Dark Comedy

When I was deciding whether to go to film school in New York or Los Angeles, I did not choose New York, because at the time, I thought it was important that I didn’t wear black, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes or appreciate dark comedy.

Now, more than 20 years later, I have learned that humor in the darkest moments may be what heals us. I did not write during the three months of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, because I write like a twelve year old when I am sad. But looking back, the things I remember most are not the fear or sense of loss, but moments that made me laugh.

Here are two from visits to the cosmetic surgeon (who is otherwise awesome). It is important to note that for both, my husband was in the room for moral support.

In the weeks between diagnosis and surgery, the cosmetic surgeon explained the options, and while pinching my stomach fat, said, ”there is enough fat here to make boobs, but they would be very small A’s. Smaller than you are now.”

Enough fat on the belly. Small boobs. Feeling super sexy. “Hi, honey!”

A few months later, IV in for the final implant surgery, the cosmetic surgeon stops by before we head down the hall.

Recall the husband in the room… again.

“Okay now, remember, we are working with the deformity in your chest wall….”

Chest deformity. Yep, that’s me. And don’t forget the belly fat.

Just the visual you want for your husband minutes before you go under.

And I know it only because the surgery went well that it cracks me up every time I think of it.

At Least the Hair Looks Good

A few days before Thanksgiving, my twelve year old told me he was out of toothpaste. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday, however, I forgot to buy more.

Then with family returned to the east coast and supplies low, I announced that I was heading to the store. “Anybody need anything?”

The usual requests… chocolate Oreo ice cream and Froot Loops from the kids, and almonds and anything protein from my husband.

And then…

“You still didn’t get me my toothpaste.”

I started to add it to the list.

“I haven’t been able to brush my teeth for three whole days.”

Now, wait a minute!

There are multiple bathrooms in our house that have plenty of toothpaste. He is twelve. There were six times in three days when he likely stood at the sink and made the decision to do nothing about the lack of toothpaste.

No toothpaste. Shoulder shrug. Start the day. No toothpaste. Shoulder shrug. Climb into bed. Still no toothpaste, but the hair looks good. Start the day.

Learned helplessness? Laziness? Or is he just gross?!

My Grandma Arms

Many years ago, a film professor of mine said, “A woman should retire her arms by age 35.”

At the time, I was 25 and thought her a bit Hollywood. But at 45, I understand she was just advising that we take care of business before it’s too late… and somebody sees…

Arms are rarely mentioned when men talk about the sexy parts of a woman’s body. And most women do not list them as the part of their body they most wish they could change. Small boobs, big ankles, bulging belly, wide hips all come in ahead of arms. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone sigh, “If I could only feel better about my arms…”

Then suddenly, you hit your mid-forties.

Unless you’ve actually focused on keeping your arms toned, they seem to be the first thing to “go grandma” on you. Your legs still look good – everyone has to walk, right? Your waist may still exist. Underwire bras give you a lift if you need it.

But then it’s spring. You put your cute dress on for a graduation or a night out. You know, the sleeveless one? And your arms give you away.

You point to the stage where a family member is about to receive a diploma, and out of the corner of your eye, you see movement. Actual jiggling. Like grandma.

From that moment on, it’s all about the arms.

A Good Night Gone Bad

Tuesday night dinner. Homework is done. Report due Friday that caused much heartache over the weekend is done. Everybody is eating the food I cooked without drama. It’s a good night. Then…

“Mom, you’re definitely not hot,” said the 10-year old out of nowhere.

“Not good,” my grinning husband lowered his voice.

“Well, you used to be hot,” the 10-year old tried to recover. “But now you’re too old.”

“Digging yourself into a hole, dude.”

Appreciating Nature When You’re Eight

I was walking through our neighborhood this afternoon with my eight year old, and realized that I was stomping from one crunchy fallen autumn leaf to the next.

Will I always do that?

I asked my eight year old, “How old are you when you stop automatically stepping on the crunchy leaves?”

“I don’t know. I don’t step on the crunchy leaves,” he grinned. “I like jumping in the piles.”

Maybe we are never too old to crunch the leaves. We just know how much it will hurt when our old bones hit the bottom of the piles.

Later that night, I could hear him through our open door, impressing his Dad with his knowledge of football while I watched the dog outside. The moon was almost full and clouds moved through its light. And I wondered, how old will my eight year old be when he first notices how spectacular that is.

And then I remembered how he and the other boys in his class watched the clouds approaching Chief Mountain on a third grade hike last week (“God, please don’t rain on us! We love you!” and “Doesn’t that cloud look like a T-Rex?”), or how my boys cheered on the lightning during our last nighttime storm (“Yesssss! That was awesome!”).

Maybe we are never too young to celebrate nature. We are just much louder, more wild in our appreciation.

Something Silly I Do for My Mom

I talk to my mom 3-4 times a week. That’s as much for me as for her.

But I get my hair done for her.

It’s not that she has high expectations of me in the fashion and style realm of life. And she is not high maintenance herself. So it may seem odd that a 45 year old woman who lives half-way across the country from her mother is still concerned with what her mom thinks of her hair. She would say I am crazy.

Two years ago, during one my mother’s visits, I realized that if I have not had my hair done in the days prior to seeing her, she spends her trip to Denver trying to convince me to leave the boys with her and get it done. Take a break. Get a pedicure. The problem is, when she is here, I want to spend the time with her. So I typically do not take her up on her offer.

On visits when I have coincidentally timed my hair appointment just before her arrival, she immediately compliments me on how great my hair my looks. And that is that.

It became clear – although I could be totally wrong, because I have not confirmed my theory with her – that the state of my hair is the only external symbol to tell her how my life is going. If my hair is a wreck, she interprets that to mean I am failing to take care of myself, stressed out and not in control of the many things on my plate. Rather, the plate is in control of me. If my hair looks good, it tells her that I am happy and finding time for myself.

What a simple way to show her I am okay – which is all that matters to her. Get my hair done.

I am going to spend two weeks with my mom starting this Sunday. So of course, I went to the salon yesterday. My hair looks fantastic, especially compared to how it looked when I dashed in just as a summer hail storm hit, six months after my last appointment – bleached out by the pool, straggly split ends and bright white hairs sticking straight up from the top. And my stylist of nine years knows now what brings me in…

“You’re going to see your mom!”

There was a time when knowing my mother was worrying about me was like a security blanket. Someone was looking out for me. Sometimes I wonder if subconsciously I told her things just to keep her up at night. Now, I understand that I am most successful when she can see at first glance that I am happy. And it makes her feel successful too – she did right by me, she was a great mom who brought up a healthy, happy adult.

After this two weeks in August, I will see her again for Thanksgiving. I’ve already booked my next hair appointment for just two weeks before…

For my mom.