It’s the Bed, Stupid

There are few things more annoying than suffering from perma-insomnia when the person who shares your bed can fall asleep a mere nanosecond after pillow contact.  I’m not pointing the finger (Keith), I’m not accusing anyone (Keith), I’m not naming names (Keith). I’m just sayin’ …

I don’t remember a stretch of time when it was easy for me to fall asleep.  Jan will happily tell you what a “poor” sleeper I was as a baby.  I couldn’t sleep when I was a Brownie.  I couldn’t sleep when I had mono. I couldn’t sleep under the influence of Ambien or Xanax.  The one disease I don’t worry about? African Sleeping Sickness.

What’s that? The tsetse fly, you say? Oh. I actually have worried about that. Sorry.

Every now and then, I’ll go through a rare and brief “sleep easy” week or two, but sooner or later, the insomnia returns with a vengeance. I’ve always just blamed it on the unfortunate combination of anxiety, sensory overload, genetics, and a touch of fatal familial insomnia.  But lately, another, more sinister possibility has occurred to me.

What if it is not anxiety, sensory overload, genetics or FFI at all but rather …wait for it … the very piece of furniture meant to provide hours of quality respite and restorative slumber ? What if it’s really … [insert menacing thunder and organ music] THE BED ITSELF?

When I met Keith, he had just bought a Tempur-Pedic.  Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about beds or mattresses, so I’m about as qualified to assess them as Peter Griffin is to judge fine wines.  In my entire life, I have personally selected my own just once – right before I moved to New York, at a big A&S sale in Paramus. And at the time, the options were much simpler: hard, medium or soft. There were  no –pedics and no –foams. If it was a fancy Nancy bed you desired, you ordered the Craftmatic by toll-free phone call after seeing its commercial on TV in the wee hours of the night. So in 2008, what I did know was that I liked my beds not too soft and not too hard; that the Heavenly Westin bed was indeed heavenly; that a freakish number of mattress brand names started with the letter “S”;  and that the Tempur-Pedic was the alleged be-all/end-all of sleep-related wares. It changed people’s lives. It brought the gift of good rest.

Except to me. I got a rock.  

It's not you, it's me. Or maybe it's you.

I just didn’t get it. The Tempur-Pedic felt really firm and really high and refused to mold to my body. But since I’ve been a “poor sleeper” all my life, it never really occurred to me that the bed had anything to do with my inability to slumber. And pretty soon, I stopped thinking about it. I had too many other things to obsess over. 

But for the past few months, my insomnia has been worse than usual.  You could argue that this has to do with general malaise and getting married and stress at work and fear of the future.  But I’ve become hyper-aware of the bed as I lie awake. And let me tell you: that freakin’ bed isn’t blameless in this scenario.

But what’s the answer? Keith thinks the Tempur-Pedic is the greatest invention since the Barca Lounger.  He spent a lot of money on it, not that long ago. It’s not the kind of thing you just replace every few months. Plus, he’s so flexible about home furnishings; I could never ask him to sacrifice the one thing in the apartment he really does care about.  And really, who knows what, if any, difference the mattress is making?

I’m at a loss. It’s unlikely that I’ll “accidentally” misplace a queen mattress.  It’s also not the kind of thing I can really I throw out “by mistake.”  (Not that I ever did such things of course…) So I started researching stop-gap measures.  There’s the classic egg crate, of course, as well as something called a “convoluted” mattress pad (available on; a “baffle box;”  a Cuddleewe; and a “SuperSnooze,” among others. For some reason, the names of these products make me chuckle heartily but just don’t scream out “EIGHT UNINTERRUPTED HOURS OF BLISSFUL Z’s.”

So I ask you, loyal and random readers, what in THE hell am I supposed to do?

It’s the Bed, Stupid

Just Say No

As you probably know from previous posts, I love and respect all god’s chocolate. I do not discriminate based on color (milk v. dark), nationality (Swiss v. American), name (Russell Stover v. Godiva) or point of origin (CVS/Walgreen’s v. Vosges/Maison du Chocolat).

But there is one place I draw the line: at the spice rack. I think I understand “Lost” better than I understand the concept of pairing chocolate with “seasonings” like chili pepper, saffron, cardamom, and rosemary.  There’s chocolate, and then there’s crap you buy at open-air bazaars on the streets of Morocco. And ya don’t mix ‘em. This is a policy to which I should have stuck earlier this week.

My coworker (let’s call him “Kyle”) came up to my desk and began unwrapping a very thin chocolate bar covered in delicate foil. He broke off three squares and handed them to me, which would have been a lovely gesture were it not for one teensy detail:  this was no ordinary chocolate. This was marmite chocolate. I’d seen “Kyle” post about a gift of marmite chocolate on Facebook, but I’d assumed he was kidding.  He wasn’t.

Now, marmite is something that I had previously never tried but somehow just knew was vile. Perhaps it was the word’s resemblance to both “varmint” (and subsequently “vomit”) as well as “termite.” Perhaps I’d been turned against it by Cousin Vegemite, made famous in New Jersey by Men at Work and “The Land Down Under.”   But I’d once been foie gras-averse too. Maybe marmite was worth trying?

