Tag Archives: confidence

French Kiss First, Introductions Later.


Welcome to California.

golden_gate_bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

If all your contact with the outside world is mass media, or, say, you’re an alien from space, seeking information about earth, and your research dart on the globe hit the USA, and you began, sensibly enough, with mass media –you would surely presume the only places IN America were…

New York, and California.

Because EVERYTHING on television, in movies, etc., is located in: you guessed it. NY or CA.

Naturally, when the opportunity flung itself like a blob of goo to head west with my two daughters to the flipside of mainland America, I figured: hmm? Why not see life as the extraterrestrials – I mean, Californians – do?

I kid, I KID.

Actually, this time I DO kid, because if you happen to be reading this…

WAIT.

Don’t you just HATE when writers write: “If you happen to be reading this?

Talk about “author intrusion,”* which, of course, I’m doing now in a MAJOR way, but for some reason, I am egomaniacal enough – or feel strongly enough about this point – to have the nerve to think I can get away with it.

Duh. Of COURSE you happen to be reading this; if you WEREN’T reading this, you wouldn’t be READING this: the author’s SENTENCE that says, so very stupidly, “if you happen to be reading this.”

Why THANK you, Captain OBVIOUS.

(How do you spell “AAUGHHH?”)

I can’t STAND it when people don’t give other people the credit for the most BASIC intelligence. Or when they refuse to exhibit the most basic intelligence of their own, and simply swallow and regurgitate clichés.

Sorry. That’s just not thinking “out of the box.”

(That’s a joke. I am SO hoping you all got that….)

::-::-::

Anyway, tirade over, now that I’ve “intruded,” my job as a writer now is to suck you so hard back into the work that you forget about me again. So: forget me, move on without me, save yourselves….

To get back to Californians: if you’ve been wondering where all the nice people in the world have gone; if you’ve lost your faith in humanity, you’ve been betrayed, you can’t seem to find a kind soul in a cold-hearted world, no matter where you look…

<can you hear the swelling orchestral strings…?>

Get your ass to northern California.

InvaderZimWthoutStripesSomeone, I don’t know who – Invader Zim?

…has scooped them all up in a giant net and deposited them HERE.

Of course, the New Yorker in me wants to warn you: I’ve only been here a few weeks, so they COULD be putting on an devastatingly good show (California, Hollywood, Oscar…), and I SHOULD keep checking my back for knives…

But honestly, if these folks aren’t genuinely nice, then I’ve landed where Ira Levin got his idea for The Stepford Wives, because everybody – and I do mean everybody – walks around with a light step, a friendly smile, and an open outlook.

This is either the Cosmic Galactic Nexus of Benevolence, or these folks are gobsmackingly realistic test robots for Disneyland’s newest animatronic attraction.

They’re cheerful and concerned for others in a state with a bigger unemployment problem and more housing foreclosures than New York.

And, unlike New York – and particularly unlike, say…oooh, I dunno, GEORGIA, they are warm and inviting to strangers. Even strangers who come from scary and disreputable places like New York. No one here has prejudged us at all.

oscar-wilde-ph

Oscar Wilde

(At least not to our faces, where it counts. As far as I’m concerned, I’m with Oscar Wilde. Let people say whatever they want behind my back; I’ll worry when they STOP talking.)

These folks are even charming and positive in an area located less than – well, my guess would be, less then twelve inches from the Sun.

I can’t seem to figure it out. We aren’t any closer to the equator (although maybe we’re WAYYYY higher. As in, we’re astronauts. Californunauts.)

When they say “sunny California,” they aren’t just whistling Dixie.

(Side note: having made a side trip on the way to visit family in Rocky Plains, Georgia, I know what I’m talking about when I say “Dixie,” too.)

The sun is so strong here I carry a bottle of water around with me nearly everywhere I go, wishing I could haul a tank around, like someone on oxygen. I never realized what a deliciously humid state New York actually was.

oldwomanSomeone PLEASE let me know what moisturizing cream I need. I’m going to look about 45 years old in about 45 minutes. In another 45, I’ll look 90. As it is, the jar that used to last me six months is half gone.

