Schmuzak

grocery

There you were, at age fifteen, in the department store shopping for that absurdly small pair of jeans that you could still zip with a pair of pliers. This pair had fake rhinestones. That pair had orange swirlies, making your backside look impossibly small. If only you could decide…  in the end, (ha!) you would take neither. There was no possible way to make a decision with the ridiculously, ear-splittingly irritating sound they piped throughout the store.

At that time, it was a strange combination of familiar tunes and musical cottage cheese called, “muzak.” It was a sleepy, music-alternative meant to encourage you to concentrate more on shopping and less on lyrics. It was quick and painless, and by the time you got home, the discomfort of listening to non-music music was over.

Today, it is music embarrassingly plucked from the rock concerts and late-night rides of our youth. It is not uncommon to hear Def Leopard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” while perusing the sweetener alternatives. Wandering through Target, searching for feminine hygiene products is kind of the last place you need to hear, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” It’s gotten so unblinkingly common that you may even be humming along to “Highway to H@#” as you’re sitting on hold waiting to speak to your cable company.

We took seriously the sounds of our youth; only to be played during the endless drives down Main Street or while our parents were trying to sleep in the next bedroom. It didn’t matter if the lyrics made no sense: A park became a runny, melty cake when someone clearly mismeasured ingredients. Or it was caused by rain and suicidal thoughts – never clear.   It didn’t matter that many of those lyrics were unintelligible when we belted them into a hairbrush, (Blind-ed by the light, left out something by yada yada) they meant something to us.

That misguided teen who felt a lasting sting from having to endure bland tunes while purchasing Pop Rocks and Orange Crush are today responsible for the downfall of our musical dignity. Listening to our music on the internet is fine. Humming along to the oldies station, while somewhat humiliating, is also fine. Elton John in the mammogram dressing room has crossed a line.

Toasty Bit #5

toast[1]

This Toasty Bit comes from a blossoming writer named Laura Cataldi. She recently graduated from college with honors and is pursuing her master’s degree in the fall. Laura has faced more mountains in her young life than many of us combined. Kudos to you, Laura and thank you for your toasty bit of writing! -JK

One of my favorite quotes that floats around the internet goes something like this:

“Tell someone you love them today, because life is short, but SHOUT it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.”

While good for a laugh, I’ve come to realize that this quote also accurately sums up my experiences as a twenty-something. Perhaps one of the most frustrating and confusing things about being in my twenties has been the constant pressure to have my life figured out. Like everyone else, I was supposed to graduate high school knowing, without a doubt, what I wanted to do with my life. Advice from adults, however, was maddeningly contradictory. “Follow your dreams!” they said. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” Then the realists stepped in. “Gotta pay your bills. Flipping burgers will help you do that. A Liberal Arts degree probably won’t.” (Whoops.)

So, in the spirit of takin’ care of business, I started working at grocery stores or in other retail settings, just to make ends meet while I clawed my way to a degree that I wasn’t even certain I wanted, all the while being bombarded with more expectations. I was supposed to be building my credit. I was supposed to budget my minimum wage paychecks into paying rent, utilities, and food and have enough left over to save up for a downpayment on my first house. Perhaps it was just the bludgeon that is my personal anxieties, but I felt like the more people around me succeeded, the less I was doing to successfully adult. Because that’s what it’s all about: adulting. You’ve seen the memes. “Cried but did the thing anyway.” “When I was sixteen, I wanted my freedom. Now I’m twenty-six, and I want my mom to make my doctor’s appointments and buy me groceries for my birthday.” Being a young adult today is both terrifying and confusing. I’m hoping that hitting the big 3-0 will bring about the miraculous truths of life, because so far they’ve eluded me, and unlike everything else, I can’t purchase a clue from Amazon.

“Youth is wasted on the young,” they say. I’m inclined to agree, but that’s only because nobody ever told me how to make the most of this time. Some of my peers have it figured out, but as for me, I’m still trying to figure out a healthy balance. Should I pick up extra shifts, or binge-watch more Netflix? A successful adult would pick Option A. I, however, am only three seasons into Grey’s Anatomy, so….

Laura Cataldi

Dance Schmance

Your decade of birth determines not only your preference in style and music but also the Danceway you dance.

Do you have the predisposition to wiggle your rear like an excited pup every time your favorite song is on the radio? Chances have you learned your dance moves in the sixties. Do you feel the need to roll your arms in an upward motion and sway back and forth in the widest possible clothing? Point to the ceiling. Now the floor. Now the ceiling.  You child of the seventies, you.