Don't be fooled by its innocent exterior

I took the tiniest possible bite of the first square. What followed reminded me of Willy Wonka’s meal replacement gum – the one responsible for Violet Beauregarde’s demise-by-three-course meal.  Course One of this freakish chocolate was a strong, bitter taste reminiscent of espresso. That quickly morphed into a yeasty, raw bread dough sensation. Finally, I felt like I was eating a piece of very dark chocolate at the same time as a tablespoon of onion powder and a clove of minced garlic. And long after I’d swallowed, I continued to feel that way. I assure you: it is not a good feeling.

The marmite chocolate packaging told us we would find a “hint of marmite indulgence” inside. I am lead to believe that the manufacturer and I have different definitions of “indulgence.”

I think the British chef quoted in this article from the Daily Mail sums it up best when he describes the taste: “…deeply nauseating.”

Just Say No

A 2010 Word Collage

It  is customary on this day to look forward, and to do a lot of resolving.  I, however, am going rogue. I’ve decided, on this New Year’s Day, to look backwards at 2010. As such, I’ve created a “word collage,” a personal tag cloud of the things that I did, ate, wore, loved, thought about, wrote about, cried about, worried about, obsessed over, and/or was generally touched by.  

Keith ♦ Kings Carriage House ♦ bad hair cut ♦ irritable bowel ♦ earthquake ♦ Bernie ♦ Naomi ♦ blog ♦ Sandra Bullock ♦ SNL ♦ The Blind Side Hunters ♦ Nicole ♦ Buddakan ♦ Austin ♦ icy Dallas ♦ Charlie Wilson ♦ L! H! L! ♦ Limelight ♦ Midnight in Moscow ♦ strata ♦ jeggings ♦ Thirteen Plus 1 ♦ half pipe ♦ Vancouver ♦ Artisinal ♦ Philly ♦ Facebook ♦ page A3 ♦ March 27 ♦ Picholine ♦ West Elm ♦ iPad ♦ The Good Wife ♦ Splendid ♦ Featured Movie app ♦ press release ♦ Icy Hot ♦ Modern Family ♦ HTML ♦ undereye circles ♦ Trader Joe’s ♦ Meet the Press ♦ Reid ♦ rhinovirus ♦ Singapore ♦ Stella ♦ Doris ♦ Norman ♦ Google ♦ Vienna ♦ F21 ♦ New Jersey ♦ Sugar Sweet Sunshine ♦ Piggy ♦ the POP ♦ volcano ♦ Iron Man II ♦ Chase ♦  Jan ♦ keyword ♦ Viand ♦ Twilight ♦ Betty White ♦ peanut butter ♦ World Cup ♦ Vampire Weekend ♦ Muse ♦ Cee-Lo ♦ Pinkleberry ♦ Dennis Hopper ♦ Rue McClanahan ♦ Juliet ♦ Fightin’ Blue Hens ♦ T-Bags ♦ oil ♦ Denver ♦ Tibetan singing bowl ♦ urban swim club ♦ Parker ♦ 1 train ♦ census ♦ Jane ♦ Long Beach ♦ Zappos ♦ pool party ♦ Long Branch ♦ Snooki ♦ Aroma Cafe ♦ Allyson & Eric ♦ Feena ♦ keratin ♦ Italian festival ♦ Kardashian ♦ Spike Mike ♦ Matt Bernson ♦ Gilt Groupe ♦ The Town ♦ Snoopy  ♦ You Don’t Know Jacques ♦ Outsourced ♦ Cereal ♦ SEO ♦ Houlihan skinny cargo ♦ Dave & Rob ♦ black & tan ♦ littles ♦ Kiki ♦ Palmie ♦ Karen ♦ bubble umbrella ♦ Penelope ♦ The Kids are Alright ♦ Raviolistein ♦ Lillet ♦ Ella ♦ Ma’am ♦ California ♦ Ollie ♦ Mad Men ♦ Dr. Faye ♦ 1965 ♦ eve of destruction ♦ miners ♦ AL special ♦ Eataly ♦ Universal Life ♦ Jon Hamm ♦ BBIM ♦ wedding ♦ mossad ♦ Light My Sapphire ♦ Claire ♦ Son Cubano ♦ tiara ♦ gym ♦ HeLa  cells ♦ Brooks Bros. ♦ Offsides ♦ insomnia ♦ angular chelitis ♦ Diet Pepsi ♦ Conan ♦ Obama ♦ Cuomo ♦ Shy Ronnie ♦ Frye ♦ Liam ♦ cupcake bar ♦ Lucky’s ♦ Kate & William ♦ 1990 ♦  ingrown eyelash ♦ dandruff ♦ St. Thomas ♦ Mystique  ♦ coconut rum ♦ liquid sunshine ♦ Hullo, diner? ♦ Criminal Minds ♦ family ♦ SILs  ♦ Issa ♦ JL ♦ Kings of Leon ♦ Rotting nails ♦ December 2 ♦ pigs in blankets ♦ December 4 ♦ Style ♦ melasma ♦ Axis ♦ Scalpacin ♦ Cookie Monster ♦ Chrismukkah bush ♦ Crate & Barrel ♦ oy to the world ♦ Dyker Heights ♦ tablet ♦ cross-body bag ♦ Mark Zuckerberg ♦ blizzard ♦ trademark ♦ snow saucer ♦ unknown ♦ Let It Be ♦ 2011  

A 2010 Word Collage

Dream Wedding

This is NOT my sister's peeper, but you get the idea.

It was bound to happen sooner or later – and I’m actually shocked it took this long. But last night – with less than two months to go – I finally had my first wedding anxiety dream.

