every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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Endurance produces characters

Today, The Daughter and I are going to see the movie Pitch Perfect 2.  I have not seen its predecessor, Pitch Perfect, but I assume it doesn’t matter.  The plot appears to be that old chestnut; a group of loveable misfits enters a contest and comes out on top.  Instead of catchy tunes playing over the action, the catchy tunes are the action.  Oh, they might actually lose the Big Contest itself, but they will all be Winners.  Someone will find the Love of their Life.  Someone will discover hidden talents.  Someone will summon latent courage.  Someone will make the cover of Time magazine.

The Little Rascals, The Dirty Dozen, Star Wars, Bad News Bears, Major League, Ghostbusters, Cool Runnings, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Oceans Eleven, Slumdog Millionaire, Over the Hedge, Glee, and, in a reversal, Legally Blonde, the story of a beautiful rich girl whose goodness is thwarted by jealous people who are even more beautiful and rich.  They’re humans, animals, toys, children, adults, felons, wizards, time-travelers, athletes, rich and poor, from all cultures, real and fictitious.

They all suffer and endure and become memorable characters with inordinate amounts of hope and do great things, because that kind of hope does not disappoint.[1]

Who can’t relate to at least one of the characters in a misfit movie?  At some time, we have all felt ourselves to be The Other.  If you haven’t, then you probably don’t have a heart.  These stories have a Smart-Ass.  A Genius.  A Shrinking Violet.  A Cool Kid.  A Privileged Kid.  A Really Poor Kid.  A Kid with a Unique Physical Attribute.  Everyone has a crucial talent to contribute.  Their equipment is dilapidated, but their key to success is threefold:  They’re smart.  They persevere.  They have Principles.

I’m sure I’m the Smart-Ass, because my mouth gets me into trouble.  All.  The.  Time.  In trying to be truthful, I am all too often blunt.  For all my verbal acuity, I have a lot of trouble with tact.  I also have trouble with the arrogant, the liar, the fear-monger, the cheat.  (The honestly stupid, not so much.  They try my patience but get my pity.)

The other day, I got into an argument in a clothing shop, the “cheaper” version of a major women’s retailer.  I saw a sign hanging on a rack of denim pants that said, “Denim – $39.99.”  I checked the tag.  The pants were normally $69.99, which is ridiculous for a pair of non-descript, white denim pants.  They probably weren’t worth $39.99, but they were a petite-size, which is hard to find these days.  I tried them on.  I even verified with a clerk in the dressing room that these pants were on sale.

“Oh, yes,” she said.  “All denim is on sale.”

I got in line at the cashier.  The pants rang up as $69.99.

“Excuse me,” I started, “these are on sale.”

“No, they aren’t,” the clerk replied curtly.

“Well, the sign says ‘Denim – $39.99.’”

“Not all denim is on sale,” she continued.  The other cashier side-eyed us.  The customer behind me stepped away from the counter.

“The clerk in the dressing room verified it when I asked her,” I pressed.

“These pants are NOT on sale.”

I marched to the rack and flipped the sign in her direction.

“The sign is on the rack with these pants!” I complained rather forcefully.  “How can these denim pants, hanging directly beneath the sign, not be the denim pants that the sign says are on sale?  If these aren’t the denim pants on sale, which ones are?”

Now, people all over the store were staring at me, the crazy misfit Smart-Ass.

“Ma’am, the company sends us the signs and tells us where to hang them.  It doesn’t mean that those pants are the pants that are on sale,” she said loftily.

“That’s false advertising.  I don’t want the pants.”

“You don’t want the pants?”

“No, I certainly do not, and, you know what?  This is the second time in a month that this has happened in this store.  I won’t be shopping here again.”

I picked up my handbag and walked out.  Behind me, I heard laughter.  Morons.

I should have whipped out my cellphone and photographed the sign on the rack of pants and posted it on Facebook.  The Daughter, who had some experience in retailing in a better women’s clothing store, said I should have asked to see the store manager.   She pointed out that a smart clerk or store manager would have sold me the pants at $39.99 and moved the sign.

Coulda.  Shoulda.  Woulda.  I’m not going to be ripped off either by overpriced pants, deceptive retailing, or snarky clerks.  I’m not going around pants-less.  I own other pants.  It’s the principle that matters. I shall persevere and be a better person for it.

