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Eat whatever you want.
Green Tea (1942) by Leonora Carrington
I had a houseguest here for the past week. This required moving my treadmill desk into the dining room (!!!) and moving my writing recliner (yes, really!) into the den. My bullshit was scattered all over, clogging up the narrow rooms of our dark house, just so I could STAY ON MY BULLSHIT.
I didn’t want to do what I usually do when a houseguest is here, which is wake up early and long for my treadmill desk (yes, really!). I didn’t want to write on my bed upstairs, then trudge heavily down the stairs to check on my guest. I wanted to be right in the middle of everything, but writing and ignoring my guest. I didn’t want to get off my bullshit and then get BACK ON my bullshit afterwards.
So much of writing is trying to get back on your bullshit after a break. The key is to never take a break, never let real life intrude on whatever weird momentum you’ve managed. The key is to say YES to all houseguests while saying NO to dropping everything in your life for houseguests just to nervously hover around, asking if they want something else to eat. In fact, I warned this guest in advance about this. She’s a delightful painter from Australia who’s the longtime partner of my husband’s Australian cousin. (He has DOZENS OF AUSTRALIAN COUSINS! An embarrassment of riches, truly!) I instructed her to stay much longer than she had planned, but I also cautioned her that I am a consistently neglectful host. On the plus side, this meant that she could do whatever she wanted without feeling monitored. She could be a terrible guest if she felt like it, never lifting a finger, disappearing into her room as she wished. The very bad guest is my ideal guest. This also sounded ideal to her, since her primary aim was to paint the yard. She’s the real deal, too, absolutely the REALEST DEAL, which she demonstrated by sulking when it rained and lighting up the second the sun came out.
And as she scurried happily around with brushes and chirped delightedly over the light and the colors, I thought HERE IS AN ARTIST, A TRUE ARTIST. Basically once the sun came out and then unexpectedly stayed out for the majority of the day, four days in a row, she remained chattery and effusive.
Now, any kind of guest, even a chattery and effusive one, can be a real bunion on the sore foot of your life if you’re off your bullshit. Luckily, I remained ON MY BULLSHIT, astride my treadmill, weird music in my headphones, walk-writing through every morning, barely noticing as my guest made her coffee (she’d been instructed on how to use coffeemaker) and ate whatever she wanted (there wasn’t like a bed and breakfast spread or anything but I did ask her what she ate in the morning and stocked the fridge). Then she’d disappear into the yard for hours. By ignoring her completely most of the time, I think I provided about 70% of what she wanted, which is about as much as you can hope for with any guest, in my opinion. The rest is all moods and weather and personal taste.
Occasionally we’d wander out and see stuff. That’s the part I generally detest the most, as a homebody. Wandering around is okay but showing someone else around? I don’t like tour guides or tours so I’m bad at all of the above. I am very good at talking and also eating, so we did some of that. We also shopped for my daughter’s birthday, and of course my Australian guest was a true connoisseur who talked to everyone and learned things and generally soaked in the vibes everywhere, her hair pulled into the most perfect gray bun I’ve ever seen, the kind of bun that makes you say, “Only an artist could construct this lovely, perfect bun, which makes a woman look a trillion times more beautiful and graceful and sophisticated when correctly arranged.”
At the custom fragrance shop (yes, really!!), our disparate levels of sophistication were on stark display. First I tried to dab a quart-sized jar labeled HONEYSUCKLE directly onto my wrist despite the fact that the purveyor had already explained the little strips of paper used to sample the scents. I was so overwhelmed by the very existence of a custom fragrance shop, plus the three clerks (three women behind an empty counter in an empty mall!), plus the huge jars with words like PINE and FREESIA on them, plus some kind of sorting system – flower, green, musk, wood, sweet, I can’t remember.
It was all too much and I’d already fucked up. So I sat on a little bench inside the shop and checked my texts while my charming guest discussed her favorite scents, which the three women behind the counter recognized and had in stock, conveniently enough, and I believe this included scents that are no longer on the market. I don’t know, I was barely listening, I was reading texts about a friend’s rough breakup.
If I were ten years younger than I am, I think I might call this contrast “having ADHD” (not being a bitch about this, I have heard this explanation from at least three younger people here, not doubting the veracity of their words, either, just reporting the facts) or maybe “sensory overwhelm” or “being an introvert.” If I were ten years older than I am, I might call this “Hyperosmia” or “being a Highly Sensitive Person.” But I’m a Gen Xer so I prefer to call it “being a complete rube” and “refusing to learn new things.”
I’m definitely not claiming that this is the correct way for a person to diagnose their issues. That said, on Saturday a friend texted me:
you could definitely find ways of being funny without being so hard on yourself
Bitch, please. Mocking myself is my version of smelling honeysuckle. Oh god, and someone on Twitter said she felt sorry for me after reading that thing about the old zombies with skin falling off their skulls. That was like the most cheerful thing I’ve written in months! I loved writing that one! Picture me scurrying around with paint brushes, chirping about the vibrant colors! That was my mood as I tapped out that post!
Sometimes I feel so misunderstood, thanks to you motherfuckers out there who don’t know how it feels to wallow through so much shame for years, like swimming through a pool filled with claggy oatmeal, and suddenly it’s just GONE. All of your signature moves, that were always about celebrating your shame in order to alleviate it, transform into PURE CELEBRATION with no cringing and apologizing in the mix. It’s not like I never feel any shame at all. But there is very, very little shame in the mix, so little shame that it’s dangerous, honestly. For example, I met someone new the other night at a concert and she asked to feel my reconstructed tits, which I had just explained are made out of repurposed back fat, with zero implants. Instead of thinking, No you can’t feel my boobs, what the hell is wrong with you? I was like I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!!!!!
I don’t mean that I’m a paper-light spirit floating above the earth. I just mean that there is literally nothing I enjoy more than explaining what a bizarre reimagineered mutant body I have now or describing what a ridiculous, frivolous, self-pitying maggot I can be at times. Falling clumsily to the ground, hating my husband for no reason, looking like a fucking rube, feeling pettily resentful of ossified wife guys who criticized my books in the New York Times: these are the woodsy green floral musky blends that make me thankful to be alive.
I don’t advertise that I want people to feel my reimagineered body or that I am a person who stays ON HER BULLSHIT AT ALL TIMES. I look and seem very average and my life is regular. And the stranger who grabbed my boob had turned into a friend inside my mind within minutes of meeting her, because I had a sense of her solidity and openness and curiosity immediately. I can tell when someone is wobbly. She had zero wobble. She stood firmly on the ground, looking for delight from some new sources. So when the friend I came with mentioned the boob thing the next day I was like Bitch, please. That was the best thing I did all night.
You lose your shame and people think you’re crazy, but you’re like Eve in the Garden of Eden, naked and eating allllllll of the goddamn fruits, sampling every last one at your leisure and telling the snake and God and the insecure wife guy whose rib you were supposedly formed from (Bitch, please!) to go fuck themselves, you’re busy, you’re back on your bullshit and you’re never coming down again, not for anyone, ever.
Anyway, we left the fragrance shop and that was when I asked to smell my houseguest’s wrist. And she was like I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!!!!!
It smelled incredible.
She explained that it was a Bulgari scent called Thé Vert.
It smelled like the Garden of Eden.
So we went back to the shop and I bought some, and now I smell like the Garden of Eden.
DISSOLVE TO BLACK.
Thanks for reading Ask Molly! Naked and eating fruits is how we roll. Join us, Forever Houseguests, and never leave! Life doesn’t have to suck, and shame is for suckers. Drop that lolly in the dirt and sally forth unimpeded!