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Recent Work By Erika Rae

School is starting Thursday and for the first time in my life I’m watching from the other side of the proverbial school bus window. Yes, it’s true. I am about to be the mother of a school kid.

Over the next thirteen years I will watch as my child returns to me each day a little older and wiser.She will learn to skip rope, make fake lava, exhale the multiplication tables, spit out the capital of the 50 states on demand, discuss Hamlet in detail, and learn to calculate pi.

She will also learn to dress funny, hide gum in her mouth, text message her best friend without being detected by teachers, cuss, and spell the word “obfuscate” with first-hand knowledge of what it means.

The other day in the car she asked me what school would be like.

“Oh, you’ll learn a lot of really amazing things,” I told her sagely. “You’ll also make many great memories. Things you will want to tell your children about.”

“What do you remember about school?” She wanted to know.

I hesitated before spouting something lame about recess and how much I liked my friends and teachers. She’d caught me. What exactly were my memories? What did I think about when I remembered my school years?

I decided when I got home to make a list. I wanted to isolate the things that really stand out to me about each of the years that I was in school. The only rule I gave myself was that it had to be the first thing that popped into my head about that particular year. I wanted to see what really mattered to me in my pedagogic experience.

Here is what I came up with:

Kindergarten – We made stone soup. It was soup…from a stone. I believe we threw in other things like carrots and peas, but we were led to believe the stone provided the extra flavor. Like a Lipton dry soup pouch.

1st Grade – I farted really loud during story time. It was very embarrassing. I think I went home.

2nd Grade – I have this very clear memory of being at the top of the slide and somebody (I think it was one of the ‘bussed-in kids’ from the inner city) pointed out the word “fuck” scratched into the paint. I had no idea what it meant, but I was struck by the reverence with which the kid stared at it. I think the kid’s name was “Val”, but for a long time I thought he was saying “Vowel.”

3rd Grade – I was playing soccer with the boys at recess and looking across the field at the girls sitting by the swings playing with dolls. Even at the time I knew I was having way more fun than they were. Pansies.

4th Grade – My first kiss. It was with a boy named Cole. He and I had been surrounded by 40 or more kids at recess. They were all chanting, “Kiss her! Kiss her!” It was all very romantic.

5th Grade – I got teased for having hairy legs. I mean reeeeally hairy legs. I was quickly shamed into shaving.

6th Grade – Cole, my 4th grade love, had not only taught me how to kiss, he had also taught me how to cuss. Two years later, I could cuss with sailor-like proficiency. My girlfriends from church cornered me in the school bathroom this year and conducted an intervention. I would not cuss again until I was 23 years old. It was like riding a bicycle.

7th Grade – I joined the junior high band. We had this teacher whose breath reeked of Folgers-scented ashtray. This one time…in band class…he grabbed my flute and played it without asking. When he gave it back, it stank for days. I felt violated.

8th Grade – First day of school in a new town: I was handing papers back to the person behind me. I couldn’t reach her, so I tipped my chair back to get an extra inch or two in. I crashed backwards, taking my desk and all of the papers with me. Nobody. Said. A. Word. I changed schools the next week.

9th Grade – I have no clear memory of the 9th grade. Something about selling hotdogs.

10th Grade – I left the private Christian school I had been going to for 2 years to go to public school. My best friend there had an abortion that year. We used to speak to each other only in French.

11th Grade – I went back to the Christian school. My best friend from the previous year came to school with me one day. I told everyone she was a foreign exchange student and I translated for her all day. When my locker mate found out it was all a big lie, she cried. I don’t lie (much) anymore.

12th Grade – I was in a pageant, which I refuse to go into in any great detail here. Suffice it to say it was very embarrassing. My roommate (who ended up winning) left a douche box in the bathroom trashcan. I am still contemplating that douche box.

So that’s it. My list of the 13 most prominent memories of my school years. I think it explains a lot. I think it may also be the best argument for homeschooling my child I can possibly think of.

School starts Thursday.

Here we go.


Just in case you happened to be wondering: no, dressing up like a Marilyn Manson fan is not, in fact, an effective deterrent for jury duty.

I’m going to blame this one on the fact that I’m a Gemini. Allow me to explain.

I hate to lie. As a matter of fact, I can count the number of times I have lied blatantly to somebody on one hand.

Lying isn’t really my schtick. Instead, I withhold. Occasionally, I spin. Sometimes I give two completely different answers at different moments of the day. One of my twin halves pops up and what she says out of hearing of the other seems completely reasonable at the time. This can occasionally give the appearance of lying. It can also be just really, really ridiculously frustrating.

———-

Exhibit A

Random interviewer: “Do you like violence?”
Me: “Put me in the ring. Bring it.”

 

That conversation could have just as easily swung another direction at another given time:

Random interviewer: “Do you like violence?”
Me: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

———-

 

I could see how this might be confusing. But I don’t feel that I am being dishonest as it’s happening. I simply have a different opinion in a different moment – depending on whichever of the twins is in control of my gray matter in a given moment.

But what about another ugly tendency I – OK, “we” – have: the one involving giving an incomplete picture and/or withhold information? In other words, this is where I send one of the twins underground with a roll of duct tape and tell her to shut the hell up under threat of a smackdown.

———-

Exhibit B

Husband: “Do you think I said the right thing to Xavier* today when I told him to fuck off?”
Me: “I think you did the best you could under the circumstances.”**
Husband: “What does that mean?”
Me: “I don’t know. I mean, I might have chosen a different conversational path, but I think what you said fits you perfectly.’
Husband: “Right. So, you think I shouldn’t have said that?”
Me: [Shrugging]***
He: [Exasperated] “I swear, you are really, really ridiculously frustrating.”

*I know nobody by the name of Xavier. Xavier represents a completely fictional entity. Xavier is not real. He is fake. Made up. In my mind. Xavier may in no way be used against me as a “lie” as I have fully disclosed his non-existence from the get-go.

**In other words, no, I don’t think he said the right thing today, but if I look at it from his perspective, I can see why he would have said what he did. Half of me gets it.

***To be interpreted by his own conscience.

———-

So, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, regarding the incident at the Boulder County Courthouse:

———-

Exhibit C

When I got the letter summoning me to jury duty, I admit I may have overreacted a wee bit. I’d never actually been called to jury duty before, and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew for sure was that people generally try to get out of it and, therefore, it must be bad.

My friends gave me all sorts of advice:

“Tell them you have a tendency to always root for the underdog.”

“Tell them you hate lawyers.”

 

“Tell them you have a Ph.D. and that you are currently studying for the LSAT. Lawyers don’t like smart people who are studying to be one of them.”

“Just tell them that you have been taking care of an elderly auntie with a highly contagious strain of the E. Bola virus and that if you weren’t sitting in that courtroom, you could be getting tested for infection at the nearest hospital.”

The obvious problem with any of these suggestions, of course, is that they all involved a blatant lie. And so I decided to do what any selves-respecting Gemini would do: I sent one twin down to the basement…and brought the other one up.

All of my life people have told me that I have an innocent look. They take one glance at me and decide that I can be walked on. Shaped. Molded like Play-Doh in six fun and delightful colors. It’s not true. I have a dark side that is incredibly jaded and discerning. But I knew that those lawyers would take one look at me and insist I stay.

“The rest can go, but keep that girl in the front row there,” they would no doubt whisper amongst themselves. “We’ll have her drinking the Flavor-aid by the end of this trial. She’ll be all ours. [Insert wild hyena cackles] Plus, she comes in six fun and delightful colors.”

I wore all black, of course. Long skirt, high boots. Lacy underthings sticking out in all the appropriate places. I still looked perhaps a little too clean on the parts of my skin that were showing, but a few rub-on tattoos took care of that. Blackened up the eyes and nails. Powdered my face. Put green streaks in my hair.

I screeched into the courthouse parking lot with my Emo attitude and blasting my Emo music. (OK – I don’t really have any Emo music, so I made the best of Zombie by the Cranberries. I just had to keep reminding myself to stop singing along with it in case anyone was looking. Karaoke = very UN-Emo.)

When I arrived in the courtroom, I didn’t smile. I slouched. I flashed my tats. I stared brazenly at the lawyers, daring them to choose me.

“Come on, fuckers. Choose me.”

They chose me.

When I originally hatched this plan, it never occurred to me that it would fail. Bluff called, I had no choice to stick around. But a person can not very well just show up all rife with angst in the morning and then suddenly clear up like a sunny day after a storm. I had to keep up my persona. Not so difficult in the jury box, but that deliberation session was a bit of a challenge as I am used to my sunny twin being my normal spokesperson. Mostly I kept quiet, but I threw in a few eye rolls for effect. After I realized that nobody actually thought I wasn’t a Goth chick, I started to have fun with it. I think a couple of the guys were actually afraid of me. I started toying with them just for fun. Kind of semi-flirting and then giving them a death stare.

Heh.

———-

So, no – my plan to get out of jury duty didn’t work. On the other hand, it was really, really ridiculously satisfying.


“Collarbone” is not a word one expects a two-year-old to whisper in one’s ear in an underground, candlelit cavern. I blame myself. For not asking questions about what was down there. For exposing her to death at such an early age. For taking her down into the catacombs in the first place.

We are in Stefansdom in Vienna, the massive Romanesque and Gothic cathedral at the city’s drizzle-damp center.

Through the yawning arch, the carved columns support a soaring nave leading down to a massive baroque high altar, beside which hangs the Christ child with a three stemmed rose. The scene is framed and set aglow by candles burning to long dead saints, lit by the genuflecting living in the cold, damp air of sacred space.

Oh, but underneath.

Our tour guide rushes in exactly on time sporting a suit too small for him in the shoulders and the careless sandy blond hair of an academic. He has a strong Viennese accent – an outrageous accent hovering somewhere between an Inspector Poirot and a Jar-Jar Binks. He takes our money and leads our group of about 20 down into the bowels of the cathedral.

