An excerpt from The New Me

Dinner time yoga in LA—and probably everywhere else too--is primarily practiced by single and/or divorced women. If I were a guy on the make, that’s the first place I’d go: Women who do a lot of yoga have great bodies and I even stopped shouting (except in the shower) when I got hooked. But the men at yoga are usually few and far between and often gay. That or AA. It didn’t take me long to discover not only was I one of the least limber in class, I was also the only woman there who actually lived with her husband and kids. Certainly my role at home was quite different than it had been before—the real change had come when they got their drivers licenses. However I still considered myself a mom. And I did what moms do everywhere whether their day jobs are over or not. I planned the meals, did the shopping, cooked what they liked, ran the house, showed up at school functions and bought them things, tried to get them to talk to me---and now that they were older watched for signs of drugs, though I generally avoided signs of sex. A far cry from the old days when there was all this plus driving, plus organized sports, music lessons and the rest of it. Since I’m trying to tell it like it was, did I mind that I wasn’t so fucking central anymore? Not really. Sometimes I felt wistful for the early years, particularly when I looked at the lines around my face. But like a lot of women, I was dead-tired from too many years of doing too much cooking/managing/scheduling. Yoga gave me a place to go and something to get good at, though I’ll never be really good at it in the way I would have been had I started in my twenties.

 

Randy, who was teaching the night I met Lydia, was a mixed race hunk, twenty-four years old with blond dread locks, golden skin and shoulders that stretched from east to west.

 

“Supta Badda Konasana…..lie flat on your back. Put the soles of your feet together and let your knees relax and sink toward the floor. Good. Bring your awareness to your groin. And Breathe. Breathe!”

I suspect Randy must have had that effect on others because unless you got there early and put your mat down, you couldn’t get a place. And too, after it happened to me, I figured it was probably happening at yoga centers all over the country, and was at least in part responsible for the huge surge in popularity.

It makes perfect sense, when you’re lying there, soles of the feet together, thighs spread, breathing into the sex organs that once in a while someone will get off.

 

OMMMMMMM!....

When the class rang out with the chorus of OM, I’m almost sure I came forth with an AHHHM. Just for the record, the big O during the big OM has never happened since then, though I have gotten close a few times. And I still do yoga almost every day. And I’ll never know whether Lydia knew what was happening on the mat next to her.

“How often do you come?” She asked in her melodious English voice. Not of course what she meant, still strangely apposite for the first thing she said to me.

“Everyday if I can. I’m hooked, how about you?”

“I’m a rank beginner.” I’m Lydia, by the way.

 

“I’m Harriet.”

We didn’t shake hands. We were schlepping our mats and navigating down the stairs and on to the street. When we hit the lit sidewalk she did a little start.

 

“Healthy Harriet!”

I smiled.

“You taught me to make brown rice with mung beans, carrots, ginger and ghee.”

“I’m so pleased!” I told her and it was true. It wasn’t that she recognized my dubious status as the most minor of food network hosts. It was the certainty right away, this beautiful, obviously highly intelligent creature with the gorgeous English accent seemed to approve of me and get me. I felt the same way about her too. We were natural born friends.

 

“Good old mung!” I replied. I’ve got that cooking at home in the rice cooker.”

Somewhat later, with Pasha in her lap, Lydia leaned back and told me, “I can’t believe you brought a total stranger home to dinner. Where’s Marco? I think Pasha chased him off?  I must say I love being in a real home with animals and cookbooks and furniture! Everything I’d sell my soul for.”

“I’m so happy you’re here. Unless of course, you’re Jackie the Ripper. Marco’s in his little basket. He knows enough to give Pasha what he wants. Pasha is the Alpha Male around here.”

 

Lydia laughed.

“Hardly Jackie the Ripper, I’m a dull well bred English writer.”

“What kind of writer? I’ve always wanted to write.”

 

“I started out in theatre, did some acting, then directing and then I went to film school. I’m writing a thriller now with a lot of New Age themes. I’m really at yoga under false pretenses, I’m doing research, but I think there’s something to this breathing thing.”

“I bet you’re a terrific writer. It’s obvious you’re a witch too, because Pasha never does that with strangers. I don’t even remember the last time he slept in my lap.”

“What does your husband do?”

“He’s a Cameraman.”

 

“Right up my alley. I’m divorced.”

“You don’t seem old enough to be divorced. But of course, I was a child bride myself. A pregnant child bride I might add.”

Lydia smiled. I’d love to meet your boys. I’d love to have boys of my own. There’s someone unsuitable in the picture. I seem to specialize in unsuitable and unavailable.”

