Thursday, November 12, 2009

Secrets to GirlWorld

As of Friday the 13th, I am officially Mom of three teenaged boys (one of whom will become Bar Mitzvah, at which point, he’s technically a man - talk about scary!). There has been some confusion on their part as to how to interpret the bizarre, twisted way teenaged girls behave, so I’m offering this as a decoder ring to GirlWorld, where nothing is as it seems, even less is fair and the sooner you get used to it, the better. Allow me to pull the curtain back a bit and show you how girls, intentionally or not, mess with boys' heads.

The guy-girl thing is complicated - some men go their whole lives without getting it, so don't be discouraged if it takes some time. Just think of it as a game of Stratego, Battleship, chess or Capture the Flag: the more information you have about your “opponent,“ the better you can plan your strategy. I will be letting you in on several secrets, which will help you get over the “no-fairness” of it all and figure out your next move.

Secret #1: You may think girls have it easier, but girls think you have it easier.

That puts you on equal footing with them - they’re not more powerful than you. In fact, they have many, many obstacles to face when they like a guy:

1) What if I like a guy and he doesn't like me back? (Sound familiar?)
2) What if I like a guy and my friends don't like him and decide I can "do better?"
3) What if one of my friends likes him, too - who decides who "deserves" him more?
4) What if one of my friends, who is more popular and never noticed the guy before, suddenly decides to move in on him and grabs him for herself?
5) What if a really cute guy likes me, and I go ahead and become his girlfriend and my friends think I’m “stuck-up” about it and need to be "taught a lesson" and they start spreading rumors that I’m a slut?
6) Am I really a slut if I‘ve never done anything but everyone says I did? (Guys don't have this problem, since getting with lots of girls is considered being a "player.")
7) What if - worst case scenario - these girls who spread “whore”-ible rumors about me and sabotage my relationships don‘t want to be my friends anymore???

As you can see, girls have a freakin’ minefield they have to cross in order to stay OK with their pack, as opposed to boys: lone wolves figuring things out by trial and error. Neither way is easy.

Secret #2: As if that weren't enough pressure, girls also have to appear sweet all the time, lest they be accused of being “bitches.“

That’s why they say things to you like,

“I already have a boyfriend,”

In GirlWorld, this is a “nice” way of letting you down. They think they’re saying, “It’s not you personally, it’s just that I haven’t gotten feedback from my friends that you’re OK to date.”

Unfortunately, in BoyWorld, this is interpreted as,

"Get away from me, you freak!”

You can see where there might be a problem hooking up.

Plus, you know that teasing thing they do? Like where they ask you a question or borrow a pencil or mooch your lunch, then run back to their little group, all of these she-jackals cackling and pointing at you like you‘re the biggest idiot in the world?

Secret #3: Teasing is their only real power.

Since girls want to fit into their "pack," they can tease as a “joke” (hence, not “mean”), then can run back to their friends and they can all laugh together, which, in GirlWorld, makes it "OK." It’s so stupid, I know. It’s also incredibly confusing to boys, who are straight shooters and want answers: "Why did you do that?"; sadly, girls don't always have a good explanation for why they do the things they do. (Better get used to that part.) Believe it or not, though, they will be discussing your reactions and gestures for hours to analyze whether you just "like her” or really "like her like her” (otherwise known as “like like” - when a girl repeats a word, it means it's important to her).

The best way to deal with teasing is to shrug and turn away. Practice this in front of a mirror. Shrug. Scowl and shake your head a little. Roll your eyes. Maybe utter "Huh" in a bored sort of way. Put on the same expression as if you were brushing off a yellowjacket at a picnic. No matter what you're feeling, if you act like it doesn't bother you, it drives girls crazy! "Why doesn't he care?", they ask themselves, again and again. Which leads us to -

Secret #4: Girls have always gone ga-ga over distant, cool guys.

So why not get some mileage out of it? After all, they're teasing you: it's OK not to give them the reaction they want. (This part is actually fun.)

If you feel overwhelmed by all this, please remember the most important thing, which I’ve saved for last:

Secret #5: Girls really just want to be "like liked" for the sweet, funny, quirky people they are - just like you.

Really really.

Now about dating in college . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is Cougar the New Cool?

It seems that I’ve lucked into a cultural trend: it turns out that younger men now consider “Cougars“ (women over 40) to be “cool.” How ironic: leave it to guys to think they’ve “discovered” what’s been in front of them the whole time! We Cougars do offer definite advantages: experience, outspokenness and a few extra pounds that can sometimes be converted into cleavage. In other words, we’re here, we’re cougar-licious, and you better be cool with that.

Frankly, I think Cougars have it easier than Retired Circus Lions (their male counterparts). I see way too many of these guys walking around with gray roots that need touching up, tattoos that have blurred with time, and an inability to see their feet because of their well-tended guts. Plus, they may be facing “a certain problem.” Of course, if their doctors allow it, they can get “little blue pills” to reassure themselves that the Lion still roars. (I only wish there were pills for the rest of us who are stuck watching those obnoxious commercials - what is the deal with those separate bath tubs, anyway?). When it comes to making women feel better about themselves, you can be sure the drug companies are not to working on a pill that causes men to say to their wives or girlfriends, “Hey, what’s going on? Talk to me.” They know an “I‘m-Here-For-You“ pill would put them out of business, because if we heard those words from men on a regular basis, there would be no need for women’s meds of any kind.

But all good things comes with a price tag, and we Cougars do have three distinct challenges to face:

When does “Oh my G-d!” really mean “Call 911!”? We’ve reached the stage where the goal of our “safe” words in the bedroom are less about satisfaction and more about summoning help - and no fair trying to count the appearance of a paramedic as the “third” in your menage a trois. Suddenly, all those flippant remarks we made in our youth about dying while “doing it” just aren’t funny.

Ch-ch-ch-changes of life. Your kids may be out of the house, but you’re still getting monthly visits from “Aunt Flo.” Congratulations: you are in that awkward zone where your shopping cart is filled with antacids, wrinkle creams, hearing aid batteries, and condoms “ribbed for her pleasure.” Making a Cougar wrestle with contraceptives is one of Mother Nature’s cruelest jokes, because, unlike your wild twenties, if your period is late, you don‘t know whether it‘s pregnancy or menopause. Speaking of which, those pregnancy tests don’t come in large type! That means you have to ask the girl behind the counter at Walgreen’s if that’s a plus or minus sign, because you left your reading glasses at home again.

Memories/Light the corners of my . . . er, what were we talking about? A recent study from Dr. Louis R. Caplan from Harvard Medical School showed that men who take the aforementioned pills have short-term memory loss. Does that mean these poor men have to write notes to themselves to remember what to do once it takes effect? Their memory loss, however, is nothing compared with the Cougar’s astonishing ability blank out an encyclopedia’s worth of information with absolutely no notice; you have better odds of winning the lottery than getting her to give you the correct name of children, co-workers and pets. This can be extremely awkward in the bedroom when the wrong name is called out in a moment of passion; on the plus side, if things don’t go well there, chances are, she won’t remember.

All told, I can accept these drawbacks in the face of embodying Cougar as new cool.

By the way, thigh-high black mesh stockings are really good at hiding spider veins.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Granny's Still Got Game

I was sitting by myself in Luzzo’s, a great little trattoria near Gramercy Park specializing in coal-oven-baked pizza. At the table next to me were two good-looking guys in their late twenties. One of them asked me what I had ordered, sensing correctly that I had been there before. I recommended the Funghi, a mushroom-and-basil taste of heaven; I warned him about the “Napoletana“-style thin crust, since I detected a Chicago accent and knew that thick-crust pizza is something of a religion there.

We chatted about where we were from (I was right about Chicago), and as usual, they had a hard time believing I was from California (I may lack the sun-and-fun bunny looks, but I was born on Sunset Boulevard); Kyle’s friend Ronnie was from India but had traveled to Israel to visit Christian religious sites, so we had a great deal to talk about. Before we knew it, two Funghi pizzas had disappeared and Kyle asked what I was doing later that night.

“Um, like, nothing?” I replied in my native tongue, (I was raised in the San Fernando Valley and tend to revert to “Valspeak” when I’m nervous.)

“Well, you wanna join us for drinks later? A bunch of us are meeting up at our place in the Village, then out for drinks. It’ll be fun.”

My brain whirled: he wasn’t asking me out on a date, per se, so I wasn’t being unfaithful to my boyfriend, and besides, what harm would there be in drinks? Mostly, though, I did the math on their ages: they were born well after I had graduated college.

As kids their age might say, WTF?

“You don’t think it would be weird to have someone my . . . age hanging out with you?” I blurted.

Kyle laughed. Ronnie said, “Hey, you still got game or we wouldn‘t be asking.” I don’t know if it was really a compliment, but I didn’t care.

“Seriously,” said Kyle, “You’d add a lot to the mix. In fact, one of the girls is Tunisian with ties to Palestine, so it should be pretty interesting.”

To say the least. But go to two strangers’ home, then get into a cab with them, assuming they didn’t change my address to a hefty bag in their crawlspace . . .?

What the hell? I thought. Why travel all the way to Manhattan if you’re not going to have an adventure?

We exchanged numbers and I returned to my hotel to freshen up, which, as we women over forty know, involves a paint roller, spackle-like foundation, and a putty knife. Hours later, I climbed the stairs of their four-story walk-up. My heart was pounding beneath the armor-like undergarments that helped me achieve the effect of having a “forgot-to-have-kids” figure with the help of levers, weights and pulleys.

I knocked on the door, and was practically knocked down by a chocolate Labrador retriever.

“Down, Lenny!” Kyle called out, pulling helplessly on the collar.

OK, the guy likes dogs, so he can’t be all bad. And Lenny liked me, so I had passed the first test.

We sat and sipped wine (except for Lenny), and I met the 22-year-old Tunisian gal. Not only was she drop dead gorgeous (petite, olive skin, wavy black hair, dark almond shaped eyes, cheekbones for days), she was a Middle Eastern correspondent for an international newsmagazine and spoke five languages fluently, some of which she picked up during various residencies on all five continents. Mere words cannot describe the relief I felt at not having to compete with her on any level; I silently thanked my Higher Power for not having to woo any males away from Princess Jasmine in order to school them in the finer points of my stretch marks.

We caught a cab to a West Village bar, where two Midwestern gals joined us to counterbalance the Middle Eastern influence of Jasmine and me (sort of). The conversation was lively and leaped all over the place; I was enjoying myself immensely, but I noticed that Kyle was paying particular attention to me. It wasn't “hit-on-me” attention - more the kind one gives to a novelty; perhaps he was simply showing polite interest in the elderly. What he definitely didn't notice was that Jasmine seemed less and less pleased. She really tipped her hand, though, when the discussion turned to the current Mideast situation; I tried to find common ground by saying, “Not all Jews and Arabs hate each other. I mean, look at us: we get along, right?”

She paused before answering: “It’s a peace process.”

Ooooookay. Soon, I caught Princess Jasmine giving the two Chicago girls a “Who invited Granny?” eye roll. I excused myself and found the waitress.

“Hi, can you put that table’s order on my credit card? There’s going to be a fight over the bill and I'd just as soon not bicker.”

The waitress, who was my age, winked at me. “I like the way you think, hon.”

After signing the slip, I returned to the table.

“Hey, guys, the first round was on me. It was great meeting you all, but I’ve got to get my beauty rest.” There were hugs all around, even from Princess Jasmine (it was her turn to be relieved). I got to make a clean exit.

In situations like those, age really does have some advantages: the years had taught me well when it’s time to get out, and my killer credit rating let me be a hero by treating new friends to a round of beers and nachos.

Plus, Granny really did need her rest.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Boyfriend Meets World

The only thing more delicious than chocolate is discovering all the things you love about your new beau; it’s no coincidence that chocolate is the lubricant of choice during courtship. Case in point: I asked my boyfriend, who was your fantasy girl growing up? Was it Ann-Margaret? Ginger? Jeannie?

Rich thought about it for a couple of seconds and replied dreamily, “Rose Marie.”

Jackpot! Any man who would go on record as saying Sally Hayes from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was his guilty secret is a keeper. What's not to love? Had I but known, I would have skipped the flirtatious chit-chat on, climbed through the computer and grabbed him on the spot.

It was only a matter of time before my friends wanted to meet this mysterious man with the Jeremy Irons good looks and East Coast lilt to his voice. (Let the ladies with the PBS tote bags swoon over some Brit-twit’s posh accent - just give me Joizee or fuggedaboudit.) We‘ll be there, I RSVP-mailed to a pool party invite; little did my poor boyfriend know what he was in for.

When we arrived, Rich discovered all the gals were wearing matching black velveteen bows in their hair, a la Sally Hayes, courtesy of a special package sent to Lynnie’s house ahead of time (velveteen and bobby pins are surprisingly light and did not set me back much in the way of postage). One by one, each of my giggling female friends pointed out the decorations in her coiffure.

“Hey, Buddy, whaddaya think?” some of them demanded, Rose-Marie-ishly.

“Cute. Yeah. Sally Hayes. I get it,” Rich replied with an indulgent smile.

After a dozen or so of these, Rich said, “Hey, all this sexy talk of Rose Marie is distracting me from my dinner. Do ya mind?”

No, we didn’t mind at all. In fact, we all had a good laugh, and my friends liked him just fine. They liked it even more when he turned to me as we were leaving and announced rather loudly, "Hey, Steph: they're not as bad as you said."

It’s not only great to discover things you love about your beloved - it’s also fun when the world can see it, too.

But paws off this one, girls, or I'll demonstrate uses for velveteen bows you can't even imagine.

When it comes to her man, Rose Marie don't mess around.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Four Warning Signs That You May Be Over Forty

It’s not a date marked on a calendar like “Birthday” or “Anniversary,“ but a day does come along when you are no longer carded buying alcohol. On that day, if you are lucky, you are probably not trying to get into the hottest club - which they may not want to let you into, due to your own lack of hotness. Knowing this, you may feel relieved, but there might also be a twinge of regret. It’s hard to surrender that “anything’s possible” openness of your early days, especially to a crop of tight-as-a-drum, ungrateful brats you could have given birth to (see my essay below, “Death to Ma’am!”).

As long as we’re wallowing, here are a few other things you may have already let go of:

1. “Days on the Green.” You find yourself passing on any musical event that involves “festival seating“ - fighting crowds for a damp spot on the grass is about as appealing as a colonoscopy. These days, if it can’t be enjoyed on pay-per-view from the comfort of your own La-Z-Boy, fuggedaboudit. But have you noticed that when you are able to leave town for the weekend (not on a senior bus trip - not yet, anyway), you find yourself at shows you would have died rather than be seen at in your 20s?? Worse yet, you’re raving about them: “We saw Tony Orlando & Dawn when we were in Reno, and you know what? They put on a great show! You should’ve seen their salute to the troops - I was crying my eyes out!”

Girl, you are so over.

2. Natural Fibers in your Wardrobe. Clothing is chosen not for fashion but for expandability: more polyester than pure cotton, more acetate to cover your - assets.

Simultaneously, in a twist that redefines irony, what you lack in natural fibers in your closet, you will need to increase in your diet.

3. Full Use of Existing Body Parts. I now have hearing aids, reading glasses, and bras that involve an intricate series of levers and pulleys to support breasts that used to defy gravity on their own. I need L’Oreal for my gray hairs, meds for moods, Pepcid for digestion and orthotics for my shoes. I know adult diapers are in my future, looming like the plague, I just don‘t know which is worse: lack of bladder control, or relief in not having to find a place to “go” everywhere I go.

4. "Because I Said So." I don't know about you, but I no longer have the final word with my kids. They have learned well from me and know how to argue back when they think something is stupid - what a wonderful legacy to have left them. As if that weren't bad enough, my memory is not what it used to be, so by the time they've made their case, I've forgotten what we were arguing about. Great: now that I can’t remember anything, my teenagers know everything.

