Thursday, December 13, 2012

Flipping My Wig

Two hours and forty minutes getting my hair cut and colored today. It always starts out ok. I exchange pleasant small talk with the young, pretty, impeccably dressed and, of course, beautifully coiffed stylist as she glops the reddish brown dye on my graying roots. We discuss how quickly my grays come in near my right temple. Two weeks later! She suggests I switch the side I part my hair on, thereby masking the gray a little longer. I agree to try it.

While I am processing, I read an article in Vogue by a woman who, at 70, has decided to stop the coloring madness. Her once rich brown hair is now all-white. Keeping up with the white roots is near impossible. So she decides to go through the process of having the blonde dye bleached out until her hair is a dazzling white. The results are fabulous, we learn. No picture of the writer is included, this being Vogue. Instead there is a large image of a 47-year-old model looking amazing with long gray hair.

Three fashion magazines later, my dye is rinsed, and toner and a color lock are applied. Then the blow drying. When it is done, my natural wave disappears and a glossy approximation of the color I was born with is revealed. My hair color was once my best feature. When I was a senior in high school, a college professor of my father described my thick blown out hair as "opulent." That was vaguely creepy, but when I got compliments on my hair color then, I barely noticed them. Now, when I get a compliment, I feel weird saying "thank you" because the color is fake, all fake. And it makes me realize that everyone else knows that it's bought and paid for.

My stylist starts cutting. By now I am starving for my lunch. I have a blood sugar thing. I can't tolerate being the slightest bit hungry. I long to be out of this chair and eating a grilled swiss on rye.

A woman I know, who had been coloring her white hair its original black, cut her hair super-short to rid herself of the monthly task. I thought she had never looked chicer or more beautiful with her short silvery style. My hair, however, is not all white, just tinged here and there with gray. I don't imagine I would look as lovely. And truly, I am lucky, since my grays only came in a few years ago, when I was in my late forties. So I have only been dealing with this time and money suck for a relatively short period.

The trim complete, I pay the exorbitant fee (but cheap compared to Manhattan), tip the talented, patient professionals, and head out the door looking much more polished, I guess, than when I came in. Part of me thinks my done hair looks a bit like a wig, or maybe doll's hair. In a way, it's aging, the contrast between the perfect hair and the slightly lined face. Someday, I will have to stop this. I'll accept that I'm not young anymore, and embrace my hair they way it grows out of my head. Not yet, though. Last month, not even a migraine stopped me from keeping my appointment.

At home, I look in the mirror and notice a glop of hair dye sitting near my hairline. I scrub away at it, but the evidence remains.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Living in a Barbie World

I didn't want to think about the woman whose life goal is to be a human Barbie. When a Facebook friend posted a link about this creature earlier this week, I learned that [name redacted]  devotes long hours and copious amounts of energy into making herself resemble the plastic doll. She's being discussed on the internet this week because of a newly released photo shoot and interview with V Magazine. I won't post her pictures here because they are too disturbing. I looked at them against my better judgment. Seriously, I wish I could unsee that shit. Instead, let's have a picture of my Malibu Barbie from the 70s, dressed in the lovely dress I knitted for her when I was 10.
Malibu B. sure is a woman on the go, walking across my windowsill. She is cute, and fun to dress, but I wouldn't want to turn myself into her. Because, she is, you know, plastic. And can't walk by herself. Or wear flats. Or talk.

The Barbie-emulating woman, I learned from the interview, which I read even though I don't want to think about her, practices astral body projection or some shit. This is a telling detail. After all the energy expended into torturing her physical body, she wants to get out of it.

Once, in college, I was having a conversation at a bar with a guy I worked with on the school newspaper. Giving my thigh a squeeze, he said, "For all of your feminist rhetoric, you really are just a Barbie doll of a girl." It was a confusing moment. I didn't know how to handle this insult wrapped in a compliment wrapped in an insult. On the one hand, I had been attracted to this guy for years and was thrilled that he finally seemed to be reciprocating. On the other hand, "staunch feminist" was a core part of my identity, so his words made me furious. Especially this one: "just." "JUST a Barbie doll of a girl." Nothing much of consequence. You know, I might say I had all these opinions, but the physical evidence was to the contrary. I wish I could tell you that I decimated him with my rhetorical skills before throwing a drink in his face and stalking out.

No, I did not leave. Or argue. Not at all. I can still conjure my 21-year-old self in that bar: the darkness of the room, the lateness of the hour, my black tights and Esprit mini, my soul sliding out of my ass. I don't want to think about that any more than I want to think about the lady in V Magazine. Instead, let's regard B. in some 1970s issue mismatched hostess pajamas. She looks like an extra from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Fabulous.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Lament of the Stay-at-Home Mom: Cat Poop Edition

What do stay-at-home moms do all day?
Here is one answer for you people:
My cat
(the one with a habit of defecating outside the box)
had excrement coating her hind legs.
So I chased her from room to room
wielding a wet paper towel,
for the delicate hazmat operation.

It wasn't easy.
The poop is adhering to her fur.
Because of an earlier encounter with a sticker.
There is no one to whom I could delegate this job.
And so it goes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Small Parenting Victory

My daughter doesn't know who Kim Kardashian is.

"Mommy, who is Kim Kardashian?" she asked. "Is she a tennis player?"

My husband and I high-fived each other with our brains, and said in unison, "No, honey, you must mean Kim Clijsters." We went on about how admirable Clijsters is. "She is a professional tennis player and a mom, and she retired for the second time this year." (The second sentence was not spoken in unison.)

Yay, Kim Clijsters!
We never even had to explain anything about the Kim whose name we do not speak.

She'll find out eventually, but not from us. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Embarrassing Photo of the Day

The year was 1989. I thought it would be a good idea to get a spiral perm the day before this photo was taken. I was modeling for Sassy Club, a merchandising page in which the magazine sold things like the kit that was used to paint that flower on my face. Staff members took turns modeling the stuff. At the shoot where this frightening photo was taken, I was also photographed in a pair of gray bike shorts that very clearly showed my private parts. Someone in the art department must have been mad at me when they selected that photo for publication. That other photo, the one I am not publishing here, makes this one look positively respectable. By the way, I don't know if you can see, but my eyebrows are crazily darkened.

I used to carry this around in my Filofax (remember those?) and pull it out whenever there was a lull in the conversation or I thought the mood needed lightening. Now I kind of feel like there's been a lull, AND the mood needs lightening.

So there you go.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Malled

Yesterday, while Lena Dunham was finalizing her $3.5 million book deal,  maybe popping champagne corks or eating cake naked on the toilet, I was at the Willowbrook Mall.

Oh joy. I prefer to never leave Montclair, except to go to Paris; however, there are certain things that cannot be purchased in Montclair, such as a suit of clothes for a 12-year-old boy attending a Bat Mitzvah.  And so, we went to the mall. As far as malls go, this one is really depressing, but sometimes one has to suck it up and drive past the hideous parade of chain stores on Route 46 and land in Wayne.

