Monday, August 30, 2010

Fill 'er Up with Botox, Please

I'd never heard of Heidi Montag until her 10 surgeries in one day; nor had I heard of an 18-year old who didn't feel "fresh enough" on screen (Glee) without some Botox and tightening.  Her rep said the Botox was for jaw pain. Yeah, the oxycodeine I pop like Nerds is because I've got a recurring cold. Nora Ephron waited until she was 60 to write how she felt bad about her neck. I know how she feels -- I hole up in the house during turkey season, nursing my colds.

I have complex feelings when I read things like this: "the horror of it all", "vain ninnies" "brainless vain ninnies" and "gullible dim-witted ninnies." Then I think of the type of writing I've seen a million times:

 "She was a long-legged drink of cool water, with a mane of hair I fantasized sweeping over my chest as we made passionate love. I felt dizzy when I looked into her violet eyes -- they were as deep as the ocean where people can't go -- you have to send those submersibles, and even then their windshields sometimes crack. Her voice was like that Bach melody I like -- I was kind of surprised the guy wrote music like that because I always associated him with those depressing fugues. But I heard this one song and thought -- wow -- the guy can rock. I still can't believe a 40-year old chick could be so hot."

Sour grapes might come into the scenario -- if a good friend drugged me and took me in to get nipped and tucked and paid the surgeon and for my recovery on her private island, I would not complain. I could continue to say that the lines on my face give me character and that my butt might be drooping but I'm just grateful not to have rectal cancer -- I count my blessings instead of my flaws! I'm deep, not shallow like Heidi.

But enough about age, for lack of a better segue  -- let's talk about weight. No matter how young, generous, fit, funny or gorgeous, women are never thin enough to suit ourselves or the general public. I offer the following story as an illustration:  Several years ago, a columnist for our local paper wrote a feature article on my dear friend and (then) yoga teacher, Stephanie Young, who now lives in San Francisco -- yes, she's that cool. Sheer grace and elegance, as you can see from the picture. As you can also see, she can't wear Gwyneth Paltrow's skinny jeans because she enjoys eating more than farm-raised, cruelty-free seaweed twice a week. The headline, however was another story: Fat and Fit.

In the story, the author was astonished, rendered speechless, dumbfounded, -- dare I say flabbergasted!!!!! to find out that women size 10!!!!!! could touch their toes!!!! and do yoga!!!!!  The whole message was basically that if you can't fit into Gwyneth's jeans, stay out of the studio so the svelte people don't have to look at you. If you are above a size 2 and can actually do a few asanas, you are a freak of nature. If you are a size 2 but 40 and over, you should cover yourself from head to tow, including wearing a bag over your head. People just shouldn't have to look at you.

(My youngest daughter is forever telling me that I should use emoticons because people tend to take me literally. For the record, I am a woman of a certain age and a certain size and do not consider myself a bloated corpse-like figure, nor do I see other women in this light.)

Several of us wrote scathing letters to the editor; some were published. We didn't find the article itself totally offensive, but the the headline was rude, tasteless and hateful. We also wrote letters to the features editor, who approved the article and wrote the headline.  I was sure that she would offer a mea culpa (who doesn't like Latin phrases?)  I didn't expect her to admit that maybe she'd been drunk or stoned -- just that she had made a serious error in judgement -- for one thing, the odious headline didn't even have a verb!!!!!!  She stood by her headline;  she probably thought it brave and provocative. I don't know her, but I know that she's married to another writer for the paper who can best be described as a pompous ass. It would take him 12 paragraphs to write this one, and he would use lots of references to obscure foreign movies -- excuse me -- films, and would somehow work in his close personal, individual, private, special friendship with Bobby Duvall. But I digress, as usual.

Back to bitching. Remember the Diary of Bridget Jones -- wasn't the weight at which she was considered a huge cow something like 130?  And I found this about Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan on Mad Men:

Christina Hendricks has never publicly stated her weight, but that is definitely not going to let us stop from speculating on it. We think she weighs approximately 70 kilograms which is 154 pounds. We’ve spent literally hundreds of hours pouring over photos and videos of Christina Hendricks to come up with this figure.  If you want the low down on Christina Hendricks (sic) other measurements be sure to check out the following pages: What are Christina Hendricks Measurements?  What dress size is Christina Hendricks?
(The last two sentences had links for research purposes.)

