Garlic and Lady Parts

I’m thinking about buying stock in Panera. Who is the genius behind this place? It’s bread and free wifi—how could life get any better than that? I love spending the morning at Panera. I get my favorite cinnamon crunch bagel with hazel nut cream cheese, find a cozy table, set up my computer, and pretend to write. I never get any actual writing done because my brain ends up on overload listening to all the great conversations going on around me.

If I go to Panera on Tuesdays there’s a group of little old ladies who like to argue about who’s the sexiest widower at their assisted living community. Currently they’re all hung up on a man named Bob and judging by the way they giggle, Bob is something else. If I go on Wednesdays, there’s a few old men who have some serious prostate troubles they discuss in depth. Obviously, I prefer Tuesdays but I keep going back on Wednesdays to see if any of those men are named Bob.

On one particular Wednesday morning, as I was waiting to see if I could catch a glimpse of the now legendary Bob, my attention was drawn to two loud-talking women at the table next to mine. One of the women looked to be about eight months pregnant and extremely tired and the other woman was doling out some priceless advice.

“You don’t need antibiotics! No, instead of antibiotics just get some yogurt and put it directly into your vagina,” the woman said with all the authority that comes with putting the words yogurt and vagina into the same sentence.

The pregnant woman seemed intrigued, as was the entire morning crowd at Panera.

“Of course I prefer to use garlic. It has the same bacteria-killing qualities and all you have to do is get a clove of garlic and insert it into your vagina,” she said and took a sip of her coffee.

I have never in my life heard anyone so comfortable with the word vagina. I, myself, avoid use of that word at all costs, substituting cute, anatomically confusing words such as hooha and business. But to just toss around the word vagina, this was a new earmark of boldness. I thought to myself, This woman is a pioneer with her fearless talk of vaginas!

I sat there quietly chanting, “Vagina, vagina, vagina,” trying to channel the power of the vagina that this woman had been able to harness. But as much as I respected her use of the anatomically correct word, I couldn’t get over the fact that she just said she puts garlic and yogurt into her vagina.

I imagined this woman standing in the kitchen, pondering what to cook for dinner. Her husband walks in and suggests spaghetti. “Spaghetti? No, we’re out of garlic—it’s the 15th of the month, you know that’s my “Garlic in the Vagina Day,” she says with irritation. Because, let’s face it, a garlic clove in your vagina has got to be irritating.

Now I have no idea whether or not garlic and yogurt can heal an ailing vagina, but it did get me thinking about how I have spent my life just wasting precious, vaginal space. What else could we be putting into our vaginas? I looked excitedly around the table—a bagel, my phone, Chapstick. On second thought, maybe I’m not cut out for the daring world of vagina innovations.

No, I think I’ll leave the vaginal trailblazing up to women who fully embrace the subtle and symbiotic relationship between garlic and vaginas.

IKEA: It’s Swedish for “Build it your Damn Self!”

An IKEA store has just opened near me. All of my friends are so excited. Everyone’s eyes gleam at the thought of an airport-sized store filled completely with unassembled Swedish furniture. They’re new to the world of IKEA and don’t know what headaches await them in that Swedish wonderland.

But I do. I lived twenty minutes away from IKEA in my formative decorating years and have a colorful history with build-it-yourself Scandinavian tables and chairs.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong appreciation for any store that gives each product its own first name so it feels like an old friend. Like IKEA’s fabulous bookshelves, simply named Billy. We love Billy in our house. We have a Billy bookshelf in every room of our house. Billy is a stand-up piece of furniture—he’ll hold your books, knick-knacks, and any other crap you throw on him. Billy is a friend for life.

But not everything at IKEA is as solid as good old Billy. Sometimes you get suckered into a Bernhard. Oh Bernhard, you broke my heart. Back when I was single, I was searching for a bar stool and Bernhard caught my attention right away—with his hard, plastic back rest—he was all I ever wanted in a bar stool. I took him home the same day (maybe it was a bit sudden, but I felt like I could trust him). “Don’t worry, Bernhard, we’ll be drinking margaritas in no time,” I said as I spread out the parts and read the instructions. Well, I tried to read the instructions, but they weren’t exactly words as much as they were hieroglyphics that seemed to delineate how to build a ship. A ship? I just want a bar stool to kick back in—why does this look like I’m building a aircraft carrier?

After three hours of work and a fair bit of profanity, Bernhard and I were no longer on speaking terms. He wobbled unsteadily despite the fact that I was the one doing all the drinking that day. He ended up in a corner of my apartment and whenever someone would attempt to sit on him, I would caution them by saying, “Oh, that’s from IKEA and I put it together by myself and there were a lot of left over parts. Sit at your own risk.” No one ever did. I almost felt bad for poor Bernhard.

But getting stuck with a wobbly Bernhard isn’t the only headache you’ll find at IKEA. I can’t wait for all my friends who have never stepped foot into an IKEA to get their first glimpse at that deceiving Swedish maze that will trap them for hours upon hours. There’s no such thing as a quick trip to IKEA. Oh sure, there’s little “short cut” signs all over the place, but those only lead you even further astray to picture frames you didn’t need, a set of Tibetan prayer flags, a steaming plate of Swedish meatballs, and an oversized cup of glögg. And all you really wanted was a coffee table for the living room.

