An Open Letter to Glade

Dear Glade,

I thought we were friends. I thought we really had something, but you went and pulled my favorite fragrance. The 2011 limited edition cinnamon chiffon candles were the most glorious candle you ever released and now I have depleted my stash and only have 2½ candles left.  These candles have been my signature fragrance between the months of October and February since 2011. My home smells deliciously of this frothy cinnamon concoction. The smell is heavy enough that it fills my living area, but light enough that I don’t feel overpowered. As I burn my candles, each passing hour brings me both joy and despair as I know our time is coming to an end.

I have done my research, Glade, and I know that I can buy the oils from a seller on eBay. I know that I can buy bottles of the spray as well, but let’s be clear, it is not the same. I have spent hours sniffing candles to find a scent as fabulous as cinnamon chiffon. I dip my nose into jars of cold wax and inhale deeply trying to match the happiness that your cinnamon chiffon brought me.  The feeling has not yet been replicated. Last night I had a moment of happiness when I smelled The Bath and Body Works candle titled Champaign Toast. For a moment I thought this could be the replacement, but alas, it is still not the glory that is cinnamon chiffon.

Glade, you and I have been friends for years. In my mid-twenties I took great comfort in the banana pear candles I would burn. They had a lovely light sent and filled my little apartment with much joy. As a longtime customer I want you to be aware that people like me exist. We enjoy our routines and are most content when our homes smell fresh and inviting. Perhaps, once you release a fragrance you could also list when the limited edition items will no longer be available, so people like me can create a stockpile much like a doomsday prepper.

Thank you,

Heather Carvell

 

PS: Cashmere Woods is good, Glade, but it just isn’t the same and we both know it.

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In Defense of Autumn or Pumpkin Haters Gonna Hate

I have seen them lately: fall haters. They are lurking around social media posting memes about yoga pants and sweatshirts. They are on Pinterest, right now, turning their noses up at the white chocolate cinnamon pumpkin latte as we speak. “Ugh,” they say, “Can we wait until at least October before we start with the pumpkin?” My answer is, “No, fuck you; I want my damn pumpkin now.” And if I so choose I will drink my white chocolate cinnamon pumpkin latte while singing a Christmas song and decorating my house with festive gourds. I may drink my white chocolate cinnamon pumpkin latte while singing the national anthem; we just don’t know the craziness that will happen when I finally get my first pumpkin fix of the season. I am one of the pumpkin people. I truly love it, and my friend Rachel is the one who brought me on the pumpkin bandwagon. She brought me a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie to work one day and I never looked back.

Even before pumpkin-infused everything, fall has always been my favorite time of year. Fall means no more sweating. Fall means new school supplies and the delicious hunt to find the perfect Trapper Keeper. Fall is new clothes and blue jeans so dark that your fingernails, underpants, and thighs are indigo, almost the same color as a plump blueberry or the night sky. Fall is driving through neighborhoods with dads and kids raking leaves into ditches. Every one of these things brings me back to living in Farley in the fifth grade. In the fifth grade I wanted to own a blue jean jacket more than I wanted almost anything; it was the thing to have. I wanted to roll the sleeves up and cover the front with buttons of my favorite bands and funny sayings. These buttons would open doors for me. They would let the world know just how cool and original I was. People would see my decorated jacket and clear the way for me. Other girls would want to emulate my style. This denim jacket was going to change my life – that is if my parents ever decided to buy me one.

That denim jacket wasn’t a dream for long. One fall afternoon I rode home with a stomach full of worry. The teacher had given us our mid-term grades and it wasn’t good. I had a D in math, my lack of interest and ADD had won, multiplication was the big loser. My anxiety increased as the bus rumbled through the neighborhoods. Each bus stop brought me closer to my impending doom. The squeak of the breaks said, “Mom is going to be mad.” The release of the hydraulics as the door opened said, “They are going to be disappointed in you.” The bus kept moving and my fear grew. When the bus got to our house, I exited slowly trying to buy myself time and a plan. I was the James Bond of lying, the best, surely I could find a way around this D.  Mom met me at the door with a denim jacket in hand. I broke down and cried; I loved the jacket but she needed to return it. I confessed my D and cried until my eyes were red and my nose was snotty. Mom, of course, acted disappointed and said she would tell Dad, but I could keep the jacket. That jacket had lost some of its mojo, and it didn’t make me one of the cool kids, but it and that day are a firm and unwavering autumn memory.

