Today, fellow writer and blogger Robbie Cox graciously allows me to post my latest musing on his blog, The Mess That Is Me. Please jump over to The Mess to learn more about my own private apocalypse or why Bovey doesn’t drive. Look at the posting on September 28.
So my parents visited Bovey and me in Pittsburgh this summer and the four of us are driving down this country road listening to Mumford & Sons.
I’m thinking to myself, I’ll introduce Mom and Dad to some new music, show them how hip I am, as if parents think of their children as hip.
I’m feeling proud as we listen to Marcus Mumford belt out the song, Broken Crown.
I tell Mom and Dad how progressive this band is, how they fuse Bluegrass and rock, making a unique sound, and then Marcus drops the f-bomb.
I’ve listened to this tune a billion times and the f-bomb never bothered me. I completely forgot there was even one in it at all.
It’s only when I listen with my parents that I become acutely aware, like someone dropped a banjo on my head and said, “Look idiot, there’s an f-bomb in this song.”
It’s not like Dave and Zola never heard the f-bomb. I think my dad’s even dropped one or two, although I’m not positive about this. Funny how memory works.
If he did, it was probably over something stupid like smashing his thumb with a hammer or hooking a five iron out of bounds.
My mom though, I’m sure I never heard her drop one. You’d have to rile my mother to within an inch of committing homicide before she might let a shit or a damn slip, but I’m certain I never heard her say the big one.
Lord knows I’m no stranger to the big one, but I’d rather twist my own fingers out of their sockets than let one fly in front of my parents.
Anyway, so we’re driving along and I’m thinking Dave and Zola must believe their son’s grown into some kind of heathen. I hope they don’t notice, and try to start a conversation, “Hey, did you know the Pirates might have their first winning season in twenty years?”
Inside I’m dying but I can’t tell if my parents are bothered. They’re not the type to tell me to turn off the music or lecture me about manners.
Why is it though, that no matter what your age, as soon as you’re in the same room with your parents you feel fourteen again, young and stupid and awkward and lost?
And then the coup de gras. In this Mumford song near the end, the music stops and Marcus spits out the last verse, speaking slowly, driving home every syllable, so when he hits the f-bomb here, it sounds like a three story pile driver smashing into bedrock.
As soon as the song ends I immediately switch to another album. I’m doing this while driving and it’s not like I remember all the songs that have the f-bomb.
So wouldn’t you know, I next play Amy Winehouse’s Me and Mr. Jones. It’s barely started when she drops the first f-bomb. Of course, those Brits have a way of elevating the f-bomb to proper, everyday speech, but for me it’s another dagger in my ear.
Here we go. As I’m driving along taking another beating, I think to myself, f*%k! f*%k! f*%k! They ought to invent a rating system to help guys like me, a system to warn grown children about profane language in music, and that if you want to maintain what little dignity you have left, avoid playing this f*%cking song in the presence of your parents.
Sometimes when people ask me, “How did you meet your wife?” I sense what they really want to know, “Is your wife a mail order bride?”
Taking a mail order bride doesn’t offend me.
What offends me is that people believe I would take a mail order bride.
Do people see me as one of those dudes with a shaggy back and duct tape holding together his glasses, browsing online bride sites?
I’m sure I’ll get plenty of hate mail from mail order bride business owners swearing they get tons of business from hipsters.
And I’ll probably hear from scores of cool dudes who found mail order bliss and swear they could have picked up a bride in person down at their local watering hole if they weren’t so busy and successful.
Actually, Bovey and I met through work while we were both living in New York, but sometimes when I tell people this, I see that glimmer of doubt in their eyes.
In their mind, I’m sure they are picturing me wandering around Concourse A of LaGuardia Airport with a sign around my neck that says Wilcox, waiting for Bovey to walk up to me.
Bovey worked for the China Institute and I for the American Forum for Global Education. The two organizations collaborated on The China Project, a teacher training initiative. Bovey and I did all the grunt work.
We talked on the phone a lot before actually meeting in person. During our collaboration, I sometimes made up excuses to call her.
“Hey. You think we have enough cheese for the reception?”
“Do we have enough cheese? These teachers will loot the place if we run out of cheese.”
“Who is this?”
After a while, I had to see Bovey in person, so I made up an excuse to visit her.
I told her that for the upcoming series of lectures to be held at the China Institute, we needed a proper map of China and volunteered that I possessed just such a map and could drop it off.
Mind you we’re talking about the China Institute here. They probably had enough maps of China to paper the entire Great Wall.
Oh, yeah, I was smooth.
There’s a circular staircase just inside the Upper East Side building, and that was the first time I saw Bovey, coming down the stairs in heels and a navy pinstripe dress.
I remember smiling like an idiot and not knowing what to say, feeling a little light-headed. I don’t remember much after that.
Weeks later, during a lecture at the Institute, I screwed up the courage to ask Bovey out for a drink afterward.
We went to an internet cafe in the East Village.
I know what you’re thinking. Internet cafe. Total nerd. In my defense, the place was Bovey’s idea. Besides, it was late and the place was convenient, just a half a block from Bovey’s apartment. And we didn’t even use a computer.
