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Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - Good Riddance!

Before you break out the collard greens, black eyed peas, and steak, and strike up the band to sing, "Auld lang syne," it's time to wrap up 2010 in true I'm Just Saying style with the list of things we'd love to bid a not-so-fond farewell to. Here we go:
  1. Lady Gaga - take your cold cuts and get thee gone!
  2. Vampires
  3. Jeggings
  4. Late night TV talk show host feuds
  5. Teen pregnancy as a stepping stone to celebrity and fame
  6. Extreme airport frisking that becomes frisky
  7. Justin Bieber haircuts on anyone not named Justin Bieber
  8. Disney teen idols checking into rehab
  9. Disney teen idols taking hits of questionable substances
  10. Glee
  11. Matthew Morrison from Glee
  12. Jack Black
  13. Johnny Depp in EVERYTHING
  14. Minute to Win It
  15. Ace of Cakes
  16. Hoodies on men aged 50 and over (unless you're actually doing an outdoor sport)
  17. The term cougar
  18. Black Eyed Peas - Take your Dirty Bits and leave the Dirty Dancing alone, thank you!
  19. Vodka made by rap stars
  20. Jessica Simpson
  21. Celebrity couples starring in reality shows about their married life
  22. The Kardashians
  23. "Leaked" sex tapes
  24. John Mayer as romantic Lothario (real gentlemen don't put their ladies' business in the street, or on the Tweet!)
  25. Ignorance
  26. Calling women past the age of 30, "girls"
  27. Bro/brother as term of affection
  28. Bromance to describe said affection
  29. American actors with pretentious/odd Euro-Brit accents
  30. Team [fill in name here] - this includes Team Jill, Team NeNe, etc.
  31. Texting while driving
  32. Texting while walking
  33. Botox parties
  34. Tyler Perry EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING
  35. Professional athletes cheating on their spouses
  36. Dudamel as classical music's savior - he's just one guy so give him a break, already!
  37. Susan Boyle
  38. Commercials with defecating cartoon bears
  39. Baby diapers and training pants that look like blue jeans
  40. Ke$ha
  41. The Jersey Shore (the show, of course!! Jersey Shore the place - I got nothing but love for you:)
  42. Sexting
  43. Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen as President Obama
  44. LOL!
  45. Kanye West
  46. Adoration of the 1980s
  47. Game night
  48. Celebrity chefs
  49. Bullying
  50. Blaming everyone without doing anything! - You can't wait around for Brad and Angelina to save the world for you!!
Have your own list of things to bid adieu to for 2010? Well, let's hear it!

Happy New Year and welcome 2011!!

I'm Just Saying:)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year, New Brand!

If you and 2010 have had a bumpy go of it, then the New Year can't get here soon enough for you. Lost a job, lost a spouse, lost your house - then putting 2010 in your rear view mirror is just what the doctor ordered. There's no delicate way to put this, and academia hasn't found a more profound way to parse it - sometimes things just suck!

So, let's change it up for 2011. And, as any fan of pop culture will tell you, the first step in transforming your life is through the time-tested quick-fix - the Makeover!

Now, look, this isn't one of those ambush jobs like you see on TV where some unsuspecting, fanny-packed rube is sentenced to the scrutiny of criminally-botoxed, self-appointed arbiters of style and millions of viewers.

I'm talking about remaking your brand. We experience branding in every moment of our waking lives. In the morning we shampoo our hair with the dependable tonic that will eliminate those telltale white flakes and that they stock at that W Hotel we stayed in, and we wash ourselves with the soap that's soft and gentle on our skin that we read about in InStyle. We eat a great-tasting cereal that's high in fiber and low in calories that the other moms in your daughter's playgroup swear by, and we grab a coffee at that pricey coffee shop because, as their marketing says, they ethically source their high quality coffee beans.

Branding goes beyond marketing. BusinessDictionary.com defines branding as the, "entire process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers' mind, through  advertising campaigns with a consistent theme." The goal is to attract and retain loyal customers.

