Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

Hard to Swallow

When I was about 25 or 26 I had a co-worker who was around 43 or 44. Her name was Sonya, I adored her, and thusly began calling her Mom. It wasn’t because I viewed her as matronly, it was because she was nurturing and sweet and taught me a lot about growing into my womanhood. She’s also the kind of person who listens more than she talks and has all her values and priorities firmly in check, which are qualities I admire very much. I miss having her in my work life. I don’t have a work mom anymore. My office bestie now works in New Jersey, and for a while I was enjoying rich conversations with my fancy European work uncle, but he retired last week, sold his Hamptons house and moved to the South of France, which makes him far more civilized than any biological uncle I’ve ever had.

Anyway, some conversations with coworkers are more memorable than others, and there’s one talk Sonya and I had that I’ve never forgotten, even these many years later. As someone who likes to be prepared for all situations, I always paid close attention when Sonya spoke of recent shifts in her body, her relationships and her life. She’d describe some of the changes she’d experienced in her 30s and early 40s, and I’d listen with rapt attention, often taking mental notes. One day, over lunch, she said something that really rattled me.

“No cheese on the sandwich for me,” she instructed the man at the deli counter. Then she turned to me and said, “Ever since I turned 35, I haven’t been able to digest dairy.”

It was one of the saddest things I’d ever heard.

I remember thinking at the time Nuh, uh. Not me. I’m gonna be able to eat cheese forever. I’m going to be able to eat EVERYTHING foreverrrrrrrrrr.

DSC_6522

***

Flash-forward 13 years, and I’m crammed in the phlegm-filled lobby of an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to check out the dry cough that’s kept me up every night for the past three weeks. A cough, I’ve learned, can indicate many different things and I was hopeful that he’d give me an anti-biotic and I’d be back to dreamland in two days.

“Well, the good news is it’s not viral,” said the doctor. Perversely, I had been hoping for something viral so I could walk out of there with an actual remedy. Every other time I’ve gone to a doctor for a cough their instruction was to basically wait it out, giving me the pep talk that “it could be weeks, could be a month.”

“Since you don’t have any other real symptoms, I think it could be acid reflux,” said the doctor. “President Obama has it; it’s very trendy.”

He handed me a sheet of paper with a bunch of foods on it, including a cup of coffee, a curvy jalapeno and a big slab of steak. They all had giant black X’s marked through the center of them. It was very aggressive.

“Avoid everything on this list, and see how you feel.” The list included things I ate everyday, multiple times a day, and enjoyed more than the average person. Telling me to avoid caffeine, spicy foods and a spritz of lemon was like asking me to floss my teeth with a sailor’s knot or do a math calculation in my head. The task sounded impossible, and I was bitter that the only prescription I walked out with was “lifestyle change”.

I went home and shared the diagnosis with my husband, a former office pal who is now my head cheerleader. He understood the gravity of the situation immediately and was very supportive.

“That’s bullshit, Jenn! There’s no way that’s right. I’ve known you for 16 years; you’re the best eater I know. That doctor’s a hack. You can digest anything!”.

“I know! Thank you! I mean, what does he want me to do? Never eat a raw onion again? That’s no way to live!”

A week or two later the cough drifted away on its own, and I’ve continued to eat everything I normally do without consequence. I thought fondly of Sonya and sharp cheese and wondered if they’d ever gotten to be together again the way they were before.

***

Last year I interviewed someone to become my graduate intern. She was 26 and could digest anything.

She was a pure delight off the bat. Smart, sensitive, committed and hard-working. I welcomed her aboard on the spot; there was only one condition. She could no longer dye her hair blue.

And then I realized why I no longer have a work mom.

It’s because I am the work mom.

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Hard to Swallow

 

When I was about 25 or 26 I had a co-worker who was around 43 or 44. Her name was Sonya, I adored her, and thusly began calling her Mom. It wasn’t because I viewed her as matronly, it was because she was nurturing and sweet and taught me a lot about growing into my womanhood. She’s also the kind of person who listens more than she talks and has all her values and priorities firmly in check, which are qualities I admire very much. I miss having her in my work life. I don’t have a work mom anymore. My office bestie now works in New Jersey, and for a while I was enjoying rich conversations with my fancy European work uncle, but he retired last week, sold his Hamptons house and moved to the South of France, which makes him far more civilized than any biological uncle I’ve ever had.

Anyway, some conversations with coworkers are more memorable than others, and there’s one talk Sonya and I had that I’ve never forgotten, even these many years later. As someone who likes to be prepared for all situations, I always paid close attention when Sonya spoke of recent shifts in her body, her relationships and her life. She’d describe some of the changes she’d experienced in her 30s and early 40s, and I’d listen with rapt attention, often taking mental notes. One day, over lunch, she said something that really rattled me.

“No cheese on the sandwich for me,” she instructed the man at the deli counter. Then she turned to me and said, “Ever since I turned 35, I haven’t been able to digest dairy.”

It was one of the saddest things I’d ever heard.

I remember thinking at the time Nuh, uh. Not me. I’m gonna be able to eat cheese forever. I’m going to be able to eat EVERYTHING foreverrrrrrrrrr.

 DSC_6522

***

Flash-forward 13 years, and I’m crammed in the phlegm-filled lobby of an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to check out the dry cough that’s kept me up every night for the past three weeks. A cough, I’ve learned, can indicate many different things and I was hopeful that he’d give me an anti-biotic and I’d be back to dreamland in two days.

