Erma Bombeck, graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949, lived with her husband and family in Centerville, Ohio, and inspired people worldwide with her columns and books about life’s trials and tribulations. Her memory lives on with the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition hosted every two years by the Washington-Centerville Public Library and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop hosted by the University of Dayton. (Washington-Centerville Public Library)
The Erma Bombeck Writing Competition judges short essays in the categories of Humor and Human Interest, with separate competitions for local and “global” writers.
Essays are limited to 450 words. For me, who can take 450 words to meander through an opening paragraph, that is short-short-SHORT. But I edited and cut, cut and edited. And chopped, chopped, chopped. And I got down down to 445 words. And sent it in.
And it was worth it.
I’m delighted to report that my essay earned an Honorable Mention in the Humor category.
Erma is my idol, and I am thrilled just to see my name written next to hers.
Here’s my winning story:
IN PRAISE OF PANTYHOSE
It seems that Kate Middleton has singlehandedly brought pantyhose back in fashion.
I’m so glad. Pantyhose are marvelous. They are the airbrush of legs.
When I was twelve, my mother allowed me to wear nylon stockings to Church on Sunday. It was 1963. Nylons, though sheer, were inflexible. They only fit because they were shaped like legs. If you were lucky enough to have leg-shaped legs.
I did not.
I was skinny. Very skinny. I like to write that twice. I don’t get very many opportunities these days to describe myself that way.
My nylons bagged around the knees and drooped around the ankles. It was sort of like wearing my own shadow.
And holding them up was tricky. Garter belts are such sexy little costumes. But there’s a catch. If you are skinny – very skinny – (I got to write that again!) your garter belt will not stay up. You have to have hips.
I did not.
With my first pair of nylons I tried my sister’s garter belt. Three steps and the belt and stockings were at my ankles. That could be embarrassing in the line for Communion.
So my mother bought me a girdle – the smallest one she could find. It was a tiny rubber tube. Today I could use it as a waterproof case for my smartphone.
The girdle had garters on the lower seam – snap-hooks that you fastened your stockings to. When you sat down, you had the joy of sitting on the back pair of metal hooks. Ouchy. Often one of the little suckers would let go, and give you a surprise slap on the thigh. And you’d have to surreptitiously reach under your skirt and try to refasten the stocking, where the gap between stocking top and girdle bottom had now become seventeen inches.
And I didn’t even need a girdle. I needed to hold up my stockings.
Pantyhose arrived in Connecticut my first year of high school. It was a miracle.
Pantyhose then were a long way from the stretchy perfection they are now, so they still left me with baggy knees and ankles. But better. No girdle, no garters, no ouchy.
But pantyhose were expensive. So if I got a runner, I just cut off the damaged leg. And waited till I got a run in another pair, which never took long (Thank you, high school desk). I’d cut off that ruined leg. Put both pair on – each had a leg – (one might have to be inside out) – and Voila!
Of course, two pairs of pantyhose were a lot like a girdle after all.
And I could use one now.
In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s my 2015 salute to all girls – in all the wondrous forms we take.
ALL GIRLS ARE WELCOME HERE
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 was doing my hair the other day when my curling iron broke. Even though I wear my hair straight, I use one of those big-barreled curling irons to give me some body. And to get all my hair going in basically one direction. I have cowlicks. Year ago, in my college Art class, we were drawing the human figure, and the teacher described drawing hair like this:
Sometimes hair is a solid silky sheet and it reflects the light. Curly hair lets the light through it. And then you have hair like Nancy’s where every single strand has its own direction.
So I was bending my hair into submission, and the curling iron gave up. This has happened about once a year for the past twelve years.
The clamp that clamps won’t clamp. The hinge has become unhinged.
My husband got so aggravated at this recurring aggravation that one year, he took the broken curling iron down to his workshop and devised a new clamp. But the fix was temporary.
That’s because the damn thing is designed to break.
If you are manufacturing small appliances that you sell for $19.95, you don’t want the junk to last forever. You wouldn’t make any money if unruly-haired girls bought your stuff only once. You want it to last just long enough so that unruly-haired girls won’t demand a refund, but instead will just go out an buy another. Like every year.
