Oh, I’ve written a couple of times about how secretive I am.
I was a meanie again this week.
In the morning as I am leaving for work, my husband is making his shopping list. Because he is retired and I am not, he does most of the shopping. I love that. Not that he is retired and I am not – I hate that part – I love that he runs all those errands I can’t stand. When I shop, I want to shop for clothes and makeup, not dish detergent and ketchup.
So anyway, he’s making his list, and he says, “I think we also need some of that nice shaving cream. The tube in the shower is totally squeezed out.”
He is referring to Cremo – the inexpensive but very nice shave cream that we both love.
My husband had a beard for twenty years. When he shaved it off two years ago, he found that shaving made his face really raw. He tried several different brands of shaving cream before stumbling on this one. It’s gentle on his face, and nice and moisturizing for me too. (This is not a paid endorsement… but if the Cremo folks would like to pay me, they can contact me right away.)
End of commercial – back to the story:
So when my husband says we are out of Cremo, I say, “No, there’s another tube in the cabinet in the bathroom.”
“Which cabinet?” he asks.
“The tall one,” I answer. Our bathroom has the usual wall cabinet and under-the-sink cabinets, and then one tall cabinet for linens. Only the one. And we call it the “Tall Cabinet.” It’s clearer to my husband than saying “Linen Cabinet.” Because he doesn’t really relate “Linen” and “Towels.” (Plus there’s a lot more than towels in there.) As sneaky as I am, I do not (at least not always) try to add more confusion.
End of day, and we’re getting ready for bed. Hubby says, “By the way, there was no Cremo in the tall cabinet after all, so I bought two tubes today and put them in the tall cabinet. So now we have two.”
The next morning, I open the cabinet and there they are.
And I SWEAR —- I SWEAR! —- I did not alter this photo in any way.
As I prepare for retirement, my company has agreed (to my great pleasure) that we should have a long, smooth transition. When they identify my successor, I will gradually reduce my hours and work part-time for as long it’s mutually beneficial for the company and me.
How perfect is that?
I can just ease myself into retirement. And who knows, part-time work may suit me fine. Work a little, feel like I’m making a contribution, have some spending money, and enough free time to write and read or just plain goof off. I think I can dig it.
This got me to thinking….
There are a lot of part-time situations and lifestyles that might also be perfect for me:
1. Gardening. I enjoy my flower beds. Digging in the dirt and watching things grow is good for my soul. I even like weeding. Sitting on the ground and grasping tiny weed fragments is serene and allows my mind to drift in such pleasant ways. But not all the time! I don’t want to be sitting on the ground pulling weeds EVERY SINGLE week. I think once a month would be about right.
2. School. I loved college. I loved the whole atmosphere. The air positively vibrated with the learning going on. I’d like to go back. But I don’t want to study or take exams or write research papers. And I don’t want to take anything I’m not interested in. Or with a professor I don’t love. But I wouldn’t mind sitting in a classroom. Or walking between classes. How I used to love strolling through the campus. I could do that part.
3. A Dog. I had a great dog when I was a teenager. I’d love to have a dog again. We’ve come close a couple of times. Like just this Sunday. We went to Tractor Supply (awesome way to spend a Sunday – if you are my husband.) There was a rescue group there with a bunch of little puppies. And one not-so-little one… about a year old and a gentle giant. With a lab’s body and the massive head of a pit bull, but the kind, puzzled eyes of a sweetheart. This guy watched everyone swooning over the tiny puppies, and never made a sound. Just watched. Hopeful. Both my husband and I were tempted. But we have three cats, and the very old one really really hates dogs. So we can’t do that to her in her old age. But I see our neighbor walking her dog in the morning as I drive to work. And I wish it were me. But not in January. Or February. But I’d like a dog, For maybe six months of the year.
Come to think of it, having cats is just like having a part-time dog. Because they only notice you part-time.
4. Marriage. This is a big one. When I was young, I dreamed of being married to some wonderful guy. But as I got older, my dream got a little more specific. I wanted to be married to a wonderful guy who was a traveling salesman. Someone who would actually only be home on the weekends. And leave me to my own thoughts and activities during the week. So what happens? I find a wonderful guy who is a salesman – only he is a self-employed advertising salesman who worked mostly by phone… out of our house! Rather than seeing him just on the weekends, I see him every single day! And now he is retired and I am about to be retired. That’s a lot of togetherness. Can I be married maybe just four days a week?
