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Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Night: Not with a Bang, But a Whimper

So the big night came and all of the questions that have plagued us for lo these many months can finally be put to bed: Will James Franco and Anne Hathaway pull an Oscar host fail? What will Nicole/Halle/Natalie wear? Who will curse during their acceptance speech? Will Ricky Gervais sneak into the Kodak Theatre and somehow upset this Night of Nights? And will Mr. Darcy - oops, sorry, Colin Firth win an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth's dad?

The Red Carpet
There's no way to begin an Oscar's de-brief without talking about the fashion show that precedes the proceedings, so here we go. We'll start with the A-team. Natalie Portman, who is now more famous for being pregnant than for acting, arrived at the end of the red carpet in a flowy, purple gown. Her hair in soft, side-swept waves, and her jewelry, demure and perfect. She looked pretty as a picture, which was pretty much what everyone expected, so let's move on.

Nicole Kidman arrived with her tiny Aussie hubby, Keith Urban, and a white dress that looked like it was having an identity crisis - a beautiful, strapless gown on top, and a kimono on the bottom. The red shoes didn't help, and that sad, skinny ponytail was the icing on top of this weird little fashion moment. Jennifer Hudson looked va-va-voom in Versace! There was a sweet moment between her and Ryan Seacrest as she recounted how only a few years ago, they had been together at the Kodak for American Idol. That she was able to reflect on just how fortunate she has been, even in the frenzy of camera flashes and double-sided sticky tape, just made me even more happy for this amazing, talented young lady. Halle Berry, after all of the tsuris with her tangled custody battle with her baby daddy, looked beautiful, as always. Nothing to see here!

And then there was Sharon Stone. That's right, in one of those wacky, "what the hell is SHE doing here moments", there she was, strutting her stuff on the red carpet with some big hair and that Cheshire cat grin. She looked great and it's clear that Helen Mirren must have taken her aside and told her to cut the crazy and celebrate looking amazing, no matter her age! Thanks Helen, and, by the way, you looked, as one commentator said, "bangin'".

I saw great short hair on the red carpet, and it was refreshing. Helen Mirren had a fantastic close cropped cut that could go from soft to bad ass. Cate Blanchett wore a short bob with some subtle layering that was fresh and sophisticated. It was a great compliment to her rather complicated dress - a Givenchy Couture number that looked like a Grecian column dress with a breast plate fastened to it.

The Hosts
When it was announced that James Franco and Anne Hathaway would be sharing hosting duties for this year's Oscar's, I cringed. Franco is a bit creepy. He's all over the place, making headlines for what could be interpreted as extreme multi-tasking or an identity crisis. Currently, Franco is directing a movie, starring on General Hospital, completing a degree at NYU, opening a bar, and preparing for a movie role. Anne Hathaway is like a Disney heroine come to life, with her large, wide open eyes, wide ever-smiling mouth, and a gawky, "aw shucks" posture. So of course it makes perfect sense to throw these two together to host the Oscars!

The evening began with a pre-recorded piece, using the concept of Chris Nolan's genius film, "Inception", and including Morgan Freeman and Alec Baldwin, who, along with Steve Martin, delivered one of the best Oscars I'd seen in a while when they teamed up last year. But, alas, a little bit of Alec was all we got. Throughout the evening, and the numerous and unnecessary costume changes by Ms. Hathaway, they taunted us with glimpses of hosts that we'd rather have. Late in the broadcast, out came Billy Crystal, the man whose hosted the Oscars eight times. I thought Uncle Billy was brought in to save us, but he was only a tease - he was there to pay homage to another great Oscar host, Bob Hope, so it was like a tease within a tease!
Bummer:(

The Awards
Let's face it, British people give the best awards speeches, hands down! "The King's Speech" director Tom Hooper was funny, eloquent, and he brought the whole, "thanks mom" to a whole other level, by giving her full credit for finding him the script that would become his Oscar opportunity. Colin Firth added a layer of introspection to his acceptance speech, wondering, aloud, if his career had peaked with his Oscar win. And then there was Melissa Leo with an acceptance speech for her best supporting actress win that would have made Dog the Bounty Hunter blush. Her meandering, expletive-laden rant took us all on a guided tour of Crazy Town! It was a pity-inducing moment - I felt more sorry for her than I did the frail Kirk Douglas who presented the award, at least he's still got timing and panache!! And when she hip-checked Kirk Douglas as she was exiting from the stage, attempting to make light of her befuddlement by grabbing his cane and feigning a hip injury, well that was just too much! This is why actors need writers, my friends.

One of my favorite segments is the In Memoriam tribute, but I was disappointed that they took my lovely Celine Dion and suppressed her vocal fire power in the service of that old chestnut, "Smile". I hated that that song was resurrected for Michael Jackson's memorial service, and I hate it even more now. Celine Dion having to sing that schlock is the musical equivalent of putting Baby in the corner, and NOBODY puts Baby in the corner!

All in all, the show was alright. Even though my beloved Chris Nolan was overlooked for "Inception", and what's with that guy from Nine Inch Nails winning best soundtrack over Hans Zimmer??? Ah well, I guess that's a wrap! I'm just saying:)

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Great Recession: Working for a Living

I've been taking frequent walks down memory lane, lately, back to an exciting time in my working life called the late 1990s. Maybe you remember them, too. Those were the days of video arcade machines in the break room, late-night pizza parties sponsored by your super-cool, jeans-wearing 20-something boss. These were the workplaces of the future, where job titles became less a description of what you do, and more a mission statement for who you wanted to be. There was no such thing as "overtime", because work was a precious, creative thing to be treasured and enjoyed, not a thing to be completed by 5pm and then picked back up again at 9am the next day. Work and play merged into this confused man-child, subsisting on a diet of lattes, sugar-free sodas, and Yoo-Hoo!

