parking on my street. I live in one of those urban areas where there are an unaccountable number of hearty, oversized vehicles – Range Rovers and Cherokee Jeeps — as if my neighbours face a daily commute through the Himalayas instead of a weekly shop at the local Superstore.

On a practical level this means you have to be proactive if you want to bag a parking spot.  Which is what I’d been doing for several days, blocking off space on the street in front of my house so my builder, who was renovating the bathroom, would have enough space for his pickup truck. I created a barricade with stuff I had lying around — the wheelie bin, a couple of broken garden chairs, a length of rope I found in the bike shed and the two by fours the builder had already ripped out of the bathroom.

Every evening I set it up, every morning the builder dismantled it, every evening I reinstated it … and so on until by the third day my barricade, which had two by fours propped up against the wheelie bin like a post-apocalyptic tepee and frayed rope snaking through the garden chairs, had assumed the status of an art installation.

changeable art installation.

I was so taken with this idea that I forgot about the rusty nail factor and, inevitably, while lovingly reconstructing the exhibit one evening, I dropped one of the boards.

Just as inevitably, I was wearing sandals.

It was one of those accidents that seem to happen in slow motion. I watched the board fall, the rusty nail heading right for my foot, and I had enough time to think, simultaneously, O, no, along with, Let’s see how much damage this does.

 There was an amazing amount of blood but, oddly, no pain.

I think that was due to shock, which explains my next move, which was to go into the house, take the bottle of Grey Goose off the top shelf of the liquor cabinet and pour half a litre of pricey vodka over my toes.

This was instead of going into the kitchen and using the antiseptic spray that lives in the first aid kit.

I then wrapped half a roll of toilet paper around my foot and called the doctor.

Again, I was in shock, operating on autopilot. I wasn’t thinking.

The great thing was, I didn’t have to think.

I didn’t have to think twice about calling the doctor.

I didn’t have to stop to think if my insurance would cover the cost of a visit to her office.

I didn’t have to stand there with blood seeping through half a roll of toilet paper while I tried to remember my deductible in order to subtract it from the cost of a tetanus shot, sutures and a course of antibiotics.

Basically, I did not have to think about whether I could afford to get better.

This is because I live in Britain and in Britain we have the National Health Service, which provides free health care for every resident of the country, from birth to death. Correction: from conception til death.

And if you’re under 18, over 60 or pregnant, your prescriptions are free as well. Everyone else pays a nominal fee.

 I love the NHS.

It’s not glamorous. It’s not profitable.The doctors who are a part of it don’t make the kind of money they would in America, not even the surgeons. And it’s certainly not perfect. There are long waits for non-urgent care — hip replacements come to mind — and every few months the papers run photos of hospital corridors lined with rows of untreated patients lying on gurneys, their feet sticking out from under those cheap waffle-weave blankets.

Nonetheless – and this is a huge nonetheless — if you have a heart attack or cancer or if your kid comes down with an unexplained rash or if you’re goofy enough to get a rusty nail through your foot while fantasizing about a performance art career, the NHS will clasp you to its vast, overworked bosom.

Free of charge.

Whatever neighbourhood you live in.

 Admittedly, it’s not exactly free in that the cost of the service comes out of our taxes, which are not inconsiderable. Every year, X amount of tax revenue is allocated to the nation’s Social Care Budget and every year the medical professionals try to get an increase to the Social Care Budget and every year the government tries to block that increase to the Social Care Budget.

It’s an on-going, almost ritualistic tug of war, but what matters is that while they may argue about the amount of money required to maintain national health care, the starting point for that argument, the premise, is the indisputable existence of a national health care service and a budget to cover the cost. It’s a fundamental, a spending priority up there with defence, education and highway maintenance.

This strikes me as nothing more than common sense.

The physical wellbeing of a country’s citizenry is essential to that country’s wellbeing.

A healthy populace means a healthy work force. Government backed health care means employers don’t have to cough up for insurance  (although many do offer private coverage) and self-employed types along with the unemployed don’t have to take out a bank loan or sell a kidney if their child needs an appendectomy.