5. Parenting. I always wanted to be a mother. But I married late in life and it didn’t happen for me. And you know, as time went by, although I often wished I had kids, I also recognized the nice aspects of not having any. Like money, freedom, quiet. But every now and then – even at my age – I wish I had a kid. But not all the time of course. I’d like to rock a baby to sleep. And read a story to a toddler. Or sit him in that spot in the front of the grocery cart where I now only put the bread. I think I might like the first day of school, or shopping with a teenage girl. Or maybe playing with a little boy on the beach. For an hour. Then I want to read my book.
Have you ever seen “Lucky” magazine?
I kept seeing references to “Lucky” on fashion web sites. It’s a magazine devoted to SHOPPING.
Well, that’s right up my alley. The name of my alley, as a matter of fact, if that alley was called Shopaholic Street. I could use (yet) another source for sampling the latest trends, and perhaps tip me off to some great buys.
So of course I subscribed.
“Lucky” is not quite what I thought.
Yeah, it’s all about great clothes and beauty products and where to buy them.
But I’m not exactly in their demographic.
Lucky’s demo appears to be:
I would think that’s a really small niche, but maybe not. There might be a whole world of billionaire teenagers who like $74 shampoo and $695 polkadot boots. Why just this month they had their “Amazing Bargains” issue – where every piece of clothing was under – wait for it – $500! A steal!
And now that I am a subscriber (for another five months, I’m afraid), I get great emails too.
Yes, I can!
Lucky should add some qualifiers:
A personalized email:
- (I can sometimes make it to 65 degrees)
- (It doesn’t stick out more than my boobs)
- (We don’t have Navel Fridays yet)
- (I’m applying for early admission – to the Medicare program)
I hate Beginner’s Luck.
Beginner’s Luck is the way the universe makes raspberries at your ego.
I didn’t have beginner’s luck as a kid. I didn’t have any kind of luck. I was the type of kid who never drew an ace in a game of War, but I could count on getting the Old Maid. I got the only word I didn’t know in the spelling bee. The church bazaar had one of those fishing games where you hooked a prize. Four friends in a row got a pound of fudge. I got a kazoo. I shouldn’t have bothered the rest of the neighborhood with Eeny-meeny-miny-mo. I should have just said, “I’ll go last.”
I blame my parents. My parents occasionally enjoyed going to the horse races. But they were not lucky. Many years ago, upon returning from their vacation in Florida, I asked my mother whether she had a good time.
“We hit a horse,” she said.
“That’s great!” I said. “How much did it pay?”
“We hit a horse,” she repeated. “With our car.”
So coming from those genes it’s no surprise that I didn’t have much experience with beginner’s luck. That all changed when I hit thirty.
I was on a business retreat in Virginia. One of the activities was a golf tournament. I like Golf, but it is not exactly my sport. (No sport is my sport; but that’s another post.) So I felt a rare stroke of luck when it rained the whole trip. Our event planners quickly improvised a replacement challenge – a pool tournament.
Well, I had never played pool before. But there was plenty of beer involved, and someone showed me how to hold the cue. I figured I would just relax and at least pretend that I was a good sport.
But the most amazing thing happened.
And I thought, Holy crap. Maybe I’m a natural. Is there an Olympic team for this?
So the next time I had an opportunity to play pool, I put a little money on it.
Ha Ha on me.
About ten years later I was making some excellent progress in my career. Slow, steady incremental rungs on the ladder of success.
Our humongous corporation had just been acquired by an even humonger corporation. And I had to present our Long Range Plan to the top strategic executives. I ran into a co-worker friend as I walked into corporate headquarters. We discussed the future of the industry for just a few minutes in the elevator. My friend opened his briefcase and handed me a Goldman Sachs report. “Take a look at this – it tends to support your premise.”
I had a chance to scan the report before my meeting. I chanced upon a chart with data that backed up my somewhat radical, certainly unconventional forecasts.
The new owners were dubious when I presented my plan. And extremely condescending . One of these top guys (and aren’t they always guys?) said, “I don’t think Wall Street would agree with you,” in the tone of voice where you can almost hear the unspoken words, “Little Lady.”
