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Authors: Jill Conner Browne

American Thighs (5 page)

BOOK: American Thighs
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No Matter What Skin You're In

Y
ou've got to live in it your whole EN-tire life, so consider yourself behooved to taking great good care with it and of it. Our mamas didn't know any better than to let everybody, themselves and us, get chargrilled every summer of the world up until about 1997 or thereabouts, when a few people did start to acknowledge the existence of melanoma.

When I was growing up, the sole summer goal of every person living was to get their skin deeply bronzed and/or mahoganized as quickly as possible. For many hapless white people, this was and is simply a physical impossibility—not that they allowed the absolute absence of melanin in their skin to serve as any kind of deterrent or discouragement. To the contrary—they were the most determined of all. I grew up with people so
white-skinned as to render them utterly UN-tannable, under any circumstances—if you were to just try to PAINT them brown, it would take repeated heavy coats of enamel to cover their whiteness. And yet every single solitary summer of their lives, they would go—TO THE BEACH, for, like, their first time out of the house since the Spring Thaw—and park their toad-belly selves out there on the blinding white sand in the blistering hot sun and they would stay there, nearly naked, all day long—and they would continually be SURPRISED to later discover that they had head-to-toe, back-to-front third-degree burns—even their scalps were blistered—and they would then spend the rest of their vacation time in the hotel room, covered in Solarcaine, watching television STANDING UP.

Nobody gave any thought whatsoever to AVOIDING the sun and/or attempting to perhaps temper somewhat its effects. White untannable people would, in desperation, slather their bodies with a vile substance known as QT—for “quick tan,” I suppose, although “questionable taste” would have been more appropriate, since all it did was turn them a putrid shade of orange (plus it made them smell weird) and it was not even consistent—they looked like one of those hideous ombré T-shirts. I mean, really, is orange ombré really a better look for you than just plain white? The terminally white folks never seemed to be able to accept themselves as God made them—like typing paper—and they never seemed to give up. Whenever you saw one of them in the summer, they were Technicolored—either
from their latest burn or their latest failed attempt at an even application of QT.

But anyway, even though some semblance of sun-SCREEN had been invented around 1938 (although only about a dozen different people lay claim to the invention at assorted times, so who knows?), I can't recall anybody actually buying or using anything that might create any sort of barrier between us and the fiery orb in the sky when I was young.

Oh, sure, there was sun-TAN lotion—but I can't recall ever having the funds for frittering on such an extravagance—not when you could buy a VAT of baby oil for less than a dollar. For just a few pennies more, you could also get a whole bottle of iodine, and if you added a few drops of that to your baby oil, the color of your tan would be immeasurably enriched—an unbeatable bargain that we all availed ourselves of, to be sure. It was not possible to get “too tan” in those days.

So, in the summertime, Caucasians were available in three colors: third-degree red (also came with raised blisters at no extra charge), ombré orange, or shades of brown that did not occur normally in the skin of humans, regardless of ethnicity.

We are no longer the Baby Boomers—we are the Raisin Generation and we are paying dearly for our decades of past solar indiscretions—we are collectively providing a most excellent living for all the plastic surgeons and dermatologists. Both male and female, come we to the surgical suite seeking to be hiked up, smoothed out, and excised, as the case may be.

Once you cross that line into geezerdom—and it seems to be a movable line—some cross it at thirty-five, some at sixty-five, some never cross it—they remain forever as they always were—some never age and we all know some folks who seem like they were never young to begin with—natural-born geezers. But whenever it happens in your own personal life—to your own personal body—you will discover that the words “high maintenance” take on a whole new meaning and that they no longer connote your being carried around on a little pillow by one or more significant others.

Once you officially become a geezer, you will find that there is some part of your body that heretofore had never required so much as a thought beyond the acknowledgment of its total cuteness, but now must be looked at or into, probed, x-rayed, scanned, irradiated, illuminated, felt, mashed, and/or filmed or photographed—once or twice every year for the rest of your life. All of these actions are performed by an array of different medical professionals, the offices of whom are guaranteed to be many miles away from you and from one another, have overcrowded waiting rooms populated with other geezers needing maintenance work, and are filled with copies of
Ladies' Home Journal
that were published shortly after the electric washing machine was invented. Your appointments will nearly always fall on days when the temperature is above 95 or below 20 and precipitation is likely in any event but convenient parking is
not. Your deteriorating mental state will often cause you to go to your appointment on the wrong day entirely.