“Well, the good news is it’s not viral,” said the doctor. Perversely, I had been hoping for something viral so I could walk out of there with an actual remedy. Every other time I’ve gone to a doctor for a cough their instruction was to basically wait it out, giving me the pep talk that “it could be weeks, could be a month.”

“Since you don’t have any other real symptoms, I think it could be acid reflux,” said the doctor.  ”President Obama has it; it’s very trendy.”

He handed me a sheet of paper with a bunch of foods on it, including a cup of coffee, a curvy jalapeno and a big slab of steak. They all had giant black X’s marked through the center of them. It was very aggressive.

“Avoid everything on this list, and see how you feel.” The list included things I ate everyday, multiple times a day, and enjoyed more than the average person. Telling me to avoid caffeine, spicy foods and a spritz of lemon was like asking me to floss my teeth with a sailor’s knot or do a math calculation in my head. The task sounded impossible, and I was bitter that the only prescription I walked out with was “lifestyle change”.

I went home and shared the diagnosis with my husband, a former office pal who is now my head cheerleader. He understood the gravity of the situation immediately and was very supportive.

“That’s bullshit, Jenn! There’s no way that’s right. I’ve known you for 16 years; you’re the best eater I know. That doctor’s a hack. You can digest anything!”.

“I know! Thank you! I mean, what does he want me to do? Never eat a raw onion again? That’s no way to live!”

A week or two later the cough drifted away on its own, and I’ve continued to eat everything I normally do without consequence. I thought fondly of Sonya and sharp cheese and wondered if they’d ever gotten to be together again the way they were before.

***

Last year I interviewed someone to become my graduate intern. She was 26 and could digest anything.

She was a pure delight off the bat. Smart, sensitive, committed and hard-working. I welcomed her aboard on the spot; there was only one condition. She could no longer dye her hair blue.

And then I realized why I no longer have a work mom.

It’s because I am the work mom.

 

 

 

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How To Save a Life

 

It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say I have a black thumb. That would require a history with plant life. I have only recently acquired an interest in the fine art of home botanical tending, but I’m finding that some of my own natural proclivities (ie: I bore easily, I tend to go with my gut in lieu of doing research) are standing in the way of becoming a master gardener.

To the new people here (hello! I think there are two of you!), I recently moved into a home with plentiful sunlight after living 10 years in  a cozy, yet cavernous basement. As a result, every time I pass a plant shop or Home Depot, I scoop up another little green friend to bring home. I’m happy to say that most are still with me, though others–I hate to report– are barely hanging on.

new living room

Here’s a question: How come none of these things come with instructions, and I mean REAL instructions? Sure, there’s a little pointy thing stuck in the dirt with a little sundial on it, but that’s about the extent of it. Everyone’s used toothpaste since toddlerhood but they STILL always put explicit instructions on the tube in the off-chance that someone out there who can read has never used it before. Put this on your teeth. Spit it out when you’re done. Don’t eat it, ya big dummy.

Why can’t they do the same with plants? There are apparently a lot of rules that come with taking care of plants, and not one of them has been written on the little container any of my plants have arrived in. You think any of my plants came with instructions to re-pot them? No! My friends told me that. There are so many things I’ve been learning along the way, none of which was explained to me via a helpful label or tri-fold brochure. You have to fertilize them. Move them around. Talk to them. Don’t underwater them. DO NOT overwater them! Trim the wonky parts. Tickle their roots. Sing them lullabies.

Dust their leaves. Dust their leaves!  Did you know you’re supposed to dust their leaves? But they live IN DIRT!!

I’m doing my best to keep up with them all, but I have a day job and dinner to make and other routine obligations that make it tricky to figure out all their unique, persnickety needs. Some need to be watered every other day, some survive on only one little sprinkle a week. The one currently looking the worst was voted “easiest houseplant to keep alive ever” on the internet. I demand a recount.

I feel mortally obligated to keep this peace lily alive not just because of its name, but because it was a housewarming gift from my friend. It must not die. The results could be disastrous!!!!!

Or, you know, I’d just feel really really bad about it.

I noticed it was starting to do the sad-spinach wilt, so I moved it into a plastic pot I purchased downstairs in the Astor Place K-Mart. Now here’s another question. How does Astor Place K-Mart do it?? Their plant section is in the basement of the store, so deep underground that it exits directly into the subway. What does K-Mart have that I don’t have? (besides 24-hour artificial lighting and miles of rayon).

Anyway, I learned quickly that the pot I replanted in was way too small to accommodate the lily, proving I have no idea what I’m doing and no good deed goes unpunished. After a week, it looked like this:

Sad plant

Is that not the saddest sad sack you’ve ever seen?

One morning (oh, it’s this morning, it just happened), I’d simply had enough. I picked up the plant, propped her on the counter, looked her right in the dirt and said, “I’M GOING TO SAVE YOU”.

So I found an even bigger pot and got to work. I poured in the Miracle-Gro and patted her roots deep into the dirt. I cut off the sad yellow bits and fluffed up her green ones. I watered her. I dusted her. I consoled her.

“It’s not over,” I said. “We’ve only just begun.”

 

Check in next week for the update! I’m going to do everything I can to avoid calling it “The Funeral”…

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Health Freaks

 

When you live in a neighborhood like ours, you begin to recognize people on the street because you see them everyday. There is one teeny-tiny lady I pass frequently who’s around 4’8″, weighs under 100 pounds and appears about two coughs away from dying. She might only be 45 years old, but she looks like every old Italian or Greek widow ever portrayed in cinema, and always seems to be wearing a roomy black shift dress that billows away from her gaunt, withering frame like a Hefty bag.