This was a workplace culture imported from Silicon Valley and its outposts of coolness - Seattle and Portland. You couldn't pick up a Business Week or a Wall Street Journal without reading about this new, collaborative way of doing business. Employers reacted, using an a la carte approach to add a few modest touches to recreate the young Internet start-up vibe - relaxed dress codes, flexible work hours, pet-friendly office space, and opportunities to work from home. But then it all stopped. First came the dot-com bust, and then an American tragedy that brought terrorism to our shores. Americans gained perspective and tried to find time for work and family. Work-life balance became the new buzzword and, aided by new gadgets, like our Palm Pilots and some new-fangled thing called a Blackberry, we were creating a movement where moms and dads could answer a pressing question from their boss while attending their child's little league game.

And then came the current financial meltdown. For those of us still fortunate enough to have a full-time job, the workplace is just that - a place where work is done. Lofty aspirations have been pushed to the fringes while we fight to make sure we have coverage by the company's health plan. Phrases such as "the end of the day" gained traction because the bottom line supersedes all else. We are stuck in jobs that may simply end, or, worse, may go on forever in a soul-sucking slow-motion.  We are, in fact, working for a living.

For some of us, this all comes as a great shock to our systems. Our liberal college educations prepared us for a world where classes on the impact of Walt Disney on the feminizing of girls, or the role of romance novels in the courtship rituals of the western industrialized world would be valued. We attacked the math and science majors as lacking in imagination, when, in fact, they were developing actual skills with a market value. We assumed that the jobs of our dreams would be out there, waiting for us, and we found them, or we created them.

But for a lot of us, work has never been anything more than a means by which to put food on the table, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head. The hagiography of the 1990s work place was, to them, merely a grand delusion and a bit of corporate smoke and mirrors. The new reality of working life isn't so new to them. Maybe we'll never get back to those Halcyon days of your pet pooch in the cubicle, or 3:00am chats around stale cups of Starbucks in your conference room. Maybe there'll never be flannel shirts and flip-flops worn in an office again, but heck, that wouldn't be so bad now, would it? I mean, an office that smells like feet isn't likely to be missed! I'm just saying:)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Black and White: Halle Berry's Baby Daddy Drama

In recent weeks, one of the stories that's wound its way through several news cycles has been the on-again/off-again custody battle between actress Halle Berry and her baby daddy, Canadian model Gabriel Aubry. The former couple's back and forth has included allegations of evil diva-like behavior on the part of Berry, as well as an alleged pattern of verbal abuse on the part of Aubry. And it's the nature of Aubry's insults that are proving to be most disturbing, as it's been alleged that certain of his statements were overtly racist. That Aubry is white and Berry is black had been of little consequence during their relationship. As they appeared, hand in hand, on red carpets and awards shows, the world wondered how Aubry got so lucky to be with one of the world's most beautiful women.

When Berry became pregnant with Aubry's child, speculation swirled around when she would make a trip down the aisle to become a Mrs., oh, and what designer would sew her a perfect wedding day frock! Their break-up, then, though sad, was, in the world of Hollywood stylists, agents, and weekend grosses, the normal narrative for a super-sexy, talented and in-demand actress involved with a younger guy who was less established and less successful. Their break-up was announced by the usual and customary news release from their publicist, but what's followed hasn't been the norm. Aubry sued Berry for custody of their daughter, siting Berry's frequent travel as a factor, and Berry battled back, accusing Aubry of expressing rage when their bi-racial daughter was referred to as black. True or not, all of this is so ugly and deeply disappointing.

In 2011, interracial relationships would seem to be no more worthy of extra attention than men with pierced ears or women wearing pants suits. U.S. Census data tells the story. Prior to 1960, less than 1% of all marriages in the United States were interracial, but according to the 2003-2006 Current Population Survey data, 25% of unmarried couples living together were interracial. The Gallup Poll has been asking the question of Americans' approval of black and white intermarriage since 1958. That first poll showed that only 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage between blacks and whites, but by September of 2007, the approval rate was 79%.  That a certain U.S. Senator from Chicago of mixed-race heritage was running for the highest elective office in the land in 2007 may have had something to do with that September poll, but that's a discussion for another time.

But, are we as comfortable with interracial relationships as we claim we are? Michael Jackson may have sung that it doesn't matter if you're black or white, and Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul may have swayed to "Ebony and Ivory living in perfect harmony," but those were songs, what happens in reality? For every Heidi Klum and Seal, there's someone uncomfortable with their color-blind kind of love. While teens of different races may hang out together, eat together, and even sexually experiment with each other, they may do so with their racist attitudes intact. College - that great melting pot of higher education - encourages students to sample everything, and everyone. But some indulge while remaining fixed on their own narrow ideas about race.

