every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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When I’m 64

test-pattern baltimoreI’ve been on the fritz.

For four months.

I tried whacking myself upside the head. I’ve shaken myself.  Jiggled the handle.  Twisted the antenna.  Rebooted.  Let it rest.  Poked it.

I was stuck.  Frozen.  That gray buzzing swirled around me.  My test pattern burned before my eyes.  [If you’re under 50, google “test pattern.”]

But today, as I lay in bed with the perpetual mist and gloom that winter and spring became this year, I was jump-started, as good as if someone stood over me with de-fib paddles.  It’s my birthday.  I’m 64, today, and this isn’t what I was expecting.

In my fondest childhood dreams, I was sure that I’d be an actor or a writer.  Not quite, although I am, in my heart, a darn fine actor, if someone needs a 64-year old actress, which no one does.  I could still be a writer, if I were more disciplined.  Ahhh.  Discipline.  Something I never quite learned.

In my defense, I’ve been writing these past four months, but I haven’t finished anything.  20 beginnings and no endings.  As usual, I have plenty to say (Karma, bad weather, grief, politics, my neck), it alternated between angry and maudlin.  Blog-writing is self-indulgent (no editorial oversight), and we should all be grateful that I self-censored the drama that plays out in my head.

Instead, I ate.  I went back to potatoes, pasta, pastry, and real Coke.  In the depressing doldrums of this gloomy winter past, I gained five pounds in three weeks.  No Zumba.  No planking.  Did you know that you easily can gain five pounds in three weeks, but you can’t lose them as easily in 10?  A month ago, I went back to planking, 3 minutes a day, so my “core” is stronger, but it doesn’t get rid of the flab that covers my hard work.  sigh

When I awoke this morning, I allowed myself 10 minutes of maudlin thinking.  I started that when The Veterinarian went over the Rainbow Bridge.  I allowed myself 20 minutes to grieve (only in the morning) and then forced myself to get up and get moving.

This morning’s weather was gray and damp and whispered,

“It’s our birthday.  We’re gloomy and shouldn’t have to do anything we don’t want to do today, because it’s our birthday.  Our 64th birthday.  Let’s just wallow in bed in our foggy misery.”

Fortunately, My BFF jumped on the bed demanding to go out and to be fed, as she does every morning, which has saved me, really, these many months.  You can’t be too self-indulgent, when you’re responsible for others.

Birthday 1962

June 4, 1962, at 10 years old, always a flower from a different field.

And then it also hit me.  I’m not dead yet.  This is the rest of my life.  I’m not going to just sit and look out the window all day.  My life isn’t over.  For better or worse, I see many more years ahead.  My Mother will be 89 in October.  Her sister was just 90 in January.  One of her cousins is 93.  Like me, they’re all short women, all “ornery,” as a man I know describes me.  All with the same high blood pressure and cholesterol that I have.  I see my future, 30 more years, probably.  So, how shall I spend it?

In the arts, of course.  I started studying a new version of an old dream. I’ve plunged into ballroom dance with my bad knees and attitude, bringing my smart mouth and lots of ballet and modern dance technique and skills that frequently hinder me.  Of course, years of being immune to making a fool of myself onstage comes in handy.  After all, I once played a salmon swimming upstream to spawn in “The Life Cycle of a Salmon.”  Wearing an elegant gown covered in Swarovski crystals has that beat by an ocean of elegance.

Inspired by a friend who found satisfaction in ballroom dance during a tumultuous struggle of her own, I found some lovely people who, later in life, discovered the world of glitz and glamor in which I’ve been living since I first danced in a petticoat and My Mother’s costume jewelry for My Dad’s movie camera, 60 years ago.  When I’m dancing, I’m a vision of grace in the movie that plays in my head.  Well, I’m content until I hear, “Close your thighs, Suzanne.”  “Girls up, Suzanne.”  “Don’t turn out, Suzanne.”  When I hear that, I’m transported to a ballet studio in a drafty hall and hear, “Straighten your knees, Suzanne.” “Elbows up, Suzanne.”  “Turn out, Suzanne.”  Nothing is ever going to be perfect.  And that’s ok.

I’m back in a place where I’m happy not being perfect. Well, kind of.  I still have high expectations of myself, but it’s a place that feels comfortable and familiar; a place where “Standards” are kept (no swearing, no jeans) and irony revered; a place where the lights are low on Saturday practice evenings, so we all look our best.  It’s a place where I’ve been described as “A Flower from a Different Field,” a description so lovely and so apt that I’ve taken it on as my personal motto, although My Mother reminds me that it could mean a weed.  Oh, well.  Someone’s weed is someone else’s flower.

Plus, I’ve found something new to write about!

Date Update

Well, no dates. I turned off the matchdot com account in February after I received an email from a man whose screen name was Brett of Fresh Aire[1] and whose profile photo showed a man frowning.  After studying the photo and profile for a few minutes, I realized he wasn’t being ironic, intentionally.  That’s when I realized that I wasn’t going to find a flower in the field of online dating.

I met a nice couple in dance class who met online, but “nice” is the key word.  I’m “A Flower from a Different Field.”  And that’s ok. Independent. Bossy.   Cranky.  Ornery. Whatever.  I meet lots of men at dance class, all of whom are happily married or outside of my age group.  That’s not why I dance.

I also got an email from a guy at a “consumer protection” website a few weeks ago and another follow-up last week.  He claimed to have read my dating posts and wanted to know if I wanted to do something with a consumer protection column about online dating.  I say “something” because it’s not clear to me what he wanted.  It didn’t seem that they were going to pay me to either submit my posts or link to my blog, so I wasn’t interested.  I pointed out that my experience is entirely negative, which does not make for a helpful, unbiased review.  Now, if they want to cough up some money, which would help pay for my ungodly expensive new hobby, I would reconsider.

Birthday 1982

June 4, 1982, 30 years:  We shared a birthday, separated by 17 hours.

