Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thanks a Lot

Thanksgiving is upon us once more, and I for one love it. A holiday about food? What’s not to love? But family holidays are never that simple, are they? I have three siblings, all of whom sat at the kids table in the living room at my grandmother’s house. We all eavesdropped on the adults talking and laughing at the kitchen table. We paid closer attention when the adults would suddenly switch to French and wished we knew why they would start laughing harder. I think that’s why my older sisters took French in high school so we could figure out what they were talking about. Of course the joke was on us. They were studying France French and my family is French Canadian, so that was just about as helpful as me taking Spanish. We all had the same holiday experience, but as we grew up, we had very different reactions. My sister Sharon and I love, love, love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for many years sought to replicate the larger number of guests my grandmother had at her table, usually around 15 adults and kids. My other sister Julie and brother Mark could live their lives happily never celebrating another holiday ever again. As a matter of fact Julie made it official when she became a Jehovah Witness at age 20—they don’t celebrate anything, except wedding anniversaries. There’s a reason for that, but since it wasn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas, I can’t remember it. But even before she converted, the holidays for her were about as fun and getting poked in the eye with a broken wishbone. My brother shares her eye pain.

For years Sharon and I puzzled and puzzled about this until our puzzlers were sore—how could we be so sharply divided when we’d all had the same experience, which didn’t include any deal breakers like drunken yelling, burned food or fisticuffs? The rest of our family days weren’t always so fabulous, but Thanksgiving and Christmas were consistently good. Finally Sharon and I gave up and just concentrated on beefing up our Thanksgiving numbers to make up for the loss of Julie and Mark. And then at some later point, once we determined that my son was in our camp (it seemed like it might be genetic, so we worried), we just gave in to whatever happened, making gobs of food whether we had seven people or 12. We have abided.

In addition to a sister, son, and parents who love Thanksgiving, a brother-in-law and sister-in-law who tolerate our excessive foodie ways, and a brother and sister who do what’s right for them, here is a very incomplete list of other random things I’m very thankful for in this moment:

  • The times I woke up at the right time and realized I’d forgotten to set my alarm.
  • Having a number of good bosses in my career, including one who originated one of my favorite phrases, “I can be flexible when I’m forced to be!”
  • Realizing as teenagers there was a reason the stop sign we wanted to steal was so big—it was a dangerous intersection. Undeterred we stuck to signs of street names.
  • Still being friends with said fellow thieves in the previous bullet.
  • Having a smart, nerdy gamer son because I really don’t like watching sports outside, in rinks, or really anywhere.
  • My crochet teacher who taught me how to cover up mistakes and called it “hiding the dead bodies.”
  • All the people who read, follow, and comment on this blog–without you I’m just writing stuff on my computer.
  • And a thousand other things big and small, which are all in my head, but hard to find because I don’t have Google for my brain.

Here’s wishing you all the Thanksgiving you can live with. And if you need a place to go, we’re still four short of 15.

Photo credit: http://www.huntingforacure.net/artist.php 

It’s Nothing Personal

So here I am four years post-separation and marriage. During the summer I amused myself by getting reacquainted with girlie things—dresses, shoes, and those whatchamacallits…oh, yeah, accessories. I couldn’t quite pull off sexy, but I got and had a lot of laughs. Summer slipped into autumn and winter is nearly upon us, and even though the girlie dresses are getting cold, I still want to wear them. Out. Somewhere. With sincere apologies to Keats, I now find myself slouching towards dating Bethlehem. I’m still not interested in actual dating, but I’m interested in the idea of thinking about maybe seeing what might be out there. Makes me a perfect catch, don’t you think? I am the consummate researcher and thinker, which, for your information is absolutely very different from a procrastinator. I’m a writer, I know the nuances of language better than you.

In any event, I realized I’m in a good position to evaluate the personals. What do they look like compared to when I answered my ex’s personal ad in the Boston Phoenix, Boston’s alternative weekly newspaper, more than 25 years ago? Of course the internet and apps have intervened in the interim, but I limited my research to just personals because 1) I’m too lazy to actually create a dating profile on a site like Match.com, 2) I’m still scarred by my friends’ stories about how brutal and dishonest these dating sites are and 3) I’m not quite ready for an app like Adult Friend Finder—no explanation needed for that I think, except to emphasize that the technology allows you to meet someone RIGHT NOW. No judgment and call me old fashioned, but I just like to get a drink or two and dinner first.

So where to go? Craigslist personals, that ubiquitous, democratic, free internet space that provokes pretty much the same response from people as the Boston Phoenix personals did 25 years ago. Mild shock quickly followed by admonitions to be careful of all the murderers on there. The similarity was downright heartwarming. So far so good! I plunged on with my research, and here, dear reader, is my take on personals then and now:

The Phoenix had the regular personals and a section where sex was a main feature. I believe it was hip enough to also have the basic categories for gays and straights. Craigslist has nine sections and within in them, evidence of the wonder of human variation and preference. Since I’m kind of boring, I stuck with two, “casual encounters” and the “men seeking women.”