Halle's story is a caution to us all. She may have had the handsome hunk that everyone wanted, and Aubry may have bagged the sexy Hollywood actress, but once you strip away the veneer, this black woman and this white man have to face who they are, and be something better. I guess that's the challenge and the gift of any relationship, black or white! I'm just saying:)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Winter of Our Discontent

Have you ever had that feeling of gray? Where all is routine, even down to the clothing you wear, the food that you eat, and the route that you take to work? Those gray days - where even buying a little trifle to lighten your mood has no effect? Some people chalk it up to the winter weather and its sustained periods of snow and cold and gray skies. But, it feels as if I've tapped into a mood that's not my own. All around me, at the grocery store, in the churchyard, and at the coffee shop, everywhere, there seems to be this grayness. This Great Recession has put this country into one bad mood-swing, so much so that it's triggering a Great Depression 2.0 - the Mental Health Edition.

Apparently, I'm not the only one taking notice. Last fall in Orlando, Florida, a campaign entitled, "It's Okay to Get Help" launched in order to help the growing numbers of Central Floridians experiencing mental health crises triggered by the tough economy.

So, is it possible for an entire country to be in a bad mood?

I'm starting to think that the answer to that question is HELL YES! So, what can we do, as a country, to "get our happy back"? I'm Just Saying has a few ideas:

  1. Stop moaning and start moving: If life is kicking you while you're down, then there's no better time to pack up your bags and move closer to the ocean or into the mountains or into that stone cottage in the foothills of Appalachia that you fantasized about while working in that grey, soul-less cubicle before you were downsized. It's time for the Great Migration 2011! Always wanted to trade in your snow shovel for flip-flops and a questionable tan line? Then get thee gone to Florida - I hear you can buy a condo for a song!! Sometimes, new beginnings come from an abrupt stop.
  2. Stop watching news talk/opinion shows: Notice, I didn't say stop watching THE NEWS, rather stop watching news talk shows. So leave the Becks, Maddows, Bill-Os, Andersons, Parkers-Spitzers, and, instead, just get the news, unsullied with opinion. These shows only make you angrier, more frustrated, or plain old sad. Leave them to their rants, and their take on things. Think for yourself. Oh, and this goes for fake-news shows as well, so give a long, inappropriate kiss goodbye to the Daily Show and to Bill Maher. Real people aren't left or right!
  3. Stop making reality show stars/contestants/lab experiments your role models: Just last week, one of the starts of MTV's "The Hills" finally 'fessed up that the bulk of the show was scripted!! Would that they had made this stunning admission years earlier and maybe the world would have spared the likes of Kelly Catrone, the entire cast of "Jersey Shore", and the pantheon of noxious reality stars crowding the entertainment firmament! Applicants are still pouring in for every new reality show concept. And much like the nuclear arms race, contestants must go big or go home - usually during some heart-pounding conclusion in the final 3 minutes of the show. Here's the deal - if you're a 14 year old girl who's pregnant, then odds are you're not getting a show on MTV. If you wear wigs and date married men, Andy Cohen from Bravo TV ain't picking up the phone to get you on the couch as one of his stable (get it, because of the weaves???) of so-called "Bravo-leberties".
It's time we all got our groove back. I'm just saying:)

Friday, February 18, 2011

You Get Paid for That?? Or, Why Snooki Makes More than your Kid's Teacher!

It was recently revealed that the Kardashian family pulled in $65 million in 2010. How did they do it? Well, it wasn't from some unbelievable world-saving scientific breakthrough; rather it was from their stable of reality shows, music singles, personal appearances, selling photos of their weddings and babies to the tabloids, writing a book, sending Tweets, hawking perfumes, and fashion lines. Think about it - one of the Kardashians sold her wedding pictures to a tabloid for $300K - that's one HELL of a cake cutting! If you want to have a Kardashian show up at your next party, you'd better get out your checkbook because it can cost you as much as $100K domestic and $1 million if your Kardashian must fly outside of the United States. And while you're sitting there on Twitter giving it away, Kim Kardashian is earning $25,000 for tweets that endorse certain products.

But the insanity doesn't end there! The cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" successfully negotiated a per episode salary increase from $10,000 to $30,000. That should keep The Situation in fake-bake and hair gel for the next decade! In addition, Snooki - the pickle-chomping grande dame of the Jersey Shore, has written a book and has launched a line of house slippers so that you, too, may live la vida Snooki.

I hate to sound like a ticked off Jan Brady, but it's just not fair! It seems like there's an epidemic of people getting something for nothing - and by "something", I mean money; and by "nothing", I mean to say their lack of talent. It would seem that an indicator for future success isn't good grades in school and a good work ethic - rather, it's the ability to get hold of a video camera and do unspeakable things in front of it. Let's call it the Paris Effect, after the now 30-year old little rich girl who made a career out of being tacky, slutty, and any other "-y" that you can cause a bad taste in your mouth. No pun intended!

Paris Hilton is frightening. Think about it: she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, educated in the finest schools, given every advantage in her life and instead of working in the family business or joining the Peace Corps, she decides to strike out and make a name for herself by being a tramp! She created the blueprint for the legions of Kim Kardashians, Snookis, and others who will surely follow. Paris' "empire" (that's what she calls it) includes a stable of fragrances for men and women, and now an iPhone app. Somewhere, Monica Lewinsky must be kicking herself for stopping at handbags!

