There are a few things that my ears like:
1) The fffftzz sound of a beer cap being pried off;
2) When I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, come back to the bed, and flip over my pillow, making the whole thing cool and soft again;
3) Green gemstone earrings, especially when they’re nestled next to a white, flower-like thing, thus creating a dreamy and romantic atmosphere that makes me believe once I put them on Kenny Rogers could stop by at any moment to serenade me with “Lady”;
The other day, my ears had a mighty fine time eavesdropping on a couple of women in the sauna at the gym.
It was a very cold day, and the sauna was a very warm room–the only place where the marrow of my bones felt heat seeping in, melting the ice.
I love the sauna.
More importantly, I love the sauna when loose-lipped ladies with exposed breasts start sprinkling water onto the rocks and words into the befogged air.
Once the ladies start sprinkling their words, it’s important that I lean back, which allows the heat from the wall to work into my back; inhale deeply, which allows the cedar scent from the wooden benches to permeate my skull; and close my eyes, which allows my ears to eavesdrop on the words without my eyes getting distracted by waggling areolae.
What my ears heard this particular day was an exchange between two mostly naked women, the dominant one of whom proved herself comfortable with a variety of public exposures:
Dominant Breasts, asserting themselves: “So I’ve been seeing this new practitioner. She does spiritual massages.”
Listener Breasts (get a load of the ears on those melons!): “Hey, that’s cool. How is that differ–”
Dominant Breasts: “It’s just been amazing, like, I knew I needed this kind of bodywork before I could move on in my life.”
Listener Breasts: “How does it–”
Dominant Breasts: “I went the other night for my first session, and there I was, flat on the table, and she was pushing into all these places in me I’d never felt before, and all of a sudden, tears! It was such a release, such exactly what I needed. I’m going to get on a regular schedule with her so that I can continue the therapy.”
At this point, I cracked open an eyelid and took a gander at the speaker, noting her thick blonde hair piled high into a carefully tousled bun. Yup, that looked ’bout right. As my lid slid back down, my eye managed a quick side glance at the fourth woman in the joint, a Full-Nudie Lady up on the top bench; every last one of her girl bits seemed to be enjoying the eavesdropping as much as I, and I’m here to tell you life isn’t complete until you’ve seen a labia grin.
Responding to the revelation of tears during massage,
Studiedly-Neutral Listener Breasts: “That sounds intense. It’s great you’ve found something that’s really working for you.” Faking a “Woo, but it’s hot in here” fan wave in front of her face, Listener Breasts grabbed the edges of their towel with surprising dexterity and began to rise.
Dominant Breasts, doing what such breasts do (taking over the room like they built the place) : “Actually, I also had a really intense experience last summer.”
Resigned Listener Breasts, slumping back onto the bench: “Oh, really?”
Dominant Breasts, getting, if possible, even more perky (nipples threatening to tunnel into nostrils): “Yea, it was unbelievable. Eight women and I went on an eight-day canoe trip. They all are in my same Master’s program–in counseling–and so we all knew each other but hadn’t really had a retreat together, until this trip.”
Listener Breasts, looking dehydrated, almost flapjackian: “That’s a special–”
Dominant Breasts, paddling the canoe of memory: “It was such an amazing journey for all of us. It was more than mere bonding. It was transformational. We all got to the camp site that first day and built a fire and gathered around it, making a unity circle. Within minutes, we all were sobbing. We sat there for hours, all of us, just crying and crying.”
My eyelid threatened to rise again, so as to ease the execution of an impending eye roll. Putting a finger upon it, I feigned an eye goop crisis and clamped the thing shut.
Listener Breasts, hanging limply but gamely carrying on: “You guys must all have–”
Dominant Breasts, buoyed by the increasing emotion of the narrative: “And then, for the next eight days, that’s all we did. All day, every day, we just cried. It was so beautiful.”
At this point, Eavesdropping Breasts (aka “me”) knew it was time to gather her towel and bolt for the door, lest a snort of derision befoul the detoxifying airs.
At moments like these, I realize–with gratitude–that I’m just not woman enough to understand that level of need. Some years back, I read a local woman’s memoir about her transformative, emotional journey in a canoe as she paddled for 65 days and experienced spiritual healing. At a key moment in the story, she communed deeply with her womanhood and then symbolically smeared her menstrual blood on a rock.
My impatient reaction of “Oh, fer chrissakes. You have got to be kidding me” echoed all the way to a nearby lighthouse.
The thing is, while I like tears and find them helpful in processing stress and pain and joy, my tears come on fast and blow through just as quickly. I feel, process, and move on.
But crying for eight days with eight women?
That’s sixty-four kinds of hell, which is a pretty significant chunk of my Book of Ten Thousand Hells.
By the second day of that trip, after the third portage during which my canoe-toting compatriots’ muffled sobs drifted out from their overturned boats, I’d be plum out of tolerance.
Hollering “Snap out of it, you self-absorbed whiners,” however, would only result in an emergency stop for intervention and reparative therapy.
Instead, I’d wait until the canoes were back in the water, and then, as the strokes hit their rhythm, I’d purposely swamp my canoe and use the ensuing chaos as my opportunity to dive deep and, under cover of water, swim far, far away from all the estrogen- and leisure-fueled Feeling and Caring.
Surrounded by the natural, freed from the artificial, I’d make it my mission to seek out better beavers–
the kind who don’t have time to sit around crying,
the kind that have actual work to do.
(This post originally ran on O Mighty Crisis.)
About the author:
Jocelyn has been teaching writing at the college level since 1991. She has a husband who cooks dinner every night, kids who hold up hands requesting “silence” when their reading is interrupted, and a blog, O Mighty Crisis. You can follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jocelyn41 or Facebook (personal page): https://www.facebook.com/jocelyn.pihlaja or over at Google+: https://plus.google.com/+JocelynPihlaja.