So what makes up your personal brand? Are you the gal who's always late to things? Are you the fellow who has a new "serious" girlfriend every month? Do you look like an unmade bed when you roll into the office? Does your vocabulary consist of 5 out of the seven words from George Carlin's bit? If you answered yes to these questions, then your brand would be that of an insensitive, self-centered, profane, lazy slob.

I know, I'm being a smarty-pants, but how many of us take an active inventory of not just who we are, but who we project to the world? How do we attract and retain loyal friends and family members?

Movie stars and CEOs hire an army of stylists and consultants to create and maintain their brand, but, we'll have to do it on the cheap here. So quick, pick your theme, that thing that makes you "you". Try it out in a sentence, like this, "Oh, that's [your name here], she's really sweet and she's great to talk to." Now, you have to create advertising campaigns that are consistent with your theme. So if [your name here] is really sweet and great to talk to, then she must consistently do things that will reinforce this - she must always be a good listener who is active, responsive, and engaged with all who bend her ear. She must always be sweet, doing all she can to make those in her company feel appreciated, smart, respected, or whatever they need. And, if our sweet, good listener is having a bad day where she doesn't feel like being her brand? Well, she could take a personal day and shelter in place at home; plaster on a smile and stick with the theme; or, blame her out-of-sorts feelings on a cold/headache/broken pinkie toe, apologizing profusely.

But beware! (I know, now she gives us the word of caution?) Branding can be a double-edged sword. The traditional definition of branding is, "to put a mark of disgrace on." Corporations wage wars against those who would dare to damage their brand, and there are those in your circle of friends, family, or work colleagues who may not like you taking an active hand in your personal branding. Maintaining your consistency in the face of attack can be difficult, but maintain it you must. But that's not enough. Be ready to be tough and protect your brand. If there's some frenemy taking to Facebook to post nasty jabs at your new job/new boyfriend/ new nose, first, delete their comments, and then, delete the frenemy with the time-honored "de-friend." You can invite them back if they learn to respect you.

And here's to 2011 and the brand new you:)

The Post-Holiday Blues:(

So the party's over. The eggnog has been drunk, the needles on the Christmas tree are starting to stiffen,  you're wondering what to do with all of those damn candy canes and, if you were one of the lucky ones not snowed in, you're trying to find space for all of the goodies that Santa left for you. The day after Christmas is always a bit of a letdown because, really, Christmas is all about anticipation. I remember that old Heinz ketchup commercial where the camera is fixed on a bottle of the gooey red stuff and, as Carly Simon's "Anticipation" plays in the background, we all stare, transfixed, awaiting the arrival of the precious drop of ketchup. It's, seriously, the longest 60 seconds!

The Christmas build-up starts around Halloween, and by the time we get to December 1st and see the growing stack of Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean catalogues on the family room floor, you wonder if December 25th can come any sooner.  

Anticipation is one of the more seductive emotions. Yes, I said seductive. It's this delicious tension that results as a by-product of waiting and fulfillment. We've all waited for some big thing: that first kiss, the big job offer, the walk down the aisle, the birth of a baby. And that waiting is pregnant with possibility and every wild imagining. But what about the moment after the BIG MOMENT?

