At first the man seated behind me (@ Portland Center Stage’s auditorium) spoke in normal, muted, waiting-for-the-play-to-begin tones to the woman beside him. I caught the phrases, “attempted to,” “many months,” and then…gulp…”decided to self-publish.”
Aye yi yi.
Unfortunately, that was when he began to raise the decibel level.
“…’Below the Surface’ – I came up with the title when I was watching sea turtles….”
He’d figured out something so authentic, so, like, deep – as in, below the surface – he felt compelled to share it with the world:
…you know, it’s that what’s underneath a person, the part you don’t see, is your authentic self, and you must discover this before you can find your authentic self and purpose, and until you do, every part of your life cannot be authentic  and you are doomed to frustration and annoying strangers sitting in the theatre waiting for Dreamgirls to start….
Amazing, isn’t it, that he’s going to have to self-publish – amazing, that no established, reputable publisher jumped at the opportunity to print his shallow commentary disguised as insights cribbed from every other self-realization/actualization help book published in the last twenty years profoundly authentic revelations?
* * *
The Department of How Many Copies Has This Song Sold?
Yes, I know I’m late to this particular party. But really, I hadn’t heard the song until recently. After a late afternoon workout session, I ejected my exercise CD. The media box reverted to TV mode, and lo and behold, the host of a popular talk show was introducing a singer/songwriter. S/S proclaimed that after she’d watched a certain segment of that certain talk show, S/S had been inspired to write a song about “body image and acceptance.” 
I’m somewhat suspicious about any song that is marketed as any kind of anthem. I am really suspicious when the performance of an alleged anthem about body image and acceptance – or, as per the singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor, “female body empowerment” – is accessorized by provocatively clad and twerking dancers and backup singers.
Gotta admit, I thought the song’s melody was catchy. Then I made the mistake of paying attention to the lyrics, which included the affirming, anthemic, progressive, we-shall-overcome lines:
“Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
but I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do.”
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places
Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold tonight.”
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along
I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that…”
So, uh huh. Acceptance involves dissing other women – excuse me, stick figure silicone Barbie dolls & skinny bitches – while an empowering body image means thinking that shaking your ample boom boom that all the boys chase is not only what you’re supposed to do, but is a good thing because that’s what boys like….
My junk musta been in the wrong place – ya know, me and my fellow skinny ass bitches musta been AWOL – when Gloria Steinem, Florynce Kennedy, Letty Cotton Pogrebin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Phyllis Chesler and other great minds of 21st century feminist thought collaborated on this particular Female Empowerment memo.
* * *
☼ Captured by the KGB ☼
Aka, Masterpiece Theatre Presents Great Performances in Child abuse Child Management
(Setting: A Medical Practice near Stanford Hospital, circa 1988)
She was, simply and profoundly, one pest of a kid. The girl was around eight or nine, obnoxious as hell…although her temperament should not have mattered. A child should not brought to her mother’s medical appointments and left to fend for herself. Woman, you either take your daughter in the exam room with you, or get a sitter. 
But This Particular Woman never got a sitter for her daughter. Four years in a row, TPW brought her daughter to TPW’s annual exams, each time assuring me and the rest of the OB/GYN practice’s staff that “she (daughter) is really quite mature and no trouble at all,” and each time following that patently false statement with the balls-out (so to speak) request, “If you all don’t mind watching her while I’m in with Dr. ___….”
Four years in a row, the staff told her in so many different ways, As a matter of fact yes, we do mind, and even if we didn’t mind we are WORKING and that work does not include babysitting, and this is a medical practice and there are hazardous instruments and chemicals and….
Four years in a row, TPW ignored us.
TPW resided in a tony Bay Area suburb. Given her address – and the vacations she bragged about taking with her husband – it was reasonable to assume she could easily have afforded to hire a sitter (hell, a 24 hour nanny service) for her daughter.  But, noooooooooo.