Really? Someone pores over pictures of her just figure out her weight?  That's pathetic, like visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral because you thought you might see some football players. Boy, did you feel stupid when you got there and saw only a lonely hunchback hawking Disney watches!
Our pouts aren't poufy enough, our choppers not bright enough, our hair not thick or glossy enough; our boobs are too large or too small (ditto our derrières) -- how do we even find the courage to leave our houses? 

Dedicated to Stephanie Young, Yoga Goddess, and all the other gorgeous women I know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

High School Daze

It's the third day of high school for the girls, and I am already dazed and confused. Tonight, for example, I put some brown rice into the rice cooker, to mix with salmon and spinach, for a nutritious meal. No junk food on the first Monday of school! I watched the news, did some chores and was ready to put the spinach in the steamer (handily located on top of the rice cooker). Except I hadn't pushed the button down to "cook" -- it's been sitting on "warm" for the past hour. My youngest just came in and said "So we have to wait another hour on dinner?" before demanding a snack. I have said before that children are relentless. At least they show some mercy; teenagers take no prisoners. Can you guest who the smart ass is?

My kids have gone to a private school since pre-school. Not a fancy $10,000 a year private school -- more a home school where their grandmother and aunt were among their teachers. My children were loved unconditionally at the school. One of my friends (whose daughter also attended the school) told me about the time her daughter's cell phone had been accidentally left on, so she could hear Aunt Renée spend 30 minutes trying to make one of my kids understand a basic math concept - not once did she even raise her voice or sound out of sorts. My girlfriend and I agreed that we would have at one point screamed "what don't you GET?"

Another of their teachers added REALLY silly questions to multiple-choice tests, the kind that had us howling as the girls would read them to me on the way home. He sent a lovely note home last year soon after school started, saying one of my kids had made a C- on a science test. He didn't see a big problem but just wanted to let us know so we could all keep an eye on her. He wore shorts year round, although during ice storms he put on a sweater.

I made my husband call the principal, who had also been their teacher at one point, to tell them we were switching schools - I knew I'd break down. I had developed a twitch in my right eye because of the stress. I couldn't believe I was taking them out of a warm, loving environment and letting them swim with the sharks.
And Grandma -- she had them write in their journals every day -- and she wrote back to them! One of my daughters -- the smart-ass one, just read over my shoulder and said "she never wrote back in our journals. That was our Readers Notebook."  I made my husband call and tell her the news too. We still haven't talked in depth; we are both way too emotional.

It was a wrenching decision to take them out of the school, where, in addition to getting a good education, they were loved and cherished. Two of their cousins are there. My husband is still having trouble with the decision, to say the least. Let's say the mama wolf in our family drinks beer and has hairy toes. After they had been accepted to Parkview, I tried to convince them to stay at their school another year, so they would be ready for a school of more than 1,000 vs. 20-something. Although they weren't happy I'd enrolled them in the science school (vs. the arts), they were also adamant: they were ready to be small fish in a big pond. At dinner one night, my oldest said "it's a parent's job to help children develop roots, and then let them spread their wings and fly." I got all blubbery.

Here are the main differences as I see them today:
  • They are riding a bus.  The first day of school, I took the obligatory picture of them by their bus stop. It wasn't a very good picture -- I didn't get in close enough and they were both displaying their fakest smiles, which look even worse with braces. I made sure I got in the name of the street at which they were standing -- won't this be a good memory!  It didn't dawn on me until my friend and niece both commented on how cute the picture was -- taking a closer look, I realized that I was advertising where they'd be in the mornings and afternoons when I wasn't around. The last time I couldn't find one of my pooches, I was sure someone had captured her for use in medical experiments. Seriously-- I was weeping at the thought of her being shaved and connected to electrodes, and wept harder when we found her. So you can imagine the direction my thoughts were taking.
  •  Absences from school must be documented -- school officials do not trust me. They both had an appointment at the orthodontist today (and yes, I'll remind them of what this cost for the rest of their lives).  Unlike at their old school, they needed a written excuse. I e-mailed the teachers whose classes they'd missed (someone correct me if that should be who's -- I get so confused). One of them told me that in the future, I should schedule appointments around his class. Yeah, maybe their orthodontist will make an exception for my exceptional children and see them after hours - other children can miss school, but mine are destined for greatness and can't miss a minute!  When I checked them in, the women in the attendance office pointed and laughed at us (maybe not literally) because we did not have their student IDs memorized. My kids are a number now?
  • I can check online to see what homework they have!!!! And what their grades are -- school officials don't trust me, and I sure don't trust my kids.
  • When a family member or friend from out of state visits, I can't call school and say "can we play hooky today?"
  • When we have all had our fill of routine, I can't call school and say "can we play hooky today?"
Still, so far so good. In fact, so far - excellent.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bad Mommy Chronicles