Today, I’m 64.  To borrow from Paul McCartney (also a Gemini), I could use a handy someone to “mend a fuse when [my] lights have gone” or [do] the garden, [dig] for weeds, but where I’m moving, there aren’t any fuses and someone else will tend the lawn and remove the snow.  Still, a handy someone showing up with “birthday greetings” and a bottle of Champagne would be welcome at my door.

But don’t come tonight or ever, without an invitation.  Tonight, I’m happy to enjoy a Margarita at my favorite Mexican restaurant with my family and, later, a little dancing with friends in that different field, so, who am I to complain?  Life is still good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Angelina Jolie!  See:   Twins


[1] I made that up.  Any resemblance to persons known or unknown is strictly coincidental, but, if the shoe fits…


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Thanks, Sadie Hawkins!

Sadie_Hawkins_DayLookit that story o’ po’ liddle brown-headed, freckle-face Sadie Hawkins and her pappy who had t’ use a gun and a foot-race t’ git her a man ‘cuz ever’body knows a gal cain’t git her a man with brown hair and sunspots! [sound of head shaking]

Evidentally, ah’ve been-a goin’ ‘bout findin’ me a man all wrong, but it turns out now’s mah big chance t’ ketch me one, on account o’ tis Leap Year.  Yessiree, Bob.  Once in ev’ry foh years, on th’ twenny-nine o’ Febooary, th’ womens gits to chase after th’ mens.  Yo’ see, if-n ah grabs one o’ ’em, ah gets t’ keep ‘im, and he’ll be mah husband.  Uh-huh.  [sound of rocks rattling in empty head]

Ah’m-a scratchin’ mah noggin’ cuz ah cain’t figger out how ahm-a gonna grab sumbuddy on th’ innernet.  How do that work? Or do ah jes’ sit atta traffic light and jump outta mah car and grab the fuhst cutie pie ah sees? Ah needs me a strata-gee.  Mebbe ah could sit at a fancy coffee joint and snare one.  [sound of wheels squeaking in head]

Spinster ticket (2)

Spinster?!!!! How times change!

Ah done tried this here idear when ah was in skool, and unlike that purdy big ole yeller-headed Daisy Mae who kept a-chasin’ after that lummox Li’l Abner, ah done caught Th’ Vet’narian.  (Well, he wern’t no vet’narian then, jes’ a kid in mah soshiology class.)  ‘Cuz ah ain’t had no fellers aksin’ me out, ah took a chance and aksed him to th’ “Spinster Dance.”  [sound of gagging]

Spinster dance (2)

17-year old spinster looking for a date

Now ah finds mahself in a simian pradickyment, only ah’s a widder.  Ah done tried that new-fangled innernet datin’ where mens mah age wastes mos’ o’ th’ time a-lookin’ fer skinny yunguns, and mens ol’ enuff t’ be mah pappy is a-lookin’ fer a nursemaid.  Hmph!  Go figger, on account o’ I shorely cain’t.  What’s a gal t’ do? [sound of head scratching]

Ah’m a-thinkin’ that if-n it worked once, it mebbe could work twice, ‘specially now what it’s Leap Year and all. Ah’s goin’ t’ a shindig on Sadie Hawkins Day, Febooary twenny-nine, at an Eye-talian rest’raunt where unattached fellers laze about wit’ moonshine, so mebbe mah luck’ll change fer th’ bedder.  [sound of cackling]

Boys, better start a-runnin’!

 

 


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Glamour

Lend me a tenor 1994

A costumer’s idea of glamour, 1994 Photo by Norman J. McCullough

Just when you’ve packed away the glitter of Christmas, a season nearly as glitzy is underway. Hollywood is on parade, and many of us revel more in the fashion extravaganza than the awards (I don’t know most of the shows and players, anyway).  In the ugliness of the world, who can’t use an occasional foray into glamour?

From last week’s Peoples’ Choice awards and Sunday night’s Golden Globes, through the SAG Awards, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Cannes film festival, up to the American Theater Wing’s Antoinette Perry Awards in June, it’s a treasure of the good and bad, the sublime and the outrageous in fashion.  If you throw in the Met Costume Gala, you’ll see everything au courant in the “World I Will Never Inhabit.”

Essentially, actors are just ordinary people, like you and I, dressed by costumers to create a character.  In my very small pond of theatrical endeavors, I’ve been dressed inappropriately by costumers on very limited budgets.  (Of course, I’m also pretty good at sweet-talking costumers into working with me.)  So, given the enormous budgets of Broadway shows and movies, I expect near perfection.  Still, I would never blame the actor for their on-stage or on-screen appearance.

However, in their “red carpet” lives, actors turn themselves over to stylists to dress them as their “real” selves.  If they don’t like the stylist’s concept of them, they can refuse to wear it.  When they show up on my television looking goofy at a media or promotional event as their “real” selves, they’re fair game for my expert analysis.  As My Mother says, “Don’t they own a mirror?  And don’t they use it?”

At the awards shows, they teeter on their sky-high stilettos and platforms (like I should talk), trip on their trains, and fall out of their bodices, accidentally. (Or is it part of their publicist’s plan?)  They flash their borrowed diamonds, reveal their manicures and pedicures on tiny cameras, and show the contents of their evening purses.  All in front of millions of people, just waiting to see the show. When, someone says their dress is unflattering or doesn’t fit or they look like a teenaged hooker, they protest our scrutiny.

“We’re expressing ourselves,” they say.

“Me, too,” I reply.

Frequently, they blame it on dehydration, stress, Botox, starvation diets, and herbal supplements (wink, wink).  I’m not going to criticize them when they’re photographed coming out of Ralph’s pushing a grocery cart with a giant zit on their famous forehead.  That’s their private time, and, God knows, I’m forever running into acquaintances in the store when I have a zit and didn’t bother to conceal it because I’m just running to the store to pick up milk.  I understand.  My high school graduation photo was retouched to remove a blemish…or two.

Anyone can be glamorous, despite the efforts of fashion and media to tell us otherwise, especially in the past 40 years, because contemporary fashion has very little to do with real women with real bodies.  Fashions are hung on girls over 5’ 8” tall and under 120 pounds.  On the Center for Disease Control’s BMI scale (body mass index), that’s underweight.  Basically, they’re clothes hangers for clothes with nothing to fill them out.