In fact, Californians are SO friendly, that in a recent trip to a music store (I was rescuing a guitar I’d discovered that had been criminally abused) I got to joking with the owner, who began to tease me – and then somehow, things got a little weird.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably caught on: I’m not someone you want to DARE.

Play chicken with me? You’re pretty much guaranteed two totaled cars.

So when I jokingly said: “Well, then, I’ll just have to get one big, fat, sloppy kiss,” never in a million years thinking he would take me up on it – for no one in their right mind in New York would take that phrase as ANYTHING but, er, symbolic, when the music store owner said something along the lines of me not having the nerve…

… Well, what could I do? Apparently, he was calling my bluff – or thought I was bluffing. I had my entire state’s reputation to defend.

It was only later, perusing my copy of The Secret, Closely-Guarded Girl Manual, that I remembered that those of us with a little too much tomboy in them have to be wary of dares and the like, and that boys will steal kisses when they can, particularly from impulsive redheads.

So I called his bluff back, and dashed over boldly right behind his workspace, again, never dreaming his own oncoming car would not swerve.

Yet swerve he did NOT, and put his arms around me, and kissed me like Bogart kissed Bergman in Casablanca.

Yipes.

Careful to keep my New York cool, I then shook his hand and said:

“How do you do? I’m Elizabeth. And your name is?”

“Larry,” he said. “Welcome to California.”

::-::-::-::-::-::

Author Intrusion (also sometimes called, literarily, “authorial intrusion” – I don’t know why they like the extra two syllables, but professors sometimes do…) is explained nicely here, at about.com:

Have you ever read a book where the author suddenly jolted you out of the storyline with a comment that just doesn’t flow with the rest of the work? That’s an authorial intrusion. Sometimes it works, but only when it’s done by a master storyteller/writer.

Authorial intrusions are of substantial length (not just a brief aside in a novel) and they are addressed to you (the reader).

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The Top Five Lies an Honest Person Should Tell



Digg!

Lies, Lies....

Lies, Lies....

 

Consider yourself an honest person? Well, bully for you. That’s a very fine quality in a person – especially in a person who meets me, since I can typically spot a liar at twenty paces – moreover, I myself never lie as a general rule, since I have a memory like a broken sieve. To lie would be to deliberately place myself in harm’s way, since I would trip myself up too easily.

Did I say Greece? I meant Ireland. Yeah, that’s right. I was in IRELAND last Thursday. THAT’S why I couldn’t make your party. Yeah, big bagpipe convention. What… oh, yeah, I mean SCOTLAND.

See? I SUCK at lying. No, wait, that’s a lie right there. I’m actually a stellar liar; I could make you believe you were an alien from space, if I really wanted to, but I’m a sucky rememberer. You’d come to me, later, all wrapped in tinfoil, and when I laughed at you, you’d go all crestfallen on me: “But… but… you said…

Then I’d remember and go: “Oh, yeah, Andromeda Galaxy, that’s right. Whoops. Eh-heh…”

HOWEVER (I’m also a terrific digresser) to get to the main point here: SOMETIMES, it’s important to LIE. Because the worst kind of mean-hearted bully is the kind who tries to use “honesty” to hurt other people, to wit:

“I’m just being honest here. You DO look fat.”

Now come on. Is that EVER necessary? No. Lie, people, lie your asses off. If some friend of yours is stuffed into something that makes them look like Jones Pork Sausage, what the hey? They’re already out and dressed. It can’t be helped now. What they need NOW is CONFIDENCE to pull off the look.

Lies, delivered in the spirit of loving dishonesty, do just that.

#1 Your Haircut Looks Great.

Even if you can barely look without flinching, even if your eyeballs start to tear, you MUST manage this, because hair only grows so fast, and your friend/acquaintance/boss/mother now must live with this horror for at least a few long and terrible weeks.

“Is it bad?”

“NOOOOOOhhhhh,” is your answer, as enthusiastically as possible. Add a little primping touch of the hand, as if you can’t resist the touch of the prickly mess, if you can bear it. “It’s terrific. Only YOU could pull it off. It suits you so well!”

