On the Couch With Oprah

August 16, 2006

Something has gone to my head, either the post-homework laziness or the attempted cutback on daily caffeine intake or maybe even just some pre-new semester jitters. Whatever it is has resulted in a lack of productivity of just about any kind, unless you count hours spent watching Oprah and Work Out. I don’t even have the excuse of traveling, unless you count trips between the couch and the fridge. Unreformed laziness and I have to admit it feels darn good to organize a few solid days around what’s on the tube and what’s in the fridge. I’ve plowed through a couple more summer reads and I am well into The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos. I did, however, acquiesce from my hardline laziness just enough to make sure that I had checked out as many of my fall textbooks from the library as possible before all the other students get back to campus. It’s a decent round-up for my creative nonfiction class: Joan Didion (Slouching Toward Bethlehem), Maxine Hong Kinstong (Warrior Woman), Judith Ortiz Cofer (Silent Dancing), a more writerly one called The Situation and the Story and an anthology of personal essays edited by Philip Lopate. For Melville, it’s all the usual suspects: Moby Dick, Billy Budd, and Confidence Man and bonus points for snatching the library’s only copy of the big thick biography we are supposed to read as well. The bookstore didn’t have the list up yet for poetry or for theory. This nice stack of books has provided excellent motivation for further laziness.   

For those of you who enjoyed the Eyelash Curler episode of the Liz Tries to Get a Stylistic Clue Saga, this past weekend yielded a classic moment. While eating dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, a Brazilian pizza and pasta joint called PaPiChi, in celebration of my two sisters-in-law returning from a week long service trip to West Virginia, I learned that my misguided fashion choices and me had been the subject of an entire airport conversation between a sister-in-law, the youth group leader, and God knows who else. The conversation apparently attempted to diagnose the mystery of how I missed out on the style gene when my sister is so obviously endowed in spades, and included anecdotal evidence such as the numerous times I have tried to go to a big Miami teenybopper mall called The Falls without, as SIL would put it, “matching” (unbeknownst to me, of course, the clueless one). At this point, I was already fighting back embarassed tears. It was just like being in fourth grade again. Why even try when it’s clear you will always fail? Then, with the most innocent of intentions I’m sure, D sealed my fate by volunteering to the table that I was indeed trying and he could show them the eyelash curler to prove it! Too bad I had taken the seat wedged so tightly against the wall that a mad dash to the restroom was impossible. So many voices over so many years all came flooding back into my mind, and that’s all the invitation I need to be engulfed by insecurities and self-doubt. At first they might have thought I was laughing, but soon it was clear that I was in the grips of a full-on crying frenzy. That is not altogether unusual for me, but I generally don’t make a policy of crying in favorite restaurants. The waitress might think I didn’t like the Portuguesa pizza. Despite the fact that my first little confesssion of anxieties in this area yielded many encouraging words from two of the most sophisticated and intelligent women I know, and despite vigorous assurance that from thick cocoons emerge butterflies, some days I just feel caterpillar, caterpillar, caterpillar. The good news to come out of all this is that even after all those tears my mascara had not budged.   

I was still feeling a wee bit mopey about the whole debacle on Monday, but as it turns out a week of Oprah was just what the doctor ordered. The past two shows have been devoted to the kinds of personal stories of hardship that can make one feel extremely guilty for throwing a self-pity party over something as trivial (not to mention fixable) as a closet full of what not to wear. Consider this butt kicked into shape. I hereby vow, for the hundred-thousandth time, to greet each moment with gratitude and lovingkindness. I even started this morning by not cursing at the alarm clock. And I can’t wait to get home to the couch for today’s show: Young Girls Who Are Obsessed With Their Looks and Why It Is Bad and Their Mommy’s Fault. Maybe my years of nose in a book oblivion were a more productive childhood than the one that three year old in the teaser commercial sobbing “Makeup, makeup!” is having.

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2 Responses to “On the Couch With Oprah”

  1. Lauren Says:

    Liz,
    Oh, how I feel your pain! It’s always amazing how friends and family with the best of intentions and nothing but love in their hearts can cause such damage. Now, admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve had quite an experience such as yours, but, being the youngest of three girls, the two older of whom (and let’s face it, the younger half-fourth) are both far more stylish and wordly than I led to awkwardness and untold mental anguish.

    No matter what it was (my first zit, any romantic entanglement whatsoever, my every foray into fashion), it was always fodder for their completely innocent teasing, grist for the mill of their sisterly condescension. Even now, my mother does not grasp how very uncomfortable mentions of my high school life make me.

    We were at a party a few weeks ago, and she broadcasts to another guest what a big nerd I was in high school. Now, a) I wasn’t really that big a nerd, a nerd to be sure, but not the biggest geek in school, which is what she made it sound like and b)um, hello? What the hell is she doing? (She also made Kenyon sound like bizarro-world where I was cool. Um, that’s not exactly true.)

    My mother, having been a homecoming queen and all-around Miss High School, not to mention a woman I genuinely believe has never felt awkward or embarassed in her entire life (and hey, good for her)does not understand what it’s like to feel like you don’t belong, and as such, doesn’t understand that it still smarts, even decades later.

    And it’s not just the geeks who are susceptible. My sister, The Sweet One, Prom Queen and All-Star Athlete, has also been victim to my mother’s lack of comprehension on high school matters. At another party a few years ago, she discussed how my sister had a crush on the son of another one of the guests. Now, this was like back in middle school, and I think everyone knew about it, but when we got home, my mother found a vaguely drunken, very upset message from the Sweet One furious she had brought that up.

    So, yeah, I’m kind of rambling now (I should have just made this a blog entry), but I still think you and I have better lives than those who spends hours upon hours stressing about their appearance. In the end, fashion is fun but ephemeral and those who look great today may look ridiculous a year from now. (Seriously people, leggings?)

    I try as much as I can but can never really committ myself to taking it that seriously. War in Iraq, genocide in the Sudan, terrorist plots in Britain. Who the hell cares what I’m wearing?

  2. Merideth Says:

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