I still get homesick for America, still have days when I can’t believe how much I miss certain people and places. And then I think about the time I was visiting my parents in New York and realized I’d forgotten to pack my Epi-Pen – the adrenalin shot I’m supposed to jab into my thigh to stop myself from dying if I accidentally eat shellfish, to which I’m deadly allergic. My parents’ doctor was great about it. He wrote me a new prescription, free of charge, and I took myself off to the pharmacy to have it filled.

Six hundred dollars.

That’s what it cost me: $600 for a plastic syringe containing .3ml of adrenalin — the equivalent of 0.0105585 ounces.

Six hundred dollars is a good antidote to homesickness.

at the end of a marriage

February 27, 2018

Marr pic

…was a very ladylike dress, a vintage style summer frock with a princess neckline and a pattern of tea cups — dancing tea cups — against a navy blue background, the kind of garment an English lady of a certain class might have wafted around in circa 1938.

It was more than ladylike; it was whimsical.

Whimsy might seem a goofy note to strike for a marital showdown, but it was a deliberate goofiness – I’d put time into clicking through the hangers in my closet until I found what I considered appropriate.

Appropriate in this case meaning non-aggressive.

 I knew something decisive and irrevocable was about to happen to my marriage and I wanted to seem, or at least look, above reproach.

You could say I was already thinking in terms of strategy.

This was the situation, the state of play that particular summer evening: the two of us were at home, but not actively home together. H was upstairs or in the back watching tv and I was keeping busy in whatever room he wasn’t in.

You can do that sort of thing if you’ve been married a long time — avoid each other at the same time you’re actually circling each other, waiting for whatever it is that’s about to happen.

For my part, I was waiting for H to make the first move.

This makes me sound very calm and methodical about the whole business, the business of a marriage coming undone, and to some extent that’s true. There was a part of me that had been watching it, us, crumble as if from a distance, noting the signs and mentally ticking them off like a fervent teen taking a Cosmo love quiz (Has your relationship run its course? Here’s what to look for…).

Mainly though I was just very, very sad. 

Not as sad as I’d been when we’d lost our first baby. That time, that loss, I was wild with grief. This time, though, this expected loss, was a different category of sadness.

When we lost the baby we lost the baby.

We despaired. We mourned.

It was a shared sorrow.

This time, this loss, I’d be on my own.

That’s one of the shocks of divorce, the element that takes you by surprise, over and over again. Here you are, dealing with this awful situation and by its very nature, you can’t turn to your partner for comfort.

As if divorce wasn’t bad enough, you end up with irony tossed into the mix.

My dress was a nod to that paradox. All those dancing teacups and the little puffed sleeves and the bits of lace on the princess collar: that was my way of saying, disingenuously, Who, me? Threatening? Because in addition to the sadness and irony and the sense of impending doom there was also a growing awareness of what you might call competitive heat.

The thing is, what truly differentiates the sadness of divorce from all other types of grief is the fact that it almost always turns adversarial. Even if you part with good intentions, with promises to be friends forever, you have to be on your guard. You can’t just give in to the relief of mourning, which involves lying on the sofa surrounded by KitKat wrappers because the person who broke your heart will – inevitably and within a surprisingly short time – attempt to break the rest of you as well.

So as sad as I was for both of us, as frightened of the final confrontation, I also understood all this loss and emotion was going to condense down into something much more basic:

It would become a war.

 

During UK hurricane season

November 21, 2017

hurricane20171121_01332012was whatever I picked up off the floor.

I looked like someone who had dressed in the dark.

From September until the beginning of November there were days I was piling on or peeling off bits of clothing every hour or so as the weather veered from sun to rain, to wind to sleet and back to sun again.

Discarded (and, admittedly, reused) items were tossed on to a compost-like mound on the bedroom floor, a mound the dog immediately staked out as the best bed in the world, thereby adding a weather-seal layer of pug hair to my hurricane wardrobe.