That is what fall is to me, redemption.

With each passing season I get to shake off the sins that I committed and start fresh. Starting at the beginning of September I look ahead to football games and cheering for our town’s high school team. Although I hate being around that many people, I get excited for the kids’ excitement. Every year I wait for that one night where the air smells like burning leaves. On that night, I inhale deeply and then hold the air in my lungs. I let go of summer in that moment. Until I smell the leaves, I will fill my Pinterest boards with soups, sweaters, and pumpkin latte pictures. I will obsess about that moment when I turn my heat on and the house is filled with the smell of dust burning off the coils. I will continue to think about coats, jackets, and sweaters. I will wait patiently for a cup of hot chocolate and a bowl of chili. That is autumn to me, a season filled with dark cool nights, and want.

Somewhere at the beginning of March I will start to want flip flops and skirts. I will have a day when the urge to put my hands in potting soil is so overwhelming that I almost can’t control myself. I will want long days, thunderstorms, and the sound of lawn mowers to consume me. I love how our wants and needs change with the season. Sometimes we have to wait for the planet to give us exactly what we need.

To read the absolute best thing ever written about fall, follow this link:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/its-decorative-gourd-season-motherfuckers

In Defense of Kim Kardashian or the Time I Had Sex in a BP Bathroom

In Clarksville, Tennessee, there is a gas station that is known as “the porn BP.” Everyone calls it that: children going to church camps, truckers, Carvell and me, pretty much everyone. What makes the porn BP so special is not just that it is outside of Nashville traffic, or that it is the most convenient place to fill up, it is the fact that there is a magazine rack in the middle of the store that sells porn. This isn’t your run of the mill Playboy or Penthouse, this is real porn; the kind of porn that caused Julia Sugarbaker to run over the magazine stand in Designing Women. Sitting on the shelves, not behind the counter, are titles such as Black Tail, Barely Legal, and Buttman, mixed in with People and Star, as if these magazines are just as socially accepted. It has always been a game for Carvell to dare me to buy the dirtiest magazine I could find. I, of course, have remarkably little filter and would walk in and buy Hustler or some plus-sized porn mag with little hesitation. Never, however, Black Tail, as it felt much too exploitative.

Porn is here and it isn’t going anywhere. I feel sure that cavemen and -women drew naked ladies on the walls for either titillation or just giggles. The celebrity sex tape is what I suppose to be the new wave of porn as it does double duty, feeding our lust and our need for celebrity gossip. I have no issue with women making millions off of these tapes. What I do have an issue with is slut shaming. Slut shaming is defined as the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in sexual behaviors that deviate from the norm. And for some reason I think Kim Kardashian receives the brunt of the abuse. Every day I open Twitter to read joke after joke about how Kim is only famous for making a porn. How she only sleeps with black men. How stupid and materialistic she is. How fat she is, and now, that she may have given birth to the antichrist. I follow smart and funny people on Twitter, and sometimes I think that making a Kim joke is taking the easy way out and maybe slut shaming just a little.

If we were to openly talk about our pasts most of us can pull out at least one story where we have acted a little slut-like. It may be something as innocent as flirting with a married man or using your femininity to get out of a speeding ticket, but there is a better than average chance that you have one something that verges on sluttiness. Lord, knows I have.

Many years ago, while in a committed relationship, the relationship started to falter as relationships sometimes do. The stress of life and the future weighed the relationship down and it was on the brink of ending. It was an ugly and devastating place to be. We agreed to take a break from one another and then reconvene to see where we stood. Before we were able to take a break, we were involved in a car accident that should have killed us. We were battered and bruised, but left with no life-threatening injuries. That night I asked if he was still unsure of the relationship. He was no longer unsure as the jostle of the overturning truck had knocked the sense back into both of us. It was too late to stop the time-apart decision and I left on a week-long vacation.  We called and texted and declared our love for one another. Upon my return he picked me up at the airport and kissed me out of view. We drove and talked about the trip and the flight. We stopped at the porn BP to get something to drink and pee. I made my way to the bathroom while doing a slight pee pee dance. I had just locked the door and sat down when I heard a knock at the door.

