every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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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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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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Yahoo! Yoga Pants!

Yoga pants memeOne of The Daughter’s fashion magazines recently recommended that young people search their parents’ closets for tracksuits.  Remember them?  They were either slinky polyester with Adidas stripes, stiff nylon, or tacky velour.  Darn! I just gave my last set away.  It was lavender, and I thought it made me look really old and out-of-date.

What do I know?  I’m in love with yoga pants!   That’s right.  Yoga pants.  Who says old ladies can’t wear yoga pants?  I wear them, and by many reference points (AARP, my local senior center, Regal cinema, Social Security, the Goodwill on Tuesdays), I qualify as an old lady.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they can be worn, but there’s a right way to wear them, especially if you’re over 16 and haven’t seen a yoga mat from the downward dog position in your life.  Flared yoga pants are better than leggings, because leggings end at your ankles, clinging like plastic wrap.  When you’re suddenly overwhelmed by heat, you can roll the flares up over your knees, plus they accommodate your sneakers and balance out the width of your hips.  Tracksuits just billow around you and make you sweat.

Yoga pants, like many fashion trends, are a mine-field of potential disaster.  While I like to express myself through my clothing, I’m also careful about the message that I send (eg., today, I’m Tasteful Lady, tomorrow, I’m Work-Out Girl, or whatever).  I googled “Yoga Pants Disasters” and noticed that, in every case, a longer shirt, covering the hips would have solved the problem…or maybe a mirror and a rational mind.

A man recently referred to me on two different occasions as “spunky” and “a classy lady,” so you can rest assured that I know what “tasteful” means.  Here are some other clues:

Crop tops and sports bras:  In the privacy of my own home, I love to wear sports bras with my yoga pants.  I plank.  My upper arms aren’t bad.  My abs are a little iffy; ok for the beach, not ok for the mall.  (I don’t have a plastic surgeon on retainer.)  In public, I keep them covered with a hip-length jacket or sweater, because I don’t need the attention and don’t have a navel piercing to show off.

Bad Yoga Pants 2

Bad, bad, bad — just trying to prove my point.

Underwear:  I know you don’t want to see my old lady panty lines, either above the waist or digging into my upper thighs, so, if my top doesn’t cover my hips, I wear low-rise panties (which is kind of a thrill at my age, actually) or lightweight Spanx.  Yes, I do hate Spanx, but I hate panty lines more.  And all of my yoga pants are thick enough so you can’t see through them.  I can’t afford Lululemon. (Really?  $428 for a synthetic “Cashmere” sweater at the brand’s affiliate Kit and Ace?)

Belts:  I have a pair of “dressy” yoga pants (an oxymoron, if there ever was one) with belt loops.  What is the point of belt loops on yoga pants?  The pants are so tight, they aren’t going anywhere.  How can you do crunches while wearing a belt?  Doesn’t the buckle pierce your navel?  Is that how the yoga moms get jewelry in there?  Ouch!

Pockets:  Several pairs of my yoga pants have tiny little pockets.  I’m not sure why.  I couldn’t get my car key in it, so there’s certainly no room for a cellphone.  Except for a Kleenex, why would you put anything in the pockets of yoga pants?  Why would you create more unsightly bulges?  “Oh, dear, Suzanne really should get that lump on her hip removed.”  I use a jacket with pockets.

Color:  There is only one appropriate spandex color for most old ladies, and that is black.  That being said, I have a brown pair and a dark plum pair.  But…no floral prints, no stripes, and, God forbid, no powder blue.

Hip-huggers:  There is only one place to wear hip-hugging pants, and that is around the hips.  I NEVER pull them up to my waist, because that creates that crotch crease named for the foot of the Ship of the Desert.  (A little puzzle to exercise your brain.)  Eeek!  I spend so much time pulling down at the thighs of my pants that the dents in my pants look like I have cellulite.  Again, better to cover my hips.

Footwear:  Never wear loafers or flats or high heels with your yoga pants. Never.  Ever.   I’m not sure why I even have to tell you that.  Around here, women wear flip-flops with their yoga pants most of the year, but I am one of those silly and boring women who prefers Uggs, which are just one step above slippers.  So, sue me.  Socks with yoga pants?  Probably not.

Length:  A common complaint about yoga pants is that they’re too long.  When I was passing through Miami International Airport awhile back, a young woman came out of a restroom stall wearing yoga pants that were frayed and wet around the hem from dragging on the floor.  When I looked down, condensation from the tropical humidity had created a sea of God-only-knows-what swishing around.  It made me woozy to think about it.

Singing in yoga pants and a hip-covering top.  Who knew?

Singing in yoga pants and a hip-covering top. Who knew?

Sleepwear:  Sometimes, when I come home and put on my comfy yoga pants, I sleep in them.  However, I don’t wear them the next day, unless I’m holding down my sofa and writing.  It’s tempting to go from day to night in the same pair of pants, but, remember, it’s just one small misstep from comfy to frumpy.

Doesn’t it just figure that, by the time people our age embrace a fad, it’s “out”?  If tracksuits are now “in”, you’d better drag out your Bedazzler.  Nothing says “1980s” like a rhinestone-studded velour track suit with shoulder pads and mile-high hair, unless it’s a teddy bear-appliquéd sweatshirt.  And please, please, please, no fuschia velour pants at your age with “Princess” embroidered across your bum!

DATE UPDATE:

It’s been three months since I let my Match.com subscription expire.  In the beginning, there was some withdrawal.  I didn’t miss it when I was on vacation, but I didn’t realize how entertaining it was.  Oh, I don’t mean the dates.  They ranged from pitiful to downright creepy.  The profiles and photos were pretty funny but not $140 worth of funny.

My last date tried too hard to sell himself.  At least three times during our second date, he told me that he was “very wealthy” (his exact words).  This was during dinner in his country club’s formal dining room at 7pm, for which I had dressed up.  He ordered first, from the sandwich menu.  I recalled that he was the same guy who made me buy my own coffee the first time that we met (during which he ordered nothing, which should have ended our potential relationship right there).  I followed his lead and ordered a single lunch-sized crab cake with saltine crackers.  It came with a handful of potato chips.  I treated myself on his dime to a glass of house chardonnay.  How else was I going to make it through the evening?

Mr. Very Wealthy also didn’t listen.  He prefaced nearly every sentence with the exclamation “Jesus Christ!”  I subtly told him that I was the Senior Warden at my church and explained that it is the lay leadership position.  It went right over his head.  Then, I told him how important my faith is to me.  He still didn’t get it.  That’s clueless.  I wasn’t going to shout, “Stop it, you cretin!”  When he walked me to my car, he said, “Well, Suzanne, what do you think?”

“I think not,” I smiled kindly.  “We just don’t seem to have enough in common.” He appeared shocked when I told him I didn’t want to see him again.  Hope I didn’t break him with the little crab cake and cheap chardonnay.

Unfortunately, I had just been groped in a rough, forceful manner on a second date with a college instructor who told me, when I gently objected to his “ardor” (my word, not his), that I had “liked it” and had “misunderstood.”  Nope.  I hadn’t.  And I wasn’t even wearing yoga pants.

Match wants to help me.  They’re going to give me 50% off, if I sign up by tomorrow at midnight.  They send me that offer at least once a week, so I’m in no hurry.  I keep meeting lovely people who met lovely people online, but it’s just not for me.  I feel guilty laughing at the dating prospects, but, when I responded to some of them, I couldn’t help but think that they were insincere.  I had to ask myself if I equally was clueless about who I am.  Do I value myself too highly?  Am I nuts?  Am I unrealistic?   I’m just going to stay out of the fray for a while.

By the way, Karma is taking care of the man who stalked me about a year ago, one body part at a time, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

 


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Walking in My Shoes

As a woman who highly values her feet, I am delighted to hear that “ugly” shoes returned to fashion this summer.

I’m an equal opportunity shoe lover.  Expensive.  Cheap.  Practical.  Foolish.  My shoe fetish has nothing to do with sex.  It’s genetic.  Like my high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I inherited a proclivity for splurging on shoes from My Mother.  I am short, but My Mother is Tiny.  At 4’ 10”, she wears a size 4-1/2 shoe.  Actually, she wears a size 5-1/2 shoe, because she can’t find her real size.  In the 1950s, size 4-1/2 was used as the “sample” size.  She bought her shoes at a “sample shoe” store in an office building in downtown Detroit.

In early spring and early fall, she received postcards announcing that the sample shoes for the coming season were ready for sale.  We took the bus downtown and walked to the building, got into one of those funky old-fashioned elevators with a gate and a lever to drive the car up and down the shaft.  We would walk into an office crammed, floor to ceiling, with boxes of shoes and boots; pumps, flats, sandals, slingbacks, and mules, in spectacular colors and buttery soft Italian leather.

Mom didn’t skimp on our shoes, either.  Although she made our clothes, she insisted that shoes of quality were a good health investment.  We got new patent leather shoes at Christmas and white shoes for summer, along with a pair of sandals, and, eventually, a pair of sneakers.  When we started school, we got school shoes.  Being the 1950s, I wore saddle shoes in the primary grades with my fluffy dresses or shoes with a perforated design in the toes and an ankle strap.  I always envied the girls who had shoes whose ankle straps could be swiveled behind the heel so that the strap didn’t cross the top of their foot, the same reason that I hated t-strap shoes.  My Mother didn’t like that, so I used to trade shoes with my girlfriends for a few hours each day.

More than anything, I think that good shoes were a good mental health investment.

When I remember holidays and special events, I think of shoes.  For Christmas 1966, I had a pair of gold suede flats with a little gold buckle that I wore with a long-sleeved Kelly green cotton velveteen dress with ecru lace trim.  So mod.  My junior year in high school, I wore “baby doll” shoes, black leather Mary Janes, to go with my “baby doll” dresses.  In college, where tramping between classes in 0° temperatures required long underwear, I started collecting boots.  I remember having a pair of brown lace-up boots that I wore with a camel-colored maxi coat.  Even my wedding shoes weren’t just plain white; they were peau de soie (silk) with embroidered flowers on the toes.

If you keep shoes long enough, they come back in style.  Square toes and chunky heels from 1968 have returned at least twice in my lifetime. I saw that flare-legged pants are making a comeback.  They, of course, require a chunkier shoe.  How do I know this?  Remember, I’m 63 years old and have seen this trend like a revolving door.  The designers get you to buy their wide-legged pants and longer skirts and chunky shoes and sweaters for a few years, and, just when you get to feeling good about yourself, hiding beneath layers of bulk, they bring back capri pants and leggings and crop tops and stilettos and send you running to the gym — or running for dessert in despair.

See these two vastly different shoes?  Comfortable classics, yet a decade apart in age, they are still my favorites. The black suede Stuart Weitzman with the square toe and chunky heel was purchased c. 1992 and was worn in two different plays, masquerading as shoes from the 1930s and 1950s.  The pointy-toed Ferragamo was purchased c. 2002.  It’s been busy the past few years with pencil skirts and peg-legged pants.

I read that Queen Elizabeth II expressed her displeasure at the navy wedge-heeled shoes (also Stuart Weitzman) favored by her granddaughter-in-law, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.  Kate, of course, also popularized the ridiculous trend of nude platform stilettos a few years ago, an easy trend for a woman surrounded by bodyguards and her own prince to keep her on her feet.  Someone should send a memo to Lady Gaga’s bodyguards, because her platforms are unbelievable and trip her up all the time when dodging the papa-paparazzi.

The Daughter had a pair of the nude patent leather platforms, which she wobbled in, like Bambi on the frozen pond, all the way across a stage for her college honors convocation.  I was torn between admiring her fashion sense and trembling in fear that she would fall.  Of course, every other coed was wobbling in a similar pair, so I was not the only parent having palpitations.

I, myself, have more beige shoes and sandals than any other color for two reasons; supposedly, nude pumps make your legs look longer (eg., ballet shoes usually match tights) and neutrals go with everything in every season.  My short legs need all the lengthening they can get, but I’ve already fallen off shoes once in my life and don’t want to ever again spend two months in a leg brace.  And, yes, I own my own share of restaurant shoes.  You know.  Those shoes that make your legs look fabulous but that you can only stand to wear from the house to the car to the restaurant to the car to your house with, maybe, a nerve-wracking side-trip to the ladies’ room?

Today, I’m more likely to wear a plain dress and an interesting shoe to set it off, like jewelry; an Eileen Fisher sweater and skirt with a suede boot with wedge heel.  “Don’t look at me; look at my shoes.”  Of course, one man I dated found my boring, tent-shaped Eileen Fisher dress alluring, so I’d probably better go easy on the combination.  Too much excitement could probably kill a guy so old that he finds sedate clothing and ugly shoes a turn-on.  I need a guy who appreciates me so much that he’ll take me to a restaurant worthy of restaurant shoes. Now, THAT’S a turn-on to me!

photo (4)Keeping in the spirit of “ugly” shoes, described as Birkenstocks (which never went out of style in some Baltimore neighborhoods, which tells you everything you need to know about Charm City), I bought these Dansko sandals.  You may recall that I fell off a ridiculous pair of platform sandals and fractured my right patella, three years ago.  These are designed by the folks who know how to make shoes that doctors and nurses wear on their long, grueling shifts, so I hope they know what they’re doing with shoes for aging and fragile fashionistas who can’t afford another fall.  They cost about as much as some of the chic designer styles.

While my deteriorating knees and pocketbook have slowed my shoe “investing,” thanks to a now-defunct local outlet store, I’ve stocked up on enough diverse designer rejects from Saks and Neiman Marcus to keep me rotating styles at the whim of designers until one of my pretty little feet is in the grave, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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The Condensed Version of Me

photo (3)

Me – c. 1956

[This is my first-ever blog post, published July 22, 2014.  I like to think of it as a measuring stick of the past year.  My surgery sites were still raw; my abs were a flabby mess; I hadn’t started exploring online dating; and I had no idea why I was telling my story.  People tell me that I’m brave for being honest and that they share many of my frustrations with modern life, which has lost so much graciousness, despite technology and political correctness.  If nothing else, I make most of you laugh, so, who am I to complain?  Thanks for joining me on my spiritual journey!]

Last night, I did something with my daughter that I never would have done with my mother.  We stood in front of my bathroom mirror comparing our naked breasts.  Stay with me.

Did you ever do that with your mother?  Neither did I.  I’m 62, raised in the 1950’s & ’60’s by a mom of the 1930’s and ’40’s.  Her most damning phrase was “That’s tacky.” Until I was nearly 40, I worried about being dirty, wrinkled, mismatched, frizzy, and tacky.  My two earliest childhood memories are learning to tie the laces of my white high-topped, leather shoes into tidy bows and being fitted for white cotton gloves.  I couldn’t have been older than four, but I was mesmerized by the little drawers of gloves in the girls’ department at the J.L. Hudson, Company in downtown Detroit.  Plain or bows?  Are you kidding me?  I wanted the ones with the shiny pearl buttons!

Maybe your parents were “progressive.”  Mine came from that pragmatic, Depression-Era generation of hardworking blue collar-to-middle-class families with what are currently called “traditional values.”   My father, a first-generation Italian-American and proud Marine Corps veteran, leaned toward the conservative.  My mother’s family was from the fearless stock of English-Scots-Irish who settled Kentucky in the 18th century.  No whining allowed.  Have a problem?  Figure out how to solve it or climb over it and move on.  My sister and I were expected to go to college and graduate.  I learned to sew, cook, manage money, mow the lawn, change a tire, check the oil, mix concrete, and lay bricks.  Before feminism took hold in the 1960’s, we were learning to survive.

Mom was a minor progressive on matters of feminine independence.  When I begged for one of the newly-marketed “training” bras that my girlfriends proudly wore, my mother scoffed, “What are they training?  You don’t want to wear a bra.   They’re uncomfortable, and besides, you don’t have anything to put in one.”   [Be careful what you wish for.]

In the 5th grade, the girls in my class, accompanied by their mothers or a female guardian, were treated to the Disney-produced and Kotex-sponsored The Story of Menstruation.  (Sex education in the mid-20th century.) On the walk home after the screening, armed with pamphlets, Mom’s only comment was, “When your ‘time’ comes, they’re in the linen closet.”  Well, yes, I saw a small box of Kotex pads, but what were those mysterious paper-wrapped sticks in the Tampax box that was replaced much more frequently than the Kotex box?

Two years later, my ‘time’ arrived.  Mom showed me how to loop the gauzy ends of the bulky Kotex pad through the metal teeth in the “Sanitary Belt” yet encouraged me to use tampons.  At the age of 12, I was squeamish, more by the idea of having such a conversation with my mother than the actual process.  Well, I lie.  Probably more by the process.

She rolled her eyes and said, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”  Huh?  I’m going to put that hulking dry, cardboard thing where?  [Listen to your mother.]

By the time I was 17 and desperate to wear a bathing suit for my waterskiing boyfriend, she had the last laugh.  “I can’t help you with this.  You have to go into the bathroom and do it yourself.  Here’s the hand mirror.”

She was right, of course.  They were waaay better than the monthly bulkiness, the shifting, and the inevitable leakage.  She-who-claims-to-know-everything suddenly turned into a font of wisdom.

Seven years later, at age 24, I was recovering from a complete hysterectomy.  (No, it wasn’t due to the tampons.)  I had a raging case of endometriosis.  Cysts as large as volleyballs and baseballs, according to my doctors, pulsated in my ovaries, and others were exploding like tiny time-bombs, gumming up my insides.  In her droll and always honest way, my mother asked, “What are you going to do with all the money you save on tampons?”

Now, my own daughter is 22 and has little knowledge of and no use for white cotton gloves, but,  I am proud to say, she recognizes “tacky” when she sees it.    I’m not going to embarrass her by discussing her introduction to tampons, but let’s just say that it involved a mirror, a wet suit, and sharks.  Well, no, there were no actual sharks in the bathroom with us, just a discussion about their olfactory sensitivity.  There was also no dry, hulking cardboard in sight, just marvelous, smooth, modern plastic.

The Daughter and I, pre-op, May, 2012.

The Daughter and I, pre-op, May, 2012.

Two-and-a-half months ago, I had reduction mammoplasty (google it—I’m still my mother’s somewhat-squeamish daughter).  You see, my five foot-tall frame appeared to be on the verge of toppling over at any moment, as I could no longer straighten my shoulders.  I stuffed myself into minimizer bras and swathed myself in baggy sweaters.  What seems like a glamorous blessing really is a pain in the neck—and the spine and the shoulders and the self-esteem.  Turns out, I was carrying over two pounds of extra weight on my chest, like strapping a Yellow Pages directory between my armpits.

My daughter, the critical care nurse, was a great caregiver.  You know.  What we hope our children will be for us in our old age?  During the three-and-a-half hour outpatient (!) surgery, she returned to her nearby apartment to play with her cats and to catch something on Xfinity On Demand (which, to me, means it can be watched at any time other than when your dearly beloved is in surgery).

In fairness, I easily survived the surgery; she drove me home, stayed overnight, changed my massive ice packs, expertly stripped, emptied, and measured my bloody drain tubes every four hours, and force fed me oxycodone.   OK, OK.  She didn’t shove it down my throat, but she gave me the Nurse Ratched routine and insisted I swallow it.  [Note to self: Revisit that mirror/wet suit incident and a caregiver who is my sole heir.]

Last night, there we were, looking at our naked breasts, noticing how different they are.  My rehabbed pair appear to have been transplanted from a stranger and are oddly and happily perky for a 62-year old woman.  They are also subtly scarred, bruised, and lumpy and will be for at least another year.  Just like my hysterectomy scar, traces of this recent surgery will always remain.  But, I figure, the boy for whom I was willing to experiment with tampons has been gone for three years, and I don’t expect anyone other than a medical professional will ever get close enough to notice.

Oh, come on!  Put your tiny violins away!  Insurance paid for most of the surgery.  I feel fabulous and can see my feet for the first time in years.  My girlfriends say I look 20 years younger.  My new, youthful bustline (as Jane Russell would say in the old Playtex commercials) has inspired me to work on my abs, now that I can see how flabby they are.

My mother, at 86, still knows everything and feels free to dole out advice.  These days, she rarely tells me

Playing with a selfie stick, July, 2015.

Playing with a selfie stick, July, 2015.

that I look tacky, but I still wouldn’t dream of sharing my breasts with her in a mirror.  My daughter isn’t embarrassed to discuss anything with me, although I have learned to text “TMI” to her when she makes me squeamish.  I am easily old enough to be her grandmother, so the generational chasm between us is often profound.  And, yes, both she and my mother approved this post, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo gloria!


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Attraction Satisfaction Survey

Attraction Satisfaction Survey-page-0

Everybody has an “Exit Survey” now.  You get your car’s oil changed, and they email you a “How Did We Do?” survey.  You spend two hours and 12 minutes on the phone with your cable company only to be told that they can’t restore your service, and they send you a “Customer Satisfaction” survey.   [I made that up from the anecdotal reports of my family and friends.  I can’t get no internet satisfaction in my neighborhood.]  Even two centuries ago, the entertainment industry was asking.  “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the show?”

I’m thinking of creating an “Exit Survey” for my online dates.  You know, how could I have been a better date, so I provide better service to others in the future?

For instance, am I a boring dresser?  I’ve been told that I still have my “dancer’s legs,” so I try to wear a dress or skirt on a date, except once in the winter when it was really cold, and I wore leggings with a fitted, knit tunic, and booties.  Another time, I wore a small fuzzy pink turtleneck with a faux black leather skirt, black tights, and the same black booties, which I thought was really hot, but, then, the date was so boring that I was dejected that I had wasted a hot outfit on a not-so-cool guy.  Ditto a short skirt with gray suede high-heeled boots, which got a rave from the hostess at the restaurant but nary a word from my date.

Of course, I thought those outfits were hot, but, I’m a woman, so I only know what other women think is hot.  The joy of having a long-term spouse is that they A). don’t notice and B). think everything you do is hot.  The Veterinarian didn’t care much one way or the other.  He once said that I dressed better than his mother, the implications of which are pretty unsettling, even 40 years later.

How much is too much make-up?  I don’t wear a lot on a typical day, usually just lipstick to keep my lips from sticking to my teeth.  My eyes are deep-set, and I’ve always had a problem with mascara.  My eyelashes smack around my eye sockets every time I blink, so the mascara ends up making those raccoon circles around my eyes.  I trained The Veterinarian and The Daughter to alert me when I needed to tidy them up, but, alas, now I am on my own, so I quit wearing mascara.  As the years roll by, I’ve noticed that my eyes are disappearing, so, when I don’t want to look like one of the pale portraits of Elizabeth I,  I haul out the eyeliner and mascara and blame the smudges on the “smokey-eye” look.  Hmmm…it could also make me look like I just rolled out of bed, couldn’t it?

Fashion victim

Fashion victim

I always make sure I wear 3-4” heels, because the only thing I lie about in my dating profile is my height.  5’ ½” just sounds unbelievably short, even to me, like a perky rodent or something.  My profile says I’m 5’ 2”, which I’ve always used when I go on auditions, for the same height reason.  Last week, I went on a lunch date in 4” wedges, all the while envisioning myself face-planted on the floor of the restaurant, like I had been almost three years to the day earlier on my 60th birthday.  The EMTs told me that I was the third fashion victim to take a ride in their ambulance that day.  I fell off my 4” platform wedges and fractured my patella (knee-cap) in two places and spent the summer in a brace.  Happy Birthday, Old Lady!

Do you drink alcohol on a date or not?  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get sloppy drunk on one glass of wine, but I’m picky about the wine that I drink and don’t want to stick the date with a $12 glass of pinot noir.  I’d rather drink iced tea, since I don’t drink beer.  And hard liquor?  I think that sends the wrong message at lunch time, don’t you?  PLUS, I spent years warning The Daughter about the risks of leaving a glass unattended on a bar, a magnet for all kinds of “date drugs.”  I don’t want to explain to her how I fell victim to that old ploy.  Do senior citizens drug their Old Lady dates?  For what?  To watch them fall off their shoes?

Is my vocabulary too obscure?  I was IM-ing a prospective date the other day and used the word “ephemeral.”  He texted back, “I have a graduate degree and don’t know what that word means.  Here’s my number.  Call me tomorrow, if you want to talk.  I have to go let my dog out.”  Yikes!  Don’t need an exit survey for that one.

I laugh at my date’s jokes, even when they’re not funny.  I try to keep my own info light and funny.  I don’t talk about my late husband unless I’m specifically asked, and even then, I don’t cry or appear maudlin, because, well, I’m not maudlin.  I don’t comment on politics or religion or sex, which no date has ever mentioned to me.  Must be the racoon eyes.  Well, at least they know what I look like in the morning.

Speaking of s-e-x, how much physical contact do you have on a first date with a stranger?  Every one of the men has given me a hug, which seemed innocent enough, especially when I was wearing a coat.  No one groped me or anything like that.  And, how do you end the date?  That never gets easier.  What do you say?  A handshake?  Another hug?  A kiss?  If I say, “Let’s keep in touch” because I mean it, it sounds so vacuous.  Everyone says, “Let’s keep in touch,” even when we know that we don’t ever want to see one another again.  I always send a “thank you” email, which seems polite.  If they respond to that, it might be a favorable sign…or not.  Maybe it’s just best not to be polite and cut things off quick and, relatively, painless.

And I haven’t figured out, yet, if there is an appropriate point on a first date to say, “What, exactly, am I doing wrong that you keep looking at your cellphone every five minutes?”  Maybe they’re coordinating their next dates.  It’s a known fact that women over the age of 50 outnumber men that age 2 to 1, which is why we can’t find anyone to date us.  We’re overdating them, wearing them out, and killing them!

Well, every woman for herself!  I need to fine-tune my game-plan to remain competitive, and the “Attraction Satisfaction Survey” may just give me the ammunition I need.  If not, maybe I can come up with a “Frequent Dater” loyalty program.  Naw, I can’t think of any benefits I’d be willing to award.

