Monday, June 25, 2012

A Mixed Bouquet

If you were to characterize human beings as floral arrangements, there would be no question: some people are definitely a dozen red long-stemmed roses. They are elegant, consistently beautiful, the kind that are presented to winners. In other words, everything I'm not. Turns out I'm a Mixed Bouquet: chaotic, eclectic, and eccentric; you may find the occasional carnation (a dreaded filler flower!), but otherwise, it's perfect for brightening a room. (Mixed Bouquets can also be obtained cheap at the entrance to Safeway, but that's another story.) Once I accepted my less-than-Rosy status, it was easy to recognize other Mixed Bouquets, who can always be counted on for a good time.

Not that I have anything against Roses! Oh, far from it! We need Roses to organize things, keep everyone calm, and gently tell us Mixed Bouquets when we're overdoing it. I've even written an elegy to them on this very blog (see "All Hail Bev!"). Roses are great. Really.

Whew! Glad I straightened that out. Didn't want anyone to think I'm Rose-ist.

But what if there are people in your life who want you to be a Rose when you're a Mixed Bouquet? It's easy to dodge Rose-seeking friends, but what if there are rosy "I-want-you-to-be's" in your family? Where do you hide? You can't just weed them out like so much baby's breath. Holidays become hideous cycle of questions all of which sound like, How come you're not a Rose?

So I did what any self-respecting Mixed Bouquet would do: I consulted a level-headed Rose friend. 

 She advised me to just ignore the bad stuff and float above the fray.

Ha ha! You first! Nice try, Rosie, but here on Planet Earth, the rest of us become exasperated, lash out and wind up curled in a fetal position, weeping in abject misery. Till the next holiday, when the cycle continues: lather, grind, repeat.

But there's nothing anyone can do about the fact that I am a Mixed Bouquet. My purpose is to provide color to an otherwise drab world! No matter how hard I try, I will never be presented to a sobbing debutante who just won a tiara.

Come to think of it, Roses may not have all the answers after all. Truth be told, you can now find long-stemmed red roses right at the entrance of Safeway.

Over there, next to the carnations.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Good Girl's Guide to the Bad Boy

I confess: I am drawn to a certain kind of bad boy: the Rascal.

And who are these Rascals, you may well ask? They are those devilishly handsome, incredibly playful guys who flatter, flirt, tease and sweep me away on a tsunami of romantic validation. They have killer smiles and laugh at my jokes and make suggestive remarks that set my thighs aflutter. 
And then, with no explanation, they disappear! But just as suddenly, they return - in full flirtation mode! Try as you may, it's impossible for you to tell them to go away, especially when your voice is choked with lust.

It's true: Rascals are the most slippery, ingenious creatures ever created. The more you try to grasp them, the more elusive they become. And the more elusive they are, the more you want them! Pathetic, isn't it? What a deliciously tantalizing “now-you-see-it-now-you-don‘t“ act?  One thing is for sure: forbidden fruit is definitely the sweetest.

When a Rascal sweeps into my life, you can pretty much kiss all rationality goodbye. The conversation between the Brain and another part of the Body sounds something like this:

Brain: Cervix, what’s going on down there? Report.
Cervix: (loud Valley Girl groan; impatient texting) WTF do u wnt?!?
Brain: You’re moving way too fast. Pull back. I repeat: PULL BACK.
Cervix: u r over it
Brain: That’s an ORDER! Do you read me?! PULL BACK NOW!
Cervix: dude not gonna happ3n!!!

Soon, the Heart gets in on the action, begging my Brain to please, please, please let His Rascally Self take you at whatever the cost. But if you're lucky, the Brain knows how to stop the Heart from throwing the rest of you under the Rascal bus.

Brain: Remember the last one? All that time, waiting to hear back from him? That's who you'd be getting.
Heart: (sobbing) But he's so sweeeeet!
Brain: Of course, he can ACT sweet! How else did he get to you? Now I'm not leaving until you get over this thing. Jeez, you're a mess. Here, take a tissue
Heart: (blowing nose loudly) Thanks. I hate it when you're right.

Basically, the Brain orders in pizza and sits it out with the Heart for as long as it takes. Once the fog of delusion lifts, the Brain lets the Heart scope out all the warning signs it ignored in Round One. And when I say say "warning signs," I mean more red flags than there are in Beijing. 

And if you're not careful, you'll wind up like a friend I'll call Wilma, who was Rascal-ated by a guy named Fred. You see, Fred was a Rascal of the highest order, and he strung her along by dangling exquisitely vague promises of “maybe-someday’s” and “if-only-you-would’s“ like a dazzling charm bracelet before her. This went on for years as she transformed her entire life to suit his needs: she moved thousands of miles away from her family to be near him; she supported him financially; she did not have the children she craved. Sadly, Wilma's Brain did not have the power to restrain her, so she pursued Fred relentlessly. Little did she know what she was in for.
Because, without warning, Fred died.

