Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why Middle-Agers Feel Comfortable in Their Own Skin

Standard

One of the better aspects about becoming middle-aged during this time in history is that Oprah grew older at the same pace. It was almost worth it to see what she’d say on the subject of the mutiny of her knees and to be a witness when her face began sporting a perpetual expression of either disbelief (facelift) or a pumpkin two weeks past Halloween (normal aging).

Turns out if you have millions of women tuning in to watch you age, you can pay magicians or fairies to transform your face on a daily basis, giving the impression that uncountable stacks of money makes your life a better place to live. I don’t think she ever mentioned her knees, but I refuse to research that.

Fortunately, not talking about knees created a vast amount of empty air time during which Oprah often discussed the positively glamorous process of becoming a woman in full flower, (old). Guests would arrive, carefully arrange themselves in her over-sized chairs so that their double chins were nearly undetectable and offer up the wisdom that, when a women begins her journey into mid-life she finally feels,”comfortable in her own skin,” which isn’t all that surprising considering it gets looser as we age. Which is more comfortable, the pants you have to lie down to zip or your husband’s Wranglers? To quote the young, “Duh!”

Even without the testimony of Oprah and Friends, there is little doubt that aging has its ups and downs as does every experience outside of pie. The question is: Would a detailed list of the gains and losses come out even or would it be more like a match up between warm chocolate and a sharp stick in the eye?

Given the gravitas of the question, I’ve decided to create a carefully constructed, scientifically accurate list of the yin and yang of the autumn years. I do this to save you the trouble. You can thank me later.

Not surprisingly the first gain which comes to mind is weight. I started life at a slim seven or eight pounds and immediately went about remedying that situation, mostly because there are very few options for fashionable attire when you weigh in under ten pounds.

Unlike fashion models, I continued to gain weight past the age of ten and evened out in my mid-teens, at which point I began to worry that I may be fat. This situation is the main reason time travel must be invented. If only I could return to the days of my youth and gently tell myself, “Shut up and enjoy the fact that you can eat a pie and work it off the next day simply by cutting back on pop!” (soda for those outside of Chicago). Having said my piece, I would swat my self on the back of the head, climb back into my time machine, and return to my thirties where I would live forever.

I’ve lost…everything, at least once. I once lost a set of keys in my backyard when I lobbed them toward the deck, (In my defense, I’ve never been able to throw anything at a target, no matter how large and I’ve gained the ability to live with that.) I’ve lost cash and checks, which are almost as good as money, and while I’m on the subject, credit cards and my passport. I’ve lost the ability to rise from a squat without assistance. I become lost in my car on a more regular basis, but no one can confirm this as I have GPS and rarely admit this failing unless I end up somewhere funny. I’ve lost the ability to make a living as a writer, (something I never really gained if we’re being technical about the word “living”).

Socks. I’ve lost them, as have you. If I were Jerry Seinfeld, I’d continue with a “What’s the deal with socks,” monologue, but let’s just agree it’s a conspiracy which will eventually lead to the end times and leave it at that.

I have gained the understanding that a nap is a gift and not to accept this gift is spitting in the face of all that I hold dear, and they hate when I do that.

I remember being a small person, bigger than a breadbox but smaller than the national debt, and my mother would declare nap time. Because I was less than world-wise and three-years-old, I worried something spectacular would happen while I was asleep and, in my defense, The Beatles came to America during the next year of my life. What if I had slept through that? One shudders at the idea.

Anyway, my mom would spoon me, trapping me with over sized (to a three-year-old) arm and I would be forced to lie there, wide awake while she snored, her vice-like grip never abating. Oddly enough, I found myself waking up some time later, usually alone and always refreshed. This never registered with me until naps were no longer mandatory.

I’ve lost all interest in leaving the house after dark or 7pm, whichever comes first. I have musician friends who invite me to see them perform, and I would love to do so, if they started at the same time as early bird dinner specials. But once I hit the indented place in the couch cushion with my laptop and the remote control, it would take an act of Congress to blast me out so we can safely assume I’m in for the night.

I’ve lost interest in acting my age, which comes as no surprise to those who know me or those who’ve read my ode to the lead singer of Coldplay. In the same vein, I no longer worry that my fashion sense is age-appropriate and, although that’s never been an issue, I’m putting it in the gain column, because I can.

