Category Archives: Women

Theory Schmeery

shirt

Things I like in theory:

 

  • Hairless cats. Great idea. Poor implementation.
  • People who agree with everything I say. I enjoy feeling like the smartest person in the room and all, but conversation tends to lag when you nod eagerly in response to my listing the reasons why the world should completely accessorized in purple.
  • Long nails. They are beautiful. Just not functional for a writer
  • Beautiful plant. Worth the work?
  • Smart cars. Look adorable driving down the street. Under a semi – not so much.
  • Airatarians – I appreciate that you’re saving food for me, but the whole non-eating gets so annoying.
  • Shirts with buttons – Sure do look nice on you. Too chokey.
  • Socializing – It certainly looks like fun. In reality, there is sweat pouring down my back and I can’t remember the names of your kids.
  • Television shows about people “my age.” Wouldn’t it be great if she actually graduated before the millennium? Look for her to be playing the grandmother in ten years, even though she has been fully reconstructed.
  • A book with tiny print. It must be incredibly educational. You don’t see smutty novels in small print. It just makes me irritable in practice.

 

Recently I found myself slogging through a t.v. show that was, for me, mind-numbingly dull. Everybody’s watching it. The scenery was painstakingly perfect for the time period. The actors even whispered the entire hour, like all serious actors do while taping a show that will be in Emmy contention.  In theory, it had all of the elements of a good show. In theory, it was great. That’s why I forced myself to sit through four episodes. In practice, this thing is a ridiculous waste of butt-flattening, life-shortening time.

Life lived “in theory” is probably a great thing for some. Just don’t ask me to take a spin in your smart car to discuss what we’re not eating.

 

Scent Schment

plastic-tree

What scent immediately fires up your nostrils and engages your brain in holiday reverie? Newly-cut pine? Peppermint?  The smell of fresh plastic symbolizes celebration to me. Childhood holidays meant re-assessing the year, the constant threat of Santa’s ambiguous list (what constituted naughty? Hiding the cookies in my bedroom? Or that kid who kicked dirt at everyone, but got a new bike every year? I never understood the criteria.) and hoping that somehow my violations had slipped by the ever-watchful eyes of the Elf Mafia.  No matter what the offense, the smell of fresh plastic in the dark of Christmas night assured me that good things were coming.

One especially significant plastic bouquet belonged to the folding Barbie House of my seventh year. I had wished for a three-story manse, one with an actual elevator and an extra bedroom for the occasional sleepover with Skipper, or Flatsy if the party went totally interspecies. My nostrils flared with the smell of “new” that night, as I laid in my bed imagining the great adventures in fine living ahead for my formerly homeless Malibu Barbie.

I awoke to a simple three-room cottage, consisting of a bedroom, kitchen and a mystery room of many uses. It was Barbie on a modest budget. There was, however, room for outdoor expansion, and eventually chez Barbie obtained a dining table, a refrigerator and an outdoor bathtub.  At the end of the day, the three sections of cozy living folded up neatly. Each night I would dream of new adventures, a clean slate each morning as I re-opened the case and started over.

Barbie had plenty of room for guests and even hosted a celebrity.  Truly Scrumptious, on temporary hiatus from her life in the movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang dropped by once for plastic steak. She didn’t seem at all disgusted to sit on the floor and politely left her one shoe by the fake door without complaint. barbie-home

The smell of fresh vinyl still gets me tingly. It’s about anticipation. More exciting than the act of gift opening is the plethora of possibilities in the dark of the night prior to gift giving. Close your eyes and imagine.

 

Schmake-up

make up

Has anyone had success with the Age Rewind Makeup? Does it rewind by decades, or is it more like wearing yesterday’s face? If I were to choose, the 80’s face would be my rewind decade of choice. There was no brow-shaping, lip plumping or face tightening cream. Just a thick surface of mud, over which blush and blue eyeshadow were applied. The piece de resistance was Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper-Flavored Lip Smacker.

If you think about it, the process was somewhat similar to house painting. A general color scheme and plan of attack were developed, either by your local department store employee or for us rural folk, the Avon Lady.  After a week, the ten-step procedure was scrapped for something cheaper and more realistic. The property was thoroughly washed with hand soap and slathered in Noxema and then the real work began.

The spackling, Cover Girl Concealer, came in a tube similar to lipstick. Once this was applied to the walls…er…face, it was time for the base coat. Preferably something thick and orange that left an obvious line between your jaw and neckline. Held up against the packaging, the face and the actual color were as different as egg- shell and pebble- gray. That’s ok, because the accent color, a bold cheek- swoosh of ruby red (meant to mimic your natural (?) cheek hue) called blush was about to consume the face. For a time, we were instructed to apply it under the cheekbone, then on top.  Eventually most women just applied it as a solid four-inch highway of red, just to be safe.

Lifting the fur of youthfully- natural eyebrows out of the way, the eyelids were about to receive their due. A bright, blue shadow was applied with a tiny sponge that probably contained more germs than an infectious disease lab petri dish. From azure to cobalt, we were nothing if not inspired in our color scheme.

As with all good paint projects, the entire face had to be covered in sealant. In this case, it involved some kind of pressed powder, no doubt still lodged today in the recesses of our collective lungs. It all seemed so simple. Too bad there was an hour of hair work yet to be completed.

 

 

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

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.

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.