I guess now is the time that I'm supposed to put all of this into perspective, showing how vapid and empty the lives of these minor celebs must be. And I'll do that - eventually. For now, I'm just going to hurl myself onto my bed, legs kicking, and fists pounding the mattress, frustrated by the unfairness of it all. Where is that video camera?? I'm just saying:)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baby Mama Drama during Movie Night!

Silly me, thinking that a late movie on date night would be a child-free zone! I found out 15 minutes into the film how wrong I was when the first "wa-wa-wa's" erupted from the nosebleed seats. The outburst lasted for 3 minutes, that's 180 seconds - an eternity in movie years! A secondary eruption followed 20 minutes later, this one accompanied by the hurried steps of Baby Mama darting towards the exit carrying the irritated infant. I could see the outline of Baby Mama and child, as she attempted to rock the baby into better humor. It seemed to work, and so Baby Mama and child began their assent back up to their seats.

All was quiet, save for the rustling of hands into tubs of buttery popcorn and the onscreen happenings of Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, when the little one had another meltdown, exploding into a torrent of tears and ear-splitting shrieks and that's when the Mothership LOST. HER. MIND!! Only, it wasn't directed towards her baby, rather it was aimed at someone else in the nosebleed section who must have made a comment about the baby because Baby Mama responded with a very loud, "Well, just MIND your damn business, then!!"

Now this isn't the first time a stranger has sought to intervene when a baby has gone nuclear. We've all been there when a pint-size terror throws a toddler tantrum while mommy and daddy stand stricken and humiliated. Some of us coo at little Kiddie Kaboom in a vain attempt to quell their madness with kindness, but there are times when, frankly, no one wants to hear your child.

There are different schools of thought on how best to deal with a child-gone-wild. Some opt for immediate removal and containment, taking the little one out of the situation at the first whimper. You'll notice these people, as they'll insist on sitting nearest the exit with their coats on, in a perpetual state of high alert. These, I must admit, are some of my favorite people!

There are others, though, who take a more wait and see approach, preferring to let a few whimpers and unhappy gurgles go unchecked, and using a mixture of techniques, including rapid leg bouncing of the tiny tot and shifting the little one between parents. They'll stay until the frequency of nasty looks and the chorus of throat-clearing from observers drives them into sudden awareness that their child's behavior might be a bit annoying.

But the worst are those who dig in, and, even while their child is in the midst of an epic foot-stomping rage, they are steadfast and immovable. They seem dulled to the hysterics of their child, or maybe they've become so accustomed to it that they're like the Borg from Star Trek: "resistance is futile!" 

One of my friends who's a mother of two falls into the immediate removal and containment category. Her philosophy is that there are certain situations where it's not a good idea to have baby on board. During the toddler years, she and her hubby had a no fancy restaurant policy - unless they had a baby sitter at home with the little one. Kids were left at home with one parent while the other made the weekly grocery store trip - in fact, the same policy was in place for mommy's hair dresser appointments and trips to the mall and the movies. I'd tell you her name, but she doesn't exist:(  But maybe, just maybe, she will one day. In the meantime, when you find yourself staring down a one year old on a mission to ruin your trip to see the latest R-rated thriller, just make a note of the nearest exit - you're going to need it! I'm just saying:)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Justin Bieber and the Agony of Defeat

Justin Bieber has had a tough few days - his much-hyped movie was beaten out of the top spot in its opening weekend by a movie whose romantic leads have a combined age of 80-something! He walked the Grammy red carpet with his fly unzipped, was forced to share the stage in his Grammy performance with Will Smith's obnoxious son and a huffing and puffing Usher, and walked away empty-handed. The headlines screamed "Grammy Upset" next to stills of Bieber, while talking heads and entertainment media, in the role of esteemed sage, tried to put it all in perspective with comments like, "well, he's only 16, this won't be the last we hear from him." To top it all off, an outbreak of Bieber Fever caused his fans to send out violent tweets against Esperanza Spaulding, the woman who beat the Bieb, taking home the Best New Artist Grammy; oh, and he had to work on Valentine's Day, including an awkward interview with Conan O'Brien, where he was forced to answer, yet again, the Question of the Day: "Are you disappointed that you didn't win the Grammy?"

Ouch!

That's a heck of a lot for any adult to deal with, so imagine what must be going on in the head of this 16 year old. It's not like losing the election for student body president. Bieber is an industry and a product, supporting hundreds of people from concert promoters to the guys hawking t-shirts, to the ticket agents, the roadies, bus companies, managers, musicians, dancers, technicians, etc. A Grammy loss, a lackluster live performance, or a dip in box office - these singular incidents ripple through Bieber World and can cause a panic. If Bieber were a stock, then he's taken a definite hit.

It may sound premature to ponder the demise of a pop idol, but at some point, the fever pitch begins to subside and you'll be forced to make some decisions about who you want to be and what you want to do with your life and your talent. Other pop stars have been through this, but the survivability rates are variable. Michael Jackson enjoyed critical success as well as mass appeal as a performer and writer, but his personal life was fraught. Britney Spears eschewed the critical acclaim, choosing to remain a pop princess, but with a host of personal demons. Miley Cyrus is in the midst of the transition to adult artist, expanding, with limited success, into film actress and clothing designer, and weathering some embarrassing extracurricular activities.

