My Mother, the Terrorist Target

My mother  is 83-years-old (I came along in her 40’s lest you mistake me for a very well-preserved 60-year-old) and still lives in the same house where I grew up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma because she likes her neighbors and she doesn’t like change.

Mom grew up in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her family was poor, and she had 13 siblings.  As the second-oldest, my mother was kept home after the 7th grade to help care for the other children.  She has always been self-conscious about her lack of education, especially with a smart-ass daughter who liked to correct her grammar and spelling (the karmic retribution for this bad behavior towards my mother will be outlined in a later post.)

My mother is also extremely suspicious of things she doesn’t understand, be it cable TV or people. In fact, she is so scared of electronic devices that her clocks spend half the year an hour off because she refuses to change them during Daylight Savings Time for fear that they will break.

If my mother starts a sentence with ‘Bless her heart…’ it means she’s about to gossip about someone or say something really mean. And rest assured, she’s got the gossip. Her volunteer work for the church’s meals programs means she takes dishes to people’s homes after a funeral or when they’re sick. That sounds very sweet, but think about it – she knows where the spare key is to just about every home in Broken Arrow. Nothing gets past this woman. Moreover, if she’s unsure what the real story is, but she’s pretty sure there’s a story to be told, she’ll just make up the missing pieces and form a more bizarre tale than could ever take place in reality.

For example, when I first went to college, ATMs were not prevalent, so I wrote checks to the student union to get cash. My parents were still receiving all my bank statements, and when mom saw that I had cashed a series of checks to the Cornelius Vanderbilt student union, she became convinced that I was being blackmailed by the Vanderbilts for my petty student wages. She was so convinced that she called my roommate and begged her to help free me from the grips of the Vanderbilt mafia. That’s just a taste of her imagination and ability to find the worst possible scenario in any situation.

Because my father was a marine in WWII and served in the South Pacific, my mother has always been a true, mid-western patriot.  But there is irony even in her patriotism. While home visiting a few years ago, a pipe burst during a snow storm. Of course, my mom has used the same plumber since she moved to Broken Arrow. When she discovered that her regular plumber had retired and left the business to some young ‘whipper snapper,’ she panicked. I convinced her to let the whipper snapper do the work, as I would be there with her to make sure he was ‘ok.’

Whipper Snapper showed up to fix the pipes, and I tried to do my job and elicit information about him by using my only skill, social butterflyness. So, I asked what brought him to BA (because clearly he’s not from here or my mother would know him and his ancestors.) Our conversation went like this:

Me:  “So, where are you from originally?”

WS:  “I just moved here last year from Hawaii.”

Me:  “What? Why in the world would someone move from Hawaii to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma?!!”

Mom:  “Well, if y’all don’t like America, you should just move on back to that foreign country!”

Me:  “Mom, Hawaii is part of the United States.”

Mom:  “Not as far as I’m concerned, it’s not!”

Me:  “Mom, Daddy went to war because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor…which is located in…HAWAII.”

Mom:  “I don’t care what y’all say! Ya’ll can just move on back to Hi-wi-yah if you don’t like America!”

Sigh.  Luckily, the young whipper snapper had been schooled in foreign relations and was more competent than I.

WS:  “Oh, I agree with you, ma’am. That’s why I moved here.  Learned my lesson.”

He gave me a wink.

Mom: “Well….alrighty then. How are those pipes lookin’?”

He is still my mother’s plumber.

Suffice it to say, my mother does not like change. Even the inclusion of a new state to the union 50 years ago has not met with her acceptance yet. But, alas, the times, they are a-changin’. The country is changing, and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is changing too.

Our long-time next door neighbor passed away a while ago, and the children sold the house. The down market meant the house remained empty for a long time. The yard became overgrown and the house started looking a bit ‘tired.’  In September, the for-sale sign finally came down and a moving van pulled up. My mother strained all day to see the new neighbors, but only saw moving personnel. On the day the family moved in, they used the garage-door-opener and entered their new home quietly, unseen.

