Monday, July 18, 2011

Notes for twenty-somethings

In keeping with the previous post, here is my list of coulda-shoulda-woulda's, aka youth is wasted on the young:

1. That guy who you hooked up with that you dug who then acted like a psycho? Forget him. He'll still be a psycho -- and not as cute -- in 20 years.
2. Take pictures of your boobs -- just for yourself, not for sexting, people! -- before you get pregnant or breastfeed. While it would be impolitic to say they'll never be as good again, they'll definitely never be the same again. Plus, maybe by the time you're 40, boob jobs recreate what you were rather than...Barbie.
3. Travel and/or live overseas as soon as you possibly can, for as long as you possibly can.
4. Get up close and personal with poverty that is far worse than your own at least once by the time you're 25.
5. The gym is your friend. Really. It's boring and horrid but once stuff sags, it sags for good.
6. Use sunscreen. Lots and lots of it. Every day. Even if you work in a cave. When you're 40, nothing will be as gratifying as people thinking you're a lot younger.
7. Avoid credit card debt like the fucking plague. Even if her smile gives you the willies, read and follow Suze Orman.
8. Keep a list of everyone you've ever kissed. And keep that list hidden.
9. Tidy your purse once a week. Then aspire to make the rest of your life like your purse.
10. Let me think on this some more....

A letter to the Frenemy to read today

My dear Frenemy,

Did you know that I'm probably twice your age, have never met you, and have a girl crush on you? For you, I coin the term, "grush" (girl crush) -- which sounds like something vaginal and unpleasant, but under the circumstances, perhaps that is appropriate.  I hope you don't find this creepy (even if I do).

So. Here we are. Do you watch TV? I thought of you this weekend when I was on the Stairmaster and I saw a commercial for a feminine wash, the gist of which was, "Someone told me I stank down there, which let me tell you, is really learning a lesson the hard way." I thought, damn, I'm sure I can't find that ad online and comment accordingly, but I bet the Frenemy can. And then I thought some more, my thighs surely growing ever more taut with every step, how if I were 20 years younger and lived in Brooklyn or wherever the hell you live, surely we'd be friends, and then reminded myself that oh, no, we wouldn't be because I'd be so upset that you were so much better at being me than I was. You are the best me EVER. You are the me that never was.

Can I tell you how unhappy I am that blogging didn't exist when I was twenty-something? Think about that. I was perhaps my most ripe for blogging in 1992, when the Internet (and you) barely existed. But I digress.

Sometimes I think about what I would tell you: For the Frenemy: Lessons I Have Learned. Some are deadly important: (Don't dismiss finding a rich guy; and for that you must keep a tidy purse); some are less so, such as: be prepared, if it hasn't started already, for the urban garden of wiry hairs that will arrive out of nowhere on your upper lip and chin -- they'll be like weeds on the sidewalk. You'll wonder if your friends notice that you have a habit of running your forefinger over the right corner of your upper lip, and you'll hope that they think you're just being thoughtful, but really, you're thinking, Jesus, get me to a bathroom so I can get the tweezers and I really fucking hope I can pull this one out at the root and if I really had it together and were the type who kept a tidy purse I'd also be the type who would get those spiky strays lasered.

But now I have to go because I have to go pick up my son, who is two and I am trying to teach not to pick his nose, much as that is sort of hypocritical of me because more than once I've caught myself picking my nose when I write. Like my subconscious thinks that boogers harbor great ideas.

More soon, I promise.

P.S. Call your mother.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On the broken heart of Henry VIII

The Brokenhearted King?
Watching the last season of the Tudors was like eating cold oatmeal with a side of collard greens, but it did make me revisit my thoughts about Henry VIII, about whom I'm read an embarrassingly large amount. Sure, he was vain, arrogant, cruel, gullible, mercurial, dastardly, possibly brain damaged, and later in his life, fat, stinky, in chronic pain, and likely impotent, but you have to remember: he must also have been simply brokenhearted by the flock of disappointments that descended on his not-at-all-private life.

Sure, we all know the stories of the six wives, but when you really stop to think about the stack of losses, betrayals, and assumed betrayals were, it's awful to think about the impact on his interior life.

Historians think that Catherine of Aragon, good wife that she was, had a total of six to nine pregnancies, only one of which resulted in a healthy child (a girl, later Queen Mary) -- the rest were either stillbirths or miscarriages, and one son, also named Henry, who lived 52 days. Can you imagine? The thought of those disappointments alone chill me.

Then we move on to Anne Boleyn, clearly the great passionate love of his life -- she successfully produced an heir (albeit also girl, Elizabeth), and thereafter had, many historians believe, multiple miscarriages. Stress could have been at play, or just the vagaries of pregnancy in all eras before the 20th century, but one theory I find intriguing is that Anne might have been Rhesus negative (Rh-). If Henry was Rh+, then after her first pregnancy (Elizabeth), her body would reject any Rh+ babies thereafter. Now, of course, your OB will run tests and give you an antibody shot if there is potential Rh problem, but then, there would be no explanation aside from God hates you. And not just a little: at this point, Henry was up to, oh, maybe 8-15 failed pregnancies and two wives who "failed" at the one thing that was required of them.

Let's move on to Jane Seymour -- probably the best long term "fit" for Henry -- they probably could have been happily married for years. She produced a son (Edward) about a year and a half after they married, but then she pegged out immediately, probably from puerperal fever (which killed his mother as well). Yet another terrible loss, and the only explanation, yet again, would have been that God hates you, when really it was likely more that there were a lot of unsanitized hands messing around in the royal birth canal. So now on top of two failed marriages, and multiple miscarriages/stillbirths/early childhood deaths, Henry's wife has died just trying to produce a child.

At this point, the equation looks remarkably like Henry pays, quite literally, for children with the lives of his wives. And that God has it out for him particularly, above all others.

We'll skip Anne of Cleves -- much as that situation was a bummer, grief and heartbreak don't seem to have played a role, though from her perspective it must have sucked to think you're marrying the hot king of England and instead you wind up with a foul-tempered fatty who has the audacity to tell the world that YOU smell bad (and that your boobs sag).

Moving on: Catherine Howard, aka the ninny. By this time, Henry was 50, fat, grumpy, and stinky, and surely delighted to be bonking a hot 17-year-old. Still, no children (maybe because wives made him so nervous he couldn't get it up), and then, because she wasn't just young but also STUPID, she had a liaison with his favorite courtier (not to mention plenty of previous unqueenly dalliances that at best people of my mother's generation would call "heavy petting.") Can you imagine how he felt? You're the King of England, god dammit, you've had a shitty time at family life, and your hot young dumb wife has the audacity to CHEAT ON YOU? He was probably off his rocker with rage and heartbreak at that point; no wonder he said off with her head. (Not that I'm in favor of that. Or burning heretics. Or drawing and quartering. But you get my drift.)

Then we have Catherine Parr, to whom he was married for about three years, until he died at 56. No kids, presumably because he was impotent by that time since she did have one child later, at age 35 and with Thomas Seymour. She died 6 days later -- likely because of dirty hands in the birth canal, yet again.

Sure, at the time, many families lost many children, and women spent most of their fecund lives either pregnant or nursing. But Henry's situation -- the drama of it, the stakes, the mystery of it, the sheer relentlessness and bad luck -- deserves, I think, a small helping of a more sympathetic look. 

How many times must have his chest felt like it might collapse from crushing despair?