tisdag, april 25, 2006

Club Bebe

I am not a Bebe type. I like Niketown. I think athletic gear offers just the right image combination of strength and sex appeal, and I can trust that an $80 gym pant is going to hold its spandex and, hence, my ass, just fine without looking trashy or sloppy. That's a good friend for a girl to have.

However, life cannot be spent in gym clothes. Life really cannot really be spent wearing the same default thing all the time. So when I had an opportunity to travel along with a true, dedicated clothing consumer over the age of 40, I agreed. I wanted to learn something. This woman always looked great. This woman always turned men's heads. This woman was always smiling. It made me nuts, but it was true. It made me want to hate her, but I couldn't. She was to teach me in a series of lessons learned by accompanying her to some high end malls. My only job to observe and learn. It didn't matter that she had more money than god, and I had $4.50 left on my debit card. Somehow, she would help me.

For some reason, on our first trip out I wore a yellow polo shirt. I never wear polo shirts. I never wear yellow. It was as if I wanted to fail. I feel like a man in a cotton three buttoner. Suddenly I was partially invisible and completely uncomfortable. Meanwhile, my teacher wore diamonds, wedged-heeled sandals, and cleavage. Her long blond hair was perfect and her skin was flawless. She moved about the handbag section scanning and eyeing up $900 Chanels and $800 Cole Haans. After twenty minutes I started looking at handbags too. At twenty-one minutes I began thinking I could justify a purse that was designed to be dated in half a season and more expensive than my first house. "If I would buy that purse, I could stuff my yellow polo shirt in it and things would seriously start to improve," I thought.

At twenty-two minutes, my teacher took an abrupt turn towards the shoe department. She needed more sparkley wedgie sandals, it seemed. All of them. I kept finding the shoes with the solid toes and the heels and the black and, well, the work shoe. I could wear my pumps to the beach, to the bars, to the gym. I obviously had no imagination. I lived in a safe zone. In this, her land of Blahniks, I migrated towards Hush Puppies and the Easy Spirit slip on.

to be con't . . .

söndag, april 09, 2006

Escaping Midwayville

"I know where rain comes from," Edit says. "It comes from planes. The stream they leave behind is ice. The ice gets heavy. It falls towards the ground, melts and turns to rain. Rain only happens if there are a lot of planes in a group."

"Where does the sun come from?" I think to myself. From Florida, I guess. It roams about and visits New York and Ohio and Saskatchewan, but mostly, I think, it lives in Florida.

It's fun to take a flight from New York to Miami, with all those passengers with age-based hearing loss talking to each other at the same decible level used by six year olds in headphones.



I begin to wonder why, after fifty years of marriage, couples don't insist on taking separate flights. There is only so much walking away one can do on a plane.


"That's the engine, m'am," the flight attendant intervenes with a patient smile. "It's a good sound. We want to hear that sound."

The reason I am not a flight attendent is because I would have said it like this: "We want to hear that sound," not the endless chatter you are pumping out as air filler. Actually, there are lots of reasons I am not a flight attendent: I'd eat all the peanuts, I look mean when I am concentrating and I would be the first in line to get off a burning plane. So I decide it is time to be a good passenger, and chill. I reach down and pull some magazines out of my bag. The first one I pull out, Sunset, makes me smile.

Humor perculates in two places: something suffocatingly familiar and something sparkely new. For example, I have known about Sunset magazine since I was a kid. It's a West Coast publication that I associate with 50's ranch houses overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I have seen it a handful of times over the years. I am pretty sure I turned the pages once or twice. That's all. I subscribed to it as part of a current project, so it shows up in the office every month. Everything about its cover tickles a Long Island co-worker.

"Sunset. What kind of name is that for a retirement magazine. Were the names Death Knell, December Time, andOne Foot in the Grave unavailable?"

"It's not about retirement. Our coast gets the sunrise; they get the sunset. Get it?"

"And look at this font," he continues, ignoring me. "Who picked it? This guy must share a drawing board with the clown that designed the typeface for Highlights, for Kids" about a billion years ago."

He laughs some more as he walks away, cracking himself up.

I can't do that. I can't do the free association thing needed to generate a joke on this topic. I know enough about the magazine to, like a dweeb, try to explain it; I don't know enough, however, to contribute to my friend's jibes with a complementing set of "if you knew the half of it" inside jokes. I am stuck in Midwayville, a humorless place right next to The Mall and that restaurant, Buster something or other, that serves heaping plates of fat and gives adults a chance to play arcade games.