And I pulled out my borrowed research tome and tossed it on the conference table with a thud.
“Goldman Sachs agrees. Page 74.”
And my CEO – who also now had these smug new bosses – gave me a nod and a covert little smile for showing up the officious jerks.
And I was a Vice President by the end of the month.
Ha! A promotion based on a fortuitous elevator ride. Beginner’s Luck in the new corporation.
I forgot I worked for Stress & Holler, Inc. Being a vice president – except for the money, of course – sucked.
Ha Ha on me.
I was an English major in college. I wanted to write. But I got a little sidetracked. By a desire for food.
So I abdicated my literary dreams and got an M.B.A. And worked as a financial executive for the next twenty-five years. And I really didn’t mind. I was good at budgets and analysis and made pretty good money. I had (and still have) no complaints.
But sometime after I turned 50, I began to think about how I used to love to write. And I started to miss it. I took a few online courses. Memoir Writing was the first one, and I remember my older sister wondering what I could possibly write about. “Memoir?” she asked. “No offense, Nancy, but we had the nicest sweetest childhood imaginable. That would make a pretty boring memoir. Who would want to read about playing hopscotch and taking a ride in the car?”
Surfing the net one day, I stumbled upon a call for entries for a planned book of essays. Marlo Thomas’ The Right Words at the Right Time, published a few years before, consisted of a hundred short essays from the very famous, each one recounting how someone’s wise words at a pivotal moment had made a profound difference in the renowned person’s life. All the profits from the book went to St. Jude Children’s Hospital – and it had been a best seller. So Ms. Thomas was planning a second volume, this time with non-celebrities.
And I had that kind of story. And I was certainly a non-celebrity. I scribbled my essay into a tiny notebook while on a plane to a business meeting. Back home, I typed it up, cut it by 50%, and sent it in.
And about a year later, I got a phone call from Marlo Thomas’ editor. “We loved your story,” he said. “It’s going to be in the book.” And it was! I was published! And in a book that was on the best-sellers list for a couple of weeks.
So there, big sis! People DO want to read about my sweet but boring life!
This is EASY, I thought. The very first thing I ever submitted is a best-seller. I have a real talent. (But I think I will start making things up, so actually interesting things will happen in my stories.)
And over the next several years, I did it. I wrote a novel.
I’m a novelist. I can retire and write full time. I’ll live on my royalties.
Ha Ha on me.
Did you know that Amelia Earhart designed her own clothes? I can’t tell you how much I am cheered by this fact.
Recently I had a conversation with an eight-year-old. This girl is nothing like me. I was a girly-girl from the get-go. I loved baby dolls and crinolines and patent leather shoes, and dresses of dotted swiss with velvet ribbons. But this little girl likes none of those things. Instead of dolls, she likes Spiderman; instead of bows, she likes bows and arrows. She cut all her hair off when she was four, and her mother has been persuaded to keep it that way. She is often mistaken for a boy. And she likes it. And I like her.
During our conversation, we talked a bit about movies. I don’t know much about children’s movies. Although I saw “Kung Fu Panda” with this same little girl. I liked it. I think she did too. So we have that in common.
Because it’s so ubiquitous, I asked her if she had seen “Frozen.” Yes, she had, although she added, “But it wasn’t very good.”
This surprised me, because from children, adults, and even that group called “critics,” I heard it was very good indeed.
“What about it,” I asked, was not good?”
“Anna should have been a ninja; not a princess.”
This worried me.
I answered: “Well, I think that you don’t have to be a ninja to be a hero. I think that a princess can be a hero too – if she does the right thing.”
The young girl didn’t respond. But I hope she thought about it.
I’ve thought about it a lot.
Because I hope that in the future, people will accept this small human for exactly what she is comfortable being. But I also hope that she accepts those who are not like her.
I don’t want her to show disdain for girls in pink crinolines. Any more than I want her to be derided for her Batman sneakers.
There’s room for all kinds of girls in this world.
And that is why Amelia Earhart as fashion designer so heartens me. Even 80 years ago, this woman wanted to be an aviator. AND have cool clothes.
And why not?
Am I shallow because I love clothes and makeup?
Can’t this just be another side to a smart and complex woman?
Because I’m happy when my hair looks great, does that trivialize me?
I have important things to say.
Why can’t I change the world while wearing a pretty dress?
