Who’s most qualified to speak on my behalf?
“When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it.”Madonna
You’ve landed on the right essay.
See, I have no idea how to accurately explain the recent conundrum I found myself in because it’s complicated. And every time I attempt to write about this sordid tale, I end up with mud on my face.
Not the look I’m going for.
Okay, let’s just hang out all the dirty laundry on one line; It has been suggested that I’m dumb (as in unwilling to speak). A mute, one who enjoys unnecessary suffering, and has been referred to as craven on occasion.
Let me explain, and as usual, I’ll try to be as brief…as possible.
As you may or may not know, Larry is painting the house at my bequest, and I’m trying to be supportive, so I don’t end up with a house that looks like a patchwork quilt. It used to be a faded grey-green with off-white trim, and now it is halfway to being a dark navy with white trim.
The opposing color schemes are rather shocking, but it makes sense, as our lifestyle compared to last year is shockingly different. As in two healthy incomes reduced to two unwaged individuals with absolutely no onus. Don’t most people replicate their experiences with paint? Consider what Michelangelo did with the Sistine Chapel.
Larry’s not exactly Michelangelo, but he’s Italian, so there’s that.
It’s a big job. We were almost two decades younger than the last time we (by we, I mean Larry) painted the house. Yes, that would put us in our early forties for those with sluggish math skills.
After a long day of painting, Larry comes into the house and pours himself into the recliner. He’s exhausted. I’m still fatigued from the muscle exhaustion left over from Spain, but that’s not really the issue, and you can ignore that piece of evidence.
He says, “I think we should get massages tonight.”
I remind him, “the last time I went for a massage with you, I couldn’t walk upright for a week, and I still have nightmares.”
He looks confused.
So I remind him, “Thai massage ring a bell, woman walking up and down my back, overextension of limbs,” but he looks rather crushed, so I add, “but you should go without me.”
“Last time I did that, you accused me of abandonment.”
You’ve heard of the words master manipulator? It’s my husband’s superpower. He would say it’s mine, but that would be an injustice to the sacredness of words.
“Well, you ditched me in a foreign country without a credit card or cash.”
He ignores my quip and says, “I’ll call around, and I’ll be very specific. You want a Swedish massage. No Thai. I got this. Nothing to worry about,” and he heads to the office to look up torture chambers. I mean massage parlors.
Famous last words.
Minutes later, he comes skipping into our room and says, “We have appointments at 6:00 pm, and I was very adamant about what we wanted.”
“Then we should have nothing to worry about.”
I get the look.
Against my better judgment, I prepare for our little outing slipping into an all-black sweatsuit and stashing some Bengay ointment in my bag.
Just in case…
So we arrive at the massage parlor twenty minutes early. Someone’s excited.
I’m embroiled in a silent but heated debate with my self-limiting beliefs. They’re like opposing political parties, no one is listening, and there’s a lot of false news being tossed around.
This little parlor is located on the second floor of a strip mall, directly above an insurance office. I’m trying to decide if that’s a bad omen or not?
We don’t want to appear overly anxious, so we wait in the car until our scheduled appointment. After filling out forms denouncing any responsibility on their part for bodily damage, they assign both Larry and me a room of our own.
You know the drill. Remove your clothes and climb under the covers, face down. I comply as if a first-year Marine. I can hear the faint sounds of Larry’s voice coming from down the hall when my masseuse enters the room.
She confirms that I want the Swedish massage, which calms my jagged nerves, but it’s the same sort of trepidation I feel right before a colonoscopy. Keeping it real.
Starting at my feet, she works her way up my legs, butt, back, and shoulders with a strong repetitive motion to loosen up my muscles. It’s deceptively nice, but ten minutes later, her true colors start showing, and both the pressure and intensity of the massage start to escalate. I give a little wince here and there to let her know I’m uncomfortable.
Ms. Iron Fingers says, “sorry,” but continues with the same shenanigans.
After locating about half a dozen knots in my shoulders, arms, legs, and feet, she says, “oh, so many knots,” and proceeds to undo them one at a time with these little torturous movements and all I can do is clench my damn teeth.