Attraction Satisfaction Survey-page-0

Thank you for taking the time to help me perfect my dating technique, as I aim to be the best darn drinking/dining/hiking/traveling companion for all your reasonable dating needs!  Your honest critique will provide a valuable service to women everywhere!

On a scale of 1 to 5, your overall satisfaction with our date was _______.

You found that my written online profile was…

  1. the funniest profile you ever read.
  2. the snarkiest profile you ever read.
  3. completely misleading.
  4. enigmatic.
  5. None of the above.

When we met, your first impression was, “She looks…

  1. …nothing like her photo.”
  2. …like she sleeps in her car.”
  3. …like she just rolled out of bed.”
  4. …shorter than a 5th grader.”
  5. …like my ex-wife’s poodle.”

While we chatted, you kept wishing that I had…

  1. shown more cleavage.
  2. laughed harder at your jokes.
  3. been dumber than a 5th grader.
  4. stood you up.
  5. All of the above

Geographically, I…

  1. am too far away.
  2. am too close for comfort.
  3. am undesirable.
  4. am an alien.
  5. couldn’t be found on a map by a 5th grader.

I (at age 63) most closely resemble which of these gorgeous, mature ladies…

  1. Goldie Hawn (69)
  2. Susan Sarandon (68)
  3. Jessica Lange (64)
  4. Christie Brinkley (61)
  5. None of the above

On a first date, I should wear…

  1. more make-up.
  2. less make-up.
  3. higher heels.
  4. a 5th grade Girl Scout uniform.
  5. a bag over my head.

When ordering while on a date, I should…

  1. skip the appetizer and go for the main course.
  2. offer to share a single entrée.
  3. choose the cheapest thing on the menu.
  4. drink more alcohol.
  5. not ask the server to “card” me.

If I have my own money, I should…

  1. pay my share.
  2. fight for the check.
  3. let my date pay.
  4. skip out while you’re “sharpening your skates.”
  5. put a twenty in your pants.

From a male perspective, I most likely…

  1. can’t attract a man smarter than a 5th grader.
  2. am the scariest woman you’ve ever met.
  3. will be sued eventually for defamation.
  4. will never hear from you again.
  5. All of the above

Finally, would you recommend me to a friend or family member? ______

Actually, I don’t need an exit survey to tell me that my customer attraction factor is really low.  But my dog adores me, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Fashionable Foolishness

Scarlett and her personal assistant

Scarlett and her personal assistant

This morning, The Daughter sent me an article about “waist trainers.”  Because she is a medical professional, it was an article using quotes from physicians debunking the latest fashion fad.  That’s right, you women who just got used to Spanx, corsets have been revived to give us an hour-glass shape, because — listen carefully — “men are attracted to women with hips.”

Pardon me while I put down my mug of sweetened tea and laugh myself silly.  I love to start my day with a good laugh!    If men are looking for women with big hips, then I’ve been highlighting the wrong body parts in my dating profile photos.

Although I’ve already written about accepting the girth of my hips (“How I learned to love my hips”) and the pudginess of my tummy, I just have to throw in two more cents’ worth of commentary.

This new lunacy is touted by those Krazy Kids in Calabasas, California who have turned their own questionable life-style into a national media frenzy.  Middle-aged women (including you, KKs), who already have enormous hips and thighs, are popularizing corsets to “train their waists and lose their pregnancy fat.”  As the physicians and nutritionists in the article rightly point out, and as any other middle-aged woman can tell you, you can stuff your gut into tight jeans and lay on the floor to get them zipped, but, when you stand up, there’s going to be a new roll of unpleasantness mocking you with the name “Muffin top” between your breasts and your waist.  It’s gotta go somewhere, above or below, but it ain’t going away, regardless of your age, your bank account, or your celebrity.

Why not just have some of your ribs removed?  That would be easier and, in the long run, way more comfortable.  Who needs those ribs, anyway?  They just protect vital internal organs that no one sees, a minor detail. When you squish your guts around, you impede your digestion, and  I don’t know about you, but I find acid reflux to be an unpleasant side effect.  The article also says that constricting your lungs makes breathing more difficult (duh), leading to pulmonary ailments.  This illustration from the Irish Examiner shows you better than I can tell you.

It's all gotta go somewhere.

It’s all gotta go somewhere.