It was all very unattractive not to mention unhygienic but it was Hurricane Lite compared to conditions on the other side of the Atlantic. There Category 4 and 5 storms killed hundreds, destroyed entire communities and caused $188 billion worth of damage in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean: the costliest storm system in history. Puerto Rico still hasn’t recovered.

British forecasters, barely able to contain their excitement, predicted Armageddon, ‘an autumn of chaos’, but when Arlene, Harvey, Irma, Maria, Ophelia et al finally passed through, it was briefly and without much interest, like travellers with a few hours to kill between long-haul flights.

There were losses, real losses – three storm-related deaths in Ireland, and extensive flooding along the country’s western coasts –but relatively speaking there was no sense of cataclysm or excess and as I was burrowing through the clothing mound – displacing the dog in the process – for a pair of wearable thermal socks I was reminded of the tornado that hit Birmingham in 2005. Roofs were torn off along with more than 1,000 trees and 19 people injured but its most enduring legacy was a photo meme of a trash bin that had been knocked on its side, captioned WE WILL REBUILD.

 

on vacation in Florida

July 28, 2017

… was a hospital gown, a gauze mask and a pair of surgical gloves.

This was not the fashion statement I had in mind for the Sunshine State.

The night before I left for Florida, with a cold English spring pressing against the windows, I packed sandals and Fitflops, a bathing suit with functioning elastic, three summer dresses still in their dry cleaning bags, bug spray and a monster tube of factor 50.

This was my tropical kit.

I’ve never spent time in Florida.

I didn’t know what to expect, because I didn’t know what Florida was about. On the basis of not very much I’d formed a mental picture of humidity and vegetation, fist-sized insects, Latin dancing and an uneasy co-mingling of rednecks and retirees.

I’ve never wanted to spend time in Florida.

I don’t like heat or bugs or travelling 4,000 miles in order to get someplace I don’t want to go. But I like my father and Florida is where he and his wife live for much of the year, in a gated community with man-made lakes and a Spanish-style clubhouse.

So I hauled my tropical kit to Heathrow and boarded a plane.

On the flight, I amused myself by roughing out my holiday schedule: mornings, breakfast on the lanai of my father’s house, with noxious wildlife kept at bay by the floor to ceiling screens. Afternoons, I’d try a spot of bodysurfing in the ocean and evenings we’d pile into the car and check out some of those Miami samba clubs.

I wasn’t entirely sure there was such a thing as a Miami samba club and as things turned out I never got to verify it one way or another because while I was still 36,000 feet in the air, wondering if it was jellyfish season in Florida and dosing myself with vodka in an attempt to ignore the turbulence that had the plane swooping and dipping, my father was being bundled into the back of an ambulance.

When I landed I found out what had happened: my 92-year-old father had suddenly come down with flu, which, just as suddenly, became pneumonia. High fever, compromised breathing and a precipitous drop in blood pressure. It was very quick, this downward spiral, no more than 48 hours between the first onset of mild symptoms and an edge-of-death dash to the hospital in a screaming ambulance.

In the A&E, they pumped my father full of steroids and antibiotics, shoved an oxygen tube up his nose and placed him in a kind of isolation chamber.

Which is how I came to spend my Florida vacation dressed like a lab technician.

Masked, gowned and gloved, I was permitted to enter my father’s room. I was instructed to maintain a cordon sanitaire of five feet. Robed and obedient, I kept to my corner while my father, merrily festooned with tubes, kept to his, giving the occasion the slight tang of a royal audience. Conversation was stilted. The masks distorted our words and turned them into a rich, indecipherable sludge. This necessitated multiple iterations of the same sentence and I discovered even the most heartfelt utterance, for example, I thought we’d lost you, loses all meaning when repeated six times, each time at a higher decibel level.

As a result, I fell back on banalities. My second visit, after an ear-blasting exchange about the weather, I shouted, ‘You’re lucky the hospital was so close’. I don’t think my father heard me, but it didn’t matter because as soon as the words emerged from behind my mask I experienced something of an epiphany: I suddenly understood what Florida was about.