All I remember from the Phoenix was that the personals pretty much sounded all the same. The guys liked dinners, movies, and walks on the beach, which was pretty useless—what kind of food? What kind of movies? My ex’s ad actually had specifics, which made him stand out. Now? Holy acronym Batman! LTR, BBW, HWP. Within minutes I was Googling “Craigslist acronyms”: long-term relationship, big beautiful or black woman, height-weight proportional. And that’s when things really got interesting. At one point I forgot I was looking to see if there was anyone I maybe wanted to think about contacting because the specificity is fascinating. This ain’t no dinner and movies crowd.

First there are all the attributes. Ladies, if you get discouraged about all the ways the media reinforces ridiculous standards of beauty, just go to Craigslist—fair warning you are going to see more pictures of men’s junk than a porn site and the fetishes are rampant, but once you get past that, you will find guys looking for BBW, bubble butts, big breasts, small breasts, requests that a woman have a little meat on them. Tall women, petite women, single mothers, HWP, geeky women, tiny waists with big hips. Something called “thick” which even the guides can’t agree on. I thought it was maybe somewhere between HWP and BBW, but then I saw a picture of a “thick” example, and I thought she was actually HWP, so what do I know? I guess the poster will know it when he sees it. Of course there are the straight out requests for being hot looking and thin/athletic. But there are not as many as you would think, and the guys claim to be the same. And that has been going on since Adam was hoping for a hot babe who was an independent thinker and had healthy eating habits.

When men do make very specific or even wacky requests, they often apologize for it and explain they don’t mean to offend, it’s just what they prefer, which I found kind of touching. Sure they may have gotten flamed by some pissed off women or they are simply savvy marketers. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s a nice touch.

The details included in the personals turned out to be my downfall. I stopped looking for myself and got lost in my writer’s curiosity. I tend to be attracted to guys who make me laugh, and so don’t really have a type. How do people get such specific types? For example what is it about a bubble butt that gets you going? Honestly, thank goodness they included a picture, because I wasn’t even sure what that was. Of course the pictures, clearly of real people, got me started on a whole other line of thought. Where are these people now? Do they know they are a Craigslist poster girl for a ______ (fill in the blank). Then I think how many women actually respond? How many of a type can there be?

Which of course brings it around back to me. I’m happy for all the women out there whose type is being called out and worshipped (a lot of guys promise to worship these various parts). But then that means I have the opposite, but equally annoying problem of 25 years ago when the ads were too vague. Then it was OK, we both like movies, but what if I like “Equalizer” and you like “Her”? Now I have to figure out where my body fits into the acronyms. I can knock out the extremes—I’m proudly not fit or athletic. Which is just as well because the guys who ask for a fit or athletic woman always list their hobbies as hiking, running and all manner of exercise—ugh. I tend to gravitate to the guys who talk about food and wine. Also, I’m not a BBW or a bubble butt. My breasts have never been big, and thanks to my recent weight loss, they have actually gotten slightly smaller (you really can’t win sometimes). I have big hips, but my waist ain’t anywhere near tiny. It actually was a while before I encountered HWP, which shows you how many requests there are for just a regular gal—not many. I guess they are all on Match.com.

Once I could tear myself away from these fascinating guys and their requests and I decided I was HWP, I started lurking among this small number of ads. I could eliminate at least 75% of the guys off the bat. They are in their thirties or younger, and I’m not quite ready to be a cougar (although that is not an infrequent request).  Of the remaining men, there are the people who are looking for love and long-term, while others are uncomfortably honest (married seeking same). A few are just liars/too creepy if true. One guy claimed to be very successful and was looking for someone to travel with him on his boat and winter in Florida. Um, I was just looking for dinner, wine, a few laughs, and home by midnight, thanks! And that leaves me about one possibility every few weeks. And even at that point the general rule of Craigslist is that half the time, people will flake out on you and not show up.

So through very careful, research, combing through pages of original documents, I have come to a very scientific conclusion about dating today versus 25 years ago. It ain’t any easier, whether you are looking for an LTR, an Adult Friend, or just looking for dinner, wine and a few laughs. But at least if you have been hiding your Craigslist lurking habit, you can tell people you only know about it because you read it here. You’re welcome. The girlie dresses can wait until spring.

Photo credit: Glamour.com, “Here Are a Few Not-So-Solid Dating Tips From the 1930s”

People Who Forget History Are Doomed to Have a Crazy Homework Assignment

Yesterday evening, I was just settling in to polish the draft of today’s blog about fun with Craigslist, when my son came home early from his Dad’s. At first I was psyched because that often means he finished his homework early. And then I saw his face. It went beyond normal teen indifference to downright morose. Uh-oh, there’s trouble in Homework City. With no prodding (also a bad sign) he said he’d been feeling bad all weekend about a history essay assignment. So much for my superior parenting skills – I’d just thought he was in a classic teen bad mood. He had to read two original, dense articles published in academic journals in the late 1940s, one calling for peace with the Soviet Union and one calling for containment. He had to outline each article, then choose a side, and write an essay using one of the articles as a source. He’d been at it for over an hour and had barely gotten though a page and a half of the first article. I saw the despair on his face and looked at the blinking lights on my laptop. I took a deep breath and closed it.

