Miss Under Stood

A green complexion can make life tough. Just look at the Wicked Witch of the West. Noticing a new pimple makes me wince, so how do you think she feels waking up to a green reflection in the mirror every morning? Maybe you’d act like a mean witch, too. I learned the real story behind the Wicked Witch from the musical Wicked. She is a liberal and caring soul and truly the most misunderstood character out there. Brainwashed from childhood, I bought into Dorothy’s take on her and never even bothered to think there was a bigger picture. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is typical for me. I tend to prejudge people before knowing a whole story. It’s not one of my better qualities.

The reality is that if someone judged me on who my close friends were, I may have a very barren social calendar.

If a woman is thin, attractive and has a good sense of style, but she’s a quiet type, it’s easy to assume she’s aloof and a bitch. If another woman is quiet but is instead overweight and sports a pooka bead necklace, we would chalk it up to her simply having a less social nature. I know some women who are actually shy. I used to think, “Grow up already for God’s sake. You’re 45, not three.” But, then I learned they had some kind of social anxiety. I knew a woman like this in college, who got stomachaches before she’d go to a party. Sometimes she’d even stay home altogether. When you look at it from an angle of why, rather than an angle of an immediate eye roll, it’s surprising how sympathy develops.

For example, if someone shows up to a workout class wearing a sleeve of gold and diamond bracelets and has a Mr. T neckline, that definitely might make me stop and say, “Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll be asking her to coffee anytime soon.” But, what if the story behind the jewels was that the minerals contained in gold tempered some kind of extreme skin irritation? Then there is that mom who smothers her kids and lives her life vicariously through them. Before I label her pathetic, I have to think that maybe she was a very lonely child, who was the last pick for kickball and never went to a prom. Who am I kidding, though? I’d still think she was pathetic, but, at least I’d have some compassion behind my judgment.  

Then there’s the guilty-by-association prejudgment. You know, like, “How could I be friends with Betty, because Betty is friends with that social climber Louise?” The reality is that if someone judged me on who my close friends were, I may have a very barren social calendar. I have friends who social climb, too. They also lie on their taxes; let their underage kids drink; talk behind people’s backs; double book plans; curse at their kids; fight with their mothers; and on and on and on. Who elected me chief of the moral police, when I’m guilty of some of this stuff myself? 

A very wise and beloved cousin of mine once told me that people who are mean are usually unhappy inside. When I encounter rude people, I’m grateful when I remember that before a slight rage builds inside me. I’ll never forget a NYC bus driver I had once. I didn’t have my token ready, and she barked at me with a real nastiness. She was heavy, highly unattractive and seemed tired. A possible out-loud “fuck off” turned into an under-my-breath one. She was clearly sad inside and was lashing out to soothe herself somehow. I think she just needed to get home to her couch and wrap her crocheted blanket around herself. 

There’s always more to a story. There’s always someone just having a shitty day. There’s always the possibility that even the most perfect of us could simply be misunderstood. And, if you’re not buying any of that, there’s always pizza. It’s cheesy, crusty and not sweet, but you still like it anyway. 

I dedicate this to the next-door neighbors of my son’s apartment, as he parties, I mean studies, abroad. May they have patience and earplugs. Or, may they file complaints ever so softly. 

*Names have been changed.

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Posted in friendship, improvement, Judgment, sentimental, shame | Tagged | Leave a comment

Stop Being So Groovy

The white robe; the white, terrycloth slippers; the little bottles of shampoo: all signs that yes, you’re in a hotel room. Then there’s the sign in the bathroom asking you to please be green and reuse your towels. It’s interesting how I usually notice that sign as I’m dropping my wet towel on the floor. But, give me some help, hotel planners—where are the extra hooks in the bathroom? I’m lucky if I can find two. Ray’s hook works for him, a low-maintenance male, but my hook has to put in a lot of overtime as it supports a wet towel, a bathrobe, and, at times, a wet shower cap. That little, paper, guilt-inducing sign was never around when I was in my younger years. Does it actually help cut down on energy and water use? A Google search just told me that seventeen out of 100 people reuse their towels during hotel stays. 

