Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Non-Yogic Yoga Bitching

I have been practicing yoga on and off for 15 years. Fifteen years! I started at Jivamukti Yoga when they were in the funky walk-up studio on Second Avenue in the East Village. Some friends were going to a class, and I joined them. The famous David Life, co-founder of Jivamukti with Sharon Gannon, was my first teacher there. He is an awesome instructor, and though I am quite inflexible, both in body and mind, I was immediately hooked on Jivamukti. I loved looking at his craggy face, ponytail and hoop earrings, and I think he used to wear purple leggings. Or at least I wore some. He was so calm, down to earth, yet spiritual. I came to rely on all the other teachers, too, and the relaxed way I felt after class. (And as it was winter and I was a freelance writer, my evening yoga class also inspired me to leave the apartment and interact with other humans.)

I chanted with Krishna Das, hit some Ananda Ashram retreats and showed up for at least three classes per week. I even learned to do full backbends for the first time in my life! By the time I got married 4 years later, I sometimes made it to class as many as five times a week, literally crawling out of my cubicle at Jane so the managing editor wouldn't catch me and make me stay at work.

After the wedding, I quickly become pregnant. I suffered from terrible morning sickness and was too exhausted to attend a rigorous class. I did a bit of prenatal yoga, and birthed my son with the aid of yoga breathing (and a nice epidural--AWW YEAH!!). When I was on maternity leave I would take him to a "mommy and baby" yoga class. My practice never really returned to its former glory, though. I had a full-time job and a baby, and soon after that a house and a commute.

Weeks after the move to the suburbs, I fell down the stairs while sweeping and broke my foot. I was in a cast for six weeks, and the minute they sawed it off, I was pregnant again. I very occasionally hit a prenatal yoga class. I had not a prayer of achieving a full back bend.

Two folded magazines later, I decided to become a full-time mother. While my daughter was in preschool, I slowly made my way back to yoga at an Anusara studio I can walk to. Like everything else, yoga has to be planned around the kids' schedules.

Okay. That was a lot more about my yoga history than I was planning to write. Here's my bitch: I went to class today, and I feel like crap. I blame this not on the teacher, who is one of the best I've ever known. It's just that I hate partner poses. Hate them. Always have, always will. The purpose of partner poses, in case you don't know from yoga and are still reading (although I don't know why you would be), is to demonstrate proper alignment. But, did I say I hate it? I'm often worried that I'm not doing the assist properly, and yet when the teacher gives instructions, I zone out.

Also, I dread the moment when the teacher says, "find a partner," and certain people don't turn to the person next to them, but instead look around for someone worthy. This happened to me today. The lady next to me, who I recognize from many classes, dissed me for a yogi in the back row. I halfheartedly located a spare person. She complained that she couldn't feel my assist. The assist was literally to squeeze the person's butt (or sits bones, in yoga parlance) simultaneously together and down. Who wants to do that to someone you don't know? And smell their butt smells? I mean, really? No amount of OMing is going to make that ok.

And then my partner proceeded to press down on me so hard that I quite literally have a pain in my ass. Ouch. I know the fact that I don't like partner poses says something negative about me. Perhaps it's that I can't comfortably work with people, trust them, do what they expect of me.

Or maybe I just don't want to smell their butts.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Indignity of the Day

On Thursday, my friend alerted me to this flattering post about Fallen Princess on dailyfrontrow.com. It was very gratifying. I felt slightly less irrelevant, for at least an hour. I especially enjoyed it when my husband emailed me the following: "You look hot in that [five-year-old] picture." (Side note: that guy next to me was a something on America's Next Top Model. He was British, so his name was probably Nigel. We were seated together because it was an ELLEgirl fashion show, and I was the editor-in-chief, and one reflexively tries to drum up "celebrities" for these things. As you can tell from our body language, I had nothing to say to him, and he had nothing to say to me. Seated on his other side was my friend Laurie Trott, ELLEgirl fashion director. You can see how interested she was in chatting with Nigel.)

Yesterday, when I was still feeling vaguely buoyed by the dailyfrontrow attention, one of my poker buddies contacted me about writing an online column for a site she is editing. I was a little excited until I found out the fee: $50. Which is roughly the amount I would have to pay a babysitter to keep my kids from killing each other while I poured my rapidly depleting stores of creative energy into said column. I respectfully said I'd have to think about it. She nicely informed me that this was the going rate for the type of work she was talking about. Didn't really make me feel better.

When I graduated college, the standard fee for an article was $1 a word. Now, 27 years later, most of the work that comes my way, which is for the internet, is a fraction of that. Bummer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Hate My Birthday

I will be 49 tomorrow. There are no special plans.

When I was a kid, our birthdays were low key: cake and a can of Hawaiian Punch with our cousins, possibly pin the tail on the donkey if we were lucky. My dad took me out for surf and turf once in my early teens, just the two of us.

I turned 18 shortly after arriving for my freshman year at Colgate, and some friends from the dorm suggested we get dressed up and have cocktails at the Colgate Inn. I could henceforth drink legally. I think I was also thrown in the lake, in keeping with school tradition.

