Saturday, August 21, 2010

Country Mouse, City Mouse


Drew and I are back from two weeks of summer vacation in my childhood home, Northern Michigan. It was wonderful as always, and as always gives me time to think.

The area I come from contains some of the beautiful, pristine lake beaches in the world. These photos were taken very close to where my mother and sister live:


It's gorgeous and there are so many in the area that even in summer tourist season you can bring your dogs and swim and not deal with too many people, sometimes no people at all, especially if you're a local and you know where to go.

The other great thing is the food. You can pop into any number of roadside farm stands and get the best tomatoes, cherries, peaches, corn, beans, etc. that you've ever eaten. When I first moved to New York I was perplexed by the way people cheerfully ate awful fruit and vegetables without noticing how bad they tasted and felt in your mouth. And no one mans the stands, they just put the food out with a little lock box and you choose what you want and are trusted to pay the asked price. I absolutely love that I can spend time in a place where people treat each other so respectfully.

My mother has 12 acres in the woods and Drew and I stay in her guest cottage when we're there. This is my sister, her husband and her son on my mother's patio, that's the guest cottage in the background.


This is the other side of the house, my mom's driveway, the day some llamas from a nearby farm escaped. I tried to show how large they are but you really can't tell in the photo. Instead it just shows my mother's gorgeous driveway. Drew and I call the her place the Shire, and you really do expect to see fairies flitting or hobbits chopping wood.


All right, so you get the picture. Now here's a lovely photo so I can get on with the point of this blog, which as usual, is all about ME:


Terrifying, right?? We took this with my brother's camera when he was in the store buying beer. I'd like to say we were purposely looking awful, which we were, but this is momentary for Drew. Me, not so much in Michigan. Every time I go there the country life swallows up every semblance of glamour and beauty I might have once created. 

I am simply not a beach girl, and this blog is for all of you equally non-beach girls. Goddamnit, we need a voice.

I love to swim when the water is warm enough, and we did a lot of it this year. My skin had an reaction to sunblock and my entire face broke out in teenage zits almost immediately. So I stopped using sunblock and the next step was that my face tanned in weird blotchy, unattractive patches. No smooth, golden tan here, just blobby dark spots. Then on top of the zits and bizarre coloration, I get creases all over my face from frowning in the sunlight, even with hat and sunglasses. My hair looks like crap. It sticks up in weird places and instead of looking beachy and sexy, looks like black straw stuck to my frowny, patchy, pimply head.

I have never in my life had a pretty day on the beach, and I deeply resent all those Baywatch-ey, Victoria's Secret tousle-haired babes who just become more babe-like the minute they hit the sand, because I feel like they set up a lie with their perfectly flat stomachs and Farrah smiles that most of us cannot maintain. Screw you, California girls.

And it continued well after the beach. We went shopping and I got a look at myself in my underwear in a Macy's dressing room mirror and was deeply traumatized. I may never recover. It was like a horror movie, even my calves looked bad. I put my clothes back on, ran to Drew, who was shopping happily in the men's section while being smiled at coyly by every horny housewife in the vicinity, and apologized for making him spend the rest of his life with a hideous monster. Then I punched him for looking so pleased with all the attention he was getting.

Back in New York, I'm still patchy, although the zits are mostly faded. I'm eating salads for the next millennium to make up for the two week marathon of mountains of pasta and home-made pie. I don't feel super cute, but I don't feel hideous, and I wonder what is it about location that makes me feel myself again? Does anyone else find this happens to them? I dream of a life in which we could spend our entire summer in that locale, there are so many things about it that Drew and I both feel we need--oxygen; peace and quiet; ripe, red tomatoes; polite, smiling people; swimming in clear water; night stars; the happiness it brings my dog. I am weary of the crowds, concrete and bad behavior in New York, and the community I came here to become a part of has long since dissipated.

But it is ever more apparent that although I grew up in a more rural situation, I am a city girl in my soul and fear a quick collapse if I left for good. I need the trappings of eyelashes, fake hair, corsets, expensive shoes, gorgeous trannie friends, and loud, dark places to feel at home. I lose myself outside of these elements, I become confused about who I am. I always joke that if I moved home it'd be only a matter of time before I was that awful drunk in a cheap halter top and muffin top at the local tavern on karaoke night, singing off-key and rambling about how I used to be somebody while hitting on horrified local boys.

But since this is illusion and fleeting anyway, maybe the stripping down that happens outside of a comfort zone is what the soul truly needs to expand? I'm on the fence. It's great to grow, but I don't want to suffer. One of my favorite quotes ever (and one I've used here before) is from The Jerk, when Navin Johnson goes broke. Bernadette Peters says sadly, "I don't care about losing all the money. It's losing all the stuff." I know exactly how she feels. 

Still, maybe we're simply born to feel comfortable in certain elements and that's all there is to it, no suffering necessary? I don't know. I do know that every August a new batch of wealthy parents plop their NYU student children into my building and remind me that it is time to make a new plan.