It’s Karen calling…

There’s a name for it now. Not surprising. It’s hard these days to wear even your unique shortcomings on your jacket lapel like a badge of honor simply because good or bad it made you unique. Things are oversimplified now, broken down. They had named, classified and categorized everything, all emotions, all reactions, all behaviors; everyone was a case study now. Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD, this was the latest.

Sonia had been watching this woman on television. She had a bandaged nose. This was the woman’s fifth nose job. No matter how the doctors fixed her nose it was never good enough. The woman kept coming back for more, always under the scalpel, always bandaged. And it wasn’t just about the nose. Her cheekbones had been raised, her lips re-sculpted, her wrinkles erased, her breasts re-contoured many times. There were parts of her that couldn’t stand the stress anymore. The surgeons were afraid to touch her, she said in the interview. It was an addiction, an illness, it had a name.

Sonia hadn’t taken a good look at herself in the mirror for years. She would look down at her dress, pick at the lint or the dog hairs, smooth the wrinkles, adjust the buttons, collars or folds before leaving the house. She would look at herself sideways and ensure she looked good in profile, with no unsightly tummy bulges, while holding in her breath. She was afraid to face her frontal view. She would use the mirror to adjust her make-up, her lipstick, mascara, her hair; a section at a time, like an assembly line worker or a super conscientious masseur who covered up the rest of the body while working on the legs or the back or the thighs.

She couldn’t stand the sight of herself. If she caught an accidental reflection in the shiny elevator surface or the glass windows on the street she cringed. She had no trouble identifying with the woman on the television, if she had the money she would have been spending her time getting nipped and tucked.

There was a rational side to her that wondered why. She wondered why she cared or why she missed those days so much when she could still turn heads. She didn’t need to be turning heads anymore. It was enough that she had managed to turn the one head that counted. She was living the American dream. It had all come together, or had it?

There were moments of enforced solitude in her life now, moments such as this where strange analogies came to mind. These aimlessly meandering thoughts reminded her of her favorite blazer. The one that still looked good on the outside but when she put her hands in the pockets or accidentally left change in them, the change always made its way through the ripped lining, lost inside the coat forever.

Something was missing; the “lining” of her life was ripped and things were always slipping through and getting lost. Did it matter? The blazer still worked despite the ripped lining, so did her life, it worked. On most days she couldn’t complain, didn’t have the right to complain.

The TV segment on BDD ended. So did her idiotic analogies. She glanced at her watch – where had the day gone? She had stayed home from work today. She had some errands to run, chores that remained unfinished until she could make time for them.

The purpose of the day off was to get these things done but she had turned the TV on instead and had been drawn inside the woes of dysfunctional talk show participants, popcorn advice from the likes of the bald doctor and the woman who Americans believe they would have no qualms electing for President were she to run.

She sat there, listless and bored and unable to draw herself away from the television. She got up once to evaluate the height of the laundry and ironing pile but then went back to the daybed, TV remote in hand.

It was time for Nick to come home now. He didn’t know she hadn’t gone to work. He might have expected dinner to be ready when he got home, had she spilled the beans. So she needed to get dressed now, and bring herself out of pajamas and into a state that resembled a post-work state of dishevelment.

She would then ask him if they could go out to eat. He would reluctantly agree and they would end up at a place that had a television screen looking down at them from every corner. Once again she would focus on the menu and the meal while Nick concentrated on the scores of various games. She would try to tell him things, share her thoughts, her plans and what someone said or did while he nodded without listening. She would even confront him and say, “You haven’t heard a word I said!” to which he would say, “Yes I have!” with considerable indignation.

She dawdled around her closet some more thinking about the outfit she would have chosen had she gone to work. She settled on black trousers and the sleek black tunic that she always believed had a slimming effect but then she remembered a recent photograph where she was wearing the same outfit. The photograph had made her think she could be modeling for the plus sized woman. She wasn’t ready for so much self-acceptance yet and she decided to change. Perhaps the sleeveless black sheath? But then what about the batwings and the little overhang of flesh by the elbows? She tried to pinch the offending flesh away as she rooted around in her closet for something with longer sleeves.

Why was she even taking the trouble? Every time she asked Nick how she looked he kept his gaze steady at her eye-level and gave her a thumbs-up sign!

“Great!” he would say.

She would scream, “But Nick! You haven’t even looked at me! I know my face looks fine, how about the rest of me?”

This would get him to stare at her shoes as he once again gave her a thumbs-up! She would roll her eyes, shake her head and walk away.

Here she was trying to put together a sexily disheveled 6:00 PM look, what if she had to look really well-groomed, what would she do then? Well, it was Friday, casual Friday. She could wear her jeans. Yes, perfect. Jeans it was with a bulky sweater. She could get away with it; it was chilly in the evenings.

She glanced at the time on the cable box again, 7:00 PM. Nick was running late it seemed.

The doorbell rang. It was her neighbor Karen. She greeted her as Karen asked, “Is Nick home yet?”

“No, not yet. Can I help?”

“Um…no not really… I wanted to see if he could move my armoire for me.”

I asked where Mike was, her husband.

“Oh, he’s out of town. Besides Nick does this with such ease, he has a special technique. Things just glide into place when he moves them.”

“Oh?”

“I am sorry. Could you have him call me when he comes home?”

“Sure Karen. Feel free to borrow my husband any time.”

“Oh Sonia, you’re such a kidder!”

She sashayed back to her house flicking her blonde mane to the other side of her head, leaving me wondering how many times my Nick had been over her house gliding things into place.

She was beginning to get a little alarmed as the hours passed; it was closing in on 8:00 PM now, still no sign of Nick. She tried calling his cell phone but he didn’t pick up. She wondered if he was working late again. Maybe she was stuck with starting dinner anyway.

She strolled to her kitchen, idly peeking into the pantry. There were a couple of cans of soup. She hated canned soup. She wanted to eat a proper meal for a change. Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea to make something from scratch. She had been frequenting the Mongolian Bar near her workplace. How hard could it be, dump a few ingredients in a wok and stir fry them. But one needed ingredients for that. She decided to make a run to the grocery store.

She pushed her cart through the fresh produce section, loading her cart, then the spices and the cooking oil and then it was time to check out.

There he was buying groceries as well! He was at the self-service register. She started walking toward him..

“Hey Nick!”

He didn’t see her. She was about to repeat herself when the automated scanner called out the name of the purchased item and its price – “Trojans, extra large…” – “Hey, hey, someone’s got BIG plans tonight!”

“Er…Hi! Sonia…what are you doing here?”

“Getting groceries!”

“But…but…you never grocery shop…”

His phone rang then and as he fumbled to answer it while scanning his purchases and dropped it. Sonia picked it up and flipped it open. It said, “Karen calling…”.

She handed him the phone and walked away.


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