It wasn’t a matter of luck that had a hospital less than a mile from my father’s house because in 21st century Florida there’s a hospital less than a mile from everyone’s house. In fact, that part of the state, Palm Beach County, there’s some variety of medical care on pretty much every corner, right next to the Starbucks. And nine times out of ten, it’s medical care targeted to seniors. Block after block, in the strip malls that line the four-lane highways and in what looks like manor houses set back on manicured grounds, you see signs for stroke and heart attack treatment, hip replacements and cataract surgery.

That’s what’s taken root in the Floridian bush: clinics and A&E units.

Home-grown conservationists and biologists, along with writers like Bob T Epstein and Carl Hiaasen have condemned the strategies and greed that have transformed the face of Florida from a semi-tropical (if occasionally treacherous) paradise to a tarmacked, car-dependent landscape of high-rises and gated communities. Their objections are two-fold: first, that the state has evolved into an environment in which near poverty-line Have-nots service the Haves and, second, that all the man-made changes — the long stretches of interstate, the energy hungry urban sprawl — have grossly contributed to global warming in a region that is already far too vulnerable.

They’re right, of course. What they say is true.

But what’s also true – and this brings us to the eternal capitalist dilemma – is that Florida is a state that’s evolved to meet the needs of its key consumer market: the tens of thousands of retirees such as my father who moved south to the heat and sun after a lifetime of hard work.

My father was released from hospital a couple of days before I flew back to Britain. He recovered, and it wasn’t a matter of luck. It was Florida, the geriatric health care centre of the universe.

 

when I took a selfie

February 23, 2017

selfie20170223_12403587-1… was nothing.

And not in a Kim Kardashian kind of way.

I mean nothing as in no selfie outfit, no selfie pose (head tilt, shoulder thrust, rictus grin or kissy lips) for the simple reason I have never taken a selfie.

I probably never will.

And not just because my nose photographs huge.

Unfairly so.

My stance on selfies is this: I’m waiting for them to go away.

I could say, because it’s true, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole concept of selfies, something that goes beyond mere narcissism.

I could add, because it’s also true, that on a purely metaphysical level — you know, things that can’t be seen but are meant to exist, like honour, morality, thought, exultation and responsibility – selfies represent the numbing of our collective soul.

These are valid points, with a distinct whiff of the lofty about them, but my real, deep-down objection is far more basic: I want selfies to go away because they’re boring. They’re boring and ordinary and by their very nature they were over less than two minutes, give or take a few seconds, after the very first one went up on the net. Here’s the contradictory flaw inherent to selfies: people post themselves in a show-and-tell bid to reveal how unique they are, to differentiate themselves from the rest of the world’s billions. The goal is singularity and personal branding, and as goals go, it’s completely self-defeating –pun inevitable — because the only even vaguely notable characteristic that all selfies share is their ability to make everyone – from panty girl in bathroom to jihadi boy in desert – look exactly alike: same head tilt, same shoulder thrust, same pout or manic grin. Same old, same old. When it comes to selfies, banality is the new black.

The problem, of course, is that selfies start and end with self-reference, the kind of self-reference where the self is the only reality. Almost every selfie that’s ever been posted, whatever the setting, whomever the subject, can be distilled down to a single caption, which is, inevitably: Me, me, me.

Basically, selfies are the photographic equivalent of the three-year-old who believes his toilet habits are not only exceptional, but of great significance to the world at large. This is not a bad thing when it comes to building self-worth in toddlers, but put that toddler into nursery school and he or she will soon come to realize that first, as the book says, everybody poops, and, second, with the exception of the toddler’s parents and maybe the janitor who has to clean up any spillage, one’s toilet habits do not matter to anyone.

With selfies, the rare exceptions are just that because they are unlike what came before and they’re able to surprise us. Like the deservedly famous monkey selfie from last year — that was new and different. It told us all sorts of things we hadn’t known before: that macaque monkeys have a great sense of humour. That PETA, the animal rights’ group that brought suit against the owner of the camera, does not have sense of humour although it does seem to have a great deal of time on its hands.