#2 No, it SO wasn’t you, it was them!

Your friend is devastated by the loss of a significant other. Perhaps, you, who have followed the drama and the saga, know for a fact that his or her giant chasm of need DID in fact, drive the poor bastard away screaming and babbling incoherently.

NOW is not the time for a personality review.

BAD: “Yeah, sweetie, it WAS you. Poor schmuck couldn’t take you following him to work, calling his cell every ten minutes, texting him every five, I mean, think about it, hon.”

GOOD: “Sweetie, he didn’t deserve you. You’re better off without him. Here: have another pint of Chunky Monkey.”

Later, perhaps, you can suggest counseling, or a good lawyer to deal with the Order of Protection.

#3 How old do I look?

Hang on, here, I have to stop laughing so I can type. Do I really need to spell this out for you folks? Is there anyone out there who really thinks they get some kind of cosmic points for guessing RIGHT?

I’ve seen this – mostly guys – smiling, as if someone’s going to hand them a fluffy carnival toy when they see a woman’s mouth drop open. “I got it, didn’t I? I’m right, aren’t I? You’re 40.”

I have actually said to guys that have done this: “Asshole.”

They’re completely oblivious to the idea that the woman with the mouth agape is struggling NOT to knock the block off the self-satisfied jackass.

Two very good rules to follow here.

Number one: refuse to guess. Claim it’s a policy of yours. This is, in fact, the safest way to go, and if you have the balls to ride it out, you’re good to go. 

Number two:
Part A: If, say, an obviously 50-ish person asks (and stupid, by the way, to ask in the first place), don’t be stupider and say “21.” Why is this stupid? Because it’s so clearly not true, it makes them think YOU think they’re SO old that you have to guess WAY too young to flatter them. It ends up insulting.

Hey – I didn’t say it made sense. I’m just giving you the skinny on how people think.

Part B: Instead, if you think you’re ANY good at guessing – and you best be DAMN good at guessing – take THAT age, and subtract 10-15.

THAT will make it seem real that you guessed wrong – and way under.

The very BEST way to flatter people about their age? If and when they mention the ages of their children, look SHOCKED and say: “I can’t believe you have kids that age. You don’t look old enough to have kids that age.”

That’s believable – and flattering. And it comes up naturally in conversation, and can make somebody’s DAY.

# 4. You’re right.

My grandfather used to say: “A man convinced against his will remains of the same opinion still.”

It’s up to you, here, folks, but personally? I don’t give a rat’s ass about whether most people KNOW I’m right, as long as I do.

For instance: you come across some hardcore goofball on the sidewalk – maybe wearing a sandwich board, proclaiming that he’s a taco.

You know, of course, that he is NOT a taco. Tacos, for those who do not know, don’t have faces, for one thing. Neither do they argue on streetcorners.

Believe it or not, there are some people who will waste valuable moments of their lives they will never get back, trying to convince the buffoon that he is, in fact, NOT a taco, but actually a living human being, and inedible for the most part, outside of a few cannibalistic rainforest dwellers. (Who probably will not wrap him in Mexican breadlike outer coatings and hot sauce.)

Why bother? You KNOW you’re right, he’s wrong, go on your merry way.

It’s so totally okay to be right and have no one know it but you. Even if said Taco Dude has a band of merry Taco Followers mocking you, calling you Dufus. Shrug, and move on to the next street corner, where perhaps you’ll find someone who thinks they’re a hamburger.

#5 This is delicious.

Even if what you’re served tastes like Dog Turd Pudding (see earlier post), if you’ve been the lucky recipient of free food and the free hospitality at someone’s home, however humble, you are unfortunately obliged to eat it.

Tip: your olfactory sense – that is, your nose – is connected to your taste buds. So if you can’t smell, you can’t taste. So breathe through your mouth and choke the Cream of Whatever down. Somehow.

BONUS LIE:

“Everything is going to be all right.”

Actually, this one isn’t a lie. My grandmother – the wife of previously mentioned grandfather – had a good saying, too: “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” So: no matter what ever happens to you, no matter how shitty, everything DOES end up all right in the end. The wheel turns, and daylight breaks again. So this one, once the cosmic shit storm passes, is the truth.

