The Wildness in Me

Musings

I attended the Cody Rodeo last night. I even purchased a season pass, so color me committed. I ate overly salted popcorn, drank apricot beer and gabbed with my girlfriend from the ranch. She’s the wrangler there and would whistle with bursts of enthusiasm for the riders while watching raptly.

The sky’s brightness and the summer heat diminished and I begun to get chilled in my sleeveless white sundress. I watched the cowboys get flung from bulls and cowgirls turning a sharp corner on horses full of sinewy grace in barrel racing. I sometimes leaned back and hardly noted the action, instead just noted how I felt, which was charmed and at home, and other times I sat in wonder over the difficulty of roping a moving calf.

I myself started practicing roping a few months back, and it is no easy feat. I can only rope a calf if it is plastic and held fast in a hay bale, three feet in front of me and unmoving—which obviously helps if the calf is plastic. The idea that these riders can be swiftly moving atop a horse, swinging their rope, and catch a high-tailing calf is astounding and worth a whistle. If I could in fact whistle, which I cannot.

I had just wrapped up my first week at the new ranch, full of cooking up cheesecakes, biscuits, baked chicken, and cleaning cabins, learning to saddle and getting swept up in windstorms.

I felt as though I had hardly taken much of a breath as the night before last I stumbled up the barn steps and fell into a deep sleep at 6:30, not awaking again until 6:30 the next morning.

I was trying to keep track of all the newness, which had caused me to feel so breathless. Baking in a big old Western abode befitting a feature in Western Horseman. Riding horses up the side of a canyon while my nostrils inhaled an intoxicating amount of sage; I swayed with the horse and the sweet intensity of the smell and my surroundings. I heaved saddles on and hefted them off and felt that I belonged to the West and saddles and painting posts and sagebrush and that I always had.

And then when I had time to catch my breath my best friend told me she would go into labor soon. She is having twins and we texted back and forth in excitement. But then it started creeping up to me again. That feeling that I have tried to shake for months, but won’t go away. That my egg count is dwindling and motherhood is very far away from me.

I suddenly felt guilty about gallivanting up mountainsides on horseback and cruising around in a golf cart with a cow dog by my side with the wind making my hair look like Marv from Home Alone—because it is short again and the curls are as wild as my spirit. I felt like I had done something selfish somewhere along the line choosing to be so footloose and fancy-free. Had I chosen the wrong path, though it had felt like the right one?

Would choosing this kind of wildness prevent me from ever having something I had always wanted which was children.

I fear this kind of thing may not disturb men too greatly, or maybe even young women, because I don’t ever recall considering my egg count until my thirtieth birthday started nearing. And now I am somewhat obsessed with terms like egg counts and geriatric pregnancies—which for the record was the term for women who got pregnant after 35—adoption and egg freezing.

After many a meltdown as my thirtieth inched closer, and I masochistically read mommy articles and cried, I made a vow to myself to knock it the fuck off, and enjoy my present moments of ranching, making cheese, learning to fly fish and saddle horses, without thoughts of my egg supply or a geriatric pregnancy.

But all this rushed to the forefront of my mind again, while my bestie spoke excitedly of the impending birth of her daughters. I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, not portraying jealousy over her joy, while she consoled me that my time would come. I even marched on and went to the rodeo anyway, despite a sudden and distinct empty feeling in my uterus.

I watched the cowboys and tried not to picture little cowboy kids in my mind. I did anyway. I stared at the ropers and came back to my egg count. I looked at the running baby calves and tried to surmise if it were possible that I could live without children.

Which is when I turned and confessed all this to my very new friend who was very kind and understanding as I ranted about my barters with God: I will give up any lofty career aspirations and settle down as a respectable banker if it means I get to have babies. I mean it, God. I will stop being wild. Errr, I will try really hard to stop being wild, but I can’t make promises once the babies come, because I want them to ride horses, camp under the open Wyoming sky and go on whale watching adventures on the coast.

For some reason just admitting to my barters about being a banker in exchange for babies, while she laughed and said she understood, caused all the egg count and swaddled babies that I might never hold, and ideas that I could possibly be undeserving of a baby to disappear into the Western sky.

I stuck my hand back into the too-salted popcorn box, popping handfuls into my mouth and washing it down with my can of damn fine beer. The sky was a deep blue, yet the mountainous outlines were black against the blue, like a very fetching bruise.

I let out my breath again and decided I’d be okay. This was nice. The young wrangler girl was nice. And the rodeo sure was nice.

As we walked past all the corrals of animals upon leaving, I dreamily took in all their beauty. The wildness of the horses and bulls and even the baby calves struck me and I told my friend, “I want them all!” To which she laughed again and nodded, like why not?

