Monday, November 26, 2007

Build-A-Bear/Get Your Tubes Tied

If I wasn’t celibate by default before visiting the Build-A-Bear Workshop, I certainly would have taken a vow of celibacy after the recent experience at an unbearable store. While visiting family in Connecticut, I took my seven year old cousin Alyssa (sweeter than honey) to said store for a customized teddy bear.

I had never been to a store that would make me crave sterility. It’s fun; try it if you get a chance. And by fun, I mean a blister on your inner eyelid would seem like an amusement park ride.

Alyssa and I entered the store hand-in-hand (I love me a cute cousin) and met our first nemesis – a long line comprised of consumer culture loyalists. My 4.0 GPA past did not need to be revived on this journey into bear headquarters, as bold signs hanging from the ceiling guided us on a step-by-step process from unstuffed animal to diminished bank account. All of these navigational pointers were separated by smaller signs that read, “Give Hugs.” Right.

Alyssa spotted (read: picked up and hugged tightly, smiling ear to ear) an unstuffed dog and I commended her on her fiscal selection - $12.

As we slowly progressed in line, we were taunted by other unstuffed options in bins lining the wall we grazed along. Alyssa quickly fell out of love with the unstuffed dog and rebounded with a $20 unstuffed polar bear.

“You know,” I said, “if you get the dog instead of the polar bear, you can get an extra accessory (they dress these crazy gimmicks).”

Alyssa heeded my subtle wisdom, but it wasn’t long before she revealed to me that she just looooooved the polar bear. As you wish. Your dad’s paying, so who am I to really push you in either direction. Financially minded older cousins rain on children’s parades.

I called my mom who was browsing in Chico’s, an establishment that ensures a woman’s right to wear reversible clothing. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I believe the words “rescue me” came across clearly, because she showed up shortly thereafter. My mom looked at me and my deer in the headlights gaze and said, “Oh, Honey…” She rubbed my back and then said she was going to see if anything was on sale at The Gap. “Mom…….”
Next stop was a station where you could select a heartbeat for your unstuffed animal, pulsations ranging from $3 - $8. Some beats allow the owner to record their voice on the device that promises life (total crock).

I didn’t even have to say anything. Sharp Alyssa told me that she could live with the complimentary non-beating heart that comes with each animal at a later station.

As we waited to approach the next station, I looked around at all of the stuffed animals on shelves around the Build-A-Bear Workshop – some wild, some tame – and seriously considered becoming a vegetarian. There were ponies in pink suede boots that bore a disturbing resemblance to Ugz footwear, a monkey dressed like Mrs. Claus, and a sheep in denim pants and a silver plush ski jacket. How would you feel?

While we were there, a birthday party was taking place, the finality of which included a processional of the kids holding their newly stuffed (and fluffed, and dressed) bears on top of their heads repeating in unison, in a monotone voice, “Look at my bear. Look at my bear.” Over and over again. What is this, the Hitler youth brigade?

Alyssa and I then made it to the most desirable destination, the place where unstuffed animals come as close to life as fabric allows. Alyssa played a role in the physical expansion of her new polar bear friend by pressing a foot lever that sent stuffing material shooting into the toy.

We weren’t done though; we had to collect our complimentary heart. We couldn’t just place the heart into the polar bear. No no. We had to endure a “heart ceremony.” The woman operating the stuffing machine told Alyssa to rub the heart on her tummy so the polar bear never goes hungry, to rub it on her forehead so it should be wise – oops, Alyssa dropped the heart on the floor – continue on with rubbing the heart on different parts of her face for noble reasons as older cousin is horrified of the lapse in sanitation and fears a rash.
Heart ceremony complete, and in it goes.
This is the station for primping your now stuffed animal and making sure it looks its best. At this point my 27 year old sister joined us – nothing left to consider at Banana Republic – and advised Alyssa to not fluff too hard because the stitching could come undone. Poor kid now prone to family neuroses. Story of my life.

My sister aptly captured what any chemically balanced person would have desired in such circumstances. “I need a Xanax.”
Dress a polar bear because its own skin isn’t capable of keeping it warm in Connecticut. The polar bear must have a gold jacket complete with a hood and an evening bag. These suckers get a wardrobe that I’m envious of. So not fair.

Just before approaching the register, Alyssa and her polar bear sat down at a computer to register the waste of money and give it a name, the “pawfect” name.

As Snowball was being rung up, Alyssa grabbed a big cardboard house for him to go in. “Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. “Does that cost extra??”

At least we ended on a happy $40 note. Did I mention that I love my cousin tremendously?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Darks, Whites, and Wounds

Who gets injured doing laundry? I did, and I’ll have a scar to prove it. I cut the side of my left hand on my laundry basket, an unassuming white plastic object that turned on me. One of the cut-outs encircling the basket had a (razor) sharp edge and my epidermis took a beating.

I stood next to washers #13 and #14 (oh how city life mirrors the college dorm) bleeding and wondering how I’d ever be able to take care of a family when I couldn’t even defend myself against a stationary, lifeless piece of plastic.

While most would be quick to head back to their apartment to clean the cut (profound scrape), I experienced a contemplative paralysis, wondering if the accumulation of such domestically disastrous scenarios accenting my past (i.e. leaving on the gas stove, neglecting to dust anything above arms reach) would render me unfit to bear offspring. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have baby fever. Not in the least. Not one iota. I just like to think about things well in advance. I’m an anticipatory fiend. Story of my life.

The wound is really tender, highly sensitive to sleeves during the putting on and taking off of clothes (leaving me debating whether I can just wear my PJ shirt to the office). It’s also a 2-part wound (when can something associated with me not be complex?) that looks like a semi-colon (;). This makes the grammarian in me smile and think that if I must be scarred, at least the indelible marking bears resemblance to something meaningful to an aspiring writer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tipping Point

The tips of my fingers are a window into the winter version of my soul – yeah, it’s seasonal. Do you have a problem with that?

Since the temperature dipped below an acceptable number by native Floridian standards, I’ve taken to wearing fingerless gloves. Not so much fingerless as fingertipless – my knuckles and the area up to the next joint are shielded from my arch nemesis: WIND. The finger portions above are left to fen for themselves. Sink or swim. Freeze or remain thawed. Stiffen or wiggle.

And I’m a nail biter. Story of my life.

Entering my third winter in the land of Washingtonians, I’m taking a more calculated approach to easing into the chilly season. In the past, at the first sign of cold temperatures, I jumped into my thermal underwear – top and bottom. I wore thermals under everything and on every occasion. Wearing skirts and dresses was out of the question. With the new trend in leggings, this winter could be different. I’m not making any promises.

As DC solidifies as “home” and Florida feels more like a word in my vocabulary than a part of my identity, I want to fully live up to my Northerner shoes (boots). Fully = no more crying during the winter; no more self-imposed Seasonal Affective Disorder; no more using the hair dryer as a warm-up tool; no more sleeping in a sleeping bag under my down comforter.

Starting the season with exposed fingertips is my personal cheer of, “I think I can! I think I can! I’ll show you!” Not sure who “you” is.

Fingertipless gloves are also a practical choice, enabling me to retrieve my metro card and apartment keys without having to take off gloves and expose the entirety of my hand to the risk of becoming wind-chapped.

What was my point in writing this? Story of my life.