Bieber is a talented kid, and the hope is that as he finds his way, he'll remember that the talent that brought him to this place will see him through this temporary set-back. President Richard M. Nixon once said, "You've got to learn to survive a defeat. That's when you develop character." And if that doesn't help, well then the Bieb can console himself with a cat nap on a bed made out of stacks of $100 bills, or line the cat's litter box with fifties, or to quote another famous person who climbed out of hard times, comic Dave Chappelle, "I'm rich B*tch!" I'm just saying!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Tip #1 - Just Say Thanks and Shut Your Mouth

For those of us living in the world of the coupled, we sometimes forget that most basic grace - good manners. The gift of good manners is often overlooked because for many couples, there develops a shorthand by which we communicate. Oftentimes, we're overtaken by the busyness of life - jobs, kids, aging parents, cooking, cleaning - and the first things that get cut are the "thank-you's". And once the thank-you's take a powder, it's only a matter of time before there is a complete breakdown in all of the elements that comprise good manners. In place of good manners, we develop  C.C.E., short for Crazy Couple Etiquette. C.C.E. can be a bit confusing to outsiders, and, depending on how long a couple's been together, it can transform the most benign situation into a  potential powder keg.

For instance, in the dating world, talking while another person is talking, and constantly reminding the speaker of details forgotten or disordered is considered rude. But it's perfectly acceptable in C.C.E.. Hell, they even give it a cute description, calling it "finishing each other's sentences."

So, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, and as a public service to couples and the innocent bystanders who spend time with these couples, I propose that we work together to drop the crazy, develop a new couples' etiquette. I'd like to hit the "delete" key on the following:

  1. Saying "we're pregnant" - Unless you're a sapphic couple who've both decided to be pregnant at the same time, this expression needs to go away. The one with the morning sickness, stretch marks, fatigue, and the baby growing inside of her is the one who's pregnant!
  2. Girls Night Out - This one vexes me. First, the people who usually use this phrase haven't been girls for a lot of years. And second, it supposes that in couples land, it's deemed a special circumstance for the female half of the partnering to spend time with her friends.
  3. The existence of "man caves" - You know, prior to man caves, the only other place where you had all of your favorite toys in one place was your play pen. This persistent narrative that men are like children keeps alive the myth that in every hetero pairing, girlfriend/wife = mommy! How the heck is that healthy, much less sexy??
  4. Purse as couple carryall - I must admit that am I guilty of taking a larger-than-necessary purse with me as my everyday accessory, but over the years, my husband's gone from pondering its construction to cramming it full of things. At the theatre, keys, cell phone, and eyeglass case are handed over to me as I am taking my seat. And now, this has extended to vacations, with my backpack loaded down with extra waters, knick-knacks purchased from street vendors. GET YOUR OWN BAG!!!

Now that I've given you all a starting point, let's hear what you'd all like to banish from C.C.E.! Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day, with your help, many more couples will live to see a bright future with Cupid:) I'm just saying!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Love Note to the Brunch Bunch

The years between grad school and getting married were my single years, and boy were they fun! There was a lot of hard work, but there was also a lot of good times spent with a group of men that I'll call The Brunch Bunch. These were my guys and I was their adopted baby sister, tagging along to the opera, symphony concerts, theatre, and restaurants I'd never heard of, but soon loved! They taught me how to properly tip everyone from doormen to waiters. They showed me how to hold a wine glass, introduced me to a good, after-dinner port. After church on Sundays, we'd gather at some fabulous place for our favorite ritual - brunch. During spring, summer, and fall, the goal was to find a great outdoor spot where we could sit, sunshades on, and watch the parade of humanity float by us on the sidewalk. We were all Anna Wintour wannabees judging the "talent" as they worked it.

Our brunch conversations were fast and furious with politics and religion occupying equal air-time with boyfriend drama, shoe obsessions, and celebrity fashion. We could, and did, close a brunch down, camping out at a table for several hours. As serial over-tippers we were coveted guests in any waiter's section. After brunch, we'd indulge in window-shopping, trying on hats at that cute store on the corner, checking out that adorable shoe-store with the 4-inch pumps. If the weather was particularly delightful, we'd sit at the fountain, sunning ourselves and maybe visit a museum or see a movie (nothing with subtitles, though, as that was really risky after a heavy brunch).

My Brunch Bunch also knew how to throw one hell of a party. It was like something out of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," with sketchy characters, former debutantes, and ribald story tellers mixing with church ministers, lounge singers, aspiring politicians, and bureaucrats all holding court. There seemed always to be a piano around which we all gathered to sing everything from Broadway show tunes to the hits of legends like Streisand.

My guys were always there with a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen. When a boyfriend was merely hanging on, it was my Brunch Bunch who dealt the final devastating blow with a single question, along the lines of, "Don't you deserve better?" Or, "Honey, aren't you smarter than that?" These men taught me everyday, through our friendship, the most important lessons of intimacy - trust, honesty, commitment.

Now, my Brunch Bunch has disbanded - most have moved away, starting new chapters in their lives. And I have started forming a new Brunch Bunch. Just because I'm married doesn't mean that I don't need my guys - in fact, I need them more than ever before! And so, to my old Brunch Bunch, I thank you and I love you all for always. Happy Valentine's Day - I'm just saying:)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seeing Red

Well, with the heavy rotation of TV ads for adults-only creams and gels, diamonds, chocolates, and the over-abundance of Victoria's Secret catalogs in my mailbox, it can only mean one thing - that's right, Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day used to send shudders up and down my spine when I was single - mostly because you never knew what was in store for you. It was either going to be the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. One of the worst Valentine's Days was during my first year of grad school. I worked on campus in the basement office of the university chapel, and there I sat, surrounded by several other workmates, all of us dateless, eating the tuna salad leftover from the dean's weekly luncheon, from a canary yellow Tupperware bowl.