“Let me in.”

It was obvious to me who it was and I figured the men’s room was full, so I pulled my pants up and let him in. Immediately after locking the door again I was pushed against the dingy wall. The kisses were desperate and the hands insistent (I know how bad romance novel that sounds). With me up on the tips of my toes and with my back to the wall, we had sex in the porn BP bathroom. It is on record as the second best sex of my life. After we finished we realized that we had no idea how long we had been in that bathroom, and we heard a woman’s voice say, “There is more than one person in there.”

I was horrified, not by the fact that I had just had sex in the porn BP bathroom, but by the fact that I was going to have to face a line of people. We got ourselves together and left the bathroom. The line of women was about six long and I kept my eyes downcast. I had little doubt that these women thought me to be a slut, and that wasn’t the case at all. “We have been together for years!” I wanted to yell at them. “This was recommitment sex!” But without a back story or context, I just looked like a slut, and there was no way to defend myself.

I wonder how Kim feels knowing the things people say about her. If she wants to defend herself against the haters or if she knows that by being famous for her indiscretions she has to leave herself open to the hate. My issue isn’t so much about Kim but about why people think it’s okay to hurl those kinds of insults at her, at anyone really. A female comedian recently spoke out against rape jokes and social media inundated her with “I hope you get raped” jokes. Lena Dunham was told that “I hope you get breast cancer.” As humans, I think we should just know better than to insult and slut shame.

Oh, and if I ever tell you the porn BP story in person, I almost always add, “Really, at its core it is a love story.”

What a Girl Wants: An Ode to Women

There are women in this world that I am jealous of. They are women who strike me as interesting, and they are built in all shapes and sizes. I sometimes find myself wanting in the interesting department. Now, my friends will disagree and tell you that I am sapid, but I would counter with – they have to say that because they love me. My jealousy isn’t Rachel and Leah or Cain and Abel in nature; it is more single white female without the killing and identity theft. These women are interesting in a way I want to emulate, which comes across a little creeptastic.

Lesley Kinzel is the senior editor of xojane.com, eats fresh ricotta, has brightly colored lipstick, and was named one of 40 under 40 feminist to watch. I was once named most likely to yell fuck in church. Nope, that is a lie. I was named class wittiest in high school, and I still wear the title with more than a little pride. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter and I check xojane.com to read any articles she posts. She has loudly fought for fat acceptance and appeared on multiple television round table discussions. You want to know what I did yesterday. I watched The Little Couple with Kiaya, went to Wal-Mart, and bought American cheese. I am actively searching for a way to make Kinzel my friend. She will say interesting things and I will nod and listen with near rapture. I need to know if she was born this way, born with a righteous indignation and desire to fight the fat cause or did something happen. When and how did Lesley Kinzel get to be interesting and fabulous?

I compiled a list the other day of things that would make me more interesting. The top two were more tattoos and bourbon. The third was developing a love of Elvis Costello. Interesting women drink bourbon; they swirl the amber liquid around in small glasses and look casual while doing so. Sometimes, when all the plastic glasses are dirty, I put my Diet Coke into a small glass and pretend it is bourbon. I leave it on the counter and let the sticky liquid harden in the glass. Who I want to be is part Julia Sugarbaker, all class, rants, and intellectualism, with more than a touch of foul mouthed tattooed Margaret Cho, calling herself mother to her gay following. Add in the hair and voice of Brittany Howard, the singer of The Alabama Shakes, and I would be the entire package.