On Friday morning, she sat hunched over the bench outside my local bakery, the one that smells like meat at 8 a.m. because the owner of the bbq joint two doors down smokes brisket in their kitchen. She had on big dark sunglasses and round-toed orthopedic shoes that made her spindly legs look like toothpicks stuck into cocktail wieners. She had a cigarette in each of her hands, taking one last puff from the right one before using it to light the left. She looked like someone who had long ago thrown up both arms and exclaimed “Well! I’ve had a good run! Fuck all!”, and seeing her chain-smoking at eight in the morning made me want to hop on a treadmill, munch on an apple, chug a gallon of water and floss my teeth all at the same time. I felt a sense of urgency in my life, a pressing need to straighten up and fly right, and so before heading into work, I decided to buy a green drink.

I walked into a chain shop called Juice Press, where the girl behind the counter looked like Denise Huxtable after dropping out of Hillman and turning hippie. My jaw dropped when I saw the price list, and I almost told the chalkboard menu to go fuck itself for featuring a $15 smoothie. I don’t care if you’re blending gold chips or crack rocks into it, there is never any excuse for selling a booze-free drink for over ten bucks. If I’m gonna spend $15 on a meal, it better be in solid form and include a large piece of chicken.

So I walked down the street to a coffee shop that also makes juices and smoothies for under eight bucks. I make smoothies all the time at home, usually putting a mix of baby spinach and fresh mint in them which creates a nice subtle nutrient boost without the bitterness of other greens. This place didn’t use any spinach– just kale– so I went ahead and ordered the classic, a mix of kale and banana and berries and just a splash of apple juice. It looked like sea algae, had the mouthfeel of peat moss and tasted like apple-infused garbage. It began the separation process immediately, the fiber from the greens segregating itself from the liquid like it was insulted to share the same cup.

canyoustayfordinner.com

(Image from canyoustayfordinner.com)

The barista had some extra kale smoothie left in the blender, and offered to give me the excess.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I said, and encouraged him to drink it himself or give it to someone else behind the bar. Nobody wanted it of course, so I was left with more smoothie than I knew what to do with. I tossed back the excess like a shot of tequila, and instantly knew that drinking a whole cup of this stuff would be like trying to finish one of those ropes courses, where you have push through the pain to get to the glory.

I brought it to work, where it sat on my desk taunting me with its healing powers: I AM YOUR ONLY HOPE. DRINK ME NOW OR DECAY PREMATURELY LATER.  I shook it to make it all one color and texture again, then took another sip, this one even grosser than the first because the chill was wearing off. The only thing saving this smoothie was its frosty temperature and the longer I postponed the inevitable, the more lukewarm and the less palatable it got. It was thick and mealy, like trying to suck applesauce out of a straw.

A milkshake would have been gone in three minutes, tops, but this thing followed me around for hours. It came with me to chat with a coworker. We went outside for a breath of fresh air. It followed me upstairs to a staff meeting and plopped itself on the long conference table, squaring off against a big glass bowl of fun-sized Milky Ways. Halfway through the meeting I picked it up and took a big gulp in my effort to be rid of it, and made the puckered, horrified face I usually reserve for people who feel nothing when they hear the first few bars of Don’t Stop Believin’. My colleague across from me shook his head and smirked, not just because of my complete lack of poker face, but because he knew he had a big ham sandwich waiting for him on his desk downstairs.

At this point, the smoothie was nothing more than a prop. I had no intention of drinking it anymore, but I felt guilty throwing pricy food away. It hung around the rest of the day on my desk, a paragon of health maintenance and self-care.

Eventually a client wrinkled her nose and asked, “Jennifer, what is that?”

“Oh, it’s just a smoothie. There are greens in in, which explains the color.” I tried not to dissuade anyone from trying a green smoothie and seeing how they like it. In my line of work it’s important for people to learn how to make healthy decisions for themselves.

 

That night, Vinny and I had our usual Friday night summit of where to go out for dinner. We toyed with a few lighter options, but eventually settled on sharing a big plate of fried chicken at the new place down the street, promptly followed by a walk to the frozen yogurt place where I topped my Nutella-flavored treat with crushed Butterfingers and joy. Vin piled his with rainbow cookies, smashed oreos, and a river of hot fudge.

We’ve had a good run.

 

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On Guilty Pleasures: 19 Kids and Counting

 

I am absolutely fascinated by the Duggar family. Their show is called 19 Kids and Counting, but I hope they change the name soon to 19 and Finally Satisfied since Mama Duggar is now 48 and her uterus probably looks like a hobo bag.

They’ve been running a ton of new episodes lately, and it seems like they always have a “special announcement” to publicize. First it was daughter Jill’s wedding, then Jessa started courting and got engaged. Then Jill got pregnant. Then their sister-in-law got pregnant. Then Jessa got married and was bold and non-traditional and served 1,000 ice cream scoops at her wedding. Then cameras followed them on their European honeymoon where they graduated from side hugs to French kisses. Now I’m sucked into watching Jill give birth on TV. I’m presuming cameras will be there for the next conception.

Just once I want one of those special announcements to be something like “Jehovah got a tongue ring and started listening to heavy metal in the garage” or “20-year-old Juniper used sarcasm for the first time”, or “Jermajesty went vegetarian and now requires his own batch of beefless tater tot casserole”. My favorite episode would definitely be “Daughter Juno side-hugged with a girl and SHE LIKED IT.”