We got our son the dress clothes, plus a pair of Sambas and a nutritious Popeyes lunch to sweeten the deal. Our daughter, whose fully-loaded wardrobe wants for nothing, asked to go into Justice. We had never stepped foot in a Justice, but she's been begging to go there for a couple of years. She had waited semi-patiently, so I acquiesced. The racks were crammed with sparkly, scratchy, complete and utter crap. It made the Kardashian Kollection that we had just walked past at Sears look like Chanel.

I endured a few minutes of browsing under the migraine-triggering florescent light. But when Violet asked for a metallic, zebra-print sports bra, I grabbed her hand, and stalked out. "These are the ugliest clothes I have ever seen in my life," I said (and my standards are fairly low). I felt bad for dissing the fashion she claims "everybody" has, within earshot of the sales staff, no less, but I do have my limits. And also, I like to reinforce that one does not have to do things just because "everybody" does them. If you don't need the tacky Justice wardrobe, then it follows that you don't need to take performance enhancing drugs just because "everybody" is taking them to do better in high school. Nor do you need whatever disturbing body modification the other kids are getting in college. Yes? No? You tell me.

Bling Sunstache FramesAnimal Foil Racerback Sports Bra
Glasses,  $11.50 at Claire's; sports bra, $12 with 40% off coupon at Justice
Anyway, Violet was miffed, but perked up when I agreed to step inside Claire's, which carries the trendy, shoddy accessories to complement a Justice wardrobe. She held up suspenders printed with moustaches. I smiled falsely but declined to purchase them. A plastic moustache was suspended from the frames of a pair of fake black glasses. She tried them on happily. I laughed, but I wasn't laying out the cash.

I am both mystified and intrigued by the viral moustache fad amongst Vi's 9-year-old friends. They don't know why they love the things; they just do. It seems to be the 2012 version of Silly Bands. The arch moustache cultivation of 20-something hipsters has trickled down to an enthusiastic embrace by the pre-ironic fourth grader. Hipsters everywhere must be shaving their moustaches, which, I think, is good news for the girls that age. But maybe not. I no longer pretend to understand the tastes of the youth. We have Lena Dunham for that job. I just sit here and watch Masterpiece Classic.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The House

In case you had any doubt that I was/am a giant nerd. Click on the photo for a clearer view of my amazing penmanship.
My mother has finally sold her house. She's getting older (her age is not for publication), and has many many health problems. She fell down the stairs last year, and even before that, the place had become a burden. So after years of deliberation, mom put it on the market. Now she has to vacate by the end of the month.

Our family moved into this house on August 25, 1972. There is my artist's rendering in the diary entry above. I was nearly 11. It looks like the work of a five-year-old. The four of us had been living in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. I shared a bed with my brother; my parents slept on a pull-out couch in the living room.

I liked the apartment; it had a terrace, and we lived across the street from a big, beautiful park. Still, it was a huge deal to move into a house with a yard, with a lilac bush and peonies. Their sweet smell filled the house when my parents would cut them and put them in a vase on the dining room table.  Flowers from our own garden! A neighbor baked bread, wrapped it in brown paper, tied it with string, attached a hydrangea and left it on our front step as a welcome gift. So quaint! So picturesque! This is the way people with houses did things, I thought.

My brother and I each had a room. I got the larger room, as I am the oldest, and also a princess, and I certainly needed more room for my canopy bed and Madame Alexander dolls. I believe my brother still resents me for this 40 years later, and I don't blame him.

The dress I knitted with help from mom and grandma
Malibu Barbie in a kicky hostess gown
My mother has been cleaning out the place for a decade, hauling things to Salvation Army and bringing me boxes of my childhood stuff. That's where I found the above Barbie, dress and diary, in which I frequently apologized for not writing often enough, as if the diary were a living being. Clearly, writing infrequently has always been a problem. In the diary,  I don't mention the bullying I endured as the plump new girl. I hadn't gotten to the point of using writing as a way to vent.

I only lived full-time in the house for 7 years, but it's always been where the extended family gathered for holidays and graduation parties and barbeques and funerals. My father died there.

I didn't choose to raise my family in the town where I grew up. The reasons are complicated, and as my mother has gotten older I've often questioned that decision. When we were shopping for our home, we would run into the older widows who were reluctantly selling their family homes. I always felt sad for them. Now my mother is one of those women, leaving the place where she raised us, cooked delicious meals, played pinochle, and argued politics with her friend Cathy over Sambuca.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Lament of the "Fantastically Boring" Blogger

At 3:12 am
"Alexandra" left me a comment:
"Holy shit, your blog is fantastically boring."
I found it three hours later
Whilst my son's waffles were in the toaster
And coffee was brewing.
Fantastically boring stuff was happening
Of which I should not be writing.
Apparently I can't help myself
Because here I go again.
The thing is, I think she is right--

if unnecessarily mean. 
Alexandra's google profile says she is a suburban bohemian in her 30's
She left her comment from Greenwich
After 4 page views.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On My Continuing Difficulties With Housewifely Duties

Still with me despite my inevitable blogging silences? Thank you. You may remember the fascinating August 14 post about getting my son a new dresser after his Pottery Barn Kids one broke. Hey, I write what I know. Long story short, the boy STILL doesn't have a new dresser, despite all the good advice I received in comments. A Facebook friend suggested Stanley Young American, but my son rejected the reasonably priced floor model I found. For some reason, he has taken a keen interest in this new furniture, which mainly translates as a surly pubescent rejection of any viable option.

During the search, we desperately set foot in Ikea for the first time in 10 years, ignoring vociferous pre-teen objections. They didn't have the dresser we were going to buy, which was ok since I was ambivalent about it anyway. We did emerge with a chair, our first Ikea purchase. I don't know what came over me. I sat down in the floor model, found it so comfortable and the price so cheap, that before I knew what was happening, it was paid for and in the trunk of the Ford Focus.

I also need a new slipcover for the 10-year-old couch
Crookshanks the cat really likes it. Hopefully, she won't pee on it. That's what happened to the chair that used to be there. Or poop on it. I love her, but her toilet habits are worse than GG Allin's.

I spend a lot of time cleaning up the bodily emissions of C and her offspring, Fang and Clawed, and speaking of house cleaning, I am getting ready to admit defeat. About six months ago, I dismissed my cleaners and attempted to live a martyr-like cleaner-free existence. I am not the worst housekeeper in the world; dishes are promptly washed, laundry is done, the trash is set out in a timely manner. I'll vacuum, but I have to admit that dusting is spotty. (I recently noticed that the walls were dusty; I didn't even know that walls needed dusting.) Scrubbing tubs and toilets makes me hate myself and the world. I thought it would be good for my kids to have household responsibilities; they beg to differ.

The house has three stories, not including a disgusting unfinished basement. Two messy kids, three shedding cats, a husband who doesn't notice dirt. I am ALWAYS cleaning, but the house never has that freshly-cleaned feeling. I know this makes me sound like a privileged asshole, but here goes: life without cleaning help has turned me into a gigantic bitch. Just ask the staff over at the middle school, who received a visit from me after they messed up my son's schedule. A cleaner is coming over at noon to see my house before she agrees to take on the job.

I have to tidy up so she isn't scared off.


P.S. Please check out my interview with Andrea Linett on xojane. And I am also writing about family entertainment for ew.com.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Demented Product of the Day


I am definitely going to contact them right away

I seriously received the following email.

