Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Totally Birthday Barbie

Looking at us together, you probably can’t tell that Barbie and I are the same age; sister Baby Boomers from 1959. It’s hardly a fair comparison. You can’t help but notice that plastic face and wide-eyed stare. Frankly, I think she’s had work done. Either that or she’s been cooking up something in her cutting edge gourmet kitchen besides Vegetarian Delight. If it’s Barbie’s fault that I have to sign for Sudafed during allergy season, I hope she gets a sinus infection that all the pills in her executive briefcase can’t cure.

But even with all the corporate trimmings, the girl can’t hold a job. Of course, what do you expect from someone who tattoos her underwear on her body? I can think of some suitable careers, but nothing she’d want to write home to Totally Downhome Mom and Dad about. After all, who knows what’s gone on in that Dream House over the years?

Fifty years ago Barbie hit the fashion scene as a teen—the first Supermodel that didn’t eat. That famous high step the runway models use come from Barbie before she had knees put in. Now we know where Heidi and Giselle got their inspiration. Barbie was around even before Victoria had a secret.

Frankly, I wouldn’t give the girl a job reference. A jobhopper like that will just ruin your reputation. Honestly, if you run for president three times and can’t collect a percentage of the popular vote, it’s time to move on. She’s been through more careers than Hilary Clinton has power suits. The next profession that comes out with a powderpuff pink uniform and a logo crafted from Swarovski crystals, she’ll ditch the corporate office for the double dipper position at the ice cream shop. And who knows what kind of shape the files are in at the job she left behind. It’s not like she can bend properly to put anything away. The last time she leaned over to open the bottom drawer, Ken had to go in for surgery that ultimately led to their breakup.

As a matter of fact, career stress is probably the cause of that pasty face and wide-eyed gaze. After fifty years of fretting how she’s going to make payments on that luxury Malibu lifestyle, there should be a worry line or two across that smooth forehead. Who does she think she is, Jennifer Anniston? Instead she shows up day after day with a new dress, a plastic smile, and a recycled boyfriend. One more accessory binge, honey, and Skipper and the gang are going to have to stage an intervention.

It's not that I don't love Barbie. I still have my 1960 Bubble Hairdo Barbie in a box in the closet. And come to think of it, she doesn't look anything like the perfect models on display. She shows suspicious signs of sharing a tea party or two over the years, and her home perm makes her look more bobblehead than Bubble Head. In my living room, she was the center of more weddings than a handful of Gabor sisters with an Elizabeth Taylor kicker. She never had a career, but she played out all my childhood fantasies and made a little girl’s dreams come true.

And that’s the most important job of all.

Happy Birthday, Barbie.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lap of Luxury

“What’s this?” Bill Dear asked as I set a cup of coffee crumbs in front of him one morning.

“That’s your coffee,” I answered as I handed him an orange. “Here’s your juice.”

“Gee. Thanks.”

“I have prunes if you’d rather have that.”

“What’s that white stuff sprinkled on my toast?”

“That’s your grits. I thought they’d be easier to eat that way.”

“Did I leave the lid up in the bathroom again?” he asked as he peered at the coffee dust in his cup.

“There’s a drought on, in case you haven’t bothered to read something besides News of the Weird. This is just like the astronauts eat. Except you can’t have Tang unless you mix it with milk.”

“Can I have an egg?”

“That takes too much water to clean up. You can have an egg on Sunday. That’s our day to sprinkle.”

“I’m afraid I’ve already broken that rule. Am I allowed to brush my teeth?”

“Is it Sunday?”


“Here’s some Dentyne. Knock yourself out.”

“Is there something I should know?”

“You should know that it’s our civic duty to conserve water during times of drought. We’re in a desperate situation.”

“Meaning. . . .” Suddenly his face lit up with understanding. “We’re not supposed to flush.”

“Only on Sundays.”

“I don’t think that’s what they mean.”

“It says in the paper that you’re allowed luxury water usage, like loading up your Super Soaker so you can wipe out Mr. Zachary when he edges your tomatoes with his weed eater, every other day depending on your address. If you have an even house number, you get Saturdays. We’re odd.”

“I’d say so.”

“Count your blessings. Old Mrs. Finburne won’t let Ed take his Viagra.”

“Because it's a luxury?

“No. She says it’s a clear case of nonessential water usage.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Miss Manners Fights Back

While I’m not considered a prude by anyone except the examples of the species to whom I have given birth, I’m altogether a poor sport when it comes to food I will consume in public.

