I am a delicate flower. I know; I never saw that one coming either! I have always had a relatively high pain threshold, and I was a tomboy from the time I emerged from the womb. My best friend was my great uncle, who took me fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. We fixed fence and worked cattle, and frequently took apart carburetors. He taught me to weld and to drive trucks and combines. When I was a little girl, I decided activities for boys were a great deal more fun than the dainty girl games such as putting on makeup and playing with dolls. I wanted to play baseball, shoot BB guns, play with toy trucks, and catch tadpoles (even if they sometimes scared me just a little when they got big). When I was in first grade, I wasn’t very good on the monkey bars, but many of the other children were very athletic and much more proficient at all things monkey. One day I was so determined to be good at it, that I kept going across time and time again until my hands had blisters upon blisters, which of course, all popped, and by the time I got home from school that afternoon, my hands were like hamburger. I had not said a thing to the teacher or anyone after recess. When I got home and my mom saw them, she took me to the doctor to get medicine and get them wrapped.
Around the same time in life, I remember reading the story of “The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Anderson. If you are not familiar, in this story a prince wishes to marry, but it is said that he may only marry a true princess. Many times he finds potential mates, only to discover that they are not actual princesses. One night a girl shows up looking for shelter from a storm. This young woman claims to be a princess, lost in the torrential rain with the storm. Naturally, the princess’s royal birth is in question, and in order to prove that she is the real deal, a tiny pea is placed underneath twenty mattresses and twenty down beds on top of the mattresses without her knowledge. If she is indeed her royal highness, her delicate sensitivities in her genteel DNA will make it too uncomfortable to sleep on a bed, which by blue blood standards practically has a boulder underneath it. If she is common, she will never even know that there was anything under the mattresses. In the story, she not only cannot relax, but also declares that whatever was under the bedding has made her bruised as well, proving that she is aristocracy, and the prince is then free to marry her.
I know that I said I was a tomboy, but deep down, it is always hard to be common. As life went on, more and more it was proven that I was not a princess. During my second year of teaching, a fellow teacher and I booked a cruise over spring break. As we were flying to Florida, I asked her for a pen so that I could work the crossword in the magazine. Back then that was all the in-flight entertainment there was, well, besides dodging pterodactyls and other dinosaurs in route to our destination. She took out her very fine Cross pen from her purse and lent it to me. Later, I had to break one of my own flight rules by using the lavatory. I try to dehydrate myself before any flight so I will not have to get up at any point, but the nonstop to Florida from Oklahoma was a bit long, even in my days before giving birth to two very large children. Finally, we landed, and before disembarking, she asked about her pen. I looked everywhere, but I could not find the pen. I apologized profusely, and she was very gracious, but it had been a gift (an out-of-my-price-range gift at that). I was thinking that I would not be able to do anything fun on the rest of the trip because I was going to have to replace that pen. After standing in line at the airport, then again at the cruise ship terminal, and again at ship’s check-in, we finally made it to our tiny stateroom around five hours after the plane ride. By this time, I needed a bathroom break again. Ah, buttery bliss befalls when one can finally get to her own water closet. As I readied myself for the porcelain throne, I realized this was the only kind of throne acceptable for me when the missing pen fell to the floor from inside my underpinnings! For the love of Bob and all of his friends, I swear I never knew that thing was there. There had been at least seven hours without an ounce of awareness or discomfort from any part of my being; thus, the oblivion was a feat to behold. I can imagine most of what a person reading this must be thinking, and although I will not foray into the depths of comments that could be made, I will tell you this: yes, I can feel very well below the waist (thank you very much), no, the pen was not in anything other than my clothing, I think, and yes, I did sanitize the pen before returning it. I even thought of keeping that pen and getting her a new one, but the cost made me an instant conservationist: reduce, reuse, recycle, I say.