At the funeral, the minister announced that “A very special lady in Fred’s life wishes to share some thoughts with you.“ Wilma felt heartened that Fred thought enough of her to include her in the memorial service. She smiled and stood up to approach the dais.  Not surprisingly, so did six other women. Each of these poor Rascal victims had no doubt that the minister was referring only to her. You would think it was a good thing Fred was already dead, because these ladies would have killed him. However, I’m sorry to report that a cat fight ensued over who exactly was dead Fred's "special lady."

Last laughs may be hollow, but then, so are Rascals.

I thought that I was finally immune to the Rascal’s siren call, but recently, a thoroughly yummy  Rascal struck up a flirtation before asking me out.
Then he didn’t call. For. A. Week.

When I saw him again, he told me he was “going through some bad stuff” and “didn’t know how much he could offer to a woman right now bullshit bullshit bullshit.”

Yeah. Uh huh.

Darlings, we have been using this same “Now-is-not-a-good-time” line ourselves to end things with men. We need to acknowledge that it means the same thing when they use it on us: “Not now” means “Not ever.”

So my Brain was summoned once again to talk my old Rascal-loving Heart down from the ledge. It worked my Heart's    “Yes- but’s” off. It's a good thing, too, because I found out later that this consummate Rascal, like Fred, had several ladies in a holding pattern. They were all circling the runway, hoping for a safe landing. My Brain was grateful to have dodged that midair disaster,  but it can't relax for too long: another Rascal may come down the runway at any given moment.

And now you know how Rascal stories end: not with a bang, but with a Wilma.

Granny Still Got Game

I was sitting by myself in Luzzo’s, a great little trattoria near New York City's Gramercy Park. They specialize in thick-crust, coal-oven-baked pizza, my new favorite. 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 and a putty knife for applying spackle-like foundation.  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 her travels 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.

So there we were: Kyle, Ronnie, two other milk-maids from the midwest, the Nubian siren, and little old me. Everything seemed to be fine until I noticed that the Jewel of the Nile was not best pleased with the attention Kyle was lavishing on me. There was nothing flirty about it - it was the kind of polite interest you show to the elderly or slow of mind. But I was cutting into her Kyle time, and I could almost see her cursing me out in five languages in her mind.

The subject turned to politics, and before long, the Middle East was being discussed. Perhaps it was a foolish gesture of accord, but I posited that the enmity between the players was not universal. "After all," I said, "you and I are sitting here at this table, and we're not trying to kill each other, 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, as well as the fact that the free beer and nachos was made possible by my killer credit rating.

Plus, Granny really did need her rest.


Yes, Darlings: I had a tummy tuck, one of the rare cases where the plastic surgeon improves things through subtraction. I am now the proud owner of a concave tummy - tummy - tummy - oops,  it echoes. How embarrassing!

My decision to “slice, scoop & stitch” was the direct result of a previous weight loss, namely, the 220-pound husband I divorced. So here I was feeling free for the first time in two decades, but taking serious inventory of my body.

I've always been slender, but, due to kids and epic neglect, I had added a pound a year. This resulted in a kangaroo belly pouch, the gated community where my body fat went to retire.

On the bright side, my bust was now a whopping 36 inches.

Bad news: so was my waistline.

OK, Mama wants her body back. 
“But won’t it hurt?” asked a fearful friend, one who had passed two human beings through her own body. Well, much like having babies, some things are worth the risk. I had to ask myself, how much is it worth to feel good about my body, whether with a lover or not? To walk proudly, instead of schlumping around with my apologetic “Sorry-I-used-to-be-hot” gait? To be able to swan into any clothing store and buy a medium without trying it on? To be able to see the tops of my thighs? And what if I live to be 101, like my grandmother, Bubbe Shirley, may she rest in peace? Well, when I prorated it the cost of the surgery out over the next half a century, it turns out I will be paying less than a dollar a day for these marvelous privileges. That’s far less than I pay for my daily frappacinos.
Talk about bargains!

On the downside:

- I, who had never had a scar in her life, would now sport a hip-to-hip Frankenstein line at the bikini line, starboard to port;
- to my horror, the doctor drew lines on my skin with a Sharpie to mark where the cutting and scooping would take place - all those swirls and angles made my belly look like a John Madden playbook;
- a couple of uncomfortable weeks out of commission, spent not being able to straighten up and draining little bags of liquid into measuring cups;
- some pain, but the Percoset haze makes it hard to remember (actually, that was a bonus!);
- a few grand less in the bank, which I would have spent on therapy anyway.

Ooh, I almost forgot the biggest bonus of all: no need for any future boob jobs! Now my party girls, buoyed by twenty solid years of hot fudge sundaes, look positively zeppelin-like in contrast to the ironing board belly below. Yippee!

Conclusion: Darlings, it’s so totally worth it!
OK, the flat belly wasn't achieved by sweaty workouts, but my tummy tuck feels like an accomplishment! Now I walk with a spring in my step; I gleefully burned my billowing, non-date-granny panties. Beneath my now-fitting clothes, I wear lacy underthings purchased from my new friends, Frederick and Victoria.

There was, however, one awkward moment . . .