I need my bathroom to be like a vault, where, if a nuclear war hit mid-shit, I’d be safe. 

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s my past two hotel stays that have made me really scratch my head (and not because of dirty towels). What the fuck is with this trend of not fully enclosing the bathroom? I know we share hotel rooms with spouses, relatives and close friends. They are the people we get naked in front of, cry in front of and burp in front of. But, do we really need to hear them take a shit and then smell it? For god’s sake, let there be a door that closes fully and a shared wall that is solid. These groovy designs of missing doors; partial walls that don’t meet the ceiling; walls with a macrame rope section (my last hotel) or a glass insert in the middle of sheetrock do not work for me. I need my bathroom to be like a vault, where, if a nuclear war hit mid-shit, I’d be safe. 

Back to the glass panes now—my one thought is “Why?” I’m a woman. I represent all women in the fact that we pee at least once, mostly twice, in the middle of the night. With a full bladder in the dark, I have two choices in these groovy-designed hotel rooms: to take a Helen Keller-like journey and feel my way around the bathroom, hoping to fit my ass securely on the seat or to turn on the bathroom light, which will wake up Ray, since the entire room will be aglow at two am. Both scenarios suck. I usually end up using my phone’s light, which is only one step away from a blindfolded Sandra Bullock in Bird Box. 

The real impetus for my profound confusion with this groovy, boutiquey nonsense was the placement of these panes of glass inside the showers. One hotel had a glass pane in the wall between the shower and the bed itself. And—I swear this is true—the pane was directly in the spot where you stood under the shower head. I tried to angle that fucker as far back as possible, so that maybe just my breasts were visible. But, nope, no such luck, it was a full-body shot. Of course, the friend I was rooming with, weighs about 80 pounds and has a body profile that mimics a sheet of paper, not to mention firm tits. I wanted to break that pane of glass, take a shard and murder the asshole in charge of deciding where the glass would be placed. My last hotel was only a little better in that the shower wall was frosted glass and not completely see-through. However, my fully-lit, naked silhouette still wasn’t working for me.  

You better believe when I stepped out of these showers, cringing and wet, I wanted a fresh, clean towel. Fuck the environmental footprint, and fuck these groovy designers. I reuse my towels at home, where I have a solid wooden door with a proper knob and a lock. I even have six hooks. Please know that I will never leave a hotel room without leaving cash on the counter for the cleaning women. And, I never steal the robes. 

I dedicate this blog to Ray for giving me the privacy I need in hotel rooms with no proper barriers. 

*All names have been changed.

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Posted in privacy, travel, trends | Leave a comment

YOU ARE (not) GROSS

“Everything off but your underwear. The doctor will be in soon,” she said as she handed me the paper gown. But, you didn’t tell me if the opening goes in the front or back. Ass first or second? Shit, I hate these full-body skin checks.  

Does Gisele Bundchen feel the slightest bit self-conscious about this? Do teenagers hate this, even though nothing is even falling or weathered yet? Every ripple, vein and freckle was scrutinized by my doctor. She even wore a headlamp around her head, like a coal miner about to head into a tunnel. Then, I’d hear the snap of a picture being taken. This is actually being documented? I want my records sealed. When she got to my boobs, the self-loathing in my head got louder: Is she choking back her puke? Will she have night terrors from the sight of these? Then we proceeded to have a conversation about sunscreen with me facing her, gown fully open; my tits hanging down like my scarves on closet hooks. This was humiliation at its maximum output, as she kept shooting photos. I said, “Wow, this is as close as I’ll ever come to being a centerfold in Playboy.” She didn’t laugh. I don’t blame her—it wasn’t funny. I yearned for my jeans and bra on the nearby chair.

But, my inner voice can be such a mean bitch, who wants to take some kind of vengeance on me. What the fuck did I ever do to her?