This is the point where some sort of mothering instinct should have kicked in – the kind where my brain sends the message, “Catacombs are where dead people reside. Huhn. Perhaps this is not child-appropriate.”

But, the truth is I was fascinated. I love dead people. I mean, not in the way that I would like to find one of their kind cuddled under my sheets, but I will admit to a moderate fascination with the other side. Not enough to turn me into a kohl-lined, Rob Zombie worshipping member of tribe ‘Emo’, but, you know, enough to take an occasional peek into the cadaver lab at university and to enjoy the movie “Blade.”

It starts light. We see tombs. Sarcophagi. It is a burial place for royalty and church leaders — the usual stuff one sees under such places. And then, he takes us into the chamber.

The word “collarbone” cuts through the chill of the room and I turn to see what my innocent little cherub is looking at. Behind bars, I see them: the remains of two souls long since passed. They are draped in cloth, which I can only guess must have qualified as garments at some point, but which now do little to hide their skeletal remains.

We move on from there.  Through the earthen tunnels of the lantern lit catacombs, we peek into the various rooms.

Everywhere, there are bones.

We are told that the remains of more than 11,000 people surround us – mostly bubonic plague victims from the 1700s. When the nearby graveyards were filled, the bodies were carted to the cathedral, where they were tossed akimbo into a mass grave deep underground — under the incense and the candles and the Christ child holding the three stemmed rose.

At some point, some of the monks who lived and worked at the church took it upon themselves to give the bodies a more respectable resting place. By then, the flesh was gone and the joints long since severed, so the monks set to work organizing the bones in a most logical way: femurs with femurs, clavicles with clavicles, skulls with skulls.

From a practical standpoint, this only makes sense. Certainly I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for the incorrect reconfiguration of nearly 11,000 pissed off souls.

Through the frigid catacombs we walk, peering into room after room stacked neatly with bones. We hug our own thinly veiled bones for warmth as we approach the pit where the monks had left off their task. Imagine a silo filled with bones. It has been capped off and has peepholes at the top for easy viewing. One by one, we approach it. Grimly, we stare into the dry soup.

I am torn between protecting my daughter from these sights and exposing her to the truth early on.  Handing her off to my husband — and thus my personal responsibility for her well-being — I fall behind the group. I want a picture, but pictures are not allowed.

And still…I want a picture.

I wait for the guide to disappear down the hall. I can see my breath in the lantern light. I am alone. Alone with dem dry bones. I point my camera into a small room, covered with iron bars. It’s dark in the room, and I have no idea what I’m even photographing.

A chill. A rush. Immediately, I am regretting my photo and am racing toward my husband and daughter at the back of the group.

Back out in open air, we huddle by a wall to review the picture I had stolen from underneath on my digital camera. The clatter of horse hooves echoes off the stone street as I find it. There, in the gray, is a dimly lit clutter of bones. These were not among the organized. The respected. These bones were not at peace.

A shudder took me over just as I threw my head back and laughed.

At the time, I could not have told you why I did this. There was something so deliciously terrifying about it all. In retrospect, I think this must be ingrained somewhere deep within – that perhaps these bones are at the center of the writer’s psyche. When we write, sometimes we return the bones to flesh. Sometimes we do the reverse, stripping as we go. Ultimately, we refuse to acknowledge they can be separated at all: the bones from the flesh; the cathedral and the catacombs; the sacred and the profane.

As writers, we peek into the pits, we excavate, we catalogue, we get to the core of our humanity…and if we do it right, we scare ourselves to death.

And we love every minute of it.

As for my daughter, well…if she doesn’t become a writer, there’s always therapy.


I am a huge fan of fermentation. There are few things I enjoy more than a glass of red wine in the evening. Especially merlot. Yeah, that’s right I said it. Despite the best efforts of the writers of the movie Sideways, I am still in love with the “M” word. Give me a glass with a nice bowl to roll it around in and I am one happy chick. And while I am not an addict, I have come to look forward to this experience with at least some measure of regularity. For me, the hardest part of pregnancy is not the back pain, difficulty of sleep – or even the labor. No, it is the necessity to cut back from that sublime burgundy in the glass.

Unlike most of my peers within the conservative Evangelical church in which I grew up, I was not taught by my parents that the drinking of alcohol is a sin. Rather, my training was of a more subtle nature. It wasn’t that drinking alcohol itself was a sin – unless of course it crossed over to drunkenness, at which point it ranked fairly high in the seven deadliest. It was more that drinking in front of somebody else who might be inclined to have a problem with it was.

This is a nuance that I would not expect the average person who did not grow up under these circumstances to readily understand, so suffice it to say that my comfort factor with drinking was almost nil.

It probably goes without saying that alcohol was a scarcity at my house growing up. My parents reserved the drinking of alcohol for situations in which a cultural discomfort needed to be avoided.Specifically, this meant that while drinking socially at parties was a no-no on account of the possibility that it might encourage some weak soul to tip the scales toward the inclination to don a lampshade, drinking with foreigners in the privacy of one’s home or overseas was an acceptable – and even necessary – activity. Because, presumably, foreigners would be irreparably offended should one explain that one doesn’t drink. And how could a person be an example for Christ if one begins the conversation off by offending one’s conversationalists?

Armed with that inscrutable logic, I was 15 when I first tasted alcohol. I had only recently celebrated my birthday when my family went on a grand family vacation to the United Kingdom. It was Chevy Chase in a rented car with suitcases strapped to the top and the whole works. We had just spent a harrowing couple of days with Dad negotiating the left side of the street when we stopped by the grace of God in one piece at Stratford-Upon-Avon, home of Shakespeare and a boy named Shandy.

Now, Shandy and his friends were cute, and my two sisters and I found an excuse to pal around with them for the better part of one of the days we were there. I owe them for a wealth of cultural knowledge, including the facts that one should never speak to a Brit about their “pants” unless one intends to get in them, that the “fanny packs” we all wore were the funniest damn things they had ever heard of, and that the word “spunk” spoken loudly in public could get you arrested.

When my sisters and I arrived back late to the hostel to find Mom and Dad leaning meaningfully on their elbows out the window, we attempted to cast our minor infraction in light of having spent a valuable day gaining a cultural education. In the process, I let it drop that we had met – it was the funniest thing – a boy, some guy really, named Shandy who showed us all around the bless’d land o’ Shakespeare with his companions – and how lucky were we?

Unbelievably, it worked. Encouraged by the insight into a different culture that his girls had received, my father – the holder of a doctorate and thus the keys to higher education – completely ignored the fact that our church looked down on drinking and took it upon himself to add his own lesson: the meaning of Shandy’s name.

Unbeknownst to us Yanks, and surprisingly known to my father, a shandy just so happens to be a drink. With his nose hot on the trail of an “educational moment,” Dad marched us all, women-and-children, the very next day to the nearest pub where he promptly bought us one. To share. With the five of us huddled around a table in the heart of Merry Old England, we passed around a single pint: half beer, half lemonade. Thus, was my education initiated.

Upon return to American soil and the familiarity of our beloved church, it was tersely communicated that there were certain elements of our education that should perhaps be left out when recounting the details of our trip to friends. Kind of like the time the two of them had shlepped us off to a covert showing of the movie Ghandi, complete with alternative routes by motorcar to and from the theater, as well as an enforced black out for two hours after the movie so as not to call attention to ourselves, should there be a raid by local morality police. Not only was it a “movie,” which was one solid strike against us (movies were considered sinful, as were cussing and doing the two-step), but it was a movie about a famous Hindu. Of course, had anyone asked, Dad would have been ready with the argument that he was taking the opportunity to teach his girls a valuable lesson regarding how creative Satan could be when pressed to invent a religion, and its subsequent effects on a society.

Anyway, we kept the bender in England on the down low from our friends. As Mom and Dad had pointed out in the car on the way back from the airport, they might not understand. If they found out that we had partaken of alcohol, it might encourage them, too, to experiment and before we could blink, half of my ninth grade class at the Christian school would be living in the gutter and drinking from paper bags with one foot in the fiery lake. Did we want that kind of responsibility? Did we? Huh?

Over the years, I would watch as Mom and Dad would host various guests from Germany, Russia, and beyond. If they would bring a bottle of wine to our house as a gift, it would be opened and passed around appropriately in our long-stem water glasses, reserved just for the occasion. We did not want to cause an international incident, after all.

We were ambassadors for Christ.

On Fear

By Erika Rae

Memoir

I must not fear. 
Fear is the mind-killer. 
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. 
I will face my fear. 
I will permit it to pass over me and through me. 
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. 
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. 
Only I will remain.

– The Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear / Frank Herbert’s Dune

It is a couple of days ago. I am driving in my Jeep down the mountain road from my house. The sun is shining. The aspens are twinkling. On the side of the road, little sprigs of wildflowers are glowing yellow and purple in the sun. With the exception of the unfortunate necessity for the use of fossil fuels, it is all very Zen.

I must not fear.

I have everything I need. Fresh air, warmth. Anna Nalick is breathing holistically through the speakers. Through the seatbelt, my giant whale belly pokes comfortably. I sip occasionally at the latte my husband made me before I left and replace it in the cup holder beside me.

Fear is the mind-killer.

I am thinking about how everything is going to be OK. In spite of the normal life troubles; in spite of the financial strains. Any day now I will face the all-consuming pain of bringing formidable life into this world and all of the responsibilities that act entails…and I am not afraid.


Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will be a ticking time bomb, or perhaps more accurately, a ticking water balloon – poised to explode dangerously without warning all over carpet upholstery mattress freshly polished bank floor …and I am not afraid.

I will face my fear.

I will be doubled over with pain, internalizing an agony so deep and indescribable that it will find its way out in the form of primal grunts and groans, well befitting a Scottish torture chamber circa 1650… and I am not afraid.


I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

At some point, I will be led to a large tub filled with warm water, in which I will be obliged to attempt to push a human being through a space the equivalent of a cantaloupe through a nostril…and I am not afraid.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. 
Only I will remain.