It was an awesome selfie but once it was up it rendered all other monkey selfies passé and mundane: samey. It’s the samey quality of every selfie after the first that renders the process an exercise in futility. You put yourself up there striving for distinction but achieving uniformity.

Even Andy Warhol, whose fault they kind of are and who made the mundane high art would say about selfies, Okay. Everyone’s had their 15 minutes. It’s over now.

when orange boy won

November 9, 2016

trump20161109_19021296

…was something nice at the start of the evening — velvet bellbottoms and suede ankle boots for my election night party. A chic leather belt. Earrings and lipstick. Swirly hair. As things started to degenerate, so did my outfit — Cinderella and the good fairy in reverse. The bells were replaced with cheesy grey sweatpants, the boots with shuffle-round-the-house-slippers. The lipstick was chewed off and – in a final ceremonial act of defeat – the earrings removed and laid out in their small leather casket.

I went to bed at 4am with a wine headache and a sense of foreboding: the state of mind shared by at least 50% of the world’s population when they crawled into their beds.

When I woke up though, the bank of fear had lifted. To my surprise, what I was feeling was interest. Fascination, even. For good or bad, the status quo has been turned inside out and what’s about to happen will be very new. Possibly disastrous –if we’re very lucky, only temporarily so — but definitely very different.

It’s less that the lunatics are taking over the asylum, than the clowns will be running the circus. And the big orange clown will be the one in charge. He’ll have to oversee everything — from taking admission to booking the performances and breaking up the fights in the tiger cage. And the fun is in the fact he just can’t do it! That’s why this show will be so can’t-miss compelling — car-crash comedy we’ll be watching with our hands over our eyes, our fingers parted just enough to let us peek at the antics. With Obama we had eight years of extreme cool. With orange boy, we’re sure to get four fun filled years of pratfalls and pie throwing.

Who doesn’t love a circus?

rosii120160811_13211561… was never as nice as what our waitress had on.

Our waitress Rosi always looked great, carrying all that food and drink to keep us happy, never spilling so much as a dollop of sauce down the front of the starched dirndls she wore. She must have had a closet full of these dirndls –red, green, brown, black versions of the Austrian national costume with its hug-me-tight bodice and full pleated skirt. This is a very corny garment, a dirndl, channelling Disney, oom-pah bands and that creepy strain of Nazi gemutlichkeit – think Eva Braun at play on the terraces of Berchtesgaden – but Rosi, a non-Austrian, managed to make it look cool.

The brown was her favourite, she told me (intimacy is inevitable with the person who knows all your dietary quirks – your preferred brand of vodka, your anxiety about meat touching veg) and the night she wore it you could see why: the color was perfect with her dark hair and eyes and the olive cast to her skin. Rosi is Greek. Every year she comes over to Austria to work the ski season, November through March. There are no jobs back in Greece, not since the economy tanked in 2008, and with the Austrian locals disinclined to take on those 12-hour shifts, six days a week, five months a year, Rosi’s annual migration is a win-win for everyone – not least the 18 of us in our corner of the dining room, cranky as toddlers after our day on the slopes.

In contrast to Rosi, we did not look great. The men shaved for dinner and one of the women showed some éclat with her nicely tailored trousers, but she was the exception and it was clear to anyone who bothered to notice that the rest of us were living out of not very promising suitcases. By the second night I was back in my old black jeans and, for a dash of color, the big red bruise I got when I tumbled off the tow lift. Of the younger members of the party, the boys came down to dinner in t-shirts and football jerseys and our last meal there two of the girls – my daughter was one of them – showed up in helmets and ski goggles. We were having fun, and we were noisy, voracious and confident that whatever we needed, Rosi would deliver.

