Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bienvenue, Welcome

Phase I of the inlaw doubleheader concluded this afternoon. It was opening weekend at our B&B, as it was the first of four consecutive weekends our guest room will be in use. In preparation, we cleaned and wondered if the full size bed tucked into the alcove on the blue-collar colored third floor would be comfortable for a couple. I bought Gerbera daisies, Sunflowers and Black-eyed Susans and placed them in mason jars and bud vases throughout the house. We used pillow mist liberally; we turned down sheets and tucked in corners. We cooked together Friday night in anticipation of the arrival of The Boy's father and stepmother. They were visiting just because.

They are mainstream people who get engaged at Disney World and know people who have had double weddings on Valentine's Day. On their frequent visits to New York City, they are regulars at Central Park, the Phantom of the Opera, and Tavern on the Green. When they visit us in Baltimore, a seemingly magnetic pull attracts them to the Harborplace at the Inner Harbor. The Cheesecake Factory and McCormick & Schmick, Vaccaro's, Starbucks and Camden Yards participate in the periodic parade. And, regardless of where we are living at the time of their visit, we walk to all of these places. Because it was recently my birthday, I was asked to choose a restaurant for our belated celebration. I chose a place in our neighborhood, an upscale mom and pop where the owner greets you at the door. It's got miniature lamps on the tables and original oil paintings on the walls. It's got "character," I'm told. And I was pleased that, given their misgivings, they seemed to enjoy the new experience.

We still walked through the harbor on the way to the baseball game. It couldn't be avoided, although it's about two miles farther this year than it was when they visited last summer. I wore non-athletic sneakers and clear Band-Aids on my heels. We talked without competing with other siblings or events. We sat without looking at the clock before racing to our next commitment. Although probably it wasn't, it felt like our first grown-up visit with the parents, perhaps because it was our first married visit. Not that marriage has made us more adult, but certainly it has necessitated a level of calmness that couldn't coexist with our dating or engagement. We no longer complain about familial conflicts that never involved us until we were challenged with drawing up seating charts. We are no longer preoccupied and apologetically, if inadvertently, self-centered. We lounged with ease, sipping coffee and asking about everyone else's life. And, without unrelenting preoccupation, really listened when they responded. It was a nice way to open the season at the B&B.

Next weekend, The Boy's mother and stepfather will lodge with us on their way home from an extended stay with the other kids. We winced at the awkwardness of the guest room's guest list, but perhaps such run-ins can't be avoided and don't matter anyway. We've banished all the ghosts from our bed; we can only hope that others do the same.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Even at 25, You Gotta Start Sometime

I stood on my dirty, bare tiptoes on the Pergo in the Banana outlet, twirling brown silk for The Boy. "Are you sure I'm not too hippy in it? And I mean hippy like badonkadunk, not like granola."

"I'm sure you don't look hippy."

"It would really help if I were wearing heels," I shuffled back to my door with the 7 on it, "because I would never wear this skirt without heels." I slipped back into my inappropriate platform wedges. They could at least simulate height. I spun back out in front of The Boy.

"I really like it, baby. I think it's sexy."

I wasn't sure how dark brown silk and cream mohair could be sexy, but considering that the man in linen slouching on the boyfriend bench in the dressing room was the only one I'd be concerned with impressing, I took his opinion under advisement. "Let's put it on hold," I said, ushering him out of Banana. Though I'm usually several steps behind his long legs, as we stretched into our second hour of shopping, he lagged behind.

We darted between stores as I explained over my shoulder that usually when I shop, I plan it out in advance. Where am I going? What am I feeling? I have a thoroughly thought-out plan when I shop. But in this case, shopping had not been on my agenda. The night before, The Boy sat up in bed, peering over me and the duvet until it was "officially" my birthday. At that time, he could share his first surprise with me. "You won't have to worry about parking tomorrow at work."