Moving quickly into efficient mom mode, I told him brightly that he could do this, and I would help. I assumed the issue was his tendencies towards perfection and detail. Math and science are easier for him, and in those subjects perfection and being detailed is useful. In writing, though, perfection is like Superman’s Kryptonite. So feeling the return of my parenting A game – one might even say overconfidence – I took a look. As predicted, the outline was highly detailed, with a maelstrom of roman numerals, letters, and numbers. I barely started to tell him that he just needed to highlight the main ideas of the article (In my mind, I was already triumphantly wielding that essential college tool, the highlighter, like Excalibur) when he showed me the teacher’s outline instructions. The happy, free-spirited highlighter got ripped unceremoniously from me. My son was actually following the instructions. For each paragraph (whether it was three sentences or 20) he had to write the main idea (roman numeral), then the main points (A, B, D), then examples of the main points  (1,2,3). I really wanted to head to the unopened bottle of wine on the counter whispering my name. But even I could see this would require sobriety. Did I mention I hate the word “rubric”?

Now, I started to panic. Yes, he started this monstrosity way too late, but I learned long ago that finger-pointing just makes him fold in on himself, and then I have to feel guilt over both the pointing and the folding. Better to stick it in my back pocket, and then vigilantly pester him every weekend, “Got any history homework? You don’t want to repeat the Soviet Union essay do you?”

Much like the Soviet regime, which I learned about from the containment article, we needed to brutally ramp up production, only we’d be sacrificing that insanely detailed outline instead of the Russian population. See? We already have learned from history. He’s an auditory kid, so I read the paragraphs aloud and we talked through summarizing the main ideas and he wrote those down: no main points, no examples. It still took nearly three hours. It was close to midnight, nearly two hours past my bedtime and past any time my brain can actually work. I desperately wanted to go to bed, but then he gave me a big hug and thanked me, saying he couldn’t have done it without me. Damn that kid and his gratitude! I could see from his face that he needed me to hang around a bit longer for moral support as he started the essay. I stayed up another 30 minutes, floating in an out of consciousness. until his essay was well under way. Ah well, that’s how the Communism crumbles.

The Key to My Lazy Mid-Life Miracle Weight Loss Program: Yoga

Back in June I posted a blog about dieting tips for the lazy in mid-life; for example eating the same thing for days frees you from having to think about calorie counting and food prep. Dieting five days instead of seven also takes less exertion. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that since then I have lost 12 pounds, count ‘em 12, in 6

..months! I actually may have lost 14 pounds, but to be honest, when I got on the scale that fateful day and my perimenopausal mid-drift roll was big enough to rest a cell phone on, I blacked out a bit looking down at the blinking number on the scale. It was somewhere above my pregnancy weight, which any ex-pregnant woman will tell you is not a place you want to revisit without a baby being involved.

But back to my Lazy Mid-Life Miracle Weight Loss Program; I believe I have discovered an entirely new approach to weight loss. Let’s face it, the market for losing weight fast is totally saturated. The middle ground dieting market is practical and based on sound medical advice, which is why no one pays attention to it. If we were practical and medically sound eaters, we wouldn’t have a weight problem in the first place. So what’s left? Lazy dieting! Dieting so slowly, anyone can do it!

I don’t want my Lazy Miracle Weigh Loss Program to sound like a scam, so I will disclose the one downside: I lost the weight so gradually, no one noticed. True, that meant I was hiding my previous weight gain very well—I’m the queen of elastic waist band work pants and slightly tailored, yet roomy tops. I could feel my clothes getting looser, and at first that was good enough. I didn’t mind people not noticing. I mean the first five pounds hardly count: I can gain and lose that around my period. But, 12 pounds (perhaps 14, pending hypnosis memory recovery) should solicit some kind of comment. I started thinking about how to work my weight loss casually into a conversation. By this time my yoga teacher had returned from taking the summer off (read about those summer misadventures in my post I’m the Jerry Seinfeld of Yoga). At yoga, I wear loose-fitting tops, which hide a multitude of sins, but yoga pants are the Catholic confessional of clothing. Forgive me father, for I have eaten!

I would like to say the yoga class enlightened me and I transcended these mundane thoughts and made peace with my best-kept secret weight loss, but you should know me better than that. Lucky for me, my teacher is the perfect combination of yogi with a real woman edge—she’s encouraged us by saying how the pose will help us look good for swimsuit season. As we were setting up, she said, “Wow, you look great! What have you been doing?” With a big Namaste smile, I answered, “Practically nothing!”

So my final tip for lazy dieters is don’t forget to go to yoga class. Some of the poses are great for swimsuit season.