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Feeling sheepish at Hopi pottery day

Ernie WithamMy wife thinks I’m going deaf, but I think it’s just that I have so many incredible ideas bouncing around in my head — and I’m quite sure one of them is going to make me incredibly famous, wealthy beyond all imagination and beloved by the masses — that I’m constantly exploring my own brain.

Some people also call it spacing out.

But all it takes to bring me back to reality is a simple question like: “Do you know what is the most common item stolen from the Navajo reservation?”

“Turquois?”

“Nope.

“Pottery?”

“Nope.

“Navajo rugs?”

We were on Day Two of our “Pueblo Heritage: The Anasazi, Hopi, Navajo and Chaco Canyon” Road Scholars tour. Our guide, Stewart, adjusted the microphone on his headset and turned up the volume on the dashboard of the tour van. “Sheep dung,” he said.

I was thinking maybe people in Northern Arizona should go to thievery school or at least take a night (burglary) class. But Stewart told us we would soon understand.

That’s when we pulled into the Hopi Cultural Center on Second Mesa for a pottery demonstration from esteemed Hopi artist, Dorothy Ami. She made a small perfectly round pot as she talked, using the traditional coil method — adding coils of clay to the base pot and working it into shape by hand, no potter’s wheel.

“I was a teacher, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make pots for a living. Then I began watching my cousin, Mark Tahbo, and he taught me many things. After several years we went to a show and as people bought pots, I just kept shoving the money into my pockets. When the show was over, I counted the money. There was $50,000. I decided then I did want to be a potter!”

Fifty grand! All the other great ideas swimming around in my brain fluids disappeared. Pots by Ernie. Yes!

“It takes nine days for clay preparation,” Dorothy continued. “Much of the clay I find is holding up a big rock, so I have to remove it carefully.”

Oops, that was going to be a problem. I just have to look at large rocks and they want to fall on my head.

Dorothy passed around samples of the clays she uses and the shaping tools, which were shards of other pots. And then she held up her brush. “I use my own hair as the brush,” she told us, as she carefully painted traditional designs on one of her nearly-finished pots.

Another thing that wouldn’t work well for me. I’d be out of hair after just a few weeks. Plus, I can’t even paint the living room without making a big old splattering mess. Fine lines might not be my forte.

“You may notice that the coloration on the finished pot is not even all around.”

Wow. Uneven I can do. I’m back.

“We fire our pots outdoors at temperatures of 1,400-1,600 degrees. It’s often windy, so the pot’s finish comes out uneven. That’s how you can tell a traditional Hopi pot. We use dried sheep dung for fuel because it’s dense and burns very hot. I get all my sheep dung from our neighbors, the Navajo.”

I wasn’t sure what the ‘neighbors’ were getting in return, but whatever it was it must have been seen as a good trade on their part.

“I pay cash,” Dorothy told us. “They bring a truckload and I check it to make sure it’s not too salty. I only pay for the best s**t!”

I watched as my entire pot-making idea for fame and fortune came crashing down. Not only would the condo association frown on my building a fire in the common area, but even if I could find someone with a truckload of dried sheep dung in Santa Barbara, I could think of only way way to tell if it was too salty.

We all thanked Dorothy for her demonstration, then my wife bought one of her beautiful, signed pots at the gift store.

Back in the van on the way to our next adventure, Stewart said: “Even though we are driving east, all of this land is actually gradually moving west, at the same speed as fingernails grow.”

My brain exploded.

— Ernie Witham

Award-winning humorist Ernie Witham has published three books including his latest, Where are Pat and Ernie Now? He writes a syndicated humor column, “Ernie’s World,” for the Montecito Journal that is syndicated through Senior Wire Service. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Santa Barbara News-Press, various magazines and more than two dozen anthologies. He serves on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, where he has taught humor for more than 10 years.

Teaching the children well

Liz Petrone“Mommy! Look!” My daughter, 5 years old, is yelling at me from the backseat.

“Honey, I’m driving,” I tell her. “I will look in a sec.” I think about also explaining that she doesn’t need to yell — the space between her mouth and the back of my head is, at max, eight inches — but math isn’t her forte yet, and I haven’t had enough coffee to fully engage yet.

“MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY. LOOK.” All sorts of things that she could want me to see run through my head, a ticker tape of possible horrors. She’s puked. She’s peed. She’s pooped. She’s blown her nose down her shirt. She’s opened the window and threw her pants out of it. Or sh** — I think, remembering her little brother is next to her — she’s opened the window and thrown him out of it. Or worse , even, than all of that: she wants to show me that he’s fallen asleep, knowing the five-minute nap in baby-math in the car means he won’t fall asleep again for three full days. Maybe math is her forte after all.

We reach a stop sign, thank sweet Jesus, and I turn around in my seat to see her.

And it’s none of those things. It’s her belly. She’s holding up her shirt, pointing. “It’s my belly! Isn’t it great?”

I turn back around (shout out to yoga for making that 180 possible) and drive on, grinning. “It sure is, baby. It sure is. Don’t let your brother fall asleep.”

She loves her body. Like, really loves it, the kind of loving that all the self-help gurus and yoga teachers and body image experts try to teach us. She runs around, belly out, excited with the sheer joy of being able to move and dance and flop and jump. She even flops and rolls and kicks and dances in her sleep, next to me in my bed, errant fists and feet and belly landing in my face.

I don’t know where this came from, but I know enough to know it didn’t come from me. I’ve spent a decade now trying to walk the line between doing enough yoga to find enlightenment and doing enough stomach crunches to still be able to zip up my jeans.

Maybe she learned it from her older sister, whose confidence is less in-your-face and instead strong and silent, enough to be the only girl on her little league team who can hold court with boys twice her size. I couldn’t care any less about baseball — watching it is like watching paint dry but with more spitting and ball scratching — but I could watch that one on the field all day long, her curls hanging down her back, long enough now to cover half of the number five on her jersey. “Maybe we should braid your hair before the games,” I said to her one evening when she came home all sweaty and hat-headed.

“Eh. It’s not like anyone else on the team has braids,” she said, shrugging.

I couldn’t argue.

I’ve been thinking about these two ladies a lot lately, wondering if I’ve had it wrong all these years when I made proclamation after proclamation to my husband starting as soon as I found out I was going to have a girl. I’m going to teach them to be strong, I’d say. I’m going to teach them to love themselves. I’m going to teach them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full and learn to love to move in their bodies because it feels good and not because they want to target a trouble zone. I’m going to teach them to chant “fight the patriarchy!” while we burn our bras (that let’s face it, odds are they won’t need them anyway since they’re my daughters) and bust through the glass ceiling and demand equal pay for equal work and paid family leave and the rights to do whatever with these beautiful, loved bodies what they wish.

I’m going to teach them. 

Ha.

Having kids is funny, right? I haven’t had to teach them any of these things, not once, not yet. They came out and inherently loved their bodies and perhaps even more amazingly, they loved MINE, especially in the soft places that I still struggle to own. They instinctively wanted to move and fought to learn how and still haven’t stopped, and I know they’re not doing it so they can track the calories in their Fitbit later and justify that second scoop of ice cream. Also, to them, that ice cream is just that: ice cream. It isn’t love and naughtiness and wounds and numbness and something they will have Catholic guilt over eating long after the taste has faded from their mouths. They eat when they are hungry and they stop when they are full and if I told them what the patriarchy was and how hard they might have to work to achieve their dreams just because they have a uterus, they would look cross-eyed at me because WHY WOULD SUCH ABSURDITY BE ALLOWED TO EXIST ANYWAY?

So I’ve been trying to amend my best-laid raising-girl plans. Maybe my goal here isn’t to teach them those things at all, but rather to help them hold as tight as they can to what they came out naturally knowing. Maybe my job is to soften the blows of the universe and keep these girlies alive and eager and from closing up tight around their wounds like I did, like so many of us did, getting bitter and hard where we used to be wide-eyed and soft.

Maybe. I don’t really know yet.

But it was hot last night, the first truly steamy night of the year, and the older one let me braid her heavy hair so she could sleep without it on her neck. I brushed, and her shoulders shook, and I realized she was crying.