Over the next week or so, workers came to the neighbor’s house. The lawn was manicured, the house painted, and mom was relieved to have such responsible neighbors again.

Mom kept an eye out for the lady of the house during the day, but the house always seemed quiet. “The wife must have to work,” she whispered to me over the phone, like she’d said something dirty.

A few days later, on trash day, my mother struggled to take her garbage to the curb.  She uses a walker for assistance, so trash day involves the following long process: toss the bag a few feet ahead, take a few steps with the walker, slowly bend and pick up bag, toss it again a few feet ahead, take a few steps, pick up bag, toss again, etc.  You get the picture.

My mom had made it about half way down the driveway when she heard some rustling in the yard next door. She turned around to see a woman in an all-black burqa headed straight for her.

Now, I would like to explain to you what my mother is actually seeing and thinking: Armageddon! I knew it! That friggin’ Obama IS a Muslim, just like I said… and from HI-WI-YAH!  I told that smart aleck little missy that it wasn’t a state! Now he’s let all the terrorists in, and we’re under attack!

Ground zero of said invasion is the very sought-after target, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and the 83-year-old nosy neighbor on Hickory Street must be taken out first!

My mother was so frightened, she couldn’t catch her breath to scream. She tried to scurry up the driveway back to the safety of her home, but couldn’t outrun the terrorist woman in black. The woman grabbed my mother’s walker and said, “You stay.”

Mother was frozen with fear, so staying or fainting was her only option. Then, the lady in the black burqa walked over to the garbage bag, picked it up and took it to the curb. She saw another bag in the garage that needed to be hauled down, picked it up, and placed it on the curb as well.

The woman came back to my mother and said, “I sorry. No English,” and went to her house. My mother called me immediately to tell me about the incident.

“Bless her heart, I don’t know what she was thinking wearing that black robe in this heat!  She’s gonna smother plum to death!”

The next day, the woman in black came back to my mother’s house and rang the doorbell. While my mother was still leery about living next door to terrorists…well, they seemed nice enough. She opened the door, and the woman in black was holding a cell phone, which she handed to my mother and motioned for her to speak.

The woman’s son was on the phone. He introduced himself and said, “My mother is new to this country and very lonely. She is taking English classes, but doesn’t have anyone to talk to. She would like to know if you would mind helping her with her English.”

After that, my mother had a whole new attitude.

“Guess what?” she said on the phone to me.

“What is it, mom.”

“I’m an English teacher!”

Silence.

“Janie?”

Apparently, my mom has been meeting with the lady in the black burqa for a few months now. They have lunch together and talk in simple English words.

“I tell her a word, and she pronounces it back, and if she don’t get it right, I say it again for her.”

Great.  My mom is teaching this poor woman to speak English with a hillbilly accent.

“Oh, we snack on chocolate chip cookies and some crazy tea that tastes like cat pee to me, but I don’t want to be impolite. Bless her heart, she’s only been here a few months, so she don’t know good food yet.”

My mother and the lady in the black burka next door have become good friends now.  They even spent New Year’s Eve together (well, until about 10:00pm).  “We couldn’t really understand each other, but she’s good company.”  (which means my mother can talk without interruption or disagreement. )

And that’s how my mother, the English teacher, thwarted a terrorist attack in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  Thanks to her, peace once again reigns, Broken Arrowans are safe to roam the streets and our homeland is secure.

 

The Days of Wine and Botox

My birthday was a few weeks ago.  I’d like to say I turned 25…and I might actually say that after a few glasses of wine, but one look at me would give away the obvious falseness of such a statement.  Lately, I’ve noticed some disturbing changes.  There is a crinkle between my eyes that has embedded itself and is quickly growing from wrinkle to crevice.  Worse, the line makes me look eternally angry, and I assure you, I’m not. I’m generally a happy person…except for that darn Grand Canyon forming between my eyes. I mentioned my concern to a friend of mine who suggested I try Botox.

