Monthly Archives: October 2016

Boo!

I sat staring at my notebook and screen for a few hours trying to scrape up a post, and all I have to show for it are some have-baked posts that haven’t found their funny yet, a low-functioning brain from a 12-day work project, and a political hangover from not being able to stay away from Facebook, even though I already voted this week. Bad, bad girl! That’s some pretty scary stuff, especially the unfunny draft posts–those are downright frightening.

So Happy Halloween everyone! If this isn’t the scariest Halloween in a while, then I want whatever it is that you’re drinking, eating, or swallowing. And, yes, I just spent 5 minutes searching to see if I should capitalize “Happy.” There were no credible answers, so I’m doing it–that’s how out of sorts I am.

Photo credit: That’s our pumpkin.

 

 

 

 

 

Odds and Ends

It was one if those weeks where lots of random little things happened, and for most of them I wondered if I could make a blog out of it. And despite my best efforts to stretch, prod, pretend, and plea to any higher being who would listen, no one single thing would save me from the yawning maw of the blank electronic page. But I realized I could gang them all up together and let you sort it out, since you are all so awesome and intelligent. 

So enjoy the random events:

1. Have you noticed this new fashion thing of women wearing ankle boots with no socks? With the dresses, yes, I’ve seen this before, but they also do it with pants. So, you know, I’m a hip happenin’ chick so I put on my little socks no one can see and show my ankles to the world. And I was distracted by it all day. When all the others do it, it looks fashionable. But somehow I just couldn’t see myself that way. I went down the mom road thinking about cold ankles, and then I just felt like I looked like I’d forgotten to wear socks. I usually do not obsess over fashion, despite the pleas of some of friends to do so, for the love of god. So, I guess this just means I gotta wear the socks. I’m sure the fanny pack isn’t far behind.

2. I watched the first two debates and survived, but I drew the line at number three. I just had nothing left for it, but my teen was watching it with his friends online. All I could hear was his side of the four-way conversation and no debate audio. Oh. My. God. It was so perfect. Do you remember how awful being a teenager was? Well what we didn’t understand was the gift we had in our cluelessness. My son and his friends blissfully have no emotional investment in this campaign. They are young and they don’t care about what has come before or even what happens after. And I forgot what a gift that could be until I heard them calling out the internet meme moments. “He sniffed!” My son cried jubilantly. “Hillary just said ‘Russia’!” It was just as good as SNL, and no commercials. 

3. I was in the car and heard the Talking Heads song, “All Night Long,” about a cute baby he wants to make stay up all night long. I haven’t heard that song in ages, but it took me right back to my kid, when he was an infant. There was a span of time (who can say for how long, mothering has a way of eating your brain) when he just slept for 30 minutes, woke up and breast fed for 30 minutes, until he fell asleep again for 30 minutes. Over and over again until he made spy movie torture look fun. I would have agreed to anything, spilled any secret. My dear friend Lora made up new lyrics to the song about my situation, made me a book, and then sang the song to me. When I heard it in the car I used the recording feature in my iPhone, and sent her 20 seconds worth without comment. She got it immediately and texted back about her version. And I realized that I need to change the story in my head about how hard it was to have a baby who thought sleep was for amateurs. It was was 17 years ago, and it’s time for a new story. One that emphasizes the great number of friends who kept me sane then and who continue to keep me sane now, and all night long. Thanks guys. 

4. I have a sensitive disposition both emotional and nervous-system based–a two-fer, yippee! I’ve learned to be more emotionally resilient, although there are exceptions (see number 2 for illustration), but the physical sensitivities are harder to manage in a noisy world and even harder to explain. I’ll just say that when the ambulance is screaming down the street, I’m the one with her hands plugging her ears–me and the toddler set. But I recently had an epiphany that could help me explain my sensitivities. I was eating a Mexican salad that I ordered without jalapeños. But I think they were still in there. It was hard to tell, the salad was chopped to hell, but my mouth was on fire. Now usually I would say “I don’t like jalapeños,” but that just leads well-meaning people who seem to enjoy having their mouths on fire to try to convince me I should like it too. Saying it hurts is an exaggeration. It’s not painful, unlike that screaming ambulance. But this week I realized it’s uncomfortable. I don’t feel whatever exilirating, nasal clearing thing it is you all feel when your mouth is on fire. It’s more like I’m too close to a fire and my eyebrows are getting singed. Only it’s inside my mouth. Uncomfortable. I confess that like a new convert, I may use it for every sensitivity incident. 

