Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year? New Me? There's Hope Yet.

I was thinking about the New Year and what I wanted to be my theme song for the year, and as I was scrolling through my music I came across this lovely India.Arie song and thought, this is it - "There's Hope."

I've had a tough year. At the end of last year I lost my father, and though we weren't exactly close, he was my dad and there's a sadness with that loss. My oldest son was coming out of some serious struggles at the beginning of 2008, and just as he was getting better, my mom got sick, and died several months later. All in all not a banner year. But, as I am wont to do, I got thinking about what I've learned and what I'm grateful for. So, before I make my list of goals for next year, I wanted to spend a few minutes reflecting on the last one.

1. I learned that no one can ever love you like your mom. No matter what the ups and downs of that relationship are, it's a bond unlike any other. I was lucky that my relationship with my mom was closer than many, it had it's issues, like any relationship, but I was blessed.

2. I learned that we are all a lot stronger than we think we are, and when pushed to the max, we usually can pull it out. We might collapse afterward, but we're a resilient little species.

3. A sense of humor can get you through the toughest times and save your sanity. I thank God I come from a funny family, without our ability to laugh we'd all be in a padded room somewhere, not that we shouldn't be anyway.

4. It's okay to be alone. There's no shame in being single. As the lovely Adrienne Smith used to say, "Better to be alone than wish you were alone." When I bought my Christmas tree by myself, got it in the stand alone and decorated, I didn't feel sad, I felt empowered.

5. As bad as things can get, they WILL get better. You just have to have that faith that it comes around again. It's the natural order of things.

Some of my goals for the upcoming year are just for me and maybe those closest to me, but there are three things I'll put here:

1. To live life wide wake. No sleepwalking through days: be aware, conscious and grateful for every single day.
2. Say yes more than no.
3. Stop trying to be a round peg trying to fit into square hole relationships. If it feels like work, it's not right.

As India says in that song: "There's hope, it doesn't cost a thing to smile,you don't have to pay to laugh, you better thank God for that."

I kind of lost my optimism this year. It was a pretty dark time, but something tells me that it's coming around again. Ah, there's hope.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gossip Girls And Guys Take Smack Talk To A New Low

All right, so gossiping and talking about others is nothing new. People have talked about each other since time eternal. But, at least back then it didn't go further than the general store, the classroom or hometown.

Now however, thanks to the Internet gossip can make its way around a campus in seconds.

Threads that circle campuses are bad enough, but add to the mix the toxic dump known as Juicy Campus, and well it takes gossip to a whole new, very low level.

In the Boston Globe today they did a story about this site, and it was completely dismaying.

In the article they talked to several students who had been talked about on the site and the words they COULD print (there were many they couldn't) were things like whore, fag, ho, disgusting and more. This isn't your mother's gossip for sure.

I've noticed when people are allowed to comment anonymously that all sense of propriety and kindness seem to disappear. At the newspaper I write for I've noticed at times that the comments can be mean spirited and downright cruel because no one knows who you are.

I've also noticed that no matter what the year - 1950 or 2008, that women will still be awful to other women, and that a double standard for sexual activity amongst the sexes still exists. Men are still glorified for all their conquests while women are still labeled whores, skanks and hos. Especially by other women, even when those rumors aren't true.

Juicy Campus was started by a former frat boy and graduate of Duke University a year and a half ago. It's clear that by what he said about how much he and his frat buddies loved gossip when he was in college that he didn't evolve much while he was there. How sad that he's chosen to make his living by encouraging others to disparage and hurt others. As a believer in karma I think he'll get his just desserts, but in the meantime we can do our bit to not fall into that horrible trap of gossiping and speaking ill of others. Let's face it, we all do it sometimes, but maybe it's time to try a lot harder not to.

I have a visceral response to women being mean to each other. I am a true believer in the sisterhood of women. I think we should support not malign, I think we shouldn't cheat with other women's boyfriends and husbands, and should always have each other's backs. Life's hard enough without being called whores and sluts. Especially by each other. And let's make a vow to punch any guy in the wiener who says things like that!

In the meantime, don't support sites like Juicy Campus. The only way to stop it is not be a part of it. The buck and the ugly rumor truly stop with you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To Hell With FemBots How About A HimBot?

There was a piece in The Sun about a female robot named Aiko. Aiko doesn't nag, cleans, reads to her owner, and apparently, with a few "tweaks" could be made to be a sexual partner as well. Yikes!

I got thinking about what I would program a male robot to do if I had a degree from MIT and was able to do something like that.

So I've come up with 10 things I'd like a HimBot to do for me:

1. Make money. Not earn it, I mean MAKE it, as in minting it. An endless supply of cash, my own personal ATM would be wonderful.
2.Clean bathrooms. If I never had to clean the bathroom again I would be very happy.
3. Do manicures and pedicures. How awesome would it be to have someone right here to make me look great?
4. Kill the big scary bugs. I'm not proud of the fact that I scream like a girl when I kill big spiders like the one I nailed yesterday. I was on the phone with my son when I did it and I could hear his eyes rolling at me over the phone.
5. Do yard work. Yeah, I could give this up as easily as the bathroom scrubbing.
6. Say "Danger Will Robinson!" when something is threatening. I know I'm not Will Robinson, I just think it would be awesome.
7. Read to me with a voice that sounds like George Clooney. That would be a very nice way to fall asleep every night.
8. Be a personal trainer who will work me out. But not in that "tweaking" the robot way.
9. Solve computer glitches in a flash. No longer will I be stuck on the phone trying to figure out how to fix the problem with an impatient guy who wants me off his back so he can go get some coffee.
10.Transport me to wherever I want to go. Imagine - no flight delays, traffic jams or weather issues. I'm sure my children will be thrilled with my new ability to pop in whenever I want.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Coming Soon! Boneless Women!

So I was just catching up on my Monday morning news, reading Jezebel, the Huffington Post and others, and came across this piece about Jessica Alba's new ad campaign for Campari.

Apparently the powers that be didn't think the beautiful Ms. Alba looked quite beautiful enough and shaved inches off her waist, hips, thighs and chest.

As I looked at both the pictures I couldn't imagine why anyone would think the original, un-retouched photo wasn't just perfect. Alba still looks very slim (especially for someone who gave birth just a few months ago) yet very curvy. She looks, gasp! Like a woman. A gorgeous woman. Somehow in the after-picture she looks like she's had ribs removed and has been dripped into that little jumpsuit like a boneless chicken cutlet.

I got into a discussion a while ago about where these ridiculous body standards women try to adhere to come from. I get confused because from what I know and understand - men actually prefer women who are curvy and womanly. They don't want to bed women who are built like 12-year-old boys. How good that nature works in such a mentally healthy way. So I wonder, why do women flog themselves into skin-tight size zero jeans, starve themselves and generally live miserable, very hungry lives? I think it's designers and other women pushing them to anorexia and bad body images.

This theory comes from well, nothing really, other than watching shows like "Project Runway" and "The Rachel Zoe Project," and being a woman.

See, this is a dirty not-so-secret thing: women can be the absolute best to each other, be there through thick and thin, and yet, all too often are just miserable, horrible, mean bitches to each other. The meanness of women to each other can take my breath away. I like to think I'm not that kind of woman, but I'm sure there's someone out there who thinks I'm a bitch. But I do try really hard to be kind and respectful of other women because I think we have to stick together.

As far as the designers go, hello! Real women do in fact have curves, and we need food to survive! Who ever said, "You can never be too rich or too thin," was well, probably someone like Helen Gurley Brown, who may be a very nice person - I don't know her, but looks in desperate need of a sandwich.

My hope is that there may be a day, somewhere in the not-too-distant future, where women will be encouraged to be healthy, not emaciated. Clothes will be designed for a woman's curves, not for middle schoolers who have yet to mature. In the meantime I'm going to keep shouting from my albeit very insignificant soapbox: Be healthy, be happy and love yourself, just as you are.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sugar Daddy or john? Is There A Difference?

I was reading this post on The Daily Beast today by a young woman who is the "sugar baby" for an older man. She's a senior in college, he's a successful media mini-mogul who she said spends an average of $5000 a month supporting her lifestyle. In exchange she's accompanies him on trips, has sex with him and is his girlfriend for all intents and purposes, but I would think that since he pays for her it would be no biggie for him to fire her.

With things as tough as they are economically I've sometimes had the fantasy of how nice it would be kind of nice to have someone paying the bills while I toiled away on my next book. But this sort of arrangement is a little too skeevy and "Pretty Woman" for me. And yes, I'm well aware that I'm not exactly at the "sugar baby" age anyway thank you very much.

As I read the post by Ms. Beech (a pseudonym) I have to say my first thought went to my own daughter, a similar age and how disappointed I would be in her if she thought that was the only way she could make her way in the world. The author talked about the Manolos in her closet and the trips to Paris, the nice car and the spa weekends, but the cost just seems a little too high for me. There's a lot to be said for buying those things yourself and getting them in right time when you've earned it.

Today the third woman in a row was named Secretary of State. The dichotomy of reading this post after watching Hillary Clinton accept Barrack Obama's appointment was not lost on me. For every step I see women take forward, there's always a couple back.

We still live in a culture that for women is completely confusing. For every Hillary there's a Paris. For every Tina Fey, a Lauren Conrad.

My dream is for a world where women truly see their value beyond what they look like and the sexual services they can provide to a man. I also dream of a world where older men don't exploit insecure, financially strapped young women who might not completely understand what they're getting into. To me there's something intrinsically icky about a man old enough to be a young woman's dad having a relationship with her.

I hope that Ms. Beech makes it to the other side of this intact. I also hope that Mr. Media, her benefactor, grows up enough to realize that what really matters in relationships is the commitment and willingness to be there for someone else. Someone who's not there because you pay them to be, but because they want to be. And maybe he'll get that what's really important in life isn't what you earned, bought or where you live, it's showing up for those you love. And money can't buy that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Twilight": Not Just For Teens, Also For Romance Starved Women

I haven't as of yet, read any of Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" books, but after seeing the movie I know I will now. I was intrigued by the characters, and while the acting was a bit wooden, the story held my interest and reminded me about how exciting NOT having sex can be.

As a parent, and a woman concerned about the values impressionable young girls are being exposed to by contemporary media, I was thrilled to sit through a movie where the young female protagonist didn't have sex thereby didn't get pregnant, get an STD or feel terrible about herself after doing something she perhaps wasn't ready for, but felt she should do because well, everyone else seems to be.

And as an adult, it was also good reminder of just how damn exciting romance can be. In the preceding decade, and this one too - the era of "Sex and the City," "Gossip Girl," and "Unfaithful," I think we're all conditioned to jump from stranger to intimate partner so quickly that we miss something important. Getting to know someone, growing to care for them and THEN becoming intimate. For a long time we've jumped from stranger to bed buddy, and well, I don't think it is necessarily a good thing.

In a classic episode of "Sex and the City," when Carrie first met Aidan, she was worried that he wasn't attracted to her or that maybe he was gay because every time they went out he kissed her at her door, and went home - without trying to bed her. When she finally confronted him he told her, it was called dating and that they'd only known each other for two weeks. Embarrassed, Carrie realized how nuts she had been and how she'd forgotten about something very important: romance.

In a world where our children have a barrage of sexually provocative movies, advertising, music videos and television thrown at them every day, it's not surprising that pregnancy rates have increased, and kids are having sex at younger and younger ages. I am thrilled that perhaps the tide might be turning a bit, and that the idea of waiting for a while might just catch on.

As for we adults, well, being a little discriminating isn't such a bad idea either. Think of it as mental foreplay.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"11 Things He Wants"? How About 1112 Things SHE Wants?

As a single woman I am always drawn to lists which claim to FINALLY shed a light for we ladies who seem to just be stumbling in the dark completely unable to figure out what a guy wants. There's always a common denominator, a thread that connects all the lists. Namely - give them space and blow jobs. Yeah, it's not exactly rocket science.

In this latest contribution to the theater of the obvious, writer Erik Parker gives us his "11 Things He Wants," and honestly, there's not one surprise. That's not true, what's a surprise that is in 2008 men are writing crap like number 6: "A heads-up when you just need us to listen. Sometimes all you really want to do is vent to us about something. A simple warning in advance and we promise we’ll stay quiet and let you talk it out." Wow. Words almost escape me. Seriously? You're in a relationship and he needs a freaking cue that he needs to listen to you and be aware enough of who you are to know to listen to you? Make sure you have a signal for when you're about to leave him because otherwise he might not notice.

So I got thinking about my own list, and have 11 (all right, 12) Things We Want.

1. Awareness. This is pretty broad, and might take some practice, but it's quite simple: pay attention. Whether it's is a dishwasher that needs to be emptied, trash that needs to go out, some support when we're having a tough time, we're not the only adult in the relationship. We want to feel more important than a football game or your Blackberry.

2. Patience. Moodiness and crankiness are deal breakers for me. Be a grown up and keep it together. Don't be a big baby. You snap at me or are passive aggressive, and I'm outta there.

3. Don't ogle other women when you're with us. It's disrespectful, and seriously, by the time you're an adult you've seen a lot of breasts, legs and shapely bottoms, there's nothing out there you haven't seen before. You're not 13 anymore, keep it together.

4. Sense of humor. In my life I've had to deal with a lot of not-so-fun things. Without a sense of humor I would be in a padded room right about now. A litmus test for me is deciding if a man would be a great person to get a flat tire with. Since I tend to get stressed and worried I need someone who is just the opposite. A "no worries" kind of guy. Though if they actually say "no worries!" that's not good.

5. Compassion. Sensitivity and compassion are not wimpy emotions, they are human.

6. Ability to communicate.
I've dated a fair amount of people. Most of the time I end up feeling like I'm a relationship circa about 7th grade. Maybe sophomore year high school. Most people don't bother to do the work and grow, it's all the same knee-jerk reactions you've had since you first began dating. I don't want a middle-schooler, I want an adult.

7. Manners. Just because you are comfortable with someone should not mean all bets are off and you can just be a pig. I don't want to watch you floss, cut your toenails or deal with constant flatulence. In return I will try to keep my beauty regimes to myself.

8. Realism. In Parker's list he has an item about giving your man permission to have sex with a celebrity on his top five list IF the opportunity ever arrives. Seriously? Parker, how fucking old are you anyway? Do you really think Heidi Klum is going to come up to you in Starbucks and offer to do you? Yeah, ain't gonna happen, dude. Get over it.

9. Sex. Let's get over the stereotype that women don't want to have sex, do it because they "have" to, and just aren't interested. Bullshit! When you're with someone who you care about who cares about you, and is thoughtful, passionate and caring, it is the absolute best thing ever. When however it seems like something on a to-do list or a conquest, not so much.

10. Strength. I'm not talking Popeye, this is more an internal, intrinsic strength of spirit. I may invoke the hatred or women everywhere by saying as independent as I am I want to feel a little protected. Not controlled, but like the man I'm with looks out for me a bit. I'd do the same right back, so don't go thinking I'm trying to be the pretty, pretty princess or anything.

11. Ethics. Someone with good values and morals is essential. You can't trust someone who doesn't hold the same values you do. Trust is built on a foundation of believing in who someone is. There's nothing more manly than a guy who is honorable, honest and true to the people he loves. Conversely, there's nothing more unappealing than a man who is unfaithful, lies and disrespects the trust others put in him.

12. To be romanced and wooed. Feeling special and treasured is the best thing ever. Not that the right guy with some throwdown is bad either. A nice balance of both is good.

I know as time goes on I'll think of many more, but this is my first stab at my 12.

What would some of your have-tos be?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Necessary Luxuries: An Oxymoron or Reality?

I don't know one person who isn't worried about money these days. Everyone is cutting back and trying to do without things they maybe took for granted before things were as bleak as they are right now. But, we've all got things we can't imagine doing without. What's a luxury to one, is a total necessity to another.

This got me thinking about the things in my life I would rather go out kicking and screaming to keep than get rid of. I'm a big fan of lists, so once again I've come up with my all-time top-five luxuries I can't live without.

1. My DVR, cable and Internet. That may seem like three things, but since I pay for them all together, I'm counting them as one. I write about TV for the Cape Cod Times, but I admit, even if I didn't I couldn't live without my cable. And now that I've had a DVR I could never go back to taping shows I might miss. And the Internet, well, as a freelance writer it's how I transmit my work, and the thought of going back to an IMDB -less world gives me hives.

2. I don't get coffee every day, but it's a couple of times a week treat. Going out for coffee is not just tasty, it's a social event as well, and for someone who works from home it also keeps insanity from creeping in. So it's medicinal as well!

3. Movies. I will go to matinees to get a cheaper ticket, but I won't stop going to movies. I do always contend however that if the movie industry dropped the price to $5 or $6 I would go a lot more often. Maybe if we didn't pay actors like Will Smith and Tom Cruise $20 million or so per picture they could drop the price. Just a thought.

4. Getting my hair professionally cut and highlighted. I may not do it as often, but after a couple of costly home-coloring disasters I will not try putting the blond in my hair myself. Nor will I go to Pro-Cuts because the last time I did that my hair looked like I was attacked with hedge clippers.

5. Make-up. I'm not talking department store items, I'm talking pretty basic CVS items, but there's no way I'm going without lip gloss and mascara no matter how dire the economy is.

There are many more things I can think of. Music - I don't buy a lot of tunes, but sometimes I just new something new to put me in a good mood. And magazines. And books. Wow. I think the only solution is to start making a heck of a lot more money because it's looking like there's a lot of things I can't do without. Bills. that's something I could do without. But, we can't always get what we want. Apparently though, according to the Rolling Stones we get what we need. I just apparently happen to need a lot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Latest "Bachelorette," DeAnna Single Again

So I can't say I was surprised to hear about Jesse the snowboarder and "Bachelorette" DeAnna breaking up, but I have to say I was a bit surprised by his very sad testimony on YouTube. Seriously, dude, who does that?! Not even John Mayer, d-bag that he is would do that. Oh wait, he sort of did.

I am sometimes inexplicably drawn to these awful "Bachelor" shows, they're like an accident I can't turn away from. I did watch enough of this last season to be pretty shocked when this woman who appeared to moderately have it together (well, as together as anyone does who goes on TV looking for a mate) chose this particular guy. He was kind of goofy, very young and a professional snowboarder - not that's there's anything wrong with that.

In post-show interviews they seemed positively blissful and I thought, well, who the hell am I to judge who anyone falls in love with? I thought I was very off-base in my judgement. Turns out, maybe my gut instincts are better than I think they are.

I think in all the oh so many seasons of this show - both the male and female versions, only one couple, Trista and Ryan have remained together. Why they keep bringing back this show I have no idea.

It seems that things are irretrievably broken for Jesse and DeAnna. How do I know? Well, their official Web site has been taken down. Yes, folks, that's how you know when things are really over - you go to a Web site and get an error message. Kind of says it all, don't you think?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wow! "Real Sex For Real Women" Is Very Real!

One of the perks of my job is I get sent books all the time. As someone who loves books, it is the best thing ever - free books showing up at my door often unbidden, and always appreciated.

A couple of days ago, a new book arrived at my doorstep. It wasn't wrapped in plain brown paper, but once I opened it up I thought it could have been. It's not often a book makes me blush, but this one kinda did.

"Real Sex For Women" really is an incredible how-to guide for both men and women. Laura Berman is at the forefront of human sexuality and she's got a best seller here I'm sure.
I had seen Dr. Berman on "Oprah" talking about the book so I had a pretty good idea how graphic the book was, but was a little surprised when after the FedEx guy left I opened the package and the book. And two hours later, I closed it. Well, not two hours, maybe a hour and a half, when I felt the need for something cold to drink and maybe an even colder shower. It's um, pretty explicit.

Believe me, I don't think there's anything at all wrong with sex, and anything couples can do to make it better I'm all for, but I surprised myself when thinking about all my kids arriving home for the weekend that I didn't think this book should be on my desk. So before they all arrive I will be discreetly sticking it in a drawer. My daughter would just laugh about it, but my sons would be completely freaked out and wonder what the hell mom was up to when they're not around. My oldest son is the type who can't handle a tampon commercial with his mom and sister, I think seeing a book full of naked photos of couples performing various activities would completely send him over the edge.

In the meantime I think that I'll spend some time poring over this tome. For research purposes of course. You never know when there might be a pop quiz, or the chance to write an article about sex might crop up. I want to be ready and raring to go, just in case. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Don't tell my sons anything else.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is Watching "Gossip Girl" Getting Teen Girls Pregnant?

I'll admit it. I watch "Gossip Girl." Partly because I write about TV for my job, and partly because I seem to at times have the television viewing habits of a 15-year-old girl.

The difference between me and the demographic of this show (I'm assuming 14-24-year-old young women) is that the actions of these characters don't influence me, but they apparently are influencing young girls.

There was a study done recently sited in the Washington Post that found girls who watched shows like GG, "Sex and the City," "Friends" and even "That 70s Show," were twice as likely to engage in behavior that could lead to pregnancy.

I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore when the new "90210" opened with a girl giving a guy a blow job. Too many girls look at themselves as sexual commodities to be traded amongst the guys in their circle and don't recognize or respect their own value. It's startling to me to read about girls who randomly perform oral sex on boys at parties, on school buses and in school bathrooms. Where have we gone so wrong? I know lots of folks will say it all started with Bill Clinton, but girls felt bad about themselves and gave pieces of themselves away well before Monica Lewinsky.

In reading about the correlation between TV viewing and pregnancy I thought back to when my daughter was in middle and high school and how I handled what she watched. Thankfully, she wasn't a huge TV watcher, but we watched a lot of things together. Granted, in the 90s and early 2000s things weren't quite as explicit, but watching together gave me the chance to talk about my values, and how important respecting yourself and your body is. Thankfully my daughter made it through those fragile years without getting pregnant or, as far as I can tell, too scarred by the time. I like to think that my taking the time to be with her and talk about the choices characters on "Gilmore Girls," and the original "Beverly Hills 90210" made helped guide her.

Like so many areas of parenting that appear to have been abdicated, teaching our children about sex seems to have been left to the likes of Carrie Bradshaw and Chuck Bass.

We can't just blame what's on TV for the slutting up of our youth anymore than we can blame the manufacturers of Twinkies for the obesity problem that is rampant among our children. The buck truly stops with the people buying the food and paying the cable bill. We can't ever have complete control over our children, I certainly know this after raising three, but we can be a strong influence. We just need to shout from the rafters until it gets through to our girls - you are truly a treasure and should never, ever just give yourself away.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Good Death After A Very Good Life

My mom passed away this past Thursday, and as completely sad as it is for those of us who loved her and miss her terribly, I am very happy for her. She's no longer living in a body that had ceased to work and now she's at peace.

When she entered the hospital almost three weeks ago and all her grandchildren arrived, none of us had any idea that it would be the last time they would see her. We are all beyond grateful that she did get to see them and they her. We all had that time to laugh and share and tell one another how much we loved each other.

A few days after they left it became evident she wasn't going to get well, and a week ago I called my brother to return.

My brother Mark and I spent an entire week together in this very precious cocoon saying goodbye to our mom and holding each other up in the process.

We developed a routine over the week he was here of going to the hospital twice a day, making dinner late in the evening, and sitting - talking, watching "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report," heading to bed and starting it all over the next day. We'd hold our mom's hands, give her sips of water, and just wait. In between we dealt with the realities of knowing she was going to die taking care of her house, her finances and yes, her cat. I can't imagine how only children do it all, or those who don't see eye to eye. There wasn't one issue we had to deal with that we disagreed about, there were no power struggles and no egos fighting for the driver's seat.

My mother showed more grace and courage through this process than I could ever think to muster. It shouldn't surprise me, because she faced everything in her life that way.

This loss is still very fresh and raw right now, but we're all doing pretty well. My brother has gone back to his life in New York, and I am looking once again at deadlines and surfing the Web for information for my columns. The sacred bubble we lived in for that one sad, sweet week has been broken, but we'll never forget the time we had together, and the way we helped ease our mom from her life on this plane to the next. After all she'd given us throughout our lives we wouldn't have had it any other way.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beware Of Battle Cats

While my mom is in the hospital I have brought her cat to my house so she won't be alone. I'm beginning to think she may have been just fine living the solo life given how she's been reacting to my household.

As I sit here writing, there are puncture wounds on my wrist throbbing away. These wounds stemmed from a ridiculously ill-thought out attempt to pet this cat while she was hiding in the back of my closet.

My mom has had Ginger for about seven years. As a frequent visitor to her house I have seen this cat approximately six times over nearly a decade. She either hides under furniture or a quilt on a bed practically 24 hours a day. Miss Personality she is not. On the other hand, my cat, Sashi, a Maine Coon cat mix, is the life of the party. Given the opportunity to put a lampshade on his head and swing from a chandelier, I think he would. These two do not see eye to eye on any level and seem to be keeping a safe distance from one another.

When my son Ben got into bed last night he was startled to hear some growling and hissing coming from under his bed. Ginger eventually came out, and Ben, animal lover that he is, began to pet her. She acquiesced to the attention, but growled and hissed at him the entire time.

In some ways she's a low maintenance pet - I leave food and water out, and miraculously in the morning it's gone. It's like living with Vampira the cat.

I'm happy to do what I can to help out my mom while she is recovering, but I think from now on Ginger and I are going to have a distant, yet cordial relationship. I don't think my limbs and digits are up for anything closer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Family First Is Much More Than a Campaign Slogan

The reason I haven't posted all week is that my mom has been seriously ill in the hospital. Life as we know it stops when something like this happens.

At 84-years-old it's hard to know how this will all play out, but I am trying to remain hopeful and positive.

Rather than focus on what's wrong and specifics of her illness, which feels inappropriate, I just wanted to write about who this woman I call mom is.

My mom, Louise, is a woman of that "Greatest Generation," you know, those folks who unlike us, didn't live beyond their means, saved, did the right thing without having to be reminded to, and lived good, honest, hard-working lives.

She was one of the very first single, working mothers I ever knew of. After my father left when I was about seven, she went back to teaching to support us. She didn't get a lot of financial help from him and on her modest teacher's salary supported my brother, Mark and I.

My brother and I had a tearful conversation this morning about who she is and what we learned from her and how that has impacted who we are.

I was telling him, and he agreed, that she is one of the least judgemental parents anyone could ever have. She's seen me go through a divorce, the ups and downs of raising three kids and never once has she ever second guessed or criticized me. She's just always told me how great a mother I am and how proud she is of me. Not too many people get that.

It's easy sometimes as we go through life to focus on what we didn't get, and all children can make a long list of those deficits, my children included I'm sure. But, when it dawns on you that this person won't always be there and that reality sets in, you start to realize that none of that matters, and what you got was what you needed.

It speaks volumes to the kind of person she is that her grandchildren have all shown up - my daughter all the way from California, and two sons from various New England locales, to support and give a hug to their Ama. She supports my oldest son in recovery, my younger son's DJ'ing career, my daughter's burgeoning career in finance, and she's never been anything but supportive of my decision to be a writer. She is also the kind of woman who even her ex-son-in-law visits in the hospital.

At 84, until a few months ago, my mom was going to yoga classes and became a Reiki Master at 80. She took my brother and I to be initiated into Transcendental Meditation when we were teens, and bought me lots of yarn, fabric, paints and books to support my interest in arts, crafts and writing. She was a different mom in many ways, and it's because of that difference I had the courage to take a leap and pick a career that may feed my soul but not always my bank account.

No one's childhood is perfect or idyllic. I actually believe some of those lacks and struggles are an important part of the people we become. The trick I think is to not get so mired down in those lacks that you fail to see the pluses, and for me those far outweigh the minuses.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Britney's Back And I'm So Excited!

The last couple of years have been pretty rough for Britney Spears. When the paparazzi were following her day and night it was like a fox being hunted by a pack of wild dogs. Thankfully things have turned around for the young star in the last year and, and with this video, "Womanizer," the first single from her upcoming album, "Circus," it truly shows she is back.

You're not allowed to embed the video, but at least you can hear the song here!

Britney's mom, Lynne Spears has talked a lot about what her family has been through in her book, "Through the Storm," which I have read, and wasn't at all what i thought it would be. It wasn't salacious in any way, and gave some insights into how they got where they did. After reading it I can only hope that parents will think twice before encouraging kids into show business. No parent should ever want their child to be a commodity to be bought and sold, but it's easy to see how seductive the fame and money can be.

I am not saying that Britney is a huge musical talent, but for what she does, when she's healthy she does it well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Finally! Some Paris Hilton News!

Now here I was just a few hours ago talking about how I wish I could talk more pop culture less politics, and this falls right into my lap: a bit of both worlds. The absurdity of Washington melded with the silliness of Hollywood. Life is feeling normal once again.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Seeing Martin Sheen brings me back to the simple days of Aaron Sorkin, a time when presidents were strong, capable, moral and good. The presidents of "The West Wing," and "The American President" that is what I want.

Ah, if life were only that simple...

When Will The Madness End?

Just when I think I will go back to writing about oh I don't know, Paris Hilton or maybe my make-believe boyfriend, George Clooney, I keep finding things in the news that keep dragging me back.

Last night I was watching the news and got to see many shots of Sarah Palin whipping crowds into a hate-fueled frenzy by bringing up Barack Obama's middle name, (gee, I have one son whose middle name is Shadrach and my daughter's is Eun Bee, what have I done to them?!) long-dismissed ties to a 1960s radical, and even the New York Times for God's sake. What is wrong with this woman? I winced as I listened to crowds scream, "Terrorist!" about Senator Obama, and was stunned at just how low things can go.

There is a line that should never, ever be crossed and she continues to cross it out of desperation and not having a leg to stand on (even if that leg is standing on styling peep-toe pumps).

It is reprehensible and completely irresponsible in this day and age to encourage that kind of hate-mongering during what should be an intelligent election process. But as Obama has said, these things are part of the "Silly season" of politics.

At this point I cannot wait for this election to be over. I hope that we all come out of this unscathed and still speaking to one another. I think we've all been hurt enough by everything that's happening in the last several weeks, heck, years, it's time for hope to override fear and hate. Bottom line, no matter who you vote for it shoulnd't be out of hating someone else.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

OJ Simpson's Guilty Verdict Gives Proof To The Existence Of Karma

Yesterday, eleven years to the day that he was acquitted in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, he was found guilty on all counts of armed robbery and kidnapping in a botched scheme to get some of his memorabilia back.

Maybe it's not very kind or forgiving of me, but I smiled when I read that and felt at that moment that perhaps what goes around does indeed come around.

I remember the day when that first verdict came in. My ex-husband and I were, with the help of my mom, cleaning our house that we'd sold and moving into a rental while we built a new home. The furniture was all gone, but the cable was still connected and the three of us sat there on the floor, mops, sponges and dusters in hand huddled around a tiny TV waiting for the verdict.

All these years later I remember that feeling of my heart racing, waiting as the jury filed in and Simpson rose to hear the verdict. Not Guilty. I couldn't believe it. I'd watched a lot of the trial and just could not believe it. The blood in the Bronco, the chase in the Bronco, the thump against Kato Kaelin's wall. The lateness in getting to the airport, the limo driver not being able to get him, the weapon for God's sake. I sat there stunned believing to my core that this man had indeed gotten away with murder.

A year or so ago I wrote in a column about his proposed book, "If I Did It," and how horrible it was. The Goldman family actually took over and did get the book published and have taken the profits from it for a foundation in their son's name. I'm not sure I agree with putting this horrible story out there in any form or fashion, but that clearly wasn't mine to decide.

This verdict and possible life sentence in jail is certainly too little too late for the families of Nicole and Ron, but hopefully knowing that OJ may finally be going to jail will provide them with some solace.

For too long the swagger and arrogance of this man have spared him from paying for his crimes. Well, it looks like his number finally came up. How fitting that it happened in Vegas.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vote Vote Vote!!!

I live in Massachusetts, and there are only about 11 more days where you can register to vote for the upcoming election. To find out how easy it is to register in Massachussetts or your own state so go here.

There are people around the world who would give anything to have the privilege to vote, something many among us take terribly for granted. It is nothing to be squandered.

I remember my first presidential election very well. It was Jimmy Carter, 1975 or so. I was thrilled to be able to cast my vote and haven't missed an election since.

This year, more than ever, we all need to take a stand for change. I've made my preference known, but everyone has to choose the candidate who is right for them.

Just remember if you don't bother to cast a vote you have no right to complain, and if you're anything like me, when things don't go your way you want to be able to complain about it!

Maybe this seems a little out of place coming from a pop culture columnist, but what's more cultural, pop or not than our future? I know I want to be able to write about Britney, George Clooney and anything else that crosses my mind in a home I can pay for that has heat I can afford as well. I'm just like you trying to get by and make sure I'm helping to create a future that is solid and healthy for my children.

That doesn't mean I don't love Hello Kitty, celebrities and movies. It just means there's more to life than those things and we all have to do our best to make sure everyone has a good shot at having a good life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

I've always considered myself a girl's girl, and as an adult, a woman's woman. But there are times that I am disappointed in my gender and find myself siding more with the guys.

Having raised two sons and a daughter, I saw up close and personal just how different the friendships between boys and girls are. I held my daughter as she cried about being treated badly by "mean girls" and I saw my sons get upset with a friend, deal with it and move on.

What got me thinking about this is today's "Oprah," a show about a mother who forgot her toddler daughter in her car when she went to work. Hours later, the little girl was found dead from heat stroke. It's easy to stand in judgement and think that you'd never do that, but it was truly an accident. An accident she will have to live with for the rest of her life.

The mom talked about how she went from being a well-respected assistant principal and mother to who she called, "The most hated woman in America." And it was largely women who told her how horrible she was.

For some reason we can be each other's biggest supporters and worst enemies. My daughter graduated in May from Wellesley College, one of the few women's colleges left in the country. The education she received there is unparalleled, and she made some friends who I am sure will be friends for life, but for all of that there was mean girl activity that was so awful I was appalled. Once in a while she would forward threads of e-mails to me. Below is what she sent to me during her freshman year:

"This best represents Wellesley girls. It starts off with a girl named
Anna* looking for a place to tan. Very bad choice to post on the Wellesley
community conference. As we all know girls have a tendency to be catty.
Well now we can do it over the Internet. It goes from tanning, to skin
cancer, to racism, to proving that girls really are crazy." *Name changed

The e-mail went on to judging and mocking this poor girl who asked a simple question and showed just how cruel girls can be.

I adore my women friends, and thankfully I'm pretty confident no one in my close circle is a frenemy, but I've been subjected to sniping, judging and been lied to by women I thought were dear friends.

We hold ourselves to such high standards: we have to have perfect children, relationships, homes and jobs, all while being a size 4 and looking hot. Who can live up to all that?!

I think we turn on each other for a few reasons: We're hungry after not having consumed more than 1000 calories a day in 10 years and we're not thinking straight. If we diminish someone else we can feel better about ourselves. And I think it's encouraged by a media that loves cat fights.

Maybe the best thing we can do is to circle the wagons and stop hurting each other. In the meantime, I'm going to make sure I have some good guy friends too, at least I always know where I stand with them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tina Fey Is My Hero

I have been a fan of writer/actress Tina Fey for a very long time. I have long admired her rising to the top as a comedy writer in a world that is very much male dominated. She was head writer on "Saturday Night Live" for several years, while there wrote the hit movie, "Mean Girls," and went on to create the Emmy Award winning "30 Rock." Add to this successful commercials and print ads for American Express and you can see her stock (unlike Wall Street's) is very much on the rise.

Jezebel had a great post yesterday about the branding of Tina Fey, and I think all this success couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

The post suggests that Fey has probably earned approximately $17 million so far in her career, and states that number will do nothing but grow exponentially given her talent, and until her 15 minutes are up (we can only hope) her uncanny resemblance to VP candidate, Sarah Palin.

In an era when we know the names of people like Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, from "The Hills," it is refreshing to see that there is still a place for actual talent.

When she took a cue from the book,Queen Bees and Wannabees
she captured the life of girls in high school so well in her script for Mean Girls (Special Collector's Edition) it was clear then that Tina Fey was a woman a great talent who would be around for a long time.

I am thrilled that for once it's the woman who is not classically beautiful,(though I think she's gorgeous) who has an actual brain in her head who is making a mark on the showbiz world. Enough with the Restalyne and silicone-filled bimbos, lets give a big shout-out to the smart funny girls! They're much more fun to hang out with anyway.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Whatever, Martha" is Totally My New Obsession

If you've ever wondered what it was like to be Martha Stewart's daughter, wonder no more. Alexis Stewart and her Sirius radio partner are hosting a new show on the Fine Living Network called, "Whatever, Martha" Tuesdays at 9.

This show is like watching Martha with your friends, but they're extremely clever, witty friends who have years of issues from having been Martha's daughter.

When I was married, oh so many years ago, I kind of wanted to be Martha. I wanted to be the perfect housewife, but somehow somewhere along the way I lost that. That passion for making homemade pasta was replaced by a passion for writing, but there's still this little part of me that wants to be just a little like Martha. Unfortunately I always fall just a little bit short.

Last night I decided to try to impress a guy by making homemade pizza, something I'm usually not too bad at. I was trying hard to make it look perfect, but the dough just didn't want to cooperate. It was far from round, (I don't think there's a name for the shape it morphed into)and was thicker than I usually make it, it was so not Martha-like. It tasted good, but as it flopped over the wooden palate, oozing cheese on to the counter I realized that no matter how hard I try, the things I do will never be perfect.

Perhaps that why I love "Whatever, Martha." It pokes fun at the quest for culinary and domestic perfection that no one can truly achieve. It shows us the flaw in that thinking and makes us realize that like so many things in life, it's more about the thought behind the effort than the actual outcome. Taking the time to do something for someone rather than the perfect outcome should be the goal, it truly is the thought that counts.

At least that's what I told myself as I stood there trying to figure out how to cut a pizza that looked like a geometry class reject. Hopefully my dinner companion agreed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I think I'm In Love With Neil Patrick Harris. That Could Be A Problem

All right, so here's the problem. It doesn't matter that he's a big TV star and I have no way of meeting him, that would actually be the easy part. The problem (for me, not him) is that he's gay.

It's probably a little creepy liking the guy who played "Doogie Houser" when I was an adult, but he's a completely legal and completely unavailable 35-years-old, so it's not that weird.

When NPH was outted by Perez Hilton a couple of years ago it looked like it could be a very bad thing for his career, interestingly enough, in the time since then it's become completely cool to like him. "How I Met Your Mother" (or HIMYM as it's known to fans) has gone from a barely surviving show to a big hit - largely due to NPH.

NPH has subbed many times for Regis on "Regis and Kelly" and is always a stellar foil and host-chat mate for Kelly Ripa. This summer he pushed the envelope and starred in the Web-based musical, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Along Blog," and helped to elevate the genre of Web series.

So why do I love NPH? Well, he's pretty freaking adorable in that very cute-guy way. He's self-deprecating, (one of my favorite qualities in people) he can do magic and he's very quick witted and funny. What else do I need in a guy? Hm, good question. Well, being straight might be a good start, but for NPH I might just be willing to bend that rule.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Driving Mr. Sashi

It always seems that just when I think my life can't get any weirder, well, it does.

I have spent weeks working on my house getting it ready to sell. I love my house, but the time has come for the "Leave it to Beaver" house to be passed on to another big family, or at least some really rich folks who can pay to heat it above the bone-chilling 62 degrees I've kept it at every winter .

A ritual part of putting your house on the market is after you've scrubbed, weeded, patched and painted yourself into a mere nub of who you once were, is the tour of the MLS (multiple listing service). This swarm of human locusts descends upon your home, whipping through it at breakneck speed and judging every nook, cranny and burned out light bulb.

As the lowly owner of the house I needed to vacate, and since there would be many people in and out, my cat Sashi needed to leave too.

Having spent the morning vacuuming myself out of every room, scrubbing my shower within an inch of its life and folding about 100 loads of laundry that had piled up while I painted and met newspaper deadlines, I didn't have time to prep the cat for the ensuing adventure. Meaning, when the Realtor called and gave me the "Thundercats are go!" signal, I threw the litter box in the back of my wagon, grabbed the cat and zoomed out of here.

As I drove down the road, meowing cat clutching the back of my car seat, I thought that perhaps placing him in his carrying case might have been a better idea.

I didn't know where to go, so my howling companion and I rolled aimlessly down the streets of my town. Certainly going for coffee was out of the question, I feared he'd bolt out the door and I'd never see him again, and really, who could have blamed him? Plus I only had enough cash in my pocket for one coffee, how rude would that have been to not offer him a latte?

We do live on Cape Cod, so finally I decided to take Sashi to the beach. Not to frolic in the sand or go for a swim, but to look out at the water and appreciate this lovely place where he lives.

He wasn't impressed.

Sashi is an indoor cat, a decision my kids and I made after our last cat became dinner for a coyote. His entire world is the square footage within the confines of our house. He is the king of the castle in the world he knows, but out there, thrust into a space he didn't know, he was a quaking pile of fur. I felt terrible, but my Realtor had promised me that this would be about a half an hour at best.

A half hour went by, then an hour. No call on my cell. I amused myself by texting with my son who must have been very bored at work to spend time communicating with mom. I sent all three of my kids pictures of Sashi in the car, (I'm sorry my tech ability doesn't extend on how to put pictures from my phone here) and I think they truly thought I had finally lost it and was now so desolate I was taking the cat on errands and appointments with me.

I tried singing the theme song from "Toonces the Driving Cat" to him, but that was way before his time and he didn't like it. Time dripped by, I read People magazine and Sashi sat quietly it the backseat having declined any reading material.

Finally, after an hour and a half I got the all-clear call to come home.

I don't know who was happier me or the cat. Probably him. I'm used to the car.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Am Convinced That Nicholas Sparks Has It In For Me

The first time I saw the commercial for the new film "Nights In Rodanthe" I actually yelled at my television. I thought, here we go again; a movie muddying the already very murky waters of love. Isn't finding and sustaining a relationship hard enough without the expectations that Sparks heaps on us?

I want every woman who has ever had a man ask her, "Who keeps you safe?" in a sensitive, super-caring way to raise her hand (and your father doesn't count!). Yeah, I thought so. I'm betting no one, except maybe Nicholas Sparks wife (and boy, would I love to talk to her about what he's REALLY like)has ever had a Sparks-esque relationship. She may have had a moment, especially early on, and chances are there was the possibility of sex laying in the balance that was the real reason behind the moment.

Sparks is the man who brought us tearjerkers like "Message in a Bottle," and "The Notebook." I think, like so many writers (I have to say, usually women) he is ruining love for we singltons, rendering us dreamy eyed and wistful thinking that maybe, just maybe there's a guy who will sweep in and care about your feelings more than the score of the football game and the report due on Monday at work.

Now granted, I haven't seen the movie, but what I have seen in trailers and commercials shows Richard Gere as a doctor who doesn't appear to have been a great husband having put career first. Then, a crisis (I'm assuming) brings him to Diane Lane, equally sad and well, there were end up with the "who keeps you safe?" line.

I don't like to think I'm bitter about love. Realistic perhaps. All right, there may be a smidge of bitterness crammed in there somewhere. Not a lot, just a little. Maybe I have such a visceral reaction to line like that, or "You complete me" as a bit of a defense against hoping that maybe there actually is a guy out there who want to take on me and my complicated life.

I'm not holding my breath, but you never know. But if he ever asks me, "Who keeps you safe?" I might just have to say, "me."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

That Old Feeling Of Hating "The View" Is Returning

I had looked forward to the return of "The View," the ABC daytime talk-fest that Barbara Walters helms. I thought about Whoopi Goldberg and how much I admire her, so when I tuned in yesterday as I caught up on e-mails and organized my desk, it all came flooding back: Elisabeth Hasselbeck makes my head want to explode. Okay, so I admit it:My name is Candy and I am a liberal. Satisfied? Like anyone would be surprised by that. I try so hard to be open minded, but when I hear her talk I want to scream.

For two days I've heard her tow the GOP line extolling about the virtues of Gov. Sarah Palin, making statements about sexism and just completely contradicting everything she said about Lynne Spears when HER teenage daughter was pregnant.

I have been reading lots of columns by people (Maureen Dowd and Ellen Goodman) much better versed than me in this arena, but as a mother of three I have something to say.

On "The View" yesterday Sherri Shepard was all behind Elisabeth's support of Palin saying that "Hey, if she can be in charge of a family if five she can do the job of vice -president." Really? Is this how low the bar has been set?

I am a single mother of three. From the time my youngest was eleven I was the primary parent of her and her thirteen and eighteen-year-old brothers. I did this while building a career as a journalist, going to school and dealing with a myriad of teen issues, some of them very serious issues. This however does not in any way qualify me for the vice presidency.

I've thought a lot about my own sexism in my surprise over McCain's pick and I decided that I would feel the way I do whether the pick was a male or female.

As a parent I would never want to put a child of mine in a situation like Bristol Palin's through the scrutiny of a national political battle. There are times - whether you're a mother or a father - that you put your kid's needs before your own. Given that she gave birth to a son with special needs just four months ago, it just seems like she's throwing her family under the campaign bus to get what her ambition desires.

I sat on these feelings for a couple of days because I was kind of embarrassed. My objections to her should be solely based on her beliefs -which believe me, they largely are, but as a parent my first thoughts went to,"Wow, five kids, one with Down Syndrome, one pregnant at seventeen, I think these people need to hunker in and take care of what's in right front of them at home." Yeah, family first my ass. Oh wait, I forgot, it's now "Country First."

Being a heartbeat away from the presidency isn't like being a co-host on "The View" Elisabeth and Sherri, if you screw up at work you might embarrass yourselves, but no one dies.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Top Five Ways That "Sex and the City" Got Being Single All Wrong

I have spent the last few weeks painting the exterior of my house, shampooing carpets and mowing my grass which is strategically laced with lots of poison ivy just waiting to attack hyper-allergic me.

Today I collapsed on the couch after hauling a carpet cleaning machine up and down the stairs - not to mention back and forth and back and forth on the various carpets. I turned on the TV and came upon an episode of "Sex and the City." It was one of the ones when Carrie was dating Aleksandr Petrovsky, (none of those were amongst my favorites) and it got me thinking about how led astray we single women can be by this quartet of women. I've always been a big fan, but as I sat there, exhausted from cleaning, my legs still stinging from the scratches I got when I had to wade through rambling roses to paint my porch, I thought this is so not the experience of any single women I know. The single women I know are pretty happy, but many struggle financially, most have children, and the only designer clothes they purchase are found in the racks at TJMaxx and Marshalls. So I thought about it and came up with my all time top-five ways that "Sex and the City" is wrong.

1. I have wooden floors and no man (like Carrie's boyfriend, Aidan) has ever offered to come over and refinish them. Aidan was an incredible guy who didn't just buy Carrie's apartment, he bought the one next door as well to create a lovely home for them. And she cheated on him. If any handsome, talented, successful, smart man wanted to re-do my floors, I would promise fidelity. Forever.
2. Like Carrie Bradshaw I am a columnist and I do not own one pair of Manolo Blahniks. Newspapers do not, in general pay writers well. Like choosing to be a teacher because you love children and want to help educate the next generation, you choose to be a writer because you can't not write. If I was smart I would have chosen many other possible careers that would enable me to work one job, not several. There are days that even taxidermy seems like a better alternative to this. Then I get excited about something and I just have to write.
3. Where are all these guys these women go out with? Where I live I'm lucky if I meet a couple of guys a year worth even having a cup of coffee with. Most of the time being alone in the glow of my computer monitor with a hot cup of tea is a more satisfying option.
4. Chances are, if I ever went to a baseball game I would not end up with a date with a baseball player - unlike Carrie who caught a fly-ball and ended up with the "New Yankee." With my luck the ball would have hit me in the head and the only person I would have met would be the medic icing down the melon-sized lump on my head.
5. Men like Big don't come to France and rescue you from your failed romance with a Russian artist. Not that I know anyone who's had a relationship with a Russian artist - failed or otherwise. It was a great fantasy that Big would show up, take Carrie in his arms and tell her, "You're the one, Carrie," but I don't think a commitment-phobe like Big would ever truly do that.