As my loyal readers know, anxiety dreams in general are no stranger to my sleep life. They strike at least once a week in one of two genres: Bathroom or School. For details, please see Dream On (March 2010).  Last night’s dream better not have been the pilot episode of a third genre, as it was the kind that cast its “scurry” (translation: scary) aura in such a way that I could feel the creepiness lurking in the air all day. 

The wedding was scheduled to start in half an hour. We had missed the photo shoot but would still have to pay for it, I still didn’t have any make-up on, and my hair was flat on one side and in frizzed out Jewfro mode on the other. The make-up person was, however, hard at work painting the face of my sister, the maid of honor. And the palette she was using featured lime green eye shadow, with frosty bubble gum pink lipstick.  Jan told me  not to complain and to leave my sister alone.

 Frick on a drag queen’ed stick.

Desperate to get things back on schedule, Dream Me tried to call the event manager, but she was nowhere to be found. The resort’s main number took me in circles and/or disconnected me, and her cell phone went straight to voicemail.

Dream Me left a message along these lines, in a super-nice voice: “Hi, I am SO sorry to bother you … hope all is well. Just trying to get in touch because we’re getting married in half an hour …”

Restlessly, I walked around a bit more in my (wrinkled and stained) white sundress. There were 100 uninvited guests (we’re expecting about 20) perusing an array of hors d’oeuvres that did NOT include pigs ‘n’ blankets (the worst part of the dream).  No one we had actually invited was there, but the guests included people Jan hates; people I used to work with eight jobs ago in 1996; a distant friend wearing a fedora and giant aviator sunglasses with an oversized blazer; and a morph of Don Draper and a frat boy from college named Ira.  

I had forgotten to pack the decorative glass that Keith would break at the end of the ceremony in Jewish fashion, so that was out. It did not occur to Dream Me that it could have been substituted with ANY glass. My future BIL (I’m not naming names) lost the wedding rings he was in charge of holding.

I had also forgotten to secure something “borrowed” or “blue,” and so the hotel spa asked if I wanted to wear the disposable blue paper unmentionables usually reserved for those undergoing bikini waxes and fake baking. I did not. Even though Dream Me attempted to self-soothe and pretend it was not a big deal, this made her/me very anxious.


Amid all this, Dream Me had to pee like a racehorse. But, as is always the case in my dreams, there was no viable relief option. Every facility within the five-star resort was filthy, had no doors and/or was occupied by mean high school girls. You’d think with the money we’re spending, said resort would cough up a decent crappair, but no. So Dream Me went with the least of all evils, a toilette that was clean but stood about six feet high and required a stepladder to access. Let’s just say that did not go well.


So now, the morning after this “dream wedding,” I am feeling a bit torn.  I very much hope the dream was not a psychic vision of any kind.  The impact of a wedding devoid of a usable bathroom and a tray of pigs ‘n’ blankets could be devastating. But in a way, I’m feeling a little relieved that my null-worry period seems to have come to an end.

I know, you’d think I would have been thrilled to be so carefree.  But in the immortal words of the French political thinker Alexis de Toqueville (shout out to my friend Lisa, whose life and thesis were briefly ruined by said French political thinker)  improving conditions lead to unrest.  And so I worried that I wasn’t worried. I worried I was forgetting to worry about something, but I didn’t know what. And then I had to worry about not knowing what to worry about. And then I worried about things that weren’t even remotely issues, because I was desperate to worry. It was worrisome indeed.  As is this post, no?

Dream Wedding

A Wonderful Town

Life is not a cosmopolitan, my friends.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I met an alarming number of people who were convinced that “Sex and the City” was a realistic portrayal of life in New York.

And so to all those who think I spend my days walking the beat in Manolo Blahniks, drinking cosmos and lunching on weekdays with my BFFs, I present to you a real typical day in New York.

Your alarm goes off in the small apartment you pay for with 75 percent of your salary. You are already awake and completely exhausted, having been unable to sleep due to the garbage trucks that made their way up Broadway at intervals reminiscent of the Chinese water torture.  In the shower, you lather up and then realize too late that the building turned the water off at 9 am sharp for “necessary repairs.”  You did not know, until that moment, that water could break. Thankfully, you’re able to get some of the shower gel off using a bottle of Poland Spring and a plant sprayer, which is not at all awkward and does not at all flood your bathroom.

Even though you’ve spent thousands trying to keep up with the (Samantha) Joneses, you have nothing to wear and end up hating your outfit. You head out feeling absolutely revolting, as you weren’t able to wash your hair and your skin is covered in a soapy film that’s causing severe pruritus. The good news is that you wore your new, high-heeled sandals to perk up the outfit you hate. The bad news is that it starts to pour on your way to the subway and you didn’t bring an umbrella. The new sandals, previously quite beautiful, are quickly ruined, and so slippery that you trip – but do not fall – on a crack in the pavement. No one asks if you are okay.  Your foot lands in something you pray is DOG shit.

You have to swipe your wet MetroCard three times before it’s accepted. At the exact moment you walk through the turnstile, the train pulls away. But that’s okay – the platform makes an incredibly comfortable waiting area. There’s absolutely no air, your iPod is dead, a not-so-faint hint of pee lingers in the mist and a talented Mariachi band is giving a free concert.

Twenty minutes later, the next downtown train arrives, so packed that riders have their faces smushed up against the petri dish windows. You’re able to contort yourself into one of the cars, joined by the Mariachi band, but there is even less air inside and the 75-year-old man in glittered tights and a red Speedo just caressed one of your ass cheeks. Halfway between 50th and 42nd Streets, the lights go out and the train stops. You’re about to panic, but then you hear this reassuring message from Charlie Brown’s teacher over the loudspeaker.



After what seems like a smelly eternity, you are moving again. You sigh in relief as you approach your stop, 23rd Street, but the train flies by and doesn’t stop again until 14th Street. Apparently, the MTA has decided this particular train will make express stops only, but didn’t see any reason to inform the passengers.

You are now absurdly late. You race up and down two flights of stairs to get on an uptown train, pretty sure you’re going to pass out. You don’t, but you do come alarmingly close to puking from the sight and stench of the hairy-chinned homeless woman who sits down right next to you even though there are empty seats aplenty.

At last you arrive at 23rd Street, in desperate need of coffee.  It is no longer raining, but the line at Dunkin Donuts is insane. Naturally, the person right in front of you is picking 64 Munchkins one by one and asking probing questions as she goes along.

What part of CHOCOLATE FROSTED do you not understand?! Is jelly filling SUCH a difficult concept to grasp?! And for the love of GOD, just accept that the Boston Kreme Munchkin is a figment of your imagination. No, they did not have it last week.

You do eventually leave with your iced beverage, but you’ve been trapped in there so long that another downpour is in progress. You run into the bodega next door and buy the last flimsy umbrella, which costs $12 and will be completely broken within five minutes. Just as you are about to drop everything you’re toting, you see that a douchebag you once dated, liked and got harshly dissed by is fast approaching. You dodge him, but there’s no chance he didn’t see you in all your drowned rat glory.  There’s also no chance he did see your engagement ring, as it is obscured by the iced coffee, so you have no choice but to assume he assumes you are still pining for him 10 years later.

When you arrive at your office, there is a gaggle of hipsters smoking a foot away from the door, but nary a one offers to open it for you.  To get in, you are forced to hold your umbrella horizontally and place the iced coffee under your chin, only to spill it over the soaking wet white shirt you’re wearing. But that’s okay. It’s always nice when your boss and the publisher of an important trade magazine with whom you are scheduled to meet can see your underwears.

At last, you make it to your desk. You plan to send an email apologizing for being late, but there is no internet connection. Your colleagues can all get online just fine, but you can’t. The IT guy isn’t answering his phone, and you have no more coffee except what is staining your shirt. But you’re in New York, where you can order in Burmese food at 3 in the morning! Why not order a replacement coffee? You do, and a mere hour later you get it – even though you ordered it hot this time, it’s iced by this point and the half-and-half is sitting in curdled swirls at the camel-colored surface.

You are now officially the unwitting protagonist in the 2010 remake of the classic 1972 children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” You curse the city. You wonder why you ever complained about living in the Midwest. You miss the ease of Arch Street in the City of Brotherly Love, where your commute was one block on foot and you could run home to use your own private bathroom any time you wanted.  You don’t understand why your parents can’t retire to Florida like normal Jews of their vintage, giving you a warm, easy place to escape. You curse the city again and decide you are just going to sit at your desk forever, rather than go back out into concrete  jungle.

But lunch is inevitable.  When your internet is up and running, your inbox tells you that there are three fabulous sample sales within walking distance. On Twitter you see that the Treats Truck, Cupcake Stop and Joyride Truck are all parked a block or two away.  “Law and Order” is filming across the street, so you catch glimpses of the tasty Jeremy Sisto and also pass by McSteamy and possibly John Mayer.  You can replace your still-wet white top with a more stylie one from your choice of Intermix, BCBG, H&M, Old Navy, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Gap, Club Monaco, Lucky, Ann Taylor and/or J.Crew. Right on the street, you can buy a $12 necklace to jazz it up and then pick up gourmet hot dogs, sushi, Mexican, Chinese, deli, pizza, Mediterranean, comfort food, French macaroons, Cuban, vegan, kosher, Halal, soup or a smoothie for lunch.  You can hear 10 different languages on your way back to the office.  You can walk to the Metropolitan Pavilion and audition to be an extra in the next “Men in Black” movie (if you’re shorter than 4’10” and are comfortable wearing vintage alien prosthetics).

In your fresh top and new jewels,  you head back to your loft-like office space and catch a glimpse of the Empire State Building.  Just as you are contentedly remembering why you came to the Big Apple 15 years ago and why you  missed it so much when you were gone, a taxi hydroplanes through a muddy puddle, covering your lower half in urban crud. You can’t help but conjure a slightly dejected tutu-clad Carrie Bradshaw in the opening credits of “Sex and the City.”

Perhaps those Scrapple-lovin’ peeps in Philly are righter than you thought.

A Wonderful Town

PB, B & J

It may shock you to hear that there are many things I find morally abhorrent.  I know. I know. I threw you a curve ball there.  Get off the floor and keep reading.  Very high on the list of those things I find morally abhorrent is when “they” invent a new delicacy by molesting a classic.  (See my Sweet and Sour post of April 2008.)

Sadly, this happens all too often nowadays. But one of the few things that has managed to remain pure and good in this world is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (assuming you do not suffer from a lethal peanut allergy). This is something I have loved and enjoyed several times a week for at least the last 30 years. It’s got protein, it’s got fruit (kind of), it’s got saltiness, it’s got sweetness.  It can be ingested at all standard meal times and any time in between.  It tastes the same as it did in 1977.  The ingredients are still made by the same companies.  Its creation requires no special planning and no culinary skill. You simply ask yourself a few vital questions and you’re good to go. White or wheat? Skippy (if you’re an Annette Funicello fan), Jiff (if you’re a choosy mom), or Peter Pan (if you like salmonella)? Strawberry (if you’re weird) or grape? Desired ratio of PB to J per bite? Triangle or rectangle halves?  Oh and hey, fat America, if you’re too lazy to get up from the couch and prepare your own during “So You Think You Can Dance,” you can still enjoy it. Smuckers sells frozen, pre-made PB & J sandwiches with the crusts already cut off.  Pathetic? Yes. Brilliant, albeit freakishly round? Also yes. (Side note – I am very proud of the fact that I figured out how to add a poll to this post. Please take it when you’re done reading!)

In other words, it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.

Now, Keith is a man of few issues.  He doesn’t keep track of when he last barfed and he doesn’t stop wearing certain shirts or ties because he associates them with a really bad day at work. He doesn’t lie awake at night having theoretical arguments in his head and it doesn’t offend his sensibilities when plain nougat is replaced with mint nougat or almonds appear where previously there were peanuts.  So it makes sense that he would feel comfortable experimenting with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The other night, we both came home late from work and had an unsatisfying dinner of soup (don’t feel bad – it was posh gazpacho from the upscale market Citarella).  Keith decided he was going to supplement the meal with peanut butter and jelly. I sat at the table picking my cuticles while he prepared said item in the kitchen. It occurred to me that it was taking him a long time, but he’s conscientious, so I assumed he was just spreading the ingredients in a loving manner.  Finally though, I started to hear the sound of a knife against a cutting board. That didn’t add up, so I went to see what was going on.

“We didn’t have any jelly, so I’m making a peanut butter and banana sandwich,” Keith informed me as he applied the top slice of bread (wheat, in case you care).

A tidal wave of guilt and self-loathing came over me. Did we really not have jelly?! I was sure we’d had it a few nights earlier … What kind of person didn’t even keep JELLY in the refrigerator?!

Frick on a high-fructose corn stick.

I should be arrested or at the very least reported to Social Services.  I should change my name to Neglecty McNeglecterstein.

It turns out though, that we did have jelly.  I pulled it off the refrigerator shelf and held it up to Keith (and myself) as proof.

Big fat PHEW.

At this point, I, of course, might have taken my peanut butter and banana sandwich out of the kitchen and eaten it with a hint of disappointment, thinking to myself that jelly just wasn’t in the cards for me that night.  I might have surgically removed the bananas and applied jelly in their stead.  I might even have stashed that sandwich in the refrigerator and made a second one with jelly. I would never, in a million years, have considered doing what Keith did.

He looked at the jelly in my hand. He looked at his peanut butter and banana sandwich, newly cut in half.  He looked back at the jelly. And before I could say, “Care for a frosty glass of milk from cows not treated with RBST?” he was squeezing a thick line of jelly … onto the TOP of each sandwich half.

I was SPEECHLESS.  Peanut butter and jelly, GREAT. Peanut butter and banana, GREAT. Peanut butter AND banana AND jelly … ?!  On TOP of the bread, rather than within it, no less?! It can’t be done! It breaks the laws of nature! It’s just wrong!

But Keith didn’t seem to think so. I stared at him as he enjoyed his creation.

“Is it good?! I mean, is it okay with the … [shudder] … jelly [shudder] …AND the [shudder]… banana?” I asked him.

And again, I would have replied with something along the lines of, “It’s totally gross and I’ll probably puke, but I’ll eat it and then worry about it for a few hours.”

But Keith replied, “Of course. Why not? They’re all friends.”

They are all friends. Sigh.

Editor’s Note: It turns out that JIFF is actually spelled with one F. My apologies!

PB, B & J

Sole Mates

As I take stock of my vast but largely useless footwear collection, I can’t help but notice how much my pre-Keith relationships with boys have mirrored my relationships with shoes (and vice-versa). As a result, just as I have been shaped by countless boy woes, so too has there been permanent scarring (both literal and physical) from the various shoes in my life.  (You didn’t really think you were getting a post with no mention of childhood trauma, did you?!)

It started with the black patent leather Mary Janes everyone else in my kindergarten class had. Even the boys, I am still convinced.  One girl even had them in pink and white too. I remember thinking of her as “super lucky ducky.” Which is 5-year-old-speak for “total beeyatch.”

Would YOU want this on the bottom of your shoes?

How I longed to see them smiling back at me in the mirror, their shiny ebony goodness sparkling against pristine white ankle socks trimmed in lace ruffles. Sigh. Jan deemed them “impractical” (aka boy who was cute but not marriage material). So, in my class picture that year, you can see me sitting pigtailed and buck-toothed in a sailor dress and … dull red Buster Brown lace-up shoes (aka the dorkuses with names like Elliot and Howard who liked me … and who were in turn hated by me but of course, adored by Jan).

There were the clogs our slutty babysitter wore that I had to have. Dangerous to walk in (aka super-cute junior and lead singer in a band who, by some miracle, actually liked me, but whose failure to do well in French class earned him a reputation, in my house, as a bad seed).

