The Lady Of The House

postcard-westchester-county-new-york

We have arrived!

By the time our daughter was born, it was obvious that our little garden apartment could no longer contain us. We’d shoved her crib into her big brother’s room, and wedged her changing table in a corner next the closet (the door of which could no longer enjoyed its full range of motion).  Her dresser was in the kitchen. We were bursting at the seams.

So, after scraping together every nickel and cashing out our paltry investments (like our 75-cents worth of Disney stock), we managed to buy our first house in the suburbs. In Westchester County, no less (the Shangri-La of suburban New York State).

Oh, we had arrived!

There were, however, some weird moments during those early days.

Before we moved in,  we had the whole place painted and the hardwood floors resurfaced. Once, when I showed up to check on the progress, the painter greeted me with, “You must be the lady of the house.” It seems absurd, but I really didn’t understand the question. I stood there, mouth agape. He tried again, “Are you the homeowner?”

“Who me?” Then, as if a hypnotist snapped his fingers in front of my face, I woke up. “Why, yes. Yes! I am the homeowner!”

Homeowner. Such a glorious word! It stirred up such a sense of security, such pride. But it was still so new, it hadn’t fully sunk in.

Finally, it was move-in day and I began unpacking.

Some of our toiletries were too tall to fit in the medicine cabinet, so I set them aside and considered buying a bathroom storage piece of some sort. Two days later (two!), it occurred to me that I was allowed to adjust the medicine cabinet shelves because I owned that medicine cabinet and the wall it was attached to, and every other wall surrounding it.

But the weirdness didn’t stop there. My voice was changing. I caught myself speaking from the back of my throat through clenched teeth, “Kids! We’re going to Bed Bath & Beyond for home décor!” Here in Westchester, we call this affectation “Larchmont Lockjaw,” (think: Lovey and Thurston Howell, III, from Gilligan’s Island)

What the hell was happening to me? “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” said my inner voice. “You haven’t been coronated! All you did was buy a house, ya crazy bee-otch!”

But it was hard to resist. I was feeling so high, so grand! I’d always dreamt of owning; I watched all those “interior design on a dime” shows, I read Martha Stewart Living magazine, and I kept a scrapbook of paint colors and garden layouts… Oh, we hadn’t just bought a house. We bought a dream. And we were the perfect American family: Mommy, Daddy, Son and Daughter. Now all we needed was a dog and a second car. A minivan! But those things would have to wait, since we’d sunk our last sou into our new abode.

At some point, I pulled myself together and came to my senses. It might have been on that third day after moving in when my husband took a bedtime bath.

In the morning, we discovered that the tub leaked. Water poured through a light fixture in the kitchen, collapsing part of the freshly painted ceiling onto the newly refinished floor.

Or maybe it was around Christmas when a chimney sweep called, claiming to have worked for the previous owner. Since this was my first rodeo, I let him come and he scammed me out of $1200.

Or it could have been the time the skylights sprung a leak turning my family room into a tropical rainforest, soaking our brand new furniture.

Ah yes, homeownership is a dream many of us aspire to. But only the strong survive when the shizzle gets real.

All in all, that house was very good to us. We stayed there for six years and, through all of it, I was so happy. Some nights I’d stand out front gazing at it; its forest green shutters and bright white cedar shakes, the house number plaque I’d custom ordered from LL Bean, light streaming through the gauzy curtains of our dining room… On those nights, I wished my arms were long enough to wrap around and hug it, for it wasn’t just our house. It was our home.

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What’d You Call Me?

My name is WHAT?

My name is WHAT?

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In the Old Testament, God sent Adam out to name all the animals. He came up with things like, dog, cat, hippopotamus – which is a lot of syllables for a guy who was just created. Kudos!

Even so, people names can be a bit trickier because, let’s face it, a hippo can’t grow up to tell his therapist how much he’s always hated his name.

Which is why names can be a very sensitive subject.

But names are also highly suggestive.

How many times have you encountered a written name (with no other information, no context) and found yourself conjuring up an image or assumption about the person who carries it? Wait…you don’t think you do that? Really? OK, let’s play a game. I’ll give you a list of names and you see if you don’t paint a mental picture of the bearer (no matter how hard you try not to). Ready? Here we go:

Jessica

Eunice

Armando

Sheldon

I predict you envisioned Jessica as a beautiful young woman, probably with flowing hair. She is tall and lithe, with perky boobs.

Eunice is older, she’s wearing glasses, a tweed skirt, possibly support hose and extremely sensible shoes. She talks through her nose (sorry, Eunice).

Armando is a sexy suave European with his sport coat thrown over his shoulder and a scotch-on-the-rocks in his free hand. His gaze is smoldering.

Sheldon, in his white socks, Hushpuppy Oxfords and chinos is sitting in a messy office balancing his clients’ books.

I apologize to Shel as well, but you see what I mean?

This is why some expectant parents torture themselves over the naming of their children. I’ve known people who will not divulge a name they’re considering because, invariably, someone will urinate all over it:

“Katrina? My best friend was named Katrina! She used to pick her nose and eat it.”…“You’re gonna name your kid Luke? Why?”

 …and so on.

Then there are those who are not expecting but have picked names for possible future offspring (that they may or may not ever have) as a way of calling “dibbsies” on their friends and family. I’ve even heard of siblings and cousins competing to get pregnant first so they can “score” a coveted family name. It’s like a twisted pregnancy lottery.

When we were thinking about names during my first pregnancy, we were advised to give each one the “playground test” which means: don’t use any name unless you can comfortably call it out without incident (so “Fire” would be an obvious bad choice), or embarrassment:

“Caesar? Caesar! Caligula Caesar!!! Leave that kid alone! C’mere, honey. Mommy’s got Sunny D!”

“Who’s gonna mess with a kid named Buzz?”

Hubby and I wanted a name that was a little unique, but nothing outlandish. So that’s the kind of name we bestowed on our baby boy. What we didn’t expect was that he’d go through a phase of hating it. I found this out when I learned he was using an alias at day camp.  He was six.  Really, he should be thanking us, because we were seriously considering the name Crispin until we found out St. Crispin is the patron saint of shoes. Why would shoes need a patron saint? They don’t have souls. Oh, hey, wait a minute…

When people tell me the names they’re planning to use, I try not react. I know a woman who is planning to name her boy Buzz, when he’s born this summer. I can’t lie. My first reaction was, “Buzz? For real?” But then I mulled it over a little. “Buzz. Buzz. Buzz!” The more I said it, the more I liked it. In fact, I think I love it. It’s a good, strong, masculine name! Who’s gonna mess with a guy named “Buzz”? It worked for Buzz Aldren (and didn’t hurt Buzz Lightyear either, for that matter).