Finally, the most universally experienced loss; I have officially lost all but one salad fork. All of us have been there, right? You got to set the table on one of the three days in the year you do so and find one lonely salad fork mixed in with the larger, and less friendly dinner forks. As we all know, this is a disaster of epic proportions as it is impossible to eat one’s salad without a utensil which is marginally smaller than a full-sized fork. That’s a bit of a misnomer, of course; it is perfectly acceptable to eat one’s salad by dipping one’s fingers into the bowl and plucking out arugula and heirloom tomatoes as long as you hold your pinkie up while doing so. However, where the @#$%^ are my salad forks? With my single earrings and socks?

Having re-read this column, I find that loss outnumbers gains, at least in my present state of mind, but I also noticed I mentioned pie twice, which has no bearing on the subject but is always a good way to finish up.

Why I Don’t Need an iPod

Standard

One day, not long ago, I woke up with the Pips, you know, of Gladys Knight and the…fame. I wasn’t aware of them while I slept, nor had I retired with Bubba, Edward and William, yet first thing upon my wakening I heard, “Leaving on a midnight train, woo-woo.” Gladys joined in eventually and by breakfast I was adding choreography. By afternoon, I had moved gratefully on, much like the fellow in Midnight Train to Georgia.

To some the idea of waking up with Pips might be disconcerting, but to those of us with a running soundtrack in our heads, it’s more of the same. Although the artist with whom you awaken isn’t controllable, (and if it were, plans would need to be made, immediately and forthwith) the phenomenon of music playing in our heads is not only tolerable, but, usually, enjoyable.

There are those rogue songs which should not be named, because just a few notes or lyrics can march into the cranial community and quickly squash all dissenting music. These songs are Fascists and must be avoided at all cost. At the risk of the rest of my day’s sanity, I’ll name one or two. Feel free to scan over them.

It’s a Small World After All.

This is the Song That Never Ends

Ganghum Style

All right, it’s safe to come out. That’s not an insidious song, it’s just a heads up.

As a rule, I am almost always familiar with the lyrics on my inner playlists as a song’s words are of supreme importance to me. Try making close guesses on lyrics and singing aloud with me in the car if you want to know how seriously I take them. However there are two that get stuck in my brain by happenstance, neither of which have I ever taken the time to learn. So, consider this my shame-faced confession, these are the songs which I know little to none of the lyrics but choose to sing anyway.

“Hail to the Chief”

A-hem. Hail to the Chief,

He’s the Chief and He Needs Hailing.

Hail to the Chief, let’s all give the Chief some hail.”

The rest of the song consists of matching each note with the world hail.

The other song is the Canadian National Anthem, which goes a little something like this…

Oh Canada!

You live on top of us.

And when we want to see you we can take a bus.

Actually, aside from the first two words, it goes nothing like that and I apologize to the people of Canada, although they are most likely not angry as they are…well, Canadians.

Other than those two examples, and why those two is a subject best left to my counselor and I, I can sing along with most any melody which pops into my mind, which is quite a challenge, as the songs can change quickly and without notice, like when my husband’s in charge of the preset buttons on the radio on a car trip.

If the world could tune into All Jamie All the Time earplugs would become a hot commodity; Broadway can roll into Nirvana, which can slide into Stand By Your Man, all within the time it takes to say Bob’s your uncle! (Reference my Idiom column.)

All of this might lead me to harbor concerns for my sanity (again and/or still) if I didn’t feel confident that, for the most part, and to varying degrees, inner music dialogues are universal. Although I can offer no solid proof on the subject, (which has never stopped me before,) beyond my lengthy, but still not prehistoric time line, it is my belief that stuck songs are an age-old occurrence.

I picture Ancient Jerusalem and one Rabbi saying to another, “I don’t know about you, Moses, but I can’t get that ram’s horn solo out of my brain.”

And in Ancient Rome: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. For I could not hear one more stanza of Romans Just Want to Have Fun. Indeed, here lies the body of Caesar, who whistled a stanza of the tune of which I had finally rid myself after 2 weeks of tortuous repetition. Then, on the Ides of March I did stab him upwards of 100 times to put an end to the tyranny of the malicious song, but I think we can all relate. Can I get a thumbs up?”

And Medieval England: Prithee, Mercutio, I do beseech thee, cease thy tortuous humming of A Maiden With Which I Once Communed. By the stars above and all their handmaidens, I vow, if thou doth continue, I shall draw my sword against thee, separating that which sings from that which delivereth thy life-giving blood. Doth thou knowest Freebird?

My greatest fear, at this moment in time, is not imminent death or plague. I fear, from this moment on through next Monday, I will hear “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” lyric, which in my case, might be the point of no return, sanity-wise .

