i need protection. from myself.

Sometimes, I have great ideas. Mostly, I have really terrible ones. After I execute a really shitty plan, the best I can hope for is that the after effects go away really quickly or that the debacle is a private affair.

Unless, of course, the terrible idea involves botox and my cheeks. Then, it becomes a public calling card of vanity…and stupidity.

The older I got, the rounder my cheeks grew. It made me self-conscious.

I tried all sorts of neat little tricks. Clever shadowing with makeup left me looking like a fighter going into battle with war stripes. Carefully draping my hair to mask the sides of my face made me look like Cousin It.

I was desperate. Every time I looked in the mirror, the face staring back at me resembled a full moon. Less luminous though.

In my mid-20′s, I read an internet article about injecting botox into the jaw muscle to slim down the face. Since I trusted the internet (nothing on there was ever dangerous or false, I was sure of it), I decided to give it a try. By working one or two extra hours, I managed to put aside ten dollars a week for nearly a whole year.

I should have known the plan was turning sour when I woke up one morning, a week after the injections, and noticed a special feeling in my face. The special feeling of nothing.

Later that morning, during breakfast, I realized my masseter muscle didn’t have the power to chew anything harder than a piece of bread.

I guess that’s one way to slim down a face- starvation.

For three months, I drank smoothies. I ate oatmeal. Cornbread. Mashed fruit. It brought me back to my childhood. Like, when I was 6-months-old.

The atrophying muscles left my face long and lean. The deep grooves in my cheeks had a deep purple tinge. My mom starting calling me Horse.

Friends asked questions. Was I under a lot of stress? Did I have a secret illness? They couldn’t pinpoint it exactly, they said, but something looked different. I tried to avoid answering because the truth (Friends, my thoughtless vanity made me shoot toxins into my cheeks so I wouldn’t look like a chipmunk.) was too embarrassing.

The day I discovered I could chew an apple again, I was thrilled.

I still do stupid shit (all the time, some might say). I’m still prone to bouts of vanity. But my cheeks? I’m leaving them alone. I like them just the way they are.
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What’s the worst thing you’ve done to alter your physical appearance? Shave your eyebrows? Crimp your hair?
OR the best thing you’ve ever done. Lost the last 10 you’ve been meaning to lose? Had a cancerous third arm removed?
image via blueq.com

Monday Dare: a series of unfortunate events

Every Monday, I’m picking from the List of Things to Do, Places to Go, Possible Acts that Help, and Possible Fun to Have. It’s a list I made before The Project started, and I’m still adding to it. If you have suggestions, please feel free to throw them my way. I’m calling the list my Monday Dares, as I get overwhelmed just looking at the words “challenge” or “goal.”

This week: Overcome superstitions.

I once lived in apartment unit 422. I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose that unit, since 2 and 4 are my unlucky numbers. Maybe it was because my choice was either Unit Something Else overlooking the community dumpster or Unit 422 overlooking the parking lot. I decided my superstitious ways were silly, and since I worked hard, I deserved a beautiful view of Ford Ranger pick-up trucks and old Chevy Chevelles rather than a view of abandoned hoses and mangled IKEA furniture tossed carelessly by the dumpster.

I had standards.

The stunning view of the parking lot didn’t do as much for me as I had hoped. Even with clear, unobstructed access, I didn’t see my car being towed the first night. When I walked out the next morning to go to my promising career at the dry cleaner touching dirty clothes all day, I was confused.  Had it been stolen? Was I going blind?

It was a Dodge Intrepid. Those motherfuckers are hard to miss. Even if I was losing my sight.

Turns out, I had parked my car in someone else’s spot, and the resident called to have it towed. Nothing says “Welcome to the neighborhood” like waking up to find your car missing. It was the unlucky unit number; I was sure of it.

Later that evening, after tracking down my car, rescuing it from the lot, and spending nine hours at the cleaners making a pimpin’ eight dollar an hour, I checked the mail before returning to unlucky 422.

I opened up my Mastercard statement. Holy jiminy. Hundreds of dollars in charges to an online dating service and women’s clothing retailers…none of which I had the good fun of charging myself.

I was pissed. But really, part of me felt like a modern-day cupid. Maybe this identity thief really wanted to find true love but didn’t have the funds to do it. Maybe by stealing my credit card number and charging her first three months to an online dating service and a couple of new outfits at Talbots, I set her on the path to finding a man who would love her. The dishonest, thieving woman that she was.

Or, maybe living in Unit 422 was an unlucky choice and I needed to move.

While I was mulling over this possibility, my cell phone rang. It was my mom calling to tell me that my grandmother had sepsis and I needed to get to Chicago as quickly as possible. She passed away before I landed at O’Hare.

I moved out shortly after that. I’ve never lived in another home that had a 2 and a 4 jointly in the address. I don’t stay on the 2nd or 4th floors in a hotel. I won’t let the phone company assign me phone numbers with both a 2 and a 4 in the number.

It’s been limiting in so many ways. I’m letting some 2′s and 4′s back into my life. I should probably be prepared…just in case.

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Do you have any superstitions?
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I promised you those awkward childhood photos weeks ago, and I’m finally posting them on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page today. “Like” the page to see the pictures in your Facebook feed. I’ll probably only keep them up till the weekend. Because, I’m embarrassed. There, I said it.

blame others: lessons from the road

I’ve spent roughly a quarter of my time on planes, trains, and automobiles since the beginning of the year.

A lot of the traveling has been by myself. It’s taught me a few things:

I’ve learned it’s okay to talk to strangers. Then again, I’ve learned it’s not okay to talk to strangers. I think the ratio is something like: for every decent stranger, there are 2.8 galactically crazy ones out there.

When traveling alone, if a galactically crazy person starts a conversation with me, out-crazy him and scare him away. Talk about my time in prison for offing someone with the sharpened leg of a G.I. Joe. Or my experiences leading a double life- docile dental hygenist by day and slumlord/madame/gang member by night. This is my time to concoct ridiculous fantasyland-worthy material. Go buck wild. Get gangsta’.

It’s okay to pose for pictures alone in front of anything I deem interesting. Making the peace sign. Or wearing an assortment of exaggerated facial expressions. I’m Asian…it’s probably in my blood.

It’s better to sit next to someone sane on a plane. Also, if they’re good-looking and have fresh breath, it probably means that God loves me and I’m not slated for Hell that day. Conversely, if I sit next to someone who supplies the entire plane with a fragrant potpourri of farts and wants to talk about her love of handicapped animals, it means I need to start calling my mother more or volunteer to pick up litter along the highway. God’s Subtle Warning, I like to call it.

Watching The Price is Right will make me feel at home. Anywhere. Instantly.

In certain areas, Taco Bell is considered authentic Mexican cuisine.

I’ve learned never, ever (EVER, EVER) to put anything in hotel drawers as I’m unpacking. Because I will forget that shit. And the hotel will claim that it has not been found. And then I might get angry and ask them to look again.

See what I did there? I blamed the hotel for my forgetfulness. That’s also something I learned from traveling. Blame other people.

Just kidding. I swear.
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What has traveling taught you? Share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Check out the Flourish in Progress Facebook page to see my Gangster Easter Egg.