It was freezing in Texas on New Year's Day. Fuh-fuh-fuh-freezing. Actually freezing. Metaphorically freezing.
So cold that I went looking for another part of a witch's anatomy to use as a simile and found one, too. You just have to be really cold, and biologically literate.
We were staying in the Canyon Lake area, between San Antonio and Austin, and it was an unusual cold snap. It got down into the teens, which is damn cold for Texas. A little like Seattle breaking into the mid-90s in July. Happens. Not all that often, and it's usually miserable. So witches were really cranky in the hill country, and I wasn't all that happy myself.
It was a tiny house, which is to say a "tiny house," but it had a sizable living room/kitchen area that the one space heater they provided was not warming much. A big ol' AC unit was parked in one wall, because Texas, but no help for the chronically cold. And it was 15 degrees outside.
So the smallest room in the house was naturally the warmest, helped out by a small auxiliary space heater, and this, of course, was the bathroom. A tiny bathroom, too, with a shower so cramped it felt like a practical joke, but it got nice and warm, so I stayed in there as long as I could.
This is where the joke started. I will now kill it, sacrificing it on the altar of blogging. My pleasure.
I mostly make jokes on social media. Let's rephrase. Most of what I do on social media is jokey. It's how I manage to stay calm amidst the misinformation and the ignorance and the piles of bullshit that accumulate with enough mass.
But the online comedy world is rough. It rewards and punishes spontaneity at roughly the same rate, creating a hit-and-miss scenario that makes for an interesting dynamic, at least for me.
I was on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and I thought something funny. It's a gift.
So I seized the moment and typed it up, posted it, then wandered off to have a life. A while later, thinking about it again, I realized that I'd actually left something out that was kind of necessary, and just phrased the whole thing in a weird way. It wasn't really funny as much as confusing.
I raced back to Facebook, and found the post just sitting there, no likes or comments, apparently a reversible error. I moved the mouse to delete the post, and that's when I saw it:
So I watched and waited, which is always a horrible idea, but I did it, trying to steel myself against the idea of engaging with this dumb post at all while watching those little ellipses dance around, pretending to be animated.
After an eternity, the comment finally posted, and it was from my mother.
"I don't get it," she wrote.
I'm more careful, then. I don't mind landing a dud, but I try to avoid the truly embarrassing. So Valentine's Day went off without a hitch, although I sure was tempted.
While I was hiding in that dinky bathroom on January 1st, trying to soak up the heat and looking for excuses to continue, I looked in the mirror. I'd just dried off after my shower, so I was standing in front of the sink, naked and vulnerable, and I was a little judgmental.
C'mon. We all do this. Alone, maybe contemplative, taking a moment to reflect, we check out the goods. Inspect for damage, and there's always damage. Gravity has been tugging at my body for six decades, and that'll leave a mark.
So I did a quick survey, checking out the cute ways little mounds of fat gather in certain areas, like cliques of adipose tissue. The mean girls of my aging carcass. I hate them.
But, y'know. It passes. Still alive, and all that, and really? It wasn't bad. The light was flattering, and the shadows aligned nicely to minimize flaws, of which there were multiple. I told myself that my bare torso didn't look like it belonged to a 59-year-old. Maybe a 52-year-old. I snapped a picture with my phone.
When I ventured back out into the cold, I showed it to my wife, who giggled a little. I told her I had a plan, which was to snap a similar picture every January 1st from now on, to survey the destruction. It's just a matter of time, but for the moment I felt OK about everything.
And I joked with my wife that I'd send her the picture of my ancient bare chest at random times, hopefully times when she's in a meeting at church, just to mess with her. More giggles. Silly old people, married forever, still having fun with body parts.
So, Wednesday. Valentine's Day. Ash Wednesday, too, which is important to a church employee, and my wife was heading for church. She was taking the bus, and per usual she stopped halfway for lunch. She likes to pause and get a good meal, maybe a glass of wine, to sustain her over the course of the longest day of her week.
Because of the occasion, she ordered a fancy, heart-shaped dessert. She sent me a picture.
We don't do Valentine's Day, by the way, or most holidays of this sort. Mother's Day, etc. We make a half-hearted attempt, sometimes, but generally no. And romantic holidays are meaningless; after 35 years, we're now in charge of our own romance. February is busy enough.
But I saw her dessert, and I felt a pang of guilt, so I sent her a naked picture of myself. It just felt like the right thing to do.
I mean, of course I didn't. I just found that New Year's bathroom picture, put a little Valentine heart on it, and sent it. She giggled, in a virtual sense. All good. It was sort of a visual joke; instead of one of those valentines with a jacked young dude with a red G-string and nothing else, it was just her old husband without a shirt on.
That wasn't the joke.
Here's the joke:
Young men, take my advice. Don't mess around with flowers and candy. Every Valentine's Day, I send my wife a nude picture of myself and she seems content. In fact, she really loses interest in the holiday completely.
I mean, I dunno. I think there's a joke there. I just couldn't find it, or not on short notice, and then the day was done.
And for some reason, this cheered me up. Some days, it's just not going to work out. Some days, discretion is the better part of valor. Some days, a picture is worth a thousand words, and all of those words are funny enough, leave it alone. It's a private joke, and it stays that way.
Except, of course. Just now.
And sorry for the imagery. Here's a stock photo to replace it with. Not a problem.