Category Archives: Simply Amazing Nothings

An Accidental Compliment

The following story is re-told with permission from my former 30-year-old self.

Five years ago, Gary and I went to a formal dinner/dance fundraiser thingy to support a girl in our neighborhood who’s on the ballroom team. I was actually pretty excited. I got an old prom dress out of moth balls (which I don’t have, it just means it hasn’t been worn in years and ages and years), tried her on, and was filled with glee up to my mothballs that she still fit, ironed her up, and put her on. (Thanks, Mom, for making her good and sturdy. . . and just the right amount of stretchy!)

I was so excited to go on a date that required that I take a shower! Woo Hoo! I even called my sister, a few days in advance even, to see how I should do my hair.

“Jess,” she says to me, she says, “Jess, all you need to do is put a flower in your hair.”

And I was all, “Brilliant!” like Harry Potter.

I ran to The Walmartz and found me a cute little white “bloomed rose” hair pin and threw that in my hair, which was nicely done in big, loose curls–also a tip from my sister. I even put on eyeliner, which I had totally ceased making a part of my morning routine, so I felt way fancy. I even bought new, super nice jewelry . . . also from Walmart. Grand total, including hair pin: $10. Feeling young and somewhat spit-up free: priceless.

All Gary had to do, of course, was come home from work, put on a tie, and we were out the door.

Five minutes later, we arrived at the high school and all of a sudden, I felt like a stupid, ridiculous old lady. I looked around at all the “kids” and realized I was no less than twelve years older than any of them and I almost puked. I had gone from feeling all young, wearing something I had worn in high school, to feeling like Josie Grosie.

Well, I sucked it up while Gary laughed at me for being a dork, once again, and we went in and sat down.We had a lovely dinner (catered by Sizzler–niiiice.) which was followed by dancing. Now, I only go to these dancey things so I can see how good Gary is at it. Unfortunately, I have to look from very close up because he always asks me!

But, I gotta say, we to’ (I’m not sure how to spell that version of “toe”) up that dance floor. Sure, Gare Bear and I have like 50 years’ experience on those younguns, but shoot! It was so fun!

During the few dances I refused to dance to, such as samba and rhumba–because my hips just don’t do that–I noticed the high school boys asking ladies to dance who had come alone to support some student they knew. . . or gave birth to. . . whatever the case may be. I was SO glad I was sitting with Gary and no one would ask me because I obviously wasn’t alone. Right?


From lich-ra-lee across the room, this guy made eye contact with me and headed my way. I mean, he had some serious purpose in his step. You could even say he marched. I felt a thrill of panic and dread and had terrible flashbacks of high school dances where you knew what was about to happen and there was nothing you could do about it, and running away was just plain rude. So, I subtly inched closer to Gary, who was indeed sitting right next to me, talking to me and everything, when J.T. asked me to dance.

I said, “Yes,” and hopped up because that’s what you do and realized with even more dread that it was a Triple Swing. I had been to enough swing dances in my day, (you know, dances I would have gone to when this guy was, like, negative two) to know exactly how this was going to go. All I could see in my mind was me doing a lot of awkward twirls and twists accompanied by dizziness while I looked like a total, out of control spazz.

Please don’t do the candlestick. Please don’t do the candlestick.

So, I started dancing when he told me to, which was nowhere near the beat, but whatever, and he spoke five beautiful words:

“So, do you go here?”

All of a sudden I loved J.T. (and I don’t mean James Taylor because I’ve loved him for a long time.)

I said, between triple steps and spazzy twirls, “Oh nooooo, I don’t go here. I’m thirty. But thank you for asking.”

I watched him closely as I went from being a potential date for ice cream at Arctic (pronounced “Artic”) Circle after the dance, to being a complete waste of his time–a complete, old waste of his time. After a few seconds, he replied, “Oh. . . Interesting.” And I laughed out loud. Right out loud. I knew exactly what “thirty” sounded like to him because it used to sound the same to me. But, if “50 is the new 30,” then I’m like 10. . . which actually doesn’t help things.

