One of the goals of retirement, at least for women, is to maintain a spotless kitchen. Current research has shown that the best way to accomplish this is to avoid cooking whenever possible. Here in South Florida, as I’m sure in other sunny places where Snowbirds perch, we take these findings very seriously. So, instead of making dinner, we make a reservation. I like to think of it as recreational eating.
As well as assuring a grease-free stove, recreational eating serves another purpose. It’s the means by which we socialize after the sun goes down. After a full day on the golf course or around the canasta table, what could be better than sitting down with friends to a meal that you did not prepare?
Now, I don’t mean to complain, but in the past making a reservation was not as simple as it sounds. While it didn’t result in a sink full of dirty dishes, it did require a phone call. While that may not sound like a big deal, there are those of us, and I am chief among them, who hate making phone calls. And yes, in spite of this lack of conformity to a sexual stereotype, I do identify as female.
But hate it or not, for the sake of a sanitary kitchen, that call needed to be placed. To make matters worse, the voice at the other end was frequently that of a snotty, young hostess who would put you on hold for “just a moment” while she searched through her diary to see “if there was anything available.” Just as you’ve had enough of the horrible music and were about to hang up, she’d pop back on the line, and in a tone of voice that sounded like she was about to save your life by donating a kidney, she said yes, she could accommodate you. And you breathe a sigh of relief.
Then along comes Open Table. An answer to a prayer for the phone and hostess averse. Much like the ability to stay in touch with friends via email and texting, Open Table allows you to communicate with the restaurant of your choosing without the use of your voice! And that snotty hostess can keep her kidney!
I love Open Table. It’s so easy. I use it all the time. I “tell” it the date, the time, and the number of people. I can even type in a special request or let the restaurant know if one of my guests is having a birthday. Open Table sends me confirmations and reminders. It allows me to cancel the reservation if that becomes necessary. It definitely rates five stars for convenience and efficiency.
But even with all its wonderful attributes, I believe there is room for improvement. And as a loyal customer, I would like to offer a few suggestions. Open Table would better serve its users if it recognized that those of us that are of a “certain age” may have requirements before committing to the reservation that go beyond the date and the time.
For example, where is the location of my table vis-à-vis the rest room? A closer proximity to the men’s room for someone who likes martinis and also walks more slowly than he used to could definitely avoid a potentially embarrassing situation.
Is it PC to ask to be informed if the wait staff speaks English as a second language? Foreign accents are beautiful except when a waiter from Kazakhstan is reciting the specials to a diner who has forgotten to insert their hearing aids. In this case, simply raising one’s voice is not helpful.
And speaking of sound, is there a way that Open Table could record and report the decibel level in the dining room? Medicare recipients tend to enjoy conversation with their dinner partners in an environment not reminiscent of a subway station complete with disco music. Hey, we still like to dance, but not necessarily while we’re eating.
And would it be too much to ask to let me know if the table I was being offered was under an a/c vent? Because if it is, I would like to come prepared, though I agree that turtleneck sweaters do look a bit out of place.
One last thing, Open Table. Could you comment on the lighting? Will someone who is about to have cataract surgery be able to read the menu? Or will it be necessary to bring illumination? If that’s the case, it would be really helpful to know beforehand, so the entire evening won’t be ruined if a guest has forgotten to charge his iPhone.
So, Open Table, thanks in advance for your consideration of the above recommendations that will make your app even more older-user friendly. And I shall continue to rely on you to help keep my kitchen gleaming!
P.S. Thank you for responding to my last blog by sending me additional “Words You Never Want to Hear Again in 2023.” Included in this list were “No problem,” “Awesome,” At the end of the day,” “We don’t know what we don’t know,” “Have a blessed day,” and “The bottom line is…”.
Hi folks. Happy New Year! This is the last time I shall say “Happy New Year” in 2023. It’s the middle of January. It’s enough already! There should be a National “Say By” date when it is no longer appropriate to utter those three words. Much like a “Use by” or a “Sell by” date on a product. I think I will write to Congress. Perhaps after they’ve finished impeaching everyone and decoding Hunter Biden’s laptop, they will consider addressing the above.