Keep it in mind. 

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A Rampage of Minor Atrocities


rampageMy 12-year-old is on a Rampage of Minor Atrocities.

She says she (a) wants to get over her Fear Of Getting In Trouble, and (b) Wants To Rebel, which (she says) is a Very Difficult Task with a mother like me.

“Why?” I asked, puzzled. I’d assumed rebellion was sort of a built-in no-brainer (sometimes literally, as in “Where were your brains when you chose that friend/wore that outfit/called your mother a bitch/set fire to the table?”) when you’re newly hormonal.

“It’s tough to be a rebel when your mother doesn’t disapprove of anything you do,” she said.

It’s true. My two daughters, 12 and 9, have asked me why they never get “punished” – as in, bed without dinner, sit in the corner, beatings, or the typical sanctions. Instead, if they spill something carelessly (as, really, we ALL do), they simply have to help me clean it up (or clean it up themselves). (As we all do.)

If they’re fresh-mouthed, I either don’t speak to them, (which they HATE, but it’s what I’d do to anyone else, right?) or I assume they’re too tired to behave, and so it’s beddy-bye.

Consequences, rather than punishments. It just makes more sense. Two weeks ago, my youngest and her pal sloshed through my black and white kitchen (newly painted, newly floored) and got mud all over EVERYTHING.

Next day, I hear her friend whisper: “Did you get in trouble?”

Youngest, to her friend: “I don’t GET in trouble,” she said.

“You don’t? You LUCKY!”

A snort. “Yeah, SO lucky. I hadda get on my hands and knees with my mom and wash the floors and cabinets we messed up.”

So said Oldest, in her Rampage of Minor Atrocities, poured Gatorade on the seat of a classmate. The next day, she confessed to the friend, who, with an exasperated gasp, pointed in amused horror at her friend. “It was YOU! I had to wear my hoodie around my waist all DAY because of you!”

“You’re telling on yourself?” I asked her in surprise.

“That’s half the fun,” she grinned. Then she did a dead-on accurate Cheerleader: “AAAHH! Where’s my ponytail?” I watched in horrified fascination as she then mimed swinging an invisible ponytail in front of said imaginary cheerleader’s face.

I laughed till I cried. Then: “You didn’t really cut anyone’s ponytail off, did you?”

A beat. Then: “No, Mom.”

I exhaled.

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Blue hair. Big deal.


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Anita Renfroe makes every mother feel normal, and for that, I am absurdly grateful. Her Mom Song, featuring lyrics she’s written, set to the William Tell Overture, is racing around the world via the Internet and YouTube now, with over a million viewers and counting.

When my nine-year-old brought a box of blue hair dye to me in Rite-Aid, I took it from her, looked skeptically at the box, and handed it back to her.

“Put this right back where you found it, darling,” I said. Reaching for the box next to it, I explained: “Your hair is much too dark for this to work. You need to bleach your hair out first. Otherwise the blue won’t show.”

I consider myself a – mostly – typical mother. But later, strolling down 82nd St., she attracted attention. One little girl pointed, and stage whispered, “Mama, that girl has blue hair.

I began to wonder. Who pays attention to anything in New York City?

Blue hair. Big deal. My older daughter, at eleven, sports a rather unnatural shade of red. I’ve been letting them create their own personas since they were old enough to want their own looks.

My nine-year-old still can’t quite match her clothes reliably. Any blue in her closet: print, plaid, Pucci – combines with any other. It’s truly dazzling, but delightful.

It works: she’s always had to beat back the admirers. Not one kid in her class razzed her for the blue do, either.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it occurs to me: there’s no autopilot, but like pregnancy, despite attempts at control, this is a natural process, ongoing before we hopped into the generational stream, continuing long after we jump out.

Take pregnancy: you certainly can’t ignore it. Eat right, keep in shape (wait, hang on, that’s kind of funny), lay off alcohol and caffeine, sleep when you can (until the last furlough when sleep is impossible, because of the torpedo trying to fight its way out), and obsess over your stack of gestational books. (“What To Expect When You’re Carting Around 25 Pounds of A Kicking Stranger.”)