Quick, someone sing Oh Canada!

Why Childbirth is Impressive to Aliens.

Standard

Nearly a quarter century ago, I concocted my son from materials I found around the house. Even though I was completely aware of the recipe needed to create a new human being, I was still amazed at my ability to do so.

Sure, becoming pregnant and developing a baby from a couple of rogue molecules and then sustaining this zygote with a tube hooked up to the inside of your body which siphons off your food supply, making it necessary to eat double or triple the amount of food you would normally eat and finally squeezing a brand new individual, the size of a decent melon, from a place that doesn’t seem equipped to handle large produce may seem easy-peasy. (Take that grammar checker. That sentence not only ran on, I do believe it may have taken flight.) However, the practice would be considered a feat of epic proportions if you were new to the idea.

Imagine, you’ve come across a being from another planet and you’re having a drink, maybe two or three and you begin bragging about your species superiority.

“I can teleport,” says the smug, skin-free being from say…Valdar. “And travel in time.”

“I have thumbs,” you retort, as you watch his third Heineken slip to the floor.

“I came from a planet millions of light years away in a matter of your human minutes,” let’s-call- him Bob, responds as he slips to the floor to become one with his beer.

“I can make another human being, from scratch, inside my body; nurture it so that it flourishes to the degree that removing it from said vessel would seem insurmountable as far as survival is concerned, deliver this fully formed human into the world and not only live to tell the tale, but continue to nurture the being from food I dispense from a spigot in my chest.”

“Bull @#$%!” says the Alien, who is obviously assimilating too rapidly

“It’s true,” you answer as you pop some filth infested peanuts into your mouth.

Bob re-forms into a solid and peers around the bar at what are not the best representative’s of the human species. “You made these?”

“Do I look like I gave birth to 50 drunks?” You ask before you decide his answer could double the amount of therapy you currently squeak by on. “Never mind,” you conclude.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your outlook, guys like Bob only appear on bar stools next to those who’ve been over-served or women who just want to be left alone, so the process of procreating is doomed to remain commonplace, except to those in labor. (Never ask a woman in active labor if the experience seems mundane. Trust me. Also, don’t ask if you can take a nap while she dilates.)

There are women, however, who are so certain that their birth experience was a complete anomaly and therefore, must serve as a cautionary tale to those women who are currently pregnant with children they are joyfully awaiting. This practice is mostly to wipe the smile off of a first mother’s unsuspecting face and replace it with a credible copy of the classic painting, The Scream. These people who insist on terrifying younger and less experienced mothers-to-be are called mothers.

I refrain from sharing my story because my birth experience caused me to cling to the hospital’s ceiling by my finger and toe nails for a number of hours after the baby had been forcibly expelled from my body. I didn’t like it.

On his way to meet me, my son knocked off the end of my tailbone with his oversized head, a greeting I would discourage in all other social situations. Can you imagine, being introduced to your husband’s second cousin, Frank Jr., who reaches over and breaks off the tip of your thumb? Would you want to continue this relationship? I sincerely doubt it.

Yet, I not only continued my relationship with my son, I grew to believe he is the most darling person that ever walked the face of the earth. This is less a belief than a truism, but I pretend it isn’t for the sake of those parents who did not give birth to my particular baby.

He liked me too, despite my limited patience with being his main food source. In fact, he seemed to think I was the most talented and benevolent being in the world, and for good reason. Once, he asked me to reposition the sun as it was in his eyes as we traveled in my car. I did so, (by turning the corner) and he thanked me with such sincerity, I almost told him the truth.

I introduced him to the concept of trick-or-treat and clued him in on which day it arrived. Ice cream, that was my idea, just for him. I watched Pete’s Dragon, a movie which should never be watched, even once, at least 30 times. I wrote songs for him, like “We All Live in a Yellow Submarine” and “Get Off of my Cloud,” a personal favorite of his.

Sadly, I loved him more as time went on, which is only sad because he refuses to let me pick out his clothes any more. (Osh Kosh comes in adult sizes, too! Just FYI.)

For his part, he claims that he still “loves” me and that I’m his “favorite” mom while simultaneously makes plans to leave the country. I don’t think it has anything to do with Osh Kosh B’Gosh, but still, I feel the need to blame them. And Carter’s. Remember the sob-enducing commercial, “If they could just stay little till their Carter’s wear out?” The ad agent that paired that phrase with footage of babies in footed sleepers and onesies should be forced to expel watermelon from an orifice unsuited to the experience. Just recalling the ad is going to mean an evening of “What’s wrong?” queries from my unsuspecting family.