Good day!

I operate as a Manager of Human Resources assistant in a famous Establishment. The enterprise, in which I operate, is engaged in presenting consulting and other business services.

Job Site provided aid to us to discover you. The range of applicants is very big, and I can't remember which site gave an aid for me to find you.

"Regional Representative" - this is a recent post in firm. This is a very pleasing work, I in a few words tell you the essential factors of this job, if you're possibly you will become our job-holder. Consulting in enlargement the business - is one of the directions of our Establishment. development of goods all over the Planet - that's how we can assist our buyers. The mass of our clients from the CIS countries, do not think, what kind of the prospects is provided by the aggrandizement of their merchandises in Australia, Europe and the USA. Marketers are the professionals that are vigorous involved in working of our clients inventions. For making arrangement we need Regional Representatives. They are concerned in financial matters of the transaction.

Position has its own attributes:
- Partial occupation (2 to 25 hours per week)
- Fixed fee + percentage of arrangement.
- principal guidance
- consultations associated to taxes
- Professional Development and Awards

Are you curious in this post? So we look forward to your resume. In case you become person proper for this work , I will transmit all data to the Specialist who occupied in your enlistment.

Respectfully Yours, Personnel Manager

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why is All Mid-Priced Furniture Crap?

The excitement never stops here, people. My son, age 12, is about to get the third dresser in his short life. The first one was thoughtfully purchased by friends from our registry at a baby store on Avenue A. It was $400 and doubled as a changing table. Unfortunately, the plywood bottom of one of the drawers fell out almost instantly, and I would drive myself insane trying to keep it pushed in. Two year later, we got a new dresser from Pottery Barn Kids for around $500. It is called the Kendall, and matches his trundle bed.  The finish didn't last very well, and it was starting to get too small for him, and I was considering replacing it. Then a week or so ago, one of the drawers fell off the track and wouldn't go back on. I took a break from ruining everyone's fun to call Pottery Barn. I  had a frustrating conversation with the service agent, who is even better at ruining people's fun than I am. She basically accused me of willfully breaking the thing. Then she said that since the shoddy dresser was 10 years old, I should not be surprised that it is broken. Something about normal wear and tear. Which is just bullshit, and the fact that the majority of the goods we buy quickly fall apart is one reason that our planet is covered with trash.

(I have this Ethan Allen furniture which my mom bought me in the sixties. It is not to my taste, what with the vaguely colonial hardware--I keep meaning to go to Anthropologie and get some more appealing drawer pulls. But this hideous bedroom set is incredibly well-made. The drawers will never fall apart.  I am bound to it, and it to me.)

What to do? I can't bring myself to go to Ethan Allen. I might live in the suburbs and own a kicky pair of floral shorts from Talbots, BUT I DO HAVE MY LIMITS, PEOPLE.

Pottery Barn isn't getting any more of my money, and they have thousands of dollars of it already. I have never bought a single thing at Ikea. It is inexpensive, but anything that cheap, in my opinion, REALLY has to be garbage. And you have to assemble Ikea furniture, which will involve a lot of cursing and frustration on the part of my husband. So, in desperation,  I am about to spend $800 on a dresser from Land of Nod.  I am worried it is going to fall apart too.

Thoughts? Has anyone bought anything at Land of Nod? Any furniture suggestions?

Also,  R.I.P. Helen Gurley Brown, who I am certain never spent much time worrying about the quality of cheap bedroom furniture. She was too busy explaining what we should do on the bedroom furniture. Oh, I am hilarious.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is Wrong With Boys?

I'm taking a quick break from ruining everyone's fun to ask a question that has been on my mind: What is wrong with boys?

I have been observing my son and his pack of 10 to 13-year-old friends like an anthropologist. (Or sociologist? Psychologist?) Behaviors, which appear to be innate and impervious to the civilizing influence of a good home,  include: pool games such as Sharks and Minnows, the object of which seems to be drowning each other. Underwater wrestling, until at least one competitor is near death. I actually asked the boys: "Please explain to me what is fun about that." They stared at me blankly.

The point of another game, called "Taps," seems to be whaling a ball at the opponent's head until a concussion is achieved.  On land the boys play games such as Zombie Tag, Cops and Robbers and Capture the Flag. Grouped together, these activities could be referred to as "Lord of the Flies." Or maybe "The Hunger Games."

I asked my husband if he had any insights, and he said: "They are boys."

Men and boys really are different. And not in a good way. Which reminds me of a Lynda Barry cartoon from The Village Voice, which I had posted on my bulletin board for years, called "Why I Like Men." I couldn't find it on the internet but I can quote it pretty much verbatim from memory: "Why I like Men: Well, for one thing there's their big muscles. They like things that are on fire and loud noises. I cannot explain why I like to kiss them. For life is filled with such mysteries."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Mom Who Ruins Everyone's Fun

Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm The Mom Who Ruins Everyone's Fun. This is quite an accomplishment. Any mom can ruin her own kids' fun, just by making them wear sunscreen and eat fresh fruit,  but who among you can ruin everyone's fun?

What's more, I have been informed that "everyone thinks that I am the mom who ruins everyone's fun." Just yesterday, while I was stretched out in the shade trying to read my third Nora Ephron book in two weeks,  I saw a kid strongly knee another kid in the stomach. It was like a pain-inducing move I learned in a women's self defense class back in the 80s, except that one was to the groin. The aggressor's parents were not around, so I said: "I saw that. That wasn't good." Then, I made sure the child writhing on the ground had no internal injuries. This, apparently, was one of many fun-ruining actions.

I was also spotted handing a kid a napkin.

Here is my theme song.




Sunday, July 29, 2012

There Was No Square Dance

The Square Dance was where all generations--the children, the teenagers, the adults of all ages--gathered and laughed and had fun. Good clean fun like we could never remember having, but which made us feel like we had been transported to another century, one without tvs and maybe even radios. Certainly, in this century, the pretend better century we were visiting, there was no texting or social media or blogging. The air was fresh and the lake water was clean and cold.

Everyone danced, even the non-dancers, the sullen teens, the widows and the not-so-spry. The fiddler would strike up a tune, and the caller would call out the steps, and we'd all follow along and get sweaty and out of breath and step on  people's feet and make mistakes and laugh and smile like crazy. It is impossible to be ironic, or in a bad mood, or experience any kind of ill temper while square dancing.

In 2007, we all headed to the Lake Lounge for the square dance. Violet, age 4, was excited because James, age 8, had told her he would dance with her. He crossed the wood floor in a polo shirt neatly tucked into his chino shorts. He practically bowed, then took her hand, and they began to dance. There was swinging your partner and do-si-doing. During a break they went to get punch, and it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Mary, an elderly widow, danced every dance, her back straight and her while hair in a neat bun. The next morning at dawn she went on a canoe ride with me, and told me all about it. "You bet your bottom dollar I danced," she said. Her brother had just died, and she had been his caregiver. The square dance was a way of reaffirming all that was good about life.

