Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thongs Make My Skin Crawl

Look, I'd rather not be uncomfortable. And I've reached an age where I don't give a shit if my panty lines show. My list of worries (1. college tuition for two children 2. inability to drive on highways 3. will daughter grow up to be a cheerleader? 4. finish barely started memoir/novel 5. get son to eat one green vegetable 6. is mole on hairline skin cancer? 7. why is the gas heater banging? is it about to blow up?) is way too long.

I've actually never cared about VPL, but in the late nineties, I was peer pressured into buying several pairs of pricey Hanro thongs. For a brief spell, I wore them with low-riding Rebecca Danenberg jeans, plagued by a string of cotton lodged deeply in my crack. Thong wearers, are you not feeling that? I could think of nothing else all day. When I became pregnant, I was liberated to let the instruments of torture rot in my drawer under piles of cozy cotton maternity briefs. Oooh, sexy.

I never looked back, until yesterday, when I was chastised by one of my yoga friends for wearing Gap bikinis which, apparently, are highly visible. She gathered support from a yogini who helpfully showed me the thong she was wearing, from a line cleverly named Commando. I would have said, I'm too old for that shit, but my yoga friend is actually 60! Which is way older even than me!

When I am on my deathbed, I am not going to be lamenting, I should have worn more thongs! (See previous post.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


My mother called at 8 am this morning, and uncharacteristically got straight to the point: "I wanted to tell you that I am leaving for Florida today," she said. Cathy, her closest living friend, had died in her sleep. Mom was going to the funeral.

I held back my own tears and asked mom how she was doing. "There aren't many people you can call friend," she said, her voice catching. Cathy's daughter had come to the house to tell my mother. That's how close they were. This wasn't news she would be given over the phone.

I haven't seen Cathy in several years, but during my childhood, she was a constant presence in our lives. She was tiny, with strawberry blonde hair. Her husband, a burly firefighter that we called "Mr. Mickey," was my father's lifelong best friend. He looked like John Wayne and would often threaten to put mustard on our toes and eat them. They lived a block away from us. I remember many Sunday dinners in their Tudor home, and happy hours sitting in their living room, which had stone walls like a castle, listening to the adults talk about the old days. Watching Mickey fall asleep in the den during 60 Minutes. Trips to Loehman's and drives into the city for this outing or that Irish-American fundraiser.

I remember Cathy sitting at the counter in her kitchen, smoking and drinking coffee. Her wedding album was a favorite, because she had a winter wedding and wore a velvet gown, which seemed so exotic to me. Cathy had five children, one after the other, and we all went to high school together. She encouraged my writing. "You should write a book about us, about the crowd," she said. "The crowd," was what they called their group of friends, who had hung around together in an ice cream parlor in the South Bronx, and spent weekends in the Catskills.

One night, Cathy and my mother sat drinking Sambuca in our living room, arguing about politics. "You'll talk different in the morning, Mary, when you're sober," said Cathy. A line that was repeated endlessly over the years.

I feel sad for Cathy's family, and for my mother. Her other best friend died just months after Mom lost her husband at 52. Her mother died last September. And also (because it's always all about me), I'm thinking, hey, my life is likely 3/4 over, so I better get in gear.

I started on this train of thought watching "The Big C," where Laura Linney plays a woman in her 40s who is dying of cancer, desperately trying to enjoy the things she should have been enjoying all along. Then yesterday morning, this Nora Ephron interview on NPR hit home. She made a good argument for doing the things you love all the time, right now, because you might not get that many more chances. Here's an excerpt lifted from npr.com:

"You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday," she says. "If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."

For Ephron, there was a moment that helped bring that realization vividly home. She was with friends, playing a round of "What would your last meal be?"

(Her pick, by the way: a Nate & Al's hot dog.)

"But (my friend) Judy was dying of throat cancer, and she said, 'I can't even have my last meal.' And that's what you have to know is, if you're serious about it, have it now," Ephron says. "Have it tonight, have it all the time, so that when you're lying on your deathbed you're not thinking, 'Oh I should have had more Nate & Al's hot dogs.'"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

That's Miss Kelly, if you're nasty

So, I never change my name when I get married. I quite like the sound of it, and I've been Christina Kelly for too long to start calling myself something else. This despite the fact that people persist in naming their children Christina Kelly, some of whom grow up to torture me.

It can be inconvenient, now that I have two kids in school. There's a sentence of explaining involved in phone calls on their behalf: "This is Christina Kelly, and I am the mother of Dale and Violet Ross." I blame the extra use of breath on my husband Dalton, who didn't expect that I take his name, and is a very enlightened man in most matters (except for he pretends he doesn't know how to do laundry). But Dalton got all patriarchal when I wanted to give my son the hyphenated last name "Kelly-Ross." What two names join together more felicitously, I ask you?

I had to compromise, so we named our son Dale Kelly Ross, without the hyphen. I tried to pretend that Kelly was part of the last name for years, writing the full name on every form and thank you note, until the impending birth of our daughter. I also wanted to give Violet the middle name Kelly. That's when Dalton wised up to the fact that in my "compromise" I was merely pretending to let the children have only his last name. So then I had to give her a different middle name. Drat.

Sometimes I get called "Mrs. Ross," which makes me feel like I'm playing house. I never correct people, and it doesn't bother me; it's just not my name.

Recently, Violet's piano teacher pulled me outside and asked dramatically: "Is her last name Ross or Kelly?" I explained that her name was Ross, like her brother and father, and mine was Kelly. He looked at me like I was insane. "Why?" he demanded. I explained that I did not change my name when I got married. "Why not?" he persisted. I resisted the urge to say, are you kidding me? and mumbled something about being a writer. This seemed to satisfy him; you know those writers, always trying to be different.

I thought my decision was commonplace, but apparently, 77 to 95 percent of married women do change their names.