When I re-entered the dating arena, the issue of how to break the news about my new body to a potential beau did nag at me. Do I lure him into a clinch and then surprise him? Or do I give him fair warning up front? (So to speak.) It’s a fine line to tread: I’m risking either “Eureka!” at the flat tummy, or “Yikes!” at the scar. Hmmm ...

On my first a blind date after the surgery, the unsuspecting fellow and I had been chatting for nearly an hour when I simply could not contain my secret another minute.

“I just want to let you know,“ I began, “that I’ve recently had an operation.”

“Okaaaaaaaay,” intoned the poor man, in that slow, cautious way guys have when they’re wondering how to appear sensitive while simultaneously calculating how fast they can sprint for the door.

I couldn’t resist: “I’m now officially a woman!”

I got a real good look at his bridgework before he vanished. Alas, there would there be a no second date with this guy.
Did I mention that I simply can’t pass up a really good chance to mess with people’s heads? Unfortunately, there is no corrective surgery or even meds to deal with that one.
It occurred to me: Why should I worry about whether gentlemen would like my new body, when there are more important things they need to  be concerned with? Like a profile that reads, "Tummy-tuck-ilicious brunette seeks sensitive man for cruel mind games." 
They can't say I didn't warn them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Man-Ho, Ho!

My co-worker, Jim, has been a Navy man since before “It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure” was its slogan. All it took was the three little words recruiters used back then - “See the World” - and it was “Anchors Aweigh” for Jim. Now in the Reserves, he’s biding his time at the Nursery where we work until his retirement. But to a sailor, even a land-locked one, well, shore leave is shore leave: Jim likes the ladies, and the feeling is more than mutual. By that I mean, I would call Jim a “hound,“ except that hounds have been known to lick themselves - Jim has the ladies do that for him.

I’m always dazzled by the Monday morning tallies, and even more impressed with his masculine finesse as he catches a smoke over by where the bags of soil get loaded into ladies’ cars. It’s not the only manure flying, believe me. These ladies, who definitely have fertilization on their minds, arrange with Jim to “meet later,” and he assures me the encounters are anything but “garden variety.” (Aren’t euphemisms fun?)

But one story of Jim’s had “No Fair!”-ness written all over it. It seems that Jim visited an old “swabbie” buddy in San Diego, a Navy town second only to Subic Bay in the Philippines. Apparently, there is a breed of girl who “follows the Navy,“ another euphemism, meaning “Sailor Slut.” Understand, I do not mean that in a derogatory fashion - I completely know what it’s like to go weak in the knees over a hot bod in tight white pants - I came of age in the era of Disco, after all. I‘m just being blunt about someone who has turned a hobby into a lifestyle. (I, for one, can say without shame, that I am a “It‘s a Wonderful Life“ Collectible Whore.)

It seems that Jim’s buddy found him a shipshape “Follower,” and told him, “Bro, Tiffany’s gonna be with you this weekend.” Apparently, Tiffany concurred, and they were off to the races. No muss, no fuss, not even money exchanged - just Jim and Tiff “partying” all weekend long (more euphemisms). Sunday night, he stepped back on a plane and was home in two hours, probably smiling the entire time.

It’s here I must cry, “No Fair!”

This is what I want to know: Where, I ask you, oh, where is a similar party for the ladies?? I’m not talking about the shrieking, faux-flirtations of a bachelorette party - why on earth would I use an impending marriage as an excuse to lose my inhibitions? No, no, no, I’m talking about a visit to the house of a friend who really, really knows me, where she puts my hand in the large hands of a tall, gorgeous man and says, “Stephanie, this is Francesco. He’ll be taking care of you.”

Francesco’s warm blue eyes would lock into mine, he would kiss my fingertips, and the rest would be a blur. No feigned interest in his life. No pointless blather. No judgment about what others might think. No wondering “Where this is going?,“ since I’d already know. Just Francesco and me, and more Francesco.

That’s what I’m talking about, cousin Sigmund: that’s what women want.

Unfortunately, most men’s efforts to encourage us ladies to “carpe diem” (seize the day) end up more like “carpe doofus,” a la Pepe Le Pew. Case in point: an email culled almost verbatim from a Europlayer trolling my online dating service, on which I appear sans makeup. Cue the ooze, and:

"I am empressed (sic) . . . What a wonderful idea it is to be naturally yourself. I like it. By the way, why wear makeup at all when you are blessed with beauty? Ah! Being beautiful naturally has its benefits. Look at the money saved not buying makeup. . . Something, about me . . . When I meet a woman and begin to know who she is, I would ask to see her without the makeup. You see, if and when two people become involved, a time may come when the two of them may share the night. So here comes the morning, that is when you see each other at your best. I feel you are understanding what is to unfold. So this is why I am so empressed (sic) with your truth . . . and I await your reply . . ."

I’m glad Pepe is “empressed with (my) truth,“ but I don’t think his “understanding (of) what is to unfold” and mine are remotely similar - for example, “comes the morning,” I am definitely not at my best.

If the Good Ship Le Pew is my only option, I’m content to sit on the dock of the bay and watch Jim and his Followers play. But you never know: there just might be a Francesco out there who knows that when it comes to "taking care" of older women, really, it's not just a job - it's an adventure.