Have I started the New Year on a cranky note? Not really. I thought if I could get some petty annoyances off my chest straight away, I will be able to face the rest of the year with a smile on my face. Maybe.
I don’t know about you, but there are certain expressions one hears on an almost-daily basis that I find particularly irksome. Things people say that robotically pop out of their mouths. As if they really cared! In fact, I just might be at the end of my tether. I mean, I try to be polite but it’s getting more difficult to stop myself from blurting “Don’t tell me what kind of day to have!!!!” So, I might as well begin with the catalyst(s) for that reaction: “Have a great day,” and its derivatives “Have a good day,” and “Have a good evening.”
If a relative stranger tells me to “Have a great day,” how am I supposed to respond to that? Do I simply say “You, too.” But that’s ridiculous. I know perfectly well that the guy who parked my car is not going to have a great day. It’s Florida; he’s sweating. He’s running around in the heat parking and fetching cars for impatient people and cursing under his breath when they give him a stingy tip.
Instructing one to have a “great day” places an onus on the recipient. Now one must ponder about what extraordinary thing to do to make this day grander than the days before when there was no mandate. It’s less of a burden to have a “good day,” I suppose.
Similarly, I’m leaving a restaurant at 10:00 PM and the hostess at the door smiles sweetly and says “Have a good evening.” Do I look twenty years old and about to go dancing? I’ve had my “good evening” in your restaurant and it’s already past my bedtime. Do I bother to tell her it’s no longer evening, and a simple “Good Night” would be more appropriate? I really want to, but behind my smile I am gritting my teeth.
I find restaurants the source of another teeth-gritting experience. I’m sure this has happened to you. (If not, tell me where you dine because I want to go there.) A wait person comes to your table to take your order. You tell her (or him, but it’s mostly a “her”) what you want, and she responds with an enthusiastic “Great!!!” You can almost see the exclamation points coming out of her mouth. Was the menu a quiz and I made the correction selection? Is she complementing me on achieving a good score? And can you tell me why ordering a Caesar Salad and a plate of pasta is a wonderous thing? I find the response of “Great” in this context highly grating.
Then, there’s “Hi, how are you?” frequently uttered when you walk into a shop. Why not cut off the utterance at “Hi.” Do you really care how I am? And do I really care to tell you? “Well, if you must know, my husband and I had a terrible argument last night, and I was so upset I didn’t sleep a wink. Then I spilled tomato juice all over the dog and had to bathe him three times before his coat wasn’t red anymore. Then I slipped on the kitchen floor because it was wet from bathing the dog three time, and later I found out that my best friend has an incurable illness, and….” But the truth is not what’s expected. So, you smile, and lie, and simply say “fine.”
And how do you feel about political cliches? If you’re like me, you tend to ignore them as just a lot of wind. “Watch what they do, not what they say” is the advice I try to follow. However, there is one expression that I simply cannot disregard. Whether a politician is stomping about gun control, abortion, taxes, or impeaching his rival, he (because it’s almost always a “he”) will rationalize his position by emphatically concluding: “because that’s what the American people want!” Hey, how do you know what the American people want? Did you waste my taxpayer dollars on a sweeping survey of every American? Funny, because I don’t remember being asked. Arg!
In closing I’d like to award honorable mention to “Follow your dream,” and its cousin, “Do what you love,” both of which, to my mind, have about as much substance as a fortune cookie.
So, let’s raise a glass to a formula-free 2023. And until we meet again, promise me you’ll at least try to have a great day!
2022. Your time is through!
And like all your predecessors, you’ve had your ups and downs. You didn’t start out with your best foot forward because in February Russia invaded Ukraine. On the upside, we’ve so far managed to avoid a nuclear Armageddon. On the home front, the anticipated red wave in Congress never happened. I’ll let readers decide if that was an up or a down.
Highlights of a year in show biz include Will Smith delivering the slap heard ‘round the world, and Kanye West deciding that his first name was three letters too long. In sports and other pastimes, The New York Yankees once again avoided the World Series, and Wordle took the country by storm. And as we enter 2023, does the fate of Twitter and cryptocurrency hang in the balance?