Still, pregnancy marches on; nature takes its course. The laissez-faire pregnant people seem to do just as well as the uptight ones do. Honestly, babies are lucky we’re not in charge of the whole complicated mess.

Same with mothering. We’re sort of wired for it. Anita Renfroe is a writer and comedian – certainly not your average mom – and yet her lyrics resonate with every living mother on the planet, typical or not.

My kids’ dad looked at me last night when I said: “I’m a typical mom,” as though I’d said: “I’m an anteater,” with an indulgent look over the top of his eyeglasses.

“Um,” he started, flailing for tact, “ya think? No.”

Having sworn a vow to avoid “Because I say so,” I have gone to near-ridiculous lengths to explain things to my kids, and to allow them freedom of choice whenever possible. Don’t want the cough medicine? Okay, cough all night. Don’t want the Tylenol? Unless your fever’s out of control, okay – suffer.

But when one of them had pneumonia, and needed antibiotics, I accessed the Internet, a medical encyclopedia and a small sketchbook to show her exactly how the lungs, the alveoli and the bronchioles were filling up with fluid and she would drown in her own mucus if she didn’t cave in and swallow the tasty bubble gum liquid.

Still, I say – more frequently than I care to admit, but hey, if Anita Renfroe can do it, then so can I: “Because I said so, that’s why.”

I have also said: “If Alexis/Rachel/Sierra jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?”

Of course, the response was: “Was she bungee-jumping? Then maybe.”

I have said: “Pick up this pigsty.”

“Don’t give me that face.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I said no.”

“Do you know how lucky you are?”

“No one appreciates a darn thing I do around here.”

“Try cleaning toilets, then get back to me about how tough you have it.”

“Of course I’m not your friend. I’m your mother. That’s better.”

“No, you can’t call me Elizabeth.”

I have had that shuddering experience of hearing my own mother’s words come out of my mouth; words I never thought I’d say.

Once, my friend saw me beating potatoes with an electric beater. “No masher?” she said. I showed her my bent masher; she laughed, and exited the kitchen, wine glass in hand.

My mother came into the kitchen next. “Beaters?” she asked, innocently. My entire body stiffened.

“What’s wrong with beaters?” I asked defensively.

Years later, my older daughter, having just learned to scramble eggs, was at the stove.

“You know, you might have better luck with a different spatula,” I suggested.

“What’s wrong with this spatula?” she asked, defensively.

I flashed back to my own mother, and thought of all the words flowing in the generational stream, of the power a mother has over a daughter. Those words we have wired into us, that we pass onto our daughters and sons have enormous power – to hurt, to heal; to encourage or to dismay.

“You know what?” I backpedaled. “Actually, you’re doing great. They smell good – would you mind making some for me?”

She brightened up. “Sure,” she said, with the same excitement you save for a question like, “Want to go to Great Adventure?”

Best breakfast I ever ate. Full of love, life, and the history of a hundred thousand mothers and children.

Thanks, Anita Renfroe, for telling us that story in less than three minutes.

View this delightful video:

The Mom Song.

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Smoke the Guilt Away.


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Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portrait, smoking with I exited the store today, after some retail therapy, new blue jeans in a bag, and to my delight, saw another smoker just outside.

Thus, I expressed said delight, as I am wont to do. “Ah!” said, I with said delight. “Another smoker!”

The woman – one of those terrific women “of a certain age” whom I admire: you know the kind – they keep in shape, get their hair cut cool, still wear lipstick. On their lips. With lip liner, so it doesn’t bleed into all the cracks they’ve earned. Neat-looking lady.

Except for the part where she nearly jumped out of her skin like we all used to do in the girls’ room when Sister Josephine walked into the nicotine haze. I wanted to go: Calm down, ma’am, I’m not wearing a habit, or carrying a ruler.

“Oh my gosh – I thought – oh, how silly, I felt just like I was getting caught smoking.”

“You were,” I said, lighting one up myself. “Only I’m thrilled. Smoke up. The French smoke, they eat more fat than any other country in the world, and they drink wine every day. They’re thin and they live a long, happy life. Vive le France.”

