Reflections on getting dressed, Dolly Parton, and the search for the ever elusive belly laugh…

When I was sixteen I wrote a short essay for English Lit answering the question, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”

In a nauseatingly naive tone, I wrote about a house by the sea, a small baby laughing in my arms, hot tea steaming in a mug on the table, roses growing on the beach, a job as a kindergarten teacher, a beat up Volvo, and a husband who was as poorly drawn as the baby- an exoskeleton of handsomeness around a kindred spirit. Ugh. Double ugh. Boring.

Where was the FUN? Where was the SPONTINAITY? Where was the LAUGHTER? Where, quite frankly, was the AWESOMENESS?

Sixteen years past that frightful essay, I have the baby (actually a pint sized girl), the husband, the beat up car (Jeep, not Volvo), a Prius (for the gas mileage- we’re so adult!), and the tea- never quite strong enough to wake me up- growing tepid in a mug before I remember to guzzle it down on my way out the door to work. I have plants growing wild outside of our rented apartment, not from my green thumb but from previous renters, and countless questions to my mom with photos imbedded in texts, “What do I do about this invasive VINE taking over our porch?” I have a list: poppy, peony, daffodil, hydrangea, crocus, rose- flowers I hope to plant before next year. Maybe I will get to them all, but more likely just one variety- daffodils- because it’s easy and cheap to stick bulbs in the ground come fall.

I have another list, but this time, a list in my head: breathe, laugh, run, cuddle, read, walk, kiss, play, be yourself.

An ungraceful tangent: Dolly Parton on Twitter: she is totally and uniquely Dolly. She doesn’t give a flying f*&k about what anyone thinks of her boobs, her face, her hair, her music. Her feed is full of classic cliché phrases and photographs, full of wisdom, humor, and grace. Think of her evolution, her journey. Dolly is real, in her way, and I love her for it. “People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair,” she wrote,”I don’t know, I’m never there.” Rock star Dolly, with your tattoos and wigs.

I think of Dolly sometimes in the morning when I am mulling over wearing the loose grey sweater or the loose black sweater over a saggy faded tank top and my “nice” work pants, now 10 years young. I think of Dolly when I’m blow-drying my long split end hair. I think of Dolly when I apply my make up and wonder, do I have that awful line on my neck between make up and no make up? “Please, if I do,” I say to my husband, “share.”

What I think of, when I think of Dolly, is the authenticity of it all. I wear my loose grey and black sweaters because I LOVE them, because I love how I feel in them- but as for the 10-year-old black pants and stretched out tank? They’ve got to go. Wear what you love, love what you do, do what makes you smile. That’s what my Dolly would say.

Smiling. I smile all the time. I smile for pictures, I smile when my daughter smiles, I smile when I see my husband. But do I laugh? Not so much. Not so often.

How do you find humor? How do you find laughter- real, funny, true.

Last weekend we went for a boat ride. The water was glass. My brother was driving, his girlfriend at the bow. We were chasing the sunset and motored out past the island to find a little slice of paradise. Our daughter was at home, asleep. The sky was brilliant orange. My beer was half gone. Dad’s old sweater kept me warm. Photo op for sure, courtesy of our friend in the next boat roped up alongside. Everyone moves to one side of the boat, I reach from the other side, pass the phone, careful across the water. I move to join the crew, the boat tips. Not enough to tip us out but a legit downward movement. I think we’re over the edge for sure. But the boat rights, is flat again. Don’t have sea legs just yet.

Laughter. Belly laughter.