Of course there were many things they did get right:

Beware of "frenemies" - those people who you think are on your side but would just as soon stab you in the back as look at you.

That said, I know from SATC that there is nothing like your girlfriends in good times and bad.

Beware of guys like Jack Berger - quick, funny, make you feel amazing and smart. The ones who seem too good to be true often are.

And, as Carrie learned when she slept with a guy she met at her therapist's office, watch out for the same kind of guy you always go for who always breaks your heart. He might be wearing a different pair of pants than the guy before him, but believe me, you'll be amazed that he always seems to show up just when you thought you've finally smartened up.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

WTF? Who The Hell Wants To Go To A "Safari Chic" Party?

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal today about the ridiculous dress codes people are expecting for their parties.

There were terms like "wild chic," "beach formal," "resort dressy," "international," "festive," and one of my favorites, "creative black tie." What does this mean???

I have to admit that I don't get invited to very many events where an actual paper invitation is sent. Mostly it's phone calls, in person or an e-mail. I know, this says an awful lot about the quality of my social life, doesn't it?

Where I live on the Cape it is a veritable potpourri of fashion dos and don'ts, leaning heavily on the don'ts.

Depending on where on the Cape you are - the more tony Osterville, Centerville area, or the more bohemian lower Cape, it will dictate what's acceptable.

And if you hang near Chatham expect to see lots of madras, pink (on the guys) and embroidered pants. You know, embroidered with whales, fish skeletons, things like that. Yeah, I don't get it either.

Since most the events I get invited to are not formal I don't see a lot of Safari anything, never mind "chic." Having not been to any kind of resort in many years I am not even sure what resort wear would be - a sarong? I'm probably so wrong. Sorry, I had to go there.

I go back and forth about the casualness of where I live. I sometimes wish it was a little more fashion forward, but on the other hand there's something wonderful about being around people for whom labels are the last thing on their minds.

I find working as a writer from home that it's awfully easy to get lazy and not bother to dress nicely and my daughter is the first to tell me when I'm slipping into Cape Cod Lack Of Chic.

There are limits to what I will and will not wear. Here is my own personal dos and don'ts for dressing on Cape Cod (what others do is their business and I'm not judging anyone else's choices, some people look really good in sweat pants, Birkenstocks and socks!)
1. No Uggs when it's not winter
2. I will never buy Birkenstocks
3.Flannel is for lumberjacks, not women who want to look sexy
4. Crocs will NEVER be on my feet. Not now, not ever.
5. Hippie clothes - I'm not a hippie anymore. No tie-dye, no full length skirts (unless it's a ball gown) no wooden clogs and no mom jeans, pegged jeans or acid washed jeans.

You can live here and have style. You just can't expect anyone else to want to wear what you do. So if you have a party, you'd best just be open to what shows up. I haven't seen a lot of pith helmets and only a couple of tuxes in my time here.

The good news is if you're into fashion you'll always be the best dressed person around, and if you're not that's just fine too. No one will judge you, they probably won't even notice.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is John Mayer An Attention Slut? Quite Possibly!

I know Jennifer Aniston certainly doesn't need my sympathy. She's beautiful, successful and wealthier than I can ever imagine being. But somehow I do keep ending up on Team Aniston because I often feel she gets a raw deal. Perez Hilton is mean to her (why? I can not for the life of figure out how Angelina Jolie is saint-like to him but Jen is tormented all the time on his blog) and magazines scream from their covers all the time how "desperate" she is for a baby, a marriage, hearth and home - or all of the above. Really? Hmmm, she looks pretty happy to me!

Her latest relationship and breakup involving John Mayer has once again proven that the world seems to be laying in wait for Jen to appear heartbroken or desperate. I just never thought a guy she was dating, especially another celebrity would kind of sell her out.

It was while I was out walking this morning that it occurred to me: John Mayer is really kind of a douche. There. I said it. It's not a word I particularly like, but for some folks, it just fits. The fact that he stopped and spoke to the paparazzi and gave them this spiel about the bust-up makes me sick. Any man who does that is a sleazeball. Did you see Clooney stopping to talk to the paps about his breakup? I don't think so. Because Clooney has class, something Mayer clearly doesn't.

While he made it sound that it was him he ended the relationship, Jen's people said she came to the realization that it seemed he was tipping off the paparazzi as to where they'd be. The very private Aniston was not happy.

I understand that Mayer is a young music star and part of that gig is apparently to date a lot of stars and wannabe stars. But there is something about him that just smacks of egotism and smugness that make me want to smack him. I have the same feeling about Zack Braff, who,I contend, were he not a TV star, would be spending most Saturday nights either alone or with his parents. He's not that cute, sorry gals. Hey, I loved "Garden State," but he was mean to Mandy Moore and I like her, and not just for this.

I am just waiting for something to happen to humble Mayer just a little bit. He's not quite the savior of his generation he seems to portend to be and I would love to see him, just once, put in his place.

My advice to John Mayer (not that he asked for it) would be to grow up a little bit, stop taking yourself so damn seriously, develop some class and find some humility. You might have to dig pretty deep, but I bet you might find it in there somewhere.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Does The Fact That I Like To Bake Cupcakes Make Me Less Ambitious?

I have two very different personas. No, my nickname is not Sybil, I am quite normal actually. Well, mostly normal. All right, sort of normal.

Since I became a writer and have been appearing a few times week in print and on the Web, there is my writer persona who is the sometimes snarky, often ditzy pop culture fan who dishes about Madonna, Angelina and talks about the music you must hear. Then there is another side. The super-responsible mother of three who yes, bakes cupcakes (cookies too!) and, OMG! even knits.

There was a piece in the UK paper, The Guardian today about just this thing: "Do Feminists Make Cupcakes?" that got me thinking about this whole topic once again. Does being domestic make you less formidable professionally?

I feel like Carrie Bradshaw when I pose the question:Can you be super-successful AND be a girly girl who likes to bake, knit and take care of the people you love?

Certainly Martha Stewart has made millions bridging that gap between commerce and cake baking, but since she's making money making those cakes so I'm not sure that counts.

I am talking about those of us who are ambitious, hard-working and driven, but also have this kind of June Cleaver side and like doing things that might make us look like throwbacks to a different era.

The benefits of the feminist movement are vast and I'm very grateful for them. I love the fact that I can do and be anything I want to be. And I love that my daughter has even more doors open to her than I ever did.

But, all that said. I like having some of those doors held open for me, heavy things lifted and the ugly bugs removed -they don't have to be killed - just put elsewhere. I like knitting scarves (my knitting expertise is limited but sincere) and I make a pretty decent creme brulee. I often wonder how to meld these two diametrically opposed parts into one person who can do it all. I think it's possible, it's just going to take some juggling.

I have a fantasy (not THAT kind) about someday opening up a really cool cupcake shop. Maybe with my daughter. We'd make all sorts of delicious and pretty cupcakes and make people happy with our little pieces of sugary goodness.

Of course I still want to be a best-selling author.

I'm thinking maybe the best thing the feminist movement gave us is to be able to live in a time where I can have my writing career and bake my cupcakes too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

George Clooney Is Unavailable - In More Ways Than One

So everyone in the world knows that I've got a bit of a thing for George Clooney. Me and about 10 million other women.

I've long referred to him as my make-believe boyfriend, because in lots of ways, make believe boyfriends are far easier than real ones. And let's face it, the odds of him becoming my real one are slim to none. We don't exactly run in the same circles.

But then I had what I thought was inspired idea, a way I might actually get to have a conversation with Clooney - and I wouldn't have to dress up as a hotel maid or risk getting arrested to do it.