For the record, I have always been wildly opposed to the idea of Botox. I think it’s an evil tool used to perpetuate sexism, ageism and feed that ugly monster that constantly tells us we’re not good enough. More importantly, it’s not like it actually does what it’s supposed to do – make you look younger. Truly, it fools no one. You’re still a person who is aging, but now with poison injected into your forehead and a Joker-wannabe look.

That brings me to my biggest objection – poison. Seriously, I can see the headlines 10, 15, 20 years from now:  “Botox – The Silent Killer; New Investigation into Michael Jackson’s Death.” Generally speaking, poison is a bad thing. For such a health-conscious society, we seem to have no problem whatsoever with things like ‘botox’ (tox…as in toxin); ‘acid peel’ (something I was told to avoid in high-school chemistry); stomach stapling (seriously??? You want to staple an organ shut?) or my favorite, fat injections (which basically involves pulling fat from your butt and putting in your face).  While fat-injections are the most natural of the bunch, I’m kind of creeped-out by the idea of taking a piece of me that has housed my anus and all its leakages, and injecting it into my mouth.

Despite all these concerns, my friend assured me that I didn’t have to go crazy with the Botox. I could just ask the doctor to smooth out that ugly crevice between my eyes and that’s it.

So there I was, a middle-aged feminist succumbing to the vainest part of myself, sitting in a plastic surgeon’s office waiting for the numbing cream to kick in before willfully allowing myself to be injected with toxins.

Doctor:  “So, we’re just going to smooth out some of these lines on your forehead and give you a little lift.”

Me:  “No, no lift!  Let’s just get rid of this line between my eyes.”

Doctor:  “Yes, but you don’t want that line to turn into an odd-looking bump, right?  We have to make it look smooth and natural, so I’ll just do a couple of injections a bit higher to even it out, ok?”

Me:  “OK, but I don’t want that frozen, surprised look.  You’re not giving me the surprised look, right?”

Doctor:  “Oh, no!  You’ll hardly notice.”

And she was right. After a few quick, stinging pricks to my forehead, I was out of there and really didn’t notice much of a difference.

UNTIL…

A couple of days later, I found myself screaming in front of the mirror.

“But why, Janie?  What did you see that was so frightening?” you ask. The horror is almost indescribable.

My left eyebrow had migrated about halfway up my forehead. My right eyebrow was still in place. What I saw in the mirror was the mutant love child of Cruella DeVille and Popeye.

I called the doctor immediately and made an emergency appointment.

Covering my crooked face with a hat and sunglasses, I rushed to the doctor’s office.  A nurse with enormous, swollen, veiny lips brought me to an exam room. I removed the cap and sunglasses, hoping she would realize the gravity of the situation.

Nurse:  “You’re not supposed to call us until after the first week, you know. The Botox needs time to settle.”

Me:  “Settle? It’s settling on one side of my face, so I think we need to encourage it to move to the other side before it settles permanently!”

Nurse:  “Well, I don’t see a problem, but I can get the doctor if you think it’s urgent.”

Me (resisting the urge to cut her and drain the collagen right out of her overly-pouty lips): “Yes, I believe I would classify this as urgent.”

Waiting, waiting, waiting….doctor finally comes in.

Doctor:  “What seems to be the problem?”  (Doctor is apparently blind).

Me:  “Well, as you can see, one of my eyebrows is now VERTICAL on my forehead, leaving me with an “L” for “Loser” marked on my head. I don’t think that was the look we were going for.”

Doctor:  “Oh, I meant to do that.”

Me:  “You meant to make me look like an angry stroke victim???”

Doctor:  “Your face is asymmetrical, so I wanted to even it out a bit.”

Me (drumming my fingers because I can no longer express true emotion with my face):  “Listen…DOCTOR…I assure you that there is not a person on this planet who is more critical of how I look than I am, and I can say with absolute certainty that when I walked in here 3 days ago, my face did not have severe symmetry issues…unlike now, of course.”