I continue to find myself amazed that with 19 children, there are no real “defectors”. They all seem to go right along with the prescribed family values, which doesn’t happen in most families, right? They all appear to be almost unbelievably wholesome, kind, calm and good-natured. How did they get away with no teenage revolt? Where are the toddler meltdowns? Do those parents ever lose their cool? I would pay good money (eh, two to four bucks) to see the footage on the cutting room floor. There must be something we’re not seeing here. Life can’t be this easy with a family the size of a chorus line.

Michelle Duggar reminds me of every Texas preschool teacher I ever had, the kind who wore ankle socks with the little bunny pouf on the heel and long skirts with felt apples stitched around the hemline. She has this soft, gentle, sing-song voice that makes her sound like she’s constantly reading aloud from a nursery rhyme book with hundreds of little children gathered around her feet. On this last episode her youngest daughter had a seizure while she and Jim-Bob were out of town and she discussed that incident with the exact same tone of voice she uses for describing the joy of new grand babies. It was remarkable. I keep checking to see if there’s a tiny bluebird perched on her shoulder.

Jim-Bob is the consummate man of the house– provider, spiritual leader, and passionate husband to his adoring wife. He likes to bend her over and show his older kids how kissing is really done since they’re only allowed to hold hands until they get married and leave the Duggar clan. I know they home-school, but I think there are certain lessons that should be out-sourced, and making out is one of them. They should be learning that skill behind the bleachers like everyone else. But really, Jim-Bob seems like a really sweet man and he obviously cares deeply about his family. I was very touched by how emotional he became at his daughters’ weddings. He was visibly crying, and genuinely sad they were leaving the home.

Must be a very different set of emotions when you get married at 21 or 22 and it synchronizes with leaving your parents’ home for the first time. I got married at 35 and hadn’t lived at home since I was 17, so when my bridesmaid said to my dad on my wedding day: “Aww, your little girl’s getting married today!”, his response wasn’t tears or loving praise. It was “Little girl? Jesus, she’s practically middle-age!”.

Clearly, I grew up in an environment very different than the Duggar offspring. I am one of only two children. Our house was generally pretty quiet and without chaos. There were no mini-vans in our driveway, only sports cars. My parents are well versed in sarcasm, mood shifts, and profanity. We used to gather around the TV and watch Beavis and Butthead as a family. We weren’t home-schooled, but the next door neighbors were and we thought they were weird. My teenaged brother taped black garbage bags all over the attic and lived up there till he developed heat stroke. I refused to help my mother cook. My parents divorced.

We did love us some casseroles though.

 

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The Bachelor Recap: Much Bali-hoo

 

Oooooh, so close! We’re almost at the end of the season, so it’s time for the bachelor to look to producers to plan, fund and organize an amazingly romantic getaway for his three girlfriends. I bet Farmer Chris never imagined he would have so much in common with Hugh Hefner. The gang has flown all the way to balmy Bali, and I just don’t know how he’s gonna whittle the final three down to two in this location. It’s so romantic that we’re four minutes into the program and I’ve already fallen in love with the bellhop, a breadfruit tree and three naughty monkeys. This is going to be a tough week for him.

chris gif

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t find this Chris fella particularly compelling. Different strokes for different folks, but clean-cut, small-town farmer boy is definitely not my type. Clearly I prefer long-haired hipsters with 5-day stubble and the physique of a pencil. Although, I think he is very sincere and really does hope to find a long-term partner from this process. With only 500 people in his hometown, he actually seems like the kind of person who could genuinely benefit from a weird dating system like this. The guys from L.A. and Chicago never really needed a hand meeting women, but this guy does. Let’s help him out!

Bali is a stunning place, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the women were slightly disappointed about being filmed in a tropical climate. I grew up on an island, and didn’t date until I was almost 20. Coincidence? I think not!

Anyway, I’m sure these chicks have stylists on hand to tame their frizz and wipe down their flop sweat, so I’m not so worried about them. Let’s see how the episode unfolded…

 

DATE #1: Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn is super cute and has a good sense of humor, but I still find myself hoping she doesn’t lay on too much charm because if I hear this guy laugh again it will be too soon. Call me shallow, but an annoying laugh is a deal-breaker for me, and this guy’s chuckle makes my ears wince in discomfort. They’re in the middle of a rainforest and I find myself distracted by how sweaty they both are. First they check out some temples, then approach a lady with a banana stand. Chris is given a banana to hold, which sends flying monkeys coming toward him from every direction. They are running up his arms and back, canvassing his body for the forbidden fruit, which is basically a metaphor for the entire premise of this show. Kaitlyn even says she admires the monkey and the way it goes after what it wants. She wishes she could be more like that monkey.

Then the fun and games are over and they have a serious talk over dinner. He sorta gives her a hard time about not “letting her guard down” and she apologizes for it. This makes no sense to me. You’ve known this person a few weeks, he’s still openly dating other people, and you’re apologizing for not being vulnerable enough? Sounds pretty reasonable to me!

kately

Fantasy Suite time: There’s an outdoor bathtub filled with rose petals shaped into a giant heart. Kaitlyn’s down with it. Good for you, hon. Get yours.

 

DATE #2: Whitney

Whitney is a pretty, blonde fertility nurse from Chicago with a very memorable speaking voice. She’s worked hard to get a good job she’s passionate about, which makes me like her very much, but also think she’s not going to be the best fit for a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere.

They are sailing away on a private boat that looks like the pirate ship from Goonies. I would love a fantasy date like that, but every time Vin and I have been on a boat together he’s spent the whole time vomiting over the railing. Life is not a fairy tale, little girls. Take note.