There will be the breathless moments in which we all watch and wait for that first cry. Will the baby breathe? Will the baby be healthy? Will the baby have the appropriate number of appendages at the ends of appropriate numbers of limbs?

I am not afraid.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Driving alone in the car, I breathe deeply of the fresh mountain air. Everything is going to be OK. I take another sip of coffee and pause in my self-congratulatory thoughts as I detect something rough on my tongue with that last sip. I reach up to extract and hold it in front of my eyes for examination.

It’s a dead spider. Drowned in sweet, milky brown elixir.

…and what do I do?

I freak out.

I am such a chicken shit.

Grandma wanted a red bikini.

She said it was because she wanted to take up swimming again, but I suspect it had a bit more to do with a “sunset-of-life” crisis. And anyway, just because when the rest of us looked at her we saw a wrinkly old woman who looked like she might blow over if you forgot to cover your sneeze…Grandma was a sexy bird.

At some point.

Possibly circa the climax of the women’s suffrage movement.

I’ve seen pictures, anyway.

Before the gray. Before the Depends.

Before “the girls” made a permanent move south.
At any rate, I, for one, applaud her effort to redefine herself in the midst of her slow-moving, fiber-conscious peers. She had just finished spending part of the day at the pool with my two sisters and me, and was probably inspired by memories of her lost youth brought on by the intermingling scents of sizzling suntan oil and chlorine. What was the difference between her and us besides a few years, anyway? A red bikini at age 95? Why not?

Grandma had a fair amount of pep for one in her station of life – in spite of the fact that she had almost gone completely deaf and blind at that point and was chronically pissed off. Not that I blame her. On one of my visits, I found ants crawling around on her toothbrush.

None of this stopped her. She had a mind as sharp as a razor and the tennis balls on the back legs of her walker were worn chronically thin. I once saw her grow impatient when she was stuck behind another woman going too slow in a wheelchair coming out of the dining hall. Having just enjoyed a delicious meal of a substance suspiciously called turkey and gravy – which, by the way, had only about a 30% success rate of making it to her mouth from her knife, seemingly mistaken for her fork early on and completely beyond my ability to correct in a way that would allow her a scrap of dignity – Grandma was anxious to get back to her room.

I’m not entirely sure why she was in such a hurry to get back to her room. Aside from a dresser my grandpa made when they were first married, a bed which raised and lowered by remote control, a well-worn sofa which had been the unfortunate lead witness to Grandma’s struggle against incontinence and a couple of pictures that she could no longer see of my father and his brother when they still had brown hair, I can’t say that I understood the draw. Regardless, having hit metal upon metal – you will remember that Grandma could not see worth crap – she heaved one labored sigh before suddenly transforming before my eyes, kicking it into high gear as she whipped around the offending wheelchair, sparks flying from the holes in the tennis balls, straifing like a character straight out of Doom, until she had left the old lady in the wheelchair far behind, in the dust, alone with her memories and her starch white orthopedics.

Grandma’s big event of the day involved dinner in the dining hall with all of the other inmates, as she called them. They were a fun bunch. There was Don, who wore his pants in one of two positions: up around his chest or down around his ankles. Sitting always at the table to Grandma’s right was a little woman in a wheelchair who I like to call “Kilroy” on account of the relation of the table to her nose. Velda McPhee was the nicest woman at her table, but had the annoying habit of slowly sticking her tongue in and out of her mouth like a lizard that has been licking stamps. She was also under the impression that I am a boy. Judith Mayfair probably was nice at one point, before she began to suffer from Tourette’s. The last time I was there I heard her calling one of the workers a “No good WHORE” who eats “BM!” and apparently needed to leave her dead husband “ALONE…yougoddammiserablehussy.”

As far as I was concerned, if Grandma needed a red bikini to feel like her old (young) self in the midst of all of this joy, so be it. She’d been raised in a conservative environment all of her life and no doubt had some final oats to sew. Plus, she had already set a precedent of being somewhat racy somewhere in the 1930s by showing up at her father’s house wearing short sleeves, so she kind of had a reputation to live up to.

Grandma was a wild card, I tell you what.

Aiming to please, my mom loaded up the car and took Grandma over to Sears. (Because really…where else would they go?) Since Grandma couldn’t see very well, my mom selected for her a few choices – which I am told included at least one string variety, along with a few more solid renditions to strap in the girls, so to speak. Excitedly, Grandma shuffled off to the nearest dressing room, her walker squeaking merrily all along the way. My mom waited.

And waited.

At one point, she popped her head in the dressing room in order to offer some help. It took four tries before Grandma heard what she was being asked, but she finally snapped back that she was just fine on her own, thank you very much.

Mom waited some more. Just when she thought Grandma might have fallen asleep in there, having mistaken the dressing room for her own cell back at the assisted living center, the curtain flung wide and Grandma emerged…fully dressed and empty handed.

The subject was never broached again.

And I…well, I missed a fantastic photo opportunity.

Thin Places

By Erika Rae

Memoir

There is a crack underneath my fireplace, where the intake vent meets the hardwood floor. It is too small for most things, but perhaps large enough for a mouse to squeeze through if it is very determined. Tonight, however, something about this crack gets to me. Makes me dizzy. Above, the glow from the fireplace hot on my face; below the crack leading to the depths within my house. Leading perhaps down to the foundation. Maybe beyond.

I wonder what could be down there. Large rodents, maybe. Nick Belardes’ Mothman, probably. I stare at the crack half expecting long, dark fingers to flit through and make a quick probe. Nudge a dust bunny or two on their way to my soul. On their way to finger other thin places in my life.

The sad state of my bank account.

The unpublished books sitting on my bookcase.

The condition of my closet.

How I think my eyebrows would look like Susan Boyle’s, left unchecked.

Like most of the thin places in my life, I am not overly concerned–except for those moments when I am left alone in the dark to ruminate. Moments like these. En momentos así.

Like that time in junior high when I demanded to know why a certain boy was in the girls’ bathroom—only to find out from his own lips that he…was a she.

Like that time I attempted to steal a Coca-Cola bottle and got busted by an angry, French shopkeeper.

Like that time I lied to a friend about something I shouldn’t have.

Like that time I lied to a friend…

These thin places live in parts of me where I don’t have to confront them much. They fit neatly around the curves of my organs where they don’t bother me unless perhaps I lie on them the wrong way or eat something funny. I occasionally mistake them for indigestion or the start of a cold. Medication sometimes helps.

The problem with thin places is that, like all small fissures, there is great potential for the smallest earthquake to break them wide open into something bigger. Something wide and gaping. Something for which the word “maw” could be used. Because of this it sometimes becomes necessary to seek out relatively calm ground—ground which is not prone to bumps and jolts. Avoid amusement park rides and flashing red lights.

Some thin places involve things I didn’t do – but rather things that were done to me, intentionally or otherwise.

The turning away of friends.

Harsh, unjustified words of family in the heat of the moment.

The death of my father.

These types of involuntary fractures wear closer to the surface where I can examine them with more frequency. They exist as a testament to the times I’ve been wronged, and are for some reason easier to face than the times where I’ve done wrong. I can pull them out as a neat distraction from the self-inflicted splits in my being. These are the cracks I feed. The doting on pain cracks. The snacking on cracker cracks. The self-righteous cracks. Not like the other cracks.

But still…cracks.

The orange dance of the flames distracts me and I find myself falling deeper inward, just as I catch a glimpse of those long, Giacometti fingers feeling their way across the floor toward my wool covered toes.

Perhaps a glass of wine would help.

Only we capitalists could come up with such story: a fairy who pays cold, hard cash for human teeth.

In ancient Europe, they would simply bury the teeth. But in 18th century France, a story appears in which a good queen hires a mouse to hide under a bad king’s pillow and to knock out all of his teeth when he is asleep. From there, the story has been somewhat transformed.

Today in Spanish speaking countries, we have a tooth mouse named Ratoncito Pérez, who makes the occasional appearance in Colgate commercials. He replaces the tooth for candy or money.

In Italy the topino (little mouse) often replaces the Fatina (Tooth Fairy). French children also get visits from the tooth mouse, or La Petite Souris. But in lowland Scotland, he outsources to a “fairy rat” to do his rounds for him.

In Greece, kids throw their milk teeth at the roof. They then recite a little rhyme which comes out to something like, “Take sow my tooth and give me an iron one so that I can chew rusks.” In some regions of Greece, it is a mouse not a sow which is invoked.

There is no Tooth Fairy in Germany – kids instead collect their teeth in a container called a Zahndose.

Filipino children bury their teeth in order to make a wish.

Turkish children don’t bury their teeth—their parents do.

Chilean and Costa Rican kids get their teeth made into a charm.

In Japan, kids throw their teeth straight down and up into the air as a request for straight teeth (depending on bottom or top jaw). In other parts of Asia, children either throw their teeth at the roof or in the spaces in the floor and shout out a request that they will have teeth like a mouse that will keep growing all their life.

I don’t get that one either. But who am I to question Wikipedia?

So why are teeth so valuable in our culture? Why are we are instructed to put those precious pearls under our pillows so that we can trade them in for hard currency. And furthermore, for something to be valuable, there has to be demand. Has anyone thought of that? Are there others out there vying for a place in the market, which the Tooth Fairy has clearly monopolized? Some Cavity Gnome or Incisor Elf we’ve never heard of?

And why only baby teeth? Why can’t the guy who just got his head bashed in during a boxing match cash in to help ease the pain?

Is the Tooth Fairy really female? What’s the going rate? And furthermore, what does the Tooth Fairy DO with all those baby teeth once purchased?

This last question – this question of motivation – is a major weakness in the whole story, in my opinion. When the question was posed to me by the mother of one of my daughter’s friends who just lost a tooth, I was stymied when I realized that I had no idea.

I did some research.

The two most popular reasons available on the Internet are as follows:

1. The Tooth Fairy uses the teeth she collects as building materials for her castle.
2. The Tooth Fairy throws the teeth into the air, where they become stars.