Doctor:  “The nurse should have told you that we usually don’t see patients until after the first week. The Botox needs time to settle.”

Me:  “Yes, I was told. But surely, you’d want to know if the settling process had gone seriously awry.”

Doctor:  “Actually, when I look at you, what I think we need to do is raise the other side a bit.”

Me:  “So…..what you’re saying is….the vertical eyebrow is the more correct one, and your proposed solution is to give me TWO vertical eyebrows……because that’s obviously better than that horizontal eyebrow look you see so many people wearing these days.”

Doctor:  “Well, some people just have uneven eyebrows.  Yours just grow upwards.”

Me:  “AGAIN…and I don’t mean to lose patience here, but I’ve never noticed that my left eyebrow has a tendency to grow in a Spock-like manner!”

Doctor:  “What we should do is pluck that eyebrow to even it out a bit.  Let me get my assistant to help.”

A woman with NO EYEBROWS came into the room with tweezers. I’m not kidding. She was one of those women who plucks her eyebrows clean and then just draws a new set on.

Doctor:  “She’ll even it out for you.”

Me (leaping from the table to the door in a single bound):  “NOOOOO!!!”

No-brow lady:  “It’ll only take a second.  I’m very fast.”

Me:  “No way!”  Clinging to the door.

Doctor:  “Well, if you’re not willing to let us help, I’d suggest you give it a week or two and it will all even out. That twitch in your eye should go away too.”

Unfortunately, the next day I had to leave for a business trip to Vegas where I would meet my newest client in person for the first time. I tried to rehearse my introduction in the mirror so as not to frighten the man too much.

What I said:  “Hi, I’m Jane Gideon, your new publicist.”

What my face communicated:  “HI, I’M JANE GIDEON YOUR NEW PUBLICIST AND I’M SURPRISED AND DESPERATE TO BE HERE! BUT YOU SHOULD TRUST ME TO HANDLE ALL PRESS ISSUES WITH THE SAME GRACE AND CALM THAT JACK NICHOLSON SHOWED WHEN HE SAID ‘HERE’S JOHNNY!’ IN THE SHINING.”

I decided that the less scary and odd thing to do would be to wear sunglasses and head scarves to all my meetings in Vegas, claiming my right eye had been mangled while wrestling the paparazzi for my client Celine Dion (what were they gonna do?  Call Celine Dion and check?). My back-up plan was to keep them liquored up so that they wouldn’t remember what I looked like anyway after leaving Vegas. One night, I did get a bit sloppy and let the sunglasses and scarf come off, thinking it would be too dark for anyone to notice. My client physically jumped back and actually said out loud, “What the…?” before he caught himself and then pretended not to notice…and subsequently ordered a shot of whiskey.

After a week or so, the wayward eyebrow did calm down, but I had to pluck the lower half of my right eyebrow and the upper half of my left eyebrow to get them somewhat even.  Alas, the twitch has not subsided.

Let this be a warning to all of you who wish to look younger – get over it. Embrace your wrinkles. Appreciate your eyebrows for being symmetrical and in their correct places. I just want that little crinkle between my eyes back because now I really am angry, but no one knows it. And I can report that I don’t have that perpetually surprised look.  No, I’m perpetually in shock and awe.

The Poet Laureate of Pina Coladas

My friend recently hosted a party to celebrate her birthday. She is a well-known writer. Therefore, I should have known to be on my best behavior. Instead, I decided to use the party as an opportunity to check the ‘flirt with someone mercilessly’ goal off my Phuket list. In order to do that, I felt I needed a drink. There’s where the trouble started.

Several glasses of wine later, a friend asked me to recant the Korean spa story. While I feel the story comes off better in written format rather than spoken word, I figured I’d at least be more animated while tipsy (read drunk). So, I was telling the story of getting scrubbed by a Korean dominatrix when this very handsome man joined the party and took a seat behind me and my friends. I figured I’d try to get his attention with my story of semi-girl-on-girl action. Unfortunately, I did.

