…for they shall be called the Children of God. Happy homegoing, Nelson Mandela.
So. Tomorrow is Moon Man’s Fancypants Office Holiday Shindig. Having survived the holiday office party last year (and even kinda enjoyed it! Tell no one.), I’m actually going into this one feeling fairly confident and prepared–I know the rules, know the layout, know more-or-less what to expect and how I’m meant to behave–and whether I’d ever officially admit this or not, I’m pretty jazzed about the thing. I mean, c’mon, I get to dress up and go to a fancy place to do fancy things with completely normal people who just happen to also be doing fancy things in a fancy place. How chic and cosmopolitan are we?!?
Besides, Moon Man was on the planning committee this year, so I get to know in advance what we’re having during the Wee Foods on Sticks hour and the Plated Dinner With Treacherous Sauces, and it all sounds terribly tasty. But I digress.
Since I knew the party was a-comin’ (’cause, y’know, it’s an annual thing. I can say with a high degree of confidence that there’ll be another party next year too), and since, regardless of any shenanigans my friends may be trying to encourage, I cannot actually attend this thing wearing either my pajamas or nothing but Chanel No. 5 and a smile, I started the dress pre-shopping process months ago. I spent ages poring over various sites, bookmarking favorites and doing price comparisons and reading reviews. And then about a month ago, It Was Time and the shopping started in earnest…at which point I discovered that the clothing industry is a fickle place (no, really?) and about 70% of the dresses I’d bookmarked were no longer available. So I set a budget, picked new dresses, and settled in to watch for sales….
During which time most of the remaining dresses I’d bookmarked vanished into the ether, to be replaced with the Season’s Hottest New Looks. At increased prices, because holidays = price gouging. Or maybe fancier, more expensive material. Whatevs.
So I panicked, picked a Dress of Last Resort (lovely, if not what I was dreaming of, but available in a nice flattering forest green color), checked the calendar, and waited for payday.
And on payday, I went to order the dress, and discovered that the forest green had sold out in my size. The remaining color options were an unsettling gold, a startling silver, and (heaven help me) baby pink. There are many colors I can successfully wear, which I find both aesthetically pleasing and complimentary to my skin tone. Unsettling gold, startling silver, and baby pink are not among those colors.
Of course, there was also funereal black, which is my usual go-to color, but this is a Cheerful and Festive Cocktail Event we’re talkin’ about here, and the dress was a floor-length slip dress with a lace overlay. Totally acceptable in a cheerful and festive color; but in black, it would’ve been a bit…much.
So I panicked again, and spent the better part of two days looking (and re-looking, and re-re-looking) at every single dress, pantsuit, skirt/top combo, slacks/top combo, and festive pajama set available on the interwebs, because I am an extra-curvy gal and they almost never carry my size in stores. Even the plus-size stores–my size sells out first, so shopping online is my best bet.
And glory of glories, joy of joys, happy Saturnalia and merry Christmas to all, I found a dress. A good dress. A dress I like. And–further proof that this season works miracles–it was on sale. I ran it past Moon Man and past my BFF for a quick “Am I crazy from excessive shopping, or is this actually as adorable as I think it is?” check, and got thumbs-up from both parties…and I bought the hell outta that dress. I pounced on it like…well, me, on a cake. Lion on a gazelle. Desperate panicked dressless woman on a dress that’s on sale. I gave them my credit card faster than I used to give out my phone number when I was still single.
And because that’s how I roll, I posted about this on Facebook as the story unfolded, and people laughed and “liked” my posts and demanded pictures of the dress, and I promised them that yes, yes, all in due time, my dears, your pictures shall be forthcoming.
And then the dress arrived, and I tried it on, and it fit, so I knew for sure this was what I’d be wearing…and I didn’t post any pictures.
I’ve been telling myself that this is because I wanted it to be a surprise, that I’d post pictures once I was actually all gussied up and wearing the dress. But the truth, if we’re gonna be real darned honest here for a second, is that I’ve been wanting to post pictures of it this whole time. It’s my Triumph dress. My I Snatched Victory From the Evil Clutches of Looming Defeat dress. My Have a Little Faith and All Will Be Well dress.
It’s not actually as cute as all that, but it’s kind of a big deal to me.
But I hadn’t posted any pictures of it because–back to the honesty part–I do not look like the model who is wearing the dress in the picture. We are not the same size. We do not have the same stylists (hers is a team of pros. Mine is…well, me). Nobody will be following me around at the Fancypants Office Holiday Shindig, airbrushing and Photoshopping me in realtime.