Slide your feet across the floor as if it were a moon-like surface, or perhaps bang your hair against an invisible wall? Life was good in the eighties. If you have the urge to Macarena or squat-slide your balloon pants across the room in true Hammer style, welcome to the nineties. Beyond that decade, I confess I do not know what motivates your movements. There are some unexplained jerks that just defy logic.  I hope all of my 2000-and-beyond dancing friends have a good relationship with a chiropractor. Why? Umm… no reason.

No matter what your dance-decade preference, at some point your body dictates your movements. Those dance floor high kicks will at some point become more of toe-tap. The hip swirl will evolve into more of a suggestive head bob, willing those hips to follow along.  Those broad dance moves that once defined us are suddenly channeled into much smaller movements.

Look no further than any summer concert series. Rows of lawn chairs interspersed with blankets and gleeful toddlers contain many wishful dancers. The band begins playing a Beach Boys tune and immediately heads begin to bop. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the thoughts of those head boppers projected above us? Dances from every decade would appear. The wide, green lawn would suddenly become a crowded dance floor with booty shakers and sky-pointers dancing side by side.

The decades melt and we are all dancing together. In our heads. Keep those fingers moving.

 

 

Nap Schmap

sleep_child

It’s a vicious cycle, this sleep business. But there’s nothing like a good mid-afternoon drool-fest. Waking up slightly disoriented – is it evening? Tomorrow?  Or just fifteen minutes since you last looked at the clock? – makes the whole nap experience even better. It really caps off a pointless afternoon, one where you accomplished nothing because you were so grumpy and unreasonable that even your cat had to leave his usual squatting spot to get away from the thick, downer vibe permeating the air.

When you’ve finally pushed through the fog and repositioned every oddly-placed hair, (day-sleep makes hills and vales on your head that rock stars have tried to emulate for decades) you begin to run like a well-oiled machine. That box of “unknowns” sitting under your bed for two years? Gone. A four-course dinner of “whatever’s not moldy in the fridge” gourmet?  Fait accompli.  Course number five boxed brownies with an extra- sugary slathering of frosting and fruit (for health) on top? Sitting like a food photo on your freshly-cleaned counter.

Life is good. Until ten o’clock. You put on your pajamas, do your usual evening routine of brushing, flossing, smearing and pinning and hop into bed with that trashy novel you tell people you aren’t reading. Everything is going according to plan, until you turn out the light, roll over and realize, YOU’RE NOT THE LEAST BIT TIRED.

Surely that can’t be right. You were so sleepy you couldn’t keep your eyes open at 2pm. It was a good nap, not one of those time wasters you used when you couldn’t handle one more minute of real life. You didn’t drink caffeine, eat sugar (no one saw exactly what happened to the brownies) or bring your stresses to bed.

You go through all of the usual commercial sleep-inducers: Counting sheep? They are pretty boring until the cast of Twilight comes out of the woods and creates such a scene of carnage it will take four hours for you to stage the whole thing. Herbal tea? You drank six cups. Now when your eyelids are finally heavy, you’ll be too busy sitting on the toilet to actually get to sleep. Milk? A walk through the neighborhood in your pajamas?

It turns out that little favor you did your body has come back to bite. Hard. It will be past midnight before you find your sweet spot. Tomorrow will come, as it always does, at the same time. You’ll be a grumpy mess. Until 2 pm.

Chin Schmin

chin

The chin is a funny thing. It doesn’t matter much for most of our lives. Other than Jay Leno, there has never been a person I’ve heard of in my life whose chin had an impact on their career or social life. “Did you hear about Fern? She got fired from her job for chin-butting everyone in accounting,” or, “women just can’t resist Fred. He points that bulbous chin in a come-hither manner and they are putty in his hands.”

Up until this very moment, you haven’t given your chin any thought, unless it has become an unintended canvass for that smear of chocolate that you thought no one saw you eat but your significant other has so kindly pointed out.  There are personality types connected to chin shape, according to shifty internet sources: square chins are allegedly attached to stubborn people. Protruding chins mean a self- confident type. Rounded- chin people are deeply emotional. Long chins are for those who are loyal and easy-going. People with dimples in their chin are just confused.

There are books dedicated to the strength and elasticity of the chin. Twenty, goofy grimaces in varying awkward positions three times a day and your vaguely- rectangular lower jaw will return to its former, perfectly- square glory. You can even do them in the car, the book states. The ensuing road-rage that will occur when you grimace at the wrong person must be addressed in later chapters that I couldn’t read while performing the Look of Abject Horror exercise. Twenty times.