In my 20s, I liked giving myself parties. Keggers, usually. People I had never seen before plus my friends, and possibly my brother, drank beer in the backyard of my building on Sullivan Street. One year I got really fancy and half-ironically rented a Knights of Columbus Hall. A friend in the art department of Footwear News, where I worked as a writer, pasted up the Xeroxed invitation. We used a cheesecake photo taken by another work friend. I wore an off-the-shoulder black Lycra dress and stiffly moussed 80's hair, gazing to the the left like Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. The invitation said: "It's My Party and I'll Cry if You Don't Come."

I continued on this path through my thirties. I think it was my 37th when I had friends meet me at Windows on the World. My 40th was four days after 9/11. The burning smell permeated the air of our apartment on Washington Square, and a party would have been inappropriate. But it's not like I had plans anyway. Drawing attention to my birthday no longer seemed cute or funny, just sad.

Each year since, I have had two opposite urges on my birthday: I would like to get in bed and pretend it isn't happening, yet I wish fervently that a parade and fireworks would be organized in my honor.

Tomorrow, I have a writing deadline and a dermatologist's appointment. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cuts Like a Knife

Not long ago, the phone rang. It was a boy named Greg who lives across the street, a college student whose sister sometimes babysits for my children. He told me he has just been hired to sell Cutco knives, and would I please let him come by and do a practice sales call? "Honestly," he said, "you don't need to buy a thing."

Of course I said yes. My husband thought it sounded like a great idea, especially since it involved no expenditure of cash.

Greg arrived at the appointed time, 7 pm on a warm summer Sunday, and set himself up in our dining room. He had brought some sample knives, a piece of rope, a morsel of leather, and laid them all out on our table. He told me to bring in two of my best knives.

I sat across from him and tried to exude encouragement. He had me cut through the leather with my knife, a Wustof, which is pretty good and cut fairly well. But the Cutco knife, ergonomically designed, pleasing to hold---it cut through that leather like it was butter. And with the Cutco in my hand, it was like the rope was applesauce.

I began to covet the knives. They are expensive (nearly $1000 for a full set!), sure, but just last Thanksgiving my Uncle George pointed out that I didn't have a proper carving knife. Maybe I would just put in a little order for the carving knife and fork, which would set me back something like $140.

When Greg said "I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask you to buy something," I declined to buy the full set, or even the half set, but conceded to take the carving knife and fork. While he wrote up the order, I went upstairs for my checkbook.

I was intercepted by my nearly apoplectic husband. He did not want me to spend the money. I acquiesced, mainly so he would not bust a blood vessel. Something didn't feel right, though. I am not a spendthrift. I should be allowed to make my own less-than-frugal decisions, especially if they help neighbor children and provide me with gorgeous carving knives.

So a few days later, as I sat poolside with my mother, I asked her if she had ever heard of Cutco. I think Greg said the company was started in 1949.

"Yes," she said. "Aunt Jean had a Cutco party right when I was first married [1959] and I bought a whole set for Grandma." I was shocked. "They were $1000!" I said. And also, I remember my Grandmother cooking the huge meals she routinely served with nothing more than a rusty butter knife and a bent teaspoon.

"They cost a lot," she agreed. "But Grandma never used them. She called them 'Mary's knives,' and they hung on a wall."

My grandmother, the daughter of immigrants who worked as domestic help on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, never opened expensive gifts. Her refusal of finery was like a repudiation of the excess of her parents' employers. We once went to the Frick Museum, a former home of a fabulously wealthy family, and Grandma couldn't enjoy it at all. She hated to be reminded of people who had so much, while others had nothing. When she died in September 2009 at 94, her children found numerous unused silk slips and nighties dating back to the Second World War.

"Why wouldn't she use the Cutco knives?" I asked, though I thought I knew the answer. I was also thinking, how can I get my hands on those knives?

"She was superstitious," said Mom. " She thought that if you gave knives as a gift, you cut the relationship."

One of the many things that I didn't know about my grandmother, Mary Vorel Burr. RIP.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lots of things irking me today

In no particular order:

1. People who used the word boobs. It really bothers me. This particular annoyance came to mind this morning when I read a mention of the book "Boobs: A Guide to Your Girls." I especially hate it when women refer to their own breasts as boobs, or even worse, tits. It seems like a special kind of self-hatred. Please, ladies, refer to them as breasts. Give them the reverence they deserve.

2. In Jane Brody's column about BMI on Tuesday, she, or some hack doctor she quotes, says that it's thoroughly possible for a 125 pound, 5 foot 5 inch woman to be fat. Shut the front door. Jane, this is frigging impossible. I am resisting the impulse to say you are going senile.

3. An ad for a plastic surgeon in The Montclair Times today asks, "Do you suffer from cellulite?" Suffering? Really? I'm almost speechless. There is a lot of suffering in this world, to be sure, very little of it from cellulite.

4. Tracking down payment for freelance articles published in May. DRIVING ME BONKERS. It amounts to 600 measly dollars and the number of polite emails I have sent is staggering. I'm getting ready to name publications. PAY ME, NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS.