Thursday, May 26, 2016

And who did you date in 1995?

Today, I want to talk about college, friends, procuring formalwear under duress, and smoking.

Last weekend, some folks from my sorority pledge class had a little reunion. The last time we got together - perhaps 10 years ago - there was debauchery. And word is that somebody's husband puked at the late-night diner.

This time around? We met at 6 a.m. to do a 5K.

Now, lest you think I am not the girl you think I am, don't worry. I walked. Three other pals and I walked the course and felt embarrassed when the course monitors were all, "You can do eeeeet!" like Bela Karolyi.

But I digress.

We wandered around campus and did some day drinking and toured our sorority house and laughed and spoke in the shorthand that only longtime friends speak. It was good for my soul. There is just nothing better than people who knew you when.

Especially when they dig out their photo albums.

My pal Soup shared this lovely image.
Photo credit: Soup, circa March 1995.
Why yes, yes, that is me. That's me and my then-boyfriend, headed out to the 1995 Alpha Chi Winter Formal.

Behold the dress that I purchased with my friend Mo. It cost $109 at Dillards, and that was big, big money. But I felt like a million bucks, even though the beaded collar made my delicate ladyskin turn red and angry.

Similarly 90s-fab were my dyed-to-match shoes which are, sadly, out of the camera frame and lost to time. I distinctly remember I wanted the silk shantung shoes, but the lady at Payless said they wouldn't hold the dark dye, so I had to go for the shiny fake silk shoes. It was heartbreaking, but I still looked good.

Behold the wallpaper in the entryway of our beloved sorority house. It never occurred to me that it was anything but lovely, but in retrospect ... umm?

And finally, behold my then-boyfriend. He did not want to go to the 1995 Alpha Chi Winter Formal. No. Not at all. And that's why he didn't rent a tux until I shamed him into calling the tux rental place the afternoon of the formal.

Now, you might be asking, "Honey, why didn't you just let him wear a suit? It's fine." But this was 1995, and it was all tux, all the way. Plus, his next-best option was his least-dirty jeans.

He got on the phone with a very nice woman from the tux rental place who said she could cobble together a tux for him if she just knew his measurements. This led to me using the phone cord to measure his arms and waist while he was on the phone. When he provided said measurements, the woman laughed and said those were crazy measurements and she'd just wing it.

The fact that the tux fit at all was nothing short of a miracle. Thank you, tux rental place lady.

But it's not the tux that caught Soup's eye when she shared the photo. It was then-boyfriend's cupped hand.

He had a lit cigarette. In the foyer of the sorority house.

I did not remember this at all because I clearly blocked it out.

This was a time when having a lit cigarette inside the sorority house would get a girl sent down to the standards board. She could get fined or - even worse - forced to skip a date party or - gasp! - even formal.

I was clearly so exhausted from the tux-procurement that I had completely given up and couldn't begin to fight the lit cigarette.

Then-boyfriend broke my heart into a gajillion pieces about a month later. Crazily, he didn't end up disappearing into a hole. He's a good guy with kids and is very successful in his career. Like, national awards. He is a grown-up. Well, now, anyway.

Back in the day? I measured him for a tux using a phone cord and then he smoked inside my sorority house.

Welp. There you go. Young love. Or young woman trying to pretend her then-boyfriend isn't acting like a total tool.

I think I ended up paying for the tux, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In which I turn 41 and realize I've received the gift of contentment. For the most part.

I just had a birthday. I turned 41.

I know what you're thinking: Did I go to Vegas? Did My Guy whisk me off to Paris? Or perhaps we just had an intimate gathering for 500 of our closest friends.
This is a dramatic reenactment of the celebration.
While these are obviously great guesses, the truth is far more glamorous. Here's how my birthday went down.

1 week prior: I look through our Amazon orders in an attempt to reorder Lil' Frankfurter's specialty dog food. I spy an order ... my birthday gift order. My Guy has ordered me a power washer.

You might think this is right up there with the Christmas my dad bought my mom a toilet seat. But no. I love power washing and have long desired my own power washer. Just think of all the things I could clean!

So, I kind of ruined my own birthday surprise. And my husband bought me yard equipment (because he says I can't use the power washer inside the house - whatever). But I am delighted.

2 days prior: The power washer arrives. I try it out. It is all I ever hoped for. I realize this makes me either really sad or really secure in myself and happy with my life.