Now, I’m no architect, but it seems to me the first explanation is a bit problematic. First of all, think about the constant struggle of keeping those teeth from rotting out from bacteria. Does she live in an arid climate? Does she need to scrub the walls down daily with toothpaste? Does she file down the roots to make them fit? Building an entire edifice out of teeth just seems impractical. If she’s got an endless supply of small bills – and it would seem she does – then why not invest in specially formulated concrete or stone, selected for longevity.

And that’s not even touching on the “creepiness factor” of the whole project, which shadows Howard Hughes in his crazy years by a long shot. It sort of reminds me of that church in the Czech Republic that is decorated entirely with human bones that the monks dug up during some plague.

And as for the star theory, that just seems like a good way to misinform children about the awesome nature of our universe.

“The stars? No, they’re not in fact giant suns, each potentially hosting an entire galaxy complete with planets and possibly even life. They’re, uh, molars. Yep.”

I decided to ask around to some of my friends to find out how pervasive these theories actually were, since I had never heard of them. Here is a sampling of some of the answers I got:

Grinds them down to make fairy dust. Duh.
-Kimberly Wetherell

Where do you think tooth “paste” comes from?
-Scott Archer

She makes really frightening jewelry and sells it on eBay.
-Kirstin Orwig

The tooth fairy has a giant mouth the size of New Hampshire where you can find all the teeth of the world. She sits on the dark side of Mercury chomping on rocks.
-NL Belardes

The Tooth Fairy likes to collect teeth in an elaborate filing system. Each kid has his own drawer labeled with his full name. The Tooth Fairy is a librarian with an acute case of OCD.
-Found on a random blog

The tooth fairy grinds up those teeth, turns them into a fine dust, then uses that dust to powder the long flowing cape of the ghost of Bruce Lee. Then again, maybe the tooth fairy just turns in those teeth with her other recyclables and is able to make another few extra bucks.
-Richard Ferguson

She puts them in random places and when she finds them wonders why she didn’t date the baggie or envelope and now wonders if they are really worth keeping, and then realizes it’s kinda gross to have all these teeth, but can’t bring herself to throw them away.
-Sarah Kimmett

All teeth go to heaven, where they will be reunited gloriously one day with their loving masters.
-James Michael Blaine

The tooth fairy doesn’t have teeth of her own. Since she’s small, she can only use baby teeth for her own dentures, which have to constantly be replaced.
-Anonymous

And my personal favorite:

She breaks them in half and feeds them to the sugar bugs.
Alexandra Pavlidis (age 4) – this was after a lecture from the dentist about brushing so that the “sugar bugs” don’t eat her teeth.

First off – I am thankful that nobody but two people seemed to know about the castle and the stars.  But secondly, I’m all for traditions and folklore, but it seems to me that we have a few weaknesses in our Tooth Fairy story. As a culture, we collectively need to get our story straight.

So what do YOU think the TF does with all those teeth?


I lost my virginity thanks to a Youth Group outing and a group of impossibly large men.

OK, OK – not my real virginity. Being the good little Evangelical girl I was, I was saving that for my wedding night. But my spiritual virginity was as good as gone. Vamoose. Sold down the river to some guy named Jed. Or, more accurately, Scott.

We hadn’t exactly planned it. There was no flag raised in the days leading up to the earth-shattering event that read: THE END IS NEAR! How it managed to sneak up like that when we were trying to be so spiritual is beyond my comprehension. Sure, we’d snuck off to the back stairway a few times to make out. We were 14. We could hardly be blamed for a little hormonal playtime. But we had always had our boundaries. In the final analysis, I simply refuse to acknowledge that this tear in my spiritual hymen was entirely our fault.

That fateful weekend, we boarded the Youth Group bus along with 30 or so other hormonal teens for a field trip. The bus, whose name was “Gus” for God’s Ultimate Servant, had been our project the previous year. We’d had a pancake supper to raise enough funds to buy it secondhand, with the intention of being able to bus kids to church on Sunday who didn’t have rides. We even spent one whole Saturday throwing day-glo paint at it in an attempt to make it the coolest vehicle for Christ in all of Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, there were only one or two kids who actually needed a ride and there seemed to be a bit of a debate as to whether they were coming with their parents’ permission or not. When the church board expressed concern about a potential lawsuit, its Sunday morning glory ride was retired soon after. But when it was field trip time, it was Gus’s time to shine.

This wasn’t just any field trip, mind you. We, along with half the city it seemed, were headed to the city arena where we would watch gape-jawed as muscle-encased men bent rebar with their teeth and broke blocks of fiery ice with their foreheads.

That’s right, John Jacobs and the Power Team had come to our town. Boy, was our Youth Pastor jazzed. He had even worn his muscle shirt which read “Jesus!” across the front, where the middle “s” was in the shape of a lightning bolt. Beaming Scott and I herded in with the crowd to take our seats in one of the balconies.

Over the course of the next two hours, we were awed by these modern-day Sampsons. There must have been at least seven of them. Huge, hulking men with a clear message for Christ in between acts of wonder – changing the world, one head-bashed brick at a time. One of them would stand before us as John Jacobs narrated for us something along these lines.

“See this man? His name is Bo.”

A giant of a male specimen would stand before us, his muscles quivering in the spotlights like a Clydesdale’s.

“He gave his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ eight years ago. Bo is no pansy, folks, he stands 6’5” and weighs in at 322 pounds. Don’t be fooled by his massive exterior ladies, he’s a got a teddy bear heart.”

The women in the audience raised up a collective giggle. I felt on top of the world and even allowed myself to wonder whether he would find me attractive if we were stuck in an elevator together.

“Now you’ve already seen him crush through a wall of ice 8 feet thick tonight. But that ain’t nothin’.The thing about Bo is – the crazy thing about Bo is – he’s got a set of lungs like you wouldn’t believe.Now he’s gonna take this water bottle…” We all watch in rapt attention as he dangles an ordinary hot water bottle before us, “…he’s gonna take this hot water bottle and he’s gonna blow it up until it pops like a toy balloon.”

Shocked that a mere mortal can accomplish such an act, we burst into applause. I am feeling faint. I looked over at Scott, who is glowing at me.

“Now this ain’t no toy. Heh heh. Just so you know that we’re not playing any tricks on you tonight, I’ve invited an expert in the field to determine whether this is, in fact, a genuine hot water bottle.Grandma, can you come up here for a moment?”

We cheer as a frail looking woman approaches the stage. We are reverently amused at the contrast between grandmother and grandson. She speaks something crackly into the mike and we raise a mighty cheer. Bo stands before us now and puts his lips to the bottle. Guitars scream over the speaker system and a beat thumps through our skeletons.

“Now ladies and gentlemen,” John tells us over the music as Bo begins to blow. “This is something Bo has done over 1,000 times. If he fails, a rush of air so strong will force its way back into his lungs, causing them to burst. Just because he’s done it before, does not ensure his success. Do not attempt this at home. Just one mistake, ladies and gentlemen. Just one mistake…”

The suspense builds as Bo blows into the hot water bottle. He hesitates a little and I hear our Youth Pastor James behind us begging, “Please Jesus.” Bo seems to get over his hump and deposits another lungful of air into the hot water bottle, now as big as a soccer ball. He’s on a roll now. It’s as big as a five gallon cooler. He huff huff huffs into the bottle until – POW! It explodes like a flimsy balloon! Oh!If only my grandma could see what they had done to her beloved hot water bottle, it would blow her mind! How great the strength of Jesus is! Scott grabs me around the shoulder and pulls me in for a victory squeeze. Oh yes! How great He is indeed!

Bo who can blow diminishes during the applause to the back of the line-up just as another hulk of a man jogs up to the front. He has a phone book in his hands. Effortlessly, he R-R-RIPS it in two! The crowd goes crazy. But they are just warming up. We have yet to witness John Jacobs, himself, snap the chains between not one, but TWO sets of handcuffs from his wrists. The music is cut off so that we can hear the sound of the chains as they tear. People around me cry out, “Jesus!” just before he does it. We hear the mighty snap. HE DOES IT! It’s a MIRACLE! How we praise Jesus for breaking the chains that bound us after that! The crowd goes NUTS! I’m crying. Scott is screaming. People have their hands in the air to thank the Father above for these men who remind us of only a fraction of His power.

An altar call is initiated. The Power Team boasts that 2-3 out of every 10 people who show up to their performances give their lives to Christ – and I can see from my place in the balcony that it’s at least that many. People are pouring down the aisles to give their lives to Christ – and perhaps to also touch the members of the Power Team. John Jacobs is there to lay his hands on foreheads and slap high fives. And it really is that amazing. People are changed. Some people are healed. Many are saved.

In the years since my attendance at the city arena that night in Colorado Springs, I have lived in several different places. Currently, I live in Boulder, Colorado – which everybody knows is 25 square miles surrounded by reality – and I’m not so sure that the Power Team would go over so well with this crowd. The people here are entirely too, I don’t know – metero, or something. The idea of testosterone-dripping, red meat-eating men (and now one woman) might be seen as an affront to our patchouli-scented little utopia here. Well, they might dig the chick – but that’s not the point. I imagine that if a group like John Jacobs and the Power Team wanted to come to Boulder, it would have to switch up its gig. Perform amazing feats of yoga, or something like that. Francis Lee Mao-Mao and the Amazing Bendable Team. Their tag-line could be something like, “Changing the world one asana at a time,” or “Bending over to win you to Christ.” Whatever the case, if it wanted any success at all, it would have to adapt.

But we had seen just what we needed to see that night. Jesus truly wasn’t for sissies. He was strong.Indisputable. In control. Virile…

Back on the bus after a two-hour long adrenaline rush, we were exhausted. My friend Gina and her boyfriend Todd sat opposite us in the back seat of the bus, laughing privately about some inside joke.Some of the kids, still jazzed by the evening’s performance, were loud at first, but quickly settled in to a pattern of silence. Some even fell asleep. I fell into Scott’s arms.