The chin does assume a position of importance in middle age when suddenly it becomes a compass for trendy reading glasses in search of the printed word. But for now, let’s just concentrate on those chin-ups. Who knows where they might lead you professionally. Or personally. Oooh, Frances – that chin! I’d swear it was sitting on the face of a twenty-five year-old!

 

Pants Schmants

extremely-high-waisted-pants

So your zen moment is pulling that elastic band to the under-boob position and snapping or tying things in place.  I’m going to give you permission, here and now, to embrace your style.  The only difference between this style and the one involving plyers and a firm mattress is that today you are wearing your clothes for comfort.  No one has the right to use the words, “mom jeans.” No one.

There was a time when dressing in a specific manner was expected. Riding on an airplane, for example, required your finest attire. Can you imagine being forced to buy special clothing today to eat your bag of peanuts stare longingly at the circulation-less hand you had to cram in between the seats?

Thankfully, now we have options in the transportation world, as well as in everyday life.

Find yourself below:

I wear the jeans I wore in high school because acid wash reminds me of rebellion and the Mc DLT.

I wear the anti-mom jean, keeping the waist band low in order to give my stomach that gentle sloping it deserves on the inevitable trip to my knees.

I wear cheap jeans. The kind that may vary by six sizes, depending on which third- world country proudly sewed two (or three) legs together.

I wear my daughter’s jeans.  Because you can’t.

I refuse to wear jeans because I don’t want to be in any of these categories. I wear middle-age pants. They are the same brand and style I have worn for twenty years. They have named that style after me and currently make these pants in basic black, soothing grey and terrific tangerine.

If you fit into one of these categories of some variation thereof, congratulations. You have reached pantopia. Now about that bra….

 

Looks Schmooks

Old lady

This is the anti, anti-feminism dilemma: When is it ok to put no effort into your look? This story, only slightly altered for dramatic effect, is about one such experience. Recently I made the conscious decision to leave my home in a relaxed state of presentation. That’s a fancy way of saying I was kind of sorry slob.  By the time I got to my destination, sweat and fatigue factored in to the delivery.

At my insistence, we dined in a nice establishment. It took only a minute to realize there was a familiar face already seated in the restaurant, someone who puts considerable time and effort into her aesthetic. Across the table from her sat an equally impressive individual. With cat-like reflexes, I dodged and slithered my way to the bathroom unseen, concerned for the first time that day about what my look might say about me.

The mirror did not disappoint. By this point in the morning, my already beleaguered hair was at a red-level of distress. I took a little water and tried re-styling, only to find a curious sculpture of sweat and hair products forming in the mirror in front of me. I pinched my cheeks, willing them to stand at attention.  There was no way to hide the eye bags or the lack of make-up either. The free-and-easy, I can-look-as-I-please attitude of earlier that morning was replaced by sheer panic.

As I left the bathroom, resigned to the fact that I would have to sit under the table until she was gone and enjoy my salad at eye level, fate intervened. She was waiting to use the very same bathroom I had just defiled with my failed hair and face treatment.

“Well hello!” she said, annoyingly cheery.

“Sorry,” I said as I scurried by.  I felt like I needed to go and take a sympathy shower for her. I ate my meal in self-induced humiliation, occasionally trying in vain to flip that one piece of hair out of my face.

It wasn’t until I got home and showered thoroughly that I realized the source of my shame. I had gone out many times before with, let’s call it “an earthy” look.  The real issue is that age has taken away my  ability to cheat. If I want a certain look that says, “this was entirely effortless,” I need to spend some time making myself that way.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t about looks, it was about time. Do I want to spend extra time to look the way she does? Sometimes. Do I want to look like I just climbed Mt. Everest in yesterday’s clothes? Sometimes. I will make my peace with appearing in public in both states. All salad (and chocolate) will be consumed above chair level from now on.

Toasty Bits #4

toast[1]

My thoughts, in these times of great international turmoil, center upon the almost half-birthday of Mark Twain. Why, you ask, would an almost-half birthday warrant deep thought, unless it involved celebratory dining? Because this was a man of great I don’t caredness. He did what he wanted without regard for how he was viewed by others, a lesson that would best be learned early in life. Unfortunately, most of us have to wait until the middle ages before we follow his lead and we waste much of our time in this odd state of limbo, not living in an authentic manner but doing our best to live to please others.