I would guess that guys don’t care much when they’re in a medical gown, and the doctor clutches their balls and tells them to cough. They’re not thinking about a clean bikini area or back fat. I assume their biggest paranoia is worrying that the guy before them in the examining room was hung like a 70s porn star. Their expanding bellies and love handles that protrude over the tops of their ill-fitting GAP jeans aren’t a concern. It’s their dick size that’s making them squirm. Wow, that would be a dream to think about only my vagina while stark naked in front of someone. Instead, my head is swarming with enough self-deprecation to cause an aneurism. 

I have a hunch I’m in good company here—that we women despise parts of ourselves for things we can’t control, like our mothers’ crows’ feet and our grandmothers’ thighs. But, my inner voice can be such a mean bitch, who wants to take some kind of vengeance on me. What the fuck did I ever do to her? I thought she was supposed to be a guiding energy and a personal cheerleader. She should be pumping in kind thoughts about unicorns and my favorite camp counselor. She needs to shield me from the devilish voices telling me I resemble my nana emerging from the shower circa 1980. Her gig includes suffering with me through nakedness and public speaking—even 50th birthday roasts—without hurling negative thoughts like spears through my frontal lobe. If she wants to remain a tenant in my brain, she better cheer the fuck up.

You know that cute, little serenity prayer that’s sometimes needlepointed and hangs on people’s office doors: Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference? Well, that’s the kind of thing my inner voice should be chanting to me. She should set those words to a catchy tune that will play over and over in my head when I’m feeling insecure. I want that song cranked at high volume when I’m in a bathing suit and about to step onto a beach. If she can’t shower me with love, then I will have to turn to the only resource I have that brings me what I need within a day or two—Amazon. A quick search just now brought me to this book: You are a Badass; How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Sounds good to me. 

I dedicate this blog to Daughter 2. She is my baby, and, though she tells me I’m annoying almost daily, I know she likes me deep down. Now, that’s something that gives me some confidence. 

*All names have been changed.

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Posted in aging, confidence, health, medical, nudity, shame | Leave a comment

Stop Talking

“If he don’t look good, we don’t look good. This is our president. He has to be the freshest, the flyest, [have] the flyest planes, the best factories.” That was just one soundbite from Kanye’s lunch with 45 a few weeks back. I’m not sure if anyone gives a shit what Kanye thinks about politics; I certainly don’t. This college dropout and his MAGA hat were looking for one thing—attention. I mean, he married into the Kardashian family, who is in the news 24/7 for acts as valiant as fucking people and wearing clothes that show everything but a tampon string. So, he needs even more attention? If he used the spotlight well and shared some sound thoughts—or even rapped—we might have turned our heads instead of shaken them. A new Kanye rap would have become a big hit, appearing in iTunes before the meeting even aired. I probably would have downloaded it, regardless of being on the other side of the aisle. I’ve been in his aisles before, by the way, and it’s his rehearsed words that sound best. 

Now I can’t smile when I watch reruns of him in his tighty-whities, lip syncing “Old Time Rock n Roll.”

Years back, Tom Cruise accosted Matt Lauer (not smiling on The Today Show anymore) about the evils of psychotropic medication. I’m just a layperson, but I’ve seen how Prozac and Concerta can quell the symptoms of anxiety and ADHD. About a month before that, we all saw Tom dramatically jump over Oprah’s yellow couch to tell the world how crazy he was about Katie Holmes (before she eventually dumped his psychotic ass). I don’t need to get into the Scientology component to complete this picture. All of his crap ruins happy memories for me. Now I can’t smile when I watch reruns of him in his tighty-whities, lip syncing “Old Time Rock n Roll.” I want to keep rooting for Maverick as he charms the underwear off of Kelly McGillis, but Tom’s freakishness ruined that, too. 

Then there’s Roger Waters, who spewed some anti-Israel sentiments a couple of years ago. I can’t name how many times my best friend and I watched The Wall in high school, while eating garlic knots on the couch. I know every word to “Comfortably Numb.” My sister and I even sang it at my dad’s bedside, when he was in a post-stroke coma. This sounds creepy, but trust me when I say it was a beautiful moment. Roger, thanks for sucking the joy out my defining snapshots. And, Roseanne, why’d you have to go and tweet your stupid, racist comment when your revived-show was crushing it? I’ve loved you and your family since the eighties, Mrs. Connor! Shut your fucking mouths, people! Save yourselves by telling only your inner circle your twisted thoughts, and pay your publicist a little bit more to somehow take hold of your tongues. 