5. While I was purchasing some acne medicine on Amazon, (yes I have acne, it’s ridiculous), the helpful algorithm also suggested some ointment for puffy, baggy eyes. How did they know, I wondered? So I took a chance and ordered some. I tried it a couple of times, even being scientific about it and taking before and after selfies in the mirror to see if it worked. No one should have to see such an extreme close up of themselves, but I believe in the scientific method. And I can scientifically report that it doesn’t work, well, it doesn’t work if the bags under your eyes have bags–on either bag level. 

So there you have it. Oh and apologies for all the accidental posts. I’m working from the app on my phone and clearly haven’t mastered the technique yet. 

The Dating Game

Remember when I was perusing Craigslist solely to gather information for you, fair readers? Well, today we’re moving on to part 2, dating advice. I may or may not be dating — if you want to find out for sure, you’re going to have to buy me dinner and drinks. A lot of drinks. But I digress.

I was with my friend Mike visiting our favorite bartender in Boston, and we noticed a young couple in the middle of what had to be a first date. It was pretty plain to see the body language. He was chatting and working pretty hard at being charming and funny — leaning in, if you will. Both Mike and I decided we’d be happy to have been on the receiving end of his efforts. But the young woman was less than enchanted. She was bordering on being rude, looking away, looking at her phone. Our favorite bartender confirmed our suspicions and filled us in because she’d been eavesdropping. Hence one of the many reasons she’s our favorite bartender. She was in favor of the young man, who was holding up his part of the date, but the young woman seemed to be too caught up in her own insecurities — there was a fair amount of tugging at her skirt, looking at her phone, and fiddling with her hair. She was clearly not present. And even if she was, hey, if you’re not into it, then you need to find a graceful way to end it. That’s what grownups do. Or maybe we all need to be aware of whether our date is into it, and if not, have the courage to end it gracefully ourselves.

The three of us heaved a collective sigh of relief that it wasn’t us, and we agreed that this is what’s so hard about dating when you’re young. At that age, most of us often only want someone for the sake of wanting them, and we really haven’t figured out what we want from ourselves, never mind a partner. And yet there’s this great pressure to be out there and dating and finding The One! So you go on dates, dragging along your wheeled baggage that definitely does not fit into the overhead compartment. (I’d like to give shout out to my friend Lora who introduced me to this apt metaphor. She also told me plenty of stories of being on dates with folks in their 30s and 40s who should know better and still have a death grip on their luggage. So sadly, this does not just apply to the young ones.)

Sometimes I regret that I didn’t date more at that age, and wonder if it would have made a difference in my choices. But was I even ready for it? Would it have been just a series of dates like the one I witnessed, only it would have been me worrying about my body, clothes, hair, stupid shit? To be fair, back then we didn’t have phones to check, but would my eyes have been darting around like a trapped animal? Or staring into the middle distance like fictional characters do when their lives are hitting bottom? Would I have been able to learn from it? I’ve recently become addicted to enamored of a website called A New Mode, which among other things dispenses a lot of decent, sensible relationship advice aimed at straight women, but I think all humans can find something useful in it. There is also a lot of insight into how straight men think. I could write a whole blog on this topic alone, and maybe I will — it’s totally fascinating.

But for this blog, I like how A New Mode focuses on loving yourself first, having a full happy life without a partner, the fun of dating, and not taking anything too seriously at the beginning. And it’s good enough that I can overlook the fair amount of hard sell of various $49 videos that will reveal for the FIRST TIME! The THREE SIMPLE WORDS that will make the man you want crave you and devote himself to you forever! As a writer, I find the word “crave” an interesting choice. Obsession is too scary and in all states, illegal, but the word “crave” is marketing genius. It’s being wanted without the scary part, although it’s still too scary for me. As an older, wiser woman, I can happily skip the craving and devotion, and have many better uses for my 49 bucks, thanks.