She felt guilty, however. Guilty that she was enjoying a smoke. Guilty that since she’d stopped smoking in the house, she’d gained a few pounds.

“You look great,” I said. She did.

“Oh,” she waved at me. Have I mentioned? Every woman thinks she’s fat? They’re even willing to smoke themselves to death to be thin.

“Well, there’s always portion control,” I suggested.

“I do that,” she nodded enthusiastically.

For those who have not yet caught on to portion control, here’s the deal. What you get when you sit down to Ruby Tuesday’s, TGIFriday’s, Choose-Your-Own-Weekday EatFest is NOT a human-sized portion. One plate that your server hands you is a skosh or two more like the size of what ordinary-sized people feed a family of about four or so.

On massive plates.

And YOU eat it ALL. With appetizers first. Breaded, fried appetizers. Maybe even some bread and butter, and some iceberg-lettuce salad – or even salad bar, which is a hilarious choice, really, considering that most of the buckets are slop-ful of loose mayonnaise with beans floating in it, or cheese.

Then you ease yourself uncomfortably away from the booth, wondering why you seemed to fit better when you got there (did the coats expand, or the bags get more full?) Stomachs straining, wallets far emptier – especially if you indulged in fake micro-brew beers or wine – you head home after another night of consuming enough calories to sustain a small African village for a week.

Which you didn’t know, because it was all on one plate, after all. And after all, Mom always told you to clean your plate, because of the starving African children.

Which you didn’t know – and still don’t – how cleaning your plate could possibly help them out, but became deeply ingrained in your soul, creating a ferocious guilty monster inside you every time you see half-eaten food on your plate.

You know, forevermore, have my permission to leave it there, and not even take it home, even if you have a dog. (He shouldn’t be eating people food anyway – especially stuff that salty.)

But anyway, back to my new friend, who was feeling terribly guilty, and whose name happened to be Bernice.

Poor guilty Bernice was simply unable to enjoy her poor cigarette: she couldn’t even hold it comfortably, unlike myself, who was standing loose-limbed next to her, loving the warm spring air, my bag of $10 Calvin Klein jeans (TJ Maxx really IS a steal), and taking in long, unhealthy, but stress-relieving drags.

I turned again to Bernice, who was fluttering around, trying to figure out where she was going to put the butt. (Me? I field-strip them, pack the butt in the box and throw them away when I find an appropriate spot. When anyone’s looking, that is. I admit, sometimes the world is my ashtray.)

“Bernice, don’t feel guilty. Guilt is a waste.”

“Oh, but I do,” she said.

“Guilt makes people feel badly about themselves. People who feel badly about themselves aren’t motivated to do better in the future.”

“Oh, but I feel very guilty today. I’m here shopping, and my husband is at chemo.”

Uh… she had me there. Good luck with the death treatment, honey. I’m going shoe-shopping. But, still…

“Bernice, you can’t feel guilty. Seriously.”

She stopped dead in her tracks. I could feel it, palpable in the air: the challenge. What could I possible volley back to that one?

“Bernice, you’ve flown on airplanes, right?”
“Dozens of times.”

“What does the flight attendant tell you to do?”

Don’t you just HATE when people make you GUESS? I didn’t leave her hanging very long.

“Put the orange oxygen mask on THE GROWNUP first. THEN put the little mask on the child. Why? Because otherwise you’ll pass out and die, and then where will the child be? Dead, too. You have to take care of yourself, first, or you’ll be no good to anyone else.”

“I TOLD him that this morning. I made him his breakfast. All he had to do was ZAP it, but he wants me to do everything for him!” Bernice said it in the same voice you use when you say: “I know! How COME the Professor never gets it on with Ginger or MaryAnn? He’s single; he’s not gross. What is there, saltpeter on Gilligan’s Island or something?”

“I told him,” Bernice went on, “that I’m training him to be an invalid – that’s what I said, I told him: I’m training you to be an invalid.”