So that got me thinking about other names, and I began to feel a little ashamed of myself. When Gwyneth Paltro named her daughter “Apple,” I thought it was a marginal form of child abuse. But now I say, “Why not?!” People, especially girls, are named after objects all the time: Rose, Ivy, Peaches…Peaches! So why not Apple? I guess, maybe you just don’t want your kid to be Bananas.

Matzo Ball Soup

(Don’t miss out on additional content. Listen to Matzo Ball Soup on SNORK, the podcast! Click Here!http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/d/e/a/dea34392b8dc86b6/Snork_Episode02.mp3?c_id=8785619&expiration=1429239792&hwt=2d30163003d047fd2e16267ba1170c58)

In the Spring of 1990, Easter and Passover landed on the same weekend. It just so happened, that was also the weekend I chose to bring my boyfriend home to meet my family. Since we are Catholic and he is Jewish, I thought why don’t I surprise him and make matzo ball soup with Easter dinner?!

I had never made it before and, truth be told, I’d never eaten it before either. But, I figured, it’s soup. How hard could it be?

Since I wanted to make a good impression, I called his mother and asked for her recipe.

“Manischewitz,” she said.

“Is that a cookbook?” I asked her

“No, no,” she said. “It’s a brand. It comes in a box. From the supermarket.”

“Oh,” I said. “But I kind of wanted to make your recipe. The one he grew up with.”

“Manischewitz,” she repeated. “Just throw some fresh chopped parsley in there. It makes it look more homemade.”

So, I went to the store to find the mix. The package claimed that one box made nine servings: a cup of broth and one matzo ball each.

This was perfect because 18 people were coming for dinner. I bought two boxes. Following the directions, I prepared the matzo meal, but when I rolled out the balls, they were as small as walnuts – miniscule.

I would be embarrassed to offer such a puny portion to my boyfriend. So, I went back to the store and bought two more boxes, then combined all the matzo meal and doubled the size of the balls. They still looked small to me, but it was actually better that way. I wouldn’t want everyone to fill up on soup, since my mother was cooking a huge ham. As you may have guessed, I hadn’t fully thought things through, menu-wise.

Once the balls were done, I carefully dropped them into the prepared broth. As per the package instructed, I covered it tightly.

While waiting for the soup to cook, I chopped the fresh parsley.

All this was going on at the same time that my family was getting to know my boyfriend. And by “getting to know” I mean “interrogating.”

After the soup was allowed to cook for the prescribed 20 minutes, I removed the lid.

It was like a David Copperfield trick. All of the broth, ever last drop, had disappeared. And each matzo ball had magically transformed into blobs the size of a grapefruit! But it was too late to start over. My mother had called everyone in to dinner and they were already seated. So I had to serve it.

Sinker!

To make matters worse, my mothers fancy china came with dainty little soup bowls. I could barely fit one ball in each.

My sister came into the kitchen to help me serve. She looked at one of the bowls, looked in the pot and asked, “What the hell are these?”

“Knock it off” I snapped. “They’re matzo balls, of course. What do they look like?”

“Grapefruits,” she replied.

“Never mind, just bring them out,” I said, as I hit each bowl with a few sprinkles of parsley. Oh, yeah. That parsley made all the difference. They looked homemade all right. Homemade by a shiksa who can’t follow directions from a box of soup mix.

My boyfriend looked at his bowl and I knew that he knew that I knew I’d screwed up. And then he said, “Sinkers! My favorite! These are just the way my mother made them.”

Now what do you do with a guy who’d tell such a sweet lie. You marry him of course. And that’s just what I did.

Give Them Love

For many, the holidays are a time of rejoicing, of abundance, and of feasting. But it can be the most difficult time of the year for many others. This SNORK is a public service announcement, dedicated to shining a light on a group of people who are often mocked, marginalized, and misunderstood. I am, of course, referring to vegans.

Oh, I can just hear you: “Who me? Why, some of my best friends are vegans!”

Please don’t try to defend yourself. I’ve seen it first-hand; the way people roll their eyes when someone announces their veganism. I’ve heard, “Well, I’d invite so-and-so to the dinner party, but have you ever tried cooking for a vegan? It’s a pain in the ass!”

I can tell you what it’s like from both perspectives because I, too, was once one of them.

It all happened very suddenly. I was working out at the gym one day, when my trainer handed me a copy Skinny Bitch. His message, while as subtle as a blood-curdling scream, was not lost on me. By the time I finished reading it, I was so repulsed by the thought of food, any food, that I ate nothing but organic strawberries for the next three days. I won’t go into details here, but if you’ve read it, you know what I mean.

So, just like that, without forethought, I made a drastic and life-changing decision. This was not a bright idea, by the way. It’s probably better to put a little planning into something that dramatic, but no – not me! I jumped right in. Hindsight might suggest that I was actually pushed into it by an over-enthusiastic 19-year-old trainer with less than 4% body fat, but I bear no ill will against him (and may he blow up like a balloon when he hits the age of 40). Anyway…

The first step toward my new lifestyle was to drive to Whole Foods and purchase about a trillion dollars worth of groceries marked “vegan.” Whole Foods makes it all so easy by clearly tagging vegan-friendly products. No pesky label reading for this girl. Thank you Whole Foods.

The next step was to eat the food identified as “vegan.” This was a little trickier than purchasing it. For example, there is a phenomenon known as “vegan cheese.” Now, if you have had a lifelong love affair with all things dairy, this rubbery impostor will make you cry real tears. I searched the web for the most recommended brands, bought them all, tested them in a variety of recipes and decided I’d rather go without than try to fool myself into believing this crap was cheese (or even food, for that matter).

After a few weeks, two things became obvious:

  1. The vegan foods from the supermarket are so highly processed, you may as well eat a Big Mac (no offense Mickey D), and
  2. Whenever mealtime rolled around, I wanted to curl into the fetal position. You see, preparing food was becoming a much bigger chore since my carnivorous days…so much so, in fact, that I hated eating.

Now this should alarm you. Here I was, a healthy American-Italian-Armenian (translation: unabashed food lover) and I did not want to eat. My meals became repetitive and uninspired. Breakfast: oatmeal with berries and almond milk. Lunch: peanut butter on apples or bananas. Dinner: sautéed vegetables with rice and beans, and a salad. Zzzzzzz…

I should mention that during this time, I did not force my family to get on board. Hubby and the kids were still enjoying omnivore cuisine. I would cook for them without ever feeling the least bit resentful as I listened to sunny-side-up eggs popping and squeaking in the frying pan. I did not once growl or grimace as I coated precious, tender lamb chops with my own concoction of mint, garlic, onions and lemon and then smelled their heavenly aroma as they sizzled upon the grill. Oh, no! I was more than happy to do it, while my rice was boiling on the stove.

You had me at ‘mallow.