Birthday morning: My Guy lets the dogs out, and I find it strange that they don't come back to bed. I realize my sweet husband shut them downstairs. This evidently was not to Big Doodle's liking. I come downstairs to find that my 80-pound prince of a dog has peed not 1 but 2 oceans of pee to communicate his displeasure.

I spend 20 minutes and an entire roll of paper towels cleaning up the oceans and the splatter. Because when a tall dog pees, there is a splash issue.

I am somewhat crabby.

I check my email. I have received spam from Poise, urging me to upgrade my bladder protection. Poise pads - what every 41-year-old wants for her birthday!

Birthday day: I do laundry. I clean Big Doodle's stinky, infected ear. I finish up 3 work projects. I am still in my workout clothes - without having actually worked out - when My Guy gets home from work.

Birthday evening: I change my clothes. We go out for dinner. I order a guava mai tai. I order this $8 drink because it's my fucking birthday and I fucking deserve it.

This is adulthood. This is a birthday as an adult. I get a power washer (yay!) and an appeal for Poise pads (boo!) and I order a drink like a fucking lady (boom!).

The most upsetting thing is that I'm not that upset. This is actually just fine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book review: Bernadette Peters Hates Me.

If you're anything like me, you have real problems with Broadway legends hating your guts. And you just wish this was an experience that was represented in literature and, dare I say, the cultural zeitgeist.

I know. I know! Patti LuPone hasn't spoken to me in years. Or ever. But still.

Thankfully, there's a new book that addresses all of this and more. In Bernadette Peters Hates Me: True Tales From A Delusional Man, Keith Stewart shares his difficult journey as the target of Ms. Peters' disdain.

Actually, that's only one essay. But it's a doozy. And isn't the cover cool?

This slim volume is like a bar of rich dark chocolate. You just need a little bite at a time because it's so good. Now, you can totally gorge yourself and that's cool. But I found this was a book to be savored.

And maybe that makes it sound high brow. But ... nooooo. Keith covers such universal topics as:
  • When your family gets in a rumble with another faction of the family at a funeral.
  • Going to the post office in your underwear.
  • That time granny hid her handbag in the washing machine, forgot about it, and then did a load of wash, which set off the loaded pistol in said pocketbook.
  • When your family breaks a church window during a funeral and then can't stop laughing but COME ON, they were playing "Freebird" on a cassette boom box.
Also, there's an essay entitled, "Hot Yoga, or How to Self-Administer Your Own Stroke."

I want to be his best friend.

You can check out Keith's writing over at his blog, A Strong Man's Cup of Tea. But be sure to support this first-time author by picking up his book, too. Here, we give it 5 out of 5 slightly unhinged dachshunds.
What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Don protective headgear. Breakfast foods are falling from the sky.

Mercury is in retrograde, which is the excuse I'm using for the fact that I accidentally texted a client and asked if she wanted chips from Chipotle.

Oh, hell.

I guess of all the texts I send my husband, that was a pretty innocent one to accidentally send to a client. At least it wasn't "Why are there no BBQ potato chips in our house? EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE." Or "Today was a good day. Didn't hafta use my AK." Or "Come hooooooooooome. Take me out for pizza before I eat allllllll the potato chiiiiiiiips."

Yes, those are actual texts I sent My Guy. Clearly, chips are a vital component of our union. And texting is an important mode of marital communication.

A few days ago, My Guy didn't text me. He emailed me because more weird stuff was going down, and he had super important things to say. And what he had to say was this:

So, I almost got into two wrecks this morning and a pancake randomly blew onto my windshield.

Say what?

Wrecks? OK, fine. People drive crazypants on the road that leads to My Guy's office. But a pancake?

I was filled with so many questions. Did someone throw it out of their car? Was it dropped by a bird? Who was missing their breakfast? Did you eat it?

My unflappable husband responded:

The pancake was so weird. The light just turned green and I was beginning to move and it just plopped down right in front of my face. I have no idea where it came from. A bird seems the most likely culprit. I forgot my wallet sized syrup so I didn't eat it.

The fact that he was unprepared and didn't have syrup on hand is obviously very upsetting. But where did the pancake come from? Was it a sign? Was My Guy actually adopted and his real last name is International House of Pancakes, and he's the long-lost heir to the IHOP fortune, and oh, by the way, he will now be Earl of Pancake? It had to be something like this because who has a flippin' PANCAKE fall from the SKY right onto their windshield - specifically the part of the windshield where they look?

I guess I asked too many questions because he didn't respond. Some thing about having "a real job." Whatever. But, of course, I cornered him about it when he got home.

Yes, he used his windshield wiper to brush the pancake off. No, it didn't smear. Yes, he wasted a perfectly good windshield pancake. No, he didn't think it was a sign. Yes, he was certain he wasn't adopted. No, he didn't think he was in line to be the next Earl of Pancake.

I was not deterred. Was he absolutely sure he wasn't going to be Earl of Pancake? Because I like fixing up old buildings, and, you know, instead of being responsible for some big manor house, he'd be responsible for the upkeep on all those old-school chalet-style IHOPs. We have one near us and I want to love it but it's always sticky and smoke-filled and makes me feel like I might have contracted Ebola.

Anyway, My Guy became - dare I say it - defiant. He will not be assuming any duties tied to the earldom of Pancake. Actually, his exact quote was, "I ain't refurbishing no damned IHOPs."

Well, then. I guess we aren't aristocrats after all, not with that attitude. But if the windshield pancake wasn't a sign of some life calling, then it must be a sign of END OF DAYS. Because c'mon - pancakes are raining from the sky.

Or, maybe it's yet another story about birds dropping random stuff on people, like when a hawk dropped a dead bird on Alice's dinner plate. Either way, everybody get a helmet. Because I'm pretty sure that even a pancake gathers pretty good velocity when dropped from a few hundred feet.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Further proof I'm turning into my mother.

It's the season of Mother's Day, so you know what I'm going to talk about: liquor.

My home state of Iowa only had state-owned liquor stores until 1987. They all had blue signs with white reflective lettering, like road signs. No fancy fonts or extra letters, just the business at hand: LIQUOR STORE.

I liked the LIQUOR STORE in my hometown because it had those magic doormats that make the door swing open when you step down. Is there anything more magical? No, no there is not. And yes, yes this means that my mom took me to the LIQUOR STORE as a kid. Because drinking wasn't a big deal, and so she raised kids that didn't run off and get drunkety drunk drunk at the first opportunity and drive off a bridge. Because we are chill.

Anyway, all the booze purchased at the state-owned LIQUOR STORE had special state stickers on it. Thus, liquor appropriated from the state was marked. And, in a way, dated.

Because now, my brother and I chide our parents for still having liquor in their home that has those state stickers on it. Meaning, it was purchased in or before 1987. Because Mom doesn't drink enough.

A perusal through Mom's liquor cabinet means moving some jigsaw puzzles out of the way to access the back of a basement cabinet. There, you'll find creme de menthe, peach schnapps, Southern Comfort, and a 4-pack of Bartles & Jaymes. The creme de menthe is for brownies. The peach schnapps and Southern Comfort are for the punch I accidentally got drunk on in 8th grade. And the Bartles & Jaymes is for when Mommy has HAD IT.

All of these items have the Iowa state LIQUOR STORE sticker on them. Meaning they are at least 29 years old.

This has been a source of good-natured ribbing. We'd poke fun at the alcoholic antiquities and Mom would just shrug her shoulders. "What if I need it?"

It was all fun and games until last weekend. My Guy and I were tasked with providing drinks for a Mexican dinner with friends. We settled on La Paloma, which promised to be a refreshing drink with a bit of a kick. Basically, lime, tequila, and Fresca. And who doesn't love Fresca?

As My Guy was getting ready to go on a Fresca run, I pulled the tequila out of our liquor cabinet. Because I keep house much like my mother, our liquor cabinet is the top shelf of our coat closet. Who needs hats and gloves when you have a good Scotch?

So, I grabbed the bottle of Jose Cuervo. It was about 2/3 full. And it had a sticker on it. A sticker from ... the state of Texas. I'd bought the tequila duty-free in Mexico and carried it back across the border, like a good bargain shopper. Which is all well and good except that I haven't been to Mexico since 2003.

This could be bad.
I did a little research. Tequila doesn't really go bad, but it can get funky and less potent. I opened the bottle and took a research swig.


Describing the tequila as "chunky" would not be inaccurate. It burned, but not as much as the realization that I am, in fact, becoming my mother. Dancing in inappropriate places? Check. Deciding you don't give a shit? Check. Storing liquor until it's practically a solid "just in case?" Checkety check check.

My Guy staged an intervention and poured the offending tequila down the drain. I had to look away.

I guess, like my mama, I don't drink enough. Perhaps this is something the 2 of us can work on together. Just not with La Paloma. My Guy liked it but I felt like it was going to put hair on my chest, which isn't a look I'm going for. Because I'm a lady of grace and dignity, dammit. Just like my mom.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Of mammograms and mental breakdowns.

Up next, in another exciting episode of "Breast Center" ...
Nothing. Nothing happens in the latest installment of your least-favorite cheesy drama and mine, "Breast Center."

I went in for my regular mammogram. My Guy was out of town, and the night before the boob smooshing, I woke up screaming because I thought there was a man with a rope standing next to my bed.

Ha. Hahahaha. I might have been a little stressed, even though I haven't had any problems of the boob variety.

But I went to the Breast Center like a normal 40-year-old ladyperson for my almost normal-like mammogram. Except I upgraded to the 3-D mammogram, even though it cost an extra 60 bucks that wasn't covered by insurance. Me and and my mega-dense rack? We're worth it.

The Breast Center was crazy busy. There were lots of women in the waiting room. Per usual, I was the youngest. I played with my phone and I waited. And waited. And started to panic.

When your grandma died of breast cancer and your mom survived a nasty bout of it by the skin of her teeth and you had your first lumpectomy at 23? Well ... you're a poseur.

I was totally pretending that everything was normal and fine. I purposely scheduled my appointment first thing in the morning so I didn't have time to worry about it. But that packed waiting room gave me time to think and panic and stew and wait for the other shoe to drop.

Would this be the year? Would it be now that I find out that ha ha ha, my get-of-jail-free cards are up? I've basically gone vegan, but would that just be a cruel joke that failed to protect me while also severely limiting my restaurant options? Would I be a very, very sad case?

But when the tech called my name, I smiled, and asked how her day was going, and made small talk as we walked down the hall. I put on the cape. My breasts were manipulated between the plastic shelf thingys. It took no time at all and then I got to leave.

As I walked to my car, I looked at the two spots in the parking lot where I have sat in my car and cried. Ahh, first cyst - I was just a baby! And look - where I called my then-fiance in tears over Antoine, the TBD breast lump. Oh, the memories!

I had to be snarky about it or I'd be in my car crying once more. And I've started wearing mascara again, so that just didn't work for me.

I held my breath for 2 days but never got the dreaded "abnormality" phone call. And then I got the letter saying that they didn't see anything but oh, by the way, did you know that your boobs are mega-dense?

Yes. Yes, I know. I never need to carry a hammer. I just use my boob to drive nails.

I try to be a lady of grace and dignity. And I try to be calm and know that Jesus is behind the wheel and I shouldn't stress out because stress causes cysts.

But sometimes? Especially when I'm sitting in the Breast Center waiting room? I freak the fuck out.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

In which I flip the double bird during a business meeting.

A few weeks ago, I was catching up with one of my dearest friends from college. She's a TV producer, and talked about how the business has changed in the 20 years since we've been out of school.

"It's all young go-getters and they're out for blood," she said. "I used to be driven, but now? Well, now, I don't care. I just don't care. I want to do my job. I'm not out to set the world on fire or impress my boss. I just don't care."

She looked at me sheepishly and then was somewhat surprised when I slapped my hands on the table and yelled, "Me, neither!" in the middle of a packed restaurant.

I care, but I don't care. I don't care about impressing people or being the first or best or whateverest. I want to do good work. But it doesn't have that very personal, very life-or-death feel that it used to. It just ... doesn't matter.

I believe this is the mythical "everything changes once you're 40" mellowness that people whisper about. It's like the next step beyond when I realized in my 20s that nobody cares what my hair looks like, even though 13-year-old me refused to go buy mulch with my mom until after I washed and dried my perm.


This 40-year-old freedom doesn't have a name, but I have given it a symbol. And that symbol isn't iconic music, or dance, or poetry. It's the double bird, because that pretty much embodies how I feel about most things. Also, it still feels like a minor act of rebellion. Flipping somebody off? Kind of amateur. But flipping somebody off with both hands? You really don't care. And folks best mind your awesomeness.

And so I was meeting a new woman in a business setting. And we got to talking, and she mentioned that she was turning 40 soon.

"Oh, you're gonna love it," I said. "I turned 40 not that long ago."

"It already feels different," she said. "More relaxed."

I nodded. "Yeah, now I pretty much just feel like this all the time."
And instead of being horrified or plastering a fake, get-this-weirdo-out-of-here smile on her face, my new friend relaxed just a tiny bit and exclaimed, "YES! That's it exactly!"

I don't know why turning 40 is supposed to be a bummer. I feel richer and fuller than ever. And classier. Obviously.