But no matter how inconvenient all this maintenance may admittedly be—it MUST be done and it must be done regularly. It is not necessary to do it without complaint—feel free to bitch and moan and whine all the while—just so long as you DO. IT.

Queen Robbiechey takes good care of herself and is quite regular with her maintenance. She has a home, home on the range, and I'm not sure about the deer and the antelope, but the YAKS are pretty playful in them parts. I don't think I have ever before in my life encountered anybody who raises yaks; you?

Anyway, Robbiechey and Mr. Robbiechey have a bunch of yaks—not sure if that would be a “herd” or a “gaggle” or a “clutch” or what exactly. I don't know WHY they have all these yaks, I'm sure there is an excellent reason, but whatever it is, it has nothing to do with this story, so fine, they're yak-herders—moving on. I'm not sure of the actual head count but suffice it to say that they have MANY, and even ONE of them takes up a whole lotta room, all by itself, as you may imagine. They don't even start OUT little, but I guess when you compare a brand-new one with an old one, the baby seems itty-bitty even though it's roughly the size of a riding lawn mower.

So, it seems that a new baby yak got birthed by a crabby or otherwise disturbed yak-mama who would have nothing to do with her newly produced offspring, and thus explains the pres
ence of a baby yak in Robbiechey's kitchen, not to mention the dark circles under Robbiechey's pretty eyes—the result of keeping up with the very demanding round-the-clock mealtimes of the gargantuan baby who was named, for reasons known to many in the Queendom, “PrissyMae.”

Robbiechey and Mr. Robbiechey had taken over motherhood responsibilities from other derelict yak-mamas in the past and they were pretty nonchalant about this one as well—at first. But PrissyMae proved to be a most troublesome tyke—the trouble being mainly because she was of unusual size and strength, even for a yak—and she was MOST insistent on being fed both promptly and copiously throughout the day. If they were the slightest bit sluggish in their delivery or if the bottle seemed to empty too quickly to suit PrissyMae—who does to this very day prefer large and well-filled bottles—they would be harshly reprimanded for their laxity by the repeated delivery of head-butts to their frontal regions.

If you've never been head-butted in the groin by a baby yak, well, you just don't know how motivating it can be, and it didn't take Robbiechey very long at all to develop a rapid-delivery system of nourishment for the bratty PrissyMae. (It should be noted that Mr. Robbiechey's frontal parts were far too tender and he was far too slow to adequately protect them from PrissyMae's relentless onslaughts, so the daunting job fell to Robbiechey alone.)

This had been going on for several weeks when it came
time for Robbiechey's Annual Hoo-Hoo Checkup and she dutifully kept her appointment. After her examination, the doctor came back into the room and asked her if there were any problems at home she needed to talk about, needed help with. Robbiechey was stunned—she adores Mr. Robbiechey and he her—no problems at home whatsoever—and this seemed like such an odd time to be asked such a question. She must have looked as stunned as she felt because the doctor looked very sympathetic and, dropping his voice a bit, he softly mentioned “the bruising.”

“OH! THAT!” Robbiechey exclaimed, laughing. “PRISSYMAE did that.” As if THAT explained anything. The doctor's expression indicated that it did not, in fact, explain anything, and so she went on to say, “PrissyMae's my baby YAK.” OOOH—now, THAT makes SENSE.

??????????

I suppose it's a toss-up as to who's worse about body maintenance—men or women. I do know women who've not had a Pap smear or a mammogram in a decade or longer—out of fear that “they will find something.” Wouldn't let a gray hair go unplucked or undyed, wouldn't allow the manicure/pedicure schedule to be disrupted—the OUTSIDE of their bodies re
ceives focused and constant care—while the INSIDE could be growing poisonous mushrooms for all they know—as long as it doesn't SHOW, it doesn't matter. When I encounter such a creature, I neither mince my words nor sugarcoat them—not even in the lexicon of polite Southern obfuscation is there any nice way to tell them they are STOO-PID.