I should also mention that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t so much fun to be around during my vegan adventure. As a result, my kids went from being normal teenagers to becoming food pushers: “Hey mom, you gotta try this provolone!” Or, “Tonight would be a great night for s’mores! Whaddya say?” They were desperate because I was becoming a real drag, a chronic cranky pants, to be exact. But I remained steadfast (against my own instincts). Oh, and are you surprised that vegans can’t have s’mores? Well, chocolate has milk in it and marshmallows (my kryptonite) are made with gelatin, which comes from pigs. So cross those off the list, along with every other delicious thing you can possibly think of.

Something else that I longed for was dining out. So hubby took me to a local Mexican restaurant and assured me there must be something on the menu that I could eat. Of course, I asked all the pertinent vegan questions to make sure there was not a hint of the verboten in my meal. After I sufficiently interrogated the waiter, I ordered a vegetable burrito (which was not on the menu, so I explained how to make one). When my dinner arrived, it was essentially under-cooked broccoli, with a few carrot slivers, wrapped in a tortilla. I just looked at it, sighed and drank my meat-free water. Misery.

And then, the moment I dreaded the most…we were invited to a Christmas party – a Christmas dinner party. I gave my husband strict instructions not to tell anyone I was a vegan. I did not want to be one of those preachy, demanding people with “dietary issues.” Surely I could navigate the meal by eating side dishes, after nonchalantly asking about their ingredients: “Wow, those Brussels sprouts look super tasty! What’s in them? Oh, bacon? Like real bacon or those soy bacon bits? Oh, real bacon. Ohhh.” Curse you, real bacon! And of course I could always fall back on the salad, and perhaps have some salad and maybe take a little salad. God help me if the hostess got creative by adding cheese to it.

That first party went off without a hitch. No one was the wiser. But the second soiree took a nasty turn. While performing my new skill of undercover food detective, I was able to ascertain which items on the table were OK and which were off-limits. But something must have had a hidden criminal element in it, such as chicken broth or perhaps butter. How do I know? Because when I got home, I was sicker than sick. It was the kind of sick that makes you fear you might die, and then fear that you might not. I had passed up the gorgeous beef Wellington, skipped the creamy mashed potatoes, and ignored the luscious cheesecake only to be taken down by the wild rice or some frigging yams! Unbeknownst to me, when you give up animal product for any length of time and then eat it again, your body holds a clearance sale: Everything Must Go!

Yet I still wasn’t willing to give up. Why? Truth be told, I never felt physically better in my life (with the exception of the aforementioned “incident”). Gone was the arthritis pain in my knee. No more belly bloat. No more general malaise. Psychologically, however, I was feeling pretty damn sorry for myself. But, life is full of trade-offs. Right? Certainly I would get used to this new way of eating. Right? People, I do not have what it takes to make a successful martyr. Sorry. No can do.

But here’s what finally tipped the scales and put me back on the meat wagon…my old pal, Whole Foods.

Each November, Whole Foods publishes a holiday menu full of catering fare. I always have at least 30 people for holiday dinners and, handy though I may be in the kitchen, I am not equipped to run a banquet hall. So I’ve always turned to Whole Foods for an assist. Basically I order the same things every year: one shrimp cocktail platter that serves 12 (if you show up late, you’re out of luck, my friend), an assorted crudité platter that serves 24, one Brie en croute that serves up to 10, and a double order of their turkey dinner for 8 (which consists of two turkeys and various sides). While flipping through the menu in search of additional dishes to round out the meal, I saw it. There it was, on page 10…the saddest thing you can imagine, especially during the holidays. Among the sumptuous offerings of “Rib Roast Dinner for 8” and “Roasted Pork Loin for 4” was “Vegan Dinner…for 1.”

One is the loneliest number.

One is the loneliest number.

In that moment, it all came into focus. I was alone. I was dinner for one. And, bloat be damned, I was hungry for cheese. Glorious, glorious cheese! And marshmallows. Real marshmallows made from Porky Pig! And wild salmon! And beef! I broke down is a puddle of my own wanton desire. It was not pretty, but it was bound to happen.

Therefore, when I say to you, “vegans need love,” I know what I’m talking about. So, the next time you meet one, or have to cook for one, or have to eat with one, keep an open mind. Do not judge. Do not mock. Instead, open your arms and give that skinny bitch a hug.

 

5 Steps To Being The Perfect Houseguest

The holidays are just around the corner, and for many of us, they involve traveling. Will you be bunking at someone’s home? Are you wondering if you need a refresher course on houseguest etiquette? Well, today’s your lucky day! Not only do I travel quite a bit, I’m also an innkeeper of sorts, since my house happens to be a popular lodging spot for out-of-town family and friends. With the benefit of all this knowledge, I’ve put together a room-by-room, 5-step guide on how to be the perfect houseguest. No need to thank me. I consider it a public service. Now, pack your bags and let’s begin our journey…

#5. The Front Door (Don’t be cheap)

We all know you should never show up empty-handed to a dinner party. But did you know that when you’re a houseguest, your arms should be so loaded that you have to ring the doorbell with your nose? Its true!

What should you bring? Well, if your hosts don’t have small children, then it’s appropriate to bring something for the house such as a bottle of wine, fine chocolates, a gourmet food basket, a Vitamix Professional Series 750… Sometimes people bring a more personal gift, strictly for the hostess, something like a bath set consisting of expensive shower gel, body scrub, body lotion, perfume and body oil in the Bobbi Brown Beach fragrance, or anything from the Fresh brand of products (available at Sephora), or jewels. You know…stuff like that will surely be appreciated. And no, I am not hinting here at all. I swear!

If your hosts have children, you must, must, must bring something for them! It’s important to be on the children’s good side if you have any hopes of enjoying your stay. For children in the baby/toddler stages, you can bring a cute outfit. If they’re older, nothing but toys will do. A five-year-old welcomes a sensible sweater only slightly more than a poke in the eye. And choose that toy wisely, or you might end up with mashed potatoes in your shoes or “short sheets” on the bed. Which brings us to…

#4. The Bedroom (Don’t be a slob)

Whether your hosts give you a spacious annex with a king-size bed (a/k/a The Presidential Bungalow) or stick you on an air mattress in the basement next to the washing machine (a/k/a The Bob Cratchit Suite), know that:
a. it’s the best they have to offer
b. they’re saving you a bundle on hotels
c. beggars can’t be choosers

Regardless of where you end up, you will coo, “This is perfect! Thank you so much!”

While occupying that space, you should make the bed every morning. Yup, you heard me. Show some respect for your host by keeping your room tidy. And put your clothes away. If you don’t have a closet or dresser in which to put your garments, then contain everything to your suitcase. You wouldn’t want your host tripping over your stuff if she needs to go into your room for some totally innocent reason…not for snooping, naturally.