Thirty-four new drugs were approved by the FDA this year, providing thirty-four opportunities for anointing the medications with unpronounceable names that defy the linguistic rules of practically every language on the face of the earth. Even my spellcheck was baffled! You can imagine how challenging it was for me to select only ten. But here, for your New Year’s Eve pleasure, I present my annual year-end Stupid Drug Names quiz. Take it now, or later, after you’ve had a few!
And honorable mention goes to Rezlidhia, Tzield, Relyvrio, and Quviviq, all of which are causing my spellcheck to have a nervous breakdown.
If you have any interest at all, here are the true purposes of the drugs: Lytgobi: a treatment for a type of carcinoma; Vonjo: treats myelofibrosis; Vabysmo: macular degeneration; Opdualag: treats melanoma; Cibingo: for atopic dermatitis; Krazati: lung cancer; Mounjaro: control blood sugar in diabetes; Pyrukynd: anemia; Xenpozyme: acid sphingomyelinase deficiency; Sotyktu: plaque psoriasis.
From my family to yours, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Once again, I thank you for your continued indulgence. I couldn’t possibly be having this much fun without you.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, will arrive at sundown this Sunday, December 18th. No complaints this year about the holiday arriving too early or late. In my humble opinion, it’s arriving at the best possible moment. The eight nights of candle-lighting include illuminating the Winter Solstice on December 21, the longest night of the year, and ends precisely on December 25th, giving way to the lights of Christmas. Personally, I love acknowledging the Winter Solstice. Although unnoticeable at first, it quickens my step just to know that after this date, the days are gradually getting longer.
So, while it’s all about the light, let’s not forget the oil, and my favorite symbol of Hanukkah, the latke! Once again I unapologetically offer my annual tribute to this humble delicacy.
Fried White Potatoes
As much as I gripe about the tedium of the holiday season, I must confess that there is one time-honored December tradition to which I happily succumb. As soon as the calendar informs me that we are about to embark on the eight days of Hanukkah, I am overtaken by a compulsive urge to make latkes. Completely forgetting the horror of clean-up, I am motivated by visions of the succulent food with the delicious, crispy brown edges.
As an aside, one must always consult the calendar to verify the arrival of this holiday, because, unlike Christmas, it has no specific designated date. Rather, from year to year, it tends to hover over the month, and its descent is always a surprise. Not being a student of the Hebrew calendar, its landing always appeared to me as being completely arbitrary, although I’m sure that’s not the case. But, like all Jewish holidays, it’s never on time. It’s either early or late. In fact, I can recall one year, in the not-so-distant past, when Hanukkah was so eager to arrive, it actually collided with Thanksgiving.
But back to latkes. For the uninitiated, a latke (pronounced lat kuh, with emphasis on the lat) may appear to be nothing more than a fried potato pancake. But in truth, the little latke is so much more. It’s a fried potato pancake with a soul. The making and the eating is a treat for all the senses. Therefore, once a year, I say throw food caution to the wind, swallow an extra statin, and prepare to enjoy starch cooked in oil.
Actually, as a holiday tradition, it’s all about the oil. Cooking with oil is a commemoration of the ravaged temple and the miracle of the small amount of olive oil that kept the eternal light burning for eight days, instead of just one. But it is not my intention here to retell the Hanukkah story. If one is interested, one can always consult Rabbi Google. Rather, it is to praise the latke.
Latke. I even love the sound of the word, which I find somewhat sensual. Uttered slowly and softly, letting the tip of the tongue rise to plant a gentle caress just behind the teeth, could there be a more loving term of endearment? Come to me, my little latke.
But like all things Jewish, the proper preparation of latkes is not without differences of opinion. Traditionalists claim that the only authentic way to make them is to grate the potatoes by hand. Since I don’t believe that a preferred methodology is discussed in any biblical text, I stand with those who shred by food processor. The outcome is just as good, and one’s knuckles remain intact. (Contrary to popular belief, knuckle blood is really not the secret ingredient in a good latke.)
I prefer to get my tactile fix from squeezing the liquid from the shredded potatoes, then combining the other ingredients with my 10 digits. Want to release your inner child and relive the early developmental gratification of playing with your food? There’s nothing like being up to your elbows in potatoes, onions, eggs, and flour (or matzoh meal if you prefer).