I took a rare break from my usual ha-ha self (yes, I can even make cancer funny) and spoke softly. “Bernice, when I was still living with my parents, my favorite uncle came to live with us. He had terminal colon cancer, so I’m no stranger to living with and caring with cancer patients. Trust me: you need to keep that oxygen mask on yourself – and he needs to take care of himself, too. It’ll keep him strong, and might even help him recover.”

We used to call ourselves The Amateur Nursing Association; people came to our house to die. You were wondering, maybe, where I acquired this black sense of humor of mine?

“Have fun shopping, Bernice. Don’t feel guilty.” I smiled at her.

“I will,” she said, much more enthusiastic and relaxed than she was before.

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I’ll bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?


Add to Technorati FavoritesElizabeth Williams Bushey self-portraitIn the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth – scratch that – in the days before time began, before anything in the universe ever happened, before Star One blinked into existence in the Heavens and the galaxies coalesced into being, before Big Bang, Creation, or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Theory of How Life Began…

That is, before my kids began Life – because, of course, nothing happened before the Movie Of Their Lives, Starring Them, with Us as Extras and Cameo Players began rolling in the Great Projection Room of the Universe – just as schoolteachers live in the classrooms and have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS in 7-11, EVER, and doctors do not have FIRST NAMES so PLEASE stop calling Dr. Lynch “Patty,” MOM.

Back in THOSE days… I once knew a gentleman “of a certain age” who was, shall we say, rather confident in his appearance. So confident in his appearance was he that he made regular trips to the beauty parlor – oops, I mean, salon – more often than I have in my life, probably, and to his credit, he was fairly on target.

He was a looker, particularly for his age. He definitely didn’t look Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portraithis age, that’s for sure, so when his sixtieth – count ’em, sixtieth – high school reunion came around, it was all he could talk about.

All… he… could… talk… about.

“Do you think they’ll think I look all right? I look all right, don’t I? For a guy my age?”

Glassy-eyed, I came to, sipped my house white and nodded as brightly as I could. At last, I could take no more, and finally said quietly: “I bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?”
Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portrait
He looked at me, puzzled for a minute, then gave me the pouty face, but he did have a sense of humor, and gave it a rest.

Happy ending, though: he WAS the coolest, thinnest, hippest guy there – with the thickest natural head of hair. So he earned it. The song really WAS about him.

So I thought of him today, when I had to drive forty highway minutes and accidentally left the makeup mirror down on my sunvisor, and kept catching a view of myself.

Dang, I thought to myself. “Who’s that pretty girl in that mirror there?”

“Who could that attractive girl be?”

Humming the tune from West Side Story, since I didn’t know the words, I broke out when I got to the part: “And I pity… any girl… who isn’t me… today…” ad-libbing: “Because she didn’t get the great results on her split ends with Citri-Shine that I did…”

So today, the song was all about me. Which, of course, no one at all noticed. Which, of course, was fine, because my philosophy is always that the only person who needs to be really pleased with you is YOU.

Taking THAT one step further, I did realize how very ridiculous I was, being so very pleased with myself and all, so I decided I would, for a change, make fun of my OWN vanity on a global Elizabeth Williams Bushey self-portraitscale, since I poke fun of everyone else, and I would take a picture of myself, looking at myself, in the car sunvisor – which turned out to be extraordinarily difficult.

So I came inside and took some more pictures of myself inside, which was even MORE vain of me, so I’m posting them, too, so you can all have a good laugh at me.

Still: you have to admit: it’s a fairly good hair day, despite the frumpy sweater.

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Speaking of naked…


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Very fat woman in undiesSpeaking of naked, aren’t you glad she isn’t?

Actually, aren’t you glad neither of these women are?

I keep explaining to my daughters that extremes – either way – are, well, downright icky.

Who wants to cuddle up to a pile of bones, held together somewhat loosely by thinly-stretched skin? Who wants to kiss an ashen, skeletal face that’s about ten minutes away from cadaverhood?

Not me. Even if I liked the ladies.

On the other hand, the thought of being smothered doesn’t appeal to me greatly, either.
Neither does the thought of finding those panties – or Very thin woman in red dressthat bra – in my laundry, either.

I can, however, imagine repurposing that bra as an awning on an outdoor gazebo in the backyard. Couple of wind chimes – you’re in business.