And for god’s sake do not put your wet towels on the furniture!!!! Moisture and wood go together like pancakes and nail polish remover, while wet towels and mattresses make for musty bedfellows. Hang them in the bathroom.

At the end of your stay, ask for clean sheets so you can strip and remake the bed. You should then deposit your used linens and towels in the laundry room. Make your mother proud by taking this added work off your hosts’ shoulders. Assuming they are hospitable, they’ve probably done enough for you already. And if you’ve been under their roof for more than three days, you might already be pushing your luck. So this small gesture will be warmly welcomed.

#3. The Bathroom (Don’t be disgusting)

The potential for grossness resides no place more intensely than in the bathroom. If you have the luxury of a private bath, you have a little more latitude, but don’t get carried away. This is not carte blanche to leave globs of hair gel all over the floor or neglect to flush (I’ve seen it all.). At some point, someone will have to clean that bathroom. Don’t make them hate you. I’m serious!

If you have to share the bathroom with your host’s family or other guests, you must be even more diligent. Vanities and countertops should not be littered with your junk. Pack a toiletries kit and take it with you when you enter and exit. Capice?

If something has “happened” and the “situation” requires you to scrub the toilet, please do so – including under the rim and seat. Not kidding. I see no need to plunge any deeper into this subject. I’m sure you get the picture, and I will spare you by not posting one as an example. You’re welcome.

The best way to be sure you’re doing the bathroom thing correctly is to make a game out of it. Think of it as a crime scene and you are the perp. Before making your getaway, remove any DNA evidence that could place you in that room – rinse your toothpaste out of the sink, wipe off the counters, look for stray hairs…

And while we’re on the subject of hair, let’s get something straight: unless a hair is attached to a human body, it is gag-worthy. Following your daily ablutions, look around. Ladies, are your lush locks adorning the shower walls? Gents, did you leave the bar of soap looking like a Chia Pet? Are your follicles in the sink or on the floor? They are? Excuse me for a moment while I retch.

If you’ve used a water glass while brushing your teeth, please return it to…

#2. The Kitchen (Get out and stay out)

The kitchen is the heart of a house, and while it may be the place where everyone gathers, remember that it is also sacrosanct to the person who owns it. I don’t know any serious cook (male or female) who is not possessive and controlling when it comes to his or her kitchen. So don’t insinuate yourself there.

If you’d like to repay your hosts by treating them to a meal, take them out to dinner or pick up some take-out. If you’re unwilling to do either, I’m wondering how you got invited in the first place. But if you are that kind of houseguest, there are other ways to repay someone for their hospitality without opening your moth-infested wallet: offer to help make the salad, set the table, fill the water glasses or take out the garbage. If you are incapable of performing any of those tasks, please lose my number.

But let’s say you’re pretty handy in the kitchen and think that your hosts will be overjoyed if you surprise them by whipping up a meal without their permission – you envision their wide-eyed gratitude when they wake up to the smell of a gruyere frittata in the oven, bacon crackling in a pan on the stove, coffee perking away…

STOP! This scenario only plays out successfully in the movies. Why? Because on a movie set, a trained chef is baking that frittata in something other than the host’s prized $300 professional-grade skillet that no one is allowed to touch (or even gaze upon), and an entire crew is busy wiping grease from the stovetop, sweeping crumbs off the floor, polishing surfaces, etc. In the movies, when the hosts glide into the kitchen (looking artfully tousled and rosy-cheeked), the table is laid with fresh-squeezed juice, a gentle curl of steam wafts off a basket of hot fluffy muffins, the pinkest of pink grapefruits gleam in the sunlight and, most importantly, there is not a dirty dish, or a crumb, nor a smear anywhere in sight.

Here's what you envisioned.

Here’s what you envisioned.

Now, here’s what happens in real life: Your hosts stumble into the kitchen, hung-over from the night before. They are visibly annoyed that someone has roused them at an ungodly hour by slamming cabinets and clanging cookware. And as they peer through their half-opened, puffy eyes, they see is that you have violated their space. You’ve used the sacred skillet. You’ve cut the grapefruit directly on their $11,000 limestone countertop (the acid of which has left an indelible scar – not to mention the deep gash from the once perfectly-honed knife that you have forever ruined), everything is covered in a layer of sticky, and to top it all off, they don’t even like frittata. Grateful? That won’t be the first word that pops into their heads.

Here's what you delivered.

Here’s what you delivered.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let me tell you a little story…

There once was a woman, from New Jersey, who had her kitchen completely remodeled (let’s call her Martha). To show it off, she decided to throw a bridal shower for her niece. During the party, one of the guests (who we’ll call Nimrod) took a metal meat mallet to a bag of ice, smashing it on the brand new granite countertops (granite which Martha personally and lovingly selected on a road trip to a quaint little quarry deep in the heart of Vermont). We all suspected something was wrong with Nimrod, as she kept announcing having “to pee” about every 10 minutes. Turns out, she was neither pregnant nor diabetic. Instead, Nimrod was sneaking off to shove cocaine up her nose – giving new meaning to “visiting the powder room.” While that might explain her moronic and potentially calamitous maneuver, it certainly does not excuse it. And that bring us to…

#1. All Remaining Rooms of the House (Don’t be a hot mess)

If you cannot control your liquor, then by all means, lay off the sauce while you’re a guest in someone else’s house. And I think it goes without saying that you should leave all your bongs, ghanja, ruffles, etc. at home as well.

5/20/2007 4:55 PM

If you keep your head on straight, chances are excellent that you will not break anything, throw up on the heirloom Oriental, cause a lot of commotion by getting arrested, or spoil everyone’s good time by requiring CPR during your stay. After all, you want to be invited back, don’t you?

That’s all there is to it, friends. Follow my 5 simple rules and you’ll be the kind of guest that everyone will be fighting over (No, I want her to stay with me!), rather than the one everyone will be fighting over (She still has not reimbursed me for that bail money!)

As Gandhi probably should have said, but didn’t, “Be the guest you want to see in your own house.” And…um…don’t forget that Vitamix.

Related article: Giving & Thanking, A Modern Guide To Thanksgiving Etiquette

Fluffy Got A Brazilian

Throughout history, hair has gotten a lot of attention. Entire books have been devoted to the subject, it is the stuff of legends and lore (Lady Godiva or Samson, anyone?) and pretty much every American parent has made a big deal of their child’s first haircut.Norman Rockwell's First Trip To The Beauty Shop

My own daughter’s first trim was at the hands of a five-year-old boy who lived across the street. I still have the curls and the story (which I might tell you some other time).

Certain religions and cultures have extremely strict rules about whether locks can be shown or shorn. In fact, fringe groups have used hair as a means to commit hate crimes on others – such as the scandalous and bizarre Amish haircutting attacks in Ohio.