It suddenly occurred to me - hey, I'm a journalist! Stars give interviews to promote their movies, music and TV shows, why not track down the right people and try to get a phone interview with the him?! He has a new movie coming out on September 12, "Burn After Reading," of course he wants to get press for it. I know, he'll do "Letterman," "The Daily Show" and all the rest, but hey, I was offering the Cape Cod Times! How could he turn THAT down?

I bolstered myself up before I made some calls. I told myself, "You're no dilettante! You've interviewed Carly Simon, Ray Romano, Jack Klugman, Kathy Griffin and lots of other famous people! You can do this!"

This was good. This was working. I knew this was it.I was psyched. I was "Rocky" before the big fight. One of the ones he actually won. I planned what I'd ask him, how clever and witty I'd be. I decided he'd think I was so funny he'd want to see what else I'd written, and he'd think that a movie should be made from my book and he'd be the one to bring it to the big screen.

All right, so I got a little ahead of myself.

So I made my calls and got far enough that I was asked to e-mail someone named "Justin" a press request. My e-mail was wonderful. It was witty and smart, how could they possibly turn down this writer from a legitimate albeit small newspaper?

Days went by and I heard nothing. I checked my e-mail hoping to see Justin in my inbox (do not take anything dirty from that). So I sent a very light and fun follow-up. I even mentioned the very real possibility that Martha's Vineyard summer resident, Walter Cronkite would see this story and want to see Clooney's new movie. I was on fire.

And then it came.

I was denied.

One short e-mail brought things to an abrupt end: "Thanks so much for your interest, but George isn't available. Good luck to you though :)"

All those dreams. All those plans. And it all comes to an end at the hands of a guy named Justin; a guy who uses emodicans in business e-mails.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Think Christie Brinkley May Be A Stepford Ex-Wife Time Four

I came across this New York magazine article written by Amy Larocca today and found it a little puzzling.

Somehow, I'm not sure why, I thought Brinkley had some real depth and intelligence. I admit I often make the mistake of thinking having the ability to make vast sums of money must mean you've got something going on in your head. But you know, maybe not so much.

In this piece, Larocca says that Brinkley almost never stops smiling and describes her, almost like a ventriloquist, able to talk and still smile. I think there's something a little creepy about that.

Certainly she's a beautiful woman, and at 54, incredible. But, I have to admit that anyone who's been married and divorced four times, well, you gotta kind of wonder.

The article describes Brinkley smiling enthusiastically about a guy rowing by her waterfront home, and she just sounded a little creepy as she waxed on - smiling of course - about how wonderful America is and how beautiful every single thing seems to be. Well it probably is when you're a multi-millionaire who owns 10 homes in the freaking Hamptons. Sorry, a tiny bit of envy just popped up. She's worked hard for what she has, I know, but why can't she be a little more real?

One of the first tenents you learn about writing in the first person is to be self-deprecating. I have no problem showing my flaws to my readers. - the problem is in choosing which one to show It just bothers me that someone like Brinkley, who just went through a very ugly and very public divorce can't divulge that hey, even when you're blond and have a megawatt smile life can be hard. Maybe it just makes the rest of us feel better about our own sorry lots to know that everyone has struggles, even supermodels.

Bottom line, I do have a certain admiration for Christie Brinkley. She's not afraid to fight for what she wants or believes in, has accomplished a great deal in her life, and she's done it all with a smile on her face. Albeit a big, toothy, kind of scary one.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Brush With Fame - My Chat With Marc Cohn

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to interview Grammy winning singer/songwriter, Marc Cohn and it was wonderful.

I never know what to expect when I put a call into a celebrity. Most of the time I am very relieved that who ever is on the other end of the phone is just lovely to me. This is part of their job, and they know I am just doing mine. They are also very used to how to do this, they give me what I need for quotes, and if I'm lucky we hit it off and can joke around - Cohn was one such person.

There have only been a couple of times in the four years I've been interviewing celebrities where I was unhappy at the end of the call. And I will never tell who they were!

Yesterday's call, on the other hand, was one of the best.

Marc was funny, smart, humble and very in touch with what's important in life. Not surprising since he survived being shot in the head three years ago.

Cohn was on tour, playing in Denver on that fateful night. He and his band were headed back to their van after their show when a would-be car jacker shot Cohn in the left temple. Miraculously, he was released the next day and has no lasting physical effects.

He is married to ABC news anchor, Elizabeth Vargas, so as charming and delightful as I found him, damn it, he's taken! But, it's a little easier to swallow knowing that he's married to someone as wonderful as Vargas. In my research I read that the pair were introduced in 1999 at the U.S. Open by Andre Agassi. Reading this made me realize just how shallow my dating pool is - the way to meet a guy like Cohn is to be in a position yourself to be at an event with the likes of Andre Agassi. Somehow guys like Cohn don't show up in the regular haunts, like the town landfill and supermarket.

Cohn and Vargas have two young sons, 2 and 5-years old, and Cohn has a 13-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son from his first marriage. He talked a lot about how much he loves being a dad, and is never away from home for more than two weeks in a row.

So really, what I discovered talking to him is yeah, he's pretty much a perfect guy: He writes music, is an involved dad, is handsome, smart and funny. All in all, not a bad way to spend 45 minutes on a Thursday morning. Sometimes I just have to love my job.

I leave you with one of my favorite Marc Cohn songs.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I was Never A "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" And I Think It's Too Late To Change

I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, Jezebel, and came across this post about "Manic Pixie Dream Girls," and then read the blog post at The Petite Sophisticate about Amazing Girls that had inspired the rant.

The topic wasn't something I'd ever thought about too much, though clearly these young women had. But when I read these posts I realized I'd known MPDGs too. I think we all do or did. I think it's something that's a little harder to pull off after 35 or so.

MPDG's are sometimes waif-like, but always AMAZING. They are every guy's dream - they are sweet, non-judgemental, often artistic giving the promise of possible sexual abandon, a little flighty, and as the Jezebel post states: they are portrayed in film in particular, (in scripts mostly penned by men) as "docile."

Reading this post explained so much to me about why my high school experience was so different from the girls I knew who had guys dropping at their feet. I had a total light bulb moment! It wasn't about breast size, well, it probably was somewhat, but I was up against MPDGs - I didn't have a chance!

I went to three different high schools. No, I didn't get kicked out or anything, though it was probably entirely possible given my strong opinions about fairness and injustice and how students were treated. I was far from docile. At every school I now see there was a MPDG just waiting to taunt me with her over-sized sweaters and smile.

The first MPDG I knew was Eva. She ended up with Joe, the guy I wanted more than anything in the world. I truly always thought it was her enormous breasts that got his attention but I now realize she was an amazing girl. She was sweet, easy-going and while not classically pretty, carried herself with an air of grace I just didn't posses at 14. She was 15 I think, a much older girl.

At my next school it was Nanny. She totally looked the part of the MPDG:long blond ringlets. petite and delicate, almost ethereal. And she was smart and well-spoken. The daughter of a famous author, I envied her quirky family and the way she could layer sweaters, cargo pants and a scarf and look perfect.

At my final high school, there was Wendy. She came in our senior year and turned every guy's head. She was fresh-faced and sweet, quiet yet made the guys laugh. She got one of the few guys in my class who was smart and a little quirky - just the kind of guy I liked. Oh my, it seems my type hasn't changed much.

I haven't run into any of these women since high school or college. After reading that post and thinking about all the MPDGs I've seen in movies, it seems what they have going for them, and perhaps is the reason so many guys go gaga over them is they are completely non-threatening. Now I don't mean to be threatening, but I think in some ways maybe I am. I can't keep my mouth shut when something important bugs me, I have strong opinions about a lot of things, and at almost 5'10," I think I'm a little too tall to be a pixie.

When I was younger I would have given anything to be one of those MPDGs, and maybe even in my early days post-divorce. But there's something about raising kids, forging a career and having to fend for yourself in the world that makes that kind of impossible. I've been to the circus and seen the puppet strings - I know too much to be a MPDG.

Now that I know what it was that I was up against all those years ago I feel a little relieved. I know that I was never built to be a MPDG. And now that I'm well past MPDG age I can finally appreciate that fact. It's just too bad it took me so long to get it.