 

He’s probably married I thought. And almost asked her.

Marco jumped up from his basket. And began to yip excitedly. In another minute Jules was in the kitchen and Marco had jumped into his arms.

 

“Home early! Jules this is my friend Lydia. Lydia’s a screenwriter. We met at yoga.”

Jules set Marco down. Then went to the sink to wash, wash, wash. And use his usual half a roll of paper towels to dry his hands. And not any old paper towels, he insisted on the Jules super expensive brand that cost 1.50 per roll. Starving children, homeless women, I was in the habit of berating myself for denying them and providing Jules with his wasteful paper habit that he refused to let me substitute with plain white cloth towels.  When he sat down at the table he smiled at Lydia. “Ah! an old soul like Harriet.”

Then Jules put his hands in front of his heart and said in his best Indian accent.

“Berry pleased to meet you!”

 

Lydia too was good with an accent. “And I’m berry berry pleased to meet you as well.”

I can see myself so clearly that evening, bustling around as I always did, comfortable in front of this beautiful stranger, serving my husband, serving her.

 

“Ah mung! intoned Jules. Tis a good wife who makes her husband and master a plate of mung.”

Lydia was laughing. I was laughing. Nothing Jules likes better than a peanut gallery laughing at his cuteness.

I served Lydia her fruit salad. And she made some ecstatic noises. This time in her normal charming English accent.

 

“Fruit salad with mint. What a lucky man you are Jules!’

Yes, right away it felt good having Lydia around. She fit in seamlessly between Jules and me smoothing out all our differences, bringing out a better us while she was present. Though Jules being Jules afterwards had to say, “Do you think she lays in on with the accent? Those limeys get away with murder. The accent fools everybody into thinking they’re smarter than we are. In fact when some of the stupidest people out there are Brits.”

I rolled my eyes in the mirror, patted on some face cream and eye cream and lifted up my face a bit in my hands.  I was thinking of buying some of those things called “Frownies” that are really just tape to hold up the flesh of your face. Gloria Swanson wore them in Sunset Boulevard when William Holden wasn’t around. One of the techies at the studio with a very tight jaw was always talking about the stuff, touting its virtues.

 

Jules was inside his closet.

“Besides I don’t trust those spiritual types.”

“She’s not one of those spiritual types. She’s at yoga doing research on a script that’s set among a spiritual sect. She tutors rich kids and writes greeting cards for money. Imagine someone with her education tutoring and writing greeting cards.”

 

“I noticed she worked in the Cambridge thing right away. Everyone who went to Harvard has to tell you they went to Harvard right away. Usually it’s in the first five seconds. Hello, I went to Harvard. She –what’s her name—at least showed a little restraint and waited twenty minutes. I liked her in fact.”

“Me too. I like her better than anyone I’ve met in a long time, actually. I also like the fact that her boobs are big, but they’re real. She may have the only set of real boobs on the West Side of Los Angeles. You go to yoga and during savasanah the floor looks like a small mountain range in spandex.”  

        

Jules could be counted on never to laugh at my jokes, though I thought this one might have merited a “very cute Harriet!” his version of a rave. I’ve taken an informal poll over the years and have concluded that there aren’t very many husbands who do in fact laugh at their wives’ jokes. Lisa who could rouse a corpse with her wisecracks says it’s the same at her house. And so does Susan who is brilliant and sarcastic, my two personal favorites. My friend Arianna who is also hilarious claims she has never once merited a titter from Bob.

Jules still in his closet, wasn’t tittering either.

 

“I hadn’t noticed,” he said at last.

But, he had noticed, I had seen my husband eyeing her rack when he thought I was serving fruit salad.

 

Just for the record: I had never thought much about racks (unless they were lamb) until lately when Jules began to ask me how come I always wore the flattening kind of sports bra. And couldn’t I get one with a little something to lift them up?

 

I was more than a little surprised.

“You never told me you were a boob man! I thought you liked legs!”

“Legs are good,” he replied, but didn’t mention mine which are pretty good if I do say so myself.

But my feelings were a little hurt about the boobs, I’ve always liked mine which are small and unassuming. And I thought Jules liked them too. And I was thinking about getting some new kind of sports bra with a little padding built in.

 

Jules walked out of the closet and came to the edge of the bed where he sat down.

“She’s a nice girl, Harriet. But don’t go giving it all away.”

Was Jules warning me, even that first night that Lydia was trouble?

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I replied.

 

And truly, I didn’t. But I was already planning on the next time I’d have her to dinner.