Me, in Mexico, last week
I am sure I am not alone in loving the discount corner of my local supermarket – actually Teddy loves it even more than me. We call it Compost Corner after the first discount area that we found in a furniture store. About 30 years ago, I said “we are going out to buy a dining table for £10”. Teddy was incredulous but we came back with a beautiful ‘teak’ table that £10. We loved it and my mum claimed it when we moved on to another table.
I digress… Today, I was lurking around my supermarket’s discount area and starting chatting to a lady with a northern accent who looked completely Jewish. We discussed our various finds, from $1 Italian wine and myriad other exotica. She and her husband called it the WooHoo section. We were joined by a man who looked Middle-Eastern. He joined in the conversation and we agreed with him that it provokes you to try something new when it is discounted. He was handsome and the ‘Jewish’ lady heard his accent (swooned a little) while asking him where he was from.
Then it turned into a competition. I knew he was Arabic so I guessed Lebanese and greeted him in North African Arabic. No to Lebanon but my next guess was right – Egyptian. I should have known; he was in the discount area although he was probably a doctor and both charming and chatty. Then the Jewish lady revealed that she was Irish American. She absolutely did not look Irish. So, then they had to guess where I was born (San Francisco, Hispanic/Irish hybrid). Nobody got that right.
So, we had a Hispanic (me) who looks Irish and sounds Scottish; an Egyptian man with an ‘olive chin’ that hints at his ancestry and a ‘Jewish’ lady who was really Irish. We all started laughing about how typical this was in both our area and the Houston area. The Egyptian man commented that this was makes America great – (if only everyone agreed with him). I told him about the barista who longs to speak Arabic so I imagine he will visit there next. As I left, I bumped into the barista and told him about speaking Arabic to an Egyptian man – his face lit up at the idea of a potential new friendship.
Get your minds out of the gutters – it’s Barbies! One of my secret wishes was to win the lottery and then have a (small) room full of Barbies, antique and new. My desire was triggered this year by an article in Time magazine profiling a new set of Barbies that are curvy, petite, tall and generally different. They come in a variety of ethnicities and my heart started pounding.
When I was a child, an aunt from California sent me a Francie. She was Barbie’s friend and like me, she had dark curly hair and eyes. She came with a wardrobe full of snazzy clothes and shoes. I was in heaven. Barbie’s were not as popular in the UK and NOBODY had a Francie! In the packaging was a little catalog for other Barbie friends. One of them was Diahann Carrol (link courtesy of Amazon), the first African American doll I had ever seen. I longed for my aunt to read my mind and send me one but I think she had sent Francie because our family is Hispanic. My favorite of Francie’s outfits was a black chiffon midi skirt with white blouse. When I was 19 I bought an expensive black chiffon midi skirt exactly the same. This was money intended for law books but I HAD to have the skirt…
The Time article focused on the more realistic aspects of these new dolls and as much as I appreciate this, I never thought that skinny Barbie with tiny feet was real. Later my mum bought me a real Barbie at great cost with beautiful long straight copper hair. I have mentioned my other fetish before – scissors! I was only allowed plastic scissors until I was 12 because of my penchant for cutting doll’s hair and mum’s best lingerie. Despite all that, I could not resist cutting the long copper hair. My mum was so disappointed in me. I was sad that she had a pixie crop but it felt SO good. I wonder what Freud would make of all this.
Back to the present, I was in Walmart and saw Doll #32 and Doll#25. I just had to have them. There were a few adults looking for gifts (the children were all transfixed by Frozen dolls) and I helped a girl find a red-headed doll for her niece. Finally we found the perfect one wearing a soccer outfit. I have thought really hard about why I chose the dolls I did. Their figure was of no consequence but their hair and skin tone, along with clothes influenced my choice. After Christmas, I opened them and the first thing I noticed was that Doll #32’s lovely long hair was stuck with glue to the box. Sacrilege! I combed it out and then – wait for it – trimmed the knotted section off. Then I tied her hair back and tried to plait it.
Doll #25’s hair was even more upsetting. Her hair looked like it was pulled up but you couldn’t comb it without ruining it. The final straw was discovering that neither of them had any underwear on. My Nana speaks through me… The pleasure was short-lived and I have placed them perfectly back in their boxes to give to charity. At least one of them has better hair than she started with. The final conundrum was why are they numbered and not named? I think they are really aimed at adults, collectors, gay men and mentally ill women. My act of kindness is to name them, #25 is Winter and #32 is Autumn.
In the chaos of the last few weeks we completely forgot that I had a ‘work party’ for the place where I volunteer. It is a huge organization so it was located in downtown Houston which is over 30 miles away from where we live. We had decided to stay in a hotel but after my husband was laid off we cancelled it. After the initial shock we started to realize that 2016 might be a year of opportunities and something to celebrate so rebooked another cheaper hotel. We left our home before lunchtime, got stuck in the endless queues on the main interstate because there is always an accident. This one involved many cars and trucks but didn’t look like a fatality – thank goodness.
My husband traveled extensively with his previous position so he still has perks with hotels and airlines. We were immediately upgraded even though it was a cheap deal, so we had a sumptuous suite with two bathrooms. It was a beautiful cold sunny day and we went walking to find somewhere for lunch. The bar I had in mind was not open so we went to a lovely Tapas restaurant that my husband had been to. Although we have immediately gone into frugal mode with most things we still haven’t come to terms with not being able to eat where we want. I decided that it was Christmas and to just let it go, mentally.
After lunch, we went back for a little nap and then got ready for the event. As soon as I walked in and started recognizing people, I felt at ease. Everyone had made a big effort to dress up which added to the festive feel. It helped knowing that many of the employees do not earn large salaries – no-one was bumming (boasting) about their Porsche or Harvard educated children. I earn nothing as a volunteer but love every second of my job, helping members of the public, sometimes in dire straits. As you can see from the photograph, my husband was not quite in his element to start with, but got on very well with my mostly male colleagues who were sitting at our table.
The food was tasty, there was a well-stocked bar and the band was astonishingly good. My boss told me to get up and dance and I needed no persuasion. I LOVE dancing and am pretty good at it. Funky would be the best description. 🙂 For some reason, she also wanted me to dance with top boss. ‘No problem’, thought I and he seemed to enjoy his very forward volunteer asking him to dance. What always fascinates me is how your partner perceives all your colleagues and their opinion of me. He was very impressed that my relationships were easy and full of humor with paid and unpaid employees. Eventually, he felt comfortable enough to get up and dance properly. I would say that most people had a great time (apart from the organizers who seemed a bit stressed) and I could have danced all night.
My dance moves belied the fact that I have a spinal condition and arthritis for which I take Celebrex. It is two days later and I still ache all over. I will have to take Celebrex for quite a few days… I did hear a few bitchy comments but that’s normal as long as the comments aren’t too mean. Houston is the most ethnically varied city in America and the couple who won ‘best dressed couple’ were in full African regalia (Nigerian, I would guess). I am so fortunate to work at a place where I have made friends and acquaintances from every corner of the world. We live in a very affluent small city outside Houston and it is good for your soul to have friends who come from a different ethnicity and socio-economic strata.