It’s All Uphill From Here

On Thursday, I was in the middle of a meeting. While I was listening intently as one does, I shook my shoulders slightly to loosen them up. I realized in that moment that my shoulders weren’t the only thing that was loose because I had forgotten, after almost 40 years of getting dressed in a specific order, to put on a bra. I was shocked but also strangely comfortable. Luckily, I was wearing a flowy top and we’re currently in the middle of a heat wave so it wasn’t apparent to anyone else but me. At least I hope it wasn’t. But still, it was a little confounding that for the first time in living memory, I had unintentionally forgotten to don a foundation garment:

Me (shimmying): I just realized that I forgot to put a bra on this morning.
Ken: Nice. But seriously? It’s not even the weekend.
Me: I know. So weird. I’ve never been so footloose and fancy-free at work.
Ken: See? You announce your retirement and the standards immediately begin to slip.

And yes, it occurred to me that my wardrobe mishap may be a subconscious result of my intention to retire from the secret agency at the end of September, an intention that I made public last week. I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but Ken’s retiring at the end of June, and we have a lot of plans. I have writing to do, he has photographs of trees and clouds to take, and we both have the antique business to maintain. (Just kidding about Ken’s photos—he’s an amazing photographer but he DOES take a lot of tree pictures–see the one below titled Sunrise). If you want to see more examples of his awesome photos, search for him on iStock—his last name isn’t hyphenated and it starts with the W part). Then there’s travelling—eventually. Our anniversary cruise, the one we couldn’t take last year, also got cancelled this year, so here’s hoping for the fall, or at least January.

Sunrise

And then to double down on my subconscious reaction to retirement, on Thursday night I dreamed that I went to a retirement workshop, but it was about FUNERAL PLANNING. I was seated between a really young boy and a very grumpy older woman, and we were given categories to make decisions about like “Materials” and “Location”. I distinctly remember examining a brochure and thinking ‘I’ve never been a fan of dark wood but this Mahogany looks pretty sweet.’ Then the woman next to me said, “For Location, make sure you specify high ground, and watch out for salt levels. High salt content causes you to decompose faster.” When I woke up, I researched this and it’s patently untrue. According to Google, bodies decompose faster in fresh water than salt water, although I get the high ground thing. I don’t want my beautiful mahogany casket to turn into a boat. Plus, since Ken will be building me a mausoleum, I want a room with a view. But all of this is beside the point, which is ‘Why the hell am I equating retirement with death?!’ I mean obviously, the bra thing is a metaphor for freedom but choosing a coffin? Then again, I’ve heard that the Death card in a tarot deck isn’t really an indicator that you’re going to shuffle off the mortal coil, but more about moving from one state of being to the other. So I guess if that’s true, I’m fully invested in the transition from work life to a life of leisure. And on Monday morning, I will stare into my bra drawer, pick out the prettiest one and sigh.

Here also is a picture of the cemetery at the top of a hill that I mentioned in the video I posted last Wednesday. I got a couple of requests so here you go. I bet there’s room up there for a mausoleum…

My Week 260: Wardrobe Malfunctions

On Wednesday, I decided to do some laundry. When I went to take the clothes out of the dryer, it turned out I was missing a pair of underwear. This may sound like a First World problem, but it was my FAVOURITE pair of underwear (see Week 239 for more details), so it’s more akin to having my donkey go lame or having my crops ruined by drought. And it also begs the question: what the hell happened to my underwear? I’m pretty sure it went INTO the dryer, so what happened to it? Is there really an alternate universe where a strange little man says “Ooh, that’s just lovely. Feel that fabric! I MUST have this special underwear which is most certainly somebody’s favourite!” and then you never see it again?