But this year, there was no square dance. There was a d.j. He played ymcapartyrocki'vegotafeeling. As the horrendous music blared, and even the teens were confused, the soul of the place dropped right into the lake. The kids looked betrayed. They asked to leave and go to the game room. I am glad Mary wasn't there.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rest in Peace, Nora Ephron

I watched Nora Ephron's movie Heartburn last night, which I had never seen before, even though I am a fan. Probably when it came out in the mid-eighties, the idea of a movie about the end of a marriage, based on her divorce from Carl Bernstein, and the balancing of babies and a writing career did not interest me. I never thought I'd be having babies, back then, in my mid-twenties.You don't know how your life will end up.

In November 2010, I referenced Ms. Ephron's thoughts on mortality in this post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Princess of the Day: Merida from Brave

A Princess Strives for...Perfection
If there was ever a Princess crying out to be crowned Princess of the Day, it is Merida, the medieval Scottish protagonist of Brave. Her fabulous flowing red curls are enough to earn her the honor. (I usually disdain the word "locks," but I almost used it in the last sentence because "hair" doesn't seem grand enough to describe that springy mass, which is in just the perfect shade. Next time I get my roots done I may show a picture of Merida to the colorist.)

Merida also is an excellent equestrienne, and expert enough at archery to show up the three goofballs competing for her hand in marriage. The conflict stems from Merida's refusal to get married. Besides the fact that she is young and wants to be free, you can't blame her for not wanting to marry any of the candidates. They are about as eligible as the denizens of Animal House, except they hang in a Medieval Scottish castle instead of a frat house, substitute mead for beer and bear hunt instead of playing football.

There isn't a single worthy male in this movie. If I was a man I'd be kind of pissed. King Fergus, the Princess' father, is a doofus, while her mother is uptight and no fun, training Merida to be a proper princess. "A princess never leaves her weapon on the table," she chastises. (Aside: the uptight mom/relaxed dad dynamic seems to be the parental template in every single comedy these days--see bumbling Phil/hyper Carol on the hilarious Modern Family. What's that about? Maybe another post for some other day after the kids are in bed.)

Merida stands her ground, and gets in a bit of trouble, such as accidently changing her mother into a bear. Oopsy. But of course it all works out and everyone lives happily ever after. There are those who have put forth the theory that Merida might be a lesbian. Maybe it is exciting to have an upstanding character in a mainstream movie for kids who might grow up to be a homosexual. But my first, visceral reaction when I hear this theory was annoyance. So if a female character is strong and confident, and doesn't want to get married, she's gay? Straight girls can't be strong and independent, and ride their horses, and refuse lady training? These qualities have nothing to do with sexual preference.

Merida kind of reminds me of Felicity, the American Girl from the Revolutionary War, who also resists her mother's urge to civilize her. I love the American Girl books, because my daughter learns about American history and the protagonists are all admirable. Just for fun, here is a chart comparing the two.

                                            Felicity                                 Merida
Hair                                    chestnut brown                      red
Horse                                  Penny                                    Angus
Meaning of name              Happiness                              Honorable
Nemesis                              Drunken Jiggy Nye               Killer bear
Mother                               Falls gravely ill                     Temporary bear
Romance?                          No. She's 10.                          No!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Should I Get A Smartphone?

Obviously, I'm not what you'd call an early adopter. I have an old-fashioned LG cell phone that makes calls, receives texts and lets me send back one-word replies by typing on the phone dialing thingy. I can take pictures and video but I can't figure out how to get them off the phone. No internet access. I've had this same phone for at least three years.

You're considered to be a bit odd if you don't have an iPhone. (I realize that even with an iPhone, I'd be odd.) Most people I know have one or something like it. I was recently at a party, and a friend was giving me directions to a restaurant. So she said "take out your phone and I will show you where the place is," assuming that I of course had a phone like that, because everyone in the civilized world does. I wasn't in the mood to explain my  situation, even though she is super nice and would not judge me, so I pretended to be distracted by one of the kids. She ended up walking us to the restaurant.

(We don't have a minivan either, so we're practically living like animals. Our  ten-year-old Ford Focus has squeaky brakes and an unexplained shorts-ruining stain on the front passenger seat. For a while I wanted to get a new car, maybe a BMW mini, preferably pink. But now I sort of love that we have such a crappy car. I find it funny somehow. Maybe it's because when I was growing up, one of the two doors of our Plymouth Valiant was held closed with a rope for years.)

I've cycled in and out of wanting an iPhone. It would be convenient, but there is such a thing as too convenient. (My husband just got an iPhone, and it bothered me when my son started asking Siri algebra questions and she answered them correctly. Do kids use Siri to do their homework?) Also, I didn't even know what a "drop-in" was until I saw the episode of Girls where Hannah is lost at some junk yard with creepy Adam and Marni tells her to "send a drop-in," and she does something with her phone, and then Marni picks them up in a cab. Kids these days have it too easy! Clearly I was out partying in the stone age when getting lost meant you were just screwed. Which I kind of think is the way it should be.

Further, it's hard to justify the expense of a smart phone when you think about the fact that I am rarely out for more than a few hours, and if it is all that urgent I can be reached on my cell. I'm not the Secretary of State. And I worry that I would be one of those people who is constantly texting and looking at the phone when you are out to lunch or trying to have a conversation. I might be checking my comments and the traffic for the blog a lot more often than I already do, and wasting time on Facebook and playing Words With Friends instead of interacting with the real world. And I was just reading about a study that showed that people who spend a lot of time on that stuff are more likely to be depressed.

So that's not good.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out Damned Spot

I have four new pairs of shorts. This is remarkable, because I rarely find pants/shorts that properly fit both my thickish waist and my thinnish hips. So when I discovered that those cute "boyfriend roll-ups" from the Gap work on me, I bought them in three different colors. Or three different "color-ways," as Andrea Lee Linett used to say in a heavy NY accent when she did her impression of a Garmento.

Obv. Not Me
I was wearing the orange ones all day Saturday, parading around up at the pool with a special "new shorts" glow. Then I repaired to my daughter's Girl Scouts bridging ceremony. When it was over, we walked home. After fixing dinner for my family, I removed the shorts, folded them, and put on my pajamas. The next morning I noticed it: a blackish stain across the back that looked something like tar.

When did this nasty spot appear? If at the pool, why didn't any of my supposed "friends" tip me off? If at Girl Scouts (likely since I was sitting on the ground), did all present assume I had had an unfortunate accident? And what about my husband? Does he not look at my derriere anymore?

I put stain remover on the icky black stuff and set it to soak.  Then, I turned my attention to my fourth new pair of shorts. This kicky pair is high-waisted and has a crazy floral print. I found them when I was shopping for a gift for my mom at Talbots. I never thought I would buy anything for myself at Talbots, but I began to see a Mad Men/Junior League-in-the-early-70s appeal in the merchandise. And the shorts fit me like a glove! They also conformed to my paltry budget. Sold.

I like how the wider leg almost makes them look like culottes
My husband was confused when I appeared, dressed for a going away party for some friends. "What are those?" he asked. "These are my adorable new excitement shorts," I said. I explained how I imagined Betty Draper wearing them to the country club.  He didn't agree. A curious look of recognition crossed his face. I realized the problem. "Do they remind you of your mother?" I asked.

"Kind of," he said. "And you have your shirt tucked in." I explained that I was showing off the flattering high waist. He looked dubious. But I did get some compliments from people I am not married to.