And I need a nap.

The sad news is, there is no way to re-negotiate this contract.

When you find out the good news, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I admit it: I have a negative inner monologue in my head that narrates my life, and I’m willing to bet you do, too. Maybe yours is a combination of voices - my friend, Kimberly, refers to hers as “The Committee,“ while Jilliene named it “The Lynch Mob.“ Whatever form it takes, that nonstop nattering continuously poo-poo’s your good intentions while locking in the freshness of your past failures like mental Tupperware.

Welcome to K-F%&K.

“K-F%&K is the 24-hour radio station in your head that plays ’All Doom-and-Gloom, All the Time,’” according to my bestest friend ever, Tami.

It might be a radio station, but Easy Listening it ain’t.

I can usually keep K-F%&K’s nasty naysaying at bay with positive affirmations - hey, fake it till ya make it, right? But there are some times when it gets real loud in there. And just when I want to dial it down, the volume control breaks off in my hand. It’s enough to make me want to take all the leftover painkillers from my gum surgery and wash them down with the Christmas kahlua.

So what do you do when K-F%&K starts running an endless loop of
your emotional train wrecks in agonizing slo-mo? Kimberly practices deep breathing and meditation; Tami counters K-F%&K’s siren call with, “Thanks, but I’m going to do it anyway” - out loud, when necessary. Some people use food, or its evil twin, exercise, to calm their spirits. I’m sure there are folks who have an toy chest at the ready - booze, stimulants, booty calls - whatever it takes to drown out K-F%&K’s dismal drone.

As for me, music helps; the sound of a beloved tune can put
K-F%&K in the background, if only temporarily. But it’s the voice of a trusted friend, a voice from the outside giving encouragement that can make K-F%&K to fade altogether.

And I’m always ready with the “Atta Girl’s!” to help lower the volume of my fellow Vixens’ personal K-F%&K’s.

For me, friends are the ultimate antidote to K-F%&K.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lingerie and Sausages

At a recent reunion of old friends, one of them asked, "I don't remember the big boobs, Lea (that's what they call me). Did you have work done?"

(Lest you think this question is too personal or rude, you have to understand that we still see each other through our 14 year old eyes, which means that sometimes inappropriate things fly out of our mouths, and we love each other for it.)

"No, the boobs are real," I answered honestly.

I didn't mention the tummy tuck that made them look bigger. Because she didn't ask.

Also, I didn't explain that I have a Victoria's Secret bra which uses levers and pulleys to gather all my upper body flab and transform them into two large mounds of flesh. I don't understand all the science that goes into the design of the bra, I only know it beeps when I walk backwards.

The old saying is, If you love sausages, don't watch them being made. Likewise, if you love seeing a woman in lingerie, don't watch her squeeze herself into a tiny outfit made of satin and mesh. It's not a pretty sight.

What's worse is that lingerie is disproportionately expensive: it's made up of the smallest amount of material, for about the price you pay for a nice pair of stiletto heels. And it stays on for the shortest amount of time! No fair!

What follows is a true account of a recent attempt to grapple with lingerie's insidious

A bustier and microscopic panties lay on the bed before me. I am gripped with trepidation - they seemed to be taunting me: "Go ahead. Try us on. See how far you get."

The ritual begins with the unlacing of the ties in the back - wider, WIDER! Then the step-in; putting it on over-the-head would mean my face would get stuck in it and I would have a hard time breathing with all the black lace up my nose. I pull it up, praying my butt is not acting as bouncer and turning tight clothes away. Soon I am emitting groans and cursing like a longshoreman. If you didn't know better, you would think I'm having really hot sex.
Success! Everything's on! The bustier has worked overtime - do I smell smoke? - to lift and tuck and re-shape my body to fit the sausage casing's tiny dimensions. Hooray! There is even a great deal of spillover up top. The thong panties save me from worrying about tush coverage, but then, I've never worried about my butt too much because it's behind me and I don't have to look at it. 
And speaking of what's behind me, those laces have been loosened so much that my entire back is exposed.
Hey, even sausage casings expand to fit.