But y’know what? Screw that. I have nieces who deserve to have a confident Auntie BW. They deserve to see that I know that I don’t look like a supermodel but that I believe that that’s ok. They deserve to have someone show them that two people can wear the same dress, look radically different in it, and both still be drop-dead head-turning neck-snapping somebody-call-the-law gorgeous in it in completely different ways.
I deserve to have that behavior modeled for me, and since neither the dogs nor the cats are volunteering and lord knows the media ain’t helping, I’ll just have to do it myself.
So without further ado, here, kids, is the dress:
…and I promise to post pictures of myself in said dress once the Fancypants Party happens and pictures actually exist. Right now it’s hanging in my closet, where nobody is allowed to touch it, breathe on it, or look at it very hard.
Because while I’m all for modeling self-confidence and self-acceptance, I’m also all for not strolling into the party with a giant wrinkle across my butt. Especially not when it’s my Victory dress. My Delicious Gazelle on the Savanna dress. My Shut Up and Take My Money dress.
My Fancypants Dress for Fancy People dress.
It’s Thanksgiving, and you know what that means: a Facebook feed full of people waxing poetic about friends and family and blessings and family and jobs and friends and food and friends and family. And don’t get me wrong–all that stuff is really nice, and I’m sure it’s all completely heartfelt and yes, I too am grateful for friends and family and blessings and jobs and stuff.
But you know what I’m most thankful for today?
Today I am most thankful for all those boneheaded, dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks, foolish, ill-conceived, badly planned, poorly thought out, ultra-doofus choices that I’ve made since I hit the age when I was legally allowed to make all those herpaderp decisions and have to clean them up myself. Because sure, they usually made things exceedingly complicated and awful at the time; but today, when there’s bread rising in the kitchen and an amazing hubby sorting CDs in the dining room and a couple of dogs and a couple of cats snoozing in various sunbeams and life generally has that rosy glow about it, today I realize how easy and comfortable and lovely my life has become as a result of those dunderheaded moments, and I have to honor them.
There was the day at the daycare center when I said “Ok, I’ll trust that the director submitted all the paperwork correctly for this employee, and I’ll process payroll for her without double-checking, because why would the director lie?”. That’s when I learned what it feels like to lose a job you love, and what it feels like to take a Job of Last Resort at the Call Center of Doom…which is what enabled me to arrange my schedule so that I could go back and finish the college program I’d quit halfway through.
And speaking of the college program, there was that day during my sophomore year of college when I met a guy and fell sooooo in looooove and moved him into my apartment six weeks later even though he had no job, no job prospects, and no money with which to support himself; so eventually I quit school to take a full-time minimum-wage job at a daycare center to support him–er, us–and learned that I loved teaching and met some awesome families but didn’t have a degree so I couldn’t advance very far, and then I lost that job anyway (see previous) and, because such is the way of things, the guy eventually ran off with a 19-year-old voice major, but that’s pretty ok because…
While we were together, he started spending an alarming amount of time with a gal he worked with (he did have some jobs, just not consistently or frequently), including ditching Thanksgiving with my family to spend it with her, and after several months of my being increasingly sure that he was cheating on me with her and wanting her head on a platter, I met her…and her boyfriend, whom my guy had just forgotten to mention all this time. I lost the guy (see previous), but she and I became BFFs, and she was the maid of honor at my wedding…
To a guy I met after having dated a string of progressively…um…well, I mean, I’m sure most of them are very nice people and will make someone else blissfully happy. However, that person was really, really, really not ever gonna be me, ’cause ohsweetbabyjesus were some of those relationships disastrous. Hoo boy. So one day I sat down on the sofa, said “Ok, Lord, I am sick of this malarkey. You want me to be in a relationship? You find the person and send ‘em at me, because obviously I am not so whippy at finding ‘em myself”…and the next day I got an email from Moon Man, via a dating website we were both on.
And he’d made his share of dunderheaded choices too–marrying That Woman comes to mind, but without that choice he would’ve ended up Chicago and we probably would never have met, so while she’s not really the first person I think of when I name folks who are invited to Thanksgiving dinner, I’m nonetheless grateful for her, because she brought him back to Kansas. And she made him buy this house which I don’t necessarily love, but lord lord is it ever a far sight better than the roach-infested apartment where I was living when we met, and it’s nice and roomy for hosting parties and we even have a guest room, which makes me feel terribly swanky and grown-up.