Some examples from Mr. Twain: 1. Before the age of thirteen, he nearly drowned 9 times. Some may call that stupidity, I say, he had a great aptitude for I don’t caredness before it became fashionable to fall from the sky, swipe right in a Starbucks, or eat things raw. 2. He wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, considered bawdy and inappropriate for the time. Whether or not it was a statement about racism, he clearly exhibited a whole lot of I don’t caredness in publishing this literary masterpiece. 3. He was almost as well-known for his cranky old man persona as he was for his many contributions to the literary world. No need to be redundant there.

So, in honor of a well-known, cranky, early leader in the I don’t caredness movement who probably would care less that his almost-half-birthday is being honored, here are a few of his very relative quotes:

 

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

“The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.” — Mark Twain in Eruption

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.” — Mark Twain in Eruption

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

“Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.”

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

“A lie can travel half- way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

Hair Schmair

HY14Fee[1]

The greatest statement of any woman’s hair over a lifetime is its rise and fall, somewhat like a housing market graph. Reaching its peak in the 80s, it’s safe to say my hair soared to at least 8 inches above my skull at one point. With the help of perming, paste-like substances and a can-a-day hairspray habit, I was able to maintain this gruesome lifestyle for many years.

To this day, I have a recurring scenario that plays in my brain anytime I drive: It is a warm day and all of the alcohol-based products on my head have fermented to an essence of an empty beer can under the back seat. (Just guessing.) The 70s music blaring on my AM radio has distracted me from the change in speed. The police officer who pulls me over  politely asks for my license and registration. (While this isn’t Southern California and I’m not on a television set, I’m pretty sure it’s Erick Estrada or that  blond guy.) As he dips his head inside my window, his nostrils flare slightly.

“Have you been drinking today, ma’am?”

I gulp. “No, officer. It’s my hairspray.”

He scoffs. “How much ma’am?”

“Half a can. But I’m trying to cut down. I’m only re-styling mid-day now. If it looks bad after five, I have to live with it.”

“Can you step out of the car, ma’am?” At that point, a field sobriety test is performed. Natural clumsiness aside, it is the alcohol smell permeating from my scalp that is my most noticeable flaw.

I begin crying. Confessing my life’s history in hair. “Do you know what was like to have a bowl cut for an entire year? AN ENTIRE YEAR?”

“Can you take it down a notch, ma’am?”
“I’ve been trying for ten years, officer. I just can’t bear the thought of flathead.”

Officer Erick Estrada issues me a ticket and I’m ordered to appear in court, at which time the entire cast of Law and Order may be in attendance waiting for my case.

This story ends in hilarity during a courtroom appearance and a public admonishing about driving while flammable.

With the help of good people, I’ve kicked the perm, hairspray, and some hair product habit. But color? That’s another story.

 

Sight Schmite

cat eye

It was so embarrassing when I had to get glasses in the third grade. Those wire-rimmed behemoths were my fast ticket to nerddom. At that time in history, the way-back-not-telling-you-so-don’t-ask years, glasses played a purely functional role. There was no accounting for taste. The eye doctor himself fitted the frames on my face, tersely asking, “gold or silver?” Apparently the frame catalog of sizes and styles contained information that would fit on a double-sided postcard.

At some point in the not-too-distant past, someone came up with the brilliant idea that glasses can be a fashion accessory. Lightweight. colorful plastic became a thing, and suddenly the telltale nose pad indents were a distant memory, making the swimming cap the only recognizable fashion faux pas every summer at the pool. Dark rims, cool colors, and funky shapes – decorative facewear was here to stay.  Even my little gold-rimmed bully beacons took on a new name: vintage style.

All of this makes one aspect of aging a little easier. What we trendy folk call, “readers,” these little half-magnifying glass perched at the end of the nose have been incorporated into the world of fashionable facewear. No longer chained around the neck like a mid-life device of self- torture, they can be stored in a pocket or purse, only to be retrieved when serious thought or consideration is to be portrayed. (We are nothing if not thoughtfully stylish.) They come in just as many styles and colors as the regular glasses, at half the size and double the statement.

Piercings? New body art? Don’t need them. We’ve got readers. If there were a red carpet for middle age, we would walk it purposefully (wearing our equally-trendy comfortable shoes) and wave to the crowds. The adoring paparazzi would yell, “who are you wearing?”

“Bausch and Lomb,” we would respond, tipping our heads down slightly to view them from over the top of our stylish frames.