The Silver Screen stars had it right. They let the movie studios control their public images. Yes, half of their marriages were farces, and they were, in a sense, lying to their fans. But, their fans were happily shielded from their pinups’ private lives as they skipped to their movie theatre seats with popcorn in their hands. It was decades later when they learned their beloved Oscar-winner, Joan Crawford, hit the bottle too much and beat the living shit out of her daughter with a wire hanger. Those girls who dreamed of banging Rock Hudson learned years and years later that he wanted to bang their brothers instead. No harm, no foul, right?

While knowledge is power for sure, I want permission from the Hollywood gods to remain ignorant. I will admit I won’t always turn off a Pink Floyd song, and I will still see Yeezy in concert if I’m offered a ticket. I won’t ever patronize a property, restaurant or business with the name T_ _ _ p behind it, however. He’s just plain inexcusable. 

I dedicate this to the families of the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shootings. May the victims’ deaths not be in vain and serve a larger purpose in the fight for gun control and against anti-Semitism. In the midst of this tragedy, the first of my friends became a grandmother and welcomed a new life. She is happy beyond words. Let’s hope her granddaughter grows up in a safer world. 

*All names have been changed.

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Posted in celebrities, memories, political | Leave a comment

Orange Is The New Pain

I am not a morning person. On weekdays, after only one snooze, I somehow get out of bed by 6:40 am. I pee, put in my contacts and smooth out my bed’s wrinkles before anally arranging my throw pillows. Then I put on the most forgiving workout pants I can, knowing that in only one hour, I’ll be lined up in the narrow hallway outside of my Orange Theory (OT) workout class. It is here in this class, where I’ve learned what it feels like to be a resident of Hell. I thought I used to work out really hard by running five miles regularly on some really big hills, and even running two half marathons. Personal trainers thought they were kicking my ass…but they weren’t. I know the color red is associated with Hell, but, trust me, it’s orange.

I know the color red is associated with Hell, but, trust me, it’s orange.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of OT: A coach calls out instructions to people on treadmills, rowers and the exercise floor, and they do what he says. If they’re not thanking some kind of deity when the class is over, then they haven’t pushed hard enough. I’ve glanced over at enough people’s treadmill consoles to know that some are simply “sweatin’ to the oldies.” If I got my lazy, 50-year-old ass out of bed this early, Richard Simmons is not going to be my benchmark. And, this thought process is exactly how I met–and now know–Satan. 

Besides the final group fist pump and chant, my favorite part is in that hallway before class. This is where I’ve made my beloved OT friends. Remember those in-class-friends from school, who you didn’t necessarily socialize with outside of class? You shared a camaraderie with them, talking about the teacher’s fat ass or a brown-nosing classmate. Well, my OT trio is pretty much the same. We will talk about the previous day’s brutal treadmill inclines and complain about studio-mates who invade personal space or swipe our weights without asking. We even know about each others’ sick dogs, ungrateful kids and disrespectful in-laws. Period cramps, hot flashes and hangovers round out our conversations. I’ll never forget the day one of them said to me, “I have so much tequila in my body, I may take a shit on the treadmill today.” Yes, I had found my hellmates. 

I was happy to see them when I returned from my summer away. I admitted I had only gone to OT a few times at the Shore. I chose to enjoy the outdoors, running and walking on the boardwalk and riding bikes instead. It was like I was away on furlough from the self-imposed torture that I secretly love—“Fifty Shades of Orange” without the nipple clamps. So, there I was again, grunting with every tug of the rower handlebars and clamping my butt cheeks together with every hip thruster—and all without wearing one piece of studded leather. I hate it and love it all at once. I am obsessed yet repulsed. Satan has me in his grip, and it hurts oh so good. 