A couple of years later, Kevin and I were playing a mean game of tennis. He did not take it easy on me; I would not have played tennis with him if he did. We both tried to ace one another with serves as much as possible. Sometimes those serves whipped by so fast I could not get a racket on them, not because I wasn’t that good, of course, but because that is how hard he could hit it (that is my story, and I am sticking to it). I probably returned about as many as I missed, but it was not unheard of for me to “whiff” a great serve. He hit a fantastic one at me. I didn’t call it out, but I don’t think I really swung for it either. There were a few times when one of those got by me, and the ball would actually stick in the chain link fence surrounding the courts. After this serve, I turned my head to see if the ball had bounced off the fence and come back toward the court, and it had not. I could not see it anywhere. I turned my head to see if it was stuck in the fence. It was not. I turned my body to get a good look at the area behind me, and as I did, the ball dropped out from between my legs. I was the wall that had captured the ball! I hadn’t felt a blasted thing! Nope, didn’t have a clue that the ball was hiding there. Kevin and I were not yet married, and I am pretty sure that situation was an all or nothing moment in our relationship. A lesser man might have shied away from someone of my unique “abilities” (I am practically an X Man, just sayin’), but in my own mind, I think that the uber competitive nature of my husband took it as a life challenge.
Flash forward about a thousand years to when my 20/20 eyesight is no more and my farm girl skills are all long gone, and you will find an old lady who every now and then has some issues with the neck and back as a result of whiplash from being rear-ended twice at stop signs here in town. It usually flares up a bit when I have been working on the computer for too many days in a row or when I have slept wrong. I don’t like to go to the doctor or chiropractor, and so I usually just live with it about a week until it gradually gets better on its own. This last time has been a humdinger, though, and I began my own treatment regimine by deciding to get a massage, but not a nice soothing spa massage. I went for the cheapo mall massage. This is when I was forced to re-evaluate my ability to cope with pain, and I wasn’t even at the doctor’s office.
Watching adventure and crime movies, I have often thought about how I would take it if I were captured by the enemy and tortured. I could see myself in that situation. Starvation and noise inundation: “I’ll never talk, you pig, no matter what you do to me!” Beatings: “I will never tell my country’s secrets, you heaping pile of bat guano!” Electric shocks: “I will not give you the names of my friends, you empty-headed food trough water! (Thanks for sharing that insult Monty Python). I was the family champion of ‘see how long you can hold onto the electric fence’!” Waterboarding: “I love to swim, and I take the codes to the bombs to my grave, you ignorant ninny muffins!” Ah, yes, I am sure that I could survive it all in Kimmy Schmidt fashion, or at least I thought that until the fateful day of the mall massage.
I swear I am not sexist, but what was even worse was that it was a woman that made me into a sissy. I thought a woman, even one who does not share my language, would be the more gentle sex, especially when I explained, most likely in terms she did not understand, that my back and neck were very sore at the moment. On the outside I still looked like myself sitting on a massage chair, but on the inside I was the scrawny, geeky, nerd thrown unwittingly aboard the back of the biggest, baddest bull in the PBR. I was holding on with all my might, and my biggest dilemma was how to keep from falling off the chair in public and/or screaming aloud in a crowded venue. I tried moving my knotted muscles away from the hands of steel, but short of jumping up and running away, there was no way to keep from being “touched” by the hands of Karma, which were surely getting me back for all of the bad things I have done in life. I have only gone through the express checkout with too many items a few times in my life, but shitake mushrooms, I paid for it that day! Golly, Gertrude! That hurt like a fifteen minute brain freeze in my back! Holy spasms, Batman! There was some serious undignified teeth grinding going on in that chair! Speaking of teeth, just to give a frame of reference here: when I was younger, I also had a problem when they numbed my mouth at the dentist. Often the medicine would make me physically sick, and I would feel horrible for several hours after having dental work done. So, I managed to get the dentist to fill two cavities once without numbing my mouth. I had to agree to not move no matter how much it hurt. I made it through that without any tears, but I felt my eyes try to water once or twice during what was supposed to be a relaxing and pain-relieving massage.
I finally got through that experience, and as I left the mall feeling as though I had lain down in the path of a Mack truck, I had to smile to myself. See, I may not be a princess after all, but I am not a wimp; I am a delicate flower. Who knew?