The point is, and this is truly incredible: when I took the shorts off last night, I noticed an identical stain as on the orange ones! I am now afraid to sit down anywhere.

And I've been soaking both pairs all night, but the stain won't come out. So now I have 2 new pairs of shorts. Unless anyone has any stain removal tips?



Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Week in Fat Shaming

"We’re fat, folks. Seriously, dangerously fat. And you don’t need statistics to tell you that; you just need to look around. All three people ahead of me in line in a food shop in Des Moines last month qualified as morbidly obese; they had 900 pounds — easy — among them. One of every two people in line with me at a Coney Island concession stand last weekend were carrying at least 25 extra pounds."
Frank Bruni, Trimming A Fat City, New York Times, June 2

This bit of fat-shaming offensiveness comes in the middle of  Bruni's op-ed in defense of Mayor Bloomberg's anti-insanely large soda initiative. The idea behind the initiative--and I am still pissed off from when Bloomberg tried to take away my salt bagel--is that people need to be forced to drink less soda. I also think big sugary drinks are sort of gross, and I don't consume them or buy them for my kids. But it's a free country, as we used to say in the schoolyard at St. Theresa's! And there is no evidence that making people buy smaller drinks will affect obesity rates, which have leveled off according to recent reports.

Despite the endless sanctimonious lecturing on healthy eating that masquerades as "education," no one knows what really causes people to gain weight. The belief is that people eat too much crap and don't exercise enough, but that doesn't explain the fact that most everyone who loses weight through dieting gains it back. Nor does it take into account the people who eat "wisely," exercise copiously and still weigh more than they'd like.

There are many other possible factors. Research has linked inadequate sleep to weight gain; is government going to control the number of hours that we sleep? A study showed that keeping your house too warm could possibly contribute to weight gain. Are we now legislating where people set their thermostats?

In another stab at obesity control, Disney just announced it would stop showing junk food ads on its tv channels and make the kids' meals at its theme parks less disgusting. I am all for the theme park food improvements, although I hope never to set foot in another theme park as long as I live.

As far as the ads go, it's hard to be against Disney's decision to limit junk food ads aimed at kids under 12 (which Bob Iger said was made for business, not altruistic reasons). My kids have never watched many commercials for junk food ads (because we're mean horrible parents who limit their tv watching, while allowing ourselves unholy amounts of tv). And even if your kids do see a lot of ads, that doesn't mean you have to buy the stuff.

In closing, I'd like to say that although dieting has been linked to eating disorders, no one is talking about taking Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers ads off the air. That's because society is a lot more repulsed by fat people than those who die from self-imposed starvation. We can't have overweight people cavorting around, marring the landscape.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Video Friday!! Finally.


Hello people. It's that time again. Video Friday, which is only observed when it is a Friday, and I am not busy lamenting and therefore in a good mood. Video Friday seems inauthentic when I am cranky.

Anyway, today's awesome video is by a punk pop band called The Shondes, who are actually remarkable enough to have a Wikipedia page. The drummer, Temin Fruchter (once selected as one of The Heeb 100) emailed me early this year about her band. Isn't it so cute that she actually considered Fallen Princess to be a real publicity outlet, worthy of contacting?

That was a clearly a mistake on her part, because it took me from March until now to post her video. Which I actually like! And I admire that she met her band mates protesting at the Republican National Convention in 2004. What is wrong with me?

If you live in Nyack, NY or Brattleboro, VT you can check them out in June.
So nice you got to post it twice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Lament of the Public Radio Listener (During Pledge Drive Week)

On the radio while coffee brews
Poor Soterios Johnson
Is not reading the news

Instead he must think of a way
to say, and say and say
Please support WNYC
Offers of dollar-for-dollar matches
Free subscriptions to The New Yorker
This season of the pledge drive: it irketh me

Soterios, my lunch-time friend Brian Lehrer
Even that know-it-all Leonard Lopate
All suffer this ignomius fate

Ira Glass is cute
 yet borderline rude
With his vaguely threatening calls
to listeners who don't pledge

I gave recently
Forsooth, a sum fairly paltry
The guilt eats away at me









Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Lament of the Chavez Fan, No Longer Young

Hark, ye aging hipsters!
Chavez appears this Friday eve
at the Bowery Ballroom

Those noble lads take me back
To a time of relative youth
Not maidenhood--
Hardly that; but the sweet spot
When freedom was mine
And the world was my oyster

In those days of yore
I would stand on my feet for hours
In a smoky dungeon
To hear their pleasing atonal melodies
(But I would leave when Shellac took the stage;
Even then, I had my limits)

Shall I make the pilgrimage
This Friday eve?
Surely it would keep me out past ten p.m.
And shorten my peaceful slumber.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Lament of the Soccer Mom

It is Mother's Day
Sunny, 80 degrees
Humidity, low
The teams take the field
One red, one blue

When last we met
they decimated our girls, those reds
6-0
and left a crying goalie
to drown her sorrows in a McFlurry
(snack-size, of course)

Two weeks later
Our girls are ready
They have worked on their game
All kinds of defensive and offensive tactics
of which I understand nothing
(especially off sides,
which makes as much sense to me as the electoral college)

We start out strong
with a goal
(though off sides, apparently)
But the ref
she did not call it
Funny how no one points out a bad call when it favors them

With the red team
there is a man
who sounds like Louis Armstrong,
if Louis Armstrong were irate
and overly invested in
a U9 girls travel soccer game
(and also, if he were still alive)

He yells
And he screams
I fear he may have a heart attack
But to no avail
Our girls prevail
1-0

Our team runs through a tunnel of cheering parents
The reds leave, dejected
a consolation of home-baked cookies in their hands
For the long drive back to Suffern



Advance praise for "The Lament of the Soccer Mom"!

"What The Canterbury Tales would have sounded like if it had a Soccer Mom among its pilgrimagers." Mike Flaherty

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another Reason to Buy Lunch in Brooklyn

Post a review of Lunch in Brooklyn on Amazon that mentions Fallen Princess and win one of 10 vintage Sassy/Nirvana stickers.Yeah, pretty sweet!  Email me (christinamkelly@aol.com) the link of your review along with a mailing address. Here is the link for the purchasing and reviewing.
http://www.amazon.com/Lunch-in-Brooklyn-ebook/dp/B007Q0R8LQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336403784&sr=1-1.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Apparently It's Karmic Retribution Time

My daughter is a One Direction fan. You know, One Direction, the boy band that was formed after the members appeared separately on The X Factor?

Violet: "That guy--what's his name?"
Me: "Simon Cowell?"
Violet: "Yeah, Simon Cowell. He told them to form a band."

I know this information is true because Orla, another third grader, told it to Violet. One Direction is the new thing in Violet's class. I am not entirely sure that Violet had heard a single one of their songs before she became a fan.

I made it through princesses.
I made it through Hannah Montana.
Taylor Swift is still happening, and I am surviving that ok.
This, I am not so sure about.

"Mommy," said Violet, bounding off the bus. "Niall is single!" Or maybe she said Harry is single. Whatever. I explained that his marital status is irrelevant, because of the simple fact that she is nine years old. Violet pointed out that he is 22, and when she is 22, in 13 years, he will be 35, and that sometimes people who are 22 and 35 date. At least she got some math practice in.