“What’s wrong, baby?” I asked her, wheeling her around on the bed to face me. Again, the ticker tape of tragedy flew through my head. She was teased, she was bullied, she hated her teacher, her friends, her hair. She was in love, or out of love, or God forbid: pre-menstrual.

But it wasn’t any of that,either. “It’s going so fast,” she said. “Fourth grade is almost over. Baseball is almost over. Being nine is almost over. Everything keeps changing.”

Ugh. She sounded like me. It was like being punched in the belly because I realized that THIS is what I have taught her.

“I know, baby,” I said, tucking an errant curl behind her ear. “I SO know. Everything is always changing. And it’s the most beautiful and most terrifying thing in the whole world.”

She nodded and sighed, looking three decades older. Looking like me.

Maybe there was still something to teach her. I got excited. I got preachy. “You know what I think, baby? I think there are really only two things. There is love, and there is fear. Everything else is just flavors of those.”

“Like ice cream?”

“Yes. Exactly like ice cream. And maybe change is both. Change is fear, because it’s new and unknown, but it’s also love. Because I don’t think change would be scary if we weren’t so in love with our lives.”

“Like we wouldn’t be sad if we weren’t happy?” she asked.

“YES. Exactly. Like that. ”

Clearly I didn’t have to teach her a damn thing.

She reached out. “Will you lay with me?”

“I’d love to,” I said, settling in next to her. When her breath stilled and I knew she was asleep, I tucked the sheets around her, tucked the curl back behind her ear, and leaned in close. “Goodnight, honey,” I whispered. Then quieter: “Fight the patriarchy.”

I swear I saw her raise her fist under the covers.

— Liz Petrone

Liz Petrone is unequal parts mama, yogi and writer. Also: warrior, wanderer, dreamer, doubter and hot mess. She shares her stories on her blog, http://www.lizpetrone.com, and is pretty sure that doing so has saved her life. Her work has been featured in Blogher, Mamapedia and Yummy Mummy, among others. She lives in a creaky old house in Central New York with her ever-patient husband, their four babies and an excitable dog named Boss. When she should be sleeping, she can often be found instead working on her first full-length project, a memoir. You can find her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 

Happy Father’s Day

Anne BardsleyFather’s Day has always been a special event growing up. My dad didn’t like all the fuss, but with four daughters that’s what he got.

His presents were delicately gift-wrapped hats, jackets, drawings and fishing lures. He acted like each gift was gold and very precious. One of his favorite gifts was a Polaroid camera. With the photos developing instantly, he became the family photographer. Even our pets had photo sessions.

I always wished I had a brother, just for my dad. Other families had sons, but my dad just had four girls. I don’t know where I got the feeling that it was better for a dad to have a boy, but it stuck with me. When I was in my 20s, I asked my dad if he ever wished he had a son. He said, “What? Heck no! Boys go off when they get married. Girls always stay close to home.” Then he grinned at me and winked.

When I had my sons, my dad got to be the Grandpop of the year. Pop took them searching for worms, fishing, riding bikes and playing on the jungle gym at Cowan Field down the street from my parents’ house. I was so happy he finally had boys in his life. One of his favorite outings was feeding the ducks at Easter Baptist College. Bread crusts were saved and stuffed into a Wonder Bread plastic bag for this special occasion. There was usually an argument about who carried this precious bread, but Pop negotiated shared custody. When my daughters were born, they did the exact same thing. They tagged along to dig worms, fish and feed the ducks. He looked like a papa duck with his ducklings all in a row, making the journey through the field.

I watched my husband with our sons and daughters, and he did the same thing, too. Daughters and sons were not so different after all. My daughters know all of the words to Top Gun, just like my sons. He taught both our daughters and sons to ski. A son and a daughter both went skydiving with him. My other daughter and I stayed home praying while they jumped from 10,000 feet. Our hands were sweating just thinking about them. He taught both daughters and sons to drive.

He also taught them that humor is very important in life, much like my dad taught me. Sometimes my husband will crow like a rooster for a morning wake-up call and it’s the exact same rooster call my dad used. My dad sang country western songs and whistled. My husband sings songs, too, but the words never seem to match the artist’s version of the songs.