And what can compare with the aroma of frying the latke? Nothing, except for eating the latke. Garnish as you like – apple sauce, sour cream, even caviar. And voila! The dull potato has been elevated into a luxurious treat.
And I say fie on the spoilers who attempt to ruin the entire experience by suggesting healthy alternatives. Like baking, instead of frying. Or substituting other vegetables for the potato. A kale and cauliflower latke? Really?
And don’t even think about using a prepared mix!
I confess there is a downside to this otherwise joyous experience. I must now begin to repair the damage that used to be my kitchen. But not even the splotches of potato starch that have landed on my floor and counters, and the splattered oil on my stove, can detract from my satisfaction.
And the secondary benefit? The memory of the experience that comes from the lingering odor of potatoes
cooked in oil which will permeate the house long after the eight days have run their course.
And once everything is nice and tidy, I know I will forget the mess and do it all over again next year. Whenever Hanukkah decides to arrive.
I’m wordless! Which is a sorry state for a writer. Nevertheless, I’m not sure I have the proper vocabulary to convey my gratitude.
My new book, Laughing My Way Through the Third Stage, now in its fifth week since its release in early October, has been selling like the idiomatic hot cakes.
(Personally, I’m not that crazy about hot cakes, or pancakes, or flap jacks, or whatever you want to call them. Unless you drown them in butter and syrup, I find them rather tasteless. But fortunately for IHOP and church socials, and in this instance, books, I seem to be in the minority.)
I’m proud and humbled to report that Laughing My Way….. made its way to the top spots for new releases in several Amazon categories: Humor Encyclopedias, Comedy, Parodies, Aging Parents, and Exercise and Fitness for Aging. I don’t quite get the last one, but if I’d known that reading burns calories I would have made the book longer!
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have garnered some media attention as well, both in print, and on a You Tube TV segment.
So, a heart-felt thank you to everyone who has added my latest effort to your bookshelf or your Kindle and allowed me to achieve this level of early success.
Before I sign off, do I have to remind you that the holidays are approaching? My book makes a perfect gift for the woman slaving away to prepare the Thanksgiving feast. And if the conversation around the table gets a bit too hot, what better way to lower the temperature than by reading aloud from one of my essays?
And did I tell you that my book was specifically designed to fit comfortably into one of those stockings you hang wherever? And for Hanukkah, you might want to consider the Kindle as you light the candle. (Even the term “Kindle” hints at a bit of Yiddish, don’t you think?)
But with or without my book at the table, I wish you all a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving!
Book clubs are all the rage. They’re everywhere. Oprah has one. Civic groups and country clubs have them. Chances are your church or synagogue has one. (Come to think of it, they’ve been reading the same book for years). Whether they’re formal and structured, or a free-for-all in someone’s home, book clubs just might be the new social order.
I belong to a book club. Unlike the majority of book clubs, which are populated by bibliophilic women, ours is a couples book club. And as congenial as it is, its very uniqueness creates a set of rather unique challenges.
We’ve been meeting since 2008, which, in itself, is quite remarkable. But first, let me tell you how it all began. Blame it on geography. While there have been changes over the years, we started as seven couples, all friends, who happened to live in the same northeastern town. All of us like to read. Well, almost all of us. We did have a member who was a devout non-reader who was married to a dedicated reader. We allowed him to join us because of his witty comments having nothing to do with the story at hand, and his uncanny ability to entertain us with bird calls.
Over the years, due to age, retirement, a decrease in tolerance for cold weather, and an increase in tolerance for canasta, each dyad eventually set forth along the east coast, and landed, for better or worse, in the sunny state of Florida.
So, like the aforementioned birds, we migrate, twice a year, to where it’s warm, but not too hot. This movement pattern has dictated the frequency of our meetings, which are once a month for ten months of the year. The other two months, one on either side of summer, are spent preparing for the transition and recovering from the trauma of confronting all the “stuff” that travels with us.