Maybe, just maybe there will be a way for me to have the wildness, the West and little cowboys of my own. If I have learned how to saddle, make fresh cheese from scratch after milking a cow, not take my instructor’s eye out when learning to cast a fly line and rope a plastic calf, then I suppose anything is possible. At least, that’s what the West would have a girl like me believe.

Waitressing Guts and Glory

Musings

I have held my fair share of waitressing jobs. Some more frightful than others. My current one has its fair share of pros and cons, though mostly this isn’t a bad gig. However, I have been bowled over as of late by some of the things that have happened to me as a waitress. Or more recently as a promoted waitress. Oh yeah, did I mention? I am now the dining room manager at the resort I work at. So ya know: Pretty important. Pretty posh. Pretty big deal.

Nah, I kid. I mean, it’s a pay raise and all, but really the only difference from the me who waitressed before and the me who waitresses now is that I get badgered a great deal more and get a little more ticked off when people show up late for their shifts.

I have decided, however, to do a small-ish round-up of my most interesting/ridiculous/downright jaw-dropping happenings whilst waitressing.

Let’s start with my personal favorite which was a good indicator of how unrelenting motherhood will be.

As the new dining room manager I find that people like to update me, ask me questions and generally hound the hell out of me, from the moment I walk in the door until the moment I beeline for the door again at the end of my shift. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the responsibility and ability to put my neuroticism and obsessive compulsive tendencies to good use, but days like today for instance when all I want to do is shove a morsel of marinated chicken breast into my mouth—while in between getting refills for my tables—I want to do it in peace and quiet. No such luck. While attempting to take frenzied bites of chicken, I had at least four interruptions within three bites. I tried to strictly look involved with my chicken, so they would get the message and yet the onslaught ensued, until I gave up my mini break, hunched over the back waitress station, while people scraped plates and hurried past, and instead went back to waiting tables, giving up hope that I could eat while on my shift. Trying to eat while waitressing is the equivalent of trying to sneak a twinkie in prison while other prisoners furiously eyeball you while you choke down the sugar worrying all the while about being shanked. At least that’s how it is in my mind. I’m sorry if I have insulted prisoners with this analogy, but again, that’s just my mind.

Oh anyway, I derailed there. I was going to give you the happenings. So I am mostly so busy at work that I don’t even allot proper timing for bathroom breaks. I just wear my body out running around, that I dehydrate myself to the point where I may have had to go to the bathroom once, but all my moving—which for me inevitably means sweating—causes my urine to just reabsorb, or whatever the hell it does when you are so dehydrated you no longer pee in a ten hour waitressing shift. Also note this level of dehydration is actually something to be avoided as I nearly passed out at work the other day due to this practice, so uhh… don’t follow my lead here on that one guys. Anyway.

Instance Number 1: I actually decide to go to the bathroom for once. I tell one of my coworkers where I will be for the upcoming three minutes and head out of the dining area to have what I presume are mere moments of rest and relaxation while I take a much-needed pee break. Just as I sit down and haven’t even begun to contemplate toilet paper, I hear the door open and a hesitant tap on my stall. I freeze midstream, while wondering why on God’s green earth I am being summoned in here of all places. So help me God, this better be an emergency, I think.

“Yes?” I say with controlled patience. It is the co-worker I had just told I would be in the bathroom.

“I am so sorry to follow you in here, but the cooks have a question about your ticket.”

Now I am seething. I cannot imagine this was an emergency worth trailing me into the bathroom over, but ask her instead what it is. She explains. I clarify and she then thanks me profusely and leaves the bathroom. That’s what motherhood is like right? No longer getting to piss in peace? Well, I gotta say moms, I am not a fan.

Instance Number 2: While in the middle of a weekend breakfast rush, the equivalent of an IHOP stampede, one of our breakfast cooks goes missing. I note this amongst my frantic running around, seating tables, refilling coffees and trying to load people up on Belgian waffles and hash browns. I run to the back to communicate with the prep cooks and head chef that we need backup. Backup, people, we need backup! 

The head chef proceeds to tell me that the other cook left.

“Where? J is floundering up there. he has like 13 tickets.”

“He has one table,” the head chef tries to correct me.

“Wrong. He was like 13 tables. We have been sat repeatedly for the last half hour. So, could someone help him?”

“I don’t know where the other cook is,” HC insists, making no move to go and help J himself.

“Could you find him?” I practically bellow.

“Why don’t you?” He counters.

I fear at this point he may be able to read the homicide that is clearly visible in my eyes.

“I don’t have time! I don’t even have time to be back here having this conversation with you!”

“Well I don’t have time either,” he sniffs with his haughty air and turns away from me to continue chopping vegetables.