We each had a drink and I walked Bovey home then caught the subway back to my place in Brooklyn. I’m lucky I didn’t get mugged on the train because I sat lost in my thoughts, completely unaware of the world around me.
I might not be the coolest guy around, but at that moment, going back over our time in the cafe, picturing Bovey’s smile, feeling the warmth of those brown eyes that held my gaze all night, I felt sure and carefree, bulletproof, like some kind of Johnny Depp.
Once when we were in Hong Kong, we ate sushi so fresh the fish wiggled on our plates as our waiter served us.
What’s even more amazing, this sight thrilled me and I savored that fish.
Before I met Bovey, I rarely ate seafood and when I did it was usually beer battered and deep fried.
Considering my mom raised me on pot roast and biscuits, it’s amusing to me that I even tried sushi at all.
I thank my wife, Bovey, for turning me on to a whole new world of food over the last seventeen years.
Not that it was difficult to expand my food horizons. Before I met Bovey I pretty much lived on Corn Flakes and red meat.
Not only did Bovey, who is Chinese, expose me to the world of Asian cuisine, she’s a much more adventurous eater than me, which pushes me to try new things.
Yet I draw the line at chicken feet. I’ve watched Bovey devour this delicacy for years but I don’t put anybody’s feet in this face.
Once when I was in first grade in Kentucky, one of my classmates brought pigs feet to school for lunch. You want to clear a lunch room table, pull pigs feet out of your Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs lunch box and watch everyone scramble for the exits.
After everyone scattered, Mindy sat by herself and twisted off the top of the mayonnaise jar, where the feet — a pasty white, kind of pinkish color — floated in a murky soup like a Damien Hirst sculpture.
One by one she ate them as naturally as eating cornbread.
While she chewed the toes, our first grade teacher, Mrs. Downing, whispered, “Mindy wants attention. Just ignore her.”
Which was hard, because who can resist the spectacle of a red-haired pixie, tearing into a pig’s foot?
Probably my favorite foods I’ve discovered with Bovey are steamed buns. When she introduced these to me, I ate them until I got sick, especially the ones with a creamy egg filling or the ones filled with barbecued pork.
When we went to the Asian grocery store in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, I grabbed a cart and ran straight to the frozen food isle, mowing down anyone in my way.
I ripped open the freezer door and filled the cart with the egg cream buns as if I thought they offered eternal life.
Every morning I’d get up and put our wok on the stove with some water and a bamboo basket and steam the buns and eat them for breakfast.
But it took me a long time to venture out from my preference for beef or Corn Flakes and try these new foods.
Early on, when Bovey and I went to Japanese restaurants, she ordered sushi and I normally ordered a steaming hot plate of teriyaki steak.
This went on for a few years until one day, tired of Bovey’s cajoling, I tried a California roll and was transported.
I opened my eyes and realized, there is a god and her flesh is a California roll.
To protect the innocent, I changed some names in this essay.
I started noticing them everywhere, women walking around town, carrying their rolled up mats, preening in their yoga pants, looking a little flush, beads of sweat dampening their brow.
I watched them and wondered, “What are these women doing on those mats?”
When I realized it was yoga, my first thought was, “They got pants for that?”
You know something’s reached the level of “craze” when the craze gets its own pants.
And being the red-blooded American consumer that I am, I guess I had to find out what all the fuss was about. So Bovey and I signed up.
I’d say we’re a little late to this whole yoga thing. Not because we’re independent-minded enough to avoid anything too trendy or cool. It’s more to do with our disdain for exercise.
Lifting weights, running, swimming, walking, it all seems so utilitarian. At least yoga looked easy, seemingly satisfying my one exercise requirement that the activity shouldn’t actually consist of any real exercise.
Turns out, yoga is a lot more strenuous than I envisioned. After a couple of down dogs and half-strung bows, I was ready for a nap.
But the great thing about yoga is, each workout actually incorporates a little nap time. The napping comes during corpse pose and child’s pose, where you just sort of go limp and relax before the next down dog or until the yoga master wakes you up and says it’s time to go.
And there’s something spiritual about yoga that leaves me feeling Zen, like I’m sitting on a porch, watching the morning fog roll over verdant hills that stretch to the horizon.
I know I could probably pop a Flexeril — like I will on occasion when my back goes — and achieve this same loose-jointed, dreamy feeling.
But if I just pop Flexeril, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of rolling around on the cafeteria floor of our local high school, where who knows how many freshman have hurled their pepperonis.
One thing I’ve noticed about yoga class is mostly women attend. Have you ever seen a grown man yoga? It’s frightening.
At least the women move with grace and dignity. The men, with their hairy shoulders and floppy basketball shorts, look like they were in the building somewhere installing a sink and wandered into class on their way out.
But I can tell you from experience, one of the biggest challenges of yoga is the effort it takes not to fart in class. Our first time out, I prayed to the yoga gods, “Please, don’t let me fart in front of all these people.”