I love it when I remember something I didn’t even know I remembered.
Yesterday a crazy memory bubbled up from somewhere in my addled storage facility.
Years ago I took an evening art class – Watercolor Painting. (Sometimes I wish I were British so I could type Watercolour. Isn’t that classy? And I’d say “Whilst” too. And “Zed.” And “I chatted him up in the tube because I fancied him.” And “Wanker.”)
I took this Watercolor class, and we sat two-by-two at tables. I usually sat with a woman my age – which wasn’t old then because it was a long time ago – but it wasn’t exactly young either. But once in a while I sat next to a young guy. (a young “bloke” – I really want to be British. Can I be British as a New Year’s Resolution? Like “I resolve to be thinner; I resolve to be neater; I resolve to be British.)
This kid was a nice kid. But we were both intent on painting, not chatting, so I can’t say that I got to know him. I’m not even sure that I remember what he looked like, except that he had an army jacket. Of course, I can’t think of one young guy that age who didn’t wear an army jacket. (A chap in a clobber…. I would be SO good at British.)
Well, anyway (again)…
One night we had a very good painting session, although I can’t for the life of me remember what we were painting. This memory that has bubbled up is not heavy on the background detail. But I’d say it was the ocean. Or maybe a lot of sky. Everyone’s cup of paint-water was blue.
And when it came time to clean up, as usual there was a crowd at the only sink in the room. My young bloke was all picked up and back in his army jacket, and still no sink-time.
So he said to me, “Whatever…”
And he took his cup of blue water and drank it down. And strolled out.
The reason this is interesting to me goes back to New Year’s Resolutions.
I resolve – Blimey, not to be British – but to be less self-conscious.
I am painfully self-conscious about the way I look and sound and how others perceive me.
I don’t think self-consciousness is necessary all bad. Caring about how the world sees you can help you take good care of yourself. And think before you speak. And that’s a good thing.
But I see folks every day who are self-conscious about silly things. (And I am one of them.) People who are embarrassed because they can’t carry a tune, or they think they look bad in a bathing suit. Or they are sure they’re too clumsy for Yoga.
I think I should be more self-conscious about complimenting and thanking people. Putting in a good effort in my job. Smiling more.
But I want to lose some of the useless self-consciousness.
Things that adults worry about but children never do.
Children don’t care about things not worth caring about.
Who cares if you drink the paint-water?
Here’s three small specific Resolutions for the New Year:
1. The next time I see an icy patch on the sidewalk or in the parking lot at work, I will not walk around or gingerly-and-oh-so-carefully inch my way across. I am SLIDING. This morning I saw a kid sliding back and forth across an iced-over puddle while waiting for the school bus. Remember how much fun that was? I’m DOING it, and in high heels maybe.
2. I sing in the car. I LIKE to sing in the car. From now on, I will not halt my car-concert because some dude pulls up next to me. I’m SINGING. At the traffic light, the stop-sign, and in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Get ready for some noise. I’m DOING it.
3. I will not worry about what sounds emanate from me in the ladies’ room. Everyone knows what I am doing in there. I will not wait until the person in the next stall leaves. I have business to do, and I’m DOING it. I may make a little noise.
In memory of Donna Douglas – whose style I scorned, but whose show I never missed – here’s my post from a couple of years ago….
By now I am sure you are wondering:
How in the world did Nancy acquire her unerring fashion sense?
Well, I don’t want to discourage you if you aspire to my ‘chic-ness’ – but the truth is:
I was born this way.
Why, I remember lying in my crib, watching my sweet old auntie (whose name I will not mention, as I wouldn’t ever want to hurt her feelings, even in heaven), and thinking to myself, “As soon as I can say more than ‘bye-bye’, I am going to tactfully bring up non-clumping mascara.”
My parents had one of the first TVs in the neighborhood, and there was nothing like Television to sharpen my fashion perception.
Even as I toddler, I was watching Big Three Theater – a late afternoon show which televised old Shirley Temple movies almost exclusively. And I loved Shirley. But I knew that it was gauche to wear your dress so short that everyone could see your underpants. How her mother let her make movies that way, I will never know.
One of the shows I watched as a really little kid was “Adventures of Superman.” I may have been six, but I often shouted at the snowy blurry, rolling image of Lois: “Your suit (or hat) (or earrings) (or lipstick) (or hairdo) is hideous!”