It was just a lot of kissing at first, I swear. We had been through a lot together that evening and we just felt so…close. So ooey-gooey, ishy-squishy close. At first, when he began touching me under my shirt, I was alarmed. But he just said, “Shhh, I think God has given us to each other.” Well, that just about made my heart go crazy with desire. To think that God had preordained us to be together!

I did peek over at Gina and Todd once or twice, but they were too distracted to notice what was going down in the seat next to them. Finally, I just settled in to the ecstasy of it all.

Don’t get me wrong. I said earlier in this chapter that nothing happened, and in Clinton-speak, nothing did. I absolutely, verifiably, most emphatically did not lose my “technical virginity” that night.But I’d read enough in the days leading up to that to know that there is a thing called “spiritual virginity” in the Evangelical world that sounded just as ominous if not more so. When a girl loses her “technical virginity,” for example, it is impossible to get it back. It is possible, however, through the grace of Jesus to regain one’s “spiritual virginity” – even if one’s “technical virginity” has been lost.

Well, my friends, I stand before you today to tell you that I did not lose my “technical virginity” that fateful night on Gus the Bus. But what I did lose was perhaps something far more valuable, because it involved the way I thought about the world and the way I fit into it. Because I learned something about myself that night. And that one thing is this: Bo’s not the only one who can blow.

*Excerpt taken from “In Handbasket: Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical.”

In the last two weeks, two TNB writers have written about masturbation (thank you Smibst and Marni Grossman). Why not make it a threesome? Tis the season, right?

Specifically, I’d like to focus on the vibrator.

I was 29 when I visited my first actual sex toy shop. I went with a couple of girlfriends from my kung fu class to look for Valentine’s Day gifts for our men. Together, we were trouble.

First, there was V, the dark-haired Filipina-American who had spent 8 years in the army and who could arm-wrestle any man stupid enough to challenge her under the table. I have broken up fights between her and overzealous guys at dance clubs on more than one occasion. Second, there was M, the ample-chested knockout who never failed to turn a head with her screaming feminine vibe. She has also been the cause of a few scuffles at dance clubs – but perhaps for less confrontational reasons. Third, there was me, their plump friend, Bess.

So there we were, marching into Ye Old Sex Shoppe on 28th Street (otherwise known as “Fascinations”), and winking boldly at the pre-adults working the counter as if we had just stopped in to get a bag of chips and a vanilla Frappucino out of the refrigerator case.

“Can I help you with anything?” asked a zit-faced attendant somewhat ambiguously.

“Oh, sure,” replied V with a firm nod, “just looking for a sex toy.”

“Do you guys carry those?” joined in M.

“For sex,” I added, late as usual on the scene.

The attendant smiled a crooked “I have just the thing” smile and led us through the store. Past the lotions and games. Past the sticky videos. Not quite to the fake pussies. He stopped at a table filled with a menagerie of items. Aside from the obvious “penis” theme, the collection was comprised of all sorts of dangly, delicate things. Flowers. Fairies. Hearts. Like something I would find under glass at Gramma’s house.

 

“The latest in vibrators,” he said, grabbing one by the shaft and holding it up for our examination. It was pale green and coated in a soft rubber. A hummingbird emerging from a flower was poised in mid-flight, its beak at the ready.

“It’s for your clit,” he explained.

I raised my eyebrows at V and repeated what he’d said very seriously, “It’s for your clit.”

Our personal shopper then proceeded to turn it on for us. Handed it to M like a pair of size 7 black pumps.

“Good God,” she said. “That beak isn’t getting anywhere near my clit.”

She handed it back to him, pinched between two vibrating fingers. He turned it off, visibly hurt. Excused himself to help a customer wearing a black trench over combat boots and bearing multiple facial piercings.

After that, we headed over to the lotion section. Contemplated edible undies. French maid costumes. Chocolate body paint. Didn’t bring the vibrators back up for a good 15 minutes. When the subject finally did come up, it was touched on with a derisive humor. The pale green. The beak. Was that an orchid from which it was emerging or a Black-eyed Susan?

Touchy subject, vibrators. Kind of embarrassing. Got one? Sure. A whole collection. I got them from your mom. Right.

According to one study, however, this has not always been the case. In 1999, Rachel Maines published an eye opening study called “THE TECHNOLOGY OF ORGASM; “HYSTERIA,” THE VIBRATOR, AND WOMEN’S SEXUAL SATISFACTION.”

In a nutshell, for centuries – possibly millennia – women have been assumed to not be able to reach orgasm during normal intercourse. As a matter of fact, women were thought to not be able to reach orgasm at all.

What women were subject to, on the other hand, was a disease called “hysteria.” This disease involved a variety of symptoms, including “excitability, mood swings, insomnia, and restlessness.”

Once diagnosed with hysteria, women were then prescribed a treatment from doctors, which involved genital massage in order to effect a “paroxysm.”

I had to read that part twice when I first came across it, so here it is again. Women went to their family doctors or midwives in order to receive genital massage to help bring them to a paroxysm.

Not an orgasm – women don’t have orgasms – paroxysm.

Women would go into the doctor’s office, hike up their skirts, remove pantaloons, and allow the doctor to rub their clitoris until they cried Mother Mary.

Nuns and unmarried women in particular were encouraged to go for regular treatment. They used aromatic oils. There was no shame attached. It was a medical condition. Many doctors of the day believed that nearly 70% of the female population suffered from this affliction.

Naturally, this epidemic was becoming a bit of a problem. Think about it. The ugly spinster comes in once a week for her paroxysm. She is awfully slow about it. Sometimes it takes the doctor nearly an hour to effect her paroxysm. The doctor is losing time and money. Other tragically afflicted (hotter) patients need his attention. Something needed to be done.

Thus was born the first of the automated vibrators (Cleopatra and her “calabash of bees” doesn’t count). There is evidence that shows that vibrators were used as early as 1860 – run by water or foot pedal.


But when the Chattanooga arrived on the scene, the history of the vibrator would change forever. Here is a lovely description of the device:

The Chattanooga…stood nearly 2m tall and required a couple of men to operate it. Being steam-powered, the engine of the machine was located in a small room and two men shoveled coal into the furnace and monitored the steam temperature, pressure, and thrust required to drive the Chattanooga. The engine room was separated from the doctor’s room by a wall which had a hole in it. A mechanical arm extended from the engine through the wall and into the consulting room where the doctor controlled it and used the vibrating arm to administer the appropriate genital massage to the grateful patient.”


By the turn of the century, the vibrator was battery operated and was the fifth household appliance ever to be electrified.


Toaster? Check! Sewing machine? Check. Vibrator? You better believe it. Electrified before the vacuum; before the iron. The vibrator had even become a popular gift – touted as a great muscle relaxer, of course.

So what happened?

Porn, for one thing. As soon as movie producers realized they could make money by selling sex, it was only a matter of time before the vibrator made its first appearances on the big screen and smuttied up the whole vibrator industry. By the 1920s, a vibrator could scarcely be found on the shelves. It wasn’t until the 1960s when they made a reappearance and were suddenly viewed as a power symbol.

As for the “disease” of hysteria, well, it was finally recognized in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association for what it really was – sexual frustration and not something pathological.

And as for my little visit to the sex shop, it ended as can be reasonably expected. I became pregnant with my first child. Actually – funny story – so did M. Which leads me to the moral of my little story:

Whether it’s pale green, pink, pocket sized, comes with hanging daisies and emerging hummingbirds – buy the damn vibrator.

 

Blessing Lost

By Erika Rae

Memoir

She was unapologetically beautiful with ocean damp hair and breasts that pressed two dark spots into her pink camisole.Light freckles on her nose matched her sand crusted toes and she walked the leaf-shadowed path as if she bore the weight of a hidden royal past.

I loved my high school youth group. Every Wednesday night, no matter how much homework I had, Mom or Dad drove the 30 minutes across town to our church, where my younger sister and I were deposited, no questions asked. Two hours later, we would emerge rosy-faced, talking too loudly, and in need of another layer of deodorant.

For the average Evangelical, this is really where it all starts. Sure, there is Sunday School and no end to Vacation Bible School, Awanas, etc. for the younger ages, but everybody knows that it is the teenage years that are crucial. The stated purpose of this Youth Group, of course, was to turn us into thoughtful and godly young men and women, although as an adult, I suspect ulterior motives. Sure, we would play our silly games like wall ball and how-much-baby-food-can-you-eat-before-you-puke before gathering together in a splatter-painted room called “The Lion’s Den” to talk about God and the pressures of being a teenager in today’s world. But regardless of what we actually did, I am pretty sure that the main reason for the existence of the Youth Group is to take the place of sex.

There’s the foreplay. We would meet in the gym for games. Boys on one side, girls on the other. At first, it was all about the heart rate. We’d run races. We’d see who could skip the fastest, wrap ourselves in toilet paper the quickest, spin in circles for the longest. Slowly, things would progress. The boys would hoist the girls on their shoulders, the girls bearing handfuls of whipped cream. The girls giggling, with only flimsy material separating their important places from the backs of necks, only a matter of rotation, really. So close. No, but there is the matter at hand. Must pummel other girl, also deliriously straddled atop other boy and bearing whipped cream. Must beat her to the smear. If it lands in my face first, then it is all over. No more pressing. Must not be the smearee. Must prolong.

The games move on from there. Wink ‘Em. A Shot in the Dark. And my favorite: Caveman. The boys lock arms altogether in a mosh pit of maleness, while the girls rush in, pulling tickling tugging. If the girls team up together against one guy, the better the chance for release. The already-ejected males, sit defeated and panting by the wall. At the perimeter. And then, just then, at the apex, when there are only two more guys to conquer, the girls do something extraordinary. Focused on one goal, and one goal alone, they cooperate. There is no cattiness; no competition. With half on one side, and half on the other, the tug of war commences. It doesn’t last long, the resistance. It is over before it begins, really. A triumph. A disappointment. It is here that the Youth Group Leader gathers us together.