Like many of you, I did my best parenting before I had children. I was the one sitting on a plane by a harried mother with a cranky toddler, pursing my lips and thinking "can't she see how annoying her kid is being? It's really irritating the rest of us and it pisses me off that she doesn't even look upset!"

I was the one behind you in the grocery store, hoping my stare of disapproval was boring holes in your back as your 3-year old screamed "But I want to SEEEEEEEEE the bathroom!!!!  Why can't I SEEEEEE the bathroom?"  If that was MY kid, I'd give him a lesson he wouldn't forget!!!!"

And yes, that also was me thinking that if MY teenager acted that sullen, I'd ground her for a month. HELLO.

I could have given you so much good advice, if only you'd asked. Sometimes you didn't even have to ask, but seemed really offended when I offered a nugget of wisdom such as "why don't you hit him?"

My first nugget of understanding came when a friend told me about taking her young daughter shopping for a comforter. They spent some time window shopping and by the time they came to the comforters, sweet, loving daughter had morphed into the Bad Seed. "Well," I said indignantly, "I hope you didn't buy her a comforter!"

She said "Of course I bought her a comforter -- she NEEDED one. It would punish me, not her, if I took her home without one."  Wow -- what a concept.

It wasn't until the summer of 1999 that I really understood the concept of "if you threaten your kids, prepare to follow through."  My 2-year old daughter and I were at a pool as guests of another friend, who was raising three boys. We live in different towns so being together, was a real treat. (It still is.)

Everything was going swimmingly (get it? aren't I the punster!!!!!) until my daughter got tired and started whining and complaining. Instead of finding her some shade, comforting her and encouraging her to rest on a cozy towel in a lawn chair, I shouted at her "Do you want to go home?"

"Yes," she cried in a tiny, exhausted voice - TOTALLY the wrong answer -- she was supposed to beg to stay! This was not going the way I planned. I said in a mean voice, "Well, I don't! You better behave!"

As her face crumpled, so did I. In shame and guilt and remorse and mortification -- you get the gist. I was being a bully and threatening my baby. Good mommy took the reins, and I took her in my arms, begged forgiveness, found a nice spot where I could cuddle her to sleep, and we had a lovely day that stretched into evening.

When I have done something dreadful like that, I call or email my sisters and girlfriends and tell them what a horrible mother I've been. And they all e-mail me back with their stories. In this way, we know we're going to be okay, and our shameful actions don't fester inside us, causing us to feel even more inept than we sometimes feel. As one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott says, kids don't come with operating instructions. They are the best thing to happen to us, but their care and feeding is unrelenting and we sometimes crack.

One day I called a girlfriend and sobbed that I felt I yelled at my kids every day. The mother of four, she said "I feel good when I don't beat mine every day." Just the tone of her voice cheered me immensely -- she obviously didn't feel the need to call child protective services. (For the record, she does not beat her children. Although she thinks about it sometimes.)

One of my sisters had the best offering after some particularly bad parenting/martyrdom. I saved the emails.

My note to my sisters read:

Girls, I absolutely channeled mother today. The girls were just at each other's throats and I yelled in exactly mother's voice for them to "shut the hell up." I was hoping to get some things done at home and then do something fun. Then I started feeling really sorry for myself, and while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom  floor, I was literally sniveling and taking these rather loud sniffs. Scary stuff..they are both taking naps now and I am trying to channel a good mother like Sarah Palin.

My sister's note:

Susie, oh, how I can feel your pain as far as becoming Mother goes. One of my finest moments was when (her kids) were maybe around 6 and 7. I had just stripped the old wax off the kitchen floor, scrubbed it and then rewaxed it. I was giving the two of them lunch, and, not one, but BOTH of them spilled their milk onto the clean kitchen floor while I was unloading the dishwasher. I had a handful of butter knives and when the second glass of milk went down, I started screaming and  throwing the knives, one at a time, into the dining room. I remember their sweet little faces looking horror-stricken. What really surprises me now is that neither of them even remembers the episode and it is indelibly inked into my brain! So, take heart, if you think you have become Mother! She really did have a hard job, didn't she?  And, she had to deal with Himself.

