BRITISH BONES AND MONKEY SWEAT
In 1845, some of my ancestors immigrated from Glarus, Switzerland to New Glarus, Wisconsin, carving out a living as fabric weavers. I suspect these relatives were true to certain punctual, penny-pitching, steely, Swiss stereotypes.
Then there’s my English family. They settled in Kansas and Utah in drips and drabs, starting in the early 1600s and most still residing in those states today. Like my Swiss ancestors, the Brits were in many ways stereotypically representative of their homeland: They were often soldiers and writers, humorists … and drinkers.
Now, I’ve only been to Switzerland once: It was on a road trip with Jack and my brother- and sister-in-law, Jim and Libby, in 1991. While I had to acknowledge that my long-and-lumpy nose and an overall look about me did strike a Swiss genetic chord, we were yelled at for being late at a hotel and told we couldn’t sit at a communal table at a beer fest and I just thought, “Meh, I do not need to spend a lot of time in these hills yodel-ay-he-whoing with my ancestors.”
But in England, ho-ho, when I see women stumbling down the streets in their ill-conceived outfits and listen to the tall-tale-telling in pubs and get a whiff someone who smells like monkey sweat, I exhale and think, “Ahhhh, these are my people. You – go take a shower!”
But as I limp through this year and my actual bones leach calcium from chemo, my British bones are trying to dance a jig – causing me to create my own little fashion revolution with Goodwill hats, gifted scarves and colorful wigs; baggy sweaters, tight skirts and warm leggings; zippered boots, kitten heels and slip-on tennis shoes. It has made me see the dark humor in constipation, nausea, muscular atrophy, aphasia, mental fog, fatigue, and then entertain all of you as flies on my wall. It has caused me to think, “Welllll, I don’t have any appointments today, I don’t really have to shower.”
On the days of appointments, however, I do wash up. I can’t go to an acupuncturist or an aesthetician or a doctor or a colonic therapist or anyone who’s handling my body up-close and personal while I’m reeking like monkey sweat! It’s just not right. I don’t care how many generations of stink rights I’ve earned via my British roots. (By the way – all my British friends – I don’t wanna hear it. I know YOU GUYS bathe regularly. You are freaks of your nation and ought to be ashamed.)
As I lay in bed last night, unable to sleep because of nausea and a lack of Ambien, I started obsessing on the plight of caregivers who must tend to patients and customers who don’t shower before their appointments. And then I remembered a massage therapist friend who once told me that the biggest challenge of her work was not even laying hands on a stinky dirty client, but it was in absorbing customers’ bad or sick or ailing energy. And as I contemplated – at 4:28 a.m. – my day, I thought of my upcoming acupuncture appointment and I vowed not only to shower (I always do, people, I just don’t enjoy it), but I would try to bring in good juju and happy energy so as not to soul-slime Mr. Goodell.
So, on the tails of Thanksgiving and heading into the holiday season, I just want to cast an extra thank you to the (good) therapists, doctors, medics, firefighters, medical professionals and anyone who works with the people for taking whatever we bring you – stinky or not – absorbing it, and trying to make our lives better.