My dad was famous for his knock-knock and practical jokes. We never tired of running to the door after he tapped under the table. “Come in,” he’d yell. You might think we’d catch on and stop running to welcome guests. Well, we didn’t. To this day if someone knocks on my door, I can hear my dad’s voice, “Come in!” One of his favorites was to peek out the window, looking shocked. “What is Mrs. Joyce doing up on the roof?” he’d ask. We’d all run outside to save our favorite neighbor. He’d laugh hysterically.

I’ve come to learn that what makes a man a dad is simply loving a child. That love can be sprinkled on little boys and little girls. Let’s face it. A father is a very special person in a child’s life. A father is very important in our life as we grow older, too. A father is just plain important.

And when they go to heaven, both daughters and sons carry them in their hearts forever.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.

Never pay full price for half a shoe

Tricia JelonekAnyone who has raised teenage girls can tell you that we end up “sharing” (even if unwillingly at times) our shoes, clothes, make-up, money, cars etc…

So I thought, why stop there?  I am a middle-aged “mom.” Well, slightly middle aged. I prefer to think of myself as a fine chardonnay, complex and beautifully crafted to perfection. Why not enlighten my daughters with my knowledge before they evaporate what’s left of my sanity? After weeding through life’s ups and downs, I have managed to come up with a few pointers.

If it looks like a zebra and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Don’t ignore the signs. Or even worse, don’t try to reshape the signs into what suits you. Like if you’re having a gut feeling to, let’s randomly say, call off your wedding, run…don’t walk to the nearest exit. Certainly don’t listen to those voices in your head when they are telling you such things as “He’s just having cold feet” or “I know things will be different once we are married.” The voices fib… a lot. Maybe they just like to throw us off our game, not sure which one, but either way my point is to always listen to your instinct, or your mother’s reassuring voice in your head (had to sneak that one in there).

This brings me to my next words of wisdom.

When life gives you lemons, add vodka. Life is hard. In fact, anything worth doing is hard. If I had quit every time something in my life turned out to be challenging, like motherhood for example, I would have stopped when my labor got to be, oh let’s say 100 on the Richter scale for pain. But I pushed through, no pun intended, and was deeply rewarded with all the joys of motherhood. Not to mention all the benefits of raising girls by a kick-a** mother such as myself.  (Don’t say anything; just let me have my moment).

Now, let’s move on to my most important piece of advice.

Money can’t buy happiness; it can, however, pay the rent. I know buying those Jimmy Choo shoes would look absolutely amazing on you. But if you suddenly end up walking the last 10 blocks to work in them because your car died, every heel click that hits the sidewalk will be a painful “I told you so.” Prioritize your budget. Always live within your means and pay the necessities first. After all, I have no doubt you’d be just as happy when you score last year’s shoe collection (but still fabulous) on super duper sale. Let’s face it, they are Jimmy Choos, do we really care what year they graced the store shelves? I think not.

Always keep these three things in mind, and you will find yourself enjoying more of life’s ups than downs. Just be sure to keep your hands and feet inside the “Adventure Express” at all times.

— Tricia Jelonek

Tricia Jelonek is a single, progressive mom of three (!) girls. Born and raised in the North and moved down South in her mid 20s, she’s what the locals here refer to as your “d**n Yankee.” And to make matters worse, she’s Catholic (insert gasp here!). She does three kinds of cooking — frozen, takeout and microwave. Her post-divorcing dating life has been less than desirable. Her father is always saying that she flies by the seat of her pants, so she figures, why change now? She writes a blog about her life’s misadventures. Strap in and enjoy the ride!

Gone fishing (I wish)

Maggie MillusThe wind is blowing today. That means no fishing. We’re not going to take the Whaler out. We’re going to stay home and go nuts.

We stay in when the wind is blowing 15 miles an hour or more. Fewer black and blue marks that way. Getting knocked against the gunnels is rough on thighs. And then there’s always the chance you’ll get impaled on something.