Unless I am in the company of dear friends who have known me long enough to identify the stains on my Riverbanks Zoo T-Shirt right down to the unsightly spot from the day we learned that the output of Lorikeets is greater than the input, or of family who is bound by the courts and/or the church to love me for better or for Waldorf salad, in sickness and in Heath bars, I’m not ordering anything that displays unlikely tendencies toward flinging sauces at random passersby.

Salads are particularly offensive in a social setting and should be regulated to over-the-sink binges indulged in while wearing particularly offensive pajamas destined for cleaning canary poop from the birdcage or grimy corners in the garage. Salads are filled with treacherous items that shoot streams of noxious juices into your eye when pierced with a sharp object, and difficult fibrous items that do not respond admirably to cutlery.

Likewise, I am not interested in consuming steaming dishes of noodles at, say, Sunday School gatherings because the first time an errant strand of fettuccine slaps my chin with a load of steaming Alfredo leaving a worm-shaped brand that will be with me til death do us part, I am altogether capable of comments that will guarantee excommunication on the spot. At the very least I'll be voted out of the covered dish dinner line.

On one ambitious jaunt to a local restaurant I couldn’t help but notice a young lady at a nearby table gather up more vegetation from her salad bowl than many farmers reap during a summer afternoon, and place the bales of foliage in her mouth with the same delicate flair usually reserved for swallowers of flaming swords. She was sitting with a young man who was engrossed in hand-dipping pieces of his French toast into the syrup swamp he cultivated in a nearby soup bowl. How have we raised a generation of young people who are passionate about a clean environment, but do not consider Mr. Knife and Mr. Fork their friend?

I watched in open-mouthed amazement as the girl hauled up a load of greens that wouldn’t fit into a lobster trap and crammed the whole package into her mouth. She looked like Sylvester the cat seconds before Granny rescued Tweety Bird from his jaws. She chewed contentedly for several minutes, then blotted her lips with a napkin and, looking my way, leaned over to Sticky Hands Steve and whispered through the poppyseed dressing, “Somebody should help that little old lady with her food. She can’t even close her mouth and there’s a puddle of gravy in her cleavage.”

I summoned the waitress and ordered a dessert dripping with enough chocolate sauce to cover Hershey Pennsylvania in profits and had her deliver it to the young lady and her boyfriend, Mr. Syrup Hands. Then I pulled out my digital camera with movie function.

Good manners are nice, but You Tube is still the best revenge.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Timed Out

It’s a week past the start of Daylight Savings Time and I’m still lying around the house like a third generation mustard stain on a secondhand couch. Study my symptoms and you’d think I lost a gallon of blood and the frontal lobe of my brain instead of an hour’s sleep. I can barely summon the energy to twist my Oreos apart to eat the Double Stuff filling before the chocolate cookie outside part as required by International Law.

One evening I watched an entire episode of a gardening show because I couldn’t summon the energy to change the channel. Me watching a gardening show is like the Boston Strangler checking out an Infomercial on nylon rope. It’s like the murderous board game, Clue. Amy BrownThumb in the kitchen overwatering the African Violets. Innocent houseplants shouldn’t have to die just because I’m out of synch with my Mickey Mouse watch. But Greenwich Mean Time has got nothing on Daylight Cranky Time.

I realize there are people out there, precocious perky people, who adjust to the time change as if it were no more than an afternoon tea party. I do too, provided the tea party is crashed by a wrecker wielding a ten-ton smashing ball and all the guests hang on their chairs like rotting slipcovers.

There’s one family nearby that moves their clocks forward at noon on Saturday to give themselves time to get accustomed to the change. That’s the sort of radical free thinking that divided the country and brought about signs of the end time like tube socks, disco, and reality televison.

This morning as I lay with my face on the table, flailing at the snooze alarm on the microwave with one hand, I realized I’d hit bottom. I had to take immediate action.

So instead of waiting for Daylight Savings Time to end, I went ahead and took a quick Time Out and grabbed my extra hour of sleep right away.

Now if I could only figure out why I have Double Stuff filling in my ear.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bloghopping around the web not long ago, I came across (tripped over) something that puts the jingle in my bells like nothing else. The chance to talk. (Thanks to Eileen for lighting the way.) As long as I hop on the soap box that Baby Boomer extraordinaire popartdiva picks out, I can expound away and nobody, neither Superman nor the Nintendo-playing teenagers on the couch can stop me. I haven't felt this kind of power since I ate all the Girl Scout cookies without giving the dogs a single bite. (That line is a lie, they still have peanut butter breath, but it's a good example.)