DATE UPDATE:

142 views this week and only one scammer, a woman from Delaware allegedly writing on behalf of her boss in Reno, Nevada, who said that I was “the only woman that caught his attention…”  I always feel bad reporting the people with the profiles, because they’ve obviously had their photos and profiles hacked.  Still, it’s the principle that matters.  I see myself as a one-woman avenger, in my crazy misfit Smart-Ass way.

On match, you can see some of the men/women who have viewed your profile.  Lately, most men have bought the “Hide your profile so you can look at women without their knowledge” option.  I find this creepy.  It’s like being stalked by a peeping Tom.  At best, I envision spies in restaurants peering over the tops of menus.  At worst, I envision perverts photographing women on the beach for nefarious purposes.  (I saw that on Inside Edition last week.  What is our world coming to?)

Out of 142 views, only 12 profiles were visible to me.  Only five of those followed up their viewing by expressing an interest.  That’s kind of depressing.  Of the five, only one was even remotely appealing.  Some of the 12 were attractive, and, assuming that there was something in my photo that grabbed their attention, I wrote to them anyway.  I decided to be less picky, just to engage men in conversation, but it’s hard for a woman of character to endure men of no principle.  I also changed my profile to say that I would write to anyone who winked, interested, or favorited me.  It seems only fair to answer someone who summons the courage (or the chutzpah) to flirt with a complete stranger.

Which brings me to Pitch Perfect 2.  It’s really not giving anything away to say that the misfits overcame a humiliating disaster.  More than one character found love.  More than one character exhibited hidden talents.  Someone summoned courage when it was needed.

Goodness always wins.  Beat it up.  Steal its toys.  It may wear dilapidated pants, but it’s still going to be good.  And that gives me eternal hope, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


[1] Romans 5:3-4.  Yeah.  Even for cartoon characters.


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Not in My Easter Bonnet!

c. 1955 with my cousins in our Easter finery

c. 1955 with my cousins in our Easter finery

Many years ago, when no woman left her house without a hat and gloves and purse, when head coverings for women were mandatory in some churches, when women still wore stockings, when men knew when to wear a necktie and polished their shoes, dressing up was fun.  Now, everyone acts like it’s elitist or sexist or pretentious.  Except on Easter Sunday.

You can count on seeing hats on women and girls and even a few men in church on Easter Sunday.  People you don’t see the rest of the year will show up looking as if they stepped out of a Doris Day movie.

If you dressed up in an elegant hat to go shopping at the mall, your fellow shoppers would look around for the hidden

Easter 1959

Easter 1959

camera.  If you wore a cocktail hat to a restaurant, people would snicker over their martinis.  If you wore a hat to a wedding, you’d surely lose it when dancing to “Uptown Funk.”  (Unless you’re Bruno Mars, whose fedora appears to be anchored to that bandana beneath it, but I don’t think I’d wear a bandana to a wedding.)

Hats are sexy.  You can flirt demurely from beneath a brim or boldly behind a veil or avert your eyes entirely. A well-

placed flower or feather screams romance, although I once bought a straw hat with the palest pink flowers and a pale pink and sage checked ribbon.  The Veterinarian said that all I needed was a price tag dangling from the front, and I could be Minnie Pearl’s clone.

White for Easter 1962?  Rules be damned in the go-go 60s.

White for Easter 1962? Rules be damned in the go-go 60s.

Some people complain that they don’t look good in hats, but I think they just aren’t used to wearing them.  You need to go to a store with lots of different hats and try on every

single one of them to figure out which hat looks good on you.  I, for one, look spectacular in a large-brimmed hat but ridiculous in a baseball cap.  I just don’t have the right shaped head.  The last time I wore a baseball cap, to an actual baseball game, I stuffed the interior to give it some shape.  I’m much happier in one of my sturdy straw hats, which I always wear to the beach for sun protection and to pretend that no one can see me in my swim suit.

Google hats and find out how to wear them.  Don’t assume that they’re only perched on the back of your head.  And make sure your hair is styled to go with the hat.  The smaller the hat, the smaller the hairstyle.   A pony tail is great with a baseball cap.  A chignon (low bun) or French twist works with a fascinator.  Flowing hair works with a broad-brimmed hat.

I won’t be wearing a hat this Easter.  When you sing in a church choir and are covered by cassock (black robe) and cotta (the white thing), a hat

Easter 1968 - I didn't get the memo about hats on the back of my head.

