So Foul and Fair a Day

Howard at the Boston Marathon 2013

Howard at the Boston Marathon 2013

When I solicited funds as a charity runner in the 2013 Boston Marathon I promised to write a report on the race and my donors’ ‘investment.’ The moment the race started I started to compose my report. The mood was light, the crowd a united force of love, the events and sights all affirming a shared humanity. This would be a report of smiles. The serious counterpoint would be the 26.2 long miles.

At 2.07pm the mood changed. After that the playful response would feel profane. But I did promise a race report.

I slept on the matter. The evil was great and real, certainly. Real too was the goodness. Both demand to be written.

***

Does any runner sleep well the night before a marathon? I don’t. To prevent dehydration on race day I drink plenty through the previous day and every cupful demands its exit through the night. I am excited, nervous, a kid before his birthday party. Boston, after all, is to marathoners as Wimbledon is to tennis players. An enormous privilege, unearned by any effort of my legs, paid for in thousands of donated dollars.

The playful mind must be carried by legs that are 67 years old. Some prudence surfaces. The sixty-seven year old prepares methodically. The experience of forty past marathons insists I vaseline my second toes (which always blister), my armpits (which chafe), my nipples (which bleed) and my private bits (none of your business).
To prevent my shoelaces untying over the distance I double knot them: a trivial detail? No, not in Boston, for it was at the start line of one Boston Marathon back in the seventies that the favourite, noting his arch rival’s single-knotted shoes, bent down and double-tied them.

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Questions of Etiquette – Chapter One

English: Woman getting on a tram, Brisbane, 19...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although this question is addressed to my women readers particularly, I will welcome the responses of all.

Imagine a doctor, male, say 67 years or so old, riding the tram in the Central Business District on a summer day in Melbourne. The old gent is surrounded by partially dressed women, most of them a good deal younger.

The doc’s eyes rest upon a patch of skin on the back of the shoulder of a younger female. At the centre of that patch, the doc catches sight of a pigmented area. He, the doctor, can see this. She, the spotted female cannot.

The doctor wonders about that spot. He peers more closely: is the spot pigmented uniformly? Is it black or merely brown? Are its borders regular or does it stretch its pigmented claws, crab-like, into the surrounding pink?

He cranes, then, conscious that he must appear to be exactly what he is – an older male scrutinizing an unwitting person, younger and female – he straightens. And wonders a bit and worries a bit. The skin spot is situated posteriorly, the lady’s eyes anteriorly.

This is what marriage was made for. When the Bible advises (as it does in Genesis) that a person leave the home of origin and take a spouse and become one flesh, it must be for the purpose of checking the spots on the spouse’s back. And vice-versa. The Bible does not specify any specific number of mole-kibbitzers, nor their gender. Clearly de-facto spouses (such as Adam and Eve were) are perfectly approved for mole patrol. Nowadays with marriage in flux and many settling for serial monogamy (with or without serial infidelity), the mole role loses continuity. This is regrettable. Hence the need for alertness on the part of tram-travelling mole watchers.

But what is the etiquette here?

This particular 67 year old gent has noted suspicious naevi on any number of female backs. One of those looked fairly innocent but not quite typical. The old gent advised the young woman to see a specialist who duly removed the mole, thereby saving her life. The naevus was a malignant melanoma. Continue reading