Or I was, anyway. I escaped Midwayville as soon as I agreed to a roadtrip with a group of "accompanying persons." Conference promoters developed the phrase "accompanying person" as a politically correct replacement to "your wives" in brochure copy that described what spouses would be doing while their respective breadwinners sat in break-out groups and plotted how to market cancer producing sugar substitutes, or golfed. Actually, we are wives, but there are no significant others here and certainly no organizers. We are moms heading out for a few days in the sun with our daughters. As long as I have known me, I have failed in all efforts to make road trips uneventful. Traveling as I was this time with moms who did not work outside the home and confessed to me things like "I have never made a travel arrangement my life," I felt fairly confident that things would go badly.

As there was no escaping the fact that I had agreed to go on a trip with people I barely knew, I thought it would help break the ice if after introductions at the airport, I would stand in front of them and drip coffee down the front of my White Pants for Florida. I thought it would really get them relaxed if, after remembering that when white cotton gets wet from rinsing in an airport bathroom sink it becomes as transparent as celophane, two members of the group could spot me standing on tiptoe, on a ledge, positioned underneath the hot air flow from a hand dryer, and then go back and share it with the rest.

There was one seat on the plane that was separate from the others, and I asked to take it. That's where I was when I pulled the Sunset magazine out of my carry on. The article on adding chocolate-colored plants to the backyard made everything all better. Except upon closer examination none of the plants were really brown. They were burgundy, rust, or flaxen, and I began to wonder about the crafty copy editor who knew that the word "chocolate" would drag half the readers along for the article. Loud passengers, tricky wordsmiths, stupid coffee. I let the warm sun come in through the airplane window and drug me to sleep.

I can't say for certain if it happened when I had been pulling magazines apart or earlier that day when I might have failed to pull it back out of the ATM, but it was no later than this point in my trip that my personal credit card disappeared forever. These were the only two opportunities I could reckon. I would not discover this, of course, for another 24 hours.

On arrival, I suggested that our small group gather the luggage while I picked up the rental car. Once they collected the gear, they could follow the signs and find me. It seemed simple enough. At some point, my daughter shows up, alone. "Where's the group?" "Oh, a mom wondered where you were, so she sent me on." "I'm here, where I said I would be. Go back and get them." Two minutes after my daughter goes back in the direction of the baggage claim, someone else's child appears. "We were wondering what was taking your daughter so long to find you, so I came to look for her." Ahhh, I thought. Apparently I was just stepping onto the four day-long "Why Fathers Explode" amusement park ride. Our next discovery was that one accompanying daughter's suitcase was larger than the entire trunk of the cute convertible car I thought everyone would enjoy. The other mother-daughter team wondered why I had not rented a subdivision-sized SUV. I began to think something that a dad would probably think. I stared at the huge piece of luggage as if I had x-ray vision and could see the ceiling fan-sized cosmetic case and thirteen curling irons inside, then stopped myself. Everything, I decided, would be fine.

We pulled into the hotel, a towering beachside number one sees on postcards. The music from Miami Vice kept trying to enter my head, but I couldn't quite remember it. In the lobby I learned that two other mother-daughter teams would not be joining us because the girls had gotten into a fight over a boy and refused to be seen in each other's company. This signified a rather terrifying degree of indulgence and shallowness. The more practical problem for me was that this hotel just got twice as expensive as it was supposed to be and completely out of my price range. I started to panic. My throat got tight. Yet none of this prepared me for what followed.

My roommate mom opened the door to our suite, turned on the television and said, "Oh, Fox News. Good."

måndag, april 03, 2006


Faith is my guinea pig.

No that's not right. I am her servant, confidant, scratching post. She came over today with a box of hair designed to be taped to her head. She wants me to do the product placement. "If this works, I'll do the same for you," she warns.

"It's thick and its wavy and I love to feel it on my back," she explains.

"Maybe that's how guys feel," I joke, then start visualizing my neighbor with male pattern back hair.

"It's under $200 and I can save that much by not going to the hairdressers for a haircut for, say, half a year."

The thought of my down time having a fiscal value is lost on her, but I have learned my lesson and bite my lip. I have also decided that the material she provides me is payment enough.

"What happened to your legs," I ask, noticing big blue dots and bruises.
"I got rid of those stupid spider veins. I lied about being aspirin free. Don't look at me like that. I waited two weeks to get an appointment and I'm going to the beach in a week. When the doctor said, 'And you haven't had any aspirin products in the past month?' it was pretty clear what my answer would have to be if I wanted the treatment."

"What? You can't get an ugly hat, a one piece bathing suit with a skirt, and a cooler full of chips to sit by like the rest of us?"