“Oh that’s cool. That’s great,” I mutter under my breath loudly as I walk away thoroughly ticked off, “all my tables can just wait an hour for a bloody pancake…”

After the rush peters into a lull, I have time to search for the missing cook. I go to find him in his quarters located beneath the restaurant, where some of the staff reside. He opens the door casually no longer in his chef coat and work pants, but in a ripped tee and jogging shorts.

“Yeah, hi,” I start. “I know the head chef probably royally pissed you off and you think you’re sticking it to him by walking out, but really you’re sticking it to us waitresses because we are slammed and the other cook is drowning and HC won’t help. And so I would really love, if at least for me, you would suit back up, come upstairs and help.”

He nods his head like there will be no argument and in minutes is upstairs helping cook. Oy. Fuckin. Vey.

Instance Number 3: Waiting on Viggo Mortensen this morning. Yeah, who would’ve thought Hidalgo would meander on into my place of employ in the Big Horns? He apparently came in last night and my sister waited on him first, while he was hounded by customers vying for his attention. When he came in this morn, I had naturally already prepped myself on how to handle celebrity sightings and ya know be super cool, collected and couth. Which is exactly what I did. Bringing his wife tea, his son a hot chocolate loaded with whip. And generally just letting him enjoy his meal without me gawking and asking him about being Hidalgo. Oh but I wanted to. Of course I can pretend to have couth, but lord knows that is entirely not so. Anyhow, when Viggo pointed to the hash browns and asked if we had potatoes, I nodded profusely and said, “Yes, we have hash browns!”

And he shook his head and said, “No, do you have some sort of potato…”

“Like home fries…?” I ventured. “We have those on the buffet…” but even as I said the word buffet I was embarrassed. I didn’t want Viggo Mortenson to have crap buffet home fries. Or even have our frozen hash browns. If I couldn’t pose with him for pictures or pepper him with questions of glitz and glamour in Hollywood, then I damn well wanted him to have a proper potato for breakfast. And yet I feared we didn’t serve anything that he might prefer.

I nodded however, and assured him he would have potatoes. I ran back to the breakfast cook and asked if he could do a breakfast potato. “Yeah, hash browns,” he answered with a slight smile, like I was dense.

“Yeah, but more like a home fry,” I clarified.

“We have those on the buffet,” he said.

“No, but not those either…”

Another waitress intervened on my behalf at this point, and said, “We have those one potatoes J, you could cut those up and fry them and do something with those?”
This was the same waitress who had followed me into the bathroom. She had just redeemed herself in my attempts to win over Viggo Mortensen’s approval as a competent and classy waitress.

J looked slightly perturbed at this insistence for breakfast potatoes we don’t have and don’t serve. But like the solid and reliable fellow that he is, he didn’t say another word and instead simply complied. When I saw the potatoes in the window, looking fancy and sorta French like with a little flower shape cut through the middle—well maybe the Americanized version of French because what do I know—I beamed my satisfaction and thanks feeling much more proud to walk back to Viggo’s table with proper potatoes.

The rest of the interchange was mostly my silently refilling their coffees and teas and when he and his wife went to peruse the gift shop, I asked their son about the animals he’d seen on his vacation.

He politely entertained my eagerness, expressing his delight at seeing bison and moose. His accent intrigued me and I asked where he was from.

“Spain,” he answered.

“Wow! I have always wanted to visit Spain!” I started to gush, but when I saw that he was only politely indulging me to get rid of me, much like J with the potatoes, I relented and nodded, instead clearing the rest of their breakfast plates. “Enjoy the rest of your stay in the Big Horns,” I said as I walked away while stealing more glances at his famous father.

Since I am terribly verbose I wanted to share more instances of waitressing guts and glory—like the time I was working at a bar in New York City and I walked into the bathroom to find a man doing a line of coke off the counter—but alas I have thoroughly overshared here. So I shall leave it at a mere three. Also, how can I top waiting on Viggo Mortensen? I fear I can’t, so I ought to leave it at that.

I am Not Offended by Pies

Musings

Not too long ago, I had an interesting experience while in line at Target. I was eyeing up the brightly colored magazines with pies and holiday décor on the covers and had commented to my friend that my mom had almost every single one of those magazine subscriptions and oh how I envied her. It was my turn to check out then and the cashier started talking to me about one of the pie’s taking up the entire cover. I nodded in excitement thinking she was just as jazzed as I was about pies, the holidays and women’s magazines. But right as I had started to smile and say, “I know, pies!—” she rolled her eyes and started in on a long tirade about how disgusted she was with the pie. She sneered like the pie was a known criminal who’d just been set free.

I faltered. What was wrong with pies? I didn’t understand. Maybe she was a health nut… As she was bagging up my items, she kept going on about the pie and how much it aggravated her. I looked back at the magazine and the offending pie for clues when she then started in on Woman’s Day in particular.