I don’t mind staying home on a day of very bad weather, but there’s a “Him” factor here.  The “Him” factor? That’s when a certain somebody in my household loses his mind because he can’t fish. Fishing is the antidepressant to his forlorn misery of boredom. There is no other cure. Only calmer seas, lost bait and big bucks poured into that infinite hole in the ocean called a boat.

Terminal boredom, that’s what I call it. Why terminal? Because boredom can kill you. And I know. There’s a great big chasm of boredom that runs right through my living room when we’re not fishing. Fall down in it, and there’s no way out. You just drown in the repercussions of not fishing.

The day usually begins like this: “What are you looking for?”

“Nothing,” he replies.

“You must be looking for something.”

“Okay, something.” And he digs around some more.

“Well, why are you going from closet to closet, room to room, and drawer to drawer? And who’s going to clean up that mess you left on the counter and on the floor?”

Silence….

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“What exactly are you trying to find?” (I don’t know why I ask.)

“I’m looking for my Magic Tuna Killer.”

“It’s on the boat.”

“Well, what’s it doing there?”

“You left it there.”

There are other things he could do in the meanwhile. He has the time, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to do them. He could repair the leaking bathroom faucet. But then he’d have to replace the plumbing, and worse yet, the moldy, squishy wallboard underneath. And he’ll insist, “I don’t do plumbing.”

The silence continues.

I really hate it when a man is silent. When this one won’t answer a question or when he answers a question with a question, it’s like it’s a purposeful evasion based on a lack of commitment.

Two hours later and he’s finally busy. But busy at what? I see he’s in the dining room. He’s stuffing Ballyhoo or “rigging bait” as he calls it. No matter. At least it’s something.

He does this on our dining room table when he’s in the mood and after we’ve lost all the bait on the last fishing trip.

Dead ballyhoo bodies float in a big, briny bowl of water. Their silver scaliness reflects the dining room light. I have to feel sorry for this little baitfish with its humongous underbite. An underbite because its mouth has a congenital exaggeration — a short upper beak and an extremely long lower beak. If a fish could wear braces…

I’m distracted by the slosh of the smelly, saline water onto the embroidered tablecloth. I wonder, does Martha Stewart stuff ballyhoo on her dining room table? Does she have ballyhoo stuffing get-togethers?  And how does she remove the smell?

“Boy that’s a lot of Ballyhoo,” I tell him. Wires and hooks are everywhere. Big blind fish eyes gawk and goggle post mortem. No help here for you little fish. No help from any one. No fish deserves an undignified end like this. Oh well, it could be worse. We could drag it through the water live. Nothing like watching some voracious carnivore bite off your behind.

Ballyhoo fins and shiny bellies float, and wait… I watch him run the wires and hooks through their guts and heads. Deliberate, calculated surgery being done here. But no survivors. Not that they were alive when he started.

I ask, “Why do you rig it that way?”

“Because bait rigging is an art.”

Pretentious smart ass. All he had to say was it prevents another fish from coming up and biting off his catch.

“Hand me…”

“Nope,” I say.

I don’t know what he wants. And I’m not even going to ask.  If I don’t help him rig ballyhoo, then maybe he’ll stay busy a little longer. Busy at something. Preoccupied.

I’ll drive the boat, I’ll fish, and I may even clean fish. But…I don’t do bait.

— Maggie Millus

A published writer of several science textbooks, Maggie Millus writes humor, cartoons, and blogs at her website, Barmy Bottom Hollow  (http://maggiemillus.com) . She likes to write about relationships and issue, issues she insists are caused by others. When Maggie isn’t working on her collection of humorous pieces and vignettes about coping, she can be found,  on hot summer days, fishing far offshore surrounded by miles and miles of South Florida waters. Find her on Twitter @MaggieMillus.

Clutter village

Jan MarshallWhat do ribbons yo yo’s and dental floss have in common?  They are all knotted together in the same drawer in a dwelling known as the Marshall’s Fibber and McGee house .

While I have a place for everything, I do not really know where that place is. Whenever I need to find a household item, I do a Google search but never get an answer. Even Siri, my iPhone assistant, refuses to find my stuff though I graciously loaned her my magic moisterzer SPF 80.

