Oh the humanity! When did it happen? Why me? I’m a good person – relatively speaking. I do my best to be a good mother, partner, friend, neighbour. Why DO bad things happen to good people? The underskin of my arms is officially flapping, and it’s not pretty. What’s worse is that my arms remind me that I am old and out of shape at the start of every flapping day. As soon as Asher boards the school bus, we wave to each other until the bus rolls on to the next stop. My hand arcs from side to side, but the unnervingly soft skin under my arm trails behind like the tail of a kite dancing to its own beat-oblivious to the rhythm my arm initiates.
It’s possible that I hadn’t noticed my demise until the change of season because the sleeves of my cardigans and coats kept my secret safe. I waved with enthusiasm and without fear. No longer. I taught Asher how to sign “I love you” so that we could communicate the same message through the bus window without the fear of smacking the mother standing next to me in the face with my arms-gone-wild. Inevitably, Asher reverts to a joyful wave and expects me to reciprocate with gusto until the bus drives away, and we can no longer see each other. How I dread mornings at the bus stop.
Tomorrow, I turn 42, and for the first time in my life, I feel my age. I don’t feel old, mind you, and I am not generally unhappy with my appearance. But I have finally come to terms with the fact that I actually have to do more than breathe to maintain some semblance of fitness. “What do you want for your birthday?” asked Gabriella yesterday. “Liposuction.” (I don’t really want liposuction. A young, perky Italian au pair who subscribes to co-sleeping perhaps, but not liposuction.) “How about something I can wrap?”
This was the second time someone asked me for gift-giving advice. Yesterday morning, my hair stylist asked me for my opinion about sex toys for his wife. Understand that this was not a typical day at the salon for me. Usually, I arrive armed with a book so that I don’t have to make small talk, and Sergio takes the cue and leaves me to it while he works his magic. Occasionally, Sergio tells me about the latest self-help kick he’s on or a revelation about the meaning of life that has profoundly changed him, but those conversations are short. I nod and smile and ask a limited number of closed questions, and eventually he allows me that precious time we mothers savour to sit and read uninterrupted.
Yesterday, my thick, hard cover book, Gods of Venice, was unable to protect me from Sergio’s desperate need for information. He confided in me that after 20 years of marriage, he was only just learning that not every woman wants a gold, metallic, torpedo vibrator shoved up her vagine. He went online to investigate whether girth was more important than length and ended up more confused than enlightened. Had this woman ever enjoyed sex with this man? 20 years of torpedo vibrators with a man who knew squat about the female form? I felt sorry for her.
Sergio was not the first straight man to ask my advice about women. It’s the lesbian thing. I’m literally an undercover spy in the mysterious world of female pleasure. I could either be completely shkeeved and tell him to piss off, or I could do this mitzvah for the sake of unfulfilled women everywhere.
I closed my book and did my best to walk him through What A Girl Wants 101. I tried to incorporate the basics: Every woman is different; One toy does not fit all; A little romance goes a long way; Have you fucking asked her what she likes? After a bit of Q&A about the purpose of specific accessories, we both felt confident that I would leave the salon with a fabulous haircut, and Sergio would leave with a hot and steamy strategy for love.
“Thank you, Deborah! I really needed your help. I don’t know what happened to me. Maybe it’s the alignment of the planets or my age or maybe it’s listening to the 40 year old man sit in my chair and tell me about his mistress the day before his wife was due to sit in the very same chair. Almost overnight, I was overwhelmed by this incredible desire to make Angela happy every minute of the day. I love her so much, and I want her to know that I appreciate her. I realize now that my purpose in life is to make Angela happy.” I no longer felt sorry for his wife. Go, young Grasshopper, and give pleasure! Do people still make Kung Fu references? Dunno.
In this episode, Master Po teaches Kwai Chang Caine the art of the bowling ball grip.
“Can you think of something I can wrap?” Gabriella asked again. “I could use some new flip-flops,” I tell her. “And maybe some batteries.”