I don’t know if it’s particularly associated with yoga or if it’s because we go to class in the evening right after dinner, but when you roll yourself up like a sleeping bag, the air inside you has to go somewhere and exhaling isn’t the only place it escapes.
And being the yoga connoisseurs we are, Bovey and I can’t help giggle while watching each other flop and contort our unwilling bodies.
Apparently, giggling in yoga class is unacceptable.
We get some withering stares when we crack up, making me feel like I’m six again and back in church, sitting in the pew behind my parents, wrestling with my brothers, when my dad turns around and shoots us a look that says we’ll burn in hell if we don’t knock it off.
As I weigh the overwhelming scientific evidence that says exercise is good for me and my belief that most exercise is slightly more fun than mowing grass, which is why Bovey and I gave up single family home living and moved into a townhouse, where they deploy entire crews to mow grass, trim, weed, and fight off wasps and blood-sucking insects, while I float on my back in the deep end of our community pool, I suppose I can live with yoga.
I just wish someone would invent yoga pants for men.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I became the commissioner of Major League Baseball and received a $500,000,000 salary. I also climbed Mt. Everest, won an Oscar, flew to the moon, dunked a basketball, won the Super Bowl, sailed around the world, and put Mars and Jupiter together to make them look like butt cheeks.
That was just Sunday.
It all started when my nephew, Evan, asked me to tell him all the things I wanted to do that I’ve never done in my life. I said, “Sharpen your pencil, buddy.”
“You just tell me what you want,” he said without hesitating.
After writing out a list of all the things I wanted to do, Evan, 8, and me and his brother, Logan, 6, and his sister, Lindsay, 10, acted out the things on the list.
There’s a little hill in my brother’s backyard that served as Mt. Everest, so we put on our most determined faces and trudged upward, collapsing in exhaustion on the top of the world.
To win my Oscar, Evan instructed me to act happy and told his little brother to act sad. Evan judged our performances and I got the statue.
Of course, Logan protested.
When you’re six years old, there’s a rule that says you don’t have to agree with anything. Then again, at six children also have the attention span of a gnat, so when we said it was time to fly to the moon, Logan dropped his protest and we launched skyward in our rocket.
Later, when I collapsed from exhaustion from a day of playing baseball, football, flying a kite, chasing the kids non-stop and doing all the make believing, my thoughts drifted to the list I dictated to Evan.
It occurred to me that what we wrote out seemed more like my life’s regrets rather than dreams. I’m never going to be the commissioner of baseball or an astronaut, two things I once dreamed about. I’m never going to win an Oscar or climb Mt Everest.
And I also thought about how big I once dreamed. These days my idea of dreaming big is getting the isle seat on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale.
Why do our dreams shrink inversely proportional to our age like Newton’s fourth law or something? The more I thought about my list the more I wondered about dreams I forgot about, or left out altogether because they seemed impractical or too embarrassing for a man pushing middle age to speak aloud.
There’s no regulator on a kid’s imagination, no little voices in their heads saying they can’t do that.
Every marriage has those times when one person hears a waltz while the other dances the quick step. With us it’s no different, but merging our Eastern and Western upbringings sometimes takes a little extra footwork.
In one of the most memorable Lucy and Ricky moments we shared, Bovey and I were riding the subway in New York. A round man walked into our car at the 23rd Street Station on the A train and grabbed a strap directly in front of our seats. He lifted his arm and showed a generous swath of hairy belly and this brown cloud hovered around him.
With my eyes watering, I leaned over and whispered in Bovey’s ear, “Somebody has major B.O.”
Then Bovey blurted out loud, “What’s B.O.?”
I bit my lip and looked down at my feet but Bovey wouldn’t stop asking, “What’s B.O.?” So I had to explain it to her to make her quit.
We giggled so hard we almost missed our stop at West Fourth Street.
Fast forward to getting married in Hong Kong, we danced around a few challenges there, too, before finding our groove.
We both considered wearing traditional Chinese clothing, but I couldn’t keep a straight face whenever I saw those bright colored silks on this pasty white body.
Yet Bovey dazzled in her Chinese gown and she yearned to wear one. So, for the tea ceremony, she wore traditional clothes and I wore a Western suit and tie.
A tea ceremony is where the bride and groom in China serve tea to each other’s parents on the day of the wedding. It’s shows respect and symbolizes the change in everyone’s relationship.
Then for the wedding ceremony itself, we traded places. Bovey wore a white, Western gown and I wore a Mandarin style tuxedo.
First of all, I feel like a monkey when wearing a tux, and in Hong Kong, it’s kind of hard to find one that fits me, not to mention one muted enough for my taste. Chinese men lean toward tuxedos with plenty of glitz and shine.
Ironically, I found myself drawn to the Mandarin style. With its clean lines and minimalist look, this tux made me feel suave, like Chow Yun-Fat, a Hong Kong movie star.
Somehow we’ve managed to make our East – West union work for seventeen years, and today marks our ninth wedding anniversary. We might not always hear the same music, but at least we’re dancing to the same beat. Happy anniversary, Bovey.