So there it is: this Thanksgiving I’m most grateful for all those moments when I was not, in fact, the sharpest knife in the knife block. The brightest crayon in the box. The quickest brown fox in a room full of lazy dogs. Because when you think about it, those slow, dull, drab fox moments are the ones that dragged me inevitably toward a life that I’m actually really proud of. They’re the choices that got me to a place where I’m safe, happy, stable, sane, and (honestly) rather too well-fed. They brought me my dearest friends (Moon Man introduced me to about 150 of the people on my friends list), my lovable heathen critters, my home, my college degree, and my husband. And I wouldn’t change ‘em for…
Yeah, no, that’s a lie. There are some that I’d totally undo if I had half a chance. ‘Cause seriously now, let’s not be hasty. But I’d keep most of ‘em…
And I’d totally keep all of you. Happy Thanksgiving, ‘Tracters. I love you each, and I love you all. Even when you’re not being the shiniest jewel in the crown.
Mama BuffalowmnBuffalo Moon Ranch, KS
Objective: Find like-minded folks. Build my tribe. Spread love. Alternately, win the lottery and retire to a hammock someplace where people will bring me fruity drinks in half a coconut.
- There was that one time in high school when I burned my hands because a pot holder slipped and I dropped the 400-degree muffin pan and then tried to bat it up onto the stove with my other hand so it wouldn’t melt the linoleum floor and ended up grabbing it bare-handed instead; I learned that linoleum preservation isn’t that important.
- And there was that time when I met the guy and moved him in after 6 weeks and he wouldn’t hold down a job so I quit college to work full-time to support us and he ended up running off with someone else anyway; I learned that sometimes your parents are right, and I also learned that you can absolutely go back to school but this time it’s gonna cost you out the nose.
- In related news, I learned a lot about student loan repayment, both through this experience and through a job I held–and hated–later, where I also learned that they weren’t kidding when they said that when push comes to shove, you’ll take any job you can get that keeps you afloat…and then stick with it way longer than you ever imagined, because it’s either that or going to live under the overpass.
That One Daycare Center
- As a teacher, was charged with the care and education of groups of kids ranging in age from six weeks to twelve years. Accomplishments include training them never to use the word “hate” in my presence; teaching them the word “disappointed”, as in “You’re not a bad kid; I’m just disappointed in your decision”; and cleaning a whole lot of poop off a whole lot of surfaces. Zero casualties.
- As a member of management, was charged with overseeing daily operations of the center, including convincing parents to pay us ludicrous amounts of money, convincing teachers to work for ridiculously low pay, and being The Voice of God to kids who didn’t think the teachers really meant it. Zero casualties, except the folks I had to fire, and they had it comin’.
The Call Center of Doom
- As a representative, took calls from people profoundly in debt to the government. Explained their options (usually “pay up”), explained where the debts came from in the first place (pro tip: Bubba Joe’s School of Truckin’ And Hair Design is not a reputable college, kids, and will not, in fact, secure you a great-paying job after you finish their certification program. Also, “certification” does not equal “degree”), and explained the difference between grants (aka “that thing you did not get”) and loans (aka “that thing you did sign for and have to pay back”). Zero casualties.
- As a supervisor, trained new staff members, then oversaw their daily productivity. Did, in fact, use gold stars as an incentive. Did, in fact, keep candy on my desk as an incentive. Did not, in fact, think it was a “great place to work”, but was paid to say it was, and it was either that or the aforementioned life under the overpass. Sorry, gang. Zero casualties, except for the folks who washed out of training; in retrospect, maybe covering Dealing With the Suicidal Caller on the first day wasn’t such a great plan.
Homemaker/Domestic Goddess/Cat Wrangler
- Currently charged with providing care and maintenance of one husband, two dogs, and two cats. Accomplishments include perfecting my chili recipe (Dad would be so proud), making all sorts of stuff from scratch (including laundry detergent, both bread and butter, and wrapping paper), and making laundry sound like the sort of thing that takes one’s whole day (no it doesn’t. There are lots of long gaps when there’s a load in the washer and a load in the dryer and nothing to do in the interim. I like to use that time for catching up on novels). Zero casualties…so far.