I long for a day when every item in the universe has its own beeper that I can click on to appear in the room that I am in.

When I do find something that looks familiar, I am clueless what it is for. On the coldest day of winter, when the heater key was missing, I could remember that item but not where I put it. So I’d sing the words to Frozen as I searched.

I truly love order. I crave it. But while everyone talks about organizing for spring, nobody mentions the alien Martian devils that come through my doors in the dark of night, sneak in and throw assorted documents around my place.

A magazine survey asked women how they felt about housework. The majority said “Bleckkk!” The others were too weak from laughter to respond. Straightening up is like putting beads on a string without a knot at the end. It is an endless job. So in order to get through maintaining my mansion, I developed a timeless stress-relieving, reframing technique. I hypnotize myself to believe that my home is a museum. Therefore, I need to leave everything out for display for the paying public.

To those perfectionists who continue to judge, what about this kindhearted excuse, I mean explanation? Papers piled high, documents hither and yon, scattered clothing and topless jars are being sorted to send to the poor people who have lost everything playing Bridge and Angry Bird. What can I do? My legal name is Joan of Arc.

Please address your thank you notes to Saint Jan.

Oh, may I suggest the next time you visit me, forgot the hostess gift. Instead, please bring me a pair of thigh-high boots. It’s a just a silly health department thing. But really, bring it!

— Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall has devoted her life’s work to humor and healing through books, columns and motivational speaking. As founder of the International Humor & Healing Institute, she worked with board members Norman Cousins, Steve Allen and other physicians and entertainers, including John Cleese. Her newest satirical survival book, Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! is dedicated to Wounded Warriors, Gabrielle Giffords and Grieving Parents. She donates a percentage of the profits to these organizations as well as to the American Cancer Society and the American Brain Tumor Association.

The day my leg almost ‘sploded

Lee GaitanI’ve had several dogs in my life, each with its own idiosyncrasies.

There was the one who collected used Q-tips, the one who was afraid of wallpaper and the one who snatched a wedge of cheese right off the serving tray in the middle of a dinner party, generously leaving his half-chewed bone in its place. But until now I’ve never had a dog who tried to detonate one of my limbs. Enter Harper, our recently adopted Labrador mix. Mixed with what is anyone’s guess, but my money is on unbridled lunacy.

The first time we took Harper to the park, he jerked the leash out of my husband’s hand, leapt into the lake and attempted to navigate its full length and breadth for 45 minutes, oblivious to our frantic commands — accompanied by wild arm-flapping — to return to shore.

That’s when I got the bright idea to attach a long rope to his harness, allowing him to swim while enabling us to reel in his defiant little behind if necessary. My husband fastened the other end of the rope around his waist and we were in business.

The plan was working well until Harper spotted another dog back on the shore. Faster than you can say “Marley and Me,” Harper launched himself out of the water and lunged in the direction of the other dog, pulling the rope tight and lashing it like a high tension wire against the back of my leg. I collapsed, yelping in pain, as my husband, propelled forward by the semi-airborne Harper, stumbled past me.

My leg instantly began swelling like a water balloon and turning a deep shade of purple. It looked as if my calf were giving birth to an overweight eggplant. I watched in horror as an engorged, steel-blue vein violently pulsated while my skin strained to contain it. I swore I could hear my skin stretching.

My formerly well-spoken Colombian husband took one look at my leg and suddenly began channeling Ricky Ricardo. “Oh my God, baby, I ‘theenk’ is going to ‘splode!’” he exclaimed.

“Oh dear God, can that actually happen?” I cried.

Off we sped to the E.R. where the doctor, barely suppressing his amusement at the circumstances of my injury, had some “splainin’” to do to allay our fears. Despite the rope rupturing approximately 1.7 billion capillaries, he determined no real damage had been done. My leg would not, he assured us, “splode.” It would, however, resemble an overstuffed sausage for quite some time.

Since the rope incident, I’ve caught Harper gazing longingly at my leg on more than one occasion. Surely, he wouldn’t confuse my leg with a real sausage, would he? Ay, ay, ay, I can just imagine myself “splainin’” that one at the E.R.