There are some pretty weird old wives’ tales about hair, too: Never cut your hair when you’re pregnant. Eating bread crust will make your hair curly. Redheads are a handful! (Full disclosure: I think that one might have some merit, although you can’t believe everything you read about Lindsay Lohan or Prince Harry.)

So with all this import placed on hair, it stands to reason that, when we find good hairdressers, we stick with them. My own stylist, Frederic, was fresh from Paris when I met him. In fact, he could barely speak English and I was one of his very first clients in the United States. I remained faithful to him for over 14 years, even though I knew he was regularly running his fingers through other women’s hair. We no longer see each other because, somewhere along the line, he became a huge success. His haircuts, which I thought were steep at $65 back in the 1990’s, gradually escalated to cost many hundreds of dollars. I do love my hair, and Frederic, but a girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere. So I bravely put my head in others’ hands until I found love again (thank you Amy & Barbara!).

I feel the same way about my dog’s groomer. Donna loves Fluffy and is wonderful with her. Fluffy adores Donna, too and her dog Santos. Her romantic attachment to Santos is an added perk to being primped. So, when Fluffy needs sprucing, Donna is our go-to gal.

However, once while on vacation, Fluffy had a grooming emergency. I won’t embarrass her by giving away the details, but let’s just say there was an “incident” that may, or may not, have involved another dog…a much, much taller dog…with either the very best or the very worst aim imaginable (depending on your perspective). Anyway, we had to take care of our girl and time was of the essence. So we took her to a pet store chain that offers salon services.

When we arrived, they provided us with a list of options. We sprung for the “full-service,” which included bath, cut, blow-dry, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. Nowhere, nowhere on that list did the words Bikini Wax appear! And why should they? In the first place, dogs don’t wear bikinis.

In the second place, I can’t imagine, for the life of me, how one would execute such a treatment on a canine. Yet when we retrieved her, her poor little hoo-hah was completely bare-nekked. And I mean completely. Having never been so denuded before, she was unaccustomed to the feeling of air whooshing around her private puppy parts. It was traumatizing for her. As a result, she did not want to walk, stand, or assume any position that allowed her nethers to be exposed to the elements.

Until things got back to normal, we had to take her for “carries” rather than walks. Thank goodness her hair grows fast.

That misadventure taught us a few lessons that I will share with you now:

  1. Buyer beware! Always ask specifically what you’re getting when visiting a groomer.
  1. When you find a groomer whom both you and your pup are comfortable with, do not go exploring for greener grass — which brings us to…
  1. That grass over there by that Great Dane may seem greener, but don’t go anywhere near there. Trust me.

Does this haircut make my head look big?

 

Dirty Green

Eco-friendly living can’t be fluffed off as a passing fancy anymore. These days, it is considered a full-on lifestyle. There are, however, different levels of commitment to green living. From my experience, there seem to be three categories that most people fall into. Since it’s Earth Day, let’s have a look, shall we?

Light Green:

Light Green people are those who haven’t fully committed to green living, but they feel they’re making an effort, and a difference.

Light Greens drive hybrid cars, they recycle and they won’t run a dishwasher unless it’s full. However, their kids leave lights on all over the house and their air conditioning runs without interruption from May to September.

My family is Light Green. I’ve tried to make us greener, but some things just won’t fly. For example, I put a moratorium on paper towel use. Everybody had a fit, but I remained steadfast. I bought a boatload of ShamWow cloths (as seen on TV) and instructed my family to use them in place of paper towels. Then one day, my husband hired a cleaning company to give the inside of our barn a good going over. When the crew arrived, they explained that they didn’t bring rags (I know, it’s a head-scratcher). So my husband gave them all of my ShamWows and they never gave them back. I think the whole thing was a set-up, but I’ve never been able to prove it.

Deep Green:

Deep Green people are serious about the eco-friendly lifestyle. They do it properly and without fanfare.

My friends Christian and Debra exemplify the Deep Green couple. They both drive hybrids (hers plugs in), they built their house with sustainable materials, chose a floor plan designed to maximize the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems, they have solar panels on their the roof (I’ve watched their electric meter run backwards as they add energy to the grid) and they belong to an organic food co-op. Incidentally, they are both very attractive (which may or may not have anything to do with their lifestyle, but I just thought I’d mention it).

Here’s the best part about Debra and Christian: they don’t cram their philosophy down anybody else’s throat and they don’t think being green makes them “special.” It’s just the way they live. If you want to ask them about it, they will happily discuss how and why they do what they do. Otherwise, they have plenty of other interesting things to talk about.

Dirty Green

Perhaps the most confounding of all green groups are those I classify as Dirty Green.

Dirty Greens are the most vocal about pollution, filth and the decay of our environment. Yet, their homes are smelly, sticky, greasy and grimy. Why? They don’t “believe” in cleaning products. Huh? They also do not “believe” in shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Who knew there was dogma attached to shampoo?

Dirty Greens are to be avoided at social gatherings and are never to be invited as houseguests. At parties, they will take time out from harassing the hostess about using disposable tableware, to corner you with a  lecture about global warming. The first thing they’ll do is ask you what you drive. Unless you say “a horse and buggy” or “I walk everywhere – barefoot,” you will play right into their clammy hands. Then they’ll grill you about your eco-related habits, and wince as you pop a pig-in-a-blanket in your mouth. “Do you have any idea what industrial pig farming is doing to the planet? Have you ever stopped to think about the sewage generated by a pig farm?! Do you have any idea what that thing is doing to your body? Don’t you care about consuming something so toxic to the environment?…”  Their comments, opinions, know-it-all-isms and unsolicited advice will be endless.

If a Dirty Green waylays you, here are two exit strategies: 1) Look at your watch and excuse yourself because it’s time to take your digestive enzymes, or 2) Pretend you don’t speak their language (which probably isn’t too far from the truth, in a manner of speaking).

As houseguests, they are a nightmare. They will bring their dog without asking. They will let it soil your lawn but not clean it up because “it’s good for the environment.” They do not flush toilets. They will bring their own food and refuse to eat any of your pasteurized, processed or farmed-raised groceries (basically everything you’ve bought in anticipation of their arrival). No matter how hard you try please them, you’ll be a loser. That quiche you whipped up, with organic cage-free eggs and whole-wheat crust, will fall short because you prepared the dough with hydrogenated Crisco. And you can forget about serving those gluten-free bagels unless you have wild-caught Pacific coast lox and dairy-free cream cheese (an oxymoron, if ever there was one).

Under the guise of a benevolent gesture, they will offer to do the cooking. Don’t fall into that trap, or you’ll be eating a mixture of brown rice, seaweed and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with kale juice to choke it all down. There is not enough Beano on the planet to handle the “pollution” that menu will produce.

Dirty Greens are full of beans!

Dirty Greens are full of beans!