I looked into the process once. I was sitting outside the bathtub while a bubblely Edit lined her plastic minuature African safari animals along the ledge. "Your legs are getting so long and nice," I said at some point, as part of my constant encouragement to eat growth foods. "Your legs are nice too," she said, bringing a smile to my face. "Except for those spots."

By spots she meant veins. Surface veins that the resulting $80 office visit told me are simply a product of pale skin and, well, veins close to that skin, and no there is nothing that can be done if you want your toes to stay on the ends of your feet. Then, because I am not Gwen, I get trapped in serious down time as the two doctors in that practice got into a debate about the vitality of one major artery and I ended up waiting another five weeks to get a sonogram of all my leg valves to make sure that I would survive another year.

Which reminds me of a heart sonogram I had once. I sat there, watching the greyscale image of the suprisingly prune-like grey blob working its little heart butt off to keep me going. I stared at it, wondering why it bothered to keep going. If that was the thing that was mostly keeping me alive, shouldn't it be in a better protective case and look a lot more convincing in operation? That experience destroyed any remnant of the illusion of immortality I may have been able to retain from younger days. I thought that if my little Yugo pump could get me another ten years down the road, I would be lucky.

But because the darn thing won't quit working, I now had a neighbor and four ounces of processed hair from China hanging out in my kitchen. In forty minutes flat, I had her parted, taped, brushed out and trimmed. Every bit of her seemed to bounce, not just the hair. As she left, I heard Edit come in the house and say to her, "I like your hair cut." What kind of five year old compliments a forty-something woman on a hair cut? What kind of five year old even notices? Maybe I would have to get some of that stuff.

Edit also likes gia pets and floam, I told myself. Let it go. Think of your heart.

söndag, april 02, 2006

Tennis, Anyone?

"You're gonna hate that guy," Elle whispers, as I sign up for six weeks of personal training. "He's tough. . . . He won't let you whine."

"I need someone like that," I whisper back. "Before I die, I'm gonna make one last ditch effort to get my ass off my thighs."

"I'm not kidding. I know you're serious, but still, he is so . . . so . . . marines."

I think for a minute about how much I actually despise calisthenics and being told what to do. I look at the fifty year-old fireplug and say to him, "I'm only going to commit for six weeks right now. I have a couple of injured body parts I have to make sure can take this."

He hesitates for a second, then reaches behind him, grabs a medical information sheet, and hands it to me. These guys must be so sick of failure, I figure, dealing on a daily basis with people wanting a body in sixty days that doesn't look like thirty or forty years of fat, salt, dehydration, disappointment, sun, and sectional couches. Still, even the most hard core, cynical, or masochistic of the breed can't be anxious to watch a client crack, cripple, and sue. My daughter takes note of how I worked an escape clause, how I wrote my own excuse for gym class.

This all comes from basketball. One day, there I was, shooting hoops at the local gym. There's a heavy half-court game going on. I am at the opposite end, hanging with the eight year old boys and their fathers. It's ok. I'm feeling good and I get my workout chasing missed shots. Then a guy who had been stretching on the mats came up to me. A big bead of sweat hangs from his nose and won't let go. The man behind the droplet looked like Christopher Lloyd on heroin. "The trouble is," he says, "you're doing it all wrong. Hold the ball like this." I try it a couple of times and now nothing hits. "Thanks. I'll work on it," I say.

An hour passes. I'm still there. The trainer comes in. "You shoot bricks," he tells me, putting my hands back to the way they had been. "The ball should float over the lip and in. Bricks are heavy. They make a lot of sound." I promise to work on it.

I stayed out of the gym for the next three weeks.

Yesterday was my first day back. A sixty year old guy and I share a basket for awhile. Then the guys' locker room door opens and a bunch of mouths come out and start to shoot around me. I don't back off. I can do this. I'll leave soon, but not quite yet.

Then somebody's shot bounces off my head. That never happens. I see two guys in the group smiling about it. Then my balance gets all twisted and I somehow put my own ball into my face. That really never happens. My blood pressure spikes and, with the subtlety of an embarassed second grader, run down to the basket with the dad and his son missing foul shots with their purple kickball. I give it thirty more seconds before completely giving up.

This morning, as we tie up laces for the gym, I flash back to yesterday and utter under my breath, "Stupid jerks."

"Don't worry. They won't be there this early," Elle says.

"What?" I ask.

"You kept saying that last night. About the guys. Don't worry."