If you make it through the Scandinavian labyrinth, eventually you will find your way to the warehouse portion of the IKEA experience. This is where you now get the distinct pleasure of searching desperately for the item you so dutifully wrote down with the handy golf pencils IKEA so graciously provides. Once you locate your item and risk your life getting it off the shelf you will be plagued with thoughts like, “That coffee table is in this little box?” The answer to that is simple: it’s in many, many pieces. But don’t worry, you will be provided with a tiny wrench that I’m pretty sure is the same size Santa’s elves use. It’s the only tool you’ll need!

Well, until you get so mad you go get the hammer.

Barbie

Barbie. I try really hard to hate her, always looking at me with those perfectly painted blue eyes and that molded plastic smile—I just know she’s judging my non-coordinated outfit and my fully jointed limbs. But then I see her deformed little feet and I just can’t be angry at her. Especially when Mattel makes so many adorable little pairs of shoes for her misshapen feet.

Yes, that old broad takes a lot of flak, but I played with Barbie as a kid and still managed not to develop an addiction to blue eye shadow so I feel confident in letting my daughter play with her now. Just like me, my daughter’s eyes go wide when she sees a new Barbie in a pink, frilly gown with a ring shoved strategically right through her hand. Magic, simply magic.

You can imagine the wave of excitement that ran through our house the day my daughter got invited to her friend’s Barbie-themed birthday party. There was Barbie’s face right there on the invitation, beckoning my daughter to eat cake and be fabulous. My daughter was breathless with anticipation as she read the invitation and I said a quick prayer of thanks that the party wasn’t being held at Chuck E. Cheese.

“Mommy, what does this part say?” she asked while shoving the invitation in my face.

Come dressed as your favorite Barbie,” I read aloud.

“Come dressed as your favorite Barbie?!” my daughter and I repeated in unison.

Panic quickly replaced the excitement that had just pulsed through our veins as we thought about what Barbies my daughter owned that were viable options to pattern a child after for this party. I’m pretty sure that all of my daughter’s Barbies once had a fantastically engineered identity complete with lavish, theme-appropriate attire, but they fade quickly in my daughter’s hands and each Barbie ends up with a new identity, like:

Head Injury Barbie: this Barbie is what happens when played with by the daughter of a doctor. This Barbie was a thrill-seeker who scaled to the top of the Dream House then, thanks to a slippery stiletto, plummeted three floors to the carpet below. She has undergone many groundbreaking surgeries and has recovered quite well, the only lingering after-effects are her propensity toward not wearing pants and using skirts as hats. A real triumph of the plastic spirit, but I can’t send my daughter to a party with no pants and a skirt hat.

Barbie Who Only Wears Clothes Made Out of Kleenex: this Barbie has shunned popular fashion trends in favor of a more simplistic style—tissue. She can go from day to evening in a single Kleenex, but the wardrobe malfunctions abound with this flimsy material, especially in the presence of water. Luckily, this Barbie isn’t shy and makes no excuses when a tissue dress drops to her ankles at a tea party. Barbie can take that chance, but not my daughter.

Brothel Barbie: It’s the oldest profession in the world and this Barbie looks the part. She’s wearing a skirt that barely covers her tushy, Ariel’s seashell bikini top, and seven-inch platform heels that lace all the way up to her knees. Of course, my daughter put this outfit together based solely on the bright colors, but there are still rumors floating around as to how this Barbie really affords all those fake furs and a Corvette. Clearly, I’m not letting my daughter dress like this for any party. Ever.

Bad Hair Day Barbie: This poor Barbie never had a chance—her hair became a matted clump of blondness ten minutes after leaving the sanctity of her box. Her hair sticks straight up and no brush can tame it and no rubber band can confine it. Because of her obvious hair woes, she never gets the really cool outfits and usually ends up wearing a mud-stained dress and a pair of Ken’s old pants. It’s not fair, but if life were to magically become fair, it wouldn’t be in the Dream House. I can’t even imagine the amounts of hairspray I would need to use to get my daughter’s hair to do that. Nope, not this one either.

After rejecting each Barbie my daughter owns as a possible costume inspiration, my daughter opened her closet, rummaged through a few things, then emerged with the perfect party outfit—a tattered blue tutu, an orange tee shirt with a heart on it, hot pink tights, and an assortment of plastic jewelry. It was certainly fabulous, but I secretly wondered if it was fabulous enough for a Barbie party.

I dropped my daughter off at the party and saw a dozen seven-year-old girls, all wearing old skirts, flashy tee shirts, and cheap, plastic jewelry in honor of their favorite 11.5 inch doll—Barbie. Those girls giggled and danced, never giving a second thought to what they were wearing, just happy to be surrounded by the color pink and celebrating their friend’s birthday.

It’s no wonder I can’t hate Barbie.