June 01, 2006

Geranium!! (Sorry.)

Happy Summer, everyone—I know it took its damn time, but it is here. And I’m not even going to complain about the rain or humidity, because neither is spelled s-n-o-w, and therefore know when to shut up and enjoy life already.

I rang in the new season over Memorial Day weekend (a paid holiday, hence the short posting hiatus), and what better way to show remembrance for the dead than to spend it planting flowers? My mother and I decided that, even though the mercury was scheduled to shoot to a record high (93 F), it was the only day both of us would have off work to get the summer plants in before blooming season ended, and so we set out for the garden center at 11 AM.

CUT TO: three hours later, as we pull three heavy shopping carts of various perennials, mulch and topsoil to the front of a very annoyed line of gardening enthusiasts, like, “get over it, ya hypocrite—I’m sure you came here for A plant”. Having paid, we then load my teeny-tiny car with said herbage, lastly cramming ourselves into the boiling hot seats, taking care not to crush the smaller cartons with our inconvenient feet. A small side trip to the gas station for refueling (ourselves as well as the car; three hours of plant shopping in 75% humidity will give you one helluva sugar low) and we were off to get these babies in the ground.

Now, a smart person would have made sure that all of the weeding, tilling, and preparation of the planting grounds was already well taken care of before it came to the planting stage… and while I consider myself to be a smart person, I am a smart person with an annoying dearth of free time. My fervent (if only once-weekly) weeding is sadly ineffective at keeping the little bastards at bay, to the end that some last minute (can it be called ‘last-minute’ if it takes forty-five?) crouching, pulling and swearing was in order. After several rigorous applications of SPF 50 (I work for a dermatologist; if I walk into work with a sunburn, I walk out with a Xerox box of my personal effects) and aloe-scented OFF! (utterly impotent in the face of the rabid mutant tsetse flies that live in my underbrush—my knees are on fire as we speak), my mother and I engage in a round of speed weeding, turf chucking over our shoulders at extreme velocity, vaguely resembling a groundhog puppet from a really bad movie. Then two bags of topsoil and one of peat to ensure growth of our costly investment get spread on, before we can even think about the plants.

But let me tell you about thinking about plants. The planning. The obsessive, nerve-wracking, which-plant-is-taller / don’t-put-a-red-plant-next-to-another-red-plant aneurysm that is planning a garden. I believe the cathartic relief when it was all over was not because I was sapped of all of energy (I’d been lifting / shopping / planting for eight hours, mind) but the mental exhaustion of having flexed the creative right-brain to deflation—and the realization that I’d never have to do it again. Well, not in this capacity, anyway. That weight lifted, all that remained was to water my virgin foliage in a fatigue-wobbly haze of satisfaction, and hope like hell they did their one job (i.e. not die).

As I lacked foresight (and, honestly, the requisite calories) to take a picture of le jardin, I shall link to the separate flowers, and trust your imagination.

The fruits of my labor:

Echinacea
Blue Hydrangea
Hostas
Chrysanthemums (red, yellow, white)
Dianthus
Red Sedum
Hen & Chicks
Coreopsis
Bugleweed
Rosebushes (yellow & white)
Yarrow
Russian Sage
Lobelia (Queen Victoria)
Speedwell
Joe Pye Weed
Balloon flower – how awesome?
Astilbe
Black-Eyed Susans

There is also one that looks like a purple-striped hosta, that had no tag or identifying marks and was the only of its kind on the shelf, which I have christened the Audrey II. If we’re all invaded and eaten alive by Venus fly-trap aliens with voices remarkably like Motown stars in the coming weeks… my bad; it looked cool.

Beedoo’s Book Club:

Finished Reading: Good in Bed. I liked it. I was at least gripped by this one; I wasn’t forcing myself through it (*cough*beeseason*cough*), but was a little shaken when it turned out she was pregnant [spoiler!] because that seems to be a fairly heavy plot device for what had been, up to that point, a fairly lighthearted book. At the time, I remember thinking “God, how is this going to turn out? Is she going to keep it? She has to, otherwise the book would be too big a downer, and she’s not going to be able to complain about skinny people and annoying co-workers after an abortion—it would make her look like a heinous bitch and the reader would end up hating her. So she keeps it and… marries the father? No, there’s no real lesson there. Finds someone new to love her as she is, with lovechild in tow? Probably.” What I was really hoping for was that she had the baby, moved to the south of France to be a yoga instructor and raised her child to forever question Western ideals. That didn’t happen. I guess that’s the plot of my book, now.

My main problem with the story was… now, I understand that it’s hard to write a book from the point of view of a fat girl. I deal with the issue in a lot of things that I write, so I understand some of the basic concepts (I especially appreciated the lack of actual numbers regarding the main character’s weight, since every woman alive can relate to the tight-pants and low self-esteem she experiences, regardless what the scale says). I, like Jennifer here, have never had a problem with the snark—the jibes at the skinny, the good-humored acceptance of fat jokes, the comedic reaction to hide the embarrassment at being overweight. What I have trouble with is ending that story. A fat girl (and I think I have earned the right to use this term, having been one for many years, and object to many of the more PC euphemisms, prefer to tell it like it frickin’ is) living on her own in the big city, getting a good job and making her way in the world… what? Gets married? Does that nullify the independence that made us love the character? Has babies? Does that buy into the moral that all women will eventually “settle down” after having their “fun”, and all women ultimately want is a husband and a house full of kids? If she stays single, is she denying herself all those things? How do you make a woman win?

That’s the point of the ‘chick’ book, for the main character to triumph, not settle. This book had one more question to answer, though: Does she lose weight, or stay fat? It’s a double-edged sword, that one; if she loses weight and the book ends happily, she’s conforming to an ideal as well as implying that the fat women who identified with her should do the same. If she remains fat, it has to appear that 1) she is completely comfortable with herself 2) she is not unhealthy and 3) she must end up either brilliantly wealthy or married to a wonderful man. Fat, single, and loving it would alienate almost every woman who picked this book up, and the globe would be covered with well-decorated apartments sporting book-shaped dents in the bedroom wall. It’s a hard row to hoe, figuring out what women want—even as a woman—and getting it all down on paper, let alone out to print. Essentially it boiled down to what the character wanted: if she wanted to be fat, let her be that way. She wants a man? Let her get one. She joins a roving band of bohemian gypsies and becomes their concubine? Tight. Because any of these things, when handled and written well, is going to make for a good book.

And it did; everything did work out in the end—not exactly in a Nora Ephron way, but not in a apathetic-coma-of-the-pointlessness-of-existence way either. I’ll definitely read Jennifer Weiner’s other books, because she’s funny, and something about the character and voice kept me reading.

Beedoo’s Book Rating: In honor of the book, I reserve number value. It was just good.

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