But the other advice makes a lot of sense to me because it validates what I learned through hard-won life experience. I’ve spent my post-divorce time getting to that place of filling my life with things that bring me joy, being happy with myself, changing a few things I’m not happy with, and letting go what doesn’t really matter. But I wonder, would I have been able to truly understand this advice the last time I was thrashing about in this arena as a 20-something? I was definitely carrying over-regulation-size luggage, and I was an 80s angry feminist who had just extricated herself from a messy, abusive, dysfunctional relationship. OK, I waited two years after the relationship, but still. I think in that time I managed to unpack the equivalent of a cosmetic bag, and angry feminists don’t wear makeup. Would I have really been able to love myself and not just plaster on a fake sticker, “Yes, I love myself, now date me!”? I really had no idea who I was, and I don’t think I had any business dating, not even for purely recreational purposes.

But to be kind to myself, I Googled “Dating Advice from the ‘80’s,” just to see what advice was available to me at that time. And while I may not have been ready to follow today’s advice back then, I think I can safely say there was no way to be successful using the advice of that time. Phew, that’s a load off. Check this out advice from a book called How to Be Popular with Boys by Stacy Rubis (1984):

  1. “Boys get an ego boost from your awkwardness. It makes them feel more in control, more manly. And at the same time they get more protective toward shy, trembling you.” Hmmm. If that were the case, I should have been beating them off with a stick. Awkward was my middle name! Don’t get me stated on the trembling, what am I? Some Hollywood starlet from the ’30s?
  2. “Don’t take any chances when getting ready in the morning. Always put effort into looking good. Effort, plain effort, is often the only real difference between average and stunning girls.” Hey, I always made sure my “rat tail” (a little chunk of hair in the back that is about 4 inches longer than your short hair) was dyed blue and braided. Believe me it looked good. Really good.
  3. “Another good way to turn a crush into the real thing is to determine your man’s schedule of classes for the day…Figure it out and arrange when to bump into him…a lot.” Um, I think this is called stalking now, and is illegal in all 50 states…
  4. “Try eating at one of the ethnic food stands in the mall, preferably a taco place where it’s hard to discern the ingredients of a meal. Then say to a boy whose plate is piled high, ‘What is that you’re eating?’” Yeah, because meat, various vegetables, and cheese are so ethnic, that they are hard to identify. That aside, practicing inflection seems key to this advice: What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? What is that you’re eating? I don’t think I quite have the sexy innuendo down right…

So, there you have it. Dating is never easy in any time or stage of life, but it sure makes for good blog fodder, and that, my friends, brings me great joy.

 

Collegepalooza 2016

I’m happy to report that Collegepalooza 2016 has come to a close. I know it feels like we just got started, but I spared you the blow-by-blow descriptions of the three-hour drives at 8 pm across Massachusetts into New York. You’re welcome.

I already wrote about one tour, but the other one of note was the first one. I found myself on a stormy Saturday afternoon at Dartmouth College. It’s one of those campuses right out of central casting that doesn’t need a sunny, fall day to scream hoidy toidy pre-1800s New England college. I admit I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder being at the Ivy League school. They are all snooty, right? But then the chipper young man giving the tour began making comparisons to its “peer” colleges; as in “we have more research opportunities that our peers, we have a better student faculty ratio that our peers.” I started to get the sense Dartmouth may be considered “lesser” among its “peers.” I can pretty much guarantee that on the Harvard tour they are not comparing themselves to Dartmouth — or anybody else for that matter. In a way, it actually made me like Dartmouth more. It reminded me of that old Avis ad, “We’re number two, so we try harder.”