Whit just described this process as a “rollercoaster of emotions”, which is my least favorite phrase in the history of the earth, so -1 point there. Chris just said that Bali is a “beautiful place to fall in love”. I’d add that Bali is an easy place to fall in love, and it’s a joint that he and his future lady love will likely never have access to again. That’s why they should start sending these people to Taco Bell, or some kind of all-you-can-eat country buffet in his hometown. See how easy it is to fall in love there.

They jump into the water and she exclaims that she is head over heels in love with him, to which he replies a sincere, “Thank you.” What a dream come true!

Next scene: They’re all showered up, and having a serious talk over dinner. This is actually the most realistic conversation I’ve ever seen on this show. They have a frank discussion about the future of her job, and what she’d have to give up by moving to his hometown. He levels with her, and tells her that his town is “very small”, and is very clear in explaining that there is nothing to do there, and if you want to do something (like work), you’ll be driving somewhere else. This would have driven me right up from the table and onto the next plane to JFK. But Whit is in it to win it, and tells him that if she’s chosen, she’s prepared to quit her job, leave awesome Chicago and move to his tiny farm town to start making some babies. I have never seen a man grin so wide. I think she might have just sealed the deal.

Fantasy suite- yup, yup. Another bathtub, this one candelit and full of bubbles. Can someone please sneak into my apartment and set this up for me? I know I only have a stand-up shower, but I’m sure you’re creative enough to work with it.

 

DATE #3:  Becca

From a body-language perspective, Becca is the least compatible with Chris. She is the only contestant who, upon greeting him, does not jump into his arms and wrap her legs around his back. This is because Becca is a virgin. I actually think this girl is the best fit for him, because she grew up in a small town in Louisiana and has a quiet, wholesome charm that a lot of men would be very smitten by. Whatever happens, this girl has great hair and unbelievable teeth, so I’m not that worried about her romantic future.

There’s a soundbite of Chris indicating that it’s “Time to get to know one another on another level”, which is code for “time to have some fun without our pants on.” Becca is going to use this evening to explain that she plans to have fun with her pants on until marriage. Let’s see how he handles it!

They’re sitting side by side, and she drops the bomb: The V-Bomb. He looks sooooooo uncomfortable. He is tongue-tied. He respects that, of course. But he’s uncomfortable. Visibly. She says his response was perfect. I really, really hope she didn’t have sex with him in that fantasy suite behind the sheer curtains. Because if he sleeps with her after revealing she was a virgin on TV and then dumps her in public days later, that would be unforgivable.

She ends up staying in the suite, and the next morning they’re both confused about what happens next as Becca is the logical one who tells Chris that she’d want to date for a while before leaving her whole life behind and moving to his hometown. I don’t know why logic is always viewed as suspicious behavior on this show.

 

ROSE CEREMONY THROWDOWN

The women are wearing traditional Balinese gear which consists of frizz-taming updos and many layers of brightly colored fabric. Chris is dressed like the beefy farmboy version of the karate kid.

And then he drops the boom. He asks Becca to step away with him. The other two titter, trying not to sound catty. They predict he’s having a little chat with Becca the Virgin before sending her home. Kaitlyn looks pretty confident about their future and says so. (oh girl, this is gonna hurt).

WRONGOLA! They come back minutes later, holding hands. Now they’re sweating for real. Your uptight hairdos can’t save you now.

Kaitlyn –the fun, sassy one– is being sent home. She was open and vulnerable, and now she has to face the humiliating back-of-the-cab cry. As he tries to explain why he’s letting her go, a rooster crows in the background. She looks so crestfallen and sad. So does he.

Don’t worry Kaitlyn. You’re going to be okay, and you’ll probably be chosen as the next Bachelorette.

Rise when the rooster crows.

Go out there and take the world by the bananas.

 

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V-day D-day: A Complete and Thorough Guide to Maintaining Long-Term Love and Achieving Sexual Awkardness

 

My friend Kim is about to spend her first Valentine’s day with her boyfriend. As such, they are swapping extravagant presents–he’s bought her theater tickets and she is gifting him a new guitar. I know this because she asked Vin to help her pick out a good one.

“Aren’t they adorable?” I said later to my husband.

“They’re super sweet,” Vin replied. Then we locked eyes and smirked before he said exactly what we were both thinking.

“Rookies.”

DSC_0341

 

Year One:

Our first Valentine’s day together was 50 years ago. Vin had recently quit his job and was spending three months driving around the country just for fun. I was pretty busy in my new life as a ski bum/cocktail waitress. It’s safe to say we both miss our 20s.

I lived in Denver at the time, so we were in a long-distance relationship. Interesting things happen during long-distance relationships. You drag your ass to the post office to mail care packages and love letters. Nights are spent making kissy noises into the receiver during three-hour phone calls (“You hang up first”, “No, YOU hang up first!) and days are filled with flirty texts and moony day-dreaming.  If you and your partner ever find yourself in a slump, I highly recommend one of you skips town and rents an apartment across the country.

We decided to meet in one of my favorite cities– Santa Fe, New Mexico. I arrived at the Ramada Inn hours before he did (because some things never change) and transformed our dingy quarters into a cartoonish love den by littering the room with dozens of hand-crafted paper hearts and pink streamers. He brought chocolates and cookies and sparkly new jewelry. I don’t remember what I wore, but I’m pretty sure it involved lace and rubber bands.  It ended up being an incredibly exciting and romantic weekend, filled with sugar, smooches, and roasted green chiles.