Once the tension of waiting is broken, what to do next? How do you deal with the emptiness that results when your One Shining Moment limps to conclusion?  Well, since you asked, here are a few simple suggestions:
  1. Start a new project - One of the most time-worn, post-holiday projects is the diet/fitness/weight loss military industrial complex. Why do you think those Jennifer Hudson/Weight Watchers commercials have increased ten fold in the past few days?? I know, it's so un-original as to be cliche, but it'll keep you busy and, with each drop of a pants size, you'll be able to celebrate each inch of success with a "Pretty Woman" style revenge-shopping spree at all of the boutiques that gave you the stink-eye when you were a larger size!
  2. Share those holiday photos - Chances are that if you're feeling a little post-holiday depression, then other people may be feeling it, too. So release those photos from your camera's SD card and let your friends and family relive those magic moments. Bonus points if you leave the embarrassing pics off of your Facebook page!!
  3. Leave your Christmas lights up - There's something so festive about watching the dazzling display of Christmas lights, so why take them down just because it's January 1st?? In my household, we've been known to leave our Christmas lights up and on until May. And if it ticks off your neighbors or home owners association, well, just tell them you wanted to beat the rush for next year. And, speaking of next year...
  4. Start shopping for next year - The days after Christmas are way better than Black Friday if you're looking for good retail karma. You've just been with your relatives so you've been able to focus group test their reactions to this year's loot. Also, by the time Christmas rolls around next year, they'll have forgotten what was in stores this year and they'll be thrilled that you remember their tastes so well. You'll amaze them by your super-durable, heavy weave wrapping paper, purchased at 75% off from the Container Store post-Christmas sale. Just remember to store everything discretely and you can savor all year long the anticipation of how much they'll love everything on December 25, 2011!
Remember, sometimes the feeling of wanting what you want is better than getting what you want. I'm just saying:)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night, Really??

So the stockings are hung, the pies are baked, and in a few more hours, as darkness covers the expanse of the mall parking lot, even the Santas will finally go home for their Merry Christmas. For Christmas people, we often refer to this Christmas Eve as the holiest of nights as we await the birth of Jesus. We sing quiet, lolling tunes, like "Silent Night", extolling the calmness of the world as Jesus enters in, surrounded by a star-studded cast of angels, animals, strangers bearing gifts, and Mary and Joseph.

So familiar are we with this scene that we, too, try to transform Christmas into this tranquil haven for ourselves and our families, with limited success. The arrival of a child is almost never quiet and hushed. There is laughter, tears, screaming (lots of screaming), chaos, and a bit of panic.  There is joy in the midst of intense physical pain, and a complex desire to be everything you never thought you could be for this tiny little person. As my friends have become parents, I have watched them in seeming perpetual motion, working harder than they ever had before. The arrival of their children has clarified their thinking and made them acutely aware of the world that their children occupy.

The Christmas story should wake you up and push you out into a world that's churning with need.    

I'm just saying:)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Alone: Going Solo for the Holidays

For many of us, the holiday season is a seemingly endless round of parties and celebrations. There's the holiday luncheon for your office, a muted affair with at least one irksome cubicle-mate sporting their bright red reindeer sweater in a non-ironic way! There will be the invitations from fellow members of your synagogue, your church, the mommies from your child's play group, or your book group/Red Hats/fraternity and lodge brothers. It is a sea of frivolity, small talk, and awkward pauses, fueled by open bars and highly suspicious bowls of alcoholic holiday punches. The choreography is always the same - knock on door of host home, greet host while presenting gift bottle of wine, deposit coat to designated area, grab drink and food article on a stick, eat article and continue holding the now empty stick, smile and nod and try to remember names, look at watch, grab coat, say goodbyes to hosts wiTh promise of seeing each other in the New Year, leave host home, drive to MacDonald's for actual meal as food article on a stick was not substantial!

It's no wonder, then, that some people opt out of this treadmill, and choose the quiet pleasure of their own company. Choosing to spend the holidays on your own is a difficult proposition. If you're planning on doing this, be prepared for pushback. Why? People don't like the idea of someone being alone during a time when you're expected to be in the company of others. They're afraid that you're depressed and in pain. If you're over the age of 65, then you're really screwed! Blame "Tuesdays with Maury" if you'd like. There is an assumption that if you're alone, it's not by choice but by circumstance.

A friend of mine who is in seminary told me that the foreign students who cannot afford to make the trip back home to their native countries are sent to stay with volunteer families in various parts of the United States for the month-long Christmas break. I can't imagine anything worse than having to play the role of good girl guest for 30 days in a stranger's home! Even if you wanted to have some down time and be on your own for Christmas, forget it, you're going to forced into community so eat your mush and shut your pie hole!!