Fashion has become about revealing a woman’s “goods,” which, if they aren’t pristine, destroys the mystery that is glamour.  She got that impossible body from old-fashioned American work and healthy eating — yoga, Pilates, running, kale — didn’t she?  Or did it come from smoking, appetite suppressants, stomach bands, liposuction?  Or was their some “digital enhancement” involved?

Glamour is an illusion.  Real women create their own charm with what they’ve got to work with, and that’s glamour.  We enhance our best features and minimize the questionable.  I use eye-catching earrings to focus on my face and distract from my pudgy tummy, even when I don’t wear make-up.  I wear black, so you’ll think I’m thinner (ha!  like that works!).   I’ve been told I have a good smile, so I’ve learned how to make myself smile credibly, even when I’m terrified.  Dancing taught me to stand up straight, which makes me appear confident, even when I’m a wreck.  It’s all an illusion.

I choose to show what works for me and what doesn’t.  Unless it’s hot or I’m wearing a bathing suit, I don’t even willingly expose my upper arms outside the privacy of my own home.  Well, I will if I’m certain you aren’t going to get too close to see those crepe-y little dimples under my arms.  I’m going to camouflage my shortcomings, if I can, but I’m still going to be short and a little bottom heavy and have lines in the corners of my eyes.  Meh.  If I can’t fix it, I’m not going to sweat it.  I also have freckles, which I prefer to think of as “memories of happy days,” much as the faint red wine stains on my white dinner napkins are “happy memories.”  Not “sweating it” exudes glamour.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think we are more likely to agree on what is beautiful than what is glamorous.  Beauty is classic.  Glamour is fleeting, a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t moment.  One woman’s glamour may be another woman’s tacky.

When I was a girl, I used to pore over an album that My Mother created when she was a teenager in the 1940s.  She filled it with sketches of clothes, sportswear, day dresses, and evening dresses.  I would dress up in her old prom dresses and stride around the house in the flimsy creations, straps slipping off my t-shirted shoulders.  Her jewelry box was a treasure trove of glitzy costume jewelry that I never saw her wear in real life.

“You should wear this rhinestone necklace,” I would encourage my pedal-pusher-wearing PTA mom.

“Oh, yeah,” she would answer, “I’ll wear that to the next hot dog luncheon.”

Glamour is all about flair, a glance, a laugh, a sway in the walk, a catchy phrase.  I read an article recently that said Ava Gardner was unremarkable in her first years of modeling, just another sweet pretty, small town girl with fabulous legs.

Eventually, she developed an expression that set her apart; she tilted her head back, narrowing her eyes so that she was peering at the camera from the bottom of her lashes.  According to the article, that became her signature look.  Fame soon followed, along with a series of tempestuous marriages and relationships, a small town girl plagued, according to the article, by her glamorous image for the rest of her life.

There is no glamour in falling off your shoes or exposing body parts that no one wants to see or being outrageous (Lady Gaga seems to have hung a certain dress permanently in her meat locker, because she’s been looking swell, lately).  We’ll talk about you, that’s for sure, but I don’t think that’s what you have in mind.

DATE UPDATE:

I look at my Match.com photos and see a sweet, smiling lady in every one of them.  99.99% of respondents mention my smile.  It could be the opening line that they all use, but it may be what they see.  I’m pretty sure it’s not who I am. I tried Ava’s signature, seductive look, but I appeared to be on the verge of sneezing.  And we all know what happens when you put a glamorous wig and slinky dress on me:  comedy.  I’m much more comfortable making people laugh than I am trying to seduce someone.  I suspect this is yet another reason why I remain dateless.  I depend more on my wit, which doesn’t translate well in online dating.

While I admit that I updated my profile photo, because I don’t want to mislead men that I’m not as young as I was last year, I kept four others from earlier in 2015.  Imagine my surprise when two men with whom I had previous contact wrote to me, as if they had never seen me before.  One of them sat across from me at dinner twice in four days just five months ago!  Wow!  Nice to know I’m so memorable.  It was that serial dater who told me about his “friend” who tries to see if he can get attractive women to date him.  Here’s what I wrote to him this time before I blocked him:

photo (12)

I may not be a glamour puss, but I’ve got a way with words that can put a smile on his face or put a jerk in his place, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).   Soli Deo gloria!


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Rationalizing Resolutions

I’m so glad winter is here.  I didn’t think I would be, but I had a rough holiday season.  I overate at parties and dinners and a tea and three luncheons. I sang cheerful and poignant holiday songs at least once a week for six weeks and put smiles on the faces of strangers.  I gave gifts and got gifts and cards and letters and emails.    And The Daughter introduced me to Peppermint-Chocolate Chip milkshakes at Chick-Fil-A.  All that fun was exhausting.

I needed to put on the brakes.  If I had been a runaway train, at least I would have been moving and expending calories, but standing around with a glass of wine in my hand at a party doesn’t register much on my Fitbit.  Everything that I ate, from Thanksgiving on, settled in parts of my body that hadn’t seen fat in months, and it needed to vamoose pdq, asap, or at least before I leave on vacation in a couple weeks, where I will be required to wear a bathing suit in public in front of people who know me.

Mary See probably was making happy memories.

Mary See probably was making happy memories.

Did you realize that chocolates come with “nutritional statements?”  I didn’t either, but they do.  On the box of chocolates that My Sister gave me, they even break it down according to “milk” and “dark” chocolates.  I’m partial to dark chocolates, which are higher in iron than milk chocolates.  Milk chocolates have 2% of the recommended daily requirement of iron, while dark chocolate has 4%.  That’s twice as much!  Yay, dark chocolate!

I checked my other Christmas treats, and, sure enough, there was a nutritional information sheet for the pralines.  Who does not know that pralines don’t provide any shred of essential nutrients?  They’re just sugar, butter, milk, and pecans, which are probably the most nutritious ingredient.  Really, people.  It’s c-a-n-d-y.  No one expects it to replace any major food group, although it will probably be outlawed by next Christmas for my protection.  Glad I stuffed myself when I had the chance.