Watching Howard play and sing is a thing of beauty. She appears powerful and relentless. Her mouth is wide and expressive. I think she is beautiful and her voice is strong; the night they played SNL, I fell in love. I watched her move, hips swaying to the music. Strong fingers played her guitar and I was jealous. I was jealous of her talent, jealous of her hair, and jealous of what felt like an overt femininity. These women appear strong and graceful. I have no idea what their lives are like nor do I know what insecurities lurk in the quiet spots of their brain. They are my modern day Rosalind Franklin and Sojouner Truth. They are smart and bold. Their femininity is not the womanish of Mad Men, pinched in waists and hands demurely at their sides. This is loud and calls to me; I want to make these interesting women my friends and introduce them to the strong and lovely women of my everyday life.

I want to soak in their intelligence, not just Kinzel, Howard, and Cho, but all my female friends with their stories, lives, and strengths. I want to thank them for being smart, interesting, and openly breathtaking.

Two Years

It has now been two years since Mom died. Not passed away or no longer with us. She is dead. And it hurts to the point that I feel like my body cannot contain this grief. It spills out of my mouth when I am angry. I want to look at people and say, “Fuck you my mom is dead.” It spills out of my eyes in a current of tears while I’m driving. The grief is balled up in my clenched fists. It escapes through the nervous tapping of my feet. She is gone and at times that feels unbearable. Even with the grief though, I feel lucky. I am lucky to have had her for 36 years. I am lucky that I got to shave her legs.

Before she left for Arkamecca I shaved her legs. We sat in a cold and dark hospital and I washed her hair with dry hair shampoo. I wrapped her shoulders with towels so that her gown wouldn’t get wet. I filled up a puke bucket with warm water and soaped down her back. Her stomach was swollen with fluid but her back was so thin. I remember being shocked that I could see her bones so clearly and I remember telling myself to not react. We soaped her underarms and chest and dried them with soft pats. I refilled the bucket and soaped up her legs. I scrapped the razor up her legs removing the little black hairs. She told me over and over that I shouldn’t be doing this for her. I said that she would do the same for me. She said that this was different and I said, “No, Momma it isn’t.”

I left the hospital that night not knowing that it would be the last time I would see her alive. Kara was able to see her the next day before she flew to Arkansas. That afternoon I called Mom and she asked when I thought Dad would get to the hospital. I told her that it would be a few hours. She said, “He needs to hurry. I have to pee.” This was the very essence of Mom; she didn’t want to bother anyone at the hospital. She never wanted to be a bother. I told her that I loved her and she asked me to check on Kara because “she seemed upset.” This happened on a Monday; on Friday she was gone. She was gone but at least her legs were somewhat smooth. Even as sick as she was, she remained just a little vain and I not so secretly think that her last words were, “root lifter.” She loved her hair product and her Oil of Olay. I know she was pleased when the funeral director said she had great bone structure. Her vanity wasn’t off-putting, it wasn’t the “I’m better then you” variety. This vanity was pride in neatness and her home. Her vanity was really a pride that comes from growing up poor, and wanting to take care of your things when you are older.

I am sure you didn’t know this, but Mom was convinced she created racquetball. She grew up on a farm she was born to leave. Many hours of her childhood were spent bouncing a ball off the side of the house, catching and batting at it. She joined every school organization she could just for extra time in town. She rotated her dolls out so that no one doll was ever jealous of the others. She was quirky and interesting. As she got sicker, she and I talked one Sunday afternoon. She cried and told me she wanted to go home to see her parents. Her parents had been dead for years. She said that she no longer cared about her things and that she would miss us, but that she wanted her Mom. I was blunt with her and told her the truth. “Momma, you are dying. We are going to send you to Arkansas and they are going to do things that make you sicker, but then they will fix you and you won’t be dying anymore.” While we had the conversation I tried not to react, thinking, “Do not cry. Do not cry.” The hot grief built up in my throat and tasted of bile. Arkansas didn’t have time to fix her, her heart and body were too broken for them to fix. She died with Dad next to her.

This time of year everything is secondary to the grief. I couldn’t give a damn about the news, the house, work, or school. This time of year my panic attacks get a little worse and I want to hurt myself a little because physical pain is so much better than emotional. I will think about tattoos and how the hot scrape will make me feel better. How I will wear my tattoos as a shield. They will protect me from the outside hurt. I will wait for May to end. Kara, Dad, and I will laugh about Mom and then we will cry. May will end and the cycle will start over again.