One of my relatives opted out of the family Thanksgiving, choosing a day of quiet reflection instead of the chaos of my family and a long drive! When I first heard of her decision, my reaction was "poor thing", but, after 5 hours with my family, all hopped up on turkey and pumpkin pie, I thought she was a genius!

Bottom line - if you can't understand someone's choice, at least try to respect it. And those are words to live by all year long - not just during the holidays.

I'm just saying:)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Holiday Crash Course

As the great migration begins for the Christmas holiday, there are some travelers who are in a panic- not about the overly familiar TSA screener with the twinkle in their eye and the frisky fingers, nor about the conditions in the rest stop powder rooms along the New Jersey Turnpike. No, they're anxious because this will be their first Christmas with their significant other's family.

For us veterans out there, that first Big Holiday with your honey's family can be like a visit to a foreign country with new and interesting customs, and a language that's not your own. It can be tough to navigate a terrain populated with inside jokes and references to events that have occurred over the life of a family that is not your own. There are the landmines onto which you will step through no fault of your own - the innocent inquiry into the source of the lovely place-settings can open up a generations'-old blood feud involving several family members (living and dead).

So here are some strategies to keep you safe during your maiden voyage into this undiscovered country:
  1. Find your Buddy: The trek to this new world can be scary, and, because your Sherpa, who happens to be your honey, is also a NATIVE of this land, prepare yourself to be left alone at some point. DO NOT PANIC!! Whether you've been stranded on the sofa in the family room in front of the overly-large plasma TV with Cousin Jenny who forgot her meds, or you're in the vortex of a heated debate involving your honey and their family, get your wits about you and scan that room for a friendly face. Chances are, you'll see a fellow traveler who speaks your language. Heck, they might even be able to translate for you!
  2. Familiarize Yourself with the Terrain: Prior to arrival in the new land, ask your Sherpa important questions like where can I go to have a smoke or where is the nearest bar? Find the bathrooms (ALL of the bathrooms, as you never know when you might need a moment of quiet and mental retreat - with the exhaust fan and the gentle tunes of your iPod, it's the closest thing you may get to a spa. Hell, while you're in there, run yourself a bath, too:)
  3. A "no thank you" Serving Makes the Natives Happy: One of my friends has the misfortune of being a vegetarian in a long-term relationship with a man whose mother believes that dinner plates are for food items that had a face and parents. So the big holiday meal is a test of wills with green beans cooked in bacon fat. It's become a "thing", so, my advice, have a little bit, say a cheerful "no thank you" if seconds are being passed, and that's all. It's an away game for you so let it go and attack that extra bag of pretzels that you got on the airplane! In the words of Conan O'Brien, "eat your mush and shut your pie-hole!"
  4. Wine NOT Whine: Be of good cheer, and if you're having the worst time in the world, then uncork some joy and save the whining for when you get home. Your Sherpa may have abandoned you, you may have listened to dozens of family tales, and you may have slept on the lumpiest/smelliest mattress ever made, but no one wants to hear it. Your honey may be oblivious to what you might be suffering, but the time to clue them in is not when their family members are in the next room of a house with paper thin walls.
So grab a glass, actually, you should grab 2 glasses, give your honey a hug, and toast to the holidays (and that you have another 365 days until you have to do this again:)

I'm just saying!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ho-Ho-Ho and the Big Red Bow!