Although the process of introducing my handiwork (son) to the world was something for which I hold no nostalgia, I loved having a portable person in my life. I miss the days when I used to think, “If only I could get a few minutes alone.” I’d like to go back in time so I can smack myself for that, but since time travel is only possible for people like Bob, I have to stay here. I don’t like it.

Why Wishing is Less Than Productive

Standard

When you wish upon a star, your dream comes true. -Jiminy Cricket

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. -16th Century Proverb

I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner. -A Very Peculiar Person

Wishes are nonsense, a fact everyone over ten accepts, except maybe Paris Hilton, who undoubtedly has found from personal experience, that wishes do come true if you have millions of dollars and too much time on your hands.

Despite this general understanding, however, we continue, as a culture to wish: I wish it would stop raining. I wish I had Jennifer Anniston’s hair. I wish the Cubs would win the Pennant. None of us have any expectation that these things might happen because, in the real world, some things are simply unattainable.

Yet the wish is encamped in our everyday language with little expectation that it will pack up and move on, much like your Mother-in-Law. (I didn’t make her my Mother-in-Law, because I like mine.)

Would it surprise you to know that the word “wish” shows up as 857th on a list of the most frequently used words in the English language? It would surprise me too, because I just made that up. But the fact that some of you were impressed by that number proves that it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

Unlike many goofy ideas which some folks readily believe, the idea of wishes pre-dates the Internet, Hollywood and The National Enquirer. In fact, the idea of a generous Genie in a bottle with the ability to grant wishes even predates sixties TV.

In the ancient tale of the Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, our hero finds an old lamp in the desert, just after he does a musical number with a monkey. Kidding, that was Disney. In the traditional story, Aladdin discovers a Genie, who sounds just like Robin Williams, who is required to grant three wishes to whomever attempts to buff up the tarnished old thing. Or the lamp.

Three wishes. Who hasn’t daydreamed about this idea? If you’re anything like me, (and let’s hope not, for your sake,) you feel a little thrill at the concept. What would I choose if everything in the world were offered to me in the form of three wishes? Would I blow one wishing that the Cracker Barrel near my home would re-open? Probably. I have two more, right?

Would I try the old, “For my first wish, I want three more wishes?” Or just ask for an unlimited supply of cash, like HMOs have? That way I could buy my own Cracker Barrel.

It’s an exciting prospect, albeit impossible. Cracker Barrel won’t even answer my calls.

Although, we have all resigned ourselves to the sad truth that wishes are just playgrounds for the mind, we seem disinclined to impart this knowledge to our children. In fact, each time their birthday rolls around, we set a cake ablaze, plop it down in front of their little faces, (which are complete, for the most part, with highly flammable hair) and demand they make a wish. Not only do we insist the child silently imparts a wish before putting out the potential bonfire, we advise them not to tell anyone about the nature of the wish. Why is that? Does in negate the warranty?

If we had put some thought into this rule before it was on the books, and really wanted to mess with their developing minds, (and isn’t that what parenting is all about?) we’d tell them to wish aloud and then go about proving that wishes are a legitimate function of receiving one’s true desire. However, since 85% of all children under five wish for a pony, (yes, I made that up as well,) it’s probably just as well that they keep their wishes to themselves.

Yahoo! Answers offers a list of ways to assure a wish will come true, which include, but are not limited to: Blowing a fallen eyelash off of a friend’s finger, holding one’s breath for the entirety of a tunnel, (which depending on the tunnel, might make you wish you hadn’t done that while lying in traction), tossing a coin into a wishing well or fountain, (the mall’s favorite course of action), seeing a shooting star, seeing 11:11 on a clock, (which intrigues me as my mother, who makes things up, says I was born at 11:11am on November 11th), and catching a feather.
We, as a culture, are so enamored of the idea of wishing, we have even turned to the macabre to procure out deepest desires. How many of us have clutched the Y-shaped ends of a “wishbone” and pulled to see which of us will get a wish? That is someone’s breastbone, for crying out loud.

I suppose, if there were a logical explanation of why wishes are out of the question it’s that, for every wish granted, another would be negated. For instance, my wish that my favorite family restaurant (which I won’t name again, but its initials are C. B.) would return to Elgin would conflict with someone else’s wish to their blood pumping through their veins unencumbered.

Plus, somebody would have to be in charge of granting the wishes and there are only so many ponies.