Easter 1968 – I didn’t get the memo about hats on the back of the head, but I’d still wear that outfit, if it fit (which it wouldn’t).

looks pretty stupid.  I guess I could wear it into church at 7:45 when we rehearse, but, by 8:30, I’ll be wearing my choir dress until 1pm, which defeats the purpose.  No one will see it, anyway.  After singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at two services (9 and 11, historic St. James Episcopal Church, Monkton, if you’re in the area), I won’t much feel like showing off.  And an Easter bonnet needs an Easter dress (which no one will see under the choir robe) and high heels (which you can’t stand in for four hours of singing).

I won’t be wearing my beautiful black straw with a black straw bow, attempting to channel my inner-Audrey Hepburn.  (Of course, Audrey was tall and elegant, and I am short and a pretender.)  I won’t be wearing the beautiful black velour felt that I got in the mid-60s, which remains wearable.  I won’t be wearing either of My Mother’s vintage 1950s hats, one black velvet with a sassy feather and veil and the other brown felted wool with a brown veil.  (It would take a lot of nerve, even for me, to wear either of them out in public, much less to church.)  Nor the navy cloche nor an azure and lime green straw nor an ivory straw with a fine cloud of dotted tulle circling the crown.  Geez, I wish I had somewhere to wear any of them.  sigh

Easter 1971, right after spring break --- too tan, too much white pearlized eyeshadow

Easter 1971, right after spring break — too tan, too much white pearlized eyeshadow

Come on, let’s bring back hats!  In the cause of sun protection.  In the cause of beauty.  In the cause of romance.  In the cause of civilization.  Hats.  They’re not just for Easter any more.


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How to stuff a not-so-wild bikini

The wildest bathing suit I ever owned, c. 1971

At 100 pounds, in the wildest bathing suit I ever owned, c. 1971  –  The “hippie” glasses had lavender lenses.

I made the mistake of trying on bathing suits yesterday.  I know.  January is not the month for that.  I assumed that it would be a more pleasant experience than in recent years, having lost some weight and rearranged a couple of crucial body parts.  Unfortunately, I forgot that there was pasty white skin lurking beneath my clothes.  I went to a shop that only sells beachwear, so the lighting in the dressing room was forgiving and designed to make skin look pinkish, but it couldn’t disguise either the marks around my waist from my jeans or the elastic from my socks around my calves.

First, I had to struggle with size.  What size am I now?  My old suits don’t fit.  The tops stood away from my body, which horrified me that I ever wore such a thing in the first place, not to mention that it fit!  The first tops that I tried on were too small.  I wasn’t sure how to take that.  Should I be happy that I still have some womanly curves or concerned that I still have that pesky “arm pit fat” that I didn’t know I had until the surgeon pointed it out to me?

And I still have hips.  I’ve always had hips, even when I weighed a hundred pounds.  With hope in my heart, I tried on a size “small” bottom, but it dug into my fat — er — skin, so I went with the medium bottom, which I’ve always worn. The more things change, the more they remain the same.  There was a time when I wore real bikinis.  I’m always shocked when I see what I used to wear, but, like most of the fleet, that ship has sailed.

So, what style?  High-waisted bottom?  Skirted?  Low cut top?  Screaming red?  Horizontal stripes?  Metallics?  One piece?  Tankini?  I’ve always worn black and navy, so it would be nice to enliven my color palette (as the magazines say).

I decided on tankinis, those two-piece suits that allow you to cover up your midsection.  Since I never go into the water (except a hot tub or briefly into the pool to cool off), I like their convenience.  I prefer to sit in a lounge chair, basting and turning like a chicken, while I read the latest chick lit and sip on a cold drink.  This can take a few hours, so I usually need to visit the ladies’ room from time to time, and I have no patience with tugging at a one piece.  If the cold drink is an adult beverage, I may not be coordinated enough to manage it.

Timidly, I tried on a black number that was jazzed up with a little crocheted lace trim and a little skirt for the bottom.  I texted a selfie to The Daughter for her opinion.

“Lingerie?”  She jumped in her car and drove to meet me at the mall.  God only knows what kind of senility had overcome her mother.

I tried on another suit with a little ruffle around the bodice and the bottom.  Again, it was conservatively black, although the narrow ruffle was a print, predominately coral.  It had a built-in bra.  Much more appropriate for a 62-year old woman.  Surely, the Daughter would approve.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about what your daughter thinks,” the kind saleslady advised, as she took away a ghastly horizontally striped two piece in hot pink and navy.  “Age is just a number.”  Yeah, sure.  You just want to make a sale.  I’m the one who’s going to hear about it while we’re on vacation.