The handsome guy was alone, so I coyly invited him to join our conversation, thinking he’d see how funny and entertaining I was and surely fall madly in love with me on the spot.

The problem with this scene is that Drunk Jane is now in control of my body and words. Sober Jane has left the building. Drunk Jane believes that she is a goddess who is highly-intelligent and Angelina Jolie-level-sexy (think Angelina’s badass years when she wore vials of blood around her neck, not diaper bags and babies). Sober Jane controls all aspects of reason, wisdom and discretion, so none of these characteristics are within my grasp…but I didn’t know it.

Handsome guy introduced himself, but to protect the poor man, I’ll keep that private. We were talking about my friend’s birthday, and he mentioned that his birthday was in November. Apparently, I could still deduce that he is a Scorpio. Therefore, I offered my professor-like analysis of Scorpios and why they’re bad with those mean stingers. In fact, I spent a great deal of time talking about his ‘big stinger.’ My friend Susan gave me her stern “for the love of God, shut up” look, but I did not heed this warning. After delivering my manifesto on Scorpios, I realized I may have gone on a bit too much, so I said, “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Wonderful! So am I!” (in my dreams, not in any form of reality). More droning on about my non-existent writing career. In fact, I think I somehow managed to drop in a discussion about Graham Greene’s use of existentialism in my favorite book, The End of the Affair, assuming I could actually pronounce existentialism at that point. I believe the man tried to interject his thoughts on the novel, which were certainly much more valuable than mine, but I rudely talked right over him. Who knows what gems of literary analysis he was going to offer up had I not squashed them like annoying bugs.

“Have you been published?” he asked. Yikes! Dreaded question. I had to come up with some brilliant recovery, but Drunk Jane was at the wheel. This is what she said: “No, but I was a finalist for a Rupert Holmes award.”

Let me translate what Drunk Jane just said: “I was nominated for a writing award named after Rupert Holmes, the guy who wrote the poetic line ‘if you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain.’”

What Sober Jane so desperately wanted to say was that I was a finalist for a Rupert Hughes award, which is a writing award named after an actual writer.

Unfortunately, handsome guy was also a music buff so this slip of the tongue, which would have probably gone unnoticed under most circumstances, did not in this scenario. His head cocked in confusion. “Wow. Rupert Holmes sure got a lot of mileage out of that Pina Colada song.”

I changed the subject.

“What about you? Have you been published?”

“Yes, but only in some writing journals.” Ok, people, just for the record, this is actually a very hard thing to do. Magazines and journals that are primarily written for professional writers only choose the best of the best to include in their publications. I was starting to realize that I was out of my league in this conversation. I believe all I said was, “wow.”

Then he said, “Yeah, but my dad has written about 10 books and is the Poet Laureate of California, so I have a lot to live up to.”

There is an awkward pause in the conversation while I desperately attempt to revive Sober Jane. “Your dad is the Poet Laureate of California?”

“Yes.”

Here’s where I beg Sober Jane for an eloquent response, but instead say, “Holy hell!” (This is an oxymoron for those who have your red pens at the ready. Hell is not holy…nor is it eloquent).

My only hope was to change the subject…again.

“I’m a Pisces. We drink a lot. We’re, like, fish. So I’ll just swim back to the bar.”

Needless to say, the conversation died from there and no, he did not care to have the phone number of the poet laureate of pina coladas.

 

Jane’s Anatomy in 3D – My Extreme Makeover, Korean-Style

I’m considering letting myself go. I have bleached, plucked, waxed (in places where hot wax should never go), poisoned, plumped, burned, starved, purged, peeled, squeezed, yanked, sucked and limped on my tippy-toes in excruciatingly painful stilettos just to find some measure of beauty and attractiveness. None of it has resulted in any real movement in my love life in…um…well, a really long time is all I’m sayin’, people!