Our favorite Youth Leader – I’ll call him James – was a tall man, blond, handsome. He has just graduated from college, so he knows what we’re going through. He relates. For him, the struggle is over, having recently married his college sweetheart. And believe me, he tells us, the wait is worth it. We giggle in spite of ourselves. Some of us, jealous as hell, can’t help but perspire a little at the thought. A few of us girls glance over at his wife, Donna, feigning embarrassment at the back of the room.

We are impressed by their candor. We cannot help but be blown away by their realness. They are cool in spite of their years and if they were still in high school, we would totally be friends.

My father one time made the mistake of criticizing the car they drove in front of me as we pulled into the parking lot behind them. “What are they doing in that clunker?” He rhetorically had asked. “It makes them look like smokers.” For my father, “smoker” was about as close to a swear word as he ever came and the effect was staggering. James was our leader and king, and he had just received my father’s lowest blow. From that point on, my younger sister – cute, smart, and a far better person than I – and I were 100% devoted to King James with the fervor of groupies. What a visionary! What a radical! He didn’t care about status or approval – only that we knew The Truth.

James stands at the front of us sweat-drenched and panting teenagers and tells us about a better way. The right way. Together, we have embarked on a journey. It has its ups and its downs. Jesus wants to love us fully. Completely. If only we would let Him! It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past. There are tears. We hug. We cuddle. We are invited to take it a step further and pray the prayer of repentance. Many of us do. If any of us want to go for ice cream down the street, we are invited along – a post-youth group activity fittingly called an Afterglow.

Of course, at age 14, I was impressively ignorant of the real purpose of the Youth Group – to keep us from breeding like rabbits. And yet, I knew there was something tugging at my hormones. Inertia existed before Newton gave it a name, if you know what I mean. But the reason my good friend, Gina, would often disappear during Youth Group with her boyfriend, only to reemerge half an hour later with a fresh layer of make-up, truly eluded me. Blond, beautiful, funny and charismatic – just about anyone who ever meets Gina likes her immediately. She has a dry wit about her that sends me rolling to the floor time after time. She’s a hard act to follow – especially when she’s on a roll. But even more impressive than her sense of humor is the fact that she doesn’t seem to care what anybody else thinks about her. Anyway, she told me that they had been praying together – and I believed her. I even remember feeling a twinge of jealousy. How come none of the boys wanted to go pray with me?

I suspected I knew the answer. Clearly, I wasn’t spiritual enough. I wasn’t living up to the potential that God had given me. I knew then in my heart that I would have to try harder. Clearly, there was a higher plane of spirituality out there – just waiting for me. I began to pray fervently to this end.

So when King James announced one night at Youth Group that we would be sponsoring a city-wide roller night, I could hardly contain my excitement.

James had apparently made friends with the manager of a failing roller rink while doing some unexplained fieldwork, and had immediately seen the possibilities. He not only had a heart for the community, but he also just so happened to have roller-skating in his soul. Who knew?

It was given a mission and a name: Rollin’ with Jesus. The idea was to let anybody in from the community who wanted to skate for free, as long as they stayed to listen to a talk about Jesus sometime during the night. It was Evangelism at its coolest.

Now, it is important to understand before I proceed that our church was vehemently opposed to dancing. Later, in my college years, we would actually be fined in the amount of $50 if some killjoy named Martha from the fourth floor of the dorm ratted us out for shaking our booty on a dance floor on the opposite end of town at a club called Thumper’s. (Oh yes, I knew it was you, Martha.) And if anyone cared to object, all he or she needed to do was to look it up in the church Handbook and see for themselves how it was a sin and all that.

And not only dancing. The Handbook was very clear on a variety of issues including, but not limited to, movies, alcohol, smoking, premarital and extramarital relations, and swearing. Certainly, not all Evangelical churches have such documents. Under the umbrella of “Evangelicals,” there are many flavors and varieties. At my Christian high school alone, we represented more than 60 denominations, but there are literally thousands of denominations and sub-denominations under the heading of “Evangelical.” But in our church, the Handbook ruled the day, coming in just below the Bible in authority. If the Handbook said that attending movies was ungodly behavior, then that was that.

Not that there weren’t loopholes. We may not have been allowed to dance at our church, but there was nothing in the Handbook against roller-skating. There is music; there is movement; there is no mandate. Consequently, there were simply no grounds on which the church board could object – although it did put forth its best effort with a stalemate lasting over 18 hours on the subject of sweaty knees.

The objection was put on the boardroom table by one of our church’s oldest, most stalwart members. Beatrice Belch may have been pushing 80, but you couldn’t put anything past her. Already famous within the church for saving its youth from the clutches of evil in the late 70s by putting a ban on all articles of clothing that bore the color red, she demanded the board’s respectful attention. As the only woman on the board, she was forced to remind them that she, too, had been young once and had been confronted with the issue of sweaty knees in her own life. No, she conceded, there was no sin in having glistening joints. But when two young people of the opposite sex allow slick body parts to come together, it can only lead elsewhere. It is a pathway. A gateway drug, if you will.

The young people will only be roller-skating, argued the proponents of Rollin’ with Jesus. The chances of full-body perspiration were slim to nil. Not good enough, said Beatrice. Although a widow, she still remembered the predisposition of her own husband, Donald – God rest his soul – to perspiration. All he had to do was think about yard work, and his underarms would be wetter than a dishtowel after Thanksgiving Dinner cleanup. Do we want to enable our young people to fall into the Devil’s Plan? Or do we want to stop sin before it happens. Be a kind of spiritual antiperspirant, as it were.

OK, said the Rollin’ side. Worst-case scenario. A guy and a girl sit next to each other during the sermon and accidentally touch sweaty knees together. Then what? They are just going to run toward the backseat of the nearest car and get it on? Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that sweaty knees are considered gross by teenagers? (Read: Has it been that long, Beatrice?) The likelier scenario is that the 15-year-old girl who has just unwittingly exchanged fetid body fluids with her male counterpart is going to feign a gag reflex and spend the next week telling all of her friends about how she totally almost vomited all over her new, white Keds.

It was no use. Neither side would budge. For Beatrice and her posse, it was a battle of the encroaching culture versus morality, plain and simple. For the Rollers for Jesus, it was a bunch of out-dated ideology standing in the way of progressive Evangelism. Elders from the church were called in. The prayer chain lit up faster than PTL on pledge night. The wives of some of the board members brought in casseroles. But no matter how logical the arguments, the church was pretty much split right down the middle. It wasn’t until Donna, wife of James, opened her mouth that a compromise was reached.

“Why don’t we just require everyone to wear pants?” she asked. The board leaned in; considered. It was pushing it, said the Rollers, but it was a way. It could work. Beatrice’s side shifted, cleared their throats. Nodded with approval. The matter was settled. Rollin’ with Jesus was a go.

A Special Witness Team was rapidly formed for the purpose of getting the word out. Due to my leadership skills, or perhaps simply to my unparalleled enthusiasm, I was unanimously voted in as the team leader. What better way to jumpstart my spiritual life than to throw myself into mission work? I knew there was a lot riding on the success of Rollin’ with Jesus, and, consequently, I took my job very seriously. If we were going to make this event a go, we were going to need the help of a professional. We were going to need Travis.

Travis was one of the kids from the Junior High division of the Youth Group and was well-known for his artistic talents. He was short, scrawny, and had a shock of red hair on the top of his head that had the strange property of always looking as if it had recently been towel dried. He looked to be about 9 instead of 13. But there was no denying his gift. There was nary a soul in the church who had not seen his amazing portfolio of pencil drawings depicting the Apocalypse and all of its horrors. He was the Hieronymous Bosch of Holiness. He was gruesome in his imaginativeness. Brilliant in his scope. He may have dealt with some difficult and, well, graphic subjects – but it was from the Bible, after all. If God didn’t want us thinking about such horrific things, then He shouldn’t have written them into His book! And anyway, it was all in black and white, so it wasn’t as if there was red blood spurting everywhere. It was black.

He took a little convincing at first…something about artistic license and a brochure for roller-skating not exactly being his genre and all. After numerous phone calls and a promise to buy him a box of Hot Tamales and a Coke on the big night, though, I had him. I agreed to let him come up with the design completely on his own. Granted, I did make the suggestion that it should have something to do with roller-skating. He did not let me down. The very next day, he was at my doorstep with the finished product.

“Can I look at it now?” I asked stupidly, as if he had just passed me a personal note that would be awkward to read in front of him. We were still standing on my front doorstep. I hadn’t exactly been expecting him and was wearing one of the more embarrassing pairs of sweat pants from my immense collection of loser lounging attire. He shrugged.

“Whatever,” he said. I pulled my over-sized T-shirt down in the back to cover the giant hole in the seam of the butt and invited him inside for orange juice. As we did not drink soda in my house, I could not offer him anything more sophisticated. I could, however, at least offer my guest orange juice at full strength as my mother had not yet diluted the latest can from the freezer, as was her habit, leaving me to at least a shred of dignity. I mentally prepared myself for the task at hand and tried to remember where the pitcher was kept.

“No, thanks.” I followed his glance out to the street where there was a Mazda with the motor still running. Somehow, I had managed to overlook this when I opened the door. His father nodded at me when we made eye contact through the windshield.

“Oh. OK.” I looked down at the picture in my hands. It took a moment to understand what I was seeing – evidence of his genius, I believe – and then it all became clear. I blinked hard to hold back the tears. It was an emotional moment. Travis had not only come through for me, but he had so far surpassed expectations that I could barely speak. In the background, true to his theme – his heart’s passion – were the four horsemen from the book of Revelation. They were running hard. Striving. You could see that they were in pursuit, but you could also see by the strain in their eyes that they were losing. For there in the lead, blazing on ahead of them, was the object of their chase. I recognized him immediately. It was Jesus. On roller skates.