By the time they go home, three things will have transpired: you will hate yourself for “poisoning” your children with name brand breakfast cereals; you will feel single-handedly responsible for punching a hole in the ozone because you dust with Pledge; you will be bloated.

I have a suspicion about the Dirty Greens. Does it seem to anybody else that they use ecology as a cover-up for bizarre food quirks, poor personal hygiene, and zero interest in housework? If they’re so concerned about cleaning up the environment, may I suggest they start with their own hair?

If you’re Light Green or Dirty Green, we’ve got plenty of room for improvement. Here are some tips…

–       Cleaning Products: There are hundreds of eco-friendly solutions on the market to make your house sparkle naturally. I like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products. They come in 13 fresh fragrances, are Earth-friendly, and are not tested on animals. Another great brand is Method. Both are reasonably priced and available at most supermarkets.

–       Household Supplies: The ideal is to create as little waste as possible, but if you haven’t mastered that yet, at least you can use the most biodegradable and recyclable products you can find. As part of their extensive, eco-friendly line, Seventh Generation offers recycled paper products like toilet paper, napkins, paper towel and trash bags.

–       Pet Care: You can pick up your dog’s poo (to the relief of your neighbors) and be green at the same time, with biodegradable dog waste bags. There are many brands available and they’re easy to find online. If you’d like your dog’s “business” to make a statement, PetOutSide makes waste bags in a variety of snazzy colors and jazzy prints. After all, why be dull?

–       Personal Care: If minimal packaging is what you’re looking for, a multi-tasking cleansing bar might be just the ticket. You can use it to wash yourself from head to toe. J.R. Liggett’s offers a variety of bars (including one for your dog!). Looking for a product that does even more? Nobody beats Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile soaps that will wash you hair, body, bathroom, laundry, car, etc. As for natural and organic deodorants and toothpastes, they are available at any health food store or pharmacy. Please, go explore those (I’m talking to you Dirty Greens).

This is just a short list of options to help you achieve a Deep Green lifestyle, without much ado or breaking your budget. And remember to recycle! If you’re unsure of your town’s recycling policies, call your local sanitation department. For general recycling guidelines, visit Recycle Now for lots of information and ideas.

Since today is designated to celebrate the mother ship, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to review your own efforts to respect and care for her. Leave a comment below and tell me: What shade of green are you?

A Perfect Pairing

Recently, my husband and I celebrated out 22nd wedding anniversary.  When people learn we’ve been married that long, they carry on with like we’ve just discovered the cure for psoriasis or something.  But to us, 22 years doesn’t seem like a big deal.  In fact, by our families’ standards, we are rookies.  Hubby’s paternal grandparents (who both lived into their 90’s)  celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.  My own parents have been united (unified?  unionized?) for just over 60 years.

My parents on their wedding day.

That’s a long time.  Can you imagine owning the same pair of gloves for over 60 years?  Now imagine belonging to another human being for that length of a time.

Lower those hackles, people!  I know, you winced at my use of the words “owning” and “belonging,” but just what do you think marriage is anyway?  I’ll explain: it is a contract…a binding one.  Breaking that contract is usually very difficult and extremely expensive.  If it weren’t such a big deal, it would be as easy to extricate oneself from a marriage as, say, a gym membership.  Oh, wait a minute…

Ok, let me rephrase that:  Even though it is easier to “uncouple” from your spouse than it was for me to part company with Equinox Fitness (a maddening story for another time), you should consider yourself “locked in” like a long-term mortgage.  And I mean this in the best of ways!

To celebrate our 22 years together, Hubby and I invited our friends Jonas and Vanessa to join us for dinner at a restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

What’s that you say?  You’ve never heard of it?  Those in the know simply refer to it as Stone Barns.  It’s one of those farm-to-table joints, and practically everything they serve comes from the fields, and the coops, or the pens.  There are no menus.  Instead, you’re given a little Field and Pasture booklet, which lists the things that are in season for every given month.  Then, you are offered two meal choices: “Grazing, Pecking and Rooting” which consists of many little plates (and I do mean many), or the “Farmer’s Feast,” which offers the same amount of food on fewer plates but with larger portions.   Both are designed around that day’s harvest.  Both selections can be ordered with food alone, or with wine pairings.

While mulling over our choices (the whole table must agree to have the same plan), Jonas and I ordered cocktails.  He wanted a cucumber martini, but was told cucumbers were out of season (they’re not faking it at Stone Barns).  I wished I had brought one with me.  Is that a cucumber in your evening bag, or are you just happy to order a martini?

After a brief confab, the four of us decided to be grazing peckers.  Since Jonas and I were already working on our cocktails, we two opted to graze with wine.  Then we nominated Hubby & Vanessa to be our designated drivers.  They agreed, and so our culinary adventure began.

While taking in the beautiful dining room, our first course arrived.  We were served, what looked like, four little maroon buttons.  Four.  Each one was about the size of a quarter.  They turned out to be beet jerky.  No, that is not a typo.  It was jerky made of beets, not beef. And it was delicious.  If you’re not a beet fan, well, too bad for you because beets are in season and we were served lots of them, in many different forms.  Jonas is not a great lover of beets (or he would have ordered a beet martini), but he still liked them…pretty much.  Vanessa is an accomplished cook.  In fact she has her own catering business.  So she could probably figure out how to make beet jerky, but I don’t think Jonas will be requesting it anytime soon.

While we were enjoying our “buttons,” the sommelier gave Jonas and I our first pairing.  Now, I’ve ordered wine pairings before and I know the drill: savor that pour, ‘cuz you ain’t gettin’ no more!  Not so at Stone Barns, my friends.  Jonas emptied his glass before the course was over and somebody was there lickity split to refill it.

Following the jerky, we munched on kale and cabbage chips, suspended in this weird contraption that looked like a tree.  Yum!

Kale & Cabbage Sitting In A Tree...

Kale & Cabbage Sitting In A Tree…

After that, the vino kept flowing and the plates kept coming. And everything was incredible.

At one point, our server came to our table and brightly suggested, “Let’s take a walk.”

I immediately assumed I had been talking loudly enough to warrant removal from the premises – like I said, they were not being stingy with the wine.  I stared blankly, first at the server and then at Vanessa, who just shrugged.  Hubby informed us that we were being relocated to dine in the kitchen for a course or two.  Sweet!  Why were we invited to go into the kitchen?  Who cares?!  I’ve learned never to question those little perks life occasionally throws your way.

The kitchen was buzzing like Grand Central Station.  It looked like something out of a stylized, swanky movie – shiny and bright, filled with young, good-looking people (and not just because I was sporting a pair of wine goggles).

There was so much food and it was all incredibly delectable, but I knew I’d never be able to remember it all.  So, I wrote some of it down.  We had:

 

Pig's Liver with Chocolate and Mini Beet Burgers

Pig’s Liver with Chocolate and Mini Beet Burgers

  • Pig’s liver with chocolate (Seriously!  And seriously awesome.)