We get mixed messages from the media, don’t we?  On the one hand, they parade diet trends and unrealistic fashion standards before us, and, on the other, we are told not to criticize ourselves or others because we don’t fit these standards.  “Be the authentic you!”  They shout.  If I hear the words “authentic you” one more time, I’m going to show someone the “authentic me” and unleash World War III.

No, for the love of God, don’t be the authentic you.  Who I want to be or who I think I am is not necessarily who I should be.  I’m a shorter-than-average 63-year old woman who has a soft middle, regardless of the number of crunches that I do.  No waist trainer, no surgery of any kind is going to change that.  Should someone provide me with free Louboutin shoes because I think I would be happier if I were taller and more chic?   Should someone give me a television show because I think I’m the most fascinating woman in the world?  (Well, probably, since most everyone else has one.)

Fortunately, I surround myself with people who remind me to have some self-respect and dignity.  That I am not the center of any universe, including my own.  To be prayerful and introspective, to change the things that I should change and to accept the things that I cannot.  It’s called discernment, which I desperately need to practice, because my ideas can be pretty wacky, and that Shrew who lives in my head cannot be trusted.

Remember Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, that politically incorrect classic about mid-19th century US history?  After Scarlett gave birth to her first child, she braced herself with her bedpost while her personal assistant (in this day and age, a more “pc” title than the character’s actual name) tightened her corset.  She was trying to regain her 18-1/2” waist, but the best that her “assistant” could manage to pull in was 20”.  A 20” waist…can you imagine?  Nope, I don’t think my waist has ever been that small.  I think it might have been 24″ when I was a 90-pound teenager, but that was so long ago, and my memory is so bad that I am most likely mistaken.  Which brings me to my point, as Scarlett’s personal assistant tells her, she has lost her girlish waist by having a child, by being a woman.  We are no longer girls, no matter how much we may look back fondly at a fleeting moment in our lives.  And I, for one, frankly don’t give a damn.

DATE UPDATE:

Yesterday, I read that Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians will no longer perform at college campuses because the academic environment is too “politically correct,” which seems to be a complete reversal of what was going on when I went to college.  In my day, we questioned everything.  Humor was used to examine life’s fallacies without condemnation.  Now, they condemn us if we don’t all think the same way.  And what “way” would that be?  Who is the new standard of perfection?  The vegan tri-athlete who says “anything goes, unless I don’t like it?”  The wildlife hunter who says “anything goes, unless I don’t like it?”

I think this is the problem with the online dating format.  Most people are trying to be inoffensive and end up saying nothing about themselves.  There is no nuance.  We present facts about ourselves by answering a series of questions, and, ironically, facts don’t tell us anything.  He’s short.  He has a motorcycle.  He likes to work out.  He likes to eat at home. He’s never going to tell you that he’s human and sometimes cranky or over eats or has bad knees or is sometimes too “tired” for sex.  I get that.  I, too, am unbelievably human and flawed, which is reflected in my written profile and undoubtedly why I haven’t had any luck.  I’m not selling an idealized vision of who I am.

Last week, I came across a perfect combination of honesty and self-aggrandizement, a man exactly my age, right down to the same birth month.  He claims to be an Ivy-league graduate, a professional by day and a musician by night.  His profile photo shows a good-looking middle-aged man with mirrored shades and a hipster haircut, and other photos show him with his colleagues in business attire, playing with his band in t-shirt and jeans, and several more where he is surrounded by glamorous young women.  I was amused and perplexed and intrigued.  Who is this guy?  Not, his name, but what kind of human is he?

He says he’s looking for an “adult relationship” with someone who “gets the concept of ‘living in the moment’ [sic]” and discourages women who are separated or are aged 25-30 and looking for someone “35-85 within 2500 miles.”  I looked at the age preferences of this 63-year old man…”42-50 within 25 miles.”  I burst out laughing and wrote to him, “Is this profile for real, or is it a parody?”  I wasn’t looking for an answer, but I just can’t believe he’s for real, no matter how literate and hilarious his profile may be.  He’s probably looking for a woman who uses a waist trainer.

Now that I reconsider the matter of personal authenticity, I hope my next date does bring his “authentic self” along when we first meet.  I don’t want any surprises, and I reserve the right to determine if his “authentic self” doesn’t match my values and standards, which, after all, make up my authentic self and are every bit as valid as his.

We all want to be loved just the way we are.  Your waist may be smaller than mine.  Your hips may be bigger.  Your fashion sense or taste in men may differ.  I may disagree with you, but I will love you.  And if you don’t love me back, that’s ok, too.  I have my own friends, so who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!