Lady Rage

rageI recently attended a workshop where the discussion of anger management came up. Since the last time I can recall feeling really miffed was when my ex moved out taking one of my books.. it wasn’t a subject I had much opinion or need for.

Oh how wrong I was.

When  asked to think about the physical effects of anger, all of the seeming rational, calm men in the group immediately threw out a practically uniform list of attributes; seeing red, getting flushed, becoming blinkered to everything else, shortness of breath, clenched fists, sweating and taking a wide stance. Presumably this one is to allow for the massive expansion of balls.. or do men get erections when they get angry?  I guess it didn’t come up. Overall.. the responses that you’d expect when facing a large predator or Donald Trump.

Meanwhile all of the women in the group just looked confused. The responses I heard included; “I don’t really feel angry” or  ” I swear inside my car”, “I just swallow it” or (most familiar to me) “I start crying”.

Yep.. really helpful in those ‘fight or flight’ situations.

As much as I hate to tread that whole ‘biology’ trope, it was clear.. men are really used to and conditioned to deal with anger. Women.. we don’t seem to even admit that it exists or when we encounter it, we’re unable to deal with the feeling – the unbridled, uncontrollable, power of anger..and we’re too afraid (or conditioned) to express it. It’s too uncomfortable. And as ‘laydees’ we’re all brought up to stuff those uncomfortable feelings down as quickly and permanently as possible.

I thought back to the times I’ve actually been really angry – seeing red, losing control, balling up my fists fury- and I couldn’t come up with anything. Certainly not in adulthood.

26 years. 1 divorce, several heart breaks, numerous indignities, insults and betrayals. No anger that I can recall. I did call my ex out for ‘smelling bad’ and I’ve called people ‘mean’. But rage..fury… anger… ? Nada.

The women at the workshop… the best we could come up with was passing irritation towards inconsiderate drivers, annoying partners or friends, or frustration. But the symptoms felt by men, or expressed by men.. We just didn’t have the experience.

We didn’t need an anger management discussion. We needed a ‘how to feel anger’ course. A ‘stop swallowing this shit’ retreat. A certificate in ‘expressing anger externally’.

So there and then I committed to exploring my ‘lady rage’.

I know I have stuff I must be angry about. Things which make me teary-eyed to remember or stuff I don’t even want to remember because it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve had my fair share of let downs, humiliations and mistreatment. And god knows, I have a whole state of rudeness and bad driving to get started with.

Next time I feel uncomfortable, when I’m so frustrated that I’m fighting back tears or trying to hold it all in.. I’m going to clench my fists, widen my stance and let my lady balls grow. I am going to experience my anger, my fury, my rage.

Lady rage.. coming to a woman near you.

Sidebar: I Googled ‘angry woman’ for an image, but was faced by women with their arms crossed, fingers pointed or steam coming out of their ears. Clearly even Google can’t find a woman who actually looks angry. Unless she is black. There were lots of black angry women. Grrr. That’s a WHOLE other post.

In Search of the Holy Grail.. pain free kick ass shoes

heelsI have a secret. I have the feet of a Hobbit. Scrawny, knobbly, bent and twisted. Not quite the ragged hairy nubbins of Frodo, but my feet do seem to have channeled Shrek. Lets just say my bi weekly pedicures are necessary for the sake of humanity, and those attending my yoga class.

After 4 years working from home, my hobbit feet had become accustomed to the comforts of home. Clogs, Tevas, Ascis and Frye boots litter my closet. Wool socks formed the basis of most outfits.

I did wear heels .. but only on dates with tall guys or when I needed to feel particularly girlie.

So basically once or twice a year. And mainly for sitting down.

Then I moved to CA, moved back to working in an office environment and tried to reintroduce my feet to footwear that didn’t resemble something available with a prescription or worn exclusively by retirees.

The result, unsurprisingly, was pain. Lots of pain. Pain that radiated from my toes all the way up my legs and at one point through my eyeballs. Trying to walk into a meeting with aplomb was akin to firewalking. Best achieved at high-speed and with quick intakes of breath. I managed to make it to my car with a combination of tip toeing and waddling.. anything to avoid the feeling of nails being driven through my toes and heels simultaneously.

Why bother you might be thinking? Why no just sling on some flats and be comfortable?

I tried flats. I really did. But several comments about my ‘little girl’ height and jokes about me not seeming like my usual confident self made me question what heels did for me. Heels gave me authority. Heels enabled me to look people in the eye instead of the nipple. Heels enabled me to wear pants without paying $25 per pair in alterations.

Hey, I’m cheap.

Of course I could straighten my spine and walk tall (5 ft 2 isn’t quite midget status), but honestly I’d rather look my boss in the eye and who can resist looking more authoritative, slimmer and just a little sexy? After all, I am single, I work with senior execs all day and hell..if I have to dress up for work, I’d rather not be the poster girl for lesbian chic. I left that look back in Colorado. There has to be some version of heels which doesn’t result in sobbing …right? I mean people have been rocking these things for 50 years.

I started with a few requirements…..

  • The ability to walk at high-speed without losing them. My job involves running across conference halls/ airports/ hallways on a regular basis and I have left at least 2 shoes in the middle of a cross walk before now. Straps or laces, however it works.. but ‘firm fit’ is key.
  • Able to fit my weirdly skinny ankles and bizarrely shaped toes without causing nail loss. I don’t rule out square toes, but I’d prefer if my heels didn’t resemble something from the early 90s.
  • Suitability for a hetero 30-40 something woman who wears skirts, dresses and pants. i.e. Huge platform soles and knee-length lacing are out.. along with anything with the name ‘comfort’ in the title.

But since I’m wearing them all day every day, I figured.. money no object. At least for one pair.  No problem right?

WRONG.

A Facebook request to friends led me to Franco Sarto, Cole Haan and Nine West. A gift certificate led me to Macys. After exhausting everything from kitten heels to wedges, Sam Edelson to Prada and an entire weekend I came to several conclusions.

  • It doesn’t matter how much you spend.. boots win out every time for comfort, fit and style. Bummer because I now live in CA. Where its warm. All year.
  • Elastic or leather with stretch are your friends.
  • Most shoes will fit your heels or your toes.. but rarely both.
  • Fancy straps, chains, buckles or slingbacks generally result in blisters about 30 mins after you wear them for the first time. Wear them around the house for a few hours – vacuum, clean, cook, do laundry. By the time your clothes are in the dryer, you’ll know. (plus if you live with someone, kinda kinky).
  • Expensive ($250+) does generally get more comfortable and more long-lasting but you’re going to be spending a minimum of $250, $400 or $1000. Which to most single chicas who aren’t Meg Whitman means an annual treat if that.
  • Comfort and style don’t mix. I’ve tried all of the ‘so called’ solutions and the closest I came was a $550 spanish brand that still resembled something you’d wear to perform a stompy fiesta dance with a tambourine. Fine if I were living in Spain, or about to head out for the evening, but a tough mix with my all black, formal wear, wardrobe.

So in the end I wound up settling for slightly uncomfortable, slightly more than I could afford, and perfectly office appropriate. I’ve already taken them out for a test run up and down the halls a few times, and I can stand in them for about 6 hours. Not perfect, but hey.. at least I can make it to the car without walking like a constipated duck, no-one is making comments about ‘the single chick with comfortable shoes’ and I’ve not broken out a single band-aid yet. Yay for Donald J. Pilner.

But in the meantime I’ll continue my search. I figure anyone who finds that ‘style and comfort’ solution for women’s heels will make millions.

If I find them first, I’m buying stock.

 

The Grown Up Girls Guide to Bugs

C67-153729I’ve been a single chick for a while now, and like all singletons I’ve encountered more than my fair share of terrifying things in my bathroom. No, not the latest ‘Kevin’ off Match.com or OkCupid, I’m talking about bugs. Creepy crawlers. Things with more legs than the Rockettes. Shit that frankly, well, I’m glad my eyesight ain’t all that cos their blurry outlines are terrifying enough. But as with all grown ups, you have to deal with that shit.. and unless you’ve got a handy neighborhood entomologist or a man friend who’s eager to prove his worthiness via his ability to squish things.. well, its just you and me Sista.

Below, my handy guide for grown up girls dealing with lifes creepy crawlies. (and no, we’re excluding Kevin or whatever his name is).

Spiders

No-one likes spiders (with the exception of comic book geeks who keep looking for radioactive ones in the hope of bagging Emma Stone). They have way too many legs, they seem kind of hairy (based on my dubious eyesight) and they’re completely unpredictable. They might be willing to hang out in your bathtub for 7 weeks.. but then they also might just want to take a stroll up your bedroom wall and check you out while you’re sleeping. Thats what freaks me out about spiders.. one minute you’ve got the bastard checked out, safely dozing in his corner the next he’s gone. Where? You didn’t see him move! Who knows where he went… except you can guarantee he’s showing up when its dark, you’re trying to sleep and you suddenly feel something on your face/arm/leg/foot. At which point you’re 3 foot above the bed, and developing a serious phobia towards darkness. I should know. I had a spider land on my face while I was sleeping and in my Ambien stupor, punched myself in the face. I woke up the next morning with a black eye and the remains of a fairly large spider legs pasted to my cheek. I’m still in therapy and have to check the walls and ceilings before I turn off my light.

Remedy:  I won’t have truck with any of your vegan/ vegetarian/karma infused relocation practices. A) Who has the time? and B) You know he’s coming right back into the house because he’s a bastard.  I say if you can see that sucka, you can kill that sucka. You won’t win any brownie points by telling me ‘he’s more scared of you than you are of him’. Prove it shithead. Until then, that bastard is a smear on my Bounty wrapped hand of doom. Bamn. Dealt with. Just make sure you get all of the legs as those suckers are a bitch to get rid of once they’ve welded themself to the floor.

 

Wasps

I like a bee. You know, the rounded flying furry Mounds bar who trundle past your head while you’re reading in the garden or bounces off your helmet when you’re descending at speed? Bees are cool. They pollinate, they’re natures pacifists (unless suicidal), and you’ve got to relate to their truculent fatness. How they fly is as mysterious to me as the 787 Dreamliner getting off the ground. Unfeasible… but apparently possible.

But wasps? Wasps are natures asshole. They’re the insect equivalent of the guy in the douchmobile, flipping you off because you needed to get into his lane without a written request and some form of payment. He cuts in line because he’s busy (and you’re not), he drinks Bud Lite while riding a jetski and thinks that Kardashian chick is ‘all that’. Yep, your average wasp is an ass-hooooooole. He makes a shit ton of noise, he can’t find his way out of a window, but wants to make it your problem when you try to coax him out with a copy of the New Yorker. Suddenly his stupidity is your fault and -fuck you- he’s gonna sting you cos you deserve it. In fact, he’s gonna sting you no matter what… you know.. just ‘cuz. No wasp ever looked at a dog, a cute baby or a sleeping adult and thought ‘ you know what.. I’m just going to keep on heading where I was going’. Nope, encounter the wasp and he’s on a death mission and he’s keeping going until there’s nothing left. In fact, he’ll even sting you past death. Suck it people.

Remedy: You, like me, might find wasps a little intimidating. After all they make a lot of noise, they’re irrational in their desire to push through glass (ignore the open window or door nearby), and they turn on anyone offering assistance.  The only answer is death however it’s a two stage process with these suckas. First you need to stun. A rolled up New Yorker, an old copy of a book you’ll never read again or even the sole of a flip-flop can be used to stun the shithead off the glass and onto a hard surface. Once stunned, act fast. Blunt force trauma usually works – a shoe, an extremely hard ‘whaap’ with the aforementioned Bounty clothed fist of death or simply a crushing under any flat surface will suffice. Still worried that he might be breathing? The ‘smear’ tends to render any remaining fears about the wasps longevity – its a bitch to clean but once you’ve confirmed wasp guts on your book/ shoe/ magazine/ fist… you can relax and get back to focusing on your other bugs.

Ants

Now these little suckers are annoying but if you’re anything but life’s biggest puss, you’ll not waste anytime trying to relocate or ‘live and let live’ with ants. Once ants move in, you’ve basically been branded a dirty sloth by the insect community, and only murder is going to keep all of their friends away. Its like inheriting a cabin on the lake.. once one of those guys shows up, they’re coming back with all of their relatives. Murder it is.

Remedy: After foreswearing not to leave food or anything containing sugar in the vicinity of your kitchen  (maybe now it time to go on that ‘no sugar’ diet) I recommend any spray which comes in industrial quantities. And no, don’t both looking for ‘kid safe’ or ‘pet safe’. If its safe for them, you just added hot sauce to the ant feast and put out the ‘Free buffet’ sign. Nope.. select something with ‘Killer’ in the title and go to town. Boiling hot water is an instant way to send a message (and avoids trying to reenact The Godfather on a micro scale), and following up with some poisonous nuclear strength murder juice tends to get the message across. I killed an ant colony in a house 3 years ago and I guess my name still sends shock waves amongst the ant community, cos I’ve not seen one since. Don’t underestimate a well-timed and targeted hit.

 

Moths

A sign of the devil. Furry and soft yet terrifyingly flappy, moths are my nemesis. I will suffer through a hot night, sweating profusely rather than open a screened window because of moths. I know no matter how well protected I am.. one of those hairy black flappers is making it inside, right inside my bedlight to scare the bejesus out of me late at night. I have no idea why moths love me, except to say I must have an illuminating personality, because I can attract them in droves. And not content with just sitting on a light bulb or heading towards the light, moths seem to think that more flapping equals progress… which makes them horrific house guests for the easily scared (aka me).

Remedy. Since you can’t spray poison into the air and your ability to hit a moth requires the aim of a Yankee with the patience of Yoda, I can only suggest you move house until winter. Moths don’t like the cold so hopefully they will self combust with the first frost and you can breathe easily for another 6 months. But do beware. I’ve had a moth fly out of my sweaters in March and land me in the ER for a panic attack, so don’t ever let down your guard. I’ve been in a stand-off with a huge moth that flew into my apartment 8 days ago and I don’t know where he is but I’m ready to move at this point.

Yep.. I’m just going to house and call it good. The moth can take the apartment until fall. Hey that Kevin guy isn’t that bad …maybe he’ll put me up for a few months until fall…..failing that I can always sleep in my car. No bugs there.

 

 

 

 

If I’m not a cougar, what am I?

220px-Puma_faceLately I’ve been running into a whole lot of me’s. 40 something single chicks without kids, one divorce under their belt and no regular guy in their life. According to the urban dictionary of yesteryear we’re ‘old maids’ but since most of us are neither old or particularly maid like (my cleaning habits leave a lot to be desired and I don’t own an apron), we get labeled as ‘cougars’.

Ah the ‘cougar’. The generic term for anyone over 40 who still actively pursues a relationship or sex, with or without strings. The name originated in Vancouver some time back (no one is sure when), to refer to ‘older women who would go to bars and go home with whoever was left at the end of the night’. These days in the US, it tends to mean older women who voraciously and aggressively chase younger men for the purpose of sex. Either definition sucks; we loathe this term.

Why? Because in no way to we resemble the actual cougar or the slang cougar.

An actual cougar is an excellent stalk-and-ambush  predator that pursues a wide variety of prey. So on the surface, this whole ‘hunting dudes’ thing kind of makes sense. Except the actual cougar only socializes with males for the purpose of mating, and spends the majority of its time with other female cats. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t see big packs of 40 somethings females swarming the streets. In fact, we’re sort of invisible. We’re at the dinner party with our male counterparts, hanging out with families and friends, pursuing our passions alone,  or together with women and men.

And cougars are largely silent. They can’t roar and spend most of their life silent except for the occasional scream, hiss or whistle. (have you met a silent woman? Ever?) About the only thing we’ve got in common with an actual cougar is the term ‘pussy’.

Now the slang cougar? Well that pisses us off even more.

Hunting for sex? If I ask my friends and their friends, its lucky if any of us have gotten laid this year. Hitting a bar for the purpose of picking off a lame deer to screw? Are you kidding me?   That’s for 20 something drunk chicks and the movies. Actual 40 somethings – we’re a little more discerning and most of us have a toy drawer.  No thanks, we’ll wait.

Specifically hunting men in their 20’s? Again, pass. We’d like to have a conversation with whoever we screw and have you met a 25 year male old lately? They  still don’t need to shave on a daily basis. Most 40 something women like our men good in bed, giving and game for anything in the sack. We’re not looking for marriage or kids (younger guys tend to look for one or the other eventually) and your 20 something guy? Most of them haven’t even discovered oral sex yet. We’re not that hungry.

In fact, if we’re hunting anything at all, its a pair of discount Stuart Wietzmans or a cheap flight to Mexico. Men.. we all have hope that one or two will pop up eventually, but hunting? We’ve got better things to do.

So really, not cougar-like at all.

Which begs the question. If we’re not old maids and we’re certainly not cougars.. then what are we? Us 40 something singletons with sexual desire and confidence, pleasure seeking, no urge to tie anyone down (unless requested) and past the notion of kids?

I initially thought about otters. They always look like they’re having a good time, whether its alone or with another otter. Google ‘otter play’ and show me anything that looks more content, happy and playful. Sure they hunt (well..technically.. fish), but its not their sole purpose in life.  Their den is called a  couch.. (hello Friday nights??) and in Japan, folklore around the otter focuses on their ability to shape shift into beautiful women. (double hello???). A match? I thought so.

But on reflection, otters aren’t that smart. They’re sort of delighted playful fools, and no woman in her 40’s wants to be associated with stupidity.  We need to look elsewhere.

Next I considered the dolphin. Its unbelievably smart, playful and are actually descendants of terrestrial mammals (aka ‘us’). They never stop communicating via whistles and squeaks (hello ladies), they have acute hearing and insanely good eyesight (just try to slip something by us).  They display ‘culture’ teaching their young to use tools and how to display sexual desire (aka. your girlfriend in high school) and they’re incredibly playful with other dolphins but also play across multiple species from man and dogs, to birds and whales. They masturbate and engage in non reproductive sexual activity. Sounds like a better match doesn’t it?

Except… well dolphins only sleep for 4-60 seconds at a time and they are known to be sort of aggressive (sleep deficit anyone?), with behaviors that include infanticide, murdering other aquatic animals (and birds) which they don’t actually eat. I don’t know about you, but no amount of PMS can account for that kind of shenanigans.  Plus dolphins have babies forever…and us, we’re definitely over that idea. Sooooo.. maybe not dolphin then.

Ape? Hell no (we’re nothing if not precious about our depilatory routines).

Beavers? (snort). Well we are industrious, but Beavers are workaholics ..which we’re certainly not. That was our 20’s and 30’s.

Sharks? Well we are smart and many of us are permanently cold so there are some similarities. They’re certainly highly social and they’ve actually evolved thicker skin than the males as a result of the bites they endure during mating (amaright ladies?) But who wants to be known as a shark? Can we get over the hunting and eating references maybe?

Which brings me to the conclusion that you can’t categorize me and my 40 something single friends into an animal stereotype. We’re too diverse. We’re not ‘like’ anything other than what we are, a bit of everything. Strong and weak, playful and serious, social and aloof, sexual and comforting, happy and melancholy, driven and content.

I say, if we have to be an animal, let us be unicorns. We’re women who don’t want the white picket fence, we’re not coming for your money and we don’t have or want kids. We enjoy our lives and to be honest, we just want to have fun. With our friends and our lovers.

Plus, we’re always horny.

How to lose weight… in 1898

l-My-friends-9wk-old-Pitbull-puppy-rolling-in-the-grass.I’m on the second week of my ‘Clean Eating’ program and while I’m starting to crave quinoa more than any sane person should,  my cheekbones have reappeared after a 19 year absence.

(I was so bemused by what appeared to be ‘dirty’ smudges on my face last night that I spend 10 minutes trying to scrub them off. Note to self.. one cannot erase cheekbones with apricot scrub or Dial hand sanitizer.)

Its weirdly easy. Eat three meals a day which comprise mostly of vegetables and eat until you’re full. Exercise. Sleep. Drink water. Boring.. but hella effective.

Who knew?

Well apparently not everyone. Looking back some of the dieting advice from 100 years ago, its amazing anyone fit into a corset. Yes, even back then, people were interested in trying to lose weight. And is not wonder why, given Countess C’s assessment in Beauty’s Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful (1901);

“A very thin woman is not beautiful, but she can be graceful even to a remarkable degree; but what shall we say of an old woman, overflowing with fat, no longer possessing a human form, much less the form of a woman, always gasping, sweating, and breaking out into redness at the slightest movement, looking, in short, vulgar, ridiculous, and half-bestial.

And so fattism was born…

Mrs. Annette Kellerman in her 1901 book, Physical Beauty, How to Keep it, has lots of advice for keeping one’s figure from straying into ‘bestial’ territories, starting with the travesty that is sleep;

“Mere napping about for those who already have too much rest and luxury is suicidal to both mind and body. Oversleeping at any time makes one stupid and logy, yes — fat”

Wow.. so apparently beauty sleep had yet to be invented. I know that too much sitting around makes you lazy… but suicidal? In fact, she posits;

“Exchange her soft and downy bed for a harder one and reduce her sleep by two or three hours daily.”

Damn. That Mrs. Kellerman was kind of a hard-ass. And who’s doing that ‘exchanging’? If my spouse told me we’re now going to be sleeping on a board and waking at 4am, I’d think he’s lost his mind. Assuming you managed to cling to your pillowtop, next up.. working out.

“much exercise, even violent exercise, must be taken” [Beauty’s Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful]

I like the sound of ‘violent exercise’. What did she have in mind? Boxing? Lifting of weights? Punching the husband who now has you sleeping on a board and waking at 4am? Wait for it, Lina Cavalieri (1914) tells you exactly how violent your exercise should get;

“Begin your rolling. There is no mystery about rolling. It is simply what the name indicates. Down upon the floor you go and roll over and over swiftly, not slowly as a porpoise rolls. The porpoise, you will observe, is not a slender animal. Roll over as a puppy, tingling with the joy of life, rolls in the dust when at play. Roll quickly. Make at least 80 revolutions before stopping. [My Secrets of Beauty]

Presumably rolling, like pastry, rolls out your fat. And, unmentioned side effect, gives your spouse something to laugh at.

Because I work at home and had nothing better to do while waiting for a call to start, I decided to give rolling a try. Result – the dog thought I’d lost my mind, I acted like a extra large Swiffer pad to all of the dog hair and dust in my carpet and I got a bit dizzy.

I don’t think I lost anything except a tiny bit of self respect.

But when you’re done ‘rolling’ ? Helen Follet Jameson (1899) warns;

“Do not drink much water. A little lemon juice added to it will make it less fattening”

Why of course! Water, that known fattening substance. I don’t know about you but after a glass or two of water I’m positively stuffed. But Countess C goes one step further in her groundbreaking ‘Beauty’s Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful‘ (1901), and counsels;

“First and most important, drink very little, as little as possible, and only red or white wine, preferably Burgundy, or tea or coffee slightly alcoholized.”

No water, but tea with bourbon after my rolling? How can this fail?

(After brushing off all the lint on my person, I briefly considered a shot of vodka but even I can’t be talked into booze at 1pm as a diet aid).

Amazingly, even 100 years ago, the American obesity crisis had already started, according to the treatise: Beauty, Its Attainment and Preservation (1892);

“In America the number of fat people is growing larger every year… As a matter of fact, a great deal of this discomfort might be avoided if people would not drink such an inordinate quantity of ice water”

I knew it wasn’t the donuts and Doctor Pepper.. its all that sleep and ice water. You indulgent and gluttonous people. Stop with that right now!

But if you’re finding that the pounds aren’t melting away quite fast enough you might want to consider fresh air. As Lina Cavalieri explains in her 1914 My Secrets of Beauty:

“Fresh air is a destructive agent to fat. Oxygen burns carbon. To make this clear, let me ask you if you have noticed how a dying fire flames up when a draught of cold air is turned upon it? That is precisely what happens when a woman who is too fat goes out for a walk. Oxygen acts upon this as a burning match applied to paper.”

Damn I always knew that air had more uses than just sustaining life.. it’s a magic fat melter!  Screw Crossfit, screw clean eating. You can find me in the local park, vigorously rolling my fat away, in fact ‘rolling as a puppy, tingling with the joy of life’, while sipping on some whiskey and breathing in some fat burning air.

Ah.. the price of beauty.

Life according to the movies

I was listening to Kevin Smith ranting about how bad movies are these days, and it got me thinking about what impact movies really have on me. Do bad movies really matter?

I love to be entertained. Whether by music, movies, tv or my latest obsession, podcasts, nothing beats some pure escapism. Movies make you laugh, cry, think or just give you an excuse to consume your body weight in popcorn while you rest your eyeballs.  And if there’s some nice scenery – Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, yes, even the Mcconaughey  – well so be it. Not exactly Oscar caliber, but hey.. who cares. Movies are just entertainment right?

Except… except….Many of us learned the basics from a movie. The English/ Scottish border? Braveheart. What actually is Afghanistan like? The Kite Runner. The Iraq war? The Hurt Locker. And that’s just the history lessons.

Online dating? You’ve Got Mail. Life in fashion? Devil Wears Prada. Being an astronaut? The Right Stuff.

And I don’t think I’m alone. I’m sure most of us don’t know much about the Australian outback other than ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ or ‘The Thorn Birds’. Which brings me to the dark side of movies.. and no, not snuff.

Apparently movies aren’t real.

They’re made up.

*gasp*

Which means much of what we’ve ‘learned’ isn’t ‘fact’, its not even close. And yet its sort of ‘become’ fact because we’ve been exposed to this stuff so frequently and the messages are so repetitive across multiple movies.

So because I can’t change the channel on a Saturday afternoon, I’m convinced that I could get into Harvard and become a lawyer if I just wear pink (Legally Blonde), if I’m a workaholic I can make my boss fall in love with me (Two Weeks Notice), or being a hooker means I’ll wind up with a successful rich businessman (Pretty Woman). Highly unlikely of course… I couldn’t wear those boots for a start, my legs are too short.

But I do worry about the more subtle messages that these delicious pink fluffy nuggets of escapism have actually indoctrinated me with.  That single women are cute or psychos (seriously, try and think of a non cute single woman in a recent movie and the only one I get is Kathy Bates). That if you meet someone and immediately can’t stand each other, it means you’re going to wind up married to them  (When Harry Met Sally). If you’re single and alone you’re a drunk chubster (Bridget Jones), you work for a secret organization (every Angelina Jolie movie ever) or you’re destined to perish by the end of the movie (Thelma and Louise). These are the movie options featuring single women – saddo, spy or dead? Suddenly Matthew Mconaughey suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

Yes, these are a just a few examples and its a mass generalization. Yes, there are tonnes of great movies out there with strong, single, independent women..I just can’t think of any and I sure don’t find them on my TV very often. Which means if you’re between 10 and 30, the only single movie heroines you’re likely to see are waiting to be rescued by the perfect guy, shooting people in the head or whining about their weight. Wow.. positive role models galore.

Since I’m 41 and single, (and I can’t erase 25 years of crappy movies from my psyche), this means I’m probably due to kidnap or kill someone (Fatal Attraction, Misery), inherit a few kids ( Raising Helen) or go work for some weird secret agency (Salt, Hanna, Wanted).  But since I can’t shoot while running and I’m not the best with kids, I guess I’m off to find some comfortable shoes and a sledgehammer.

My hair destiny

I’ve always considered the hair on my head as a message board, telling people who I am and what my mood is. Blunt bangs and a severe bob? Yep, I’m feeling lippy. Bleached out crop? I would rather be drinking/riding my bike. Shiny natural brown? I’m a grown up (albeit a slightly boring one). I admit it, I’m obsessed with hair.

It started young when I asked my mother to cut off my long hair (Carl Postle dared me) which she did without question. I was 9 and shocked that I could go from 18 inches to 5 in about 3 minutes. Carl wasn’t impressed but I was hooked. Yesterday I was ‘boring brown ponytail’ – today I was ‘Thoroughly Modern Milly’ (Google it). My first perm came at age 12 at which point I really hit my groove, going from Whitney Houston frizz, to Billy Idol in about 4 years. I’m surprised I don’t have lung cancer from all the gel, hairspray, liquid hold and mousse I sprayed into my head in those years. At one point my hair regime involved inverting my head, brushing my hair straight down and then spraying in place until I could balance a book on top of it – about 3 inches from my scalp. It took about a quarter can of hairspray and lets just say the results were Vanilla Ice-tastic. I had a my villages first ‘high and tight’ hair do at 14 and I think I’d have adopted ‘the fade’ if only my hair was thicker.  My models were kings and queens of new wave – The Thompson Twins, U2, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Duran Duran… if they had short high hair, I wanted it but shorter and higher. If my hair looked like them.. well, maybe I’d somehow live a life a little more like theirs.

Following my sisters lead I decided that color was really the problem. I could get the height, but I couldn’t get that unique washed out henna look so beloved of British pop stars of the 80s. My hair was this moderate brown.. definitely not punk and I doubt Susie and her Banshees would approve of the normalcy atop my head should she ever take to visiting the small villages of North Wales.
My first attempt was ‘Sun In’, the spray in lightener which turned every 14 yr old with a blond fetish into a ginger mop head around 1987. I sprayed and dried, sprayed and dried as my hair turned from brown to bronze, then ginger to a horrific fluorescent yellow. Unfortunately Saturday night in small village in Wales meant my options were a flat cap, the clippers or stay home. My sister identified a alternate solution and I headed out the door with my hair slicked down with black hair gel. Which proceeded to drip down my ears as I stood at the bus stop in the early evening drizzle. Monday morning I was at the hairdressers doorstep at 8am, begging for redemption. I scuttled through the door in tears as their raucous laughter followed me in, ‘Loovly color loov’
Sun In – supporting the British hairdressing business through the 80s.

My next attempts at trying to be someone else involved going darker, redder, pinker and then finally back to black. Not a good color for a pale British chick. Instead of Robert Smith, I looked like a mentally challenged death camp survivor as I backcombed my blue black fright wig higher and higher. I thought my hair said everything about me. ‘I’m not of here’ ‘I’m different‘ ‘I am not normal’ (instead it screamed, ‘I’m every teenager who hates their parents’). Which was essential to do..until I got a boyfriend and decided that I wanted to look pretty instead.

Brown came quickly followed by blondish, reddish, white and the occasional pink or green highlight. By college I’d tried on styles ranging from the ironic mullet and Louise Brooks bob, to the Dorothy Hamil (dreadful mistake) and back to the Billy Idol (hellish upkeep). I raged, I flirted, I tried to fit in and then tried to stand out. I was fashion forward, retro, abstract and often downright unattractive. I wore my hair in rags, pigtails, in a Bam Bam knot on the top of my head (my sister rolled with laughter) and sometimes shaved short, back and sides. Any boyfriend who mentioned they liked my hair, invariable saw me next with it all gone or a completely different color. My ex husband came home one night to a peroxide blond Mia Farrow and didn’t speak to me for hours. But I loved it. I felt pretty, fairy light and ever so fragile. Quite a jump from my robust and hearty self.

Hair was transformative.  One day you could be Rapunzel, the next a 30’s flapper or a 40s screen siren. A sexy redhead fox or a depressively dark drama queen. My hair told everyone who I was, what I felt and who I wanted to be, even if I was wearing the same damn pair of 501s as yesterday.

Until one day my hair said ‘no more’ and stopped growing.

…for whole 10 months.

Visit after visit my hairdresser looked at my head and asked me why I was there. My hair hadn’t grown, even a millimeter, so there was nothing he could do. Month after month, nothing…My hair just stayed… static. I took horse pills, used scalp massage lotion, changed my shampoo, changed my diet.. and still nothing. Headstands, yoga, spinach, more horse pills and while my nails now needed cutting every other day, my hair refused to participate in the grow-a-thon.
Maybe all those years of dying and cutting, perming and curling had frightening it into hibernation? Maybe my body was suggesting I focus a little more on the inside rather than what was on my head? Either way I was stuck with a 1.5 inch crop for almost an entire year.

Note to divorcees – do not cut your hair when your divorce becomes final, no matter how much you think you need to. The result typically depresses you further and, for me, led to me spending a year looking like a sad lesbian (the hatred of men and pickup truck didn’t help). I don’t recommend it.

But back to hair.

Finally things righted themselves (I think the praying helped) and my hairdresser celebrated my first inch of growth by promptly cutting it off. So I decided to stop with the hair obsession. No longer would I use my hair to say something about me, signal my inner most desires, try to be something or someone I’m not. Hair was, after all, just hair.No matter what I did to it, I , me, didn’t really change. I was no more a rebel rocker, fragile waif or sexy temptress with hair than without it. Inside, I’m still someone who lives in jeans and a t shirt, no matter how much I want to waft around in 4 inch heels and a peignoir.

So I’ve retired my mousse and my gel, my hairspray and my backcomb. No more black, red, aubergine or yellow for me. These days my hair resembles the style and color I had back at the age of 10. Its taken me years, a lot of money, some goddamn ugly hairstyles and a lot of patience, but finally my hair reflects me. I finally look like the person I think I am.
Which is actually who I was all along.

Library porn

We didn’t have a lot of books in the house growing up. Some Sidney Sheldon’s, a few hardcover ‘book of the month club’ classics, and of course the requisite WWII/ spy/ military junk that my father read at a snails pace. As a teen, I seem to remember we had maybe 40 books, most of which seemed too tedious to even crack the covers of. One page of ‘Gunsmoke’ was more than enough, and don’t get me started on ‘Catch 22’. At the age of 8, 50 pages in no-one was throwing or catching much of anything. Bor-ing.

My mother was a firm believer in the village library and once I was old enough to travel the mile and back on my bike, I maxed out my lending privileges. Every Saturday found me clutching my 4 returns and chomping for new worlds to dive into.
The library had two rooms – kids and everyone else. Once I’d exhausted the delights of Hardy Boys and CS Lewis, I quickly wandered over to the adults room The librarian raised her eyebrows , but I guess she thought an Agatha Christie wasn’t going to kill me. I started with the stuff I knew from compendiums – Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Somerset Maugham – but gobbling up 4 books every week meant I was quickly down to the last Agatha Christie on the shelf. In desperate need of another 3 books, I grabbed the books with the gaudiest covers, Virginia Andrews, ‘Flowers in the Attic’, Shirley Conrans ‘Lace’ and Jilly Coopers ‘Riders’. Lets just say, it got really weird, really fast. 

At the age of 11, lying on my bed on a rainy afternoon with ‘Riders’ I expected some kind of ‘Black Beauty’ type tale. Instead I found myself reading a half page description about a ladies nipples and something called an areola. Was that a planet? Suddenly ladies were being shaved, riding crops were being used and there seemed to be a lot of dampness in between her thighs, (had she pee’d herself?). After the shaving, there was sucking and licking and .. good lord…. really?
Not being aware of any bees or birds, I was entranced. What was going on here? Whatever it was very exciting.  And not in a Hercule Poirot sense. No murder in the drawing room was ever quite this interesting or made me feel quite so breathless.

Those three books were devoured in a day, day and a half tops.  A whole new world opened up – men chasing women, women chasing men, brothers chasing sisters, everyone rolling around with everyone else, and I think there was a story in there too. Not that I really noticed. The sex scenes were where it was at.  Still fuzzy on what went where, and without any actual diagrams, I kind of figured that rubbing was taking place, and being wet seemed to be an important thing .. but the rest??? What was a ‘throbbing manhood’? Why was she ‘cresting a wave’? (was there surfing involved?), and why were nipples so damn important all of a sudden? Mine had never done much except get sore when I boogy boarded too long. But according to Shirley and Jilly, they were the portal to a whole other world. A whole world of nasty.

I returned to the library the following Saturday, red cheeked and with my eyes downcast. The librarian didn’t even look at me as I meekly slid ‘Scruples’ (Judith Krantz), ‘Goodbye Janette’ (Harold Robbins) and a very well worn Sidney Sheldon across the counter (deftly hidden by a compendium of Roald Dahl stories).  I flew home on my bike that day. I don’t think any kid has ever been quite that enthusiastic to start a book.

I read trashy romance books aka ‘soft core porn’ every day for about 3 years. At one point I believe the librarian mentioned my reading habits to my mother (who was nonplussed that I was reading adult books) but she continued to stamp them out to me. Through the airport trash of Judith Kranz, Jackie Collins, Danielle Steel, Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robins onto the slightly better written (and way more pervy), Henry Miller, The Story of O and Anaïs Nin. By the time I actually received my sex ed class (age 14), and learned what went where and how, I was actually surprised that they didn’t cover oral or anal.  And nobody seemed too intent on shaving anyone or tying anyone to the bedpost. Clearly American sex must be different. 

Over dinner this weekend the topic of early reads came up with my girlfriend and we giggled about our shared history of erotic reading. The thrill of Judith Krantz, the audacity of Jackie Collins, the hours spend goggle eyed as ‘Candy’ stripped to her bikini bottoms or O was branded by her lover. I’m not sure if mothers the world over chose to ignore what was going on in our bedrooms as we ‘curled up with a book’, or whether they simply forgot about the rude bits in what we were reading. In the days before Kindle and Nook, it wasn’t that hard to notice that the book Rachael was reading had all the sex scenes marked with turned down page corners. But I guess there were other things to worry about like bills and jobs. And at least I was reading.. right?

Today my reading is a little more varied, and I can’t read trashy sex without mentally reconstructing sentences or laughing at descriptors (I’m not sure that throbbing is the only term one can use). I still like erotica and today a kinky read is just a click away from the comfort of my bed. But I miss the raised eyebrows of the librarian, the daring thrill of finding ‘The Bicycle Rider’ (sex and cycling??) and trying to slip something I knew was a bit too ‘adult’ in between ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘The Shining’.  Wondering if today would be the day that the librarian would purse her lips and pick up the phone to my mother. But she never did and I thank her for that.

My librarian gave me, indirectly, my sex education. An early notion that sex was fun (and joyous, kinky and sometimes very very strange), and to be viewed with pleasure and excitement. Once I learned was actually going on, I was more than a little scared of the process, but my books had cemented the idea that it would, eventually, be fun. The library gave me the education that is often forgotten today – that sex is fun for men and women – and gave it to me at a time when I could so easily have learned the opposite. Growing up with a mother who I’m still waiting to hear the sex talk from and a sister who enjoyed terrifying me, I’m grateful for Sidney and Judith. Even if I sometimes wonder where on earth they got some of their ideas.

So raise a glass to your local library. You never know what you’ll learn. 

What have I been doing for the last 40 years???

I just finished a hysterical book – Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to Be A Women’ (I thought I might benefit from some guidance which didn’t involve waxing or implants). I don’t recommend it for bedtime reading as hysterical laughter doesn’t make for sleepytime, but wow.. it certainly got me thinking.

In telling stories about growing up in a working class project in the UK, she focuses on all the things that she thinks she needed to ‘be’ in order to claim herself as a ‘woman’. Aka.. what was expected of her. She finds friends, fancies boys, gets fat, confronts her fashion choices, tries to walk in high heels, gets waxed and drinks entirely too much throughout. The entire book is hysterical, but also raises the question about what women are taught, indoctrinated to think throughout their lives… if we,

– Lose some weight
– Get rid of all our body hair
– Wear the right underwear
– Say the right thing
– Find and marry the prince
– Make friends with the right people
– Buy the big house
– Grow the 2.4 kids

.. apparently glitter will fall from the sky, people will bow before you and you’ll explode with happiness.

or maybe not.

Her point, (and it only emerges in the last chapter), is that women seem to focus on what they ‘are’ rather then what we ‘do’. Few guys talk about each others clothes, body hair, curtains or weight… they’re too busy talking about what they did, what they’re going to do, and potentially lying about how awesome it was and how they ‘nailed it’. Guys focus on doing… girls…. not so much.

So at 10.37pm last night I suddenly had the realization;

‘Holy shit, I’ve spent the last 40 odd years thinking that if I weighted 120lbs, ate more fruit, had more girlfriends, and found a good dude.. well …. actually…. what? I’m happy today (and I certainly don’t weigh 120lbs).’

I guess I was under the impression that these were things I needed to do in order to be happy. Fulfilled. Like everyone else. Normal.   

If only I could get my mouth under control, learn how to be sated a single glass of wine, enjoy ‘crafting’ and create the perfect ‘capsule wardrobe’, I thought I’d be done. With what I’m not sure, but somehow, someone seemed to have put a chip in my head which made these things important to strive for.

Well I guess my chip just fell out.

Instead of focusing on ‘being’ I think its time to focus on doing. After all, if I died tomorrow at 120lbs (dream on honey), with perfect highlights, a waxed hoo hoo and a fawning husband… so what?
How much better to go out in a blaze of lights, eating, drinking, wearing, acting as you want, writing things that embarrass your mother, making people smile and whooping as you go (albeit with slightly hairy legs)?

Maybe its time to focus less on trying to ‘be’ something, and focus on ‘doing’ stuff. Doing the stuff I like, no, love. Non of which involves match.com, waxing or wearing navy blue. So tonight I’m off to get a new tattoo, figure out a book plot and cancel my wax appointment.
Actually somethings its probably better do actually get done.  No-one likes a handle bar mustache on a chick.

The Bermuda Triangle of the 40s’: The F buddy

I’ve heard about this phenomenon. According to most of my guy friends and any friend under 35, everyone has had one, has one or just got rid of one. The F buddy. The person you call when you’re lonely, when you have that itch or just want to warm up on a cold winter night. He (or she) isn’t not long term relationship material (since life isn’t a romantic comedy), and its purely a friends with benefits situation where you show up, ‘buddy up’ and then leave. At the age of 40, shouldn’t these things been normal? After all, we’re past having kids, we’re not insane enough to hold out for Mr or Mrs Right (unless we’re ‘protecting our junk’ weirdos), and its a human requirement to want to be with someone now and again.
But here’s my quandary. How does one find such a person?I’ve looked, I’ve asked and apparently I have a big sign over my head saying ‘danger’ because I can’t find one for love OR money. (not that I’m at the point of paying yet, but never say never).
I’ve been told that I’m ridiculous and that I could and should have one by now if I just put it out there.. but I have to say, no matter where I look, I don’t see how you find one. I’ve asked, I’ve been totally up front and all I’ve ever gotten is blank looks and men with very small bladders exiting very fast. Maybe I’m too honest, or maybe I’m throwing my not-so-subtle hints in the wrong direction  but at 40 I’ve yet to land this white whale.
So you might think ‘ but you don’t ask!!!’ in which case, how do you land one? And if the guy is too scared that I’m actually relationships hunting… why don’t they even dip their toe in the water to see whats what? I’m beginning to think that I’ve either got a sign on my head saying ‘relationship only’ or I truly did get hit by the ugly stick at some point. Maybe I became physically repulsive or scary cat lady and no one told me, but trying to find a ‘buddy’ is tougher than finding a damn boyfriend in this town. With no takers and no desire for a relationship I’m stuck facing a winter of Project Runway re runs and a lot of downward dogs. That might be good for my karma but it sure isn’t  finding me any buddies.