Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another Fine Mess ...

My husband lost his job recently, which has resulted in a bit of belt tightening around here. Some of the choices we've had to make are pretty difficult, others not so much.

For instance, deciding to give myself a pedicure was a no-brainer. Me and my sensitive little tootsies actually hate professional pedicures to the point where I need to bite a bullet to get through it. (What we suffer for beauty!) So it wasn't much of a sacrifice the other day when I found myself in my bathroom, one foot on the floor the other in the sink as I saturated cotton balls with acetone and struggled to remove the old polish embedded in my toenails.

I guess I was feeling pretty smug that I'm still limber enough to get myself into such a position, because in the middle of the operation I got careless and accidentally knocked the bottle of brand new crimson polish off the counter onto the white tile floor, where the glass virtually exploded, sending blood red lacquer everywhere. The little room looked like the aftermath of some grisly crime.

Murder, however, would have been an easier clean-up. A little soap and water and you're done. This was the mess to end all messes, requiring open windows and all the noxious nail polish remover I could get my gloved hands on.

As I got to work, I cursed myself for my recklessness. Considering my history with nail polish remover, you'd think I'd have learned to be more careful.

Once, in my single days, I gave myself a manicure sitting cross-legged in my bed wearing nothing but a short nightgown. And I mean nothing. I had the open bottle of nail polish remover wedged into the vee created by my bent knee. I don't know what distracted me, but at some point the bottle tipped over, spilling the entire contents into my naked private parts.

Kids, don't try this at home. Spilling nail polish remover on a mucus membrane is not a fun way to spend an evening.

I leaped from the bed screaming, "I spilled nail polish remover in my vagina! I spilled nail polish remover in my vagina!"

My roommate, Fern, came running from her room. "Get into the shower, you idiot!" she yelled, laughing.

I couldn't listen. I was too hysterical. I just kept running around the apartment, flailing my arms and repeating that phrase (which is sure to get me some interesting google hits). Fern laughed harder and harder as she chased me, trying to corral me into the bathroom. Finally she grabbed me, laughing so hard tears streamed down her face. By the time she pushed me into the bathroom, pulled off my nightgown and threw me into the shower, I was laughing, too.

If you don't think she repeated the story for an entire month to anyone who would listen, you didn't know Fern. And I have to admit, it got funnier each time.

Now that both these stories are behind me, I'm trying to glean some wisdom from these episodes. And what I came up with is this: Life is a messy affair. The husband who is good and honest and smart and loyal and hardworking loses his job unfairly, and the family suffers. The best friend who could make you laugh through your pain gets cancer and dies. All you can do is try to clean up the best you can and get on with it. Sure, small reminders of the mess will remain forever, but that's okay. It's how it should be. Most of the time you won't even notice it. But once in a while, your eye will catch a smudge of pink that never came out of the grout. Like the permanent mark on your heart, it connects you to your past, and makes you remember.

So you'll flush the toilet, wash your hands and leave the bathroom. And then, if you're very lucky, you'll start making messes all over again.

21 comments:

Myfanwy Collins said...

Oh my god! You are so hilarious. This killed me: Spilling nail polish remover on a mucus membrane is not a fun way to spend an evening.

Myfanwy Collins said...

Oh, and you also touch me deeply--with your last two paras. Life is a messay affair, indeed, and also a beautiful one. xoxoxo

Ellen said...

Thank you, Myf! Coming from such a brilliant blogger, that's quite a compliment. :)
xo

spirit63 said...

I like the "life is a messy affair". It sure is but we can choose how to deal with messes. We can sweepthem under a rug where they just build up over time or we can do our best to clean them up, learn from them and go on. Thanks, I enjoy your style

Nancy

Anonymous said...

Oh...what a perfect best friend story this is, Ellen. Whoosh, still wiping tears from my eyes...

Kath

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I don't want to be demanding, my dear, but can you please blog on a regular basis? I love your posts! Just as with your books, you blend humor and tragedy so seamlessly that I'm never sure when I began crying or laughing.

Ellen said...

Nancy, I appreciate that so much. Thank you!

Oh, Kath. Thank you, my friend.

Jordan ... lol. I appreciate that TONS and TONS, but you can't imagine how long this took me. If I start blogging, I have to stop writing novels!!

RobinSlick said...

Oh, Ellen...






(too choked up for anything else)

Ms. Theologian said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the husband's lost job, and the polish of days gone by. That must have hurt!

Maryanne Stahl said...

wonderful piece, perfectly paced, touching nearly every possible emotion, leaving me teary and smiling and nodding.

Patry Francis said...

A gorgeous piece of writing. I'm with Jordan--you need to blog more! xxx

Ms. Lori said...

"I spilled nail polish remover in my vagina! I spilled nail polish remover in my vagina!"

***dies***

My mother did the same thing when she was a kid. Probably said much the same when she did it, too, with the exception of the word "vagina." She's more of a "I spilled nail polish remover on my THING! I spilled nail polish remover on my THING!" kind of woman.

SusanD said...

Oh Ellen. You are a treasure! (and best wishes to your fam right now. Hang in there.)

Robin said...

Great post, Ellen. I don't think I've had someone make me laugh, feel sad, and worry for their vagina all in the same few minutes before.

Memorable.

xo,

Robin

Ellen said...

Robin S. - Thank you, my soft-hearted friend!

Ms. T. - Thanks for the good wishes. The physical pain fades so fast.

Maryanne - You have a way of making me feel like a million. Thank you!

Patry - You're a LOVE!! Thank you! I feel the same about your blogs.

Lori - Ha! Funny to imagine someone running around in pain and trying to come up with an appropriate euphemism at the same time. :D

Susan D. - Thanks. It was quite a blow but we're hanging in.

Robin G. - Hee! I love that review!Thank you. :)

Lee (for short!) said...

Great Ellen! Thanks for the reminder that even life's worst messes are opportunities for laughter ... memories ... and, if nothing else, something to shock people when they show up on a google search =)

LGHatton said...

I love this!! Well, not the part about spilling the nail polish remover ... which had me cringing. Your final message, however, took my sympathy pains away.

:-)

Sun Singer said...

Your experience has taught all of us an important lesson.

Malcolm

GC SMITH said...

When I was a bartender in the PA Poconos in the 1950s a waiter asked if he could use my Old Spice (after shave lotion). The dining room was unairconditioned and he had chafed this groin area. The idiot thought the Old Spice was talc and he pulled out the waistband of his shorts and doused himself liberally. He near went through the barracks roof screaming in pain. Guys do stupid stuff too.

storytellermary said...

Excellent metaphors for life's many trials . . . and laughing through the messes . . . and making more (except I've rather given up on nail polish, so I won't have that concern any longer). Hugs!

storytellermary said...

Excellent metaphors for life's many trials . . . and laughing through the messes . . . and making more (except I've rather given up on nail polish, so I won't have that concern any longer). Hugs!