Over the years, I've developed a deep affection for the Christmas-themed commercial. Sure, their purpose is to "push product", but the way in which they do so tells us a lot about where we are as a society - you know, what we value, what we aspire to, who we love, and how we love. When I was in high school, the best holiday commercial featured a young college student arriving at the family home, complete with duffel bag and a big-man-on-campus grin, in the early hours of Christmas morning. The house is quiet, and our collegian walks purposefully into the immaculate kitchen and puts on a pot of coffee, whose aroma summons the rest of this picture-perfect family down to the family's Christmas tree, and straight into the arms of our college student, a la the prodigal son. It's a beautiful commercial that always hits its target, because, you see, for this college student, the most important part about the holidays is the opportunity to be reunited with his family and to do a simple act of kindness for them.

Before the implosion of the real estate market, government-financed bank bailouts, and TARP, the most popular Christmas commercial involved beautiful people in House Beautiful homes being led, blindfolded, out of their homes and smack into a brand new car complete with a Jurassic Park-sized red bow.

This year, in the midst of the recession, the Christmas commercials that have received the most airtime include a Target commercial with a group of pyjama-clad siblings excitedly tearing down the stairs and ripping through their presents in a hail of ribbons, wrapping paper, and tape. The hip-hop track playing over the proceedings is a trance-like ditty that asks, "is it time yet?", over and over and over again, while these shrieking children run backwards up the stairs and, we assume, back to their rooms. The chief messages that I take away from this commercial are that children hate to be kept waiting when it comes to their Christmas presents, and, oh yeah, that Christmas is always and only about what's under the tree.

If you're that parent who just lost their job, or who has seen a significant cut in the number of hours you work, then that Target commercial means that no matter how bad you have it, children have to be made happy, and, since children only speak in the language of stuff and things, happiness equals lots of things under the tree for them.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think that everything a commercial says is the Gospel truth! For instance, I don't think that there are a gaggle of mannequins from Old Navy living a mini-soap opera in Anytown USA! Nor do I think that drinking the Vodka endorsed by Diddy will suddenly thrust me into a black and white film world of mansions, swimming pools, and a thin little waste.
But I definitely think that commercials either reflect behavior or seek to set behavior.

In the midst of money woes across all pay scales, the holiday malls are packed, and the WalMart parking lots are at capacity. It would seem that the commercials are winning!

I'm just saying!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Original De-Friend

My husband and I were writing out Christmas/Hanukkah/Druid cards over the last couple of weeks when the questions began. Do you remember so-and-so's kids' names? Did so-and-so move? Wow, you know I haven't talked to so-and-so in the past few years, I wonder if they're:
(a) doing fine;
(b) getting divorced;
(c) adopting a baby;
(d) taping a reality show;
(e) living in a retirement home/convent/ashram

Well, you get the point. The holiday card can be a time to re-evaluate relationships. To ask, in a modified way, the question asked by the character Elaine on Seinfeld, "are you card worthy?"

Before there was Facebook, de-friending someone usually became official when you were updating your holiday card list. My mother kept her Christmas card list in a 5x7 address book and then moved it to an 11x14 legal pad when, at the age of 50, she decided that life was too short to try to make her outsize handwriting fit the silly little confines of the 5x7 address book. Every year, Mom would review the list. There were the evergreen names who left the list only in death- these included the grandmothers, her aunts and uncles, her brother and his wife, and all of her first cousins. The rest of the list, though, was up for grabs. Names would be crossed out, including those not-so-close friends she hadn't heard from for a while, and new names would enter the list. It was low-tech, but it was effective.

Even in the age of Facebook, we're still asking those relationship questions with every Christmas card we write (sorry about that, but I've been watching White Christmas and that song just gets inside of your head!!). For some people, it's the more the merrier when it comes to the holiday card list. Everyone gets a card because the holiday spirit should be one of inclusion and welcome. Some people use a system based on a complex calculation that takes into consideration the number of personal interactions throughout the calendar year, along with the dollar amount budgeted for the purchase of stamps and cards, and the possibility of the ultimate humiliation - the one-way, you know when you assume that you have to send someone a card but then they don't send you one, even after they've received your card. The sender feels like a needy reject and the recipient feels guilty and uncomfortable and it's all a complete holiday fail!! 