Once I was able to let go of my little prejudice, I started to notice a weird thing about the people on the tour. A significant number of the pairs of perspective college kids and their parents were dressed similarly. There was the sturdy mother and son team in their North Face wet weather gear. I was actually a little envious of them; it was raining on and off, and we’d forgotten umbrellas. I’d thought/hoped maybe the tour guide office might supply them. Makes sense right? Dry perspective students and parents get to concentrate on how great your school is rather than being distracted by their squishy wet shoes. It wasn’t an unrealistic expectation — when we visited a State University of New York school, I saw a big bucket of umbrellas. State school. Just sayin’.

Anyway, back to our pairs. There was a stereotypical Ivy League preppy dad and daughter. He look like he stepped out of the Lands’ End catalog, I kid you not. Right down to the summer sweater tied around his neck. I’m actually probably insulting him with the Lands’ End reference. There was a prominent, way-higher-end-than-I-shop, brand label on his khaki shorts. I just didn’t recognize it or remember it, and as taking photos of people’s asses is rather frowned upon, I can’t tell you what it was. The daughter was wearing a slightly funkier version of the outfit. Her multicolored shorts clearly had preppy roots, but the designers had taken a careful fashion runway step out of that box. There wasn’t a label on her shorts.

There was the practical/nerdy-looking mother and son team with the see-through plastic ponchos, different colors, and the mother and daughter who were both taking it up a notch with nice dresses. Nothing says “I’m better than you” than being dressed up on an outdoor walking tour on a rainy Saturday. I half expected to see a manservant walking next to them with an umbrella. I know, I shouldn’t judge — perhaps they had a charity event to attend to afterward.

My kid and I were not dressed similarly, and I consider it a good thing. However, I fully accept that there may be another blog out there wondering at parent and child pairs who did not look like they belonged together, and postulating they were crashing the tour for the coffee and snacks. I neither confirm, nor deny.

So in addition to learning that some families actually do dress alike, and it’s not just the Sears catalog family models all wearing the same red plaid pajamas, here are some other tidbits I can pass along to those of you who may need to go down this road:

  1. You may call today’s kids lazy, entitled, etc, but they do way more in college than I ever did. I’m not talking about these hyper-involved guides — they’re just freaks of nature. No, I’m referring to the fact that nearly everyone has a major and minor, does research, and goes abroad. Even my kid noticed and asked me what my minor was. In my day only super ambitious people did minors. I switched majors my junior year, so I probably could’ve had enough courses for a minor, but as I recall there was extra paperwork/waiting in an endless line at the registrar’s office to file said paperwork. There may have also been a fee, and since I was living on $40 a week to cover food, phone, and electricity, I’m thinking that wasn’t in the cards for me. God, I sound like a Depression-era survivor. For the record, I did not walk 10 miles to get to school.
  2. There are more food choices than in New York City, complete with semi-famous chef night and the local farm fresh food bar. I’ve never lived in New York, but people who do extol the virtue of having access to any kind of food 24 hours a day. The college food trough isn’t quite open 24 hours, but they do have everything, including a soy milk dispenser. Now this may be an odd thing for me to notice, but hear me out. I drink soy milk to reduce my hot flashes, so I had no idea there were other reasons to drink it, or that so many non-perimenopausal people drink it, they need a damn dispenser. In my day, there was just food, and my first cheese blintz qualifies as exotic.
  3. There are more student resources than actual students, but it’s an open question about whether anyone actually uses them. At first I was impressed about how many staff/faculty/places students could go to for help — everything from writing an essay to advice on creating an app to discussing a personal problem. By the fourth school, though, I started to wonder, do kids actually use them? None of the wonder guides admitted to using them, and only a few mentioned that they had “a friend” who used this or that resource. Sounded suspicious. It reminded me of the guidance counselor I had in high school. Yes, technically we had “guidance;” however, the reality was that mine was an old fart a few years from retirement. (Hey, Mr. Ginsberg, you sucked.) I was an honors student who wanted to go to college, but he urged me to take a non-college track, elective course — maybe it was tie-dying or something — because it fit better in my schedule and he complained that otherwise he’d have to do extra work rearranging my schedule to make sure I had the appropriate courses. Was I trying to get into art school? Planning on taking a  VW bus across the country after high school? No, so fill out the paperwork you lazy ass and get me into that college required science class. “Resources” may not be all they are cracked up to be.