But back to the challenges. I am uniquely qualified to discuss these, because I am the book club leader-for-life. Which places me in the same category as the President of Sudan, the Ruler of Turkmenistan, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. I did not ask for this dubious honor. I merely volunteered to lead our very first meeting. Which has taught me a valuable lesson. Keep your mouth shut, and your hands tucked safely beneath your butt.
At each meeting, my first duty as Supreme Leader is settling down 13 enthusiastic people who may not have seen each other between meetings. What a lively bunch! Chatter and cross-conversation are the order of the day, as well as some very dedicated snacking. So one has a choice. Either develop vocal strain or hand out Ritalin. Fortunately, I’m very good at shouting.
Have you ever tried to choose a meeting date that would accommodate 14 people? I don’t recommend it. But somehow we manage each time to find a date where no one has a doctor’s appointment, grandchildren visiting, tickets to a one-night only performance, or a Cousins Club meeting.
Because we are a club of mixed gender, selection of the book-of-the-month also requires special consideration. This tends to rule out chick lit as well as more masculine topics such as an intricate description of the top ten military strategies employed during World War II. All of which are outdated by now anyway. But somehow, each time, we do manage a selection, mixing it up between fiction and non, with a page count that will not require speed-reading before the next gathering.
As the Reluctant Leader, I do try to come prepared to lead at least a semi-intelligent discussion. This works pretty well, unless the snacks are exceptional, in which case passing the salami rolls can seriously interfere with an interpretation of the author’s true meaning. And I’m thinking another Ritalin pill may soon be in order.
And so it goes until we conclude with the highlight of the evening – dinner!
Despite the trials and tribulations described above, I’m truly blessed to be a part of the clan. Our gang has been together in this endeavor for a remarkable fourteen years. Clearly we are all very committed and have made this experience a priority in our lives. We are bound together by books, booze, snacks, and a meal. But best of all, intimacy and love. Long may we read!
Do you ever think about your old flames? I mean, really old. Like the crushes you had in elementary school or junior high? Well, I don’t. At least I didn’t until the other day.
I’m not quite sure what got the little engine in my brain on that track. Maybe it was the bagel I was picking at during breakfast. It was a rather doughy, disappointing version of a sesame bagel, not at all like the crisp tasty bagels of my youth. And remembering the bagels of my youth led me to thoughts of Marvin. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
Assuming you occasionally think about your earliest romances, do you ever contemplate what life might have been like if you had married the dreamboat you met in the sixth grade? Well, I never did. Not until I started thinking about Marvin. But Marvin was not the first. So let me start at the beginning. And in the beginning, there was Robert.
Robert Sunshine and I officially met in the fifth grade. It turned out that we lived on the same street in Brooklyn. It was a street that ran from one avenue to the next, and to my ten-year-old self seemed very long and daunting. After school I longed to see Robert, the best-looking boy at P.S. 48, but was too afraid to walk all the way down that scary street. So, instead, I would spend time in front of my house, hoping his mother would send him to my corner for a quart of milk. They apparently didn’t drink too much milk in their family, because I wasted a lot of time waiting for Robert.
Our relationship was sealed in the sixth grade, when we were both cast in the leads for the school play. I was the princess, and he was my prince. Thus, my fantasy was realized with the unwitting help of Mrs. McQuillan, our teacher, who was directing the production. Until Robert screwed up and was discharged from his princely role for bad behavior. I was devastated, but the show must go on. Randy took his place, but I never fell in love with Randy, although in retrospect, he was actually much cuter than Robert. But you couldn’t have convinced me at that time.
I lost touch with Robert after sixth grade. The street that separated us remained too long to travel, and we no longer went to the same school. I discovered much later in life that he was very successful. So, my future might have been bright had we stayed together. In retrospect, I think it’s best that we parted when we did. His dismissal as my prince no doubt saved me from a lifetime of being referred to as Mrs. Susie Sunshine.
And then there was Marvin. I met Marvin during my middle school years. Marvin’s family owned a bagel bakery in our neighborhood. It was a time when bagel bakeries made only bagels. Really good bagels that were a reasonable size, crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside. I have to say that a good old-fashioned Brooklyn bagel of my youth has spoiled me for all others.
