Off the Wall

Simplicity stage strikes each woman differently

"Do you ever think about chucking it all?" Mindy asks.

I live in a converted barn, drive an '87 pickup with the tailgate held up with bungee cords, and my cat doesn't have a tail. There are those who might say that I don't have that much to chuck.

It's Saturday afternoon, and Mindy and I are carving jack-o'-lanterns at Rosie's. Rosie's baking Halloween cookies, and her Pomeranian is crazier than usual. Every time Mr. Skittles, painted toenails clicking on the linoleum, scampers through the kitchen, a motion-activated witch throws back her head and cackles, and a skeleton rattles its chains. When the goblin goes "BOO!" Mr. Skittles piddles on the floor.

To each her own, but personally I'd choose belly button lint over a yapping Pomeranian. There's just something creepy about a pet that vibrates.

Slipping on a Halloween oven mitt, Rosie pulls a pan of Casper cookies out of the oven. Rosie decorates for every holiday. This woman actually has a battery-operated groundhog that runs from its shadow on Groundhog Day.

"If I have to spend one more minute of my life dusting," Mindy says, stabbing her pumpkin, "I'm going to stick my head in the microwave."

"It's a fine line between owning things, and things owning you," I nod stoically.

Mindy is entering Simplicity Stage that phase in a woman's life when she realizes the bagel maker she hasn't used in 10 years is just one more of the increasing number of objects that are an anchor around her neck.

Men go through Simplicity Stage, too. First they throw away the wife, then the settlement thins out the rest of their belongings.

For Rosie, on the other hand, Simplicity Stage is nowhere in sight. Rosie collects dolls, carnival glass and eggs. She has enough demitasse cups to open a Starbucks and more Christmas villages than Austria. Rosie has dish towels for every holiday, seasonal napkin rings, and wood duck cut-outs on her mailbox.

My casual dishes are Chinette, and the only napkin ring you'll ever find in my house is the cardboard tube the paper towels came on.

I have long suspected that Rosie suffers from some unspeakable childhood trauma that left her terrified of blank countertops. Rosie has long suspected that I am a female impersonator.

"You live a simple life," Mindy says to me as she dumps pumpkin guts on a newspaper. "How do you do it?"

"She's cheap," Rosie says as she pulls a string of jack-o'-lantern lights out of a cardboard box and drapes them along the fireplace mantle.

"And don't forget lazy," I add, holding my sculpted pumpkin at arm's length to study its inner self.

"Seriously," Mindy says seriously.

"Well," I shrug, "I figure if I can't eat it or make whoopee with it, I can probably live without it."

"Oh, please," Rosie says with a roll of her eyes, "you can live without sex."

And the witch and I throw back our heads and cackle. (Copyright 1999 P.S. Wall. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.)

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