Hairstylists take note: Dude second from the left, and dude on the far right.
Here is a picture of One Direction. You can tell that it is One Direction, because right behind them on the wall it says "One Direction."

Here is a video of One Direction on SNL. It is worth watching just for the hair. I would seriously love to read an interview with the genius who created those hairstyles. After showing the video to me, Violet asked, "Did you like the song?" I told her that I was too obsessed with the hair to notice the song. She nodded understandingly. She told me a story, possibly apocryphal, about the guy with the combover: "One day he woke up, and his hair was straight, so he started crying."

According to a post on onedirection.net entitled, "The Latest Details on The One Direction Nickelodeon Show":  "The credibility of One Direction could be aversely affected by a scripted show, and the management are keen for the band not to seen in too much of a young light – avoiding the types of fandom that surround Big Time Rush and the Jonas Brothers." (I cut and pasted that, so the typos are not mine.)

I would hate to see the credibility of One Direction adversely affected. Or aversely affected. But they have to know that their fans are nine-year-olds who have never heard their songs.

I can't.
One Direction, listen up, I have five words for you: New Kids on the Block. Here is a picture of New Kids on the Block.

Back in the late 80s, early 90s, I wrote a negative piece about New Kids on the Block, at the height of their fame, that made me the Salman Rushdie of New Kids on the Block fans. I received bags full of hate mail, when hate mail still came in bags. One included a voodoo doll. The accompanying letter explained that the offended NKOTB fan had placed a pin through my ovaries so I could "never bear children to follow in my footsteps."

It's coming true.

P.S. When I was nine, I adored the Bay City Rollers. Here is a picture of the Bay City Rollers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You know what? I like pink.

A few months ago, Lego was criticized for introducing a line of sexist products directed at girls. They were pink, and overly girly, and I don't know, maybe they brainwashed little girls with concepts like "Math is Hard." I heard about this outrage on NPR when I was half-paying attention, and also my Facebook friends posted about it. So clearly I am some sort of well-informed expert on the topic. (Side note: I would like to criticize Lego for the outrage of scattering a billion tiny pieces to a million Star Wars Lego projects from the top of my house to the bottom; it really hurts when you step on one of those things in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom.) While I totally support those who fight for toy equality, and (in case you know nothing about me) I am a complete feminist, I start to zone out when people disrespect my favorite color. It is not pink's fault that the world is sexist.

When we renovated our kitchen, I knew I wanted a pink stove. This is the one I got.

Right after we bought our house, I mused about how pretty it would look pink. My husband pretended to be in charge, and said, "Under no circumstances are you to paint the house pink." I paid him no mind. Here's how it looks now.

Above is a random photo of me  in a cheap pink wig at a cheap beach rental.

I think Quinn on Glee looked better than I do with pink hair. 

My daughter and I always bust out our pink coats for Easter. I am guessing that Gloria Steinem does not own a pink coat, but I think she would look very nice in one.

Pink peonies are pretty. However, I am not really a big fan of the singer Pink, although I enjoy that she is a tough broad and her name is awesome, obviously. 

I am talking about this now because Daisy over at xojane posted about a new foosball table that features girl players. I enjoyed the post, except for the fact that in passing, Daisy dissed the color of the table. Pink. Them's fighting words, little missy. I love foosball, and I think I am awesome at it, and it reminds me of the year that I lived in a fraternity while simultaneously writing anti-fraternity screeds in the school paper. Only one thing would get me more excited about playing foosball: if the players were female and the table was pink.  I wish I could challenge any pink haters to a game on this table.  Too bad it costs $4700.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Sassy Author Q&A: Rebecca Moore, writer of Lunch in Brooklyn

The Princess recommends that you buy Lunch in Brooklyn here
Rebecca Moore, an old colleague of mine, has self-published Lunch in Brooklyn, the novel she wrote in the 90s about her years in middle school in the New York of the 70s. We excerpted it in Sassy and you can read more about what made the stories so great in this fan's blog post. Also check out some snippets of the book here. Rebecca was nice enough to answer my questions about her decision to publish the book all these years later. She was partially motivated by some Sassy readers who were anxious to know about what happened to these characters. 

Christina: So, we met through Pamela Christman, who I knew from a creative writing class at the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center, and you knew from the Columbia graduate fiction writing program. That was, what, 20 years ago?

Rebecca: Pamela was definitely the link.  This could have been the summer of 1991, when I was working on the books for my thesis, or maybe sometime in the first half of '92.  

And I remember that you sent me Lunch in Brooklyn, and that it was based on your teenage years growing up in NY, and we decided to excerpt it. Or were we in a writer's group together, and did I first read it there? 

 Pamela, being a connector of people, may have told me that I should send you Lunch, but I think I sent you stories first because you published "Fooling Around with Neil" in July 92 and the rest followed.  

I remember some problems with the illustration that the art department commissioned. You were like, "this character would not wear a sweater vest," and I think we changed it. What do you remember about being published in Sassy?

I had forgotten about the sweater vest! Yes, that would have been dead wrong. I remember you were really nice about faxing me proofs to look at. We had a copy place in the bottom of our building and you would fax pages to me there and say we have to lose three lines for space or cut the drug mention. It felt collaborative rather than, here, you need to fix this or we're not gonna run it. I really appreciated that.  

Tell me what happened with Lunch in Brooklyn after that. I remember something about people wanting you to present date it.

I will have to see if I can lay my hands on my collection of rejection letters, which of course I saved along with the nice ones people sent into Sassy that you forwarded to me. I do remember being told to set it in the present, which would have been the 90s. It would have been so wrong! The book's time and place is a huge part of what it's about. You did not have the same kind of culture in the 90s as you did in the late 70s. People's parents and teachers in the late 70s were ex-hippies. I was listening to this radio show last night about Studio 54 and they were saying how it was right at this sweet spot between the pill and AIDS, with the apex of women's rights, gay rights, etc., and that's where the book happens. That suggestion meant that this person was missing the importance of the book's setting and that he or she was also underestimating the ability of readers to be interested in something that wasn't about their culture/setting. The idea of "swapping out" cultural references did not appeal to me. It sounded like a good way to suck the life and authenticity out it.

The other thing about the time in which the book is set is that you have society valuing self-expression and self-discovery, the drugs were an extension of that. Smoking pot was like an intellectual exercise as opposed to being deviant behavior. You also have this tension between the adults being pro-self-expression and the inherent conformity of the middle school mindset. They're saying be yourself and the kids are wanting to be like each other.

Another problem the book had was the age of its potential readership. It was not written as a YA book but because it was narrated by an 8th grader, and narrated in the moment, and focused on middle school issues, it was categorized that way. I think the lack of an overt anti-drugs stance would not make it a great YA book. I think it's more for 16 and up in that sense, though the friendship issues would appeal to younger readers, and the way we edited it for Sassy worked for younger readers.

Also it's episodic, I think of it as prose poem to a bygone era and it's about the state of being a 14-year-old girl. I got the idea for the format from Evan Connell's Bridge novels ("Mr. Bridge" and "Mrs. Bridge.")