That, however, triggers a rather nasty image in my fetid imagination of those bulbous girls swinging freely, with their usual support instead shading several square yards of my property.

Think it hurts when they do? Flop around, I mean. Yikes.

Ordinarily, the excruciatingly perfect etiquette my Scarsdale, NY grandmother drilled into my head forbids me from commenting on anyone’s personal appearance, outside of “You look wonderful, darling.” That’s it, by the way. That’s all that’s allowed.

Even should someone show up to your wedding with an overturned flowerpot on their head, peat moss streaming down their face, one bare foot, a potato sack dress and accessorizing the ensemble with a tightly clenched pitchfork, all you are allowed to say – if you’re looking to be strictly polite is: “You look wonderful.”

Of course, one can say vastly more than that with tone of voice, one raised eyebrow, and a very slow inspection from head to toe as one tells the pitchfork bearer how wonderful they look. If you’re my Scarsdale grandmother. That’s the whole trick.

Etiquette, Grandma always reminded me, is to keep YOU from being embarrassed. It can work wonders, she advised, when wielded properly as a weapon.

But, like Ninja warriors, it takes years of training and practice to learn how to humiliate others with grace and aplomb. It helps a lot if you have a natural mean streak, or a talent for quick hurtfulness under pressure.

Take the famous Dorothy Parker, known for many things, but probably best of all for her ability to humiliate on cue. A young starlet tried to embarrass Parker at a Hollywood premiere when they nearly collided at the entrance. “Oh, Miss Parker,” chirped the starlet, heading, as young starlets do, boldly into territory she had no business being, “please do go in – after all, as they say: ‘age before beauty.’”

“Thank you, I will,” said Parker, tossing back over her shoulder, “after all, as they say: ‘pearls before swine.’”

Gotcha. Grandma was a dedicated sensei, but I never quite had the mean streak necessary to pull off snobbery. I ended up WAY too egalitarian, in the end.
Being a starving artist, too, makes it tough. When you’re paying for coffee in rolled-up pennies, insulting people is usually the last thing on your mind.

However, I digress.

The reason I feel at liberty to make any sort of comment on these women’s appearance at all is that they not only deliberately POSED for these pictures, but allowed them to be posted on the Internet, where I found them – to my everlasting shame, I don’t remember where, and so cannot give appropriate credit – and can thus bring them to your attention.

I myself am about a size 4, maybe a 6 on my fat days. I am lucky enough to be a sort of tiny person – annoyingly, so little that complete strangers find it okay to actually lift me in the air, as I may have mentioned earlier.

Still, in my own life, I have struggled with both weight gain – after a bout of postpartum depression with my first daughter, I must have, in my haze, thought that PopTarts were the answer – and also with anorexia. Real, honest-to-goodness, let’s see if we can survive on Altoids and cigarettes anorexia. So I have, in my past, resembled the skeleton in the red dress.

Looking back at a couple of pictures, I see now why so many people that I thought were annoying at the time were actually alarmed when they tried to casually suggest I perhaps indulge in a sandwich or three.

I didn’t used to think there was such a thing as too thin.

We all know there’s such a thing as too fat – and yeah, we’re all pretty mean-spirited about it. It’s the one thing nobody minds being right up-front about, either: if someone’s fat, we’re grossed-out.

Even fat guys don’t want fat girlfriends. (The nerve, really, because who really wants a fat boyfriend, even if he is rich? Okay, well how rich? Nice car rich, nice house rich, or nice portfolio rich?)

But the other day, driving along Main Street (yes, it really was Main Street, if you can believe the perfection of coincidence) I saw this enormously (excuse the pun) happy couple waddling (sorry, HAD to use that verb) along, holding hands. They were both extremely huge, but they were obviously extremely into each other, and I was missing Peter, who won’t be home until June, and I thought to myself: how terribly sweet that these two people found each other – and while many people wouldn’t find them all that attractive, perhaps, they probably see each other as the most beautiful people in the world.

And maybe they’ll have a lifetime of happiness – until their enlarged hearts give out and they drop dead at around forty.

In each other’s big arms.

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