So , let's make a New Year's resolution. Today, while you're finishing up those last-minute holiday cards, make a promise to yourself to check in at least once with all of the people on your holiday card list BEFORE Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa 2011. Find out how they're doing, what their life is like on a Tuesday in the middle of March. Oh, they'll be surprised. But they'll also smile at the thought that someone was thinking of them. And you may find that the one thing better than finding out if someone is card-worthy is finding that you are friend-worthy.

I'm just saying:)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Elusive Female Friendship

Ladies, I want you to look around and do a whip-count of your female friends (that sounds waaay too clinical, so let's call them LFs for "Lady Friends").

From that group of LF's, I want you to think about the following ten questions:
  1. Which of these LFs would I ask to babysit my child?
  2. Which LF could I trust to tell about my relationship/marital troubles?
  3. Which LF do I trust least with my husband?
  4. Which LF would help me move houses?
  5. Which LF would I ask to go to church with me?
  6. Which LF could I call at 3:00AM if my car broke down?
  7. Which LF could I cry with?
  8. Which LF would cry for me?
  9. Which LF would pray for me?
  10. Which LF would I pray for?
If you have someone in mind for numbers 5-10 on this list, then you've got at least one really good friend. And if you have someone in mind for number 3, well, then I suggest you drop her because that's just foolish to call someone you can't trust your friend! But, back to my point, and the fact that a lot of us are walking around here without a true LF.

Back in high school, college, and grad school, you could make friends without really trying. There were long stretches of available time outside of the lecture halls, and even trips to the library became boisterous colloquies. My girlfriends and I weathered the storms of life - crappy boyfriends, tough classes, my growing shoe habit, and the perils of an empty wallet after a night dancing at one of the clubs in Fenway.

And then, one day, we graduated, and then we scattered, and then it was 16 years later. We are wives, and mommies, and managers, and Sunday school teachers now. Our lives are full to bursting with meetings, more meetings, date nights (if we can find the time and find the babysitter). We are lists - priority lists, to-do lists, grocery lists, Christmas lists. We live our lives on a treadmill, cramming the hours, minutes, seconds, and frames of seconds, with a choreographed chaos.

But you can't just add "make friends" to your list of things to do. You can't just decide to become BFFs with the mother of your son's soccer teammate or pull a "Single White Female" on the other soprano in your church's choir, all in an attempt to bring the friendship that's been missing in your life back to you. Finding that true female friend is like trying to find that other elusive thing that we women talk about with a sense of anxiety and deep frustration - that's right, the perfect purse, but that's a WHOLE other conversation!

I'm just saying!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Holiday Jam

I'm always a fan of a good holiday special. Christmas in Washington (c'mon, it's Mrs. Nick Cannon, after all), everything on HGTV (I just love watching new ways to decorate Christmas trees), Charlie Brown Christmas - they're all glittering brain candy. And then came the Food Jammers. For those of you not familiar with the Food Jammers, they are a trio of vintage t-shirted, scraggly-haired hip denizens of a cramped loft apartment loaded with odds and ends rescued from city curb sides and junkyards who have a show on the Cooking channel, the latest spawn of America's push-pull relationship with food.

The Food Jammers aren't recipe jockeys, per say. They like to over-complicate the process of food preparation - for instance hollowing out logs in order to make a Holiday Log Train (complete with a track and wheels) for their feast. I mean, hell, you can venture over to Sur la Table and buy serving platters, but, that's a little too clean and corporate for the Food Jammers. And as the garage band track plays in the background, off they go on a quest for the perfect guinea fowl, chestnuts, and squash in order to round out their holiday feast.

If it sounds like I might have a problem with the Food Jammers, well, maybe I do. But here's really what irritates and fascinates me. These 3 dudes represent the ultimate man-child. They look to be in their 30s, driving the streets of Seattle/Portland/San Fran or wherever in their beater car, with each scratch, dent, and ding a badge of honor in their fight NOT to become The Man. The trio are soft-spoken, overly cooperative creatures, whose SAT vocabularies and sophisticated foodie sensibilities would seem at odds with their personal appearance. I suspect that we've all seen this guy, hell, I dated a HIPSTER version 1.0 back in graduate school.