It's such a lot of pressure for everyone - whether or not you're involved. "Will you be my Valentine?" may seem, on the surface, to be a question asked in complete innocence. But once you strip away the cards, candies, flowers, and the diaper-wearing, bow and arrow-wielding cherub, you get to the core question, which is, "Do you desire me?" or, "Do you still desire me?" and that's a scary question because what if the answer is, "no"?

But, what if the answer is "yes"? I'm just saying:)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Open a Package of Cheese in 10 Easy Steps!

And now, an I'm Just Saying Rant:

I am aware that saying things were easier when I was growing up will jettison me into that category of adulthood usually reserved for grandmothers who reminisce about trudging through 10 feet of snow on their 10 mile, uphill hike to their one-room school, but who cares - some things WERE easier when I was younger, like opening a package of cheese.

Twenty years ago, blissful cheddery delight could be yours in just 2 simple steps. But now, it's not so simple. It took me several seconds, along with my kitchen scissors and a paring knife, to fight my way through the plastic origami shrouding my 8 slices of Havarti!

And it's not just cheeses that have gotten this special treatment. Those crazy plastic molds that encircle everything from computer cables to baby monitors require someone with weapons training to open them.

So, I beg of you manufacturers to stop the madness! My mom and dad - both aging Boomers - will soon be entering a time in their lives when they'll no longer be able to wield the necessary box cutter or hacksaw required to open up these plastic pods, which means I'll be getting telephone calls to come and liberate some object of their desire from its plastic fortress of solitude, or push their Zantac pills through those irritating pill cards, or peel back the foil from that bottle of Motrin.

I'm just saying!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Come Join the Anti-Multi-Tasking Movement!

As I sit here at my computer writing this, I'm also watching a presidential documentary on TV, reading email messages, and checking out Huff Post while a house cat rests on the arm of my chair. Across the room, my husband checks his emails, archives data while twisting around to watch that same presidential documentary when it sounds like there's something interesting. We are the Multi-Taskers and, I suspect, you are, too.

How did we get here? When I was a little girl, I came home from school and did my homework to the sounds of the evening meal being cooked - no iPod, no radio, no television, emails, tweets! Homework time was a sacred and singular pursuit. Friends knew not to visit or call during homework time. That's not to say that I didn't get to see my friends. On the contrary, we friends would spend hours outside, jumping rope or just flat-out running as fast as our legs would take us. After friend time, there was meal time, spent with the buzz of conversation instead of the buzz of the Blackberry. Dinner was eaten at the dinner table, without a television in sight, and if the telephone rang, well, it just kept ringing because there were no phone calls allowed.

So what changed? Well, the rapid development and deployment of technologies for one. Technologies have grown ever more portable, and they've served to erode the artificial barriers that we erected in our orderly little pre-megabyte world. I can put the finishing touches on my boss's speech on a device the size of a cassette tape all from the comfort of my family room while Snooki smooshes with a Juice Head on the Jersey Shore and iTunes updates this week's pod casts. I can Skype from my kitchen to my best friend in San Francisco while fixing dinner and listening to my favorite Boston radio station online while reading the recipe I downloaded to the PDA in my apron pocket.

But it can't all be technology's fault - right?? Right, it can't be. I have to take some responsibility for where I currently find myself. Technology can be a bit like that character in my favorite movie, "All About Eve." The character "Eve is an upstart young actress who, upon meeting her idol, an older Broadway star played by Bettie Davis, insinuates herself into her life,  acting as wide-eyed innocent errand-girl while wrapping her tentacles round poor Bettie Davis. In the end, Ms. Davis fends off her younger rival, and defiantly breaks free of "Eve." I may not be able to defeat technology, and, to be honest, I don't really want to. I merely want some balance back in my life.

So here's my Anti-Multi-Tasking Movement Manifesto:

  • I will ignore the urge to update my Facebook status while standing in line at the store/Post Office/grocery store, etc. Instead, I will talk to the person in line with me instead.
  • I will sit next to my husband and watch a television show or movie with my PDA in silent mode.
  • When sitting next to my husband and watching a TV show or movie, I will resist the temptation to look up a relevant piece of trivia on said PDA and will, instead, make a mental note to look it up at a later time and deal with the temporary unease of not knowing.
  • I will sit at the kitchen table and read the hard copy of the daily newspaper.
  • I will eat all meals at the kitchen table or dining room table with only conversation and light background music as our accompaniment, and with my PDA in silent mode and shoved into my briefcase.
  • I will not read the NY Times, Huff Post, Thomson Reuters from my PDA while in bed.
So there it is. I know, you may not get that same flag-waving feeling like in "Les Miserables", but it's a start. I'm just saying:)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The 10 Commandments of Facebook

By now, we've all enjoyed long Saturday afternoons mining the delights of Facebook. But, apparently, that's not all we've been doing. Recent news stories have told tales of marriage-busting indiscretions that have begun on Facebook. Divorce lawyers back up these claims with figures of their own, showing an uptick in Facebook being a factor in marital rifts. So it seems that the time has come for I'm Just Saying's 10 Commandments for Facebook:

  1. Thou shalt not "friend" nor confirm your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.
  2. Thou shalt not "friend" nor confirm that guy or gal you hooked up with sophomore year of undergrad.
  3. Thou shalt not post suggestive photos of yourself as your profile pic.
  4. Thou shalt not post status updates that read, "bored and looking for some company."
  5. Thou shalt not IM your friend's spouse and have long conversations about the meaning of life and your impending mid-life or quarter-life crisis.
  6. If thou hast broken Commandment #1, then thou shalt not suggest a telephone call or coffee date to "catch up," because you might get caught up!
  7. Thou shalt not check "single" in Relationship Status if you're in a relationship.
  8. Thou shalt not hit the "like" button when your buff ex from high school posts his shirtless pics on his profile.
  9. Thou shalt not post old photos of you and your exes on your profile.
  10. If thou hast broken any of these commandments, thou shalt not attempt to hide your actions from your spouse, for as there are no secrets on Facebook, so no secret can be hid from your spouse.
I'm just saying!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm Just Saying: 39 For the First Time

I'm Just Saying: 39 For the First Time: "It's not that I don't like people, but as I recently celebrated my 39th birthday, I have to say that sometimes the human race leaves a lot t..."

39 For the First Time

It's not that I don't like people, but as I recently celebrated my 39th birthday, I have to say that sometimes the human race leaves a lot to be desired. First, it's flattering that I look so young that people ask, "how old are you" when they're told that it's my birthday. But, it's irritating that when I answer them, they shoot funny looks my way and respond with a chorus of sarcasm in their words, "oh, you mean 39 AGAIN!!" Tee-hee, I guess the joke's on me. To say that you're 39 is like announcing that you had emergency surgery on your "deviated septum", when what you really had was that bump removed from your nose, or that you lost 80 pounds in a couple of months just through "diet and exercise" instead of major surgery (Starr Jones, I'm looking at you!). There is an assumption of dishonesty, or, more precisely, an assumption of vanity. I won't lie - 39 is difficult, but so were 30, 25, 21, 18, 16, and 13. We call these "milestone" birthdays, but they become like that annoying Jeopardy music, and when the music stops, what do we have to show for it?

I was always racing towards a big something during those past birthdays. By 13, I wanted to fill out my sweaters; by 16, I wanted to have gone out on my first alone date; by 18 I wanted to have a straight-A average and a tall, Adonis-like boyfriend for my sorority formal; by 21, I wanted to be based in a cool city and traveling the world; by 25, I wanted to have an Oscar/Tony/Grammy and to have been proposed to at least once; and by 30, I wanted to already be married, famous, and traveling the world with my husband and children.

This birthday is different. It's found me grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life and all of the wonderful experiences that I've had. Instead of running flat-out, I'm walking with a purpose, and stopping once in a while to survey all that is around me. I wish that I had discovered this active thoughtfulness when I was younger, this ability to savor a moment, to luxuriate in being. I am a better person for the things that I have learned so far, and here, as my gift to all of you staring down the barrel of whatever birthday is on the horizon for you, is a piece of my list of lessons learned...so far. Here goes:

  • I've learned that if you're going to work a job that you hate, do it for a lot of money and stockpile cash to start a business that you love.
  • I've learned that you shouldn't cut up photos of you and your ex - no matter why the relationship ended, those experiences are a part of your personal story.
  • Always take a photo, because your memory will get fuzzier with each passing year.
  • Never let someone insult you and get away with it - bad behavior in people must be treated like bad behavior in a puppy, so put their nose in it!
  • If it's a choice between buying something you really want for yourself, and buying something for someone in need, choose the someone in need because you'll both feel better.
  • Don't hate yourself, because if you don't like yourself, what chance has anybody else of liking you?
  • Take at least 2 trips a year - the change in perspective is better than a face lift!
  • Never respond to an email when you're boiling mad.
  • Avoid Super Bowl parties and New Year's Eve parties - both are annoying and tend to go on too long!
  • Go to church even when you don't feel like it.
  • When someone says, "bless you" in response to a question answered, just say "thank you."
  • Don't talk during the movie/opera/orchestra concert/play - it's just rude!
  • Always ask questions.
  • Be honest in what you know and in what you don't know.
  • Don't mistake need for love.
  • Don't become your significant other's mother - that's just not sexy and it's a bit creepy!
  • Don't order pizza in Alaska because it won't end well.
  • Always pack a hat in your day bag.
  • It's never too late to try something new, to be someone better.
Well, I hope this helps. Happy birthday to me and to you. I'm just saying:)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Twas the Week Without iPhone:(

It all started innocently enough - it was the end of the week, time to take a few minutes to sync up the old iPhone. At least that's how this electronic adventure began for my husband and I. The iPhone in question is his as I have and continue to be a lover of Blackberry, but let's not rub salt into the wounds. So let me get back to my story, ah yes, it was time to sync. All seemed to be fine, until it was time to download and install an iTunes update. That's when hell's fury was unleashed and my hubby's iPhone became a blank, empty useless shell. No apps. No NPR/New York Times real time updates. No LMAO singing, "Shots." No texting. No telephone. We were off the grid.