I know it’s awfully early in the New Year to be considering chucking all my resolutions, but I had a hard-earned epiphany about this whole beauty thing.  Let me explain.

My friend E (will avoid real names in this post) suggested that a few friends have a spa day.  Friends in attendance for the spa day: E – a gorgeous former model (I wanted to secede from the friendship when I learned of her cover-girl past, but it was too late. She’s actually really funny and nice, darn it, and the only other person I know who can out-drink me); M – a Portuguese goddess visiting from Lisbon; D – very tiny and uber-fit athletic woman from LA; and then there’s me – um…none of the above.

E explained that she found a spa in Korea town that gave these transformational massage treatments for cheap.  Going to a Korean spa didn’t really strike me as something to worry about. I like new experiences, so Korean was like trying a new restaurant. Why not? And a spa day falls under the ‘get healthy’ new years resolution, right?  E also tried to warn me that there would be lots of nakedness at the spa, meaning no robes, but we’d be given a towel. That seemed reasonable to me.

I do not blame E for my misunderstanding of what ‘goin’ nakie’ really meant. I expected a beach-sized towel to cover my private parts. What I got was a hand towel.  I gave E what I hoped was a frightful look that communicated, ‘surely this is not the towel you referenced,’ but alas, that towel was all we got and it was useless. If I held it up length-wise in front of me, I’d still have to choose between covering one breast, the other or my nether regions. My behind was completely out of the question. E explained to me that the towel wasn’t really necessary because it was just so wet in there anyway. I’ll come upon this in a minute.

For the first half hour, we jumped between a series of hot and cold pools. We were told that this was to get our circulation going, but I now know that it was a method to break our will.

Four Korean women wearing black lace lingerie walked into the pool area. Before I could say, “HEY! How come they get to wear underwear and we don’t?,” I realized these were the masseuses and the lingerie was their work uniform. I admit that this did strike me as odd, but on the other hand, being the only women in the room with some kind of clothing on, they seemed safe…and hygienic. They motioned for the four of us to follow them, and we did.

E and M were taken to one room while D and I went into another. I wouldn’t call it a massage room, but more like a massage bunker. There were multiple tables lined up in a row and no curtains or dividers for privacy. Still 100% naked, we were told to lie down on the tables face-down. D got about a 2-minute head start on her massage while I tried to sort out where I could lay my little hand towel. Yes, I was still clinging to it like Linus and his blanket even though it offered me no protection at all. The woman who was to perform my massage yanked the towel out of my hand in exasperation and told me to ‘lie down!’

I guess in Korea, before one gets a massage, one must be scrubbed clean. So, my Korean masseuse put on two gloves apparently made out of cacti and began a very angry rub-down. As she scrubbed, I could see specs of epidermis dropping to the floor. More concerning was her lack of sensitivity as her gloves met my ‘cracks and crevices.’  My butt cheeks went on auto-clench.  Kind of a self-preservation thing.

When she had completed the back half of my body, she slapped me and said, “Turn over!” My mind began to play out the possible consequences of exposing the more sensitive side of my body, but I have too much pride (at this point) to be the first one to back down and since everyone else was still on their respective tables, I wasn’t leaving either.

I turned over, as instructed, and she began to de-skin the other half of my body. At some point, she made a very unapologetic and abrupt scrape over my private region. No, not the breasts, though they had already been abused, flung-about, nipples clinched, etc. I mean the lower portion.  I thought it might have been a slip, but then she bent my leg and pushed it up into my stomach. I thought, “there’s no way she is going to take that Brillo pad to my vajayjay!” but yes, people, that’s exactly what she did.

Apparently, “NOOOOO!” does not translate in Korean. The truth is I don’t think I managed to scream anything. Forming actual words would have required super-human brain functioning under this kind of torture. It was like one of those nightmares when you’re trying to scream but no sound comes out. Instead, I laid there, traumatized, and let her do what she wanted to do with her Nazi gloves.