For many years, when I was in my 30s, I kept a New Yorker cartoon on my bathroom mirror.  It showed an older woman in a lacy, off-the-shoulder, debutante-style dress with a bow in her hair and a cameo necklace.  The caption read, “Clara never realized that time had passed.”  Of course, 30 years ago, “Clara” was seen through a glass dimly, but I kept it as a reminder.  Unfortunately, I lost that cartoon when we remodeled the bathroom, but, somehow, “Clara” has started appearing in my mirror.

“Maybe it’s the skirted bottom,” the helpful saleslady brought a plain bottom to the dressing room.  “Try this one.  It’s not as busy.”  She was right.  It looked sleeker and less like a tap costume.  Still, there was no bra in the top, and, no matter how perky my recent “rearrangement” left me, I felt a little too exposed.  I sprang for the ruffled suit and asked them to hold the one with the lace for the Daughter’s approval.  I met her outside the store.

“Listen,” I said, “they’re holding that black suit for me that you thought was lingerie.  I’m not sure I should buy it, so, when I show it to you, say you don’t like it.”

“OK,” she agreed.  We walked into the store, and the saleslady produced the suit.

“OMG!” The Daughter exclaimed.  “I love it.  You should buy it.”  Traitor!  I gave her The Look.

“You see,” she explained to the saleslady, “my mother is doing online dating now but doesn’t really present herself all that well.  She needs to be more exciting.  Mom, you should definitely buy that suit, and, if you don’t like it, you should give it to me.”

DATE UPDATE:

I have six weeks left on my Match subscription, and I think I’m done.  I’ve tried everything.  I tried being myself.  I tried being non-offensive.  I tried being someone else for about 24 hours.  Now, I’ve hidden my profile until my membership expires.  The Daughter is concerned that I’m wasting money, but it all seems to have been a money waster from the beginning.  I’ve emailed over 20 men who appeared to be “matches” and only heard from the one who said tersely, “We are not a match.”  I was advised that men like to be the pursuer and are turned off by women who approach them first.  I was advised that it’s a new world and that women shouldn’t wait for a man to approach them.  A Catch-22 situation all around.

Last week, I heard from multiple scammers, including another woman who claimed to be writing for her boss.  I also heard from one of the many inappropriate men on Match.  He was 65, never married, and agnostic with shoulder length hair (!), who described himself as an “underachieving wiseass…looking for a drama free woman.”  He wrote, “Would you take a chance on a hippie who is now attoning [sic] for his misspent youth?”

Oh, you have got to be kidding me.  I’m one of the few people of my generation who has never smoked weed.  I wasn’t a hippie when everyone flirted with being a hippie in the 60s and 70s, not even beads and peace symbols or even macramé plant holders. I still can’t stand the smell of patchouli.

In my Peter Pan collar and box-pleated skirt, sitting on the lawn next to my French instructor with cigarette in her hand.

In my Peter Pan collar and box-pleated skirt, sitting on the lawn next to my French instructor with cigarette in her hand.

My freshman year in college in 1971, I had a French language instructor who owned one pair of ripped jeans, two ribbed turtlenecks (one navy, one mauve), a pair of lace-up moccasins, and a necklace of beaded flowers.  Her fashion sense was to ring her eyes with kohl and plaster her lips with Max Factor Erace (that old grease-stick concealer).  We had a mutual dislike for one another.  I wore skirts and bell-bottomed slacks with real shoes and was the best student in the class.  It drove her nuts.

She also chain-smoked during class, one of those ghastly things that people are no longer allowed to inflict on others.  One day, she finished a cigarette, dropped it on the classroom floor, and, while rubbing it out, ground a hole through the bottom of her moccasin and burned her foot.  You know what they say about Karma…

In answer to your question, sir, “No.  No hippies.  No one of any kind who hasn’t gotten over their misspent youth or even their misspent middle-age.”

Maybe I should just misspend my “Golden Years.” Maybe I’ll keep that little lacy black tankini for myself.  Since the geezers my age think I’m too old for them, I can always blame it on senility, so who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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How I learned to love my hips

The White Dress

The White Dress

Rejoice with me! I just dodged a bullet. Spanx has debuted a line of $148 “slimming” jeans that don’t come in petites! Woohoo! I don’t feel compelled to try them, and it’s not the excessive length or outrageous price that repels me. There are no jeans at any price that will turn me into a supermodel.

In my lifetime, I suspect that I have spent close to a gazillion dollars trying to convince the general public that I have the body of Twiggy (actually, I wanted to be Jean Shrimpton—google them, if you’re young).