The uber-cool lavender Kangaroo sneakers we were only allowed to wear twice a week.  Bad for your feet (aka self-centered, egomaniacal boyfriend who was totally unsupportive).

The Frye boots that another slutty babysitter and someone’s even sluttier older sister sported. Not available in kiddie size 12, which I was until approximately 7th grade (aka boy who was a senior when I was a freshman/ was way too old and mature for me).

The Minnetonka and later Bass moccasins that were too wide for my narrow feet (aka any number of boys who were just overall bad fits).

The faaancy satin kitten-heeled pumps that were beyond appealing in their natural pearly white state.  Forced at gunpoint to dye pink for use with heinous bat mitzvah dress (aka boy from the next town over who might one day be date-able, but who was in his current state a disheveled mess with no social skills).

Complete and utter lack of appropriate weekend shoe other than white canvas Keds in college (aka the duller-than-doornails boys I went to school with).

The backless Charles David stilettos that I refused to stop wearing on Saturday nights even though they left me almost paralyzed the next morning (aka the long-term hook-up I couldn’t walk away from even though his refusal to commit caused me a year of pain and suffering). I could go on.

Modern Vintage "Willhemena" boot -- aka Keith

Now that Keith is in my life, thankfully, it’s just the shoes I have to worry about. And I do worry. Just because I was eventually able to fit into shoes whose soles were not adorned with a creepily winking, giant hat-wearing blonde kid and his evil-looking dog (who clearly has canine Graves’ disease) doesn’t mean my shoe life is complete. The last few winters, it’s been a constant struggle to find boots that would work over skinny jeans and under non-skinny jeans. That had a heel, but were walkable. That could be worn with long-sleeve t-shirts or going-out tops. That didn’t cost $400. That didn’t have an 18″ calf circumference.  It’s a lot to ask for, my friends. I happened to find this very pair (thanks, Modern Vintage) within days Keith’s proposal. Coincidence? I think not.

With the warm – or equatorial Africa-like, I should say – weather upon us, it’s now the quest for perfect sandals that keeps me up and searching Zappos at night. I have the flats covered. The metallic Dolce Vita gladiators, the frosty brown Havaiana flip-flops, the faux crocodile-skin Sam Edelman thongs. It’s the heels that torture me. I’ve accepted that a platform wedge of some sort is the way to go – when done right, it’s the most manageable and versatile of the summer options. But all my research has come up short. Everything is either way too expensive, way too wrong colored, way too covered in S&M-ish studs and/or, most often, way too high.  So what’s a smurf-sized girl to do when she craves a little height but doesn’t want to end up in traction?

Frick on a cobblered stick.

Hello Luella. I so wish we could be friends.

On the subway, along Broadway, in the Times Style section, I watch as fellow ladies gallivant off to work or dinner in beautiful black and camel-colored four- and five-inch hoofery. They seem to walk effortlessly, their ankles unbroken, their knee caps still in place. They are not limping. They are not holding the stairway railing for support. They are not moving at an abnormally slow pace. I don’t get it. So my question to you, heel-wearing ladies of New York, is this. Are you simply anatomically better equipped than I am to walk in these shoes? Are these shoes really the ones for you? Or are you settling – faking it – like I did for so many years, suffering in silence for the sake of having a boyfriend fashion?

Sole Mates

Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers

It started with Evan.

Long, long ago (the 70s), in a galaxy far, far away (New Jersey), Evan was my best friend. Together, we prepared and served gourmet plastic steaks in my Playskool kitchen.  We plotted against the Eager Beaver Diaper-Clad Toddler you read about in Mmm…Pie. We picked outfits together – Danskin hopscotch-motif top and pants? Strawberry-adorned sundress and matching bloomers? We acted out suburban dramas with Fisher-Price people.  Who would pick up the dry cleaning, Blue Marilyn or her good-for-nothing husband Bald Green Bob? OMFG – was that a WEEBLE with Purple Susan at The Silver Bucket the other night?! Did her two-inch boyfriend know?! Did she know that Weebles wobbled but didn’t fall down?!

Now, based on some of the aforementioned activities, it might cross your mind that Evan was gay. I can see why you’d think that, but he wasn’t. I’ll tell you what he was, though: entirely imaginary.

That didn’t stop me from becoming completely unable to think or talk about anything else – except maybe candy. And this drove Lew absolutely crazy – in fact, it drove him to homicide. One day, going 55 mph on the Parkway, he threw Evan out of the car, never to be “seen” or heard from again. Which I’m sure had noooo lasting traumatic effect on me.

RIP Evan.

Gone was the first of my many obsessions: a series of long-term fixations that I could not control.  From him I moved on to Ziggellette, a  small, soft doll so named because of her resemblance to Ziggy. Hailing from the Fluff ‘n’ Stuff at the Woodbridge Mall, Ziggellette had several mangy strands of mustard-colored yarn hair, a bulbous, three-dimensional nose and the words “LOVE ME” written across her red torso. She told silly jokes, sang sillier songs, and served as my alter-ego, often expressing the things I could not bear to. I took her everywhere.

Then came the fire.

