Bea Arthur Is My Patronus

Yesterday I decided, if I lived in the Harry Potter universe, Bea Arthur would be my patronus.

If a dementor ever showed up and tried to suck my soul away, I would simply yell, "Expecto Patronum!" and a Golden Girls-era Bea would come out of my wand, all shimmery and majestic.

She'd stand in front of me with her hands on her hips and deliver spectacularly insulting punchlines toward the Dementor until he felt so bad about himself that he gave up, went away, and re-thought all of his life choices.

She might say, "What are you wearing? I haven't seen that much fabric draping since the last time Shelley Winters went to the Oscars!"

Maybe she's a little bit of Dorothy Zbornack for real. Maybe she says to the specter of death, "I'm no spring chicken myself, but you should really try some hand cream. Are those fingers or Blanche's leftovers from KFC?"

Blanche would then appear in patronus form, "Dorothy, I do not appreciate the insinuation that I eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Dorothy would reply, "Oh, I'm sorry Blanche, that was rude of me. You don't eat Kentucky Fried Chicken...you INHALE it!"

The sad part is, I could sit here and write new Golden Girls dialogue for HOURS. Because I, my friends, am a woman out of time and place. You know that trick from Steve Martin's Roxanne where he rattles off twenty nose jokes in a bar without even having to think about it? My gift is Golden Girls dialogue. Not super helpful in a practical sense of the word.

So now it's off to work for the day. If your patronus could be any real person, who would it be and how would they defend you? (I think my back-up would be Dorothy Michaels from "Tootsie".)


Embrace Your Identity Crisis (If Jack Skellington can do it, so can you.)

I remember the day my parents took me to Indianapolis to see "The Nightmare Before Christmas". It was a wonderfully overcast Indiana day in November 1993. In a fit of fantastic genre agreement, it was also the first day of snow.

1993 was the year of Jurassic Park. I was ten, so to go from the breakthrough summer of Jurassic Park to the fall of Nightmare, the times...they were good.

I remember wanting to identify with Sally while I watched, thinking that I should. Because she was the girl. But Sally was already self aware. She knew who she was, what she wanted, and she did whatever it took to go after it.

Jack's problems rang more true. He wanted to be something he wasn't, all glittery and glowing. Normal. I too, with my weird quirks and strange style and natural bend toward the gothic, envisioned a more populist way of being a kid. I wanted to be in step with the world around me.

There's something so effortlessly magical about the image of an innately dark character discovering the joy of Christmas. Holding a tiny delicate snowflake and feeling wonder, maybe even hope, for the very first time. It gets me. It really does.

I watched the movie again yesterday while hanging my fall garlands and orange and purple lights. The best movies can show you something entirely different with each viewing. I'm enjoying watching my favorite films at different stages of my life and seeing what comes through that never did before. Sometimes a viewing hits you in an unexpected way, that's what happened to me yesterday. I can't explain it just yet. Not fully. But it muddied the waters. In a good way.

Nightmare Before Christmas is a fish out of water story, but it's also a coming of age. It's a story about self-acceptance, even amidst the discovery of something new. The question of the film, for Jack, is "Who am I in relation to this new world I have discovered? Where do I fit? What is possible now that wasn't possible before?"

What would the movie have been like if he locked himself away in his tower and never went through his identity crisis? What if he hadn't almost ruined Christmas? What would he have learned?

I say, let's go through. Let's find out.


On Turning 31 and Shutting Your Thumb in the Car Door

I turn thirty one in ten days.* We seem to celebrate milestone birthdays in modern culture more than any others and thirty seems to be a big one. The last "big one" before the actual big one, which seems to be unanimously agreed upon as being forty. (Unless we're talking about fishing. Or death. Then the "big one" has entirely different connotations.)

I always pictured turning thirty like it was going to be some sort of highly filtered, well-lit lotion commercial. I looked forward to it. I'm grateful to be alive and healthy. I have a sister who never reached thirty, so last year, I was acutely aware of how wonderful it was to enter my fourth decade on planet Earth. I'm happy to be here. I like it. There's weather. And food. 

Then again, I'm easy to please. Because when it comes to aging, I feel like I have a distinct advantage. I've never been beautiful. Don't be jealous of my amazing experience as an average woman and please, don't yell at me for bragging about it. I'm not being coy or begging for compliments. Nor am I declaring myself ready to move into Notre Dame and begin my daily internship as resident bell-ringer.

I'm just saying, I never won any beauty contests.