She’d tell her daughter that if she needed anything or got bored to ask the “nice office ladies” for some help. And while TPW was in the exam room with Dr. ___, TPW’s daughter would run around the waiting room, annoying other patients waiting for their appointments, and barge through the door to the staff area and pester the staff. 
Year five; TPW’s annual exam. Lather; rinse; repeat. TPW’s daughter ignored the children’s magazines our office manager had purchased especially for the occasion, as well as the receptionist’s directive to remain in the waiting room. While the receptionist was on the phone retrieving lab results and the office manager was making a return appointment for an OB patient and I was readying an exam room for the next patient, TPW’s demon spawn bad seed daughter pushed past the waiting room door, banged on the receptionist’s typewriter, then prowled the hallway that led to the exam rooms.
I exited the second exam room, carrying an instrument tray which had been used for an IUD insertion, and bumped into the kid, who nearly ended up with a speculum on her head.
That was that.
“Come with me,” I directed the girl. She followed me as I walked to our small lab room, dumped the instruments in the sink by the autoclave and stripped off my gloves.
“You’ve got quite an imagination, I can tell. Would you like to play a game?” The girl beamed affirmatively. “I gotta warn you, it’s a very special game and takes a smart, strong person to play it. Not every kid can handle…”
“Oh-oh, I can! I can do it! Let me play!’
“All right.” The office manager had left for her lunch break, and I pushed her empty chair to the corner of the staff work area, next to the copy machine. I instructed the girl to take a seat. “The name of the game is, ‘Captured by the KGB.’ “
“I am a KGB agent, and you are an American spy. You have been blindfolded and tied to this chair, and are waiting for the head of the KGB to interrogate you.” I showed the girl how to wrap her arms around the back of the chair, as if her wrists were tied together.
“All the other KGB agents” – I indicated myself and the receptionist, who gave me her Robyn, WTF?! look  – “are trying to get you to confess. But you are strong! You will not betray your country! And you do not say one word.”
The girl squinted shut her eyes and giggled as I pretended to fasten a blindfold around her head. “That’s right!” she exclaimed, “I’m strong, and I… “
“Uh uh uh – not one word, remember?”
I returned to my work. The girl was a brave little spy for a few minutes, then began to softly whine.
This is boring.
I reminded her that she had been captured by the KGB, and that there is nothing boring about espionage. That bought me another two minutes.
I don’t like this game anymore. She opened her eyes, but kept her hands behind her back.
“You have been captured by the KGB. They don’t care what you like, and they’ll gag you if you do not stay silent.”
Another minute passed.
I d-d-don’t wanna play this anymore. I – I don’t like this game. There was a catch in the girl’s voice, and her eyes filled with tears.
The receptionist gaped at me, her eyes widening – in astonishment or admiration, I couldn’t tell – just as we heard the distinctive squeak of exam room three’s door.
“Mommy!” The girl ran to TPW and buried her face in TPW’s skirt.
“She missed you.” I said to TPW, and flashed the most disingenuous smile ever to grace Dr. ___’s hallway.
* * *
The girl apparently said nothing to TPW (at least, not while she was in the office) about being captured by the KGB.
TPW did not bring her daughter to her subsequent appointments with Dr. ___.
The statute of limitations has passed, so don’t even think about reporting me to CPS.
* * *
May you be all about everything but your bass, may your behavior stand up to KGB agent scrutiny, and may the above-the-surface hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 And did I mention he seemed concerned with authenticity?
 Shame on you, Ellen.
 Nope, I don’t know why she wasn’t in school. Almost no one was homeschooling back then, and certainly not the wealthy.
 Why is it always the ones who can afford it who try to get something for free?
 TPW’s and her daughter’s behaviors were noted in TPW’s chart, as a warning for future staff members. TPW was the only patient who, when she called to make her appointments, was reminded to procure child care. And yes, the practice’s staff spoke to the doctor about the situation (he was reluctant to handle “patient behavior issues.” Read: he felt that was not his problem, it was ours.)
 I’d seen that look more than once.