I find New Year’s resolutions about as overrated as New Year’s Eve itself. (Okay, I can hardly stay up past 9 p.m. — it’s not the holiday for me.) But why leave self-improvement to just one season?
I was recently contemplating my flaws on vacation last week — we took a cruise — and it gave me seven stultifying, claustrophobic days to meditate on my weaknesses. To wit:
Seasickness. What my husband describes as “barely perceptible movement” had me hurled over a toilet.
Misanthropy. I don’t like people. On cruises. Or airports. Or on Texas highways. Or in shopping malls. Or in front of me in long customs lines. Especially if they’re coughing or sniffling or in anyway imperiling me with viruses.
I like people in theory. I’m very fond of a few like my husband, and occasionally my son, when he’s not eating 14 frozen pizzas in one afternoon and leaving me the mess. I’m on the fence about the dog. (Plus side, she’s cuddly. Downside, she pees every time the doorbell rings.)
But I’m not at my best with 3,000+ people crammed into a sea vessel. I’m thinking Europe had to really, really suck to get my ancestors to come to America. How did they sail for MONTHS? I could barely make a week and there was cable.
Snobbery. No, I don’t want to go to your “art auction” and buy a mauve dolphin painting to match my sofa.
Snobbery. If it’s in a buffet line, it must be bad.
Snobbery. I am not fooled by your Johnny Cash impersonation.
In short, I’m insufferable and I need to work on my churlishness at First World Problems.
But the other realization I had on this
dreaded pirate voyage of vomiting cruise was that I am still very much a chump.
Okay, yeah, I dumped the cheater and got a life. On the big ticket chump tests, I’ve cleared a few hurdles. On the day-to-day assaults on my boundaries, however? I’m still a sucker. I need help.
I didn’t go so far as to buy a dolphin painting (commit me if that happens), but I’m ashamed to admit I have a bottle of very overpriced seaweed extract.
How did this happen? How did I get close enough to a person to get talked into such a purchase? I went to a SPA.
I’m a WASPy preacher’s kid from the Midwest. My people don’t do spas. We don’t get naked with strangers. (You’ve heard the joke about WASPs and orgies? Why don’t WASPs go to orgies? Too many thank you notes to write.)
Beside the whole discomfort at the intimacy, there were practical considerations. My skin is so sensitive, if you stare at me sideways, I turn red. Rubbing God knows what into my pores just makes me break out in hives. Facials were definitely out, so I tried a massage. How bad could it be?
It was bad. I’m probably the only person who gets a panic attack when wrapped in algae and cellophane. Seriously, there was this tiny, Asian woman from the Philippines and she slathered green goop all over me, blind-folded me, and had me submerge in some sort of contraption that she heated to boiling.
“It’s removing the toxins!” she explained.
(You mean that green shit you just poured all over my body?)
Now, I’m a liberal arts major, but even I know that bodies don’t excrete “toxins”. We have kidneys, livers, and digestive tracts to do that job. Mythical “toxins” are not sweating out of my pores.
I asked her to stop. Please get me out of this thing!
She seemed disappointed. Okay, she agreed sullenly. Fine, if you want to die of toxins, be my guest. I craved her approval. I apologized.
I showered the green goop off and got on the massage table. This has to get better, right?
Massage is divine. Rubbing scented oil on to my back and kneading my squidginess into submission makes me purr. However, I couldn’t get past the whole colonial, subservient aspect of the experience. Who is this tiny Asian woman paid to touch icky middle-aged strangers’ bodies? Is she ever grossed out? Are there days where she’d rather not? Is this what men feel like when they go to prostitutes? I love what you’re doing, Babe. I’m so glad I don’t have to talk to you.
I constructed this whole narrative in my head. I surmised that she must be an impoverished young woman, supporting a large family by her cruise ship servitude. How fortunate am I to be the one being massaged. How must it suck for her to spend Christmas oiling down weirdos for money. Can you really pay someone enough to do this? AND live on a ship? (Either one of these things would be a deal breaker for me.)
When she finished, it was so intimate I felt grateful. (Is this what men feel like when they go to prostitutes? Where’s my wallet? Here’s an extra $20!)
Then she started the sales pitch for seaweed products and I was trapped.
Now, I know she probably has to do this for her job, but damn the cruise line for making me pay for an expensive massage and ending the wretched thing with a 15 minute lecture on “toxins.”
I’m sure most people tune out and say “no thanks.” (They’re probably saving their money for dolphin paintings.)
But not me — I’m a chump! I can’t even make up a good lie. “I’m totally full up with algae compote, thank you.” I can’t call out the bullshit. (I DON’T SWEAT TOXINS.) I can’t allow myself an authentic emotional response like boredom or irritation. No, I’m trying to appear rapt with interest so as not to hurt her feelings.
I paid $56 for some kind of seaweed shit.
Happy New Year, I’m still a chump.
Going to work on those insufferable qualities and my boundaries some more. How about you?