People like to tell me things, whether or not I’ve expressed any interest in hearing them. I’m used to this. Even as a small child, I had one of those faces that inspired folks to let me know what was on their mind, even if it wasn’t age-appropriate. (Scene from childhood: I am in the backseat of a car, sitting next to my best friend, who is green from car sickness, and also the over-sharing from the front seat, where her mother is telling us — me, really — all about her alimony settlement and how embarrassing it is to be tested for venereal disease when you’ve been married forever.)
Most of the time, I find this amusing. I’m interested in other people’s business, but I deplore rudeness, so this face I’ve got is extremely useful. It lets me be nice, and still get the goods.
However, after recent events, I think I might need to learn how to scowl.
A few weeks ago, I was going to visit my old pal Smyres in New York. You remember Smyres. She’s the one who dressed me up in a fat suit and made me pretend to be the world’s plumpest, least cardiovascularly fit WNBA forward. I had decided to take the Acela, the better to arrive well-rested for whatever silliness she had in store.
Well, the Acela was cancelled. And while I was waiting for the Philadelphia local, which, en route to New York, stops at my house, the supermarket and the summer camp I went when I was ten, I struck up a conversation with an interesting woman who was also displaced, as a result of the delay.
How interesting? Let me tell you. For starters, despite obviously being a Jewish matron from Brookline, she was wearing a turban. A white turban with a purple medallion in the center — some kind of moon, or scythe or something. She was dressed all in white, as well: white caftan, white pants, white snowboats, coat and scarf. She sat down across from me, removed her white gloves, and smiled.
I allowed my lips to twitch, and then looked away.
Then she started speaking: “Well, here I am, darling, waiting for the train, which is cancelled, of course. They’re supposed to call, but do they ever call?”
“No, I suppose not,” I said, not wanting to be rude by flat out refusing to answer.
Of course, then I realized that she was on her wireless headset, talking to her husband.
Now that I’d started a conversation with her, however, I was doomed. She was a certified froot loop, half Cosmica Rama Ding Dong and half Hadassah League, and I had started talking to her. There was no escape now.
In the course of our hour long conversation, she asked me:
1) What I was doing in New York. (She was going to see her husband, who had just moved there. They had just moved there in fact. A lot of people thought it was crazy to move there when they were 50 years old, but what do a lot of people know? True courage in life is so rare.)
2) Who I was going to see. (See above.)
3) If I had ever been to India. (She’d been to India. Just recently in fact. She had brought along a suitcase full of medicine and a gallon of hydrogen peroxide, which she’d sprayed on everything. A lot of people thought she was crazy to spray everything with hydrogen peroxide, but she was the only one who didn’t get Delhi Belly.)
4) What I did for a living. (A writer? Very interesting. She had written a book on yoga that was very well-received. Which reminded her to ask…)
5) If I enjoyed yoga. (She was a yoga teacher, shockingly enough. If I got stressed out while I was in New York — and New York was the world capital of stress, despite, of course, being the Best City in the World — well, then, I should just go to the nearest yoga studio and let it all go. By which, one assumes, she did not mean my bladder, but rather my stress.)
This brings me to my ultimate point, which is that there’s a certain subsection of humanity that is on an absolute mission to get me to do yoga and I will not do it. I am not a yoga person, okay? I like my stress. I love my stress. I do not want to be centered and calm. I do not want to breathe deeply and relax. I do not want to eat vegetables and soy and drink green tea and flush out my system and clear my mind and achieve balance.
I want to remain off-balance. I want to get wound up about things. I recently read an interview with Diane Keaton in which she said that anxiety keeps her thin. I love Diane Keaton. I bet she eats red meat and drinks cocktails. At the very least, I bet she eschews soy. And yoga? Would they let her do it in a turtleneck? Obviously not.
Many of my closest friends have gotten on the yoga bandwagon in recent years, and they are very patient with me when I roll my eyes at their tree poses and sun salutations. I’m sure there’s a lot to be said for it. I just wish so much of it wasn’t being said to me.
My chi and I are learning to look less inviting. Wish us luck.