Why did you decide to self-publish it? How did you do it? How many copies, and how are you selling it?

After the book made its initial rounds with an agent and we kept getting back the variations on the themes above, I moved on to other work. I wrote a novel, set in the 90s about some girls who play with a Ouija board and one of them gets too involved in it, called The Interior Ghost, and then I started researching a novel set in Coney Island. -- Do you remember going to the Mermaid Parade and riding the Cyclone? -- I had another book in the works, also set in late 70s, in Fire Island, with arson and a boat crash. And then we moved to London and I started working full-time and had kids, which leads nicely into your next question.

Oh, but wait. Why did I decide to self-publish? So we move to London for my husband's job--he's a journalist. Pamela Christman is there and she, being the connector of people that she is, has found a writing group, which I join. My story which had been accepted for Seventeen gets a kill fee. I give a couple of readings with our group, but then I start working and drop out. I can't find my voice, I don't know if it's because I am out of NYC or what but I no longer feel like a writer. At one of the readings, this drag queen is reading poetry and the poetry is pretty awful and it ruins the effect of the drag and it just feels tragic and I feel like I am failing a similar masquerade as a writer. A year later one of my professors from Columbia came to the school where I was working to be a writer-in-residence and it is embarrassing to encounter him in this way. Then we have kids and, you know how it is, shoes and a shower could be an accomplishment.

The years pass. My father died in 2008. He was a photographer for Life magazine in the 60s and I find myself online looking for his work, as a way to grieve. One day I googled myself and came across this blog that had been written in 2006 by a woman now in her 30s who remembered Lunch and the other stories I had written in Sassy and wondered what had happened to me. Someone there posted a comment saying they had tried to get a copy of the manuscript from the Columbia library but no luck. And then Marjorie Ingall pops up and says she has no idea either but people sometimes asked her if she knew anything me. I'm thinking, really?? Me?? It's kind of eerie to find yourself the topic of speculation, but it's so cool to find out that I have readers. I leave a comment and become online friends with Christen, the woman who wrote the blog post. I tell her maybe I'd read through it again and tidy it up and possibly self-publish. And so I am about 2/3 of the way through when we decide to move back to America, which stalls things, but eventually I get back to it. Christen checks in now and then to see how things are going. In the meantime another former reader contacts me via LinkedIn and encourages me to release it and once I set up a blog for the book another reader posts a comment, describing herself as "one of the legion fans who’ve been waiting 15 years to know what happens next in Lunch in Brooklyn.” I reply and she responds, "I’m officially convinced that the Internet is a miracle now. Not that twitter and Amazon and being able to buy Japanese snack food online isn’t all great but being able to find and contact someone who’s work was incredibly meaningful to your adolescence is pretty much the best thing ever." And I have to agree, the Internet is a miracle!

So rather than trying to apply a more commercial format to it or make it into something it's not, I am putting it out there in the hopes that anyone who ever wanted to read more can and those who might appreciate the book's virtues are able to do so. It was like going back to the drag queen reading poetry and thinking, you know, maybe people will think you suck, but so what. It's better than not doing it. That's the kind of thing I would tell my daughter.

Right now the book is in a digital format only but I am intrigued by the idea of uploading it to the Espresso Book Machine, where readers can get on site paper copies of ebooks. They have one in the Brooklyn Public Library. I have to design a two-sided cover and make formatting changes. I think this will be a summer project. Maybe by then, there will be reviews to quote on the back.

To date I have sold 48 copies. My goal is 350. Obviously more would be great but at 350 I would cover expenses. I had to pay for the use of the subway map on the cover and buy ISBN numbers.

The book is available for Kindle on Amazon and in a variety of formats from Smashwords. It's in their premium catalog, which means it should be for sale on Barnes & Noble and from Apple in about a week.
Post a review of Lunch in Brooklyn on Amazon that mentions Fallen Princess and win one of 10 vintage Sassy/Nirvana stickers.Yeah, pretty sweet!  Email me (christinamkelly@aol.com) the link of your review along with a mailing address.
http://www.amazon.com/Lunch-in-Brooklyn-ebook/dp/B007Q0R8LQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336403784&sr=1-1.

Have you been able to get much writing done as a mom? I find it really hard, but I am always thinking about how and why I am not writing, and things I should write. It is like a constant tape of self-loathing in my head. Do you have any tips for me?

Stop the tape! Seriously, I have run those tapes in my head and nothing good comes of them. And they sink in. You know this. What would you have told a reader? What would you tell someone who walks around going "I'm ugly" or "I'm bad at sports"?

Your blog is great. You can still write.

When you have time to write, make some of that time for working on fiction or whatever else it is you want to write. I really think the only way to do it is make yourself sit and do it on some kind of schedule. Inspiration is when you're driving and get a great idea and you jot it down at the stoplight but the inspiration doesn't usually strike on schedule. Keep index cards or a notebook or even the notepad on your phone for the floating ideas and then take those to your desk. I'm sure you know all that.

That's the idea behind book groups, I think. It's moms claiming time for themselves in their schedules. You have to make dinner because I am going out to be with women. It's on the calendar.

A friend from my book group in London (where I kept my former writing life a secret) was in antenatal classes with Tracy Chevallier, who had then just published The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and she came to our group and talked about it. I asked how she managed to write this and have a baby at the same time and she said that she kept the scope manageable, the chapters short and the story kind of framed and focused by the picture and she used whatever blocks of childcare or naps she could get. I think that's what I like about writing a blog now. If I could transpose that to writing chapters of a book it would be good.

When I started my blog, What would the Wertis say?, it was actually just an exercise for work, to learn how to use Wordpress so I could help the middle school newspaper advisor set up a blog for her class. Writing a blog had not occurred to me. I had set up a vox account to leave a comment on Christen's blog about my writing but the blank page was daunting. But just to write something I did and then the more I did the more I started to notice things and sentences or phrases began to form and it was like something coming back to life. And it's like running, it's hard to start but at a certain point it feels bad when you don't. I'm going to read one of my posts on our local public radio station in a week and I'm excited about that.

What is your favorite thing about Lunch in Brooklyn? What inspired you to write it? Do you feel differently about it now than you did then?
I think my favorite thing about it is the humor. The best thing about publishing it is that one of my middle school teachers wrote to me to say he had read it "with joy and delight," which was fantastic to hear. He was the inspiration for Mr. Carmen, the teacher who keeps sending Kate and Harry out into the hall on writing assignments.

The novel started as two stories. One was entitled "8th Grade" about girls behaving badly over the course of an unsupervised weekend. This is now the chapter of the book called Fifth Hex. I was trying to capture that weird edge of pushing against the boundaries of what you could do in the absence of parental supervision, the way girls that age want to be noticed and that feeling of immunity to real danger, the way you do things just to have done them. I think I wanted to show the way that girls go underground when they reach adolescence. They want to appear pretty and "normal" and have everything seem to come easily. I work at a school and recently was a chaperone on the 6th grade camping trip. I listened to the girls talk with each other and draw in the boys -- it was an ongoing  monologue of self-definition. So much energy is going towards defining yourself and practicing being yourself,  moving in a hydra of chatter and matching clothes, making themselves visible but in a very particular way, expressing socially acceptable/neutral problems like "my shoe is wet" rather than revealing true personality.