It’s true. I should have spoken up. I should have said, “that’s too much pressure. Ouch, that hurts!” But I do the typical Cheryl thing, suffer in silence, wincing only when I can’t stop myself because I don’t want to appear rude.
I’m completely aware this is one hundred percent my fault. As Zora Neale Hurston says, if you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. That’s what I call a killjoy. Bahaha
Things really went south when she decides to do a combo massage so she can stretch out my dense muscles. There I was, as in Deja Vu, with my thigh parallel to my ear and Ms. Iron Fingers leaning on me to extend the stretch.
The rousting finally ends, and I meet Mr. Relaxed in the lobby just as he stuffing twenty dollar bills in their tip envelopes, and I resist making an inappropriate comment.
I start lamenting the minute we get in the car, and he totally blasts me, “why didn’t you speak up. I told her exactly what I wanted and when it was the least bit uncomfortable, I told her to ease up.”
I whine, “I’m not good at telling people what I want.” He looks at me aghast.
“What the hell do you mean? You tell me exactly what you want all the time.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, I want gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and a glass of wine.”
“I know the place.”
Okay, as I’m rubbing Bengay on my appendages, Larry heads downtown, and we had the most unexpected dining experience ever. I almost forgot about the heinous massage. Almost.
First, we find a parking space right in front of our favorite restaurant. We enter a little sheepishly because we’re really not dressed appropriately, and now I smell like peppermint, but we head straight to the back of the dim establishment and slip into a couple of empty bar seats for a more casual dining experience.
The bartender’s name is Brain. He’s very accommodating and fusses over us as if we were family. He starts off by recommending a superb Italian wine and dives right into the daily specials. Apparently, they’re offering scrumptious Ossoboco tonight.
According to Brian, “it’s out of the world.”
Larry hems and haws for like two seconds and says, “okay, we’ll share a plate.”
I add, “but we also love the gnocchi.”
Brain says, “you should get the gnocchi as a side dish.”
Larry says, “make it so.” Did he really say that?
Brain delivers our gnocchi first, accompanied by a basket of warm bread, and I’ll admit, I moaned over every single bite. Don’t judge me. It’s that good. Now, unbeknownst to Larry and me, the head chef was sitting at the bar watching us exclaim over the gnocchi, and he was ever so pleased. In fact, he felt compelled to tell us about how he came up with the recipe and all the trials it took him to find just the right texture and complimentary sauce. We kept nodding while stuffing gnocchi in our mouths. I mean, what else can you do?
Abruptly the chef gets up, heads to the kitchen, and a few minutes later, he presents us with another plate of pasta. It’s his new creation. Yes, that required another basket of bread and more wine.
I’m in carb heaven, salivating between bites, and I have no words to describe the flavors assaulting my mouth.
By the time the lamb came, the pasta is nicely expanding in our stomachs, and I’m not sure how we were going to take another bite, but we managed to clean the plate, scooping up the remains with more bread. We didn’t want to appear rude.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how to speak up.
An hour later, we waddled out of the restaurant thanking the chef, bartender, and staff profusely.
I laid in bed that night trying to figure out how to recreate gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.
Woke up with bruises on my shoulders and a mild case of indigestion, but I managed to walk five miles with Sue.
Larry dragged himself out of bed and into his paint clothes, feeling fabulously restored.
So today, I’m turning over a new leaf.
From today on, I’m going to speak up even when it’s inconvenient or I’m risking disapproval or, worse, rejection. Brene Brown says the issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is women still run into those demands when they find and use their voice.
Even Madeleine Albright says, “it took me quite a long time to develop my own voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” I think most predicaments can be remedied with a few simple words. I’m a wordsmith. I should be able to do this. When I gather the courage to speak up, to use my own voice for the preservation of myself, I believe my next massage, conflict, or confrontation will be an absolute delight.
I’ll keep you posted.
I’m Living in the Gap, using my voice as if someone dropped a nickel in me. If you have some advice, I’m all ears! Thanks so much for reading. Meet you in the comments.