This week’s topic is “Are We Wasting the Resources of our Elders?” and while I stumbled on the topic late, I still managed to come up with an opinion. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised. You may sigh deeply, roll your eyes, and catch the latest episode of Lost, but you're not surprised.

As one of the youngest of the generation that knows all about life and has tried it on like a clearance rack sweater, I am, in fact, a baby Baby Boomer. Still, I’m over fifty, if hugging the back side of fifty like a first-time skydiver hugs a parachute counts as over fifty. So I know a little bit about resources: Green stamps, plastic, and the theme songs to twenty years’ worth of situation comedies.

I’ve lived through hard times. As the youngest, I was the one who always had to do the antenna aerobics to get a good picture on the television. When Romper Room came on I had to hold the rabbit ears skyward like the staff of Moses, and I didn’t dare move until Miss Nancy put down her magic mirror. These days I automatically do arm rotations whenever the HDTV signal goes bad.

I remember a time when a tin foil plate full of tater tots and fried fish was a gourmet meal. When you had to wait til the other people on your party line finished their conversation before you could use the telephone. When you had to wind the film in the camera before you could take another picture. Civilization was in its infancy.

Knowing something of this kind of hardship, Baby Boomers are wary of wasting resources. But as sure as the Beatle’s hit, “Hello Goodbye” is now an advertising jingle for Target, we’ve recycled enough resources to provide fertilizer for generations to come.

So the kids these days had better not pick on me. I know all the words to Green Acres.

And I’m not afraid to use them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dream Big But Don't Bend Over

I posted a sign above my closet that reads: “Caution: Consult your doctor before any change of clothing.”

These days my favorite aerobic activity is standing up to put on my pants. Seems like the older I get, the faster I do that little hokey pokey dance of trying to stuff my foot into the leg hole while hopping in circles like a flamingo on a hot sidewalk. If both feet accidentally go in the same side, I’ll spend the entire day shuffling around like the third man in a chain gang before I’ll attempt the Herculean task of redirecting the errant leg. It’s just not worth the risk to my health insurance.

My idea of Xtreme Sports is putting on socks. In the old days pantyhose installation was the troublemaker, but the fashion gods took stock of the nation’s legs and decided it was a nifty idea for a nation of people whose lower limbs resemble the untamed face of Everest to forego hosiery. Free of the pantyhose peril among us, I’ve resorted to socks, which are not in any way attached to each other and which require someone with the dexterity of Jack LaLanne to put them on.

Scientific studies of adults over 50 in my house who are opposed to stretching or bending for reasons of health or other forms of neglect, show that people my age can suffer acid indigestion or premature death from this sort of sudden exercise onset. Last Tuesday I tried to put on a sports bra and almost cornrowed my hair. I did manage to perform an emergency facelift. My eyebrows are still missing, but the birthmark previously on my temple is now a butterfly tattoo at the base of my spine.

Not long ago I saw an advertisement for a scarf that could be tied in different ways to make 19 different outfits. Thinking I couldn’t go wrong with a one-piece wardrobe, I dug out the piece of plastic that lets me live life on borrowed dimes and bought one. Before I got it out of the package it worked itself into a sort of fabric Rubik’s cube. I wedged it over my head and squeezed my arms through. These days I have to flex my left shoulder to lift my right leg. I need two assistants and an Eagle Scout with a Swiss Army knife just to walk up the stairs to my front porch. Every time I try to take a step, the back hem shoots up my back like Levelor blinds.

I thought about trying yoga to improve my flexibility. I popped in an exercise video, but by the time I dropped into the downward dog position, I required the assistance of a veterinarian. I found it rather humiliating to wear the satellite dish collar, but it worked wonders to keep me from biting my stitches.

Then yesterday while surmising out how to safely remove a panty girdle without friction burns that took care of unwanted hair better than a series of laser treatments, I thought back to the popular movie, The Bucket List. Suddenly I realized that if I were to name the one thing I wanted to accomplish with my life before that final stroll through the Pearly Gates, it would be to dress myself without the need for a pictorial directory of the human anatomy, an emergency responder team, or the jaws of life on standby.

My half century of life has taught me an important lesson. When you dream, dream big. But don't bend over.