The other story was called "The Bubblegum Chain." It was about a tradition we had in middle school where at the end of the year the 8th graders would write a last will and testament and hand something down to a 7th grader to have in 8th grade. My friend willed me her bubblegum chain, which was 10 feet long and with gum wrappers that dated back to when we were in lower school. There was a poignancy in that that I wanted to express, how we were shedding our childhoods and stepping forward into adolescence.

If I were going to write a novel about middle school now I would be seeing it through the lens of motherhood and all the intervening years of experience. Back when I wrote it I had not really thought that much about middle school, but when you are writing fiction you need to stake out your territory and that was my territory: progressive school, 70s NYC, girls clomping around in clogs and trying to be cool. I was also writing stuff about college, but it was hard to write properly about adults as I had not lived amongst them for very long then.


I wish I had written it with a stronger plot line, like Harry getting kicked out, that could have thrown more things into motion. Maybe I'll try that in the future...



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Princess Wishes Herself a Happy Anniversary

I began blogging on Fallen Princess on April 9, 2010, and now that I have been blogging for two years, I kind of feel like taking stock. So bear with me.

I didn't have any real plan for Fallen Princess. I started it on a whim after submitting an essay to The New York Times and receiving an automated response. I knew blogspot would be any easy way to get my writing out there again; it is so user friendly that even a technophobe like me can figure it out. So I threw the essay up as my first post and put it on my Facebook page. A friend, Jeff Johnson, linked to it on his blog, and some blogs picked it up. I realized that blogging could be a creative outlet for me, even if for a small audience, even if on a very unprofessional level.

I started out posting frequently, almost daily. Some of those early posts were really crappy. Some of my later posts were really crappy. Maybe they are all crappy. This is what happens when you have no editor. Certainly, although I have enjoyed a warm reception on the internet, there have been detractors, one of whom said I was like Andy Rooney with weaker rhetorical skills. That really hurt, as I have been a huge Andy Rooney fan my entire life, and we even went to the same college, where I received an A in the Logic class that I took. Another hater said simply "Woof." I flushed with shame, reading that alone in my office.

 I write about whatever pops into my head, and this may be a problem. The most successful blogs probably have very distinct focuses. When my father-in-law asked me what my blog was about, I stared at him in silence. Taking pity on me, he said, "Is it the perspective of a woman who used to be an editor, and now she is at home with her kids?" Yeah, that sounds good.

The post I had the most fun with was this May 2010 one about my Fresca obsession.  The post I wrote on the 20th Anniversary of my father's death meant the most to me, and I reposted it last year on the 21st Anniversary. I even had some guest posts from Mayim Bialik! I've written about my struggle to stop using profanitymortality,  pop culture, and my hatred of thong underwear. Body image is a frequent preoccupation, as is parenting (I like this one about my tooth fairy mishaps). I compared myself unfavorably to Tina Fey. An invitation to join AARP inspired a post. I published two items that were rejected by xojane--probably with good reason--just because I could. I did all of this without earning a single cent.

I slowed way down after three months. Part of it was due to the circumstances of my life. It was summer, the kids were home, and the room where I blogged was broiling hot. Part of it was because I am moody, and I get writer's block, and doubt my abilities, and sometimes I think I have cheapened myself by writing a blog as a hobby, when I also try to write for pay.

I thank you for reading, and for coming back, and for commenting. 

P.S. The New York Times eventually published a shortened version of that first post in the Complaint Box. I was not paid for that either.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Andrea Linett Book Alert!

I once was complaining about my lack of creative output to my friend,  former roommate and Sassy colleague Andrea Linett. "I want to write a book," I whined during a Facebook chat. "So write a book," she responded.

That Andrea is a can-do kind of gal. She doesn't laze about trying to blame the normal chores of everyday life for holding her back. Andrea has written a book, I Want to Be Her!: How Friends and Strangers Helped Shape My Style. It comes out 9/1, but go pre-order it now on Amazon. She wrote the book while running I Want to Be Her, her own excellent personal style blog, and holding down high-profile fashion jobs, such as her current fancy gig at Michael Kors. Good on ya, Andrea, as the Australians we used to work with liked to say.




Thursday, April 5, 2012

Some More Reasons I Have Not Been Writing

Hello. Last night I read about a 57-year-old woman who is publishing her first, critically acclaimed novel. She wrote it while her triplets were at school, partly by preserving their school time as her writing time. She refused all lunch invitations, for one thing. An optimistic person would have thought: see, this lady made it happen at 57, so there's still time for me! However, I am not a glass-half-full kind of gal, so her story merely added to my self-loathing for not writing a critically acclaimed novel, or any novel. I am not as industrious as she; I neither refuse lunch invitations, nor do I have triplets.

I thought I would take a break from not writing to explain why it is I have not been writing. There are many activities that require my attention. For example:

1. Just a few minutes ago, I was busy with what my mother refers to as "paperwork." "Paperwork" can take her days and hours. She files her own taxes, which she is meticulous about, and balances her checkbook with precision. Does anyone under the age of 70 balance a checkbook? This seems unlikely. I did it for awhile in my 20s, because mom had me convinced that bouncing a check had dire consequences: people from the bank would actually come to my studio apartment and repossess my scratchy Castro Convertible. But then the ledger wasn't balancing properly, and rather than get to the bottom of it, I just started blowing it off. I am not really a financial wiz; nor am I known for overspending. I do have a vague idea of how much is in the account. Balancing seems archaic to me, sort of like burping babies. I never did that either, and my kids appear reasonably unharmed by this omission.

Anyway, in my case, paperwork involves:

a) Filling out forms (80 percent of what I do as a parent). My husband has filled out zero forms; I have completed approximately 1 billion. Barely a day goes by that I don't realize that some form has to be handed in. Permission slips for field trips, camp registrations, soccer and tennis signups, insurance forms. Sometimes I feel like I will shoot myself in the head if I have to fill out one more form. Today I found myself re-submitting an insurance claim that I had already submitted but was rejected because of some technicality.
b) Writing checks. Many, many checks. Some of which are late.
c) Answering emails.


2. House cleaning. When I was working full time in the city, I hired some ladies to clean my house once a week for $85. Also, they would occasionally ruin and break things at no extra charge. After I stopped working, and both kids were in school full time, I limited the service to every second week, and they started charging me $100 (retaliation?). Then a couple of months ago, I calculated that I would save $2600 annually by cleaning the house myself. I let the ladies go. They had grown unreliable; also, I had a false sense of confidence in my cleaning abilities, descended as I am from immigrant domestic help. I also thought it would be good for the kids to clean their own rooms, as I did at their age. We can't have them getting all spoiled and soft, and graduating from college not knowing how to operate a vacuum. Their great-great-grandparents were professional cleaners, goddammit. And my husband said he would help too. To that I say, HA!!!!

3. Calling my old, infirm mother, and feeling guilty that she is old and infirm and that I cannot drive on the highway to visit her. That's all I can say about that right now.

4. Driving kids to various sports practices (on local roads).


5. Wasting time on the internet.  Like with this funny video by Denis Leary. I don't imagine he fills out many of his own forms.

6. Going to the supermarket. As in, right now.