Are any of the schools we visited the right fit for my kid? Who knows. To completely jumble my metaphors, all I know is that this is a marathon not a sprint, and we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it. The college visits are done. Up next, the Common Application. I’m going to need more wine.

Now I’ve Gone and Stepped in It

After much reviewing of the facts, I have been forced to reach the conclusion that I may not be the graceful, smooth-walking woman I thought I was. Recently I was strolling with a friend on the sidewalk. I was in mid-sentence and suddenly I just went down. I didn’t get hurt and there didn’t seem to be any depression in the sidewalk that could have caused it. I wasn’t drunk, either — well, no more than usual. Yet, I fell full-on down like a cartoon character in an open manhole cover. But I’m also a cool cat, so I shook it off and we continued on our way. It wasn’t until later when I was on the train, feeling lightly smug that I had recovered so gracefully, that I notice the prominent trickle of bright red blood running from my knee down my leg. yeah, real cool there, girlie.

A few days later I was attempting to get out of a rowboat onto a dock. I grew up doing this. It was not my first time in a boat by a dock. Yet, as I got half way out, I fell back into the boat. The padding of the life-preserver jacket cushioned me so I didn’t get hurt at all. And I made it out on the second try. I do apologize to middle-aged women everywhere — lord knows what conclusions were reached about us by the 20-something trying to help me. But the worse thing was that I knew as I was stepping out of the boat, that it was ill-fated. But did I stop to reposition myself? No, I just kept going and fell back into the boat like a dork.

This summer I stepped out of the canoe into mucky mud that went near nearly up to my knee. Yes, the river was lower than usual because of the lack of rain and that exposed more mud as a result. But who expects it to be 3 feet deep? Apparently my friend who was with me because he asked, “Didn’t you think to test it first?” No, why would I do that? How can mud be 3 feet deep? As I was stuck, one foot held fast in the mud and the other still in the boat, it flashed in my brain that it might be a kind of quicksand, and I was going to get sucked in and killed, Hollywood-style. Of course I just Googled that, and it’s not true. You actually only sink about halfway, just enough to look non-life-threateningly ridiculous. I struggled for a few minutes and managed to lift out my foot, but I had to stick my hand in the muck to fish out my sandals. Nothing says graceful like being covered in mucky mud.

It feels like these incidents just started, so I was all ready to heave this annoyance on to the perimenopause-hormones blame heap. However, I have to grudgingly admit that this is not my first time at the klutzy rodeo. There was the infamous college incident when I walked into a pole — OK, there may have been some alcohol involved, but my friends will tell you that’s no excuse. I’ve clocked guys’ teeth going in for a kiss. I fell out of a canoe that was pulled up near the edge of the river and not moving, and I still can’t explain why. I fell off my bike, once. I think it was caused more by my indecision on how to avoid a collision, but I think that still qualifies. Smooth-moving people know what to do in a near-collision. Finally, if you gather my friends from high school, they could probably regale you with additional examples, which have blessedly fallen out of my memory. At least that I can thank/blame on middle-age.

The thing is over the last 5 years or so, I’ve worked hard to be a mindful, meditative person. And when it comes to my emotions and dealing with most of my relationships, I think I am fairly successful at it. But I have to admit, the mindfulness has not extended to my physical body. This is kind of a blow to my ego — you know, the little bit of ego left after all my awesome mindfulness and meditation. I do yoga, for crying out loud! But I have to admit I think I’m only mindful in yoga class or when I’m standing absolutely still, which is only a small portion of any given day that I’m on this planet. Once I actually start moving, I’m tripping randomly, falling out of boats, walking into poles. I can’t predict what’s going to happen to me next, so this is just a friendly warning. When I next see you, you can probably tell me just about anything and I will verbally respond mindfully, but you might want to make sure I’m sitting and stay back a few feet.