I'm not worried. I am now in training to kill those who dared to laugh at me. I am going to grow taller, develop massive biceps, and learn how to kick their sorry asses all over the court. The trainer's got six weeks to do it. All I need is for all the body parts to hold out.

lördag, april 01, 2006

Hormone Therapy

"Are you done with this, this apple core resting on the used t-shirt on the table? All done?" Elle asks after she walks in and out of the living room where the three of us other girls are watching some really strange Sci Fi movie about the Queen of Iceland and a dragon. No one is really paying attention to her because we have discovered that if we disconnect for even two seconds of the Ring of the Nibelung mini-series we will get even more confused about whether the strange German love-interest actor should have taken the ring or if instead it was the ghosts who were being selfish.

"No," Mac answers. "I'll probably gnaw on it some more."

"It says here that the guy playing Seigfried has won a bunch of German television awards," I said, after searching the web for some answers about his accent, his weird eye movement, and our reasons for watching this.

Elle leaves with the dead fruit.

"Is she kidding?," Mac says. "Am I done with the apple core?"

"Yeah, but what I really want to know is who taught this German guy to act," I say, ignoring the Spanky and Our Gang production of Hysteria Are Us. "It's his eyes," I say. "There is too much white showing. Is he a lunatic good guy or a lunatic bad guy?"

We suffer through two hours of film and three hours of advertisement to learn the truth: The Christians sucked the life out of the cool Pagans, too, and something had to be done about our very own Ice Princess. On the latter, I went into that evenings festivities knowing that only the day before I had heard Edit say to Elle: "You are not my mom. "

Ahhh, hormones and sex and a house full of girls. The pill made Elle break out, plump up, and conspire to take over the house, our lives, and the world. It was as if the house had suddenly been taken over by a spoiled, lazy, greasy college boy who thinks of a threesome as an entitlement. We others in the house have been walking around thinking, "Ew. Who is this?" That was just over the attitude. No one, out of fear of getting a head or limb removed without pain killer, even dared whisper anything about her rapidly expanding size .

Today I suggested that maybe she should give her estrogen therapy a rest.

I'm surprised I made that recommendation. I have never seen a downside with being sexual and I applauded her decision to be responsible. I hated that the pill came at the cost of a personality transplant. But so does motherhood, so I waited. I hated that it destroyed her face and body. But so does motherhood, so I bit my tongue.

But this morning I awoke to a newspaper article about a doctor in India sentenced to two years in prison for telling expectant parents the sex of the fetus. Seems there is a bit of double x chromosome infanticide going on in that neck of the woods, so doctors aren't supposed to tell.

I got a little annoyed. A familiar feeling surfaced.

Something starts to burn in the middle of my chest. Then it sways from side to side, increasing in intensity, as if I'm standing in the middle of an empty room wearing virtual reality glasses showing a Godzilla movie, and I'm the monster. My Girl Power Godzilla limbs swipe at pre-earthquake stabilized buildings and airplanes, but still never seem to win the battle and I eventually disappear into the water.

But this morning, stuck as I am in free association hell, I switch to the mob: "You got a problem with that, guys? You got a problem with the fact that that little baby is a girl? You don't like girls? You think we're stupid? You think we don't got what it takes? Hunh? Hunh? Why I outta, why I outta. Yeah. Say your prayers." Then because I am lacking in adequate debate skills and high-end socio-economic diplomacy, my imagination resorts to pushing, shoving, and shooting.

So I says to my kid, "Honey, it's not worth it right now." I'm thinking that it's time the guy took the pill, but I don't go there with her.

What kind of mom advises to drop protection?

Well, to be honest, the pill isnt what it used to be. Parents now get to worry about "on the pill, off the condom" behavior. Is it really fair to expect our kids to be belts and suspenders in their approach to human exploration after a night of beer pong? It's not such a stretch for kids to use their sense of immortality and infalliability to come up with "Why would I think he/she had an STD when he/she is only 19?" as the disasterously naive replacement for the old,"But we only did it once!" shock and awe response to an unexpected conception. I mean, as announcements go, I would so rather hear, "Mom, I'm pregnant" to "Mom, I have HIV" or "Mom I have cervical cancer from genital warts."

What should I instruct in its place? The thought of sending her out on a date wearing a garland of Trojans brings a smile to my face, but that's not so necessary. The last time I borrowed her car every space I opened, from the coin tray to the glove compartment, seemed spring-loaded with condoms. She had her own airbag industry going on there. I blushed and smiled and got pissed off all at once.

I think I know. It will be the condom route and the morning after pill for emergencies. It still sounds like I have to do research and I have a trip or two to the pharmacy in my future. And what, exactly, am I getting out of this? I'm not seeing much action in my future at all.

Cripes. Parenting. All of the work. None of the play.