Notice those gaping maws…

I checked the washing machine AND the dryer at least twice more and there was no sign of it. Then I searched my closet—same thing. Then I backtracked and followed my path from the laundry room up to the bedroom (I may or may not have stopped in the kitchen for some liquid refreshment to comfort myself over the loss). But now I’m worried that maybe it’s hiding in a pair of pants or a sweater or something, and that it will re-appear at an embarrassing moment. And while this may seem like a long-shot, believe me it’s not—I’ve had it happen before…

October, 1991: Ken and I had moved to Thunder Bay so that he could go to teacher’s college. I couldn’t find a paying job—there were 3 rounds of interviews just to be a waitress—so I started volunteering at a local public school. I went there every morning to help students in the “Literacy Centre”, which was, in reality, a small room with one computer. On the way to school that fateful morning, I was on the sidewalk in front of the building when I looked down and realized that the toe of a pair of pantyhose was peeking out from my pant leg. I stopped. The best way to remove it seemed to be to just pull on it. This was, of course, easier said than done, and I stood there for several minutes, bent over, tugging, hopping, and wriggling around until the offending piece of laundry was finally extricated from my trousers. I shoved it in my pocket, and went into the school. When I got into the “Literacy Centre”, the teacher I was volunteering with asked me, “Um…what were you doing outside?”

I explained that I had an issue with a misplaced pair of pantyhose, and asked, “Why? Could you see me?”
“Yes,” she replied, “Yes, we could.”

We?! Who the f*ck was WE?! Well, it turned out that she had been in the grade 2 classroom next door, and she, along with 25 seven-year-olds, watched out the windows in gleeful fascination at my bizarre behaviour. Of course, they couldn’t see the pantyhose from that far away–all they could see was me doing an insane dance on the sidewalk. Thankfully, I was able to produce the nylons from my pocket to prove that I wasn’t drunk, or hallucinating about being attacked by a swarm of bees. But that’s not the only time I’ve had problems with underwear and sidewalks…

March 1998: I was about 5 months pregnant, and was getting very uncomfortable with a variety of articles of clothing. I’d resorted to wearing flannel shirts and sweat pants a lot, but I had to give a workshop in Dundas. I found the only dressy clothes that still fit me and put them on in an attempt to look professional. Ken offered to drive me, since I had no idea how to get to Dundas, and this was long before the days of GPS. On the way home, I was feeling all twisty and itchy, and I said to Ken that I really wanted to take off my bra. He said, “Go ahead. NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.” (When you read that last line, pretend that it was said very ominously, and that it was accompanied by a roll of thunder or an echo or something.) Taking his advice, I wriggled out of the bra and tossed it aside. A while later, we were going through the small town 5 minutes down the road from where we lived, and we decided to stop at the local video store. “I can’t go in,” I said. “I’m not wearing a bra.”

“Just put on your raincoat,” said Ken. “NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.” (This time, pretend that he laughed maniacally and that everything went red and flame-y for a second.)

Again, taking his advice, I put on my raincoat, and in we went to peruse the shelves of VHS tapes. Suddenly, the door opened, and this huge guy wearing a red lumberjack jacket and work boots stomped in. And he was TWIRLING MY BRA AROUND HIS FINGER.

“Hey, Darlene,” he laughed, as he addressed the video store clerk. “Is this yours? I found it on the sidewalk outside the store.”

“Not mine!” answered the clerk. “And it wasn’t there when I went out for a smoke a few minutes ago!”

And then, like a slow motion nightmare, they both turned and looked directly at me. In that moment, I had a choice—I could lie, and everyone would know I was lying, or I could salvage what dignity I had left. So I stalked over to the guy, grabbed my bra out of his grubby hands, and walked out of the store. Well, it was an expensive bra. Ken and I tried to piece the whole mystery together, and all we could figure is that, when I tossed the bra aside twenty minutes earlier, it must have landed on the floor of the car, and it caught on my heel when I got out, leaving Joe Lumberjack to retrieve it. Needless to say, we never went back to that store again.

In conclusion, I need to find my underwear before it finds me.

Also, I recently had a humorous article featured in Women Writers, Women(s) Books on “Questions You Should Never Ask A Writer”. It’s light-hearted and you can read it here.