This blog is dedicated to my favorite OT coach, who will most likely never read this. He is a sexy, twenty-something, who challenges us to go hard and “empty our tanks” and is truly inspiring. Just when we think class is over, he sticks us with bonus rounds of burpees with a full pushup. He cranks Drake and other hip hop artists I can’t name at ridiculously loud volumes. He always high-fives us on the way in and on the way out. I definitely like the one on the way out best. 

p.s. Orange Theory studios are everywhere. Check it out, I dare you. 

*All names have been changed.

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Posted in aging, exercise, health | Leave a comment

I ❤️ Robes

The belt to my favorite robe never came back from the wash. It must be with the socks that are sucked into the Maytag Bermuda Triangle. I need that belt. I don’t want to catch even a mini-glimpse of myself in the mirror if that robe isn’t tied shut. I don’t want to start my day with that vision, knowing the body underneath my youngish, frayed jeans is an imposter. So, I swiped a belt from a different robe. It’s tan, flannel and tattered, creating some bad robe feng shui against the supple, pink terry cloth. I’ll have to ask my cleaning woman if she’s seen it. I’ll end up gesturing, making a circular motion around my waist, until we both smile and hug, knowing we finally understand each other (wish I could speak Polish). Yes, I realize where this is all leading—just buy a new fucking robe. 

I kept a straight face when I said, “Holy shit, are you really wearing a house dress?”

Besides my main, favorite robe, I have a silk one that folds up to the size of a linen napkin for travel and an old, flannel one for my do-it-yourself root touch ups. If you’re not a fellow robe-wearer, I don’t understand you. I can’t function at full capacity if I don’t have a robe to put on after a shower. What would I wear for my after-shower chores of applying non-frizz product and putting on makeup? And, how would I keep warm when the hot water shuts off and I’m hit with that cold air? I can’t accept that people do these kinds of things wearing simply a towel or nothing at all. My sister horrified me when she told me she goes straight from a towel to getting dressed. What, where’s the gentle transition from hot and wet to cold and dry?

As a kid, I remember my mother getting ready in her bathroom in one of those velcro towel wraps. She recently stayed at my house, and, yes, there it was again in all its colors of patterned glory. It was confirmed—she is a lifelong user of this shoulder-less product (brrrrr). Now, that thing definitely does not fold into a napkin size, so she basically packed a towel. That is way too much cubic space gone to waste. Fodor would be aghast! But, the show stopper was the donning of her house dress with its front zipper. I kept a straight face when I said, “Holy shit, are you really wearing a house dress?” I am truly perplexed by this item of clothing. It’s neither robe nor wrap and truly can only be worn inside the house. They’re ugly, old-lady-like and are sold at flea markets. I’d bet that the material is flammable, too. I think this particular fashion item should be outlawed. I may start a movement to protect women from the shame of these so-called dresses. It’s only one, small step away from wearing a scarf over a head full of rollers to the supermarket. 

Six-and-a-half million pounds of beef have been recalled because of salmonella; the Kavanaugh SCOTUS issue looms; and a 12-year-old Boy Scout walking with his troop was recently killed by a drunk driver. So, who really gives a shit about robes and house dresses? I guess I do. It’s a much-needed vacation from the headlines about our fucked-up country with its violence and divisive politics. Plus, after my last blog about my aunt’s passing, I needed a light one. Now go put on your robes or burn some house dresses, and have a great time doing it. Maybe I’ll even write a whole blog about slippers. That’s something to look forward to soon.

I again dedicate this blog to my mother, who is really having a tough time going home to a house without her sister. She is keeping busy playing golf, canasta and mahjong, but the stillness and quiet at home is still new. Her strength as she survives the third huge loss in her life (husband, mother, now sister) is both inspiring and unreal. I think I’ll send her a new velcro towel wrap to cheer her up this week. 

p.s. I’d be happy to share the info about the BEST robe ever if you’re in the market for a new one. Zappos will have it to you the next day. 

*All names have been changed.