I won’t say the name of the manufacturer, but you know the one. They make tons of cheap hair appliances, and they have the same name as a movie about a hijacked airplane. Coincidence?
I think that just about everything these days is designed with Planned Obsolescence. My dog’s toys last 3 weeks if we are lucky. But sometimes only five minutes. We once bought a cat toy that the cat destroyed 45 seconds after it came out of the box. I think that was a record. But knowing cats… perhaps not.
We bought a flat screen TV a few years ago. The screen went black one night, although there was still sound. We decided it would be worth calling a repairman. It cost $375 for a new mother board. The board was guaranteed for 90 days. It failed on day 94.
It was a miracle we could even locate a repairman. I’m not sure there is a single shoemaker in all of Connecticut. Shoe repair? Who does that?
And there are bobby pins whose rubber tips come off. And eyeshadow that breaks into flaky chunks and falls into the wet sink. Lipsticks whose tops come loose in your purse and the lipstick gets coated with kleenex dust. Pens that won’t write. Aerosol cans that won’t spray. Towels that fray in the washing machine. Buttons that fall off your coat.
And baking dishes that are no longer safe to bake in. And yes, you know the brand this time too (because it’s THE Brand). The formula was changed a few years ago, so unless you have an old baking dish, you can end up with this:
I think all this “Let’s make shit you have to replace often” philosophy started in the sixties.
Because I remember snagging yet another nylon stocking on the school desk in science class in 1966. I expressed dismay (without swearing, because that would get me suspended) – and the teacher said:
“Did you know that nylon stockings can be made to be run-proof?” He added, “But then how many would you buy?”
“Do you think,” I asked, “that the hosiery manufacturers pay the school desk manufacturers to add a few rough edges?”
“What makes you think they are different manufacturers?” he replied.
So I date the rise of Planned Obsolescence to the 1960s.
But not before.
Because of Cuba.
Cuba’s revolution in 1959 eliminated that country’s ability to buy new cars. So they are still driving big old Buicks and Chevys from the 50s.
And the streets look like this:
Yeah, these cars are still on the road. They are not living the pampered life of antique car shows. They go to work. They get groceries. They are taxicabs.
I want to go to Cuba and see these magnificent displays of automotive longevity. And I want to go there soon. Because, with the normalization of U.S./Cuba relations, it won’t be too long before the Cuban people are all driving unreliable pieces of shit.
Like the rest of us.
The older I get, the more I desire to be true to myself.
That can be a little tricky for women. We have so many faces.
I see my husband – and other men – who seem to have one role, one face. “This is who I am.” they say. And it is who they are all the time. At work, at home, with their buddies – basically the same guy.
But I see women who are mostly like me. We glide from one role to another. We morph and change situationally. Mom and sexpot. Business executive and daughter. Artist and Nurse. Diplomat and housekeeper. Sometimes all in the same day.
I want to be true to myself. But I’ve never been quite sure who that is.
As I get older though, I see that all my various Selves are merging. My multiple personalities are dwindling down. I’m more me.
I’m a laugher. I laugh a lot at both at the office and at home. I even laugh in Yoga. I don’t save it for just one of my personas. Life is mostly ridiculous. Laughing is my consistency.
I’m patient. I wait my turn in line. I stop and let the guy in the beat-up chevy make a left-hand turn. I listen to my husband tell the same story for the sixteenth time. I try not to kill the dog.
I’m an introvert. Oh, I’m a good storyteller and I like people. But I need my quiet time to recharge. I don’t get my energy from hoopla and hubbub. I don’t like team projects at the office and I don’t particularly like parties. Leave me alone. Let me think.
I’m rational and cautious. I think through my decisions. I’m not much of a risk-taker. And despite my tendency to see the funny side in everything, I’m not emotional. I may be a laugher, but I’m not a crier.
And in addition to being rational, I’m also a rationalizer. Consistency? It’s my consistent failing. It may be admirable that I am quick to forgive, but I am also incapable of holding anyone responsible. I’m a terrible boss. I hate to address performance – I rarely even ask for performance. I correct subordinates’ mistakes after they go home. I make excuses for everyone. Most especially, I make excuses for myself.