But these heroes of the Mumblecore, ironic wearers of flannel with unrepentant growths of weird or sparse facial hair seem a bit out of step in the current celebrity food universe.

Celebrity chefs seem to have a lot more testosterone.There are the tatted-up, faux-hawked, iron-pumping, potty-mouthed men of Top Chef who will kick your booty if you dare to talk smack about their mise en place or butchering skills. There's Bobby Flay who brings the fight to you in your own kitchen with his Throwdown show. Guy Fieri, with more rings on his fingers than Karl Lagerfeld, and his Susan Powter Stop the Insanity hairdo, looks like he could scrap if he needed to. And you just know that Gordon Ramsay would and could smack up a chef (that's probably why he yells at them all so furiously - the popo can't pop you for mouthing off at somebody).

So are the Food Jammers a rejection of chef as stud? There's certainly something playful, even child-like about them. They seem to want to play - play with their food, with the systems and processes used to prepare their food.

Maybe it's all Jamie Oliver's fault, with his adorable way of saying "mushy peas", his love of a good pint shared with his mates in his wee tiny flat wearing flannel and Chuck Taylors and OH MY GOD!!!! - this is ALL Jamie Oliver's fault!

Or maybe the existence of the Food Jammers represents a shift in how men in the kitchen are beginning to see themselves. Maybe the Food Jammers are making a new path, one that requires less swagger and more curiosity, wonder and awe at how food comes to your table.
Don't get me wrong, I shall still mock them, but, in the spirit of the HIPSTER, I shall do so ironically and wearing a tattered, vintage screen-printed ring-tee. Ah, but I must go now, for their holiday log train has hit a snag - looks like they'll need to scavenge the wheels off of one of their many skateboards so that the holiday log train will keep rolling.

I'm just saying!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What's My Name, the Holiday Edition!!

When I met the man and he put a ring on it nine years ago we started planning - the wedding venue, the reception hall, the menu and bar, the honeymoon, the flowers. It wasn't until a few weeks before the wedding that I learned that he had planned one additional item - that I would legally change my name to his. When I told him that I had no intention of doing so, there ensued a series of awkward pauses. It had never occurred to him that the wife would not change her last name. And while I may have given in on the guest count and a few other items, on this matter, I would not bend. No hyphenation, no use of my "maiden" name as my middle name (and, BTW, "maiden" name irritates me to no end. I'm not skipping around in a field in petticoats for gosh sakes!!!). This was and is my name, and, just as he need not change his name in order to signal to the world our union, commitment, and love for one another, I, too, found it unnecessary. He listened to me and he heard me - that's why he is the man I love.

But now, we're here, and into our eighth Christmas season, and as the Christmas cards arrive, I notice that my name is, apparently, up for debate. Cousins, aunts, and uncles are, it seems, still in favor of the Mr. and Mrs. For them, I sort of understand as we only send out holiday cards once a year - albeit with printed address labels that clearly show our two-namedness (I just made up that word - it's pretty cool!!!). However, close friends whom we see throughout the year, who know what my name is, have become frequent violators. I'd thought of, one year, addressing their cards to "Bobby Watson", of Absurdist Eugene Ionesco fame. That idea was shot down by the husband, ah well:(

So why does this happen?? I've often blamed poor holiday card mailing list maintenance. Seriously. Throughout the year we update our lists as people move, divorce, die - things happen! I keep our lists in a Word doc so that updates are easy to make, and labels easily run. I know, I know, Miss Manners would say it's impolite to have printed labels for addresses, but, hey, which is worse - a printed label that's easily read or calling someone the wrong name.