So in the morning, he chauffeured me to work. I didn't really have the heart to tell him that, due to where he had to drop me off, I walked the same distance anyway. It didn't matter. It was one of those days that was short but felt long. My mom called and sang happy birthday, after initially dialing the wrong number and reaching the mysteriously hostile and suspicious guy across the hall. "I guess I have the wrong number," Mom had said.

"Yeah," suspicious guy said, "I guess you do." Thankfully, she didn't sing on that call.

The Boy picked me up, earlier than expected, with a big Diet Coke sweating in the cupholder. "Did you notice?" He glanced at me from the driver's seat, "It's the crushed ice kind."

He sprung the shopping surprise on the way. I changed from work stilettos to shopping wedges. Little did I know how difficult shopping could be without benefit of prior strategic planning.

By the fourth store I perused for shoes to snazz up the brown, my shoulders slumped. The Boy was dragging. I began leaving him at the front of stores, on benches in hallways. I apologized.

The Boy sighed. "Why can't you just look happy, gosh! I can handle this sacrifice of shopping if at least you're having a good time. How can you not find ONE pair of shoes in this whole mall? What about these?" He pointed at patent leather pointy-toed red stilettos. Yes. But not with brown. I had to hand it to him; he tried diligently to apply his "What not to Wear" knowledge.

Later that night, we arrived at the French restaurant I finally figured it would be. I wore the brown skirt and cream top with borderline over-the-top gold bling from H&M. In lieu of sassy shoes. Our reservation for 8 courses for 8 at 8 landed us in a private room upstairs with aperitifs. They must have known we might get a little loud. I lived like a carnivore, sampling five different animals. Not normally my style. 8 glasses of wine is also not normally my style, as evidenced by the end of my evening. The Boy helped me into the car. I remember adjusting my skirt over my thighs. Then we were home, but I didn't believe him. He parked the car; I fell asleep on top of the covers with the lights on. I recovered in time for the family party on Sunday. Chicken parm and chocolate cake. Twenty-five, if not wines from around the world, went down smooth.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Urban Decay

I haven't slept well this week. Perhaps it's because short weeks always feel longer. In elementary school, when I knew I was leaving early for a dr.'s appointment, I stared at the clock all day. I willed Mrs. Colby or Mrs. Ford, the office secretaries, to break in. "Mr. Davis?" They'd say, disrupting a lesson on Ulysses S. Grant or opportunity cost, "Will you please send Christina to the office for early dismissal?" I would always try to look apologetic, trying to get my eyes to communicate: "I'm sorry Mr. Davis, I'd really rather stay. But Mrs. Colby is calling, so there's not much I can do." It was exciting once the abbreviated day ended, but it still felt long. That's what this week has felt like. So maybe that's why I can't sleep.

Maybe it's the new hobby that has forced itself upon my household. We like to call it "stretching a dime." And by dime I mean the currency, not the various forms of debauchery you crickets or Snoop or Everlast might be thinking of. A quickening and increasingly frantic game of financial catch-up has descended upon our new marriage, causing my veteran married friends to nod in understanding. I feel confident this desperate resourcefulness has contributed to my restless nights.

But mostly, I can blame my interrupted sleep on my address, not my emotional composition. For the time being, despite my mother's best efforts and most grisly urban legends, we have chosen to live in the city. And on many days and even nights, this decision seems worthwhile. Not so much this week. Monday night, due to what I cursed and dubbed a bizarre case of food poisoning, I was rendered uncomfortable all day and miserable all night. And also, painfully awake.

Tuesday at midnight, as The Boy and I drifted off, I heard several large trucks arriving outside our door. There was much metal clanging and workmens' slang. And then, over the shouting and the thunderous idling of a giant engine, a hammer on a metal pole. Really. Throwing the duvet aside and huffing loudly, I separated the blinds to find what appeared to be BGE trucks blocking the intersection outside our house. Apparently, night time is the right time for making large repairs to traffic lights in residential neighborhoods. The Boy patiently suggested I sleep in the spare room. I apologized as I headed upstairs to the hotter but also darker and quieter room at the back of the house. When I came back to our room in the morning to get dressed, The Boy sat up in the middle of the bed, confused.