Marriage Equality and Toothpaste Removal

There is a great deal of conversation happening today about marriage and what it means. Whether, this is a religious issue or a civil rights issue. My Facebook wall is full of red equal signs and in between are postings saying, “I believe in God’s definition of marriage.” I am naïve and I do not understand why this has to be such a divisive issue. It seems pretty clear cut (to me) that you can’t offer a portion of the population a right and not allow the same right to another population.

One of the arguments I have heard, besides the classic Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, is same sex marriage will make traditional marriage less valuable.  If I wake up tomorrow and same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I will still be married to Carvell. I will still love him and hate the fact that he is fundamentally incapable of rinsing the sink out after he brushes his teeth. My parents would still have been married for almost 40 years. That doesn’t change. What would change is that in a moment of crisis, perhaps after a car accident, a same sex married couple would be able to make decisions about their loved ones care. If there was a tragedy and the husband or wife died, the spouse would receive bereavement leave and have access to any pension. These are just a couple of the benefits of being married.

On average married couples live longer, have fewer risky behaviors, are in better health, and have higher incomes. Being happy and married is just generally good for our population as a whole. As a married couple, Carvell and I are seen as one unit, our incomes are considered to be one, and we receive discounts on our home, health, and auto insurance because of this. Our home and anything inside is jointly owned under the protection of marriage. If something unfortunate happens to Carvell, such as a giant glob of toothpaste coming to life in the bathroom sink seeking vengeance on him, the property in the house is immediately mine. This is a protection that is offered to me because we are married.

Another argument that I have heard is, “What’s next? What if someone wants to marry their dog?” No one will marry their dog, because dogs are assholes that dump garbage cans and pee on my dirty clothes. Wait, only my dogs may be assholes, but still it is safe to say that bestiality will continue to be frowned upon.

Yesterday I heard an argument against marriage equality that I had never heard before. It was argued that marriage was created for the purpose of procreation. This one threw me for a loop, because I have married friends who have made the decision to not have children, and their marriage is still recognized as valid. Under this argument marriages where no children are produced for personal or medical reasons should be annulled. We will just pretend that these marriages never happened because without children a marriage cannot exist under this argument. This seems like questionable logic at best.

Children are being brought up in the debates. Everything from what happens to the children to how do I explain this to my child. My children are very open minded and I have worked hard to be honest with them when explaining things. Here is the conversation I had with Saidee who is five.

“Momma, why are those guys kissing?”

“Because they are in love, Saidee.”

“Like you and daddy.”

“Yep.”

That was the entire conversation. When explaining that friends of ours are getting married there was no need for me to explain in detail what would be taking place on the wedding night. Marriage is about so much more than sex. It is about joining your life together with another life. It is a promise to love and protect each other. It is a partnership. I think that these are the things that need to be discussed with our children not so much the dynamics of a couple’s sexual relationship. A friend once asked me if I would let my children spend the night with a same sex couple if their child had asked mine to a sleep over. I answered yes. First, let me put your mind at ease. If your child ever spends the night at my house I can absolutely without a shadow of a doubt guarantee that Carvell and I will not have sex in front of them. We will cook popcorn, put in a movie, let the kids play games, take them out to eat, and yell, “Go to sleep.” I may nag Carvell about rinsing the sink out after brushing his teeth. But, what we will not do is be sexual in any way, because we are adults and have common sense. I feel confident that same sex couples act in much the same way.

