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Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

“Hey, your hair looks GREAT,” he said.

My face flashed hot as I fumbled for a response.

“Um, thanks? It’s ah, I er, wha…it does?”

I saw fear in his eyes.

“Didn’t you just get it done?” he said.

Suddenly my daughter and his daughter appeared behind me. We’d been standing in the doorway, waiting for his daughter to gather her things, and that’s when I got it. When my daughter called to invite his daughter over, I made sure everyone knew I was running late from an appointment. For my daughter, “appointment” means “highlights,” and she must have told them I was getting my hair done.

“Ohhh, no,” I said. “I wasn’t getting my hair done. I was at the doctor’s. But thanks for noticing my great hair,” I said, giving it an exaggerated Betty Rubble pat.

He laughed and went on to say that his wife (who happens to be one of the most gorgeous women I know) comments that he never notices her haircuts, so now he always compliments a woman who’s had her hair done.

“You are well-trained, my friend…and I mean that in a good way.” I said laughing and waving good-bye.

I shut the door and thought: well now, that was awkward.

It was silly. I was almost relieved by his benign intentions and yet, a teensy crestfallen that they’d been such a mistake. I realized it was the first time in near decades a (cute) man other than my husband had made a comment on — or even seemed to notice — my appearance. And for a nano-second, it was kinda nice.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any desire to be a MILF. MILFs eat salads. I prefer burgers. They wear lipstick, hoop earrings and bracelets. My biggest Saturday-night effort involves Burt’s Bee chapstick and the same fake gold studs from Kohl’s. Bracelets I pull out for Christmas and weddings only.

No, I don’t want to be leered at by the other dads at Family Fun Nite. That’s gah-ross. Further, if I overheard my husband telling some other woman how great her hair looked, I’d feel a bit sick.

But the exchange did give me pause. Once we get married, we are off the market –but does that mean we’re not to be noticed? Is married status the modern, suburban equivalent of wearing a Burka?

I don’t aspire to get compliments from other men, but over time, does that somehow contribute to a feeling of invisibility? Even though we strive for achievement in areas beyond our looks, when we go decades without a non-spousal compliment on our appearance, how does that impact our feelings of femininity?

Maybe that’s why we give our girlfriends so much feedback. “You look so skinny in that,” we say. “What a cute sweater!”

I don’t know what it all means. I’m not losing any beauty sleep over it. But with Valentine’s Day around the corner let me just say this — to all you great, funny, talented, intelligent, thoughtful, ambitious, compassionate, creative women out there: You are beautiful, and your hair looks great.

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I can’t get it together to write a post.

I’m overwhelmed.

I need to go running, do 25 loads of laundry, sweep the gobs of cat hair off my stairs, buy two more linen napkins and a can of red spray paint to paint the thistle I clipped for my Christmas urns. (Do I need to do this last one? Hell yeah.)

Add this to the bigger stuff: I need to find a job – or more importantly: figure out what kind of job to find. I need to stop creating new blogs every time I have an idea (seriously, I’m up to four now due to the cunning words “register a new blog” — the metaphor for my life not lost on me).

I need to lose 10 pounds.

Before December 3rd.

So I sit down to post, to unwind by exercising some flabby creative muscles.

But I can’t, because I’m too jealous — of you people.

First there’s this gorgeous post by Mom Zombie. She and I are in similar places in life, but look at the beauty in her day that she thought about and then wrote about. Her post: soulful and original. My post: borrowed links.

Then Allison, does it with her post on holiday gift ideas. It’s not enough that she’s pretty and skinny and sooo nice. She’s also funny, charming, and made this amazing book of her amazing posts for her (I’m certain) amazing dad. I”m not only  jealous she has good ideas, I’m jealous she has a good dad.

Next, Mrs. Waltz – absent for like, forever! And she sneaks in a well-crafted, intelligent post with her characteristic wit — oh, and a super-smart link, which reminds me how clever she is, and how interesting her Google reader must be. I don’t even know how to set up a Google reader. I’m not even sure there is such a thing. Is there?

