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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

EXTREMES ON VENTURA BOULEVARD

Last week on two different days on the very same street at the very same time of day, I received two very different receptions.

On Tuesday, as I inched my way down Ventura Boulevard past Rubin's Red Hot on my right and the Galleria Mall on my right, a perfect stranger in the passenger seat of another car leaned out and said to me, "Hi! How ya doin'? I love you!"

Nice, I thought. A little weird but nice as long as you don't overanalyze. Take it for what it's worth. One person saying "I love you" to another. Some people wait their whole lives to be hear those words and here this stranger is just giving them away. And to me, no less. Thank you, stranger. My instincts may tell me to question your standards – my understanding is that true love requires slightly more than six seconds of eye contact, a couple of salutations and a declaration of said love – but I give you the benefit of the doubt, toothy '91 Sentra passenger. I welcome your love of me.

Two days later, again on Ventura, passing through an intersection not far from Rubin's, I was violently given the finger as well as the traditional, "Fuck you!" by a motorist whose left turn in front of me was delayed by my negligence in engaging my turn signal. While my error was one of attention deficit rather than malice, and while I too have been frustrated by drivers who do just as I had, I feel that shooting the bird with vocal accompaniment at a total stranger is more egregious than the initial infraction, a classic case of the punishment outweighing the crime. But again, I choose to not over analyze. To that driver, I was a small annoyance impeding her progress through her day, no more significant than a dropped cell phone or a stumble over a crack in the sidewalk. Those incidents may too have elicited a short meaningless burst of profanity. So what? It doesn't mean anything. So why should it bother me that this time the burst was aimed at me? Kind of like, "Fuck you! Nothing personal."

So there I was with these two similar yet opposite interactions. A nice set I thought. The yin and the yang. The laughing mask and the crying mask. Two pieces that fit together perfectly to create one solid concept.

Until Sunday that is. Invited to a barbecue in Topanga at the woodsy home of a dear friend, one I have known for years but see too infrequently, I was greeted with hugs and kisses and immediate questions about my perceived weight loss.

"What are you doing to lose all that weight?" she marveled with slightly more than a hint of resentment.

I've experienced this before, especially here in Los Angeles. The issue of body image is so important here that people seem doomed to define their own worth only in relation to that of others. Your body exists only to either make me feel better or worse about my own. It's insane. I find myself apologizing to people for not weighing more.

I sensed that the conversation with my friend could be heading in that direction so I backpedalled, trying to downplay any proactively healthy behavior on my part. This technique is rarely effective.

"Not that much really. I don't think I've lost any weight since I saw you last. I run in the morning, but I'm not losing any weight. I'm just trying to stay healthy is all."

My friend paused and almost imperceptively her eyes narrowed and her lips tightened as if she were fighting to keep her thoughts in, a losing battle since few people express themselves as freely as this particular friend.

And so out it came.

"Fuck you," she grumbled, somewhat under her breath but still at a level that indicated her intention for the conversation to continue. "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!"

I laughed. I apologized. She reiterated her position.

Then she welcomed me into her home and offered me a beer.



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1 Comments:

At 6/02/2006 5:13 AM, portorchardkid said...

When things got twitchy at night, I used to hit the 24-hour news stand on the corner of Ventura and Balboa(?).

There was another in the Fairax district. More of a drive of course, but in the middle of the night...

 

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