Soon, J.T. started looking at me like he was holding a baby that needed a diaper change. You know the look. Kind of grossed out, but there’s nowhere to put it, turning your head this way and that, trying to escape. Sorry, sonny. You asked me.

J.T. and I continued with our very awkward dance, where I was flung about like a rag doll–an old, brittle rag doll–and where I kept apologizing for things I wasn’t doing wrong, and I just missed Gary the whole time. Finally, mercifully, the dance ended and I could give my poor, old knees a much-needed rest while I sipped on my prune juice out of a straw. J.T. walked me to my table and hurried away. Poor kid.

Oh sure, he was cordial. He was a nice guy. I’m sure if we met anywhere else, he would have offered to help me cross the street or something. And though I was a total waste of young J.T.’s time, I just love that guy. And yeah, the lights were dim and I had a prom dress on, but how much longer am I going to be confused with someone who “goes here?”

Not long, my friends. Not long.

Chapstick: One of Life’s Overlooked Luxuries

You know the feeling. The dry lip feeling. You know you shouldn’t lick them because your dad told you while you were driving through Death Valley on a road trip that licking them just makes them worse. But you do it anyway (naturally) and a few minutes later you’re crying again from the back of your 1986 Dodge Caravan because your lips are stinging and you hope that your tears will offer better relief than your saliva.

That dry lip feeling defined my freshman year of college. Not just because it was my first winter in Utah and the cold dryness (or dry coldness) sucked all the moisture out of me, but because I didn’t have 80-freaking-cents to buy a single tiny cylinder filled with magical relief.


And I don’t mean Carmex, or Soft Lips, or even gobs of Vasaline that you try so hard not to swallow even though you know it’s futile. I mean chapstick. The perfect mixture of moisture and heaven, often with a touch of mint that makes you feel like you just brushed your teeth. That chapstick.

I remember using my pinkie to dig out the last bits of waxiness off the inside of my chapstick tube. Then moving on to, yes, pencils and Q-Tips to get those last remnants out. Leave me alone! I was desperate! Then, I would try to sleep while trying to ignore that one dry spot that I just didn’t have enough chapstick to cover, and knowing that if I tried to spread it around, it would just create another dry spot. It makes me cry just thinking about it.

I finally swallowed my pride and asked my roommate if I could use hers. After a few days of this, I could sense some hesitancy on her part. I could understand. Chapstick goes on lips, and it was weird, even though I wiped it off with a kleenex when I was done. Yes, I say kleenex. I don’t care what brand it is.

Next, I moved to slathering my face lotion on my lips at bedtime. That was the low point. It would dry almost instantly and it tasted SO gross. I would put it on and then pray that sleep would come quickly before the dry sting kept me awake. And I would cry for my Mommy back at home with her ever-ready tube of chapstick nestled in her humongous Tic-Tac toting purse.

I remember the day I finally scrounged up 80 cents to buy my very own tube of miraculousness. I ripped that Chapstick out of its wrapping with dry, cracked hands. Once it was free, the dang safety plasticy outer “shell” mocked me as my fingers slid around, trying to twist the cap off. I slid my thumbnail in the crevice and worked my way around, prying off the cap, which flew onto the floor. It didn’t matter. I would never need it again. I twisted the chapstick up, revealing its pink beauty, and raised it to my trembling lips, ignoring the sharp edge that cut my lips like a circular knife.

Then, I whimpered. It hurt so bad. My lips were too chapped for chapstick.

But, I persevered. I applied often and liberally, and soon, I could smile bloodlessly once again. I could sleep, knowing that with the rising of the sun in the morn’, my lips would would be greeted by the marvel of moisture, and with that moisture, peace and love and good grades.

Now, I think of my dry-lipped journey every time I grab a stack of Chapstick at the check-out line. One for my nightstand, one for the junk drawer, one for the car, and one for my humongous Tic-Tac toting purse. It may seem extravagant for me to have so many sticks of this waxy bliss, when others have so few, but I promise, living without this luxury will only increase their appreciation for this seemingly insignificant marvel–Chapstick.

It’s the simple things, folks.