“I mean, come on, Woman’s day? Why does it have to be a woman’s day? Making pies?” she enunciated the words woman’s and pie while waving her hands zestfully. I swiped my credit card.

And bingo was his name-o.

“So you’re a feminist?” I commented.
She beamed, glowing as warm and bright as a freshly baked apple pie.

“Exactly!” she smiled like I got it and went on. “Why are they assuming only women want to make pies?! And why is it called Woman’s Day? It should just be called… Day!”

“Right…” I nodded and though I completely did not feel that Woman’s Day should be entitled Day or women’s inclination for pie making was all wrong I wanted to be helpful and show my support of her passion and chimed in, “men can make pies too!”

She looked downright exuberant now and like she might grab a protest sign hidden behind her cash register that said, Men make pies too! and start marching around the store.

By this time my transaction was done and my friend who had been ahead of me in line was waiting near the exit doors. I smiled politely again and waved goodbye. She looked deeply relieved like she had gotten through to me—made me understand that women’s magazines and pies were a throwback to the 50’s when women served their men whiskey and lit their cigars while wearing pearls… all of this after a long day of vacuuming, of course.

Little did she know that she was preaching to the wrong lass. It’s not that I am not a feminist though (those types of things simply don’t rile me up). Am I all for women’s rights? Absolutely. Do I think Lena Dunham is the shit? I sure do. But I am offended by the idea of being barefoot and preggo in a kitchen baking a pie for my husband? Nope. I think that sounds delightful. Do I therefore belong in the kitchen baking pies? No. I don’t belong any one place in particular, not to a kitchen or a pie or heck even a man. I belong where I say I belong and my mind changes daily on that. Sometimes I do belong in a kitchen baking pies, you better freakin’ believe I do. I love pie! And other days I belong to the open road. And still others I belong to my laundry basket that is overflowing. I belong to my keyboard and my camera. I belong to the forest and the sea. I belong to God.

I will tell you what does offend me though: the idea that women should be just one thing. They should be career women and be offended by Woman’s Day insinuating they should spend their days baking pies. That’s preposterous. Woman’s Day is simply celebrating women, however they want to spend their day, making pies or not making pies. Okay fine, then they should all be mothers and they should all love to cook. Nope still wrong. Not everyone wants to be a mother and that’s okay too. I personally don’t relate to that one, but I also don’t undertsand the allure of cottage cheese; the world is just incomprehensible sometimes. Now wait for it, here’s a real doozy, what if you want both?

I do. I want a career. I want to write novels and travel the globe and live out of my car and soak up every human experience possible. But some day I want babies, loads of ‘em and a hubby too. I would like a house with a front porch and a big kitchen for cooking meals for that family. I’d like a dog and maybe some goats.

Lately though, maybe it’s because I am nearing 30 and people have taken it upon themselves to worry for me, I have gotten in a lot of conversations that utterly baffle me with how insulting they are. I am going to combine all of these very real convos into one for you now:

”So are you seeing anyone?”
”Nope.”
”How old are you?”
”28,” I answer because I am not ashamed of my age or sharing it.
“Ohhhh… do you want me to set you up with anyone?”
”No thank you. I am footloose and fancy free.”
”Are you sure you want to do that?”
”Be footloose and fancy free? Yes. I love being footloose and fancy-free”
”Yeah… but you’re not getting any younger…”
”I appreciate your concern but I am really not worried.”
”No you’re right. I would start to worry by 35.”
”Um. No I am not going to worry then either.”
”But don’t you want kids?”
”Yup. Six of them.”
”Oh my gosh! Your eggs are probably already dwindling! You should really get on this.”
”Yeah… no. I again am not worried. And if I have to adopt half the orphans in Africa and Vietnam with or without a man, I am comfortable with the fact that I will one day be a mother and I also would like to be a writer as well.”
”Well… kudos to you…” they say begrudgingly.

The problem I have with these conversations besides their being wildly offensive in nature is that people are implying my life sans man or sans children right now is cause for worry. It isn’t right. It’s against the grain. Aren’t I a woman? Isn’t that what all us womenfolk want?

Yeah, some of us want that. And some don’t. And some want the career and some want the babies and some want the pie and some want a little of all three and some want none of the above. Leave us alone! Leave Woman’s Day alone! Leave our bloody egg count and our want for pies or adventure alone! No woman who wants to be a mother and only a mother should be labeled un-ambitious because she doesn’t have inclinations other than to procreate. Being a mother is beautiful. So is having lofty career goals. And so is wanting both.

And guess what the very best thing of all is? Women who have the confidence to go after what they want whether or not they are getting older, their egg count is dwindling, their other friends happen to be married, have babies, houses, dream careers, but still they press on knowing who they are and what they want out of this crazy life.

Hmmm. Got a bit soap-boxey there. Maybe I’m a feminist after all… Just not one who is offended by pies.