So I’m not perfect. Which always surprises me. But there’s the plus side – that I can laugh at myself and forgive myself.
And I like myself. In truth, I mostly liked all the various personalities and roles I’ve taken on over the years. But even more, I love the unique and consonant person I’ve become.
A question – amongst all the questions I ask myself in my so-called older years:
What is worth spending money on?
Do I really want new clothes when I have drawers and drawers of clothes?
Well, yes, of course I do. But how much will more sweaters add to my happiness in my twilight years?
And how about dishes and crystal?
I wrote on my birthday that I wanted a new iPhone. But my old iPhone is still working, and I hear that the new ones have so many more features that you have to carry a spare battery pack.
(So I bought new makeup instead.)
But what is really worth my money?
What will give me joy?
Every now and then – for seven years now – I look at the New York Times Photography Store. There’s a photo there that I contemplate. I love contemplating. I love this photo.
This photo can be purchased in several sizes, framed or unframed. I can buy an 11″ by 14″ unframed for $169.00. I have been thinking about buying it for seven years.
It’s the price of three – maybe four – sweaters. I think I may have enough sweaters.
Perhaps that’s long enough to think about it. Perhaps this photo would bring me joy every day.
It’s time, I think, to own this photo. After all, I made Einstein a peripheral character in my novel. And seven years ago, this photo even inspired poetry. I am always a bit apprehensive to share poetry on this blog. I know my blog readers come to me for a smile. And poetry is so serious.
But anyway, here it is:
There is no theory here
Except the theory of the oar
Who has a notion of teasing the current
There is no science here
Except the science of the boat
Who is motionless and yet is moving
There is an equation
In fragments on the surface of the water
That explains the ratio of sunlight to sunburn
At the nape of the neck
Sometimes the occasion for celebration
Is the absence of mathematics.
That instrument of scientific, well-documented information dissemination – the internet – tells me that Grapefruit is making a comeback.
I’m so glad. I like grapefruit, but I certainly wouldn’t eat grapefruit if it was out of fashion. It’s a good thing I didn’t know was out of fashion.
So I have been spared.
But you know what I wish would also make a comeback?
Oh yes. I admit they are ugly and unflattering. And no one is more against ugly and unflattering than yours truly. Why, if I could run for Secretary For The Outlawing Of Unflattering — well, I definitely would.
Do you know how much shit I have to carry with me when I take my dog Theo for a walk?
Our walks are usually about 1.5 miles. I live on a private road, so about half of the 1.5 miles is on our own property. But that leaves .75 miles in public. Sure, it may be on a road that never sees a car… but it could. A car could go by someday. And I’d be a lady with a fanny pack. I want to be a lady with a really cute dog. But the fanny pack would win out. That’s how I would be remembered.
Yesterday, this is what I had in my pockets on our walk:
Kleenex – 3 tissues. It’s very cold right now in Connecticut. My nose runs. I do not understand how you don’t see a lot more runny noses in wintertime movies. Did Julie Christie’s nose drip in Dr. Zhivago? Did Andie MacDowell wipe off liquid snot in Groundhog Day? No siree. They looked sexy and gorgeous out in the zero weather. My nose runs like the kitchen faucet in my first apartment.
Pepper spray. As I said, I live on a private road. In the woods. There are bears. We had bears in our backyard just this Spring. We had a baby bear come up on our patio and press his little nose up against our patio door. Animal Control shot a bear in our brush pile two months ago. I need pepper spray for protection against the bears. Did I mention that there are bears?
Breath spray. My little doggy does not always behave. But I can’t exactly calm him down with pepper spray. That would be a tad harsh. However, when he is really out of control, a shot of breath spray in the air gets his attention just enough to stop him from chasing the squirrels – and dragging me along with him through dense shrubbery and low hanging branches. One of those squirrels could be a bear.
Treats. Because Theo is not always horrible on the leash. Only most of the time. So when he happens to be good, I like to reward him right away. Someday he may make the connection.
Clicker. I have a clicker thingy that the puppy kindergarten teacher recommended. I am supposed to use it when Theo is good. My second-grade nun had a clicker. She used it mostly when we were bad. I can’t figure out the use of it, but I carry it anyway. Theo ignores it, but who knows? Someday he may act like a little angel because he wants to hear the clicker.
Garage Door Opener. I have to be able to get back in. Quickly. Bears.
Chapstick. As wet as my nose is, the same can’t be said for my lips. And even though I apply it right before I leave the house, I might need some more. And it’s small. It doesn’t take much room in my pocket. And I like one with a blush of color. I have to match my rosy red cheeks. And rosy red nose.
Gloves. Not only because it is friggin’ freezing, which it is. But also so I can take yucky shit out of Theo’s mouth. He likes to pick up stuff from the side of the road. Old Dunkin Donut cups are especially desirable if you are a 7-month old puppy. But also cigarette butts and deer poop. Once even a dead mouse.
By the way, if you use a clicker when you are wearing gloves, it doesn’t make much of a sound. I am hoping maybe it makes a sound that only dogs can hear. But I keep taking my gloves on and off to use the clicker – and to wipe my nose – and the gloves going in and out of my pocket are way too much temptation for a doggy to bear. (Not bear in the scary animal sense, this time.) So I need to keep taking them out of the puppy’s mouth too.
Poop bag. Theo is a home pooper. By that, I mean he likes to poop within 8 feet of our door. Which makes for an easy clean-up. It would be an even easier clean-up if he liked to poop in the woods… but… bears shit in the woods. So, let’s keep it near the house, okay? I keep the pooper-scooper at the ready. But what if? What if we get to the public part of the walk and he decides to go again? What if he craps on someone’s lawn? Well, right now it would be crapping on someone’s snow – but that would be even MORE visible. They could be looking out the window, and see this runny-nosed, chapped-lipped lady with bulging pockets and her dog shitting on their pristine snow. So I bring a poop bag. I bring two. You never know.
Phone. Because I could break my leg when Theo is dragging me into the bushes to chase a squirrel. And because I need the pedometer app to know when we have gone .75 miles so I can turn around. And because you never can tell when he is going to be just so dog-gone cute.
Toys. Because Theo likes to pick up random stuff on our walks, I like to be able to substitute a toy for a dead mouse. He is partial to The Cat In The Hat, which now has only one arm. But Theo is quite accepting of Cat In The Hat’s disability.
I am glad that Theo likes his handicapped toy. Because it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite dogs.
I was in college. I always liked a window seat in class. It made for better day-dreaming in Elements of English Phonetics. (Yeah, I took that. A snooze-fest.) So a window seat was required.
So one glorious afternoon, I’m gazing out the window. I’m watching a dog chase the falling autumn leaves. He’s happy. Running in circles and barking at leaves seems to be a very nice dog occupation. Along comes a guy on crutches, leg in a big white cast. The dog runs up, tail wagging, and grabs the end of one crutch. It seems another favorite past-time for this doggy is tug-of-war. He’s pulling and jumping, and the poor dude is trying to balance on one leg, and desperately trying to get the dog to let go of the crutch. It is great fun – for the dog. I thought I might have to run from the classroom (I wish) and rescue the guy. But finally another student comes along and pulls the dog away and holds him while the crutches guy makes a getaway. I’m smiling.
Four minutes later. Along comes a blind girl with a cane. I’m not kidding. And I’m thinking, Oh NO! And sure enough, here comes Doggy, tail a-wagging. He grabs the cane and pulls and tugs, and the poor blind girl is wrestling and appears to be hollering for help. And eventually a couple of kids run over and save her. Doggy finally – and happily – goes trotting off.
I’m laughing now, as I was laughing then. That dog just wanted to play, and he was one lucky dog. He found TWO people in a row with STICKS!
You know how your mother always told you to wear clean underwear – because you could be hit by a bus?
As I am now face-to-face with old age (and thank you everyone for the amazing response to my last post!), I can certainly see the wisdom behind good underwear.