 

Year Two:

I’m not sure how or why fondue became the archetype for a romantic meal for two, but I decided to pull out all the stops and melt everything in my apartment for V-Day 2.o.  I lived alone this year, and took the liberty of shoving all my living room furniture against the wall so I could create a picnic spread for me and my man. I rolled out a deep pink blanket, and scattered a bunch of girly pillows around so I could lean seductively while dripping hot gruyere onto my chin.

We started with a full cheese course before diving headfirst into a bucket of melted chocolate, booze and heavy cream. The first few tastes were heaven, and just like I had planned, by the last few bites we couldn’t keep our hands to ourselves. We were like savages–a tangle of arms and hands clawing all over each other as we both fought over who got to murder the bathroom first.

DSC_9797

 

Year Three:

Back in New York and living with roommates,  I transformed my teeny bedroom on the Upper West Side into a charming Italian cafe. I brought in a small round table and covered it in linen and tiny white candles. I turned off all the lights and served filet mignon and fettuccine alfredo while Stevie Wonder played softly in the background. It was a great meal, but steak should never be served in one’s bedroom. Once your sheets and curtains smell like beef, the evening goes downhill fast.

 

Years Four through Six:

It was around this time that gifts became more perfunctory than predictable. These were the years when Vinny started gifting me All-Clad pans for holidays. His mother thought it marked the beginning of the end, but I felt like things were just getting good. My man knew me better. Flowers last about a week. Stainless steel is forever.

 

Years Seven through Ten:

Dinner? Flowers? Chocolate? Sex? Did we even exchange cards? Who the hell remembers?

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Year 11

This year, we’re double-dating with one of our favorite couples, Jen and Jackie. We’ll share a healthy vegan meal and end the night with John Hughes movies. Don’t tell Vin but I’m planning to blindfold him after dinner and drag him through the snow for a midnight viewing of Fifty Shades of Gray. Who says romance is dead?

Whatever you guys are up to for Valentine’s Day, please make sure you read this list of warnings about recreating scenes from this weekend’s sexy blockbuster. If you’re too lazy to click on this link, the gist is that you should always keep the key to your handcuffs handy and think twice before locking anything to your genitals.  I would also add “avoid dairy” to that list.

And please: take my word for it and never fill a bathtub with an entire bottle of baby oil expecting magically sexy things to happen. Not only will you clog your drain something awful, but your hair will never have any volume again and at least one of you will end up with a head injury.

Happy Valentine’s Day Lovahs!

 

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Live Blogging the Bachelor. Yes, I watch it.

So, I’m not proud of it or anything but uh….I watch The Bachelor. For any of you who thought I was somehow too intelligent or thoughtful to get sucked into reality garbage, I am sorry to disappoint you. Hell, I even did a quick stint in reality dating myself (Elimidate, 2003!). But for those of you who also watch this hypnotically turdy television show, Welcome!

This year’s bachelor is a farmer from Iowa named Chris. He’s big and blonde, and the producers love to film him washing his gloriously hairless chest in his conveniently placed outdoor shower. Farmer Chris–that’s Prince Farming, to you and me– lives in a town with only 450 people in it, so finding a proper woman to tend his hearth and harvest has proven really challenging. The good news is that going on The Bachelor should totally increase his chances of finding a nice girl to bring home to meet his mother and his potatoes. Because that’s just what every budding makeup artist or dance instructor in head-to-toe sequins and fake eyelashes who goes on a reality show aspires to do — move to a farm in Iowa.

group of ladies abc

photo from abc.com

This was the second episode, so he’s already knocked the group down from 30 to like 20 or 25, or 15 or 7. Honestly, all these girls start looking alike to me, and I can’t keep track of them, and I really can’t believe he actually knows all their names. I continue to imagine an embarrassed PA hiding in the bushes, holding up cue cards with names, ages and professions on them. By the way, did you know that “Sports Fishing Enthusiast” is a job now?

Tonight’s the first group date, so Farmer Chris takes six ladies to race tractors in downtown LA because… he’s a farmer! This is totally what life is like back home in Iowa! Oh! And by the way, the women have to walk through the city streets in bikinis and high heels on the way to mount their tractors. I don’t know much about Iowa or tractors or farm life,  but if this is the official audition for becoming a farmer’s wife I just got insulted on six womens’ behalf. I wouldn’t walk down a city street in a bathing suit for a yearly membership to his CSA.

After the tractor race, he chooses to spend some one-on-one time with a gal named Mackenzie. She looks about 12, but she wears overalls and named her son after a vegetable, so she might actually be the best match for a farmer.

Far be it from me to judge, but the girl named her son Kale, for chrissakes.  I mean, she’s only 21, so I get that she wanted to go with a trendy vegetable, but I just feel like she’s going to regret that choice down the line. She should have gone with something really classic and masculine like Chive or Fennel. Rutabaga has a nice ring to it.

Anyway, they’re drinking beers in a bar and she tells him she only dates guys with big noses. He’s a little offended that she just told him he has a big shnozz, then she really tries to woo him by talking about aliens.  Clearly she’s forgotten some of the basics of adult conversation since having a kid. She gets really fidgety and nervous because she’s going to reveal to Chris that she has a baby, but dagnabbit, he handled it like a gentleman and didn’t flinch or burst out laughing when she told him her kid’s name was Kale. Which is more than I can say for myself.