(I was the youngest of five, and to understand my dad and men like him, read or see The Great Santini by Pat Conroy. The scene with his son in the kitchen rang so true that I had to leave the movie for a few minutes.)

I offer my stories as a gift for those of you who might not share bad parenting stories for fear you'll be harshly judged -- we've all been there and sharing our pain is a great coping mechanism. And as my sister's story illustrates, our children forgive us so much easier than we forgive ourselves.

p.s. I heard a mother say that she yelled at her child once - that was her worst sin. If you have stories like this, we don't want to hear from you.

p.s.s. If you are a mother or are thinking of becoming a mother, read Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott.

p.s.s.s. Kids don't appreciate the whole martry concept -- they just think we are being dorks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wedding Bell Blues

I'm on the third day of an online class called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. I didn't do well the first day, which called for me to write an "elevator pitch" for my blog. I think the guy also expects me to think deeply about what I'm trying to get across. Please.

However, here goes with the second day's assignment: create a list.

Wedding Faux Pas: (Fox Pass for those of you who don't speak French)

If you want your bridesmaids to dress like hookers or Evangelicals, don't make them pay for their own dresses.

For any wedding past your second, don't expect family and friends to stock your linen closet, your kitchen, your walls, your bar or your entertainment room.

Don't use gaily-decorated money trees as the centerpieces on tables.

Don't have a cash bar.

Don't take your bridesmaids shoe shopping and start weeping and pulling out your hair in front of a pair of Prada shoes you can't afford -- but that will make you the happiest bride in the world!

Hint only once about how broke you are and how nice it would be if everyone pitched in to help you pay for the venue (the Titanic model in Branson, MO), food, flowers, cruise and some jewelry that would make your special day even specialer. If no one pitches in after your first appeal, drop it.

Don't post on Facebook how hot your honey gets you -- the general reaction will be "ewwwww." Ditto how you love your mate right down to the toenail clippings you find on the sofa, how even your pooches long for his touch and how you are going to explode into flames and it's not because of the weather!!!!!

Don't invite everyone you know on Facebook or other social networking sites -- your BFF's BFF's great aunt who commented on one of your pictures will not be hurt if she is left off the mass invitation.

Don't post nasty comments about people who don't get caught up in all the excitement: it does not necessarily mean they are shallow, bitter, cold or non-orgasmic.

If you are marrying a relative, your ex's best friend with whom you cheated, a 17-year old or someone you met in Vegas over the weekend, let me know and I'll revise the list. Happy Day!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blogher CheeseburgHer Party: the Prologue

Quick: What's more nerve-wracking than going on a first date with a guy you want not only to impress but also to father your children?

Here's what: attending a gathering at a posh place to mingle with women you don't know, to whom you already feel inferior. My husband assures me that as long as I don't drink too much and hurl on some one's Jimmy Choo shoes, I'll be fine. I tell him that most of them are undoubtedly way younger than I, so he gives me a second piece of advice: impress them with the fact that I can use the Internet at my age.

Here's how I'll try to imagine myself:

The event is being held in Little Rock for women bloggers, and it's being hosted by BlogHer, which I'd never heard of until this week. I've not met our local hostess but know she is a terrific writer with three blogs, a gig at Good Housekeeping and a book deal. Did I already mention feeling inferior?

I'm going with two friends, both seriously gorgeous, witty and smart, and I imagine myself basking in their glory in a Forrest Gump-ish kind of way. They know our hostess and assure me that she's kind and gracious. I believe them, but still imagine myself as an old impression of Princess Anne: when our hostess tries to make me feel at home by asking a question, I'll begin pawing the ground.

Here's how I imagine others will see me:

Dress is "casual cocktail." I look up pictures and realize that I have nothing in my wardrobe faintly resembling casual cocktail, and since I am unemployed, I have no money to splurge on an outfit. I'll wear my black shapeless dress that I wear to all such events; I wish that I had at least indulged in some of that lingerie that holds in your stomach. It doesn't help that I'm wolfing down a French dip as I write this, and that a piece of dark chocolate mousse cake was my appetizer. I wish I wore contact lenses and that I knew how to apply makeup and fix my hair.