Plus, I ate potatoes.  Well, you can’t have the Christmas standing rib roast without mashed potatoes, can you?  What are you going to put the au jus on?  The Yorkshire pudding can’t soak it all up.  And no one would take the leftover mashed potatoes home with them, so I put them into a potato-corn chowder.  Then, I made scalloped potatoes because there were potatoes left in the bag.  I was tempted to make home fries or French fries or hashed browns, but I resisted.  Instead, I baked one and ate it with butter and sour cream.  I do that when I’m feeling content.  I can’t eat when I’m upset.

Like I said, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because, what is the point?  (see last year’s Resolutely Not Making Resolutions) I am not going to keep them.  Oh, I try to be sensible.  It seems reasonable for me to make changes in small steps.  Yep.  Two weeks is a reasonable length of time for my energetic (and somewhat scattered) brain to stick with something.  On New Year’s Eve, on the verge of not making New Year’s resolutions, I made sure that I had eaten all of the sugary chocolates, pralines, cookies, and cakes that were gifted to me in December.  And I vowed to plank every day.

I failed with the sweets immediately.

The Daughter and her beau came for dinner on Sunday, bringing the most amazing chocolate cake, a box of macarons, and — you won’t believe this — a “Red Velvet” cupcake, which is wrong for so many reasons.  I could have killed her.  PLUS, I made her favorite scalloped potatoes with the potatoes that were left in the bag from Christmas.  I am my own worst friend.

The cupcake, of course, was easy to resist, because there is no commercially-produced “Red Velvet” cupcake that will meet my standards.

“It’s terrible, Mom,” she said, as she handed it to me.  “Really.  I’ve never tasted anything like it.  The frosting isn’t even cream cheese, so you can eat it.  You taste it and tell me what you think it tastes like.”

“Of course, I’m not going to taste it, but that chocolate cake looks like heaven.”  And it tasted like it, too.  For three days.  About 4” in diameter and unfrosted, it had the rich flavor of cocoa and the texture of a Queen of Sheba cake without the almonds.  I made her eat a quarter of it and then ate one remaining quarter a day.

That was good, right?  I was tempted to eat the whole thing after they left, but I resisted.  I resisted eating the remaining half yesterday, just enjoying a quarter after lunch with a cozy cup of tea.  Today, I made it until lunch time, when I finished it off for dessert with an espresso…right after I ate the leftover scalloped potatoes.

Against all my principles, I tasted the Red Velvet without the frosting.  The Daughter was right.  It was completely tasteless.  Whew!  Saved a few calories there!  Besides, it’s sub-freezing today, and I can use a little blubber to keep me warm.  I still have the macarons to go, but I have planked every day and walked more steps than the minimum, so I’m actually feeling quite virtuous.

I just need to take it slow and easy.  Maybe if I take the first two weeks of each month and follow something.  Planking this month and (mostly) avoiding dessert.

Ok.  What can I add on in February?  How about avoiding dessert and keeping my closet clean for 14 days?   Between February 1 and 14, I will put away, in its proper place, everything that comes out of the dryer and goes on a hanger.  I will clip every skirt to its own hanger, carefully drape every pair of pants so it doesn’t need to be ironed before I wear it, put every shoe back on the rack, every purse on the shelf, every belt on the hanger, every odd sock in the sock drawer.  I will fold every set of sheets and all the clean towels and put them on the shelf instead of tossing them on the chair next to my bed.

That should work.  The first two weeks of February will end with Valentine’s Day, and, although Lent starts on February 10, the 14th is a Sunday, which, technically, isn’t actually Lent (there are 40 days in Lent; you do the math).  How virtuous!

DATE UPDATE:

In my second week of my return to match.com, they have not found me one, single “mutual match.”  That’s where they tell me what men are looking for what I have to offer.  They’ve thrown a lot of “Maybe you’ll like this guy” (I paraphrase) at me, and now they’re giving me options from out of town.  Way out of town.  Like, Watkins Glen and Nyack, NY, Hampton and Virginia Beach, VA.

I had coffee (that I purchased for myself) with a man one year younger than I who said he was retired.   He looked and acted like he was 80. He didn’t want to talk about his children, his previous job, or his education.  He said that he had been “in real estate” and fills his retirement hours “reading,” “playing a little golf,” and “travelling.”  No volunteer work.  No hobbies.  He wasn’t even close to being “Athletic and Toned” (more like “A Few Extra Pounds”), and, apparently, has lost the ability to carry on a conversation.  My BFF is more interesting.

Match says that I should “Make sure [I] haven’t been too restrictive with [my] matching criteria.”

Let’s review this:

Men 50-65. (I’m not sure I can take someone much older, if I could find someone who was interested in a woman over 50.)

Never married, divorced, or widowed.  (I’m not going down the slippery slope of “Currently separated.”)

With a photo.

Body type “About Average.”

Within 50 miles.

Some college education.  (I really like to have intelligent conversations.)

Most any occupation.

I’m not sure what else I could ask for.  I’d like someone who can cook, but I don’t say that because it seems to be a rare commodity in a man, although the Veterinarian and many of his friends were great cooks.  I’d like someone who knows when to wear a coat and tie, but that’s probably elitist of me, so I don’t say that.

Match tells me that more new people sign up between Christmas and the end of January than at any other time of the year.  I guess the competition is too stiff.  Too many attractive younger women who don’t mind dirty baseball caps and sunglasses and suggestive t-shirts and motorcycles, who kayak and cycle and hike in the wilderness and — <shudder> — camp.  You know what that means, don’t you?  The guy is too cheap to take you on a real vacation in a real hotel with running water.  And you get to do the cooking!

Oh, well.  I still have those macarons, so who am I to complain.  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo gloria!

 


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A Closet Full of Hope

The Daughter made me buy a deeply discounted party dress the other day when we were cruising the outlets.