"I missed you." He squinted and said it as an accusation. "I thought you would come back."

I had planned on it, I explained, but once I finally found sleep I couldn't seem to let it go.

Last night, my best laid plans for hitting the sack early were accidentally abandoned. Damn Project Runway. I couldn't let The Boy watch it without me. You know. Not that he would.

Regardless, I deeply believed sheer exhaustion would have felled me quickly and for good last night. It was not to be. The dog, Mosotos, has developed a compulsive, paw-licking habit that somehow manages to wake me in the middle of the night. I snap my fingers and tell him to stop, waking The Boy. Nobody wins. At 4 am, I woke myself up yelling, "Oh my God, what is that noise?" It sounded like a saxophone playing random notes at odd intervals. But much louder. This morning, The Boy looked at me as if I had a saxophone coming out of my ears. He didn't remember. I still didn't sleep.

And now, at nearly 11, the ghetto bird has been circling a two-block radius for the last 20 minutes. It does not bode well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Women I've Met

There is a woman who favors paisley and olive drab (the color, not some new dull type of tapenade). I run into her in the ladies room. Frankly, let's be honest. I run into most of the women in my wing in the ladies room at some point. I drink a lot of water these days, which means I lose a lot of water. When I leave the office to head to the restroom, I also bring my water bottle to refill it. It takes everything I've got not to say "cause and effect" every time I walk out that door. I don't do it. But I want to.

So the woman in olive drab. It's not her limited color palette that makes her notable to me; it's her love of dental hygiene. How would I know about her passions when I don't even know her name? Well.

Albeit hesitantly, I have accepted there are people who brush their teeth at work. My time-honored appreciation for squeaky teeth is well-documented. Mere days before I face the inevitable 2-5, I maintain a cavity-free grill. However, this maintenance is not accomplished at work. There are more discrete methods. But this woman laughs in the face of discretion. Not only does she brush her chompers at work, she uses mouthwash and floss as well. Since, to my limited understanding, flossing is a once-a-day activity, I just can't comprehend why one would choose to practice said activity in the dimly-lit bathroom occupied by others. I'm just saying.

In more relevant news, the aforementioned birthday is Friday. It's the first one I'm not even remotely excited about. Sunday I met the incredibly gorgeous 19-year-old cousin of one of my beautiful friends. She had just gotten engaged and asked me breathlessly if, as a newlywed, I felt there were any distinctions between engagement and marriage. I looked at my beautiful friend out of the corner of my eye and laughed a little too devilishly. When we got on the topic of age, the pretty young thing said, "Oh my gosh, I KNOW! I'm going to be 20, and it's going to be sooo weird not to be a teenager anymore!" And, as precious as she was, I wasn't proud of the ugly face I made at my friend. I'd rather not inspire that face among any of the crickets ahead of me on our shared candlelit road.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ain't No Need to Go Outside

I just expressed brilliance onto this machine, but I made the mistake of doing so while also perusing CNN, which, apparently, has the most vicious and unrelenting pop-ups on the market. I'm seething, and I just swore in frustration at The Boy. Then I rebuffed his attempts at kisses and unnecessary apologies. So, I've got work to do, and it doesn't involve reposting.

The much anticipated rain descended on our charming city today. I'm sitting on the couch in the candlelit living room half listening to Sex & the City while The Boy waits out my wrath upstairs. We have tentative plans to walk a couple of soggy blocks to see an old friend's new band, but I'm doubting our attendance. Ever since I heard Jack Johnson's "Banana Pancakes" on my drive this morning, it's been in my head. "Can't you see that it's just raining, ain't no need to go outside..."
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