For the entire week leading up to the big night, we posted ourselves all over town. There were only three of us on the Special Witness Team (code name: “SWAT”), requiring us to be extremely strategic if we were going to invite the entire city of Colorado Springs. Since school had recently been let out, we took turns spending our days handing out our smokin’ fliers – at the malls, sticking them under windshield wipers at the grocery stores, taping them to telephone poles, etc. I tried to get more people on the team so that we could cover more ground, but most everyone I called already had plans.

In the end, though, it didn’t matter. Not only did we have Travis, our lead graphic artist extraordinaire, but we also had Tammy, our premier quizzer from the Bible Quiz Team. If anyone on the street tried to stump us on a spiritual point, she was sure to set them straight with God’s Word. By the last count at the time the SWAT team had been dispatched, she could produce on demand no fewer than 320 Bible verses from memory.

For the most part, people were receptive. Several of them actually looked at the flier before tossing it into the nearest receptacle, once they had clearly consumed and memorized the specifics of time and venue. When all was accounted for at the end of the week, we had distributed over 1,000 fliers – all created using the church secretary’s photocopier, which, incidentally, caused a bit of a disruption that week in the creation of the Sunday bulletin. But it didn’t matter. What was a little lost time and toner when we were doing the Lord’s work? Based on our observation of public reaction, we were going to have a full house. By our calculations, we were proud to report to James that no less than 700 people could be counted on to show up from our efforts. Conservatively.

The night of the big event nearly blew my mind. With the help of a branch of the SWAT team, the decrepit rink was changed into something awesome. There were flashing colored lights, a sound system, a disco ball – and even a limbo pole. There were even a few faces that I didn’t recognize that had come in response to the fliers. And while we didn’t have the predicted 700, we did have at least, I don’t know, 23 people who I had never seen before.

We skated round and round the rink to DC Talk, Carmen and Rick Cua. Never had doing the Lord’s work been so fun. The music spoke to something deep within my soul and I even felt my hips begin to loosen a little with the rhythm. In a godly way, of course. Much like David must have felt in his famous Psalms dance – although unlike David, we were required to wear pants.

When James raised the lights halfway through and called us over to a more intimate circle in the snack bar where we could talk about how cool God was, I learned that several of the people I didn’t recognize had come together from one of our sister churches – from all the way across town! There were even two people from the community who said they wanted to accept Christ in their hearts for the first time.

“I want you guys to watch for people who might need a friend,” James had briefed us earlier in the evening. “Pray with them. Show them Christ’s love and acceptance. Be His hands.”

Well, when the people from the community began to pray, we were ready with our hands, piling them onto their shoulders to show them how much Jesus loved them. It was a moving time and there were many tears. I ended up with my hands on a plump young woman with long black hair. She didn’t appear to speak English, but it didn’t matter. I could see that she had been touched by the Spirit.

Because there were so many of Christ’s hands and so few people on which to lay them, we were wedged in quite tightly. We kept our eyes shut for some time as James led us all through a prayer of repentance. And when it was all over, I was stunned at how many people there were in our prayer circle.

“Amen,” said a male voice still in transition from behind me. I turned and looked up, recognizing the speaker immediately. His liquid green eyes were focused on me.

“Praise God,” he expounded.

“Isn’t it amazing?” I smiled at Scott.

“God’s just so…cool,” he shot a look around the roller rink in an attempt to incorporate the breadth of his feelings.

“Yeah.”

In the background, Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion” began to blare.

“Wanna skate?” he asked me. My stomach dropped through my intestines and my face flushed red. Fortunately, the lights had once again been dimmed at this point. He had stayed late for swim practice, so he had been late. We skated for the next hour round and round the gym, neither of us brave enough to call for a break. Finally, when the lights went up and James told us that we all had to go home to our parents, we skated over to the side and took off our skates.

There was an uncomfortable pause.

“This was really cool,” he said.

I nodded.

And that’s when he said it.

“I don’t know – I just feel so happy right now. I feel like thanking God. Do you want to go somewhere…to pray with me?”

Score.

**********

Erika Rae is a struggling novelist living in the mountains west of Boulder, CO.  The excerpt above is from her book “In a Handbasket: Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical.”

Lately, I’ve been having this urge: I want to start a fight.

I want to step inside the ring, look into the liquid abyss of my opponent’s eye, and kick some butt.

I want to approach her as if I’m going to tell her a secret, and then hit her with a roundhouse elbow.

I want to insult her mother.

I want her to hit me back for real.

I want to call out my demons one by one and see her face contort as they come forth.

I want to work up a lather.

I want to start a fight club.

I want to pull her hair and call her a cheater. A lowlife. A yellow bellied marmot.

The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.

I would break that rule.

I want her to act all huffy with me, like she has no idea what I’m talking about. But she does. She knows all about it. The pussy.

I want to run up the front of her body and do a back flip off her chest.

I want to observe spittle as it flies through the air, catching the light into a rainbow of death from the one uncovered florescent bulb above us.

I want to feel the satisfaction of watching her struggle to get up, and flop back down like a fish.

I want her friends to come running to her defense. I would take them all one by one. Two at a time. Three for three.

I want to send them flying like they did in ancient China.

I want to strain a muscle.

I want to be able to feel it the next day.

I want to make strange noises at the back of my throat and have my speech come out at a different pace than my lips.

I want to wax on wax off and paint the fence simultaneously.

I want to bust out of the ring and out through the doors. Head on down the street. Rough up an evil punk dressed up as a businessman talking on his cell phone. And an elderly woman. But the elderly woman would be an accident. I would help her back up.

I want to feel the horrified gaze of strangers as they watch the bodies hit the sidewalk all around me.

I want to be surrounded by a team of professionally trained men in black at gunpoint. I would level them all with a single, all-encompassing chi bomb.

I want to then run down an alley, where I would take on a posse of Shaolin monks-gone-bad, who jump me from behind a dumpster. The last one standing would beg me to teach him my arcane arts. I would refuse.

I want to sleep with one eye open and sense anyone approaching within a two-mile radius.

I want to sew up a wound on my shoulder using a rusty needle and thread in the privacy of my sparsely decorated studio apartment.

I want to drink milk from the carton and harbor a runaway.

I want to give birth while running for the train.

I want to taste blood in the back of my throat; feel the sting of scratches at my neck.

I want to face Death and make him beg for mercy.

…Or I could eat some dark chocolate and call it good.

Of all the available super hero powers, I wish that I were telekinetic.

I’ve taken a close look at all the options out there: flying, invisibility, super strength…but these all seem so out of reach, and therefore completely unreasonable. I’m a pragmatist, and the truth is, somewhere in the depths of my being, I believe that if I really tried hard enough, I could do it. I could move stuff with my mind.

I had a kung fu teacher one time who swore that he could move things with his chi. Claimed he could blow out a candle with one focused ka-pow! I asked him to show me, but for one reason or another, we never got around to it.

I’ve tried teaching myself.  If you Google telekinesis, you’ll find all sorts of advice and demonstrations. Like this one: Guy moves CD using only his mind! And then, there’s this one: Guy bends spoon using only his mind!And then there’s this Dutchman fellow who appears to be able to levitate, using only his mind!

I even found an old documentary about a woman in Russia named Nina Kulagina who had been studied by a whole battery of scientists. She, too, could move objects on the table, such as utensils and balls, using only her mind!  

So, in the face of this incontrovertible evidence from the Internet, I know it can be done. I just haven’t figured out how to do it.

Yet.

A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor friend of mine told me about an energy vortex in the field across from her house. She said that if you stand there with a coat hanger (bent in the shape of an L, and then with one of the arms in a cardboard cylinder to reduce friction) it will spin in circles. You better believe that within minutes I was asking her to take me to this place. Take me to the vortex.

The next day, we met in the field. It’s in the back of someone’s house on the edge of the forest, so we called ahead to get permission. We took our coat hangers, and traipsed down the hill to the spot. Sure enough, the coat hangers immediately began spinning. My husband, Scott – who is kind of a geek and totally gets off on offering scientific explanations for everything – had taken along a meter to measure electric currents. What he found surprised him. He hadn’t expected to find anything – and that was exactly what he found.

That’s not exactly true.  While the coat hangers were spinning, he was actually able to measure a current.

“The air-voltage potential is going wild!” He exclaimed wide-eyed, before adding somewhat more quietly, “although it’s not repeatable or consistent enough to be conclusive.”

I eyed him darkly over my spinning coat hanger.

“What?” He asked, pulling out a magnetometer.

It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate his attempt at explaining the phenomenon in a scientific manner.  I’m a gemini and the more rational of my wonder twins welcomed it with a hearty “Form of …a modern, rational thinker!”  But I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that wanted something unexplainable to be happening.  My other twin sort of bit her tongue and defiantly thought in her head something to the effect of “Shape of a why-can’t-you-just-experience-the-moment, bitch.”  When the twins are at odds, it’s hard to come across with any sense of uniformity in the party line.


When the magnetometer returned inconclusive results, as well, I was secretly pleased. He’s lucky he’s cute.

When we got home, I needed to think about things. I needed to go over my experience and decide what had happened.  Had it been a scientific phenomenon that we had witnessed?  And if so, is it true that all paranormal phenomena can be explained scientifically – but that we just don’t have the science to explain it yet?  

From there, my brain went wild.  What if it were actually possible for people to possess paranormal traits, such as possessing the ability to project one’s self across space and time, being psychic, being telekinetic? I mean, how would I know?  For years, I had been assuming these things weren’t possible, but what if?  What if it was only my rational mind getting in the way?

I stood up from my place on the edge of the bed and peeked around the door.  I was alone.  I closed the door.  I knew I was being ridiculous, but I needed to know.  I hadn’t checked in years.  What if something had changed?  What if my experience in the vortex had changed me?  

Carefully, I pulled out a blue marble from a drawer and put it on the table in front of me, and…focused.

Nothing.

No matter. I closed my eyes, put my hand near the marble and tried again.

Still nothing.