For the second group date, another group of women join Farmer Chris on a nighttime zombie hunt. When you’re on a voyage to find your life mate, this is the kind of event that really separates the wheat from the chaff.  Once all the zombies were dead, the group of 12 popped some champagne while leaning on bales of artfully placed hay. He compliments his eleven girlfriends and says “You guys really killed it today.” That Chris. So punny. And so little body hair.

The losers back home who didn’t get picked for the group dates get drunk and twerk on the bathroom wall while wearing clay masks. One gets completely blitzed and does a monologue mocking all the hair on a fellow contestant’s butt. Now that’s just tacky.

This leads me to wonder: What happens after THE FINAL ROSE in these womens’ professional and personal lives? Won’t every potential suitor think they’re a little warped for going on The Bachelor, and won’t every potential employer youtube the shit out of their episodes before calling them in for an interview? Can they ever be taken seriously again?

fields of glory

photo by abc.com

But tonight, no one cares about all that. Tonight is all about lip gloss and winged hairdos and low-cut evening gowns. And roses–a very finite amount of roses. A girl with Kim Kardashian’s face who’s dressed like she arrived at the mansion via genie bottle or magic carpet just admitted to Mackenzie (Kale’s mother) that she’s a 26-year-old virgin. The jig is clearly up on that front for the young mother, and she admits to being extremely jealous that the cards are now ever in the virgin’s favor because Chris seems like the type of guy who would really prefer his produce organic, so to speak. The next clip shows the virgin making out with Prince Farming with such intensity I’m pretty sure we all just witnessed the nation’s first live tonsillectomy.

Final roses distributed. One girl trips on the carpet. Furious laughter. Now the cut girls are making their exits one by one. Egregious crying. Why do people sign up for this?

My heart is full of emotion. I feel sad for the girls who got sent  home, the ones who must now explain their behavior to their bosses and families. I feel concern for the girl from Brooklyn, who I’m fairly certain was floridly psychotic on national TV and is grossly being kept around for entertainment value. And I too find myself jealous of the virgin.

I could never get my ponytail that shiny.

 

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My Husband Vinny

 

Between you and me, I still find it hilarious that I ended up with a guy named Vinny from Queens. So does my family, who’ve lived in Texas for so many generations that some of their accents might actually require subtitles on national TV.

A lot of people who meet Vinny assume he’s Italian, because you know… his name is Vinny and he grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Queens. But Vinny’s not Italian, he’s Croatian. Which is, you know, not really that far from Italy.

Anyway, Vin’s accent is about the same as mine–subtle, with just a hint of local flavor. But on occasion, he likes to crank the Queens up a peg and go full Joe Pesci on us. There are no famous Croatians to imitate (are there?), so he tends to give the people what they want and pretend he just stepped off a Scorcese set. I find this to be the funniest thing in the world and will usually egg him on. I married a ham.

DSC_8089

Saturday we went to the New York Botanical Gardens for the Holiday Train Show. I seem to have a knack for picking family-friendly activities, and sometimes it feels kind of awkward to be the only childless adults adrift in a sea of MacLaren strollers. However, I have to say, it’s nice to finally have a height advantage somewhere.

We roll into the parking lot at the gardens in the Bronx.  We pull up to the first of two tollbooths, where we pay $15 for parking. There is a $2 discount if you pay with Mastercard, so I ask Vinny if he has one. “Fuck yeah, I do!” It’s amazing how exciting saving two bucks can be.

We pull up to the second booth. The guy tells us it’s $28 per person to come into the gardens. Damn! That’s steep. We ask if it’s worth it. The guy waits way too long to answer. We recognize the brilliance in placing the parking tollbooth before the ticket tollbooth. Clearly we’re not going to spend $13 to take a lap in their parking lot. We buy the tickets.

We tour the grounds before hitting the train show. We walk up a little hill to check out the rock garden, and are disappointed to find a big lock on the gate. The rock garden is closed for the season. Apparently the rocks will not bloom again until next April. Bummer.

We traipse across the grass. There’s a nice building on the other side of a big lawn. “Look at that,” Vinny from Queens says in his best Joe Pesci.  I think he used the top of his hand to brush some invisible dirt from his chin. “Now that’s a beautiful building. I bet it was built by the Italians.”

“Why would you bet that?” I asked.

“Because the Italians…they’re an extraordinary race.” This reminded me of the time Vinny called me a racist for ordering white toast instead of wheat. I had to remind him that wheat is not a race, and my poor nutritional choices are my own damn business.

“Vinny, Italian is not a race.”

“No it’s not…but this is!” And then he ran away from me.

Finally, it’s our turn to go see the model trains. We’re not really here for the trains, but the artist renderings of 150 NYC landmark buildings, all constructed with natural materials like twigs, leaves and roots. It’s apparent that most of the kids are more interested in spotting Thomas the Train than the Flatiron Building carved out of tree bark.

When we get to the front of the line, the young female ticket taker asks Vinny: “Are you a model? For Abercrombie and Fitch?” That Vinny. The one person I know who doesn’t look chubby in layers.

Then she asks me: “Can I see your ticket?”

Well, then. Moving on. Time to see some bark buildings!

bldgskyline

We take the tour amidst a million kids yelling “This is boring!”, completely underwhelmed by the fact that someone WHITTLED THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE OUT OF FREAKING MULCH. We thought it was amazing and felt like telling the guy at the tollbooth that it was definitely worth 28 bucks.

Since we were in the Bronx, we made one last stop before heading home– our favorite bakery on Arthur Avenue (the real Little Italy–not that overcrowded tourist trap in Manhattan) for some freshly filled cannolis. Vin double-parked the car and slipped back into Joe Pesci for this moment: “Be a good girl, and go grab me a cannol”.