Then, my masseuse took my right arm and tossed it over to the left side, and said, “side!” I said, “What?” as ‘side’ did not actually sound very much like ‘side’ with a harsh Korean accent. “SIDE!” she said again and picked up my right leg and slammed it onto the left side of the table. I realized that she wanted me to turn to my side, so I did, but I laid there, leg on leg, in a stiff military position. Her rant in Korean made it clear that I wasn’t doing it right, but I didn’t know what exactly I was doing wrong.  So, she bent my right leg and shoved it on the table, allowing her to find and scrub more nooks and crannies than I knew I had. I thought, “if she scissors me, I’m going to need therapy.” It occurred to me that D was also on her side and her view was of me literally getting my behind wiped….as if the experience itself wasn’t horrific enough.

When the scrubbing was over, she took a bucket of hot water and tossed the water over my body to rinse off any soap residue or left-over skin. Then she turned me over and doused me again with the hot water.

Next, she began the massage portion. She slathered me with oil, which made my whole body quite slippery. She pulled my arms up over my head in an attempt to do a Thai-massage-like stretch, and I knew she expected me to stay put…and I wanted to, believe me. Instead, my body skidded off the side of the table like a car on ice. She gave me an angry look…because clearly it was my fault. I felt ashamed.

Now, remember that my massage is on about a 2-minute delay to D’s massage. About this time, I start hearing slapping and popping noises coming from her table, which wouldn’t be concerning if they sounded consensual….but they didn’t. I looked over at her to see how she was doing. D’s face was grimaced and contorted, and then I heard her say, “No! Stop! It hurts!” Now, whatever has caused her to finally succumb and ask for mercy I realize is about to happen to me in under two minutes. My heart started to pound because I wanted to cry uncle, but am now this Korean woman’s bitch and have lost all verbal ability.

Then I remembered in S&M play, there must be a ‘safe word.’ But I wasn’t given a safe word.  Maybe if I just started spouting off words, something would make her stop.  I threw out the only Korean word I could remember from my Taekwondo days, “Shijak!”  But wait…that’s the word the referee says right before a sparring match, so I think it might mean ‘attack!’  New word, new word…um…Apple Pie!  No, she’s Korean, so maybe Kim Chee! Or Kim Jong-Il! That might make her REALLY mad, and no one wants that, so how about ‘Sweet mother of God, stop doing that!!’?

Before I could think of a safe word (much less blurt it out), the slapping and the pounding started. It was here! Death was upon me! And then….it happened. She took her evil, sharp fingers and dug them into the base of my skull. Pain shot from my head to my big toe, and my whole body started to twitch. Still she dug her fingers even deeper. Oh, bring back the Brillo pad, please!!!! God, help me! And just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, she released me.  I tried to say, ‘bless you, mistress,’ but my body had gone into shock-induced convulsions and all I could get out was a kind of dying-whale-like whimper.

More scalding water, and then she flipped me over again. She took a hot towel (I didn’t know this place HAD towels!) and wrapped it around my head and face. Now, I’m EXTREMELY claustrophobic, so having a towel wrapped around my head was just too much for me (like everything else up to this point had been so tolerable).  I reached up to pull the towel off, and she grabbed my already raw, sore and very weak arm and pinned it under my back.

Then, she started to slap on a facial mask that I’m guessing contained cucumbers and…I don’t know…mayonnaise? Something white.  (Yes, I know, I know.)  The mask was thick and she covered my entire face, including my eyes and my nose so that my only option was to breathe through my mouth (while trying to avoid getting a taste of the mysterious creamy stuff).  My eyes were also squinted shut to avoid getting ‘mystery mask’ in the eye, but that wasn’t good enough for her.  She strapped on a hot blindfold for reinforcement. At this point, I can’t see and can barely breathe, yet she feels the need to wrap another hot towel around my head. Mind you, my body is shivering and uncovered. My bits and pieces are hanging out for the world to view, but my head is in a cocoon of towels and duck semen for all I know.