And Cherie, re-invented with a new blog so fresh, I can feel Maine, smell Maine, hear Maine — even though I’ve never been to Maine. Also, her new Internet presence is well-integrated with her other social media outlets. As a former marketer, this rallies further envy. Ha! — good objective, great strategy and even better tactics. 

Plus, isn’t is enough that Shauna just published her second book? No. She has thick hair and a million friends. And her friends come over and they have a party, and eat yummy things. So she posts recipes, inspiring another book. And, P.S. Is that a top-of-the-line Le Creuset baking dish I see in the picture? Of course it is.

One more: Did I mention my sister-in-law? She runs the marketing department of a big city, law firm and has a stunning garden — at her weekend house… in the country. And speaking of, recently her picture was in Town and Country — her picture with Katie Couric with whom she hosted a fabulous charity event where they raised mega bucks to help cure cancer. The other day, she sent me an email with a link to an essay that was just published. Published!

So, my point is this: With Thanksgiving just two days away, let me say, I’m grateful to know such talented, bright and passionate people. I’m further grateful a few of you kind people still read my little blog. Of course, what choice do you have with all the linking I’ve done?

But, please guys — could you just aim a little lower? Or maybe a lot lower.

Keep me company down here. I have  chocolate…and vodka.

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My fish was dying – again. This would make it my third fish to die in two weeks.  I grabbed the fish bowl and my coat, ran out and hailed a cab.  With icky, fishy water sloshing all over my lap, I directed the cab to the Old Town Aquarium.  I ran in the dark store panicking as my little fish gasped for breath.

 

“Help!!” I yelled out to no one in particular. “My fish is dying!”

 

A bohemian-looking guy sauntered over and peered into my bowl.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“This will be my third fish to die in the last two weeks”, I hollered, “I am doing something wrong.  Please, please help me before I kill this one, too.”

 

The Pet Shop Dude cleared his throat. “Ma’am,” he said, looking directly into my eyes, “It probably will die.  They all do.  You know, it’s really better if you think of a fish as an insect rather than a pet.”

 

He stopped me cold. Those were wise words.  I’ve recalled them often over the years, altering the nouns but maintaining the cloud-clearing sentiment. Talk about perspective.

 

Lately, I’ve been bouncing around, tormented by my soul-destroying need for approval.  I have this friend that I can’t figure out.  She is unpredictably open and secretive. One day we talk like great friends, the next day she’s busy and disinterested. Just when I think she’s a keeper, she distances herself. 

 

Somehow I seem to make this all about me, and then I walk around sad and wounded.  I view it as a personal failure. I’m doing something wrong.  I’m killing the friendship.Then I remember the sage advice of the Pet Shop Dude and I construct a new iteration of his wise words: It’s really better if I think of friendship as a source of enjoyment rather than a source of self-esteem. 

 

Friends make your life better; they make the road less bumpy. They are there to share in the fun and help guide through the bad, but it’s not their job to make you feel whole –that you need to do for yourself.

 

I force myself to think of my friend as an insect rather than a pet….and somehow, I feel better.

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When we first moved here, I didn’t know what a Hosta was.  My new neighbor, Karen, told me.  That first spring, still stunned by the loss of my career, I looked out at my new yard and felt helpless and stupid. I was lonely, bored and completely overwhelmed with all the little green shoots popping up, taunting me in their omnipresence. Karen, a serious gardener who is all about good dirt, came over in her rubber boots and started telling me what to do.

  

I couldn’t tell the difference between a plant and a weed, so she showed me. I went out and bought some cheap gardening gloves and started digging up weeds. I would spend hours bent over, yanking things out by the roots while my daughter, Elizabeth, serenaded me with little melodies. I started to relax.