“Where am I going to wear this?”  I asked her.

“I don’t know.  You go places,” she responded.  “Maybe New Year’s Eve.  You have to buy it, it’s just so classy.  It’s so You.”

“Oh, I just don’t know…”  I carried it to the dressing room.  I only have one plan for New Year’s Eve, and it involves my couch, the television, and a bottle of Champagne.

“You have a million party dresses that have only been worn once,”  The Shrew who lives in my head piped in, as I stood, looking at my image in a charcoal gray dupioni silk with embroidered silver polka dots, fitted waist, and slightly poufy, knee-length skirt.

“Season-spanning,” I told The Shrew.  “Versatile.  A great buy.  I have a pale gray Pashmina I could wear with it and about five different pairs of shoes, not to mention a wide selection of rhinestone earrings and bracelets, representing a lifetime of never cleaning my closet.”

“You already made up your mind before you even tried it on, didn’t you?”  The Shrew looked back at me from the mirror.  “You’re pathetic.”

“So, we can buy it?”  I smiled brightly as The Shrew rolled our eyes.

I am addicted to the sparkly.  To the glittery.  Like a crow to bits of glass in the sun.  Me.  A woman who spends more of her life in jeans or yoga pants or leggings, writing or going to the grocery store or to rehearsal or church.  There’s hope in the flash, the distraction.  I have an overstuffed closet full of hope:

Oooo, look!  Here’s the sequined dress that I bought for a veterinary gala in 1986, when I was still a brunette.  And here’s the beaded black silk cardigan that I always wore with a floor-length skirt when we went on cruises.  Here’s the gold metallic sweater that I wore once with the striped evening pants.  The silver lace mini-skirt.  I forgot I had the white angora shrug with the silver beading.  It would be perfect with the new dress.  The clear slingbacks with the rhinestone trim.  The silver satin slingbacks.  The black strappy sandals.  The black pumps with the rhinestone heels.

After I hung up the new dress in my Closet of Hope, I realized that my New Year’s Eve plans call for a Spartan green sweatshirt and black yoga pants with the Sparty logo, and the Cotton Bowl at 8 in the evening.

I wish it was the Rose Bowl, because the Rose Bowl is on New Year’s Day and was always the pinnacle of football success in the Dark Ages, when I was a kid.  It has the best parade with the most amazing floats made out of flowers and vegetation, marvels of engineering and art.

Now, we have this farce of playoffs and playing for the national championship.  We can’t just have tradition.  The Cotton Bowl doesn’t even have a parade any more.  According to Wikipedia (if you can trust it), the parade became the Comerica Bank Parade and then died.  Kinda like my dating hopes.

But we’re in a major bowl game!  Anything can happen!

DATE UPDATE:

Another of my friends recently began a relationship with a man she met on match.com, so I re-enrolled on Sunday.  I posted all new photos, changed my profile name, and wrote a lovely, non-sarcastic profile.

Am I stupid or what?

The first man to contact me was on when I was on last year.  In all nine of his photos, his grandchildren are crawling all over him.  They are the “joy of his life.”  Great.  Enjoy them.  I’m not a baby-sitter.

The second man is a scammer from last year.

The third is a self-professed widower from Texas.  A Google Image Search shows that his profile photo belongs to a man with a wife in Illinois.  He wrote an interesting email, so I responded, “Aren’t there taller and richer women in Texas?”  He said I shouldn’t discount love whether it is found in Texas or Maryland.  Do you see my problem?

Overnight, there was another self-professed widower, a local guy without a profile photo, whose profile name was one thing, but he signed his email with an entirely different name.  He was witty and flirty and literate.  His profile says he’s looking for an “honest, sincere woman.”  He asked me to meet him for coffee.

I told him, “I make no promises, especially since you have the advantage of being invisible…I’ll consider having coffee with you, if you can reveal yourself a little more. Looks aren’t everything, but it helps if your written description is corroborated in some way.”

His reply?

“I couldn’t use my own email address here…I don’t know how to post photos…meet me for coffee so we don’t waste time on photos.”  And he wants an “honest, sincere woman.”  Ha!

My reply?

“Get back to me when you’ve resolved your issues.”

<sigh>

He won’t be seeing me in the cute gray dress with the silvery polka dots.

MSU 2015

Of course, I’ll be on my couch with smoked salmon mousse and Champagne cheering on the Spartans in my green Spartan fan-gear. After we swiftly staunch the Tide (and I know all my Auburn friends will be cheering with me), I’ll turn off the drunken celebrities slurring their top-40 hits in Times Square.  I hope to be asleep at midnight when the neighbors start the fireworks, cherry bombs, and automatic rifles, at which point the BFF will run from window to window, barking ferociously, setting off the glass breakage alarm.  The alarm company will call and ask repeatedly,

“Are you all right?”  “Are you sure you are all right?”  “Is everything secure?”  “Do you need assistance?”

My answers will be, “Yes.”  “Yes, I am.”  “Yes, it is.”  “Send a cute and honest man with a bottle of Champagne, asap.”

Still, it’s better than being in a crowd of couples who probably met on match.com, kissing at midnight.  The BFF may not be much of a kisser, but she’s honest.

There’s hope for 2016.  College basketball season is upon us, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

And GO GREEN!


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What I did for Love

FullSizeRender (17)

The Paula Deen look.

Happy 70th, Mark!

Hey, there!  Remember me?  The insane little woman with the smart mouth and great shoes?  The Champagne Slut who can’t get a date?  I thought I’d check in and let you know how busy I’ve been, just when The Holidays get underway and render me fully frazzled.

I’ve been doing really crazy stuff, like wearing yoga pants in public, platinum blonde wigs, and really awesome dance shoes.  And a black velvet, rhinestone studded halter dress (thanks to my excellent plastic surgeon) that no dignified 63-year old woman with a pudgy tummy should be caught dead in (maybe I should call that plastic surgeon).

