Monday, June 20, 2011
The Comfort of Discomfort - My trip to LA
In another attempt to explain my obsession with Triathlon... I want to share a horrifying business trip I had to go on a few years ago.
I had worked from home for about 2 years. After booking my ticket for this business trip, I realized the one down side to work-from-home… you become VERY out of touch. And to make things worse, I lived in Suburban NY, and my trip was to Los Angeles, which to me was like Mars… a mars with very beautiful, skinny, stylish, rich Martians.
My theory about LA was that it didn’t matter how rich, thin, and beautiful you were. As soon as you hit LAX, you would breathe in some toxin that made you NEED to be richer, thinner and more beautiful. I loathed LA. Still do.
About a week before the trip, I realized that I had no idea what to pack. (Insert panic here). Not only did I no longer have clothes appropriate for an office, but even if I did, my old clothes would be completely out of style. In my desperation, I started searching the Internet for papparazi photos of celebrities. What were they wearing? I actually checked out “celebrity airport styles” on People.com.
Ok…fedora, check. White cotton scarf…the kind you can loosely tie around your neck… as if you just threw it on while running out the door. (Of course in reality, you spent an hour trying to tie it just right.) Check. Ray ban aviators, or wayfarers, Check. Skinny jeans and tall rubber boots… um, ok, I drew the line with that one.
I avoided packing until the last possible minute.
Maybe, just maybe, this was my attempt at avoidance and denial. Nothing made my “old-ness” and “momm-ness” more obvious than the contents of my suitcase. The space formerly taken by bikinis was now stuffed with spanx. Instead of lacy bras and underwear, I shoved in all my “mommy” bras. I am talking industrial bras … with more hooks than a fishing trip. No wonder my grandmother’s suitcase was always so heavy… she was carrying a 20 lb. grandma girdle.
OK, undergarments were packed. Next was the really hard part. ACTUAL CLOTHES. Here was my interior monologue… “I am in my mid-30s. I am in my mid-30s. I am married with 2 kids. I do laundry every day… sometimes multiple times. Between my dogs and my potty-training son, it is not unusual for me to come into contact with poop at least once a day.”
I finally finished packing and headed into the unknown. JFK Airport. I was terrified.
I got to the gate only to see that half the plane was filled with a youth group. How annoying. All of them were talking about High School Musical, Hunger in Africa, a fight between “Team Edward” and "Team Jacob" over a girl named Bella. (What ever happened to "Team Duckie versus "Team Blane" over Molly Ringwald?) Some of the youths were wearing cute braids. I saw a fedora… a loosely wrapped scarf… Ray Bans… I started sweating.
I finally got on the plane. “Our movie today is going to be “17 Again”. Of course it was. Great.
I arrived in LA and survived the walk through LAX. No one commented about my lack of style… my “momness”. Although I was a bit embarrassed when I got to baggage claim and asked someone where the rental car desks were. Said guy responds, “Well, 15 years ago they were here. Now you have to take a S-H-U-T-T-L-E.
Fuck you very much.
I found Budget Rent a Car. They took my info and asked if I would like an upgrade. I gratefully declined. The woman at the desk gave a chuckle and then sent me on my way. Parking spot 28. I approached my car with a bit of apprehension. It was a Silver Kia surfer/pimp car with tinted windows and very shiney hubcaps. I double checked the spot #... was this really what I was driving? Was that even legal? Shouldn’t there be an age limit on these cars… no one over 21? No one in Maternity pants allowed?
I finally got to the hotel and collapsed.
In the morning, I changed my pants at least 7 times. Jeans… black pants… no, jeans… no, black pants, jeans… you get the drift. I decided on the jeans and a sleeveless “post-marriage” top to dress it up. I got downstairs and sat waiting to meet my co-workers. Sitting next to me was Jason. He's a contractor too… and 20… and a surfer… with big tattoos… What fun. We chat. My boss sees me from across the room…comes over and says, “Hey, Dori…chatting up all the young guys already!”
Sigh. And I hadn’t even had coffee yet.
I finally saw the 2 people I was supposed to meet. They were both very cool. One was wearing a loose scarf, and the other was wearing a fedora. (I was always very good at research).
After the conference I relaxed a bit in my room... AKA stared at my wardrobe again in terror. After an hour or so, I took a shower and began to get ready for a night out. I opted for a pre-marriage top this time… it was a leather tube top, and jeans. Not too slutty, but appropriate for a bar on Sunset. I felt pretty good about it.
I was going to see my step-brother, who lives in LA, play in his band at a bar called Les Deux. I had read about this bar/club during my “research”. Apparently it was what People Magazine called a “celebrity hot spot”. Rihanna had been there recently… and it was a long time hangout of Ms. Lindsay Lohan. This of course made me a bit nervous. So nervous in fact, that I felt the need to wear leather. I am not sure what it is about celebrities that make people need to don animal skin…but whatever.
I drove my pimp car to the bar. As I got to the door, I saw that there was a line. So I waited. The bouncer saw me and immediately motioned me through. Hey… I must be super hot. Eat your heart out Ms. Lohan. Get to the back of the line Rihanna… I must have looked like a celeb. Maybe it was my leather top. I knew I still had it. NICE.
As I got to the door I looked back at the line. I noticed that most of the people looked really young. I mean, not just young… like high school young. Then someone says… she’s older than 21 let her through. GOOD GOD. AM I HERE ON TEEN NIGHT? OH NO. IT CAN’T BE.
I got back to the hotel and barfed. Perhaps it was the quesadilla I inhaled for dinner, or maybe it was just time for me to face up to what is really going on. I need to barf… aka purge all the confusion about being comfortable, and stereotypical, and in the middle of my life (which is actually untrue… because I am only 36. If I am really having a mid-life crisis here, that would mean I am counting on being dead at 72… which I hope is not the case. So from now on, let’s just call this my 1/3 life crisis and hope for the best.)
I was sick all night. I mean, full on, sweaty, shaky, barfy, etc sick. It had to be the quesadilla.
I woke up feeling renewed, and slightly sore around the middle from the continuous barfing. I mean, c’mon… my LA prayers were answered and due to a slightly underdone chicken quesadilla, I am officially thinner than I was last night.
I actually felt good.
I realized it was time for a change. Living in my comfortable little bubble made me forget how to feel excitement and tension. The feeling you get when experiencing new things… new places, new people, new loves, new losses. Those feelings you get before an adventure; like the first day of freshman year in high school, or being in a play, or travelling abroad to a totally strange place, or finding your first love. All those things give you THAT feeling. Sometimes it’s not a good feeling…but no matter what, it is very gratifying. Insatiable really.
I live in a Catch-22 and I am lucky and grateful for it. Awesome husband. Superb House. Wonderful Children. Great job. I’m healthy as a horse. No discomfort is forced on me. But everybody needs a little discomfort.
That is what I get from triathlon. I never know how far I can go. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. But the excitement of not being sure what I can achieve is always there.
After my trip, I vowed to make more time for tension. Good tension. I decided that EVERYBODY, especially the lucky ones like me, need to get out of the bubble every now and then. We become so comfortable where we are, we forget the need to gain perspective by experiencing a daily dose of insecurity.