- Also holding down a part-time job as a Virtual Assistant. This always feels like it’s taking more time than it actually does, at least according to my timesheets, but it provides some income to send to Mom to help out.
Awards, Accomplishments, and Volunteerism:
- Assorted company-specific awards at various jobs, including some “…of the Year” awards that seemed like a really big deal at the time and now just collect dust on the shelf. Whatevs.
- I organize food drives for the local food pantry, Gas Card drives for the local women’s shelter, and Adopt-a-Family drives for the holiday season. Participate in worldwide Love Letters campaign. Maintain weight-loss/exercise/healthy choices Mutual Motivation group online. Attempt to spread positivity (or at least a chuckle) via blog. Post frequent love bombs, People Being Nice to Each Other stories, and uplifting images on Facebook in attempt to accomplish same. Tell funny stories, because laughter makes things better.
- Have beaten Budget Tetris on the hardest levels.
- Can feed a village if given access to flour, water, and fat.
- Zero casualties.
…I’ve often said that people should have a “real” resume, one that discusses their actual skills that may or may not have anything to do with getting a job, because our “official” resume tends to sell us very, very short. Yes, I can type at insane speeds; but I can also get just about any infant to fall asleep–and when Junior has been screaming for 45 minutes, nobody cares how fast you can type. I can sound unbelievably professional on the phone, sure; but I can also go from “oh crap, everything is still frozen” to “dinner is served” in less than an hour. I can make a crying person laugh. I can bring people together, and get them to accomplish the miraculous. I can find the exact gift that will make a loved one cry tears of joy, and I can improvise and think quickly on my feet. I’ve got skills, in other words, that never show up on paper, but which make me unique and valuable. Skills that make me a better person. Skills that make me a good friend.
Skills that (apparently) make you keep coming back to this blog.
So if you’ve got some time today, ‘Tracters, allow me to suggest that you take some time and think about what your “real” resume would look like. What have you really learned? What have you really done as a result of your jobs? What have you really accomplished? Why should you be in the Zombie Apocalypse fort? Why do people love you?
‘Cause y’know, I think the answers might surprise even you.
Rock on with your bad self,
Imagine, if you will, an asylum.
Not a nice modern one, with group time and art therapy and periodic state inspections; no, we’re talking about a stylized interpretation of an old-school asylum, with chain-link cages and straitjackets and experiments of questionable ethical integrity. Imagine darkness and dampness and screaming. Imagine people scurrying and shuffling and running and sometimes freaking out and smashing things. Imagine grasping hands. Imagine invasions of your personal space. Imagine that asylum.
Now step right over here, give the nice lady $18 apiece, and take your ticket. When you present it to the gal dressed as a demented nurse in the entryway of what used to be a high school, she’ll point you past the sliding wall and you can go tour the Creeeeeepy Asyyyyyyylum for yourself, where you’ll meet Mr Crazy Axe Murderer, Mr Doctor of Ambiguous Morality, Miss Jokester-y Clown Lady Who Is NOT I REPEAT NOT Harley Quinn, Mr I Have This Baseball Bat Because Reasons, and a fine cast of other assorted characters all inhabiting a darkened labyrinth of twists, turns, tight squeezes, that weird spinny cylinder thing from Grease but done up in blacklight paint with a little stationary bridge through the middle, and a very beautifully detailed series of creepy scenes that you’re supposed to be too terrified to stop and examine. None of this is recommended for anyone with any sort of physical or mental challenges, including claustrophobia, limited vision, or pregnancy (which isn’t really a physical limitation of the variety they’re considering, to my mind, though I can understand that they probably don’t want to scare anyone into labor).
That, kids, was our Saturday night. Halloween around here is a Very Big Deal(TM), and the Haunted House Experience(TM) is part of the whole kit and kaboodle. There are a few big-name haunted houses in the metro area–big three-story jobs that advertise more or less year-round and cost about $50 a head to walk through–but neither Moon Man nor I had ever been to a real professional haunted house, and we’d heard about this one near us that was only $18 and did not include a three-story twisty slide at the end (pro tip: nobody wants to hear the awful squonnnnnnnk sound of a buffalo whose skirt has ridden up around her hips trying to overcome friction and get herself down three stories of plastic slide designed for someone half her girth). So we decided to give it a go.
And y’know what? As it turns out, haunted houses really are scary to me. Just not for the reasons they had in mind.