Since my feet resembled hooves, I did spring for a pedicure at a local beauty school today. The color I chose looked quite elegant, but alas, on my toes, it looks like doses of Pepto Bismol. My friend Sherry said to think of it as Granny Pink, which is apparently quite hip -- if you're in your 20s. All it looks like to me is a bad polish job.

My eyes, always dry, look red, which isn't helped when I stick a pencil in my right eye while trying to outline my lower lids. Wisps of mascera appear under my eye almost as soon as I blink.

At the last minute, I decided to wear all white. A simple white nightgown I got for $2.50 at a flea market, paired with white pants; over that I wear a sheer tunic I picked up years ago. In some countries, I look like a widow but it's loose and comfortable and I don't have to hold in my stomach.

I didn't mean to wear scent; I rarely do, but while rustling through some bins in the bathroom looking for makeup, I come across an old bottle that has spilled, so I am wearing Oscar, which takes me back at least 25 years.

I'm am army brat, meaning I'm never fashionably late. However, tonight we've decided we want to make an entrance. One of our husbands is driving us to the event and we're catching a cab home, although if we had the money, we'd spring for a limo.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Are You Being Served?

"I didn't think you were going to stop," is what the teenage boy said after he slammed into my car. He was too young to remember the Beach Boys, so it must have been the voices in my head singing "Tach it up, tach it up/Buddy gonna shut you down."

He shut me down, all right. My neck felt as if someone had tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to wring it for Sunday dinner. My head was throbbing, it was 140 degrees in the shade, and I needed to pick up my kids and their friend from climbing camp. Suddenly the Beach Boys were shut out by Blondie singing "One way or another, I’m gonna find ya’, I’m gonna get ya’, get ya’, get ya’, get ya’.....”

I was about to leave the scene when a friend called and assured me that the possibility was slight that stalkers were lurking about, giddy at the prospect of kidnapping the girls. She commanded me to stay until the police arrived.

My children were not as sympathetic as they might have been. Almost comatose from sitting in my car in the heat (but too cheap to keep the AC going), I called my youngest. I was reassuring: "I've been in an accident. I'm not really hurt, and Monica is on her way to pick you up." She said "Okay, bye." About 30 minutes after I got home, my eldest came bouncing up the stairs and said "you okay?" Both of them apparently got a big kick of seeing the accident on the way home -- they treated it like a celebrity sighting: "Hey, that's mom! Boy, she's sweating like a pig!"

Let's say I wasn't feeling the love.

However, I soon began receiving letters that made me feel like the prettiest, most popular girl at the Polka Guild.

Unlike my children, my new friends the personal injury lawyers realized that I was "suddenly dealing with personal injuries, medical expenses, property damage and lost wages," and their mission in life is to protect me from an insurance adjuster so vile that he makes his feeble grandma eat Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen because she drools. This adjuster would employ any depraved means to take me down....with extreme prejudice.

I retained an eminent attorney who graduated with honors from the University of Baton Rouge School of Law. Butch is so skillful that he came to my house and personally fitted me with a full-body cast, which has a cunning seam that lets me remove it when I'm not in public - I feel like the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. sometimes!

With Butch's help, I've come to realize that in addition to my agonizing physical injuries, my husband has lost my wifely affections (wink, wink, nod, nod). He'll probably run off with a tramp, leading to loss of income for me. I also can't take care of my children properly. Although, frankly, that doesn't bother me too much after their responses to my pain and suffering. Also, I often have ditzy spells that leave me pale and weak.

As my fans know, I've been looking for gainful employment, which has not been that much fun -- I'm sick of people asking me what contributions I made at my previous company. As if they could even recognize talent when it walked in the door and fixed a drink for itself!!!!! Butch told me that I'm in no condition to look for work, and he also shaved my head, although I'm not quite sure why.

I admit that when I'm not bored, I'm in a bad mood -- wrapping myself in that fucking cast every time I leave the house is getting REALLY old. Plus it's gone dingy and has begun emitting a foul odor. Friends have stopped visiting, and even the dotty old bat across the street has stopped bringing me her lousy green bean casserole.

However, Butch assures me that I will get my day in court and that the teenager who hit me can kiss his college funds goodbye! He says it's too bad he can't dig up an old iron lung -- seeing me in that would get some sympathy! I feel kind of bad about the kid - I'm a real people person.