07 April 2009

Crazy Ladies



Crazy Lady. Artist Christine Oster
Hats off to my parents. Especially my mother. Nobody can say they didn't raise me well. Some of the things they taught me which have endured for half a century:

make your bed every morning
say "please" and "thank you"
speak up and speak clearly to be easily heard
don't steal
if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all
put on clean underwear before you go to school
put your dishes in the sink after dinner
iron the collar first
it's a sin to tell a lie
sweetened rice is a hot breakfast cereal


I'm still a good girl. Mostly. At least at heart. I mean, when I don't make my bed or I tell a lie, the chorus of judges inside my head stand up and fold their arms and shake their heads. Tsk, tsk, tsk.....now Alex, you know better.

There were also some tacit admonishments; specifically, a caution against doing anything that made me look "crazy" to other people. Mumbling, a disorganized hairdo, walking hard, wearing colors that don't match and biting my nails were just a few of the behaviors or choices that risked the ultimate public disapproval rating, i.e., being perceived as "crazy".

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, one of my fondest and longest-held fantasies was to "go crazy". "Crazy" came to represent the utmost in freedom. " I don't have to be good any more!!" And it seemed like something earned, a right or privilege that arrived late in life. Somewhere around the time Wisdom began to dawn.




So yesterday I met a crazy lady. And today I attended a midday concert with a different crazy lady.
We'll call them Ms. L and Ms. S. I believe I'm coming into my own freedom/wisdom/craziness so I'm paying closer attention to crazy/free women these days. i observe there seems to be more than one variety of crazy...

Ms. L lives in the French Quarter. I met her through Craigslist. She placed an ad for someone to help her get her living space/home office organized. I responded with my resume and she invited me to come over. She felt a little crazy to me because

  1. All of our communication was by email. She sent one that explained she doesn't like talking on the phone.
  2. She said she couldn't specify a time for me to come by. Could I hang loose and just see what the next day was like?
  3. The next day, she set a time for us to meet on the following day. The following morning I found another email from her, apparently written in the middle of the night, stating she didn't feel well; could I come by two hours later than scheduled?
  4. She warned me she lived with a couple of little dogs that would probably go nuts when I arrived but they were harmless.
When I arrived, the door was slightly ajar. I knocked and, as warned, two little chihuahuas immediately set up a yapping racket. Ms. L came to the door: hair and clothing disheveled, big smile, hands dancing. I stepped into an apartment where every flat surface -- floor, bed, sofa, desk, dining table, chair seats and TV top -- was covered with paper, articles of clothing, magazines and newspapers, saucers, money, medicine bottles, sunglasses, etc.

By the end of the hour we spent together, I was completely in love with her. I love how her mind works; she tells great stories;
she's a pianist; she has a beautiful smile; she touches my arm when she talks and hugged me when we parted; and, she not only knows she is "crazy", she knows the particulars of her eccentricities and is good-natured about the possibility (likelihood?) that some will find her annoying and weird.

Ms. S is a different story. I've known her a couple of years now. We've hung out together in public and in my home. She proclaims herself eccentric often--with her shoulders thrown back and her nose in the air. It's a badge of honor with her.

More infuriating for me: she pouts when/if you don't find her antics amusing or if one of your eccentricities should surface. Today's concert, for example: I'd never heard of the artist but trusted her recommendation when she called on Sunday. "They're holding two tickets for us in my name at the box office. It'll be great!!" she gushed.

Well.... It wasn't great. The hall was less than 1/4 full, most of those in attendance were on walkers and wearing hearing aids and the music embarrassed me: an old white guy doing a program of Nat King Cole songs--in Nat King Cole's voice. As a spoof it would have been hilarious but judging from the little bobbing heads of the blue-hairs in front of me, this was all for real.

After the concert, I asked Ms. S what drew her to this concert. "Since the storm [New Orleanian for "Hurricane Katrina and aftermath"], he [the performer] is the only man who has actually looked at me."

"Oh! He's a friend of yours?"

"No. He doesn't even know me. It was some setting, I don't remember where, but he's kind of handsome if not exactly sexy....he was talking to someone else but he looked right at me. And no man has done that since the storm."

I sure wish I'd thought to ask her these questions before I surrendered scant funds and two hours of my life to accompany her to a concert I wouldn't have attended for free. We walked in silence to retrieve my bicycle. Her vibe was pouty and when I looked at her, it was apparent she was disappointed that I hadn't enjoyed myself: her lips were pursed and her eyelids were fluttery. "Uh, okay, then. I'm going to push off," I said. "I have a student this afternoon. See ya, bye-bye."

I want to be Ms. L when I grow up. She's 10 years older than me. She assured me several times "Honey, you're still young. You've still got time to become anything you want..."





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