 

  • Teeny tiny beet burgers (with the smallest sesame buns you’ve ever seen)

 

  • Schpeck fresh pea puree with lime (I don’t know what this means either, but it’s what I typed into my iPhone.)

 

  • Beet tartar with quail egg (I told there were lots of beets)

 

  • Smoked trout with crème fraiche and borscht (more beets anyone?)

 

  • A very special beer that only occurs in nature every 17,000 years!  Apparently the malt grains ferment in the fields because the humidity is only just so every 17,000.  Huh?  How would anyone know what happened 17,000 years ago? But again, mine was not to reason why.  Mine was but to drink that crazy, refreshing beer.

 

  • Kohlrabi tacos with carrot salt (FYI: carrot salt is a game changer)

 

  • Venison
We ate off of bark. I swear to God.

We ate off of bark. I swear to God.

Then, on top of all this, dessert was served.  There were merengue worms, white chocolate eggs filled with something sinfully rich, truffles, honey drizzled ice cream and much more!

Dessert Extravaganza

By the time the meal ended, over five hours later, we were stuffed and I was a wee bit tipsy (and by “tipsy” I mean “blotto”).

Jonas was none the worse for wear and proved it when the check arrived.  With the swift precision of a striking cobra WHOOSH he grabbed it before Hubby knew what happened.  We tried to argue, but our dear friends would not hear of it.  Now, let me tell you, this was far beyond generous.  A meal like that doesn’t come on the cheap.  In fact, to fairly reciprocate on their anniversary, Hubby and I will have to gift Jonas and Vanessa with a vacation home in the south of France.

I look forward to our next visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  Oh yes!  We shall return, but next time, I will skip the cocktail and limit myself to two glasses of their fine wine.  And I will bring a cucumber in my evening bag, just in case they’re out of season.

My parents today. Still belonging to each other.

My parents today. Still belonging to each other.

 

 

Light and Breezy

DSC_0134

Even though the room was spacious, the four of us were huddled near the far wall.  I was literally backed into a corner.  From there, it was tough to get the shots I needed; and if I missed them, I would not get a second opportunity.  Of all the photography jobs I’d ever had, this was, by far, the most challenging.  It was the first time I’d ever been asked to make a photo-journal of a woman’s labor and delivery.

 

Hey fellas, where ya goin?!!  C’mon men, just because the subject of this post is childbirth, that’s no reason to bail out.  If you’ll promise to man-up, I will promise not to bring you to your knees with gory details.  Agreed?  Great.  Let’s continue…

 

Penny* and her husband, Dave, were expecting their second child.

 

When she approached me about taking pictures, Penny told me she hoped to have a water labor, and possibly a water delivery.  She wanted me to photograph all of it.

 

I thought, Hoo boy!  What is with these young mothers and their wacky new-age ideas?  Instead, I said, “Sounds great!”

 

Yes.  I admit it.  I was judging.  And the truth is, I had absolutely no right to (beyond the obvious reasons).  You see, I had some wacky ideas of my own.  When we had our first child, Hubby and I did the Bradley Method.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with Bradley, allow me to share my personal experience: the class was full of tall, graceful “dancers” (yes, every woman in the class claimed to be a dancer – it seems there is no shortage of ballerinas in New York City).  I was short, clumsy and could no longer see my feet.  They all planned to give birth at  home.  I was worried about getting to the hospital in time.  All of them were seeing midwives.  I was the only one being seen by a medical doctor.  They thought my notions about childbirth were quaint.  I thought theirs were crazy.

 

Still, I went along with the classes.  It was something Hubby felt strongly about.  With the Bradley Method, the father serves as the coach and “leads” the delivery; thereby making him a key player.  I appreciated Hubby’s eagerness to participate, but let’s get real here for a minute.  Unless a man is a doctor, he probably don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies.  Also, the Bradley Method discourages medication for pain management.  No, you’re supposed to envision your happy place and breathe into that sensation of passing a watermelon through the eye of a needle.  No drugs.  Let me repeat: No drugs!  In my opinion, the Bradley Method is like Lamaze in army boots…hardcore. No drugs, no doctors, no hospitals.  What was I thinking?

 

My Bradley instructor, a mother of three (all of whom she delivered in her apartment, armed with only a bowl of hot water, cellophane tape and a paper towel), told us to put a birthing plan together and to discuss it with our caregiver.  So, I typed up my plan, my ideal birth, and gave it to my doctor.  Here are just a few of the requirements that I thought would make my experience light and breezy:

 

The lights in the room must be kept dim.

Talking is to be done only when necessary and only in whispers.

Soft music will be played.

No pain medication is to be offered.  If I want it, I’ll ask for it.

 

When I handed it to my obstetrician, she smiled the kind of gentle, knowing smile of a woman who has been in the trenches.  “I’ll do my best to fulfill your wishes,” she promised, “but I want you to understand that sometimes the baby’s birth plan doesn’t quite jive with its mommy’s.”

 

Message received.

 

Fast forward to delivery day.  After I had been in labor for 18 hours, my doctor finally said to me, “We’re not giving out trophies today.  Please consider taking an epidural.”

 

Her tone was more forthright than ever before.  She knew something about me that I hadn’t been able to admit to my husband or myself: I felt peer pressure to do this the new old-fashioned way.  Natural childbirth.  Nearly everyone else in my class had already delivered.  While all of them had successful outcomes (healthy babies), several of the women had to be rushed to hospitals or needed some sort of medical intervention.  Our instructor reported those births to us with a quality of regret in her voice, as if needing help to have a baby was some sort of failure.

 

I looked into my doctor’s eyes and thought about the atmosphere of disappointment connected to the women in my class whose plans fell through.  I wondered if I would be disappointed in myself.  And then I decided that the only thing I really cared about was holding my baby in my arms.  I knew I didn’t really give a rat’s ass what anyone else thought.  I whispered, “F*ck it.  Give me the epidural.”

 

In the end, I needed an emergency C-section anyway.  Indeed, my baby had a very different birth plan.

 

With my second child, it was an entirely different ballgame.  For various and necessary reasons, my doctor wanted to induce me.  We were sitting in her office when she gave me the news.  Then she asked, “What day is good for you this weekend?”

 

“I don’t have much going on.  What about you?

 

“Well,” she said, “I’m supposed to go to a dinner party Saturday night.”

 

“OK, then.  Let’s do it on Saturday morning.  And please have the anesthesiologist ready when I get to the hospital,” I said.  That’s how Child Number 2 came into this world.  Nice and easy.  Civilized.  No drama.  No pain.  No shame.  Was it natural childbirth?  Well yes, because when you think about it, all births are natural unless you’ve cloned something in a fish tank.