There are, of course, different stages of good underwear. In elementary school, I could get hit by a bus. In high school, there were all those staircases and very short skirts. In college there was the remote but intriguing possibility that I could find myself with the opportunity to shed my clothes for a roll in the Indian-batik bedspread. For a long time as a financial executive, good underwear meant my business suit fit better, and the knowledge that I had French lace under said suit gave me secret confidence. And now that I am old – well…I could get hit by a bus.
(By the way, Facebook: Yes, you know I am 65. I do not need a daily ad for pee-proof panties.)
Besides clean underwear, I have identified a few things I should have handy for my old age.
1. A well-stocked medicine cabinet. It’s already a pain in the ass to discover I am out of cough syrup when I have a cold. It will only get worse. I don’t need a trip to the pharmacy for aspirin when I already have a headache. Or sneeze my way to the pharmacy because I forgot to get my allergy spray. And I especially don’t want a terrifying trip to the pharmacy for Kaopectate.
2. In a similar vein, I should make sure my car is in good repair, and never too low on gas. As I age, I am finding that I don’t like gassing up when the weather sucks. And my standard of weather-suckiness is getting pickier and pickier. Like rain. Like cold. Like wind. Like nighttime.
3. A good pet-sitter. Now that I will soon be retired, I’ll have more free time. And I may have opportunities to travel a bit. An overnight to Newport. A trip to the City (that’s what us snooty folks in Connecticut call New York) for a play or museum exhibit. A writing seminar to someplace with a better climate than here. But we have a dog now, as well as the two cats. I need to have someone lined up to take care of my pets on short notice. Someone who will keep my fur children happy and my husband un-freaked out.
4. A company-ready house. I’m a pretty solitary person. And solitude is a wonderful thing after a day at the office. But soon there will be no office. I will be needing some socialization. I’ll have to invite people over a bit more often. So I need a reasonably clean house, a drawer with some toys for kids, and a coffee cake. I think that would do it.
5. A Roomba. In order to have my house reasonably clean for company, I would like an appliance that will clean the house by itself. If I can find a cordless hairdryer, I can probably dust pretty easily too. The Roomba can double as entertainment, if I can teach one of the cats to ride around on it. I’m not sure I can get Stewart into a full costume though. Maybe a sombrero.
6. Two nice outfits. I’ve always loved to shop. But I have found as I age that I enjoy it less and less. I don’t want to scramble for an outfit for a special event. And I don’t want to grab just anything and say ‘good enough.’ I want to have clothing that I love waiting patiently in my closet for the appropriate event. I live mostly in jeans. I figure I need two dressy outfits. One happy and pretty – for weddings. Weddings where I will now be the sweet old great auntie. One of my own old great-aunties once wore a feather boa to a wedding. Although part of me would love be THAT kind of auntie, I think something a bit classier would go over better. My other outfit should be somber and dignified – for funerals. As time goes by, I will be wearing that ensemble a lot. Hopefully as a visitor, not as the honoree.
7. A good swimsuit. Not only will I continue to wear a bathing suit, I want it at the ready. Last year I had two opportunities to go swimming, and no swimsuit. That will not happen again. I plan to keep a little bag in the trunk of my car with a bathing suit and towel. I don’t care if I am ninety. I don’t care if I have varicose veins that look like pythons. I don’t care if my tummy is bigger than my breasts or my ass is down around my thighs. I am going to jump in the water every single chance I get.
8. A lightweight lawn chair. I love to sit outside in good weather. My lounge chairs weigh a ton. I need a light one so I can follow the sun as it moves through the yard. I am particular about sun angles. I have been known to move my chaise every ten minutes.
9. Comfortable pretty shoes. I have pretty shoes. Comfortable is a different story. My toes and bunions will no longer stand for any suffering. But I am determined to find comfortable shoes that are also beautiful – even if I have to have them specially made for me. I want them comfortable enough to dance in. I want to dance a lot in my old age. When I was young, there was a definite distinction between young people’s music and old people’s. At weddings, the Rock ‘n Roll would kick in after the old people left. But I belong to the first generation of old people who GREW UP on Rock ‘n Roll. Start the music early, kids. Your old auntie wants to DANCE!