But if I did an actual tally of the STOO-PID people I know in regard to health maintenance, I feel pretty confident that the count would be heavily weighted on the male side. MOST women DO go for regular checkups—guys, as a rule, won't go until something blows up or falls off in their hand. These same men exhibit an almost religious fervor in their determination to change the oil in their cars on a schedule set to an atomic clock. The tires are rotated and balanced with the same zeal. The slightest ding in a door is duly noted and seen to promptly and the tiniest ping in an engine warrants an emergency tow-in to the best mechanic within a five-hundred mile radius. In some cases, I've noticed that firearms are likewise maintained with loving attention.

But a physical? Just because “it's that time of year” and nothing is festering, swelling, gushing, oozing, throbbing, or hanging by a thread? On a likelihood par with wild monkeys flying out of their hindquarters—which, I suppose, might actually warrant a checkup—but only if there was a constant stream of them—a one-time occurrence would, immediately upon cessation, be dismissed as inconsequential and never mentioned again
except as needed for a beer-driven display of one-upmanship with his buddies—as in, “Oh, yeah? Well, one time I had wild monkeys come flyin' outta MY ass…” and so on, as some sort of testament to his male stalwartness. (I can't believe spell-check didn't flag that word—do you suppose it really is one?)

Anyway, I DO know ONE guy who was somehow persuaded to get a full, comprehensive checkup—INCLUDING a visit to a dermatologist to have all his skin examined and explored, in search of any parts that might need to be removed. And it's not like he had big patches of skin that were molting or covered with sores or ANYTHING—he just WENT, voluntarily—because It's The Right Thing To Do. AND, even more unbelievably, he admitted it, in writing, to ME, and so, naturally, I am going to tell YOU all about it.

This is Jud's Story.

Once upon a time, a handsome young man named Jud went to see the dermatologist. Actually, that's a misstatement. He went to BE SEEN BY the dermatologist. That, in itself, is remarkable, but then it turned out that the doctor was a LADY and he didn't run or even slink off, never to return. He manned right on up and submitted himself to the VERY thorough examination. You may have noticed this on your own personal body, but in case you haven't let me tell you—there is SKIN EVERYWHERE and
it ALL needs to be looked at—real close—because a Bad Thing can be ANYWHERE. This means that another person (the doctor) will be looking REAL CLOSE at ALL your skin—WITH THE LIGHTS ON. (In my current state of disrepair, I would prefer to have general anesthesia for this exam, but so far I have not found any physician willing to administer it so I just take a fistful of Xanax before I go and try to think about watermelon until it's over. For those of you who haven't read my earlier works, “thinking about watermelon” was my daddy's recommendation for surviving any Unpleasantness, social, spiritual, physical or medical—ridiculous but surprisingly effective.)

So anyway, Jud mans up and bares all and Lady Doctor she looks and she looks and SHE LOOKS, and by and by, she comes to his Down There parts and, lo and behold, she does one of those pause and “hmmm” things, right in the area of his Manhood—which he fondly refers to as his “ManWood,” although if it had been entertaining any thoughts of becoming treelike under the circumstances, those were banished at the sound of that little “hmmm,” as we might well imagine. It seems there was a Mole and it was, like, RIGHT THERE and it was the one time in its entire life that being the center of attention was somewhat less than appealing to his Manly Part.

“Has this always been here?” she asked, meaning, of course, the Mole, but all the Regular Stuff was just RIGHT THERE. “I don't know, I never noticed it before,” he replied, also meaning
the Mole. “I recommend we remove it,” she said, meaning, once more, thankfully, the Mole. And he was told to return the following Monday for…THE PROCEDURE.

The fact that he DID return is a true and total testament to his über-manliness and I am so proud of him. A lesser man would have just left there and lied—until the mole and everything else just wiveled up and fell off. But, it must be said, he was not without trepidation. It must also be said that while one might THINK that he was nervous and concerned that the offending speck could turn out to be cancerous, but no—he was afraid he would get a hard-on during The Procedure.

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