 

At Karen’s urging, I watered the climbing roses regularly.  I pruned the spiraea.  I dug up old tulip bulbs that were planted in the wrong places.  I tried unsuccessfully to rescue a dying rhododendron and in the process, learned some basics on pruning, placement and site conditions.

 

As the weather got warmer, Karen and I would go running together.  She would point out different plants and why she liked them.  We planned our routes around gardens we wanted to show each other.  She gave me an extra copy of her favorite gardening book (Lois Hole’s “Perennial Favorites“). At the end of that first summer, I sat back and enjoyed the payoff: a few good blooms, a blossoming friendship and the beginning of a new education.  It was official: I had a hobby. 

 

The next spring, Karen and I sat down and planned out a whole new perennial garden by my back patio.  My husband dug up four feet of soil, an event that rivaled an Amish barn-raising.  Neighbors stopped by to watch the progress, marveling and laughing at the job we had undertaken.  We were knee deep in heavy clay and cow manure.  But in two days, we had gorgeous black soil and my new perennials oozed happily into their fertile home. We were exhausted and proud, having ceremoniously claimed the land as our own.

 

Each spring, I can hardly wait to get started. As soon as the first green leaves peak out from the warming earth, Karen and I begin making plans. With cups of coffee steaming in the morning air, we discuss what we have in mind for our gardens –and then we get to work. 

 

 With husbands and kids pitching in, we work outside for hours, stopping frequently to admire our progress.  We usually end the work day about the same time and retreat into our respective homes to shower off the mud — only to meet outside again, open a few good bottles of wine and relax on each others patios. These are among my favorite days of living here.

 

Three years ago, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She started chemo shortly after Christmas and finished in early June.  On days when she felt strong enough, she put on her rubber boots and headed out to her garden.  With a blanket beneath her and her daughters around her, she weeded and took naps in the sunshine, her bright, bald head resting on her outstretched arms.  It was as if she needed to absorb the life around her.

 

 I decided not to offer to weed or prune for her.  I thought it would be stealing pleasure, reminding her even more of what the disease had taken. Her garden looked a little sad that summer.  It seemed to be in a state of shock as well.  The growth was quiet and slow, as if waiting for her return.

 

 This is the third summer since her last treatment.  Her scans are clean, and her garden is flourishing wildly. It is vibrant and defiant, almost messy from the rapid growth. She keeps planting more and more things in it. With the cancer weeded out, there’s no stopping her.  

 

My garden is doing pretty well, too.  When I sit outside with coffee and the paper, it keeps me company and gives me perspective. I look at it and think: well, yeah– there’s progress.  I’ve done some good here.   

 

Dostoevsky once said “At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art. Then life will find its very existence from the arts.”  I think that’s the way it is with the garden.

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When I was living in Chicago, I went through a lonely period. All of my good friends had left the city to settle down, and I was still there, working at this small ad agency that was going out of business. Almost everyone had been laid-off, so I didn’t even have co-workers to hang out with. I was between boyfriends.

I was 26. I was all alone.

During this time, I was going to this big Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue that had a counseling center that put on helpful, not-too-churchy seminars: dealing with bereavement, balancing work/family, stuff like that. So one day when I read in the bulletin about an upcoming seminar called “How to Deal with Loneliness” I thought why not? Maybe I could get a few tips. Plus with Chicago being such a big city, I figured I probably wouldn’t know anyone there, so I wouldn’t feel like a total loser. I called and registered.

Three or four weeks later, I got this call at work from someone at the counseling center. She told me that unfortunately, they’d needed to cancel the loneliness seminar.

“Okay,” I said. “Thanks for calling. I’m curious though, why did they cancel it?”

She sounded nervous, “Um, I guess there was a lack of participation.”

“Really? How many people signed up for it?”

“You were the only one.”

I swear to God.

I started laughing. “Well, I guess that makes me pretty lonely then”.

I’m sure she thought I would jump off a bridge. Imagine that: You are the only one in the entire city of Chicago that signs up for a “How to Deal with Loneliness” seminar.

True Story.

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