But let’s get back to Marvin. Marvin had a crush on me. I was flattered and pretended to like him in return. But secretly, I had a crush on Marvin’s younger brother, Michael. Michael was friendly but didn’t seem particularly interested in pairing off in our little group of pre-teens. Nevertheless, I hung around Marvin to be near Michael. Not very honest of me, I will admit.
I don’t quite remember how it all ended. I just know that it did, and we all moved on. It’s just as well that I didn’t marry Marvin. I might have continued my infatuation with his brother, been unfaithful, and caused a love triangle with a disastrous conclusion. On the other hand, I might have been queen of a bagel dynasty. And perhaps never again have to put up with a fat, doughy facsimile of my favorite nosh!
I think every woman has had a “bad boy” in her life, and mine had the unlikely biblical name of Avram, or Av, as we called him back in the day. We met while I was in high school. He was a few years older than I and had quit school to join the army. We were introduced while he was on leave. I was seriously smitten. No one I knew had done that. He seemed so worldly and incredibly sexy. My parents were appalled by him, which made him even more desirable. He was stationed somewhere in Louisiana, and I would see him when he was on leave. So why didn’t I stay with Av? Well, he dumped me. Via a “Dear Jane” letter. He met someone in Baton Rouge, or wherever he was serving, and he was going to marry her. Marry her! And here I was, back in Brooklyn, sacrificing my senior prom because he wasn’t here to accompany me!
I have no idea what happened to Avram. Maybe he wound up as an accountant. Or perhaps a card-carrying member of The Hell’s Angels. In any event, I believe he did me a big favor. I might have run off with him if he had asked. And my path in life might not have led to where and with whom I am today. Which is exactly where I want to be!
I’m pleased and excited to announce the release on Tuesday, October 4th, of my third book of essays: Laughing My Way Through the Third Stage: Selected Essays that Skewer the Golden Years. Unlike my first two books, whose essays addressed the random irritants of everyday life, I have devoted this volume to all of you who are sharing my journey through the decades. In other words, those of you old enough to still be using AOL as your email address and stubbornly refusing to give it up! And even if you’re not, I’m sure you know someone who is who could use a good laugh.
The book will be immediately available at Amazon, and other on-line booksellers, in both soft-cover and Kindle editions. And with a little luck, you will also be able to find it on the shelf of your local bookstore. I’ll keep you posted about that.
Borrowing from Amazon, who allows you to “Look Inside” before purchase, I’m offering a sneak peek between the covers. Below is the Introduction and the reason why I chose to write this book. And if enough of you decide to buy it, I’ll consider investing in a new sweater!
“The older you get, I have to say, the funnier you find life. That’s the only way to go. If you get serious about yourself as you get old, you are pathetic.”
The quote above is from Diana Rigg, the actress, born 1938, died 2020. I found it in The New York Times on Monday, December 28, 2020, on a page that was a tribute to culture notables who died that year. Diana, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I, like many other vintage Americans, was introduced to Diana Rigg when she played Mrs. Emma Peele in the 1960s TV spy import from Britain, The Avengers. She was twenty-seven at the time. Younger fans remember her as the sharp-tongued Olenna from Game of Thrones. She was then seventy-five. In between is a long list of her other roles, from Shakespeare to James Bond.
If I’m correctly interpreting the intent of Dame Diana’s statement, I believe she’s saying that if one laments all the indignities of aging, there is a risk of seeing oneself as a sad and pitiable creature. In other words, pathetic!
When I started my blog over ten years ago (that I have borrowed from for some of the essays in this book), the goal was to exercise my third stage privilege of commenting on life with a bit of cynicism and satire. So, it was inevitable that as I moved further along the aging spectrum, I would turn that irony upon myself. After reading the words of Diana Rigg, I took stock of the occasions when I had actually made fodder out of my own condition.
I have questioned the wisdom of, at a certain age, paying a higher price for a product because it comes with a life-time warranty. I applied the same logic before I chose to undergo some very expensive dental work. Did it come with a guarantee that I would outlive my teeth?
Skewering fashion and our changing body image is something that has brought me joy. The foolishness of trying to navigate a journey of a quarter mile wearing four-inch heels. The trauma of needing a new bathing suit. The question of whether going sleeveless was permissible after a certain age. Or creating a new publication, The AARP Fall Fashion Preview, after recognizing that, as an “older” woman, the glossy fashion magazines had nothing in them for me.