Jan, Grandma Ethel and I were sitting around the kitchen table when we began to smell smoke. In a panic, Jan attempted to rush us out of the house, but I refused to leave the premises without Ziggellette. Racing down the hall to my room, I discovered the unfortunate source of the smoke.  It had been my sister’s turn to play “Hide Ziggellette,” and it appeared she’d chosen to put her in a lamp so that her oversized head hung out over the shade and her floppy derriere rested against the lit 100-watt bulb. The bulb had already burned a quarter-sized hole in Ziggellette’s nether regions, but I was sure she could still be saved. I raced back to the kitchen and threw her in the sink, where her bean-filled body let out a sad little sizzle. She was lost. Lew did come home a few days later with Ziggellette II, and I loved her like my own, but it was never quite the same.  (Side note — Ziggellette II stayed with me until Philly. There, she was either mauled by an unnamed Wheaten terrier or stolen … I have my suspicions but no DNA evidence. In any case, RIP Ziggellettes I and II.)

So, on to a new obsession: Charlie’s Angels. It isn’t hard to see how I, a short, picked-on and bucktoothed suburban Jew, would develop girl crushes on these ample-bosomed, totally glamorous and kick-ass women. What wonderful role models! What a realistic show! I hoped my boobs — I mean I — grew up to be just like them.

Thankfully, they were safe from my family’s tendency to kill the things I cared about, and this particular obsession ended bloodlessly when the channel 5 syndication line-up changed.

Enter Duran Duran (see 1984), possibly the most intense, mocked and long-running of my obsessions, followed by Conan O’Brien (see NBC Order and Team Conan), Pistol Pete Sampras (see Sleepless at the Service Line), and of course, Ollie (see Ollie’s CV).

It’s obvious that these obsessions have served as an escape for me, and/or provided me with something to focus on when there was nothing else.  They give me something relatively painless in which to lose myself.  I’m like a 12-year-old with a crush on that kid from Social Studies.

In some cases, it’s also pretty obvious why I choose – albeit subconsciously – a particular subject. But for the most part, I’ve never understood why this happens to me, or why one thing captivates me and another doesn’t. Why Ziggellette and not Potbelly Koala or LeMutt? Duran Duran and not The Police or U2? Pete Sampras and not Andre Agassi? And why does it suddenly overcome me for no apparent reason?

It has actually been quite some time since my mind went down the old road of obsession. And you might think that, as an engaged middle management woman on the wrong side of 35, I’d be mature enough to avoid that road going forward. You’d be wrong.

A few weeks ago, my future SIL Christine and I engaged in a book trade. I gave her Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Committed” and she gave me … wait for it … “Twilight” and its sequel, “New Moon.” I couldn’t have been surer that I had zero interest in the teen angst of a high school junior torn between a vampire and a morphing werewolf in Bumblefuck, Washington. It seems absurd even as I write those terms.

Christine had felt the same way, but assured me I would get hooked like the rest of the world.  I remained skeptical.

The next thing I knew, I was up every night until 2 a.m., unable to put down the story, Googling vampire legends, figuring out where Volterra was, and deciding whether or not I was on Team Edward or Team Jacob (tough call — and I also find Carlisle strangely attractive).

Vampy McVamperstein and frick on a bloodsucking, daylight-fearing stick!

Add “Olympic Coven” to the list.

Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers

Booby Trapped

This post is dedicated to my newest mom friend, Lauren.

If I lived in a house, it would be toilet papered after this post. Since I do not, I fully expect to be lynched by a crowd of angry mothers who will run me down with their double-wide Bugaboo strollers on Broadway. Why? Because I am about to tell you something that you may very well condemn. Prepare to break up with me now. Here it comes. If and when I have a kid, he or she will be fed … brace yourselves … formula.

That’s right. I said it: the F word. FORMULA. Go ahead, call Social Services – I am not going to breastfeed my theoretical children. (And yes, now and for the foreseeable future, that is all they are.) I’ll wager that I’ve read more on the topic than any other non-moms out there. I get it, but I maintain my position. There will be no pumping. There will be no nipple confusion, nursing pads, clogged ducts, latching issues, lactation consultants or trips to stores with names like Tit for Tot, Nip It in the Bud, Mom’s Breast Friend, or Yes Siree, That’s My Booby. No, I do not want to try it. No, I am not going to change my mind, and no, I am not going to tell you why. I have my reasons and you shouldn’t care.

But, to quote my college roommate, you do care and that’s the sick part.

That’s also my point.

I am not arguing for or against breastfeeding and I am not here to discuss the pros and cons of either choice.  If you are a mother and you choose to breastfeed, great! If you are a mother and you can’t or choose not to breastfeed, that too should be great. But it isn’t. And I cannot understand, for the life of me, why so many people feel so strongly that what a mother feeds her baby — assuming it isn’t crack — is even remotely their beeswax. I know that when babies are involved, everyone has an opinion. But this topic in particular seems to be attached to an alarming level of militancy. The lacto-fascist movement (thanks for the term, Lew) has come to equate breastfeeding with good mothering – which is absurd. I assure you there are horrible, Joan Crawford-esque mothers who breastfed and loving, wonderful mothers who did not.  This should not be the defining factor.

Again, please understand, I am not anti-breastfeeding.  I just don’t think it’s for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. I’ve watched many a friend nurse and pump and wean, and I’ve supported them all.  What I’m against is the immense pressure to which women are subjected at a time when they’re already overwhelmed and vulnerable. I’m against bullying and the manipulative use of guilt. I’m against other people telling women what they “have to” do with their own bodies. I’m against lacto-fascism.