A big one. 65.
Over the last few weeks, I have been preoccupied with the significance of 65.
Two thirds of my life is behind me. Maybe more. Do I have 30 years left? What if it is only 10?
I’ve wasted a lot of time in 65 years. John Lennon said, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” But have I enjoyed it? It’s gone now… all those hours waiting for boys to call or vegging in front of TV or playing online games or shopping for shit that I hardly ever wear. I can’t get those hours back.
But I want to make the most of whatever time I have left – and to enjoy that time. Maybe that still means television and shopping. But maybe not.
I will soon (not quite yet) be an old woman.
I’ve been asking myself:
What kind of old woman do I want to be?
I’ve haven’t decided, but I know a few things.
For one thing, I always thought it would be a relief to be old, and no longer concerned about my appearance. Not true. I care. I want to always care. How I look on the outside impacts how I feel about myself. This has always been true, and in the past, it was often in a negative way. I never even felt pretty until I turned sixty. But surprisingly I found I liked my sixty-year-old looks. And at 65, I feel quite beautiful. That’s such a lovely feeling. I’m keeping it. I don’t want to look like an old woman trying desperately to be young. But I will be a beautiful old woman, with good hair and makeup and carefully chosen clothes.
I want to be a smart old woman. I’ll stay interested in politics and the environment and literature and the arts. My father suffered from mild dementia late in life, and I recognize that could happen to me too. If it does, I hope people will be as kind to me as they were to my dad. Maybe I will at least be lucky enough to stay smart in something. My father could still follow the football game. If I can still read a book, I will be happy enough.
Some people tell me they look forward to the freedom to be outspoken. But I come from a long line of non-boat rockers. (Or is it boat non-rockers?) Either way, I’m not sure I would be happy as a crotchety old lady. I like being a nice person. I don’t even have a resting bitch-face.
But I do think I will let go of caring so much what other people think of me. I have long been distressed when I find someone doesn’t like me. Even to be disagreed with is tragic to me. But I am well on my way to getting past it. Right now I am working with someone who very obviously dislikes me. And you know what? It doesn’t matter that much. I don’t have to win her over.
I do want, however, to ask for what I want. As a boat non-rocker, I have always had a difficult time expressing my desires. I always do what everyone else wants to do. I’ve acquiesced so long it’s hard to even know what I want. I remember back in 1976 – forty years ago. I was 25 and Dorothy Hamill had charmed the country at the Winter Olympics. I very badly coveted her hairdo. I went to the salon, and the hairdresser said, “How about if I give you a Dorothy Hamill haircut?” And I said, “I don’t know. I’m not sure I’d look good in that style,” and he cut my hair differently. Differently and Badly. What the hell was wrong with me? This guy was offering me exactly what I wanted, and I turned it down? That stupid little incident haunts me. And I have not changed much. I can’t tell my friends what restaurant I want to go to. I can’t tell my boss that I deserve a raise. I can’t tell my husband what I want for my birthday.
I want to hug and kiss everyone more. I’m a very restrained person. I love my family and friends, but it is difficult for me to be openly demonstrative. But these last few months I’ve changed my mind. It’s my puppy. I love to hug him. He loves me to hug him. Shit, if a dog feels that way, imagine human beings. We all need affection. I’m giving it. I was at a family party this weekend, and I went around the house and hugged and kissed everyone there. I kissed my sisters. Do you know how long it has been since I kissed my sisters? I am going to kiss them all the time.
I’ve been writing this blog for 4 1/2 years. If it’s a waste of time, it’s the best waste of time ever. Does it take me away from working more on my second novel? Yes. Writing a novel is so solitary. And I am a solitary person by nature. So I love that. But my blog is social. I write and people respond. It’s like getting hugs back. I need that too.
And about my blog: every year on my birthday, I post a new photo. Unretouched. (Although I’m tempted.) But I want to show people – especially younger people – that being old is not so bad.
In fact it’s pretty good.
P.S. Hubby, I want a new iPhone for my birthday.