I should note going into this that I struggle with social anxiety. Meeting new people is not exciting to me. I do not enjoy going to parties where I don’t know at least 50-75% of the attendees. I do not like being unfamiliar with the unspoken rules of a place, I do not like inconveniencing others with my ignorance, and I do not like infringing on someone else’s ability to have a good time. Small talk makes me want to go live in a cave. Public speaking is fine–I’m an excellent teacher and trainer, but that’s because I’m prepared going in and know what I’m supposed to talk about; “let’s go around the room and everyone stand up and tell us something interesting about yourself” makes me pray for sudden-onset laryngitis. It’s like that for me, you see.
So we rolled up, bought our tickets, got in line, and that’s when the fear started. There was only the one line, so I could be fairly confident we were in the right place, but oh man, what if I was taking up too much room? The stairwell into the school was modestly narrow; what if someone needed to squeeze by me to get in or out and I was in their way and it was inconvenient for them? What if I were to be standing on a stair, waiting, and I turned wrong and toppled over and knocked down a stranger and squished ‘em? And that’s just getting in the door–what if I got inside and got turned around and someone had to come rescue me because for whatever reason Moon Man and I would have gotten separated? What if I knocked over some props? What if I stepped on a performer?
What if I did the haunted house wrong?
Finally it was our turn (I did not, you’ll be pleased to hear, fall off the stairs), and we started our walkthrough. The nice haunted house designer people had clearly planned for the possibility of people wandering off and getting lost behind the scenes, and had kept the path very clearly delineated–if you tried to go the wrong way, you would simply run into a wall. Try again. The pacing of the experience was good: enough jumpy startle moments to keep you on edge, but not so many that you got complacent; and the scenes changed often enough that you were constantly being distracted by new props and backdrops and somehow kept failing to notice the creepy guy in the corner who would chase you with whatever he was wielding in that scene (or you’d start to congratulate yourself for spotting him, and realize that you’d actually spotted a mannequin when the actual creepy wieldy guy ran at you from a different direction).
So yeah, I jumped and startled and gasped along with everyone else–two teenage girls had asked to walk through with us because they were too scared to go alone–but I realized as I was going through this thing that the real fear wasn’t so much the startles and spooks: it was a reflexive response to not wanting to be a bother. There were parts where we had to crawl through low, snug doorways; and those were scary not because of the claustrophobia, but because I am slow to get through such obstacles and heaven forbid I might slow up the line. At one point a Creepy Clown Lady told us we were going slower than her grandma, and I thought I might actually die of mortified embarrassment. And I was acutely aware of my body’s position in space–it was just terrifying to think I might accidentally bump someone, or try to feel my way around a corner and grab someone’s face by mistake. I realized at one point that when a performer leapt out at me and I jumped, it was partly a startle response, sure, but the noise I was making was the same noise I make when I back into someone in the grocery store aisle–that combination of “Gahh!” and “OhgoshI’msosorry”. In other words, I was mentally apologizing to the Hatchet Murderer, because I might have startled him.
And then it all came to a head when, in one room, there’s a sort of planned separation–the performers watch for groups to come through, and split them off from each other, trapping one part of the group in the room for an extra minute or two. We came to that room, the teenagers got stuck in there while Moon Man and I got shunted into the dark hallway just beyond it, and, because you’re supposed to keep moving, we kept moving, figuring the girls would be chased to catch up with us in a bit. We were a good ten steps down the hallway when the Demented Man With Meat Hook stopped us and asked (in his gravelly “evil” voice) if we wanted to wait for the girls; we said yes, so he told us to wait right there, and I (because when you are a Socially Awkward Buffalo, you tend to default to Excessive Politeness) said “Oh, that’d be great. Thank you very much!”.
That’s right, kids, I’m the gal who politely thanked Demented Man With Meat Hook for his assistance in enabling our group to continue traveling together through the asylum of tortures and terrors.
So that was our Saturday night. For what it’s worth, it really was an entertaining experience. It’s probably not one I’ll repeat, but not because of anything they did wrong, or because it was too scary, or anything like that.
No, it’s because later, a Chainsaw Maniac With a Goat Head led us down a wrong path, then told us it was the wrong one and laughed at us while we headed for the right path, and I found myself thanking him too–y’know, for clearing up the mixup and letting us know we’d gotten it wrong the first time.
And really, once you’ve said “Ahh, right, [self-deprecating chuckle], thank you!” to a Chainsaw Maniac, there’s really not much left for a haunted house to offer.