If this issue is truly a religious issue and not a civil rights issue then as Christians we should no longer accept the legal benefits of marriage. If our spouse dies without a will then we should accept that the state or their families will dictate where the assets are distributed. We should agree to no longer be carried under a spouse’s health and car insurance. No longer should we be able to receive wrongful death benefits or bereavement pay. With the arguments being made, we as Christians should just be content that our union is recognized by God and not worry about the benefits given to us on this worldly plane. I do not believe that marriage equality is an attack on Christianity. I am confident that God still hangs out in Massachusetts where same sex marriage has been legal for a few years now. What attacks Christianity is forgetting that it says in Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Stranger than Fiction

I know what I was wearing when I had my first orgasm: A V-neck purple shirt, a black skirt, and black and white panties pushed to one side. I thought that the outfit had something to do with the orgasm. I wore it again the next time I had sex to try to re-create the magic. It didn’t work. Unlike the characters in my Grandmother’s romance novels I did not start my sexual life being agile and able to have multiple orgasms my very first go around. There was no tearing at my bodice and sweeping me off my feet. I never said no when I meant yes like the women in books. There was nothing even close to rape. Sex was something that I wanted. My virginity felt like a dress that was too tight and ill fitting. I wanted to shed my virginity and I did in a clumsy coupling of groins and lust. I didn’t orgasm the first time I had sex or the seventh. It wasn’t until the fated day that I wore the purple shirt and black skirt that I had that orgasm. I was sixteen and my life has at times been dictated by the sexual decisions I made.

This summer my reading was dedicated to erotic fiction. I enjoyed the world of wealth and privilege, and even had a few not erotic at all dreams regarding a helicopter named Charlie Tango. But I noticed while I was reading the books that my mind often wandered. The main characters have sex multiple times in one night and I think, “God, the chaffing would be terrible.” They have sex in a bathtub and I would say to myself, “No one has ever had good sex in water; it’s too damn drying.” Somewhere near sex scene number 63, I say, “She has to have a rocking urinary tract infection.” It was at this point I couldn’t help but think I had wasted a good deal of my sexual whimsy on a misspent youth.

Like many people I had a false sense of my own sexuality in my late teens and early twenties. And I have little doubt that that false sense was related to a belief that I could do anything without being hurt. Everything was an adventure, whether it was sex in less than desirable places or moving out on my own with nothing more than a minimum wage job and a raging ego. Now, if I was asked to have sex underneath a train trellis I would throw my head back and cackle, but from age 16 to 25 it seemed like a great idea. The fog of hormones and need led me to places that I now would never consider. That fog made me brave and more than a little stupid. The same fog led me to curled toes and fevered kisses.

In my twenties I, without fear, met people on the internet. “Are you going to kill me with an ax?” was the extent of my vetting process. On a night I drank a great many margaritas, I had reckless (although somewhat safe) sex with a virtual stranger. He turned out to be a nice guy and we ended up in a kind-of-pseudo relationship for a few years. Now that well over ten years have passed I recognize it for what it was: a long standing booty call. What I reminisce about is not the sex but the bravery and sureness of my sexuality. My body issues existed but not in the way that they do now. I don’t remember concentrating on the heaviness of my breasts and the rolls on my back as much as I do now. I was naked in both a literal and figurative way in my twenties. I was a part of my very own short-lived sexual revolution. These relationships gave me a chance to be sexual and at the same time live independently due to the long-distance aspect of the relationships. It was “playing house” and practicing for my next real relationship.

My next sexual relationship took place under the watchful eyes of Meg Ryan. I was now in my late 20s and embarking on my first real relationship since being divorced. Above his bed was a large cut-out of Meg Ryan; she was witness to many rounds of Music ADD which was a game that Carvell and I would easily play til two in the morning. Meg Ryan, the patron saint of new relationships. It was in the bed, under Meg, that I fell in love and what Meg didn’t witness, Frank Sinatra did.

Now in my late thirties, my priorities have changed. Instead of becoming surer of myself, I have regressed. I am full of doubt and worry, and most days I question my place in the world. It’s not that I miss the sex of my youth. I miss a world where I wasn’t afraid all the time. I miss the brave me. I miss the escape that sex offered if only for 10 minutes in the front seat of a car. Life and responsibility are too real now and I sometimes want to escape this reality. Books like 50 Shades offer women like me an escape. They offer a world where you know that in the end the characters come out on top (no pun intended). The books offer a world where there is always a happy ending (pun intended). The decisions of my youth are just that, decisions of my youth, and I made the decisions with a sureness that the adult me now admires.