With another birthday fast approaching, I thought I’d share this old post written way back in 2011.
THE HISTORY OF LIPSTICK – CHAPTER ONE
I wore lipstick on Easter Sunday, 1963. I was twelve.
In 1963, twelve was young for lipstick. None of my classmates were allowed. Only the grown-up girls. The eighth graders.
But that was the point. I had older sisters. I needed to be a teenager long before I was one.
My lipstick was pink. “Pink Cameo”, I think, from Cutex.
This was Jackie Kennedy’s shade, or so I had read.
I bought it at McClelland’s Five and Ten for 39 cents. My first makeup purchase.
The makeup aisle at McClelland’s did not have all the makeup hanging from hooks, like stores today. Instead were long tables, with cubes holding the different products and brands: Maybelline, Cutex, Helen Rubenstein.
From the time I was nine, I had visited that table weekly, transfixed. How I coveted all those little tubes and compacts. I waited for the day when I could spend my allowance here, rather than at the candy counter.
I didn’t buy Pink Cameo on the sly. I had my mother’s permission. My mother was, and still is, wise. She knew I was heartbroken that my sisters were teenagers. And lipstick was a small consolation.
My mother didn’t worry. I looked like this:
Sort of a vacuous Anne Frank, with stupider hair. Pink Cameo wouldn’t make the older boys start hanging around my front yard.
And so I wore lipstick on Easter Sunday, 1963. I sang in the church choir. “Alleluia” – a skinny flat-chested daydreamer with bright pink lips.
Ten months later I turned into a teenager. The Beatles sang on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 – my thirteenth birthday.
I still love The Beatles. I still love lipstick.
Last week I learned that there is a very fine line between resonating with folks and touching a nerve.
My essay about judging your kids caused quite an uproar.
Interesting to me was the difference in reaction depending on the source of the reader.
The people who read my blog on The Huffington Post were overwhelmingly negative. It seems that The HuffPost reader is a tad sensitive on whether I have the right to judge their kids (and their parenting) – without children of my own. Which actually was the whole point. I don’t think it’s fair to exclude me from commenting on how your children behave – when they are behaving in my presence. Or to say that I know nothing about parenting since I do not have children of my own.
No, I don’t have children. I am sorry that I don’t. I wish I did. You don’t always get everything you want in life. So I have to make do with enjoying and loving your children.
And I do.
But I also think that many kids could benefit from a more strenuous instruction in and enforcement of good manners.
But that doesn’t mean I hate kids. Or expect them to be perfect. For the last 40 years, I’ve had nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews, and I’ve seen my friends’ children grow up and have children of their own.
I know that all kids can be both little angels and little demons – often within the same minute. I also know that it’s difficult to be a good parent, and most folks are just doing the best they can. My sister-in-law commented that during the kindergarten years she wasn’t too concerned about whether her kids were hitting their classmates – she was just happy they weren’t biting their classmates.
I didn’t think I was nasty in my essay. I thought I was rather understanding. But hundreds of folks over at the Huffington Post thought I was an evil, rotten monster-bitch to even suggest that, overall, kids should behave. One even found my Facebook Author Page and called me some vile names. Now HuffPost is an open forum, and people can say whatever they wish. But my Facebook page is MY page. I require civility.
On the upside, the response may have been overwhelmingly negative, but then again, it was also just plain overwhelming. People read what I wrote. I’m a writer. I got read. Doesn’t get much better than that.
But actually, it does.
Because you amazing people who read my blog were overwhelmingly positive.
I believe the difference between your reaction and the Huffington reaction is that you KNOW me. You’ve read a few of my essays; you see that I am not a mean person. I’m a kind person. I look for the best in human beings. And I find it. Always.
Some people (including the special one I live with) tell me that I am naive. That I can be oblivious to the awful people and the horrible dangers that constantly surround me.
But I’m not naive. I understand that not everyone is benevolent.
But most people are.
Good people are everywhere. And if I concentrate on good people, it helps me be a good person too.
I believe I am a happier person than those who look for the worst in humanity. And why wouldn’t I want to be happy?
Thank you, good friends, for understanding me.