And talk about losses! And who, at this age, doesn’t talk about losses? And losses come in many shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, there is the loss of friends, which is never funny. But what about the informal agenda of my husband’s annual high school reunions? First, there is the rundown of the condition of one’s body parts, then, who knows the best doctors, and finally, a drug update. All of which leads to the inevitable “alive or dead” game as they try to figure out if so-and-so, whom no one has heard from in quite a while, is simply ignoring the group or something worse.
I’ve written about losing my fingerprints, my left shoulder, the ability to sleep through the night, and losing almost two inches of height. Losing my cataracts was a welcome loss, but not without its downside. Seeing my face after the gauzy fil was removed from my eyes made me want to consider cosmetic surgery as part of my aftercare.
And, f course, who could resist taking stabs at a society that tends to devalue us as we age. I say rail at those who judge us as dinosaurs because we still use AOL. And fie on the media who insists on describing anyone over sixty as elderly.” Or those who say “she used to be very pretty” about a woman of a certain age because she doesn’t look like she did when she was sixteen.
There are more essays I could mention, but I think I’ve made my point about a shared philosophy. And so, dear Diana, it’s too bad you never got to read my blog posts. You would have been very proud of me!
And let me end this with some wisdom from another celebrity icon, Betty White, who loved to nearly 100. In an interview on Entertainment Tonight, she said that she planned to spend her 100th birthday in quarantine due to Covid. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite make it. And what did she say was the secret to a long life? Why, a sense of humor, of course.
Forgive me if I indulge in a bit of nostalgia, but for this essay it seems appropriate. I’m referring to an old radio program called “Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.” If you admit your age is hovering somewhere near four score, perhaps you can remember listening to the broadcast with your parents as you gathered around the radio in your cozy living room. (Picture a Norman Rockwell painting.)
Typically, the program would begin with a rap on the door of the office of Mr. Keen, private detective. Responding to a gruff “Come in,” the distraught person would enter and tell Mr. Keen about so-and-so who had failed to show up for an important appointment day before yesterday, and hadn’t been seen or heard from since. Mr. Keen, who never did reveal his first name, would respond with the usual probing questions and of course, agree to take the case.
The show, which first aired in 1937, ran until 1955, and was one of radio’s longest running broadcasts, spanning 18 year.
Well, Mr. Keen, while I applaud your success, you ain’t got nothin’ on me! My run as tracer of the missing has lasted 42 years thus far, and I fear I am in it for life!
Why, on a bright September day, did I suddenly remember Mr. Keen? Because yesterday found me on my hands and knees, brandishing not a Glock 44, but a flashlight, and running my fingers under the dark and dusty space beneath our convertible sofa.
Why had I put myself in this dangerous situation where getting up off the floor could be hazardous to my health? Because my steady client, otherwise known as my husband, had presented me with my latest case. He had misplaced his keys somewhere within the confines of our home, and although he looked for them they were nowhere to be found.
After a thorough interview of his whereabouts since he let himself into the house – with said keys – it was obvious to me that the focus of the investigation had to be the couch. Removing the cushions revealed only crumbs from the sandwich he had eaten for lunch. So it was imperative that I take the next step. And, voila! I emerged with the keys. All that remained was that I successfully lift myself to a standing position!
Unlike Mr. Keen, my engagements do not begin with a rap on the door, but rather with a plaintiff cry: “Honey, can you help me find my………,” or, “Susan, have you seen my……..,” or, a more desperate “My credit card is missing!”
I cannot attribute this to dotage. It’s been going on forever. Besides keys, I’ve repeatedly been called upon to locate cell phones, eye glasses, wallets, umbrellas, as well as a shirt or a pair of shoes that he swears someone took from his closet. Although the reason why a burglar would nab a pair of old Skechers eludes me.
Over time, my role as “finder” has gradually been taken for granted. If I cannot find something, then it is truly lost. I’m reminded of the old “Domestic Goddess” comedy routine from Roseanne Barr when she was doing stand-up. “Husbands assume that wives know where everything is. They think the uterus is a tracking device!”