She leaves me there – blind, naked, facialed by a duck, and gasping for air. I can’t see where she went, but I know she’s not there. I don’t hear D either, so I assume she’s been taken to a dungeon and locked up for her earlier outburst. Anxiety begins to build. What if I die here?  (I would find out later that there is actually a sign on the wall that says ‘no dying!’ It’s possible they meant ‘no dyeing,’ but do they really have a problem with people bringing t-shirts in for tie-dyeing? I don’t think so.)

My masseuse finally returned and gently touched my hand. I was overcome with relief. Maybe I had over-reacted.  Maybe this was one of those ‘cleansing’ massages  –  you know where the pain is symbolism for all the blockages that are holding you back in life and if you could just let them go, peace and harmony would reign for eternity. Maybe I was becoming enlightened through my suffering.

I was starting to float into a spiritual trance when she drenched me again with scalding water. Then it occurred to me that she had not once wiped me with a rag or a towel. While I wanted that cucumber/semen mask off of my face asap, I started to think about how she was going to wash it off.

Oh my God, she’s going to waterboard me!!!!

After another scrub down with the Brillo pad, she put her hand behind my back and told me to sit up. I was blind, raw and slippery, and my coochie was squeaky clean. Sitting up was harder than it sounds, trust me. I used my hands to steady myself, and after a few close calls on slipping off the table, I finally managed to sit up. She pushed my face into a bucket of water to rinse off the mask.  While not exactly pleasant, I found this to be a much preferred option to the waterboarding.

Finally, I could see and breathe again. The sense of hope caused my eyes to well up with tears.

Before I could get too emotional about it, she slid me off the table and said, “You done now.” I couldn’t look her in the eye, but for some reason which I still don’t understand, I said “Thank you.”

She thrust me out of the massage bunker and into the shower room, still naked and slippery. I’d never felt so violated… and CLEAN! I mean, my coochie was like Kosher clean! If a Rabbi had been there, he would have declared me Kosher for Passover.

My friends were all gathered in the steam room. I could hear them laughing and talking. Grrrr. I limped towards the hot bench…a broken woman. While my friends burst into laughter, I sat there, hunched over, tightly wringing my little security hand towel, rethinking my whole raison d’etre.

On the way out, the receptionist handed me a tip envelope, because when someone strips you of your dignity and top layer of skin and leaves you mentally, physically and emotionally naked and battered, it’s customary to tip them.  On the other hand, ‘Amber’ (my Korean masseuse’s name, as written on the envelope, which is more likely her stripper name according to Facebook) now knows me better than anyone on the planet. She has seen more of me than my ex-husband. I figured that was worth an extra 20 bucks.

Afterward, the aforementioned epiphany happened. It occurred to me that I’m not the woman I thought I was. As it turns out, I don’t want to be toned, firm, silky-smooth and beautiful THIS badly.  If I’m going to live a sexless existence anyway, I could at least make it a happy, torture-free, sexless existence. I should just shut up about it and be the calloused, chubby, possibly sandy-blonde (possibly salty blonde…who knows), 5’5’’, wrinkling around the eyes, pubescent woman that I truly am, and then I would never have to see the likes of ‘Amber’ again.

Of course, I am going to Vegas this weekend…and I have that Victoria’s Secret Spring catalog launch party to attend with my client (the one that does their airbrushing).  What does one wear to a Victoria’s Secret launch party?  Certainly nothing calloused or chubby.  Maybe he’d like to feel some silky-smooth, freshly re-grown epidermis.

So, new plan: I’ll just go get a mani-pedi, tidy up with a quick waxing, spandex myself into a little black dress, put on my sparkly heels, hit the Vegas strip, and THEN I’ll think about letting myself go…unless of course I come back no longer involuntarily celibate, and then I’ll need to send ‘Amber’ a larger tip plus schedule weekly sessions.