— Lee Gaitan

Lee Gaitan is the author of two books, Falling Flesh Just Ahead and My Pineapples Went to Houston — Finding the Humor in My Dashed Hopes, Broken Dreams and Plans Gone Outrageously Awry. She also has written a chapter in the bestselling book, The Divinity of Dogs. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Better After 50, Mothers Always Write, Midlife Boulevard, Fab Over Fifty and The Good Men Project.  She lives in suburban Atlanta with her husband and dog and blogs at Don’t Just Bounce, Bounce Back. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Confessions of a bathroom predator

Dear Politicians Drafting Bathroom Bills,

Claudia Gryvatz CopquinLook, I can’t speak for all women but I am. We thank you for your concern. Frankly, in all my years using public restrooms, it never crossed my feeble female mind that a predator could be lurking by the hand dryer, ready to strike as I obsessive compulsively check and recheck my fly (if not for that one time in fifth grade…).

But I confess: I was a bathroom predator once. We were dining at Nobu in Manhattan, my husband and I. Word on the street had it that notorious BFF Gayle King was holding court in a back room of that very establishment that very night. Gayle King — just one degree of separation from the Big O, only steps away from me and my volcano roll! I get star struck; I had to have a looksee.

I sauntered over to the rear of the restaurant ever – so — slowly, disheartened at seeing nothing as I made my way to the ladies’ room, which unlike my Lilliputian bladder, was empty. Moments later, just as I was heading to the sink, the door opened and in walked a coughing, statuesque goddess, who zeroed in on a stall. It was all I could do to contain myself.

“IT’S HER!!!” I hollered internally. Then, “No, it can’t be!” Then, “IS IT??”

“I can’t get this faucet turned on,” I said out loud to no one in particular except Gayle King, who was peeing and sneezing just inches away, behind the door.

That was true, not just a clever stalling device. A lifelong feeble bladder has turned me into an emergency restroom connoisseur:  Short of squatting between parked cars, I say with confidence I can pindrop a “secret” New York City toilet like nobody’s business (number one AND number two).  The cans, I’ve got covered. But figuring out faucet mechanics and their myriad, newfangled variations is a legit stressor. (Does the handle work up or down? Where is the handle? Oh, this one has motion sensory? Then why isn’t the water flowing — are my hands too high, too low?)

“Yeah, this one’s tricky,” said the phlegmy voice within the stall.

“I know, right?” I countered smartly, as she blew her nose.

Fumbling nervously, I finally located the switch and deliberated by repeatedly lathering and scrubbing my hands with the vigor of a surgeon heading into the OR. Meanwhile, I could tell the woman in the stall was, well — stalling as long as was humanly possible for a person of her frame and stature in 2 x 2 square feet of space.

“She thinks I’m a crazed fan,” I thought, as I briskly scoured my fingers one by one until all 10 were sparkling, and then launched into the process all over again. I had to know if it was Gayle King, and I was going to win this pissing contest if I had to scour my hands raw!

Sure enough, with nothing further to occupy herself with, she finally flushed, exited the stall and swiftly washed her hands. I was still going at it, too — as evidenced by the small pool of blood now floating down the drain. And just when she was ready to make her escape —

“ARE YOU GAYLE KING??” I shouted, as she was sliding out the door.

“I am,” she said, and like the crazed fan she had taken me for, I fumbled for her hand, accidently grabbing her pinky instead, shaking it up and down manically. Gayle King wrenched it free, running off in a tizzy.

You’ll be glad to know I was punished for my behavior, Politicians Drafting Bathroom Bills. Days later I caught Gayle King’s wretched cold — no small irony, given my excruciating hand washing.

So you’re right. Lavatory predators must be stopped in our tracks! Because I just can’t promise to hold back on a future victim. By the way, I hear Caitlyn Jenner’s in town. God help her if I run into her in the john — I’ll pounce on her faster than you can spell LGBT.

— Claudia Gryvatz Copquin

Claudia Gryvatz Copquin is a seasoned journalist, author and essayist, and the founder of Long Island’s first literary festival, Word Up: Long Island LitFest, now in its third year.

Reflections of Erma