I am no stranger to foundation undergarments and have great appreciation for what they can do and for what I am willing to tolerate under special circumstances, however, most of them have lived up to neither their hype and price tag nor to my unrealistic expectations. I have owned my share of panty girdles (with garters, no less, that’s how old I am), control-top panty hose, body shapers and slimmers, “Miracle” bathing suits (which are a miracle to get into and out of), Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, and, yes, Spanx.

And don’t get me started on bras. Once I catapulted beyond the training bra stage (once they got started, they really got going), I tried lightly padded, underwire, demi, plunging, convertible (into halter- and crisscross styles), strapless, sports, minimizer, T-shirt minimizer (an oxymoron—the padding negates the minimizing effect), and even some items made out of silicone that I do not wish to discuss at this time. I am astounded to recall that a costume designer for a play in which I appeared 15 years ago, convinced me to buy a Wonderbra, all the rage at the time.

“Oh, Suzanne,” he said, “You’re the only actress I know who wears the right foundation undergarments. And look at this fabulous vintage dress I have for you.” It was a spectacular red dress with a low, square neckline and the original label of a designer in 1950’s Havana, like nothing I would ever wear in real life.

“Oh, come on,” I protested. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ll wear a real bra instead of a minimizer. You don’t think there’s enough of me already?” Still, it was the perfect look for my cartoonish character, the fiery, jealous wife of a renowned Italian tenor, so I grudgingly relented. Thanks to that Wonderbra and a sashay in my hips that I discovered, I got a laugh every night just by walking onstage.

Apparently, there’s a family of women in southern California who aren’t bothered in the least by the size of their hips. Someone even gave them a television show where they get paid to sashay their curves all over the world, proving that women of all sizes are beautiful. One of the younger sisters is tall and super-skinny in the way that only young women can be, and one of her elders is, well, bigger than life. Or maybe it’s just the 10 pounds of  hype that the camera adds.

I marvel every morning watching our local female meteorologists, well-educated women, stuffed into tight dresses with a serious collection of unintended rolls and lumps which no amount of exercise, dieting, or spandex can prevent. The bald, paunchy weathermen don’t wear Neoprene wet suits to inflate the latest impending storm, so why do they? The American Meteorological Society should include on-camera guidelines in their 100-question, closed-book certifying exam for broadcast meteorologists. This is probably why you don’t see older women journalists on television. Who can wear this stuff?

The Daughter can. And did, recently. She made the mistake of posting a selfie on Facebook, out on the town with her girlfriends in a new, tight-fitting white dress, much like those worn by those California sisters. She works out and isn’t a supermodel by any stretch of the imagination, but she looked fit. I had to blow-up the photo to inspect it for panty lines. I found no rolls or lumps, no lines, nothing, which confused me. Should I be happy that she wasn’t revealing too much, or concerned that she was “going commando”?

It’s probably too late to improve my parenting skills. The next time we talked on the phone, I had to ask about it.

“Was that a new dress you had on Saturday night?” I stupidly asked.

“Yes,” she cautiously replied.

“It fit rather snuggly.” Subtext: Your dress was too freaking tight!

“Yes, Mom, but my girlfriends helped me buy it and said it looked great, and a girl that I don’t even know came up to me and said she loved it. The back is really pretty, lace and scooped out. I’ll text you a photo.”

“Well, that’s nice.” Scooped out back?!

“But I had to wear Spanx under it, which is really annoying.”

Rejoice with me again! She is my daughter! I have raised another generation who knows the importance of foundation undergarments, another reason to sleep soundly. She does want you to know that we aren’t knocking Spanx, which are a vast improvement over girdles of yesteryear, but I’m sometimes actually upset to have them stifle a good meal in my favorite restaurant or make me sweat in places where I didn’t know sweat was possible.

For those of us who no longer feel compelled to wear form-fitting clothes or tight pants daily, I recommend that you save the Spanx for white pants (no need to share a view of your pretty flowered undies with us, thank you) and just wear a body shaper when you’re going to be photographed in a picture you or those you love eventually may see and/or show to their friends.

Forget the “control-top” jeans that won’t eliminate a muffin-top. Wear a tunic or jacket. Don’t trouble yourself with bathing suits that fit like a vise grip and adhere to your thighs when wet. None of them will make you younger, skinnier, or happier.
If they can get away with it in California (and Miami), so can we. I love you just the way you are. God loves us, hips and all. So, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!