Nancy then Cindy

 Cindy and Me.

Cindy and Me.

Nancy then Cindy

When I was small, I had an imaginary friend named Nancy. She was, in essence, me when I was my least shy. And I was a painfully shy child. But Nancy was a character, as my mother would say, meaning that Nancy was eccentric. That is, if "eccentric" were ever a term used to describe children, which it never is. A child is not eccentric-- she's just boldly odd, peculiar or different. You only become eccentric when you have agency over yourself so that it's clear your oddities are of your own choosing. Only adults get to be eccentric, and not even all adults... But I digress. Nancy was my freewheeling alto ego, she was that part of me that was not inhibited by my Catholic guilt or my fear of my father's arched brow. She was able to free-think and do. She was allowed the kind of full expression that eludes real flesh-and-blood children who can feel a spanking on their flesh-and-blood hind parts.

It was Nancy's idea, for example, to paint my room bright shamrock green. And her suggestion that we adopt a pet worm. She was the one who thought it wise and necessary to meet in the linen closet for planning sessions by the dim light of match sticks, lit one at a time. She came up with the details of the secret raids we made on my big brother's bedroom. You see? She was fearless and dangerous. Who lights matches when they are surrounded by blankets and sheets?  And who ventures into the den of the devil?

I was very devoted to Nancy and she to me. Ours was as committed as these imaginary friend relationships tend to be. One does not, after all, befriend a spirit unless one really needs her. We were inseparable and dependent. We were dependent and inseparable, that is, until Cindy showed up.

Cindy was a little miniature black poodle. She was not imaginary. She was a flesh-and-blood canine given to my family to care for when her previous owner, a young woman, unexpectedly passed away. Cindy was already fully grown. My mother brought her home the same week that Nancy and I were away at summer camp. When Cindy arrived at our house, she was sad, angry, and not about to take shit from anybody. Her former family was very similar to ours-- a mother, father, older boy and younger girl. The two kids were teenagers, and the now-deceased girl was Cindy's favorite person in that family. But when Cindy got to our house there was only a boy. And that boy, my brother, had to tread very, very carefully. If he rushed up on her, she would retreat, growl, bare her teeth and snap back. So my brother offered her food every day, and spoke sweetly to her. By the end of that first week, my brother was her new person.

I came home from camp knowing, from my mother's letters, that a new dog was waiting. I was so excited. I'd been wanting a dog for some time--- years really. My family had been unlucky with our previous dog experiences. (There are many stories, many dogs--each one deserving his/her own time.) Suffice it to say, we had a poor record and my parents only agreed to Cindy as a favor to a grieving friend.

On the day I returned from camp, I was exuberant. I was happy to be home and ecstatic about the new dog. I burst through the front door and run to my new puppy. Well, Cindy was not a puppy and she was not having it. She ran and hid behind my brother and then came at me baring her fangs and preparing to bite. I jumped up onto the kitchen counter to avoid certain death by mangulation (new word?).

My brother started to laugh heartily. He knew this scene would unfold exactly as it did. Once Cindy chased me onto the kitchen counter and he recovered from his laughing fit, my brother scooped up the dog, cradled her sweetly, turned and walked away. (Did I mention that he was the devil? ) My mother explained to me Cindy's traumatic loss and her neuroses about "meeting" new people. She assured me that if my brother could win Cindy over, so could I.

I saw this as a challenge. As soon as I found out that Cindy's former "person" was the girl, I knew I would steal her heart.

Nancy was not impressed with Cindy. "Tell me again why you want to befriend that beast?" she asked. "We don't need her. She is dangerous and we have each other," Nancy added.

But I already had my eye on the prize. "We want her because she is beautiful, because she is a girl, and because we cannot let the devil win," I said.

And so, it was on. I took over feeding Cindy. It was a hostile takeover only requiring that I rise early in the morning to feed her before my brother could. I let her sleep in my bed. I played with her in the yard. I snuck her table scraps. And she began to love me. The truth is, I was a mini version of her previous girl-person, she wanted to love me. We all knew the transition was fully complete when, on one occasion near the end of the summer, my brother and I were horsing around. I tagged him by hitting him in the back of the head and running away. He gave chase. Cindy was barking fiercely, clearly not enjoying this game of aggression.  When my brother caught up and reached to grab me, Cindy closed in with her tell-tale teeth bared and started to bite my brother on the ankle.

Cindy was protecting her person. My brother did not take his defeat well, and I didn't help.

"I am so sorry," I taunted, "I think she loves me more."

"Forget that crazy dog," the devil said.

