In the end, it was hardly worth shaving my legs so damned carefully for (yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Lighten up). I’d even re-painted my chipped toenail polish and pumiced the gnarly parts of my feet. They were, to quote my dad, as smooth and soft as a baby’s rear end (he’d never say “ass” in front of women and children). My various parts – all over a half-century old, now; how did that happen? — were all prepped and propped, as presentable as possible.
You, I am sure, have no gnarly parts. You certainly would never admit to them publicly. You’re a little horrified that I did so. You’re trying to bleach from your brain the stain of my tired callused feet.
For what that flurry of fussing, you wonder? A new lover? A clandestine noontime tryst? An unprecedented urge to please the long-suffering husband?
All that primping was, alas, for a dermatologist, who consequently spent a cursory four minutes casually and perhaps even disinterestedly glancing over my limbs before pronouncing me free of lurking danger.
That’s it? That’s the formal full-body skin cancer screening I’d been dreading for a month?
While checking in for my 10:30 AM appointment, a sun-leathered old lady elbowed me out of the way and declared that she was there for a 10:40 AM one with the same physician. I gave her a pitying look, since she was most certainly in error — exploring The Wonder Of Me would surely take the doctor more than ten minutes.
It didn’t. That’s what I get for casting pitying looks.
I’d never been to a dermatologist before, and was expecting a minute inspection of my every curve and crevice under harsh lighting and a magnifying glass, with tsk-tsking over various and sundry imperfections. And, hey – I was a new patient. I wanted attention. I wanted a bonding experience. I wanted advice on maintaining my natural beauty. I even wanted a lecture on UV damage and the proper use of sunscreen – I’ve always relied on authority figures for salutary scolding (self-discipline has never been my forte). I hoped for encouragement and, pathetically, perhaps a token compliment if I were lucky, some hint that I was holding up reasonably well given the ripeness of my years. I was also fully prepared to fork over big bucks for the upscale skin care products I was sure she’d be huckstering.
I didn’t even get a chance to crack the joke I had at the ready – something about my chronically red Irish nose and the chronic Irish penchant for drink. I wasn’t able to mention that weird little rash that lives on my leg. I couldn’t point out the peculiar peeling inside my ear. These things, I discovered, are fascinating only to me.
I can’t even pay someone to care.
What bothers me most is the heartless corporate stinginess of it all, the cattle-call ticking-clock impersonal approach to my person. Would it have killed her to have called me by name as I stood there before her, vulnerable and naked but for a stupid little smock? Chat me up a little before you ask me to take my clothes off. Take a moment to actually see me. Pretend to be generous with your time and attention. Feign interest. Act like it’s not about the money. Even hookers know to do that.
Or so I hear.
It’s been a week for open-handed generosity. Take this, for instance:
In Recognition of Staff Appreciation Week, please help yourselves to ONE ice cream sandwich in the staff lounge!
Thanks for all that you do.
I did not add the emphasis to ONE. It was part of my employer’s heartfelt expression of gratitude. How can one little word, even in bold capital letters, be so irritating? Spare me the pointing reprimanding finger, lest I point a finger at you in return. I wanted so badly to go downstairs and stuff a dozen ice cream sandwiches into my face. I wanted to sit there in the employee lounge and eat ice cream sandwiches slowly and deliberately, one after another, putting my gnarly feet on the table and leaving a big sticky pile of wrappers there. I wanted to write #2! on an ice cream sandwich with black Sharpie and waltz through the office waving the package.
Instead, in protest, I refused to go and claim my treat. That showed ‘em, by God. I’m not that desperate for recognition (usually). I don’t need their 12-for-$3 Walmart artificially-flavored vanilla ice cream sandwiches — twenty-five grudging cents of appreciation.
I want generosity. I want open hands and open hearts, and open minds if I can get them. And of course I want it both ways — who doesn’t? I resent having to spend big money on my professionals, yet I want my professionals to spend big money on me. I want the precious gifts of time and attention, but a fat wad of cash would be nice, too.
Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. Walt Whitman wanted it both ways, too; I’m at least in good company. And I bet his feet were gnarlier than mine, what with all that hale-fellow-well-met tromping around he did.