I started getting agitated. If I was going to exhibit signs of telekinesis, I needed to act now. Who knew how long the power of the vortex would remain within my mortal frame? Plus, who knew how much time I had before Scott walked into our bedroom and found me staring at a blue marble on my nightstand like Saruman the White over the Great Eye?


I tried again.

Still nothing.

And suddenly, I felt, once again, ridiculous.  I would love to say that there was alcohol involved, but there was not.  Why would I even think I could do such a thing?  It’s absurd!  Had I watched too much TV?  Too much Batman Wonder Woman Spiderman SuperMan Super Friends Great American Hero X Files X Men Star Trek Star Wars Stargate Stargate Atlantis Battlestar Gallactica Lois and Clark Smallville Heroes?  Do other seemingly normal people out there perform periodic checks to see if they might be the unwitting carriers of assorted psychic powers?   Where did I even get this idea?  Have I always had this idea?  Have I been secretly harboring the assumption that deep within I have a hidden well of psychic abilities and have not been able to manifest them thus propelling myself into a life of frustration and disillusionment?

When I was a kid, I had a pair of Supergirl Underoos. They had been given to me by my older half sister, seven years cooler than I. I loved my Underoos with a zealot’s passion. To me, they were not just “the underwear that’s fun to wear” – they were a life choice. When I wore them, they made me feel as if I could accomplish anything. They completed me.

Supergirl was telekinetic. She was also extremely powerful and was a bit of a shape-shifter, but whatev. This girl could move things with her mind.

I have fond memories of posing in front of the large bathroom mirror over the sink in the bathroom. When I wore the Supergirl Underoos, I became Supergirl. I’d flex my muscles, I’d pretend to fly. I’d move things on the counter, using only my mind! It was my secret identity, known only to me…and sometimes my younger sister, who would occasionally barge into the bathroom unannounced and catch me at it.

We really could have used a lock on that door.

Incidentally, my younger sister and I also had a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos (also a gift from big sis), which we fought over tooth and nail when the Supergirl Underoos mysteriously disappeared.


I believe my mother can be blamed for the heist. Unlike Wonder Woman, which was comprised of an undershirt styled top and panty, Supergirl had a top that looked suspiciously like a bra.


At the age of 9 in a conservative Evangelical household, this did not exactly fly. I had already been shamed by my ungodly desire to want to shave my legs after I had been caught in the bathroom by my mother with her pink Lady Remington. (What? I was a hairy 9-year-old.)

Faced with only one top and panty set – Underoos is clear on the use of “panty” in the singular – competition between us was fierce. If there was only one set between us, and mom only washed clothes once per week, then it stood to reason that each of us could only wear the set once in a two-week time period. This led to all manner of deals and threats between us, including some interesting outfit choices in order to try and extend the life of the Underoos beyond a bi-weekly event. Sure, a panty can only be worn once before it needs washing, but the cool top with the gold eagle-emblazoned red bustier could be worn at least a few times before it needed cleansing treatment. I’d pair the undershirt with a pair of light blue panties (plural, and therefore not as amazing or powerful), pull on a pair of red knee highs,et voila! I was Wonder Woman on laundry day.

I miss my Underoos. They had a brief, but brilliant life. At some point near the beginning of the fourth grade, I decided to make a secret appearance as Wonder Woman. Little did I know that it would be my last time. I dug out the Wonderwoman Underoos from my drawer and got ready for school. I knew in my gut that I was too old for that, and yet…and yet.

My teachers and classmates had no idea how protected they were that day – that a Superhero walked amongst them. Nobody had to know. It was my little secret. Somewhere around lunchtime, however, I realized the flaw in my plan.

Gym class.

I panicked. What if my shirt crept up in the process of clearing the projectile of a dodge ball? Seeing the potential horror of my decision I began to grow self-conscious that I might be discovered – that my identity would be exposed to the jeering taunts of my fourth grade class. I tried not participate. Used my superhero strength for good and turned Dodge Ball into Wall Ball. I went home at the end of school and retired my secret identity forever.


I believe that my first feelings of disillusionment followed shortly on the heels of this event.
To this day, I find myself feeling that I’m missing something in life – like I should be capable of something more. I should be able to accomplish bigger things, get places faster, fight for the greater good,
be telekinetic.

I decided to poll my friends to see if anybody else felt this connection – this strange sense of loss and lack of purpose in life after a childhood devoted to pretending to be a superhero. 21 of my friends actually responded to my poll. Of course, it is a rather small sampling of a huge cross section of our society, but I think we can learn from it all the same.

In my poll, I asked several questions, which for our purposes, I shall narrow down to three:


1.If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?

2.Did you have Underoos (and what were they)?

3.Do you have a clear sense of purpose in life, or is it hazy?


Here are the responses:
1 – Super strength / Superman / Hazy
2 – Know what people are thinking / Rainbow Brite / hazy
3 – Ability to beam places / Wonderwoman / hazy
4 – freeze time / no / clear
5 – Flying / Minerva / hazy
6 – get pregnant / Josie and the Pussycats / hazy
7 – flying / wonderwoman / hazy
8 – bendy / bat woman / hazy
9 – healing / wonderwoman, cat woman, spiderman / clear
10 – flying / superman / hazy
11 – the ability to dance and teleportation / no / clear
12 – flight / wonderwoman and Josie and the Pussycats / hazy
13 – telekinesis / batman, superman, he-man/hazy
14 – ability to survive on little sleep / no, but desperately wanted Superwoman / hazy
15 – treetop running, blasting off ground / no, but wanted He-man / hazy
16 – invisibility / Superman/clear
17 – telekinesis / Wonderwoman / hazy
18 – flight / wonderwoman / hazy
19 – flight / no / clear
20 – invisibility and omniscience / Incredible Hulk / hazy
21 – the ability to see through clothes / no / clear

Here is the final tally:

Of those who had Underoos:

hazy sense of purpose in life: 13 (87%)
clear sense of purpose in life: 2 (13%)

Of those who did NOT have Underoos:

hazy sense of purpose in life: 2 (33%)
clear sense of purpose in life: 4 (66%)

So, of those who wore Underoos, 13% feel as if they have a clear purpose in life.  Of those who did not wear Underoos, 66% feel as if they have a clear purpose in life.  

It may be interesting to note, that of the two respondents who did NOT have Underoos and who claimed that their sense of purpose was hazy, they both made a point of stating that they intensely pined over a pair of Underoos, but that their parents would not let them. So, it could be argued that these 2 people really belong amongst their Underoos wearing peers as they may have exhibited the same behavior – perhaps by making their own costumes out of felt and bedsheets. So, this final tally may be skewed with a deeper analysis of the situation.

Generation X has been referred to as “the lost generation.” For some reason, we who were born between 1965 and 1981 are said to exhibit a “hazy sense of identity.” Numerous reasons have been cited as possible contributors, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, a rise in the divorce rate, drugs and economic strain. No doubt, these all played their role.

We are also the generation whose parents told us that we could accomplish anything that we set our minds to. We were assured that we were amazing and that we could change the world. We were the world. We werethe children. We were the ones to make a brighter day, so we had better start living.

And to prove it, we were bought Underoos.

Is there a connection? I don’t know. Was it that Underoos were a symptom of the times…or were they a contributing factor?  That is the question.  What do you think?


* I would like to note for the record that none of my friends had the Monchichi Underoos.

“Urban Rhapsody” from BRATZ: The Musical

The scene: Cloe, Sasha and Jade have just snuck out of the house after an all evening bender of vodka mixed with V8 Splash, stolen from Jessica’s mom.  Jessica, a precocious 5 year-old with the propensity toward long tantrums followed by consecutive days of bottomless joy, has been their caretaker ever since she got them for her birthday the previous year.  She is currently sleeping soundly under her Hello Kitty bedspread in the corner of the room.  The curtains flutter playfully in the open window next to her head…

[sung to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody – click here if you would like the tune in the background, you’ll need to open it in another window so you can karaoke it…]

Is this the real life –

Is this just fantasy –

Caught in a manslide-

No escape from reality-

Open your eyes

Look up my thighs and see –

I’m just a po’ ho, I need your sympathy

Because I’m easy come, easy go

A little bi, little ho

Anytime you need a blow, doesn’t really matter to me,

To me.

(8 count)

Cloe:

Mama, just met a man,

Got drunk and pressed my luck

Pulled his trigger, now I’m fucked

Mama, a new life had just begun,

But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away –

Mama oooh,

Didn’t mean to make you cry –

Doc said I’ll be back again this time tomorrow –

Carry on, carry on, passion’s all that matters –

(8 count)

Sasha:

Tuesday! My time has come!

Does anybody have a dime?

Body’s aching all the time

Goodbye everybody –

I’ve got to go –

Gotta leave you all behind and drink some 40 proof –

Mama – ooo – (any time you need a blow)

I don’t want to die,

I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all –

 

Jade:

I see a little silhouetto of a man…

Gotta douche! Gotta douche! Where did that damn man go?

Butter, carbs and shortening – very very frightening me –

Ass of J Lo, Ass of J Lo,

Ass of J Lo, Ass of J Lo

Paris, Britney – magnifico –

But I’m just a po’ ho and nobody loves me –

She is just a po’ ho from a po’ family!

Spare her this life from this life on the streetz!

 

Easy come, easy ho, will you let me go?

Shut up, bitch, no! We will not let you go – let her go –

Shut up, bitch, no! We will not let you go – let her go –

Shut up, bitch, no! We will not let you go – let her go –

We’ll not let you go – lemme go!

We’ll not let you go – lemme go!

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no means yes!

C’mon mami, c’mon papi, c’mon mami lemme go –

Snoopp D-O-Double-G has a place in his crib for me, for me, for me!

 

So you think you can bone me and spit in my eye –

So you think you can love me and leave me to die –

Oh baby – can’t do this to me baby –

Just gotta get off – just gotta off right here –

 

Oooh yeah!  Oooh yeah!

Passion’s all that matters,

Any 6-year-old can see,

Passion’s all that matters, passion’s all that matters to me,

 

Any time you need a blow…