"Payback is bitch," I wish I had been clever enough to say then, but I wasn't.

What I did do was scoop up my dog, cradle her sweetly, turn and walk away.

Nancy, to her credit, saw the writing on the wall, as well. I had Cindy, now. I was her person. She was my dog. She was warm and real. She was dangerous and quirky. She was my confidante and my protector. And she kept the devil at bay.

Calling this bit: Bangs and Filters

Bangs and Filters II.jpg

So…I got some bangs. I asked my hair stylist to cut me some bangs because I noticed that my hairline is receding...

Vanity is a bitch, isn’t she? And I don’t mean Vanity, the late Purple Prince’s girlfriend, the singer. She was lovely and purportedly a kind person…and she died…and you shouldn’t say bad things about the deceased. So, no, not her.

I’m talking about Vanity, the seventh deadly sin. THAT Vanity is a bitch. She makes you toil trying to hold onto a beauty that you never really ever had. You are chasing and chasing youth—Vanity does that!

Look at what she does to your Facebook profile picture, for example. You take your best picture and then Vanity drives you to crop and Photoshop and airbrush. You lay on a bunch of filters so that you look like you did when you were twelve years old.

THEN you post it.

And all of your friends and family say—“beautiful!”, “stunning!”, “gorgeous!”

You think they are talking about you, as if they are agreeing that you actually look like that. But they are not admiring you. They are admiring your artwork! That Profile Picture isn’t really for them, though, is it? No, Friend. it’s for you and Vanity. You posted it there so that you and Vanity are happy. Vanity helps you forget all that you had to do to create that vision and you very quickly believe that this is how you actually look.

Yes, Vanity is a bitch. But Aging is a relentless bastard, isn’t he? That asshole never sleeps. Aging and Vanity work together to make you miserable. He does his damage—encouraging you to take part in your own downfall—“Here, eat this cake.”  “Drink this wine.” "Oh, let’s lay out in the sun a little longer. You don’t need sunblock! Here—use this metal suntanning reflector!”

And then Vanity has to run behind Aging. “We can fix it! We can fix it!,” Vanity is saying—she and Sephora and that scary woman behind the Neiman Marcus cosmetic counter who has created her own lips where there aren’t any with aggressive swipes of MAC Viva Glam red lipstick.

Pretty soon Vanity makes you take out all of your bathroom mirrors and install new rose-tinted, opaque ones, so that in the morning, you always have a view of yourself that is glowing and smoothly unfocused. You don’t see how Aging has darkened the circles under your eyes ever deeper. You go from your rosy, opaque bathroom mirrors to your Facebook profile picture to keep your positive notion of yourself in tact. When someone requires a picture ID, like the airport TSA officer or that flirty bartender at happy hour, you hand over your driver’s license face down without ever looking at it, don’t you? You don’t need that police-line-up-photo-atrocity to remind you of how you actually look, now do you?

But then you go on vacation. You leave town because you believe you need this break. You are going to turn off your phone and your laptop and power down, escape your crazy life. You get a luxury suite somewhere quiet. The suite has a bowl of fruit and wine waiting at check-in--slippers by the bed. You think—this is going to be great for me, this moment to breathe, to EXHALE, sleep in, eat room service in bed. So you do. You go to bed early—fall asleep with grapes on your chest and the TV on. You wake up late. You get up, slip your feet into the pillowy hotel slippers waiting by the bed and shuffle off to the bathroom. And it’s a luxury bathroom…Your pillowy slippers are a welcome barrier between your feet and the cold Italian marble floor. You look up and there are mirrors EVERYWHERE! On EVERY SIDE. And they are not rosy or opaque. Nope, these are HD mirrors! 

And you see your reflection. And you are horrified. “JEEZ LOUISE,” Vanity shrieks! (She actually says “JESUS CHRIST!”, but you gave up using the Lord’s name in vain for Lent…so “JEEZ LOUISE!” she shrieks.)

Aging is snickering in the corner—he pushes that little round magnifying mirror that is anchored to the luxury bathroom wall toward you and you see those deep crags around your eyes and the corners of your mouth. Vanity shrieks again and you both grasp each other, and cower to the floor in the opposite corner. Now you are in a fetal position on the cold luxury Italian marble floor.

You’ve seen the hag!

Vanity is in a panic. She springs into action—“We can fix this. We can fix this!” she is saying as she gathers your cosmetic case and your exercise mat. “We can fix this!”

But you know in that moment that the truth will always find you. Aging will always be one step ahead. And Vanity is just delusional.

Anyway, yeah, so I got some bangs…