 

Now, back to Penny and Dave.  I arrived at the hospital, as Penny’s contractions were getting intense.  A whirlpool bath was prepared for her and as she eased herself into it, its soothing warmth wash the tension from her body.  Her sister, Carole, started dabbing Penny with lavender oil to relax her while Penny’s mother “lit” some flameless candles.  There was gauzy music playing softly in the background.  Any minute now, I thought, a masseuse is going to tiptoe in and offer up some cucumber water and organic almonds.  But the spa atmosphere was actually working.  Penny’s contractions became much more manageable and far less painful.  I will be a naysayer of water labor no more.

 

About half an hour later, Penny got out of the tub and had a quiet conversation with one of the nurses.  She had changed her mind about giving birth in water and decided to take an epidural instead.  Her contractions were picking up steam.  At one point, in the throes of a whopper, she turned to me and groaned, “Make me laugh.  Tell me a joke to distract me.”

 

Seriously?  I wanted to say, “Look lady.  I’m just here to take pictures.  If you’re looking for comedy, you should have asked Jerry Seinfeld to be your photographer.”  Instead, it was the panicked look on my face that gave her the giggles.

 

Within minutes, the most popular man in the maternity ward walked in.  He was very tall, very handsome, and delightfully cheerful.  But he is best-loved because he is the anesthesiologist.  After he gave Penny the goods, we turned down the lights and all of us settled in for a nap.

 

Four hours later, the midwife examined Penny’s progress.  She announced that the main event was about to start, then left to get the nurse.  Penny sat up, turned the lights on over her bed and switched the music from sultry spa favorites to her “pushing” playlist of pulsating party tunes.  Dave, Carole, Penny’s mother and I all stood up and started stretching to shake off our sleep.  Then we started dancing.  Yes, that’s right.  We were dancing to pump up the energy in the room (and who’s kidding whom?  We were suddenly filled with an overabundance of nervous energy).

disco-ball1

In came the midwife and the nurse.  They saw us getting down and getting funky, so they briefly joined in.  This was not what I expected the experience to be like.  It was way better!

 

With our heads cleared and our mom-to-be ready for action, it was time to get down to business.  I grabbed my camera and moved to the head of the bed, Penny’s mother beside me.  On the other side of the bed stood Dave and Carole.

 

Penny took a deep breath and became as focused as a laser beam.  We all fell silent while she took her first push.  The midwife and the nurse did the cheerleading.  The rest of us intuitively knew to keep our mouths shut.  During the resting phases between pushes, Penny became relaxed and chatty.  We were all giddy and smiling.  There was laughter and conversation.  But when it was time to push again, a hush fell over the room and Penny immediately became the laser beam once more.  It was the most fascinating display of maternal instinct, as Penny worked to bring her beautiful healthy boy into the world.

 

I’ll give no further details because the rest was so exquisite and amazing, that it feels too sacred to share.  And, also, I don’t want to make any of my more squeamish readers pass out.  Suffice it to say, I got the shots I needed even though the lighting was problematic, the angles I had to shoot from were not optimal and focusing was a near impossibility with all those joy tears in my eyes.

*All names have been changed.

Youthing

We are constantly being bombarded with anti-aging propaganda and the products to go along with it.  There are anti-aging body lotions, anti-aging brain games…there’s even anti-aging shampoo.  Shampoo?  Unless we’re talking about growing gray, I can’t really grasp the concept of old hair.  How old could a head of hair possibly be anyway?  If we’re striving for baby fine, let me remind you: babies are not known for their fabulous locks.

Fabulous baby hair

Fabulous baby hair

In general, I have a problem with the phrase “anti-aging.”   It sounds so negative, as if aging were a bad thing.  I prefer to say “youthing.”  Doesn’t that sound better?  But none of it really matters because the fact is…and you may want to sit down for this…we are all getting older.

This week, I celebrate another birthday.  I’d be lying if I said I’m unfazed.  The truth is, it’s the first time my number has gotten a little under my skin…my youthing cream-slathered skin.

It doesn’t make any sense because I’ve never felt better (pretty much).  Yes, there was a time when I’d go for a run, followed by a nice long swim.  Now, I don’t see that happening unless a mugger chases me off the side of a cruise ship.  Skipping?  I used to skip down stairs, up stairs, everywhere.  I can still skip, but I don’t look quite as comely doing it as I did when I was 7, so I refrain.  Ok, so everything isn’t exactly what it used to be.  Hell, everything’s not even where it used to be.  But I’m doing great (all things considered).

Thus far, I’ve held my ground and not taken the bait to youthenize myself.  I have no Botox or fillers in my face; nothing has been lifted, or nipped or tucked.  I color my hair, but for the record, I’m barely gray.  Rather, I have a distinct Bride of Frankenstein streak. It doesn’t look any better on me than hers did on her, so who needs it?  My only minor lapse was treating myself to eyelash enhancers.  I loved them until my husband said they weren’t “age appropriate.”  Ouch!  It’s one thing to see yourself as getting older; it’s another to have your loved ones see it…and say it out loud.

When women had little more than cosmetics and hair dye in their youthing arsenal, I think they looked better.  At the very least, they looked like themselves.  These days, when I glance around at women my age, I often see only parts of faces, rather than the whole picture – overblown lips, sculptured noses, and foreheads smooth enough to skate upon.  Everyone is beginning to look weirdly alike.  And women aren’t the only culprits.  Remember how handsome Mickey Rourke and Bruce Jenner used to be?

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman

Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan

Audrey Hepburn once said, “The beauty of a woman, with passing years, only grows.”  Photos of her, taken later in life, show she was right.  It is encouraging to see other famous woman (and men: think  Denzel Washington and George Clooney) following this philosophy by forgoing the surgeon’s blade.  When you start out looking like Audrey, you’re already way ahead of the game.  Messing up that masterpiece would be like giving the Mona Lisa a brow lift (if she had eyebrows, of course).

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Annette Bening

Annette Bening

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

Now, I’m no Audrey Hepburn, but I’m still afraid to tinker with what I’ve got.  Does this mean I’m throwing in the towel?  No way.  I still exercise, play tennis, dance, get gussied up, and coat myself in sunscreen every single day.  I try to eat right (the occasional cocktail and dessert notwithstanding) and get plenty of rest because a good night’s sleep is a better friend than diamonds.   Will I ever get a tweak, or have something done?  I’m not sure.  I’ve considered it, and I just might go in for a little tune-up somewhere down the road.  But for now, I’m holding off.

So, until then, let it come.  Let the laugh lines show that I’ve laughed until I’ve cried.  Let the speckles and spots remind me that I had my day in the sun.

I admit it – I am aging.   Accepting that is the gift I’m giving to myself this year.  Happy birthday to me.

Me: Day 1

Me: Day 1

Me: Day 19,345. Better with age?

Me: Day 19,345. Better with age?