When we last chatted in September, you may recall that I had agreed to participate in the major fundraising event for our local center for the arts, as a “Dancing with the Stars”-type amateur.  I got free dance lessons from a renowned professional ballroom trainer.  I got to buy a pair of $185 pink satin shoes that I will never wear again but are almost as comfortable as my Uggs.  I got to browbeat my family and friends to buy tickets and cough up money for my cause, because I had agreed to raise a minimum of $5,000.  It turned out to be the easiest part of the challenge.

So, you may ask, what was I, clearly not a dance novice, doing in the group?  I had been rejected in previous years because of my dance training.  Finally, I was old and feeble enough to level the playing field.  I haven’t had a speck of cartilage in either of my knees in over 20 years.  And, of course, there was that time when I fractured my patella in two places.  And I have degenerative lower disc disease (aka “sciatica” or, as I like to say, “I gots the lumbago”).  Plus, they told me that I wouldn’t be judged.  I had nothing to lose and everything to gain for a cause that I dearly love.  I was really excited to get started.  I hadn’t danced in 20 years (a production of A Chorus Line, a show about what some of us do for love).

“You’re the oldest dancer this year,” the instructor, 12 years my junior, explained at our first private rehearsal.

I shrugged.  I had met my fellow “celebrity” dancers, a roster of lovely people dedicated to fostering the arts in our community. There was the distinguished retired general, the bubbly business owner, the charming couple who met on Match.com (seriously, I don’t want to hear about it), the young woman who had danced in one of my productions of The Nutcracker 30 years ago (I am so freakin’ old), and the adorable teenagers who could be my grandchildren.

“Yeah, I could tell.  As long as my knees hold up, I’ll be fine.”

“Besides dancing,” he continued, “I’m going to teach you to have stage presence and connect with the audience.”

“Not going to be an issue,” I replied.

“I’m going to try to shake you up, so that if something happens while we’re performing, you won’t be flustered.”

“Not going to happen,” I smirked.  “I’m pretty cool.  Look, I’m 63 years old and have been performing since I was 4.  Nothing throws me.  Not wardrobe malfunctions.  Not actors forgetting their lines.  Not an audience member vomiting in the front row.  Nothing.”

I was once doing “theater-in-the-round” when, despite instructions from the ushers, an annoying patron wouldn’t keep his feet out of the aisle.  During an entrance in the dark, I leaned over to him and said, “Get your feet back under the table.”  When the lights came up, I was standing onstage, in character, looking him dead in the eye.  Those feet never appeared again.

The instructor looked skeptical.  “You’ll be doing the foxtrot.”

My Mother taught me the foxtrot when I was a kid dancing to Frank, Bing, and Doris on her 78s.  I didn’t want to be the nice girl.  I’m always the nice girl.  I really wanted to do the Cha Cha or Rhumba or something really — dare I say — sexy.  The Shrew in My Head grunted in disgust at my self-delusion.

“Hmm, sounds slow and boring.”

“Not the way we’re going to do it.  Think Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire gliding across the floor.”  Images of a short woman (me, not Ginger), overwhelmed by feathers, sprang to mind.  “I want to challenge you because you don’t seem to normally move in that flowing, elegant way.”  He must have seen me in “Waltz of the Flowers” in 1981.

He demonstrated a few simple steps, as if he was teaching “Jazz 101.”  I repeated them flawlessly.

“Well, you have good lines!” he said.

“I told you I was a dancer,” The Shrew in My Head rolled my eyes.

After six weeks, he was hauling me around the dance floor doing “twinkles” and “passes” to a song by Metallica that had been re-recorded to sound like a vintage 40s tune.  Every week, he added something new and a little harder.  One week, it was turns.  I am not a turner.  Never have been.  I made the mistake of telling him.

“Good,” he smiled.  “We’ll have more turns.”

“For God’s sake,” I complained, “don’t let me fall down.”

“You aren’t used to having people tell you what to do, are you?” he laughed.

Once, during a rehearsal break, he asked me, “Who are we going to be?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, are we the 30s or 40s?  Or, maybe, Singing in the Rain?  Like a black and white movie musical.”

“What are we wearing?”

“That’s what I’m wondering.  The other ladies are wearing traditional ballroom gowns.  I thought you could be different.  A little flashier.”

“No feathers.  I’m too short for feathers,” the image of a waddling duck swam around my head, “and I’d like my upper arms to be covered.”  Duck lips are the only acceptable poultry flesh on aging women.  I thought about Bedazzled capri pants and a turtleneck to hide the wattle that is my neck.

“I wasn’t thinking of that,” he answered.  “Instead of a full skirt, maybe something straighter with a slit.  How are your legs?  I don’t think I’ve seen them.”  I looked down at the yoga pants that I wore every week to rehearsal.  I’m more Jane Powell than Cyd Charisse.

Paula Deen back

$14 and a few rhinestones

I drove right over to the Goodwill store and bought the beaded black velvet halter dress for $14.  It met with his approval, but he thought it should have more rhinestones.  I bought Swarovski rhinestones and glued them on (half of which fell off).  I bought the platinum wig for $40 and will wear it again when I’m in the old-age home, I’m sure.  I agonized over spray-tanning.  I bought a vintage pair of clip-on earrings (they are to-die-for, btw).  “Give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle.”

Then, it all went to hell in a hand basket.  One week, one of the 8 million trees on my property fell across my lane, and I had to cancel my rehearsal at the last minute.  Two weeks later, I came down with bronchitis.  I went to rehearsal after six days, thinking that the virus had stopped shedding.  It hadn’t.  I gave it to the instructor and didn’t see him for two weeks.  My dance didn’t have an ending.  Not until last Tuesday.  Two days before the technical run-through.

“All right,” I marched in.  “Let’s get this done.”

He started to teach the new choreography.  More turns.  Rather, pivot turns, which ended in another turn and a run around and another turn and me on the floor for the finish.  Or something like that.  I never could remember.  It seemed like something from Dirty Dancing.

“Wait a minute — my leg goes — where? Between your legs? And your knee is going to be where?”  Because I am so damn short, I ended up straddling his knee.