rosi 220160811_13412750

We left Austria and Rosi’s care the end of March. Three months later the UK voted to leave the European Union. Come October it seems Austria may do the same: a far-right candidate named Norbert Hofer is predicted to win the re-run of the presidential election there. Hofer’s an extreme Euro-sceptic, with an extreme anti-immigration agenda –a Marine Le Pen without the awkward father. In the global context, Hofer’s expected win is a disquieting prospect: xenophobic, isolationist and a return to the kind of nationalism that in a country like Austria has nasty implications. On a personal level, it’s even more worrying. I’m not worried about Rosi – she’s a natural survivor, one of those people who’ll do fine wherever she ends up and look great in whatever national costume she’s required to wear — but I am worried for us, for me. If Hofer shuts the borders and boots out the immigrant workforce, then who’s going to put up with me in matters pertaining to vodka and the proximity of meat to veg? Every nation on earth, immigrants represent the group that works harder than any other, the group that, traditionally, will go the extra mile. That’s why employers hire them.

Hofer just hasn’t thought this one through.

 

at a singular funeral

January 27, 2016

www baby was a green wool mini-dress with a zip down the front and a big ring on the tab of the zipper, the kind of ring just begging to be pulled down (hello boys). All in all what you’d call a flirty little number and as such completely inappropriate for the occasion, which happened to be the burial of our stillborn daughter. I wore it to please my husband. It was his favourite dress and, having failed to give him a viable baby, I figured the least I could do was get through the day in something he liked.

That tells you something about my logic at the time.

I kept making small, precise decisions that struck me as useful and sound and that of course turned out to be extremely goofy. For example, my parents flew over from America for the funeral and my husband’s parents came down from Scotland, four large, not very young people and I decided the best way of getting to the cemetery was to cram all six of us into our compact car. My father and my husband’s father book-ended my mother-in-law on the back seat, the men’s knees jammed up around their ears. I rode shotgun, perched on my mother’s lap with the baby in her shoebox-sized casket perched on my lap. Despite the obvious clown car implications I persisted in thinking this was a sensible idea, the most efficient means of resolving the day’s transportation issues.

In retrospect (this happened a while back) it’s obvious to see why my logic was so specious, by which I mean borderline bonkers. I was operating on intellectual idle. Consciously or not, I’d switched off part of my brain, the part whose job it was to retain and process key information: information such as the baby on my lap, the hole that awaited her, the mound of dirt that would cover her. The fact I now owned a cemetery plot, not a piece of real estate I’d planned to add to my portfolio. None of this data was digestible. So I shut it out. I brain blanked it.

Brain blanking works. It does the job. Sometimes too well, a side effect I was reminded of not long ago ago when I forgot – actually forgot – to brake the car at a busy intersection. I ended up in the middle of the highway with cars swerving to avoid me, their tires screeching. I rested my head on the steering wheel (the car had conked out so I had time for reflection) and I thought: Brain blank. I hadn’t realized I was there again, in shut-down mode, but it made sense; I’m in the middle of a divorce and there’s a lot of unpalatable information I’d prefer to ignore.

The thing is, I thought I was handling this marital split, acing the paperwork, dodging the emotional shrapnel, avoiding the divorce bore scenario at parties. But the truth is insofar as I’ve been handling it, it’s been through the means of managed idiocy. And there are consequences. Like leaving my wallet under the desk at my office, which I did last month. (Luckily the office cleaners are extremely honest as well as a tad lazy so the wallet was still there when I returned.) Or the night, not long ago, when I removed a hot roasting pan from the oven and realized I’d forgotten to put on oven mitts. My friend Martyn, who tended to my third-degree burns, said it was a real Ross Geller moment, exactly like the Friends episode involving bare hands and a pot of hot fajitas. I’d forgotten about that aspect of brain blanking; forgotten the fact of forgetting — to brake at an intersection, to check your bag for your wallet, to protect your hands before coming to grips, literally to grips, with a pan full of boiling goose fat.

What I was wearing at my most recent dinner party … was salve and a microbial cellulose wrap.

 

…was sweatpants and the occasional party frock, because it’s all about fun, right?

M'chellebrate.jpeg