I became even more discriminating by age nine. I had a special dislike for bad wigs. Watching “Bonanza” often infuriated me. Little Joe’s girlfriend – who you knew would die at the end of the episode – would be riding her horse, with the wind whipping through her hair, and I could see where her fake long hair was attached to her short hair. Sometimes the color of the fake hair didn’t even match her real hair – which is really saying something with a black-and-white TV. “Get a better wig!” I’d sneer every Sunday night. (and a boyfriend who wasn’t fatal….)
As I got a little older, Elly May Clampett ignited my indignation. I may have been eleven years old, but I knew that pigtails didn’t make you seventeen when you were really 30. And even if I were raised in the backwoods, I figured it would take me about two hours to stop calling it the “Cee-ment pond”, and a week tops to get rid of the twine I was using for a belt.
(… which, by the way, reminds me again of my sweet father, and his favorite parody (copied from Roger Miller) of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line”: ‘I keep my pants up with a piece of twine… ‘)
When I was twelve came The Patty Duke Show. As someone who had been dying for three years already to be a teenager, I was tremendously disappointed in Patty’s style sense. Cousin Cathy was supposed to be a fashion failure. But Patty was supposed to be cool. Cool? Is that was Hollywood thought teenagers dressed like? It was as if they hired the nuns from my school to be the costume consultants.
(…Oh, and another by-the-way…. why would Ginger wear an evening gown on a three-hour cruise?)
Thank God for 1965. I was fourteen, and I saw them – my style icons. The Ed Sullivan Show. September 1965. It’s when I KNEW I was right all along. That Style is individual. It’s quirky. It comes from within. And you either have it or you don’t.
And I had it! I had it up the wazoo!
This is a story with a moral. And the moral offers one easy New Year’s resolution that is guaranteed to make your life better. I mean it: Easy and Guaranteed. What more could you ask?
Years ago, I was in a very bad situation with my job.
My boss and I – after years of satisfactory, amicable teamwork – were at odds. Oh, let me make it even stronger. We were verging on mutual hatred. Marie was constantly berating me over the poor quality of my work, and the resentment and stress I experienced as a result was effectively optimizing the poor quality of my work.
I have never been really sure of the reason our working relationship fell apart. I’ve come to believe that I did or said something that displeased the CEO, and he must have told Marie he didn’t like me. With Marie, that would have been enough. We had gotten along well for many years, but I had certainly seen that loyalty to her subordinates was not exactly her strong suit. Her loyalty always traveled in the opposite direction. She was way better at sucking up.
I job-searched and transfer-begged with a vengeance, but in the meantime, I held my breath, tried to keep my heart from pounding, took up yoga, and struggled through each day.
On one of those strugglish days (good term, no?) I went to New York to review forecasts with the company’s minority shareholders. I met first with Marie at our corporate headquarters. I reviewed the forecast with her, and of course came under criticism, but it was too late to change anything, so she reluctantly agreed to present it. And so we set out to our partner’s offices.
We were running a little late. It was about twelve blocks from our office to theirs, and on a good day, you can easily catch a cab and be there in under seven minutes. But there were no cabs. And it was not a good day. And we hadn’t left ourselves quite enough time for a twelve-minute walk.
So Marie set off at a trot with me scurrying behind her like a flustered little Scottie dog. Marie had spent many years in the city and could power-walk with the best of them. I had a smaller stride and a stress-related pounding heart, and was breathless after the first three blocks.
I’m going to collapse, I thought.
“Look,” I managed to gasp, “We have the financials they want to review. They can hardly start without us. Let’s just call and say we will be a few minutes late.”
But that was completely against Marie’s Type-A philosophy.
“Move faster,” she said.
Easy for you to say, I thought. You’re younger than me. And your heels aren’t as high. I’m going to end up on the pavement.
But I didn’t. Marie did.
Marie’s heel stuck in a crack in the sidewalk, and suddenly she was toppling onto hands and knees. She fell hard, with all the momentum built up from her race-walk.
“Crap!” she said (or a synonym anyway), and I grabbed her briefcase and purse before anyone could step on them or snatch them.
Marie got up slowly. It was obvious she was hurt. Her palms were raw and red. The worst of it was her right knee. Stocking torn, gravelly blood covered her knee and was trickling down her shin.