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Posted in fashion, robes | Leave a comment

Alice Mess

“Ray, can you run to 7-Eleven quickly before the funeral and buy me a few candy bars?” I asked. Ray’s wtf expression said it all. I texted him the specific kinds I needed, and he left. When he came back, my kids and I got into his car to drive to the funeral home, where I would soon be delivering a eulogy for my aunt. It finally happened. My aunt had been suffering from sarcoidosis (an inflammatory lung disease) for years. For the past few, it left her laboring to breathe and needing to rest for a full day or more just to be able to go out for dinner. She needed a walker and then eventually needed a wheelchair. Yup, that woman, who loved to dance at parties and plow her way through Bloomingdale’s, was left to struggle on the short path from her bed to the bathroom.

If they weren’t together, their phones were like an umbilical cord connecting them, ringing almost hourly. 

If you’ve known me for years, then you know my mother’s sister. She was always there in the running movie of my life. Sometimes she was the lead role; sometimes a supporting actress; and sometimes just an extra moving through a frame. She was always in the credits, though, always. She was in college when I was born, so she celebrated with her friends in her dorm. She lit a candle at my bat mitzvah. She stood by when I signed my ketubah. Then she stood by again when I took that ketubah down off of my wall. She had sleepovers in her bed with my children. She thought I was funny. She thought I was clever. We weren’t just aunt and niece. She loved me, and I her. People showed up at my aunt’s funeral and shiva for me, even though I was not her child. When I told my friends she had died, I knew they understood what that meant to me.

My mom and her sister were pretty much velcroed to each other, and that’s why my aunt was ever-present. They even lived together for the past four years. It didn’t matter that my aunt had a husband for most of those years; the real love story here was between these two women. We heard the stories of how they cuddled in bed as kids and how my mom always brought home a gift for her baby sister. They even slept in the same room some nights in recent years, like teenagers on a sleepover. If they weren’t together, their phones were like an umbilical cord connecting them, ringing almost hourly. 

But, then my phone was ringing on the morning of September 12th. My mother’s broken voice said it all. She was gone. That little woman, who stood only 4’11” and had a big laugh, never woke up. She had been granted her wish—to die in her sleep. It was now time for the aide to unplug the oxygen machine from the wall. It produced an awful silence, the kind that makes you feel lonely. She didn’t want to leave us. She wanted to see her grandchildren grow and didn’t want her children to be motherless. She didn’t get to binge-watch Downton Abbey or finish the second season of Ozark. She didn’t get to see the fabulous and large police motorcade that closed down traffic on the Garden State Parkway all for her on the day of her funeral. She would have been so proud of her son, the Congressman, for making that happen. Even the Governor of New Jersey came to her shiva.

So, when it was finally my turn to stand up and speak in the chapel, I looked out into a sea of faces and held my voice steady. I know she would have loved how I celebrated her “small-but-mighty” nature, highlighting both her feistiness and tenderness. She would have laughed heartily at the other speakers, who poked fun at her, and she would have teared up from the deep love that was thrown her way. After we all filed out, we had only one more place to go. It was at the cemetery, when I reached into the plastic bag Ray had given me. I pulled out a box of Charleston Chews and placed them on the headstone to the immediate right of my aunt’s plot. This was my father’s grave. (Yes, my dad will be her next-door neighbor for all of eternity.) I reached into that plastic bag again to place the Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew next to the rocks on my nana’s footstone on the other side of the cemetery. The final candy was Gwenn’s favorite, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, which I discreetly tossed into her grave in between my shovelfuls of dirt. I liked how the orange wrapper stood out so boldly against the dark brown soil. I stood there and watched it slowly disappear with each new mound of dirt thrown in until it was completely gone.

I dedicate this blog to my mom, who is beyond heartbroken. This truly was a love story between two sisters, and I have to admit I ripped this theme off from my aunt herself. She wrote it in a speech she gave for my mother’s birthday many years ago. I can still hear the emotion in her voice as she talked about their sisterly romance. Rest in peace, my aunt. I miss you so much. 

*All names have been changed.

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Posted in death, family, memories, sentimental | 2 Comments