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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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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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!


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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!