“Oh no,” I said.
“Forget it,” Marie replied. “We’re almost there. Run!”
And we ran the last two blocks to the Shareholder’s offices, me clacking awkwardly in my heels and Marie running and limping simultaneously.
As we approached the door of the luxurious offices, a raggedy panhandler intercepted us. But instead of asking for money, he pointed to Marie’s leg.
“Lady, that looks really bad. You should clean that up and have someone look at it.”
Marie quickly maneuvered around him and we ran to the elevator.
And in the elevator, I caught my breath and either lost or regained my sanity, depending how you look at it.
I said, “Jesus, how pathetic is it when the homeless guy feels sorry for you?”
And Marie’s face turned purple and her eyes did this bulgy thing, like those dolls you squeeze and their eyes pop out.
And oh my god, we both collapsed. We howled. We shrieked and whooped and cried. The elevator echoed with our laughter.
When we reached the executive floor, we went into the ladies’ room, not only to clean up Marie’s leg, but to repair the damage our hysterics had done to our makeup.
Here’s the point.
The best New Year’s Resolution you could make if you want to make your life better:
Laugh more. Laugh often. Laugh hard.
See the silly side. Appreciate the ridiculous. Lose your dignity.
We are all in this absurd life together. It won’t end well. So enjoy it now.
I’m not saying that laughing in that unfortunate situation repaired my relationship with Marie. It didn’t.
But we laughed for a moment.
And that moment was better.
And that’s enough.
From January 1, 2012. It’s AMAZING – I now have long(ish) blond hair and a lot more makeup. It’s just a matter of time before I’m vacationing with James Taylor!
Every year for the last umpteen years, I make New Year’s Resolutions.
I keep them modest, so that they are achievable. Pick up my shoes. Walk on my treadmill twice a week. Save a few dollars.
But even with very small goals, I don’t have much success.
So this year – as long as I haven’t got a prayer of keeping my New Year’s Resolutions anyway – I’m going big!
1. I’m going to run in the Boston Marathon. Why not? I’ll train by doing my 2.5 miles on the treadmill one click faster – 3.3 miles per hour instead of 3.2. If I maintain that pace, I will finish in 7.93939 hours. I figure I can slow down on the hills though. No need to go crazy. I’ll plan on 11.93939 hours. I just hope I can find a place to park the car in Boston. And that someone will give me a lift back after I finish.
2. I’m going blond. I’ve been blond before. But upkeep can be a problem with dark roots. Not any more. My roots are white anyway, so maintenance should be a breeze. So I’m going platinum. And long.
3. I’m going to wear sexy underwear. Sure, I like my big-girl cotton panties. And they’re so very comfortable. But it’s time to go to the lingerie department instead of hanes.com, and buy lacy skimpy underthings. I read that once you are over fifty, you should only wear thongs on your feet. But what the hell. I’m going to buy bright purple and wear them under my white jeans. So that you’ll know.
4. I’m going to be star. I can be a pop star with a hit record. Katy Perry did it, and she can’t sing. Or I can be a Hollywood star, with leading roles in lots of movies. Adam Sandler did it – and he can’t act. Or I can go on “Dancing With the Stars”. I’m every bit as much of a not-a-star as all the other not-a-stars who’ve been contestants thus far. And with my long platinum hair and my purple thong underwear, I’m a shoe-in for the mirrored ball trophy.
5. I’m going to wear a lot more makeup. I’ve always loved makeup, and worn quite a bit. But all my products result in a very subtle effect. Pinkish blush, nude lipstick, a touch of mascara. For 2012 – I’m heading in the Tammy Faye direction. I’m going to wear false eyelashes. With sparkles. And I’ll have the full lips I’ve always wanted, because I’ll just draw a big mouth outside the lines of my real one. Time for some drama. I’ve already started. I bought black eyeliner instead of my usual brown. Okay, I bought it by mistake, but the best changes are often accidents.
6. I’m going to be best friends with James Taylor. I’m halfway there already, because I love him very much. I just have to introduce myself and he’ll love me back. I have a very nice husband and JT has a very nice wife, so we’ll just be platonic friends. The four of us can go on vacation together. I never go on vacation, but this year we’ll all go to Tahiti. On a sailboat. James will pay.
7. I’m going to pick up my shoes.