Now, while I think there are some staunch anti-namechangers out there (and this can be men as well as some of you ladies out there) who simply refuse to address us correctly, I also think that people actually don't know my last name. A card comes in the mail and the envelope, with that all-important return address information,  is immediately trashed. Also, people assume that, of course, she's changed her last name. I don't lump these people in with the anti-namechangers as, when they notice the error, they actually will make an effort to include my actual legal name.

I had a similar issue when sending out a thank you note to a couple that I do not know very well. I asked friends who were close to the couple about their name situation and was informed that while the wife had opted out of the name-change, these friends were unsure of her actual last name. So I simply addressed the card using the couple's first names only. Yep, they knew that I didn't know a last name, however, they were cool with the fact that I didn't offend them.

So far this year we've had a few cards with Mr. and Mrs. and I'm sure that number will increase as we get into the last-minute crush of holiday card mailing. In fact, a friend of mine, a fellow traveler in Camp Opt Out, has been tracking the Mr. and Mrs. count for the holiday cards she and her hubby have received. We're going to keep collecting the envelopes and develop some sort of game involving adult beverages...and maybe darts!

I'm just saying:)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marriage Ain't Pretty!

So you all may have heard the news about the earth-shaking break-up of Ryan Reynolds and ScarJo. Ryan Reynolds, he of the adorable, slightly sexy goofball set, and Scarlett Johansson just announced yesterday that their marriage of two years was ending. The fact that two popular Hollywood actors had a marriage that lasted beyond two days may seem miraculous to most. And, given that Hollywood is a place run by the Pretty People and for the Pretty People, it's little wonder why that Seven Year Itch is on a more accelerated timetable and that People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive and the sultry, raspy-voiced ScarJo couldn't make a go of it.

Think about all of the Pretty People - Eva and Tony, Madonna and Guy/Jesus/etc., Reese and El Phillippe, Brad and Jen. Marriage is hard for these people. Forever and "til death us do part" have to be difficult concepts in a business where your shelf life can be suddenly shortened by the next big thing. They have the big wedding and the photo spread in InStyle and what are they left with? Marriage.

Headlines are written everyday about steamy on-set romances, nasty divorces, and elaborate budget-busting weddings, but there's never an US Weekly cover that trumpets "Hollywood couple celebrates 15 years of being committed to the everyday of their marriages." I take that back - you do see occasional articles on the art of the Hollywood marriage, usually as a PR dodge to cover up a crumbling union.

So why should we care? Because just as Hollywood influences the clothes that we wear, and the homes that we live in, the Hollywood marriage, that begins with lavish fanfare and limps along to a quick finish (but before the exclusive wedding photos are sold), has increasingly become the model for the Everyman marriage. Shows like Bridezillas and now, the awesomely awful Bridalplasty, give us a glimpse of the Not So Pretty People stepping up for their 15 minutes.

So here's my advice: Pretty People please stop calling what you do a "marriage" if you don't want to do the work. Take a page from the book of Prince William and his bride-to-be who are undergoing pre-marital counseling. That's right - Pretty People acting like Ordinary People. Or Brad and Angelina who, without branding their union a "marriage",  have all of the elements of a family, but set against exotic climes and international backdrops and private jets.

In short, stop monkeying around with marriage. You want to wear a big dress and have scads of photos taken of you? Then get yourself booked into a Vogue or W Mag photo shoot the way that God intended!

I'm just saying:)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is it Just Me??

I woke up this morning and as I'm clicking through the New York Times (hey, I'm a Blackberry user so that's how I roll) I read their piece on the life of Richard C. Holbrooke, the diplomatic equivalent of Mr. Fix It. He was 69 years old and still deep in the game as President Obama's special rep for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And it occurred to me that here we go again - the loss of another great mind at a critical time in the life of our country. In August 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy died at age 77, in the midst of the battle royale over the President's health care bill. So, is it just me or do we have a serious need to get more young people interested in civil service in this country? I'm just saying!