[Let’s pause for a minute, so you can visualize that.]

It just didn’t work.  I went home, dejected, and tried to practice, but there were no knees at home with which to practice.  I returned on Wednesday to rehearse, wearing the blonde wig, safety-pinned to my hair, and the clip-on earrings.  I needed to know that they wouldn’t fly off my head during the turns.

“Um, this pivot thing,” I stammered, “I just don’t get it.”

“Oh, you’ll never get it.  You’ll only get it when you’ve been doing ballroom dance all your life.”

And that’s when my hackles went up.  The Shrew and I were both indignant.

“So, why am I doing this?”  I demanded.  I said much more, but I won’t repeat it here, because it was mostly profane, and I, after all, am a lady.

“Let’s go,” he held out his hand.  We went over and over it for 40 minutes. Instead of crying about it, I started preparing myself for the disaster to come.  At Thursday’s tech rehearsal, the dancers saw each other’s pieces for the first time.  I would have killed to be doing the waltz or the cute little Cha Cha or the zippy Mambo.  My ending was a disaster.  Twice.  After rehearsal, the instructor asked if anyone wanted to run through their dances again.

“I’d just like to learn the end of mine,” I immediately spoke up.  He worked with some of the other dancers.  I waited and waited.  Then, he turned off the lights.  Disgusted, I tore off my dance shoes and pulled on my Uggs.

“Oh!  Did you want to go over your ending?”

“No, if I’m never going to get it, I’d rather call it a train wreck and prepare myself,” the Shrew and I were really worked up.

“No, come here, and let’s do it.”  I stomped across the shiny wooden floor in my Uggs.  We started to walk through the final moves, but the soles of my boots stuck to the floor.  I kicked them to the side and stood in my bare feet.

“Plaster the inside of your right leg to mine,” he went through the motions slowly.  I followed him without thinking, trying not to cry.  In the last move of the dance, I easily turned under his arm and stretched out as he slowly lowered me to within an inch of the floor.

“That was it, wasn’t it?”  I was amazed.

“That was it,” he agreed, looking exhausted.  I took pity on him and called it a night.

Dancing for the Arts Finale

Virtually finished. Photo Robin Sommer, Images of Sommer.

 

The next morning, I emailed him an apology.  I’m a Type-A personality.  I expect a lot of myself.  Mea culpa. Blah, blah, blah — but sincere blah.

We all practiced before Friday’s preview show.  My ending was better but felt out of control.  On Saturday, there was another preview in the afternoon, and the pivot turns seemed to be coming together.  Between shows, before the black-tie Gala in the evening, I watched my beloved Spartans beat the Buckeyes and felt all the energy leave my body.  I just simply didn’t care any more.

The instructor and the emcee wanted my permission to tell the crowd that I was an e-Harmony reject, erroneously thinking that I might be embarrassed about that.  Can’t you just see me rotflmao over that one?

“Of course, you can!  Thousands all over the world have read about it on my blog (Why I’m a Proud e-Harmony Reject).  A few more in Harford County can’t make any difference.”

After my dance (which was finally good enough for my limited standards), I was interviewed by the emcee, a local reporter, who asked if it was true that e-Harmony hadn’t been able to find a date for me.

“Actually,” I corrected her, “after I took their personality test, they told me that they wouldn’t be able to find a date for me and never tried.”

Dancing for the Arts Auction (2)

At 63, still an e-Harmony reject. Photo by Robin Sommer. Images of Sommer.

To my shock, she called over the evening’s auctioneer to take bids for a date with me. I glanced over to where The Daughter and her beau were sitting.  The Daughter’s eyes were like saucers.  [My entire family puts up with a lot of crazy stuff from me.]

“Well, ok,” I thought, “I’ve been on so many crappy Match.com dates, I can have coffee with anyone.  And at least this one will be for a good cause.”  I got into the spirit by allowing myself to be paraded around the dance floor, blowing kisses, and posing with my leg sliding out of the slit in my dance dress.

700 bucks, people.  I brought in 700 bucks.

And now, the rest of the story.

It was a stunt to raise a few more dollars.  There was no date.  They just forgot to tell me, I guess.  Oh, foolish me!  I can’t even get a fake date!

Long story short, I AM a good sport.  I have incredible stage presence.  I never break character.  I have more experience living gracefully under pressure than any one person should have in a lifetime.  As one of my friends said to me this morning, “I believed it because I know you’re such a good actress.”

I am a great comedienne, because I understand that comedy isn’t pretty.  Think about it.  Anyone who appears onstage looking like a Paula Deen impersonator and doesn’t die of embarrassment is either a comedienne or has no shame.  And probably deserves whatever she gets.  However, I prefer to be the butt of my own jokes.

You know, I was planning to be cremated, but I’d love to be laid out in that wig and dress.  The mourners would probably think it was all a joke and expect me to jump up at any moment into a sappy rendition of “What I Did for Love.”

I’ve appeared onstage in lingerie and revealing dance costumes.  I’ve sung solos that went horribly wrong.  I once even prematurely revealed the name of the murderer in an Agatha Christie play because my brain had wandered off to what I was going to eat after the show.  Fortunately, the scene was so boring the audience didn’t notice, but the horrified looks of my fellow actors are permanently etched on the inside of my eyelids.

Life seemed so much more boring this morning, my trot a little less foxy.  I raised $6,500.  My fellow dancers, combined, raised over $102,000.  When you throw in the silent and live auctions and the raffles and other donations, we brought our community a little closer to building a center for the arts.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

Event photography of the Center for the Arts gala fundraising event, Dancing for the Arts on November 21,1 2015 at the Maryland Golf and Country Club, Bel Air, Maryland. Photography by Robin Sommer, Images of Sommer.

Geez, I’m short! Event photography of the Center for the Arts gala fundraising event, Dancing for the Arts on November 21,1 2015 at the Maryland Golf and Country Club, Bel Air, Maryland. Photography by Robin Sommer, Images of Sommer.


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Resting Place

Resting place

His clan tartan and a wee dram.