Perhaps Roseanne hit on something and there really are gender related differences when it comes to searching. Not wanting to extrapolate too much from such a small study, but I am definitely more thorough than my husband when it comes to locating lost objects. He might lift a cushion and give up, while I’m the one with the miner’s cap shining light on dark places.
In the spirit of “mansplaining,” perhaps we need a new verb to describe the male approach to finding things. For lack of something more creative at this time, I’m going to suggest “mearching” (man searching), and hope it captures the nature of man’s quest for the missing! If you come up with something better, Mrs. Keen would be happy to hear from you.
On a completely different note, I’m thrilled to report that my latest book of essays is scheduled for release on October 2. Entitled Laughing My Way Through the Third Stage, the Kindle version is now available for pre-order on Amazon . Please check it out! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BFBW89Y5 The soft-cover version will be available at the beginning of October.
Labor Day weekend is upon us, and despite the fact that we were just experiencing a heat wave, come Monday, summer is unofficially at an end.
In truth, summer is not really over until the calendar says it is, on or about September 21. But then, the calendar completely ignores the real indications of the season’s conclusion, like shorter days, covers placed back atop swimming pools, and traffic at a standstill while the school buses unload their charges.
And didn’t I just see Halloween candy being stacked on display at my local food store?
(Why do retailers insist on compressing my life? At this age, I can’t afford to be rushed. But I digress.)
But perhaps the strongest indicator that vacation time has come and gone is the long-lived fashion commandment that, as of tomorrow, all white attire and accessories are subject to banishment!
So, Tuesday might also be considered a holiday, (White-Out Day?) celebrated by collecting all of the white items in your closet and exiling them to storage for the next two seasons. (Unless you spend the winter in Florida, in which case you’re allowed to ship them south.)
Being a woman of a certain age, I cannot remember a time when my seasonal wardrobe was not governed by the Memorial Day\Labor Day rule — that all things white emerged from hiding during the Memorial Day weekend and went back into hiding immediately after Labor Day. To do otherwise was to put yourself at the mercy of the fashion police.
Curious about its origins, I did a little checking into the mandate that for so long controlled the colors in my closet. I discovered that, in fact, its onset was born out of wealth and class, as well as a certain practicality.
Labor Day became an official holiday in 1894. For the wealthy classes in large cities, particularly in the northeast, the summer season was bracketed by Memorial Day on one end, and Labor Day at the other. Those with money would leave the cities for the cooler shore, or cottages in the country. White clothing was worn because it was cool and came to signify leisure and vacation.
Returning to the cities after Labor Day meant the end of vacation and back to work. In the cities, white clothing was no longer practical. Hence, light clothing was stored away, and darker colors emerged for city life.
Apparently, this notion was reinforced during the 50’s by women’s magazines, which encouraged an ongoing fashion identity with the wealthy. I no doubt glanced through some of these issues while accompanying my mother to her weekly beauty parlor appointments.
But here we are in 2022 and the right-to-wear-white-on-Tuesday question is still under discussion. Just ask Google.
I did that, and the consensus, based on the endless number of vapid fashion blogs available on the internet, suggest that women, and their summer whites, have, in fact, been untethered. We have been granted permission to do as we wish. (Although why we needed permission in the first place is definitely a matter for another discussion.)
So, ladies, and men, make your own choices. If you care to wear your crisp white linens at Thanksgiving, feel free. Just be careful and don’t mistake your pant leg for the dinner napkin.
As for me, come next Tuesday, I shall probably stare at my own closet, and try to be mindful that, although I was a product of the 50s, I am now a thoroughly modern woman. While I no longer look over my shoulder for Serial Mom (see note below if you don’t remember Serial Mom) old habits do die hard.
But whatever I decide to do clothing-wise, I shall draw comfort from the following. There is no rule about drinking white after Labor Day, is there?
Serial Mom, a satire, is a John Waters film released in 1994. Kathleen Turner played a “sweet” suburban mom who killed people for committing social faux pas, like wearing white after Labor Day.
Originally published August 31, 2018.
About the Author
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page HERE.