Anyone who uses an iPhone can attest to the wonders and joys of catching up on the latest episode of "Glee" while you're standing in a long line at the Post Office, or playing a raucous game of Scrabble while you're at the DMV. It's a beautiful thing - when it works. But when it doesn't work, it's an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Since it was a busy work week, my hubby could only dedicate evening hours in pursuit of a fix. We decided to work as a team. I went the conventional route, calling the customer support number for Apple and trying to restore the settings on the dang thing. The telephone call was an exercise in frustration, and, in the end, the disembodied voice over the phone and the help function in iTunes both led me to the same place - the desolate realm of the online support forums. Pages and pages, with links to subpages and footnotes, flew before my eyes with a dizzying array of instructions and alternate actions, all in super-geek-speak.

My husband would check in by phone to see how the patient was doing, and he'd continue the work on his return from the office, on a furious hunt for corrupted files, failures to initiate, or drivers that failed to install. One night, we stayed up until 3am, well, actually, the hubby did - I took little cat-naps illuminated by the light of the computer screen. Until finally, he turned off the lamp and the computer and issued a DNR for his iPhone, at least until we can take it to a "genius" over the weekend.

The psychological effects of this have been curious. When we're watching television and trying to figure out just where we've seen that actor before, instead of the usual quick trip to his iPhone, my husband struggles to remember instead. At dinner, our little friend is no longer on the table. And when I'm reading, I've noticed that my husband's actually staring at me and not the screen. It's been nice.

But as much as his iPhone can hinder our communication, it also has been a great tool for us to keep in touch during our busy days. While I'm at work, he'll send me sweet text messages to ask how it's going, almost like digital mash notes. I can text him a funny joke on a day when I know he's slammed.

Hopefully, our little iPhone will be all fixed and ready for action. But I hope that we remember that it's nice, once in a while, to turn it off. BTW, Blackberry rocks! I'm just saying:)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Generation "Short Term Goal"!

First we had the Baby Boomers, then we discovered The Greatest Generation, next was Generation X, then Generation Y with their first cousins, the Millennials. These terms are a succinct way of demystifying the motivations and mindsets of millions, and, as such, we've been bombarded with them. But I've always been a verbal pioneer, preferring to let my personal interactions and explorations in the frontiers of social anthropology help me to create my own system of classification.

For instance, my Generation X brothers and sisters can be called "Generation Hook-Up". Most of us were children of divorce or were friends with children of divorce so we had front row seats to people not keeping their promises on an intimate level. We saw corporations breaking their promises to our Boomer parents toiling in the fields of middle management hell, and so we redefined commitment and loyalty. Generation Y or The Millennials can more aptly be described as "Generation Play Date," due to the need on the part of their parents to organize these children into play groups, or "Generation Company Man," because they seem perfectly at home with the structure and authority of groups and organizations. Gone are the days of John "no longer Cougar" Mellencamp singing "I fight authority/authority always wins." No, Generation Company Man is quite comfortable with rules, as long as you praise them every minute with a chipper "good job!" then you're golden.

But now, I'm watching the emergence of what will be the next Generation, raised on the reality television industrial complex. In a constantly expanding media universe there are an infinite number of "contestants" competing for an infinite number of prizes, all living in non-descript communal houses, enduring humiliating challenges and being voted off one by one until, 4-6 weeks later, a winner emerges and they win The Big Prize.

Cupcake makers brought to tears in a one-day challenge where tempers flare, batter flies, and giant cupcake spires teeter on the verge of collapse while the seconds tick away on the giant clock - because there's ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS a clock? Sounds great! Restaurant chefs screamed at and belittled and stripped of their chef's whites one by one until a final cook-off brings the winner fame and a job (even though the job's only for one year)? Sign me up!! Living on a deserted stretch of croc-infested tropical forest, sleeping in mud, and living like Tom Hanks in that movie where he talked to a volleyball after his plane crashed all for a cash prize?? Bring it!!

Welcome to Generation Short Term Goal! They'll endure anything as long as it doesn't last too long and will net them The Big Prize in the end. They'll want it all and they'll get it all without all of that pesky waiting. Want a record contract? Post videos of yourself singing on YouTube, Tweet about it, or put your song on iTunes you'll be a star! Want to be a fashion super model? Skip the cattle calls and simply upload images of yourself to your Facebook page and you'll get the gig! You see, it will no longer be about getting discovered, it will be about getting paid and getting famous!

For this generation, there will be Patron Saints who have successfully worked the formula for Generation Short Term Goal. Consider Snooki. This pint-sized de-poofed self-proclaimed Guido connoisseur and now book author owes her entire career to a video submission to the producers at MTV and her ability to withstand getting sucker punched in front of cameras. And then there's Kim of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the statuesque wig-wearing singing sensation who parlayed her reality TV shenanigans and extra-marital affairs into musical chart-topping gold, without all of the drudgery of years of singing instruction and singing ability. 

Generation Short Term Goal will abolish terms like paying your dues, working your way up, or starting from the bottom. Getting a foot in the door won't be good enough, they'll want more, hell, they'll deserve more, and they'll get it, but they'll get it fast!  These people won't fail - they'll simply be voted off, doomed to be recycled on yet another reality show somewhere else in the reality universe where they'll set a course for a whole new short term goal.

In the end, Generation Short Term Goal will want what every other Generation wants - recognition. Boomers want recognition for their sacrifice, Gen X wants recognition of our particular gifts and talents, Millennials want recognition of how hard they work and how valued they are. What will define Generation Short Term Goal will be the means by which they seek this recognition. I can't wait to tune in - I'm Just Saying:)