I purchase two cannolis– one large, one small–from a delicate Italian woman with pillowy hair and beautiful hands. When I see the difference in their size I say, “Oh look, a mama cannoli and a baby cannoli”, and she repeats back to me in a lovely accent that is soft and slowly cadenced: “Yes, it is a mama cannoli and a baby cannoli, A-ha-ha-ha.” Vin could learn a thing or two about subtlety from this woman.

I run back to the car with the pastries, and Vin says, “Heyyyy, back to Queens. Our home away from home!”

“Vinny, Queens is our home.”

“Even bettah, even bettah.”

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A Note About Trends (This post though!)

 

Last Sunday morning Vin and I went out for brunch, as is custom. We’re trying to stretch our wings, so we journeyed to a really cool Mexican spot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The tables were basically all two-tops running down the length of a wall so it was the perfect place for eavesdropping and checking out other peoples’ food. I was happily enjoying my chilaquiles when the couple next to us had their meals delivered. As the waiter approached them, the male patron seemed especially eager, and was carefully watching his plate of huevos rancheros as it made its final descent to the table.

When the food finally made touchdown, the man rejoiced with a hearty “BOOOOOOM!” loud enough for us to hear, and of course, ridicule. He also used both hands to enthusiastically gesture that his eggs had arrived.

Vinny and I glanced at each other and almost choked on our chorizo. Doesn’t this guy know that BOOM! is like sooooooo 2013?

People of Crown Heights and beyond, I think it’s time to retire BOOM. In my opinion, boom is not clever or funny because it’s tired and overdone and has been used in every crappy commercial for the last two years.  (See also: amazeballs, totes adorbs, keep calm and blah-blah-blah). Plus, if you check Instagram or blogs or Twitter or FB or whatever else the kids are updating these days, there are clearly a whole new slew of trendy catchphrases to latch onto. And here is where I try to integrate as many of them as possible into one blog post without completely blowing out all my brain cells. Please, to enjoy.

#NO FILTER

*******

Sooooo this just happened.

I was so hungry I literally thought I was dying, so I walked to the grocery. True story– our grocery store is so close to our house we call it “the pantry” (LOLZ for dayz) and I live in Queens so not only is it open 24 hours, but it also carries E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. including lots of really cool stuff from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Latin America and the Middle East, so… winning! You can get an entire lamb’s head (complete with eyeball) if you need it, and their selection of farty lentils and empanada wrappers almost makes up for the fact that 75 percent of the produce looks like it’s been thrown against a wall. #whaty’alldotomypeaches? #groceryfail

I’m a total foodie, so when i go to the store I have to make a list because I walk in and suddenly i”m like “I NEED ALL THE THINGS!”.  Srsly,  I get totally hangry and then I can’t. even. stop. myself from throwing everything in my cart. Except it’s not a cart, it’s a basket because UUUMMM HELLOO, I live in Queens and we don’t even have room for carts here. The struggle is real, y’all.

My first stop is the cheese aisle because, duh–it’s cheese. I’m obsesssssssssed with cheese. Cheese is my fave. Cheese is EVERYTHING. I need more cheese in my life right now. Then I remember I’m lactose intolerant and literally start crying. Okay, I didn’t literally cry. That’s silly. I’m a grown woman.

(I definitely got emotional though.)

I move back over to the fruits and veggies to load up on stuff for green smoothies. Everything looks a-maze. I throw a pineapple in my basket. It’s super heavy but WANT. I move over to the kale. It’s gorge and I LOVES IT. I grab bananas, and fresh ginger and quinoa and lemons and parsley and chia seeds and everything else that falls under the category of vegan- healthy- paleo- clean eats- organic- gluten-free- veggie porn. I’m going to make the freshest, healthiest, most drool-worthy green smoothie everrrrr and I’m going to live for it and it’s going to taste amaaaaaaaaazzzzzzzzing. Ah-maze-ing.

Still.

That puffy white bread though…

That sexy can of Pringles though…

That Ben and Jerrys’ Triple-Caramel-Chunk though…

I am crushing on them. HARD. I can’t even. I caaaaaaaaan’t. STOP IT. Gah. OMG. I DIE. I am completely dying. I’M TOTALLY, 100 PERCENT DEAD. Not even mostly dead, but DEAD. Like, as a doornail.

And then I see it.

THIS. This exactly. This right here. This right now. Ummmmm, are you even serious??? This stuff is my jam!!

Oh wait, this is jam. Nom-nom-nom, strawberry. And with a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good. Into the basket it goes. Right next to my farty lentils. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! (i hate myself. i can’t help myself.)

I make my way to the freezer case for a really big bag of ice so I can dump it over my head and film it. OMG It’s gonna be so cold, but it’s for a great cause and I look pretty good wet and YOLO FOMO YOKO ONO. But before I head home to drench my blowout, lemme take a selfie.

me in grocereee

#greasy hair, i sorta care #dear mom, send chapstick #no filter #hahaha, just kidding– in our mid-30s we use all the filters #grocery shopping rules #this is the widest aisle in the whole store #ootd secret–the initials on this monogram necklace aren’t mine cause i bought it for $2 at a flea market # i had no idea what ootd meant until i wrote this post #an old man caught me taking this picture  #i felt really stupid taking it

Totally winning at grocery shopping. EPIC trip. Time for champs!

 

Sorry. I’m not sorry.

 

 

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