Greetings from the Twilight Zone!  Rod Serling is lurking behind a tree waiting to step out and sum my life up for you in a few pithy, ironic remarks.  I wish he’d sum it up for me.  This story is so weird that you may think that I’m making it up, but I have witnesses.

Yesterday, I was cleaning out a storage room in the basement of our veterinary clinic.  I was sorting old records for shredding and reordering and stacking boxes.  A large box of holiday decorations (plastic pumpkins and black cats, a wreath of Easter eggs, and a revolving ceramic Christmas display of dogs and cats) was sitting about 3” from the wall on a shelf.  I tried to shove it up against the wall to make room for more boxes, but it was hitting something.  I slid the box about 6” to the right and saw a plastic zippered bag stuffed in the back corner.  In the dim light, I couldn’t tell what it was, so I pulled it out.  It appeared to be full of gray, unmixed cement.  I pulled it out farther and saw what appeared to be small white stones in it.

“Wuh-oh!”  I held the bag by one corner and made sure that the zipper was secure.  I was pretty sure that I was holding a plastic baggie of the Veterinarian.  Not a bag that belonged to the Veterinarian, mind you, but a bag containing what is left of his earthly incarnation.

Had I found this bag within a year of his death, I instantly would have been hysterical.  Instead, I smiled and started laughing.  No, I wasn’t delusional (I don’t think).  Absolutely nothing surprises me anymore.  I was pretty annoyed with the person who had hidden him there, but, just for a moment, it struck me that I was holding the love of my life in my hands for the first time in almost four years, so I smiled (and then cursed him in my next breath, before smiling again).

I told you — my life is sooooo weird!

I suppose I should tell you how the Veterinarian came to be resting in the basement of his business.  It’s not like he’s a vampire, and I keep his coffin in the clinic crypt (sorry, you know me; I couldn’t resist the alliteration).

In the summer of 2011, as fans of the British television series “Doc Martin,” starring Martin Clunes, we decided to watch an earlier series starring Clunes as an undertaker, “William and Mary.”  As we binge-watched the series on dvd, we talked about death and dying.  We agreed that we wanted to be cremated, his ashes strewn at sea or at his favorite dive sites, mine at my church.

Life may be weird, but you can learn a lot, if you’re paying attention.  When he died suddenly, three months later, I knew exactly what he wanted.  I asked his friends for just one favor, to take his ashes to his favorite dive sites.  They looked at one another and smiled.  That’s exactly what they had already promised each other.  One of them put himself in charge of making water-tight, weighted, non-floating (!) containers for the ashes, and those certified in the deepest dives, decided where they should lay him to rest.  I turned the plastic container of his remains over to them, and, when the Veterinarian’s Little Dog died six months later, I suggested that they commingle their ashes, so they could be together for eternity.

Within a year, his friends told me all about the dives and where they left him and how much that site meant to him.  One of the places was a spot he had planned to explore but had not visited.  Another was a place where he loved to dive.  A third was the place where he died.  A fourth was the place where he dived more often than any other.  I was content.

Until today.

Yeah, I could be angrier with the jerk in charge of the ashes than I already was, but I won’t waste my breath on him.  Once a jerk, always a jerk.  Nothing new there.  My immediate concern is that I have this baggie of the Veterinarian and the Little Dog that needs a final resting place.  I might put them into an empty wooden box that once contained a bottle of Macallan single malt whisky, and then I’ll toast him with the little bit of vintage 1965 whisky that’s left in the bottle.  He must have left it for just that purpose.  I’ll pull out my Book of Common Prayer and pray the graveside service that wasn’t said at his memorial service.  This time, the BFF can attend.

When do I send him off, yet again?  On August 18, which would have been our 43rd wedding anniversary?  On October 13, the fourth anniversary of his death?  On June 3, 2016, which would have been his 64th birthday?  I’ll figure it out.  Right now, I like having him around the house.  We’re both resting in peace.

DATE UPDATE

My online dating days are drawing to an end when my subscription expires on August 25, unless they give me free months.  I’ve run through all the interesting men, who weren’t interested in me, and endured the ones who were interested in me.  I have found it enlightening and sometimes harrowing.  And pretty depressing.

Just last week, I met a lovely, younger married couple who met online and encouraged me not to give up.  Of course, the odds are better for them than for me because there are more men in their 40s and 50s still alive and in “marriageable” condition.  Everyone that I know who met their significant other through online dating was under the age of 60.  What does that say for the eligible over 60 seeking companionship?

After spending time with 15 men in 12 months, I have concluded that men over 60:

  1. Are delusional and looking for the impossible. (Have your mid-life crisis elsewhere.)
  2. Are angry at their exes. (You know, I’d have left you, too.)
  3. Are looking for sex. (What was it about me that said I wanted you to grope me between my neck and my knees on our second date?)
  4. Are looking for a financial lifeboat after decades of living recklessly. (Sorry, I’ve been careful with my life.)
  5. Are looking for a housekeeper, cook, and playmate. (I’m a lousy housekeeper, reluctant cook, and tired of games.)
  6. Are on ego trips.  (You’ve dated how many women?!)
  7. Are clueless about what women want.  (See #s 1-6, above.)

Fifteen  dates and not one serious prospect among them.  Some had possibilities on the first date but blew it on the second date, when their true selves showed up, the bigots, the misogynists, the misanthropes.  I’ve been told that finding a mate is like getting pregnant; sometimes you just have to relax, and it will happen when you least expect it.  As a 63-year old woman who had a hysterectomy at the age of 24 and didn’t adopt until age 47, I don’t have any time left to invest in this theory.

I have learned a lot about myself.  I’ve learned what I’m willing to tolerate for companionship; being lied to, groped, insulted, and stood-up are not among them.  I’ve learned that the company of good friends is preferable to trying to figure out confirmed bachelors (look up the word “compromise,” guys).  As the Daughter said to me not long ago, “I’m really starting to like where I am in my life.”

Me, too.  I’m starting to find some peace and comfort.  It just may be time to kick back and relax, to put all kinds of things and people to rest.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!