Neither I nor most of my friends were breastfed.  All of us have managed, miraculously, to remain rickets-free for almost 40 years.  But times change, and most of my friends did breastfeed their own children. A smaller number did not. Of those who couldn’t or chose not to for various reasons (also none of your beeswax), almost all were accosted at some point, forced to sit through the Spanish inquisition, and made to feel like total failures as human beings.

I just read a column written by a successful journalist who actually was breastfeeding, and pumping. At a Mommy & Me class, a few of the other mothers saw her give her child a bottle, assumed it contained formula, and cornered her for a vigilante lecture as if she had just put a lit cigarette in her infant’s mouth.

A sampling of things I’ve heard when I’ve mentioned that I myself have no plans to breastfeed any future offspring.

“Formula is for poor, uneducated people.” (Do I not have a master’s degree from an Ivy League university?)

“What do you mean you’re not going to?! You HAVE TO.” (Newsflash:  you don’t.)

“What is WRONG with you?” (A lot, but none of it has anything to do with my views on breastfeeding.)

And my personal favorite, “You shouldn’t have kids.” (Really? REALLY?!)

Regardless of how deeply you’re sure that “breast is best,” FORMULA IS NOT LETHAL.  The ingestion of formula by someone else’s baby does not in any way, shape or form affect your life or your child’s life.  In fact, if you didn’t know the difference, you’d never know the difference.  Whatever formula-related side effects you’re convinced exist are my problem, not yours. So honestly, lacto-fascists, WHY DO YOU CARE?

Booby Trapped

1,000 Apologies

At the moment, I feel very lucky. That’s all fine and dandy, except that feeling lucky is waaaay beyond my comfort zone. This makes me feel uneasy, which makes me feel unworthy, which makes me feel guilty, which makes me feel compelled to apologize for the less-than-admirable things I’ve done in my life. 

Some of the things for which I am very sorry:

1978:  In one of many futile attempts to be cool, I participated in the emotional torture of a nice girl named Julie by pretending to have a severe allergic reaction to her.
1981: Obsessed with the generous ink flow only a Mr. Sketch could provide, I lied to Lew and told him that the uber-cool coloring book I was about to receive with my McDonald’s Happy Meal would only “work” with magic markers. I did this knowing full well that magic markers had been contraband in our home ever since I drew a mural on the chartreuse velour couch.
1983: Clad in Snoopy-adorned flannel pajamas, I summoned Jamie as if I was going to provide a sisterly hug, then poked her in the eye. Please note, she sustained no permanent injury. Please also note that while I AM sorry, I do still find it a little funny.
1984: I let Grandma Ethel eat the saddest hamburger I’ve ever seen – a Whopper sans ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions – while I enjoyed her fully condiment-ed meal after the Burger King drive-thru attendant in Plainfield screwed up our order.
1986: In another futile attempt to be cool, I joined one of the popular girls in the gym class mockery of another girl’s last name, which happened to be a homonym for a woman of ill repute. I, of all people, had no business doing any mocking whatsoever in gym class.

Here in modern times, there are two people I’ve used disproportionately for comedic material in this blog. 

To one of those people, the ex-husband formerly referred to as “Sloth,” I sincerely apologize. I know you’ve only said nice things about me, and I haven’t been as big of a person. Per your suggestion, and in honor of your beloved Red Hot Chili Peppers, l shall hereby call you Flea, even though I personally don’t think of that as a promotion.

The other person is Jan. As I tell her often, she does have a few indisputably funny traits that I can’t possibly be expected to ignore. But she happens to be a very nice lady with many wonderful traits as well.  As such, I shall now officially share a few cute Jan tidbits.

  • Jan is an excellent chef. In all the cookbooks she’s given me, there are little notes indicating which dishes are “delicious,” “bland,” “dry,” things that Lew “lapped up,” in need of more garlic, harder than they sounded,  best served with a nice green salad, and so on. She always likes to hear about my culinary inventions and will almost always respond with, “What could be bad?”
  • If Jan makes you a meal, it will invariably include representatives of all vital food groups:  deliciously seasoned protein source, grain (often rice pilaf) and vegetable (most likely green beans). A dessert you once mentioned liking, in 1987, will be provided as well.
  • Keep in mind that if you ask her for the recipe, you will get it, in real time, from tomato selection to supermarket check-out to 10-minute simmering period to table.
  • If you receive a present from Jan, you can be sure she has spent hours investigating the options, thinking about what you might like and imagining you wearing or using it.
  • She is one of the smartest people I know. I consider her grammar skills on par with if not superior to those of Strunk & White.
  • If I have a doctor’s appointment, or any event I’m nervous about, she will always call within minutes of its completion to ask how I “made out.”
  • When she hears a story that touches her, or she feels sorry for someone, she has a particular expression — a morph of “Aw” and “Ah” — that I find quite kindly.
  • Jan is not easy to please. It’s a rare nail salon, Italian eatery or produce vendor that makes the cut. This can be frustrating at times, but gives added meaning to her compliments.  And the ultimate compliment a fellow human can hope to garner from Jan is the “fine” classification.  Keith is a “fine boy.”  Loren, Kiki, Karen and the Thirteen Girls are “fine friends.”  Nicole is a “fine, old friend” and Nicole’s mom, who wrote me a very nice note when I got engaged, is a “fine woman.”
  • The summer before I left for college, she waited until almost 3 pm — when I got home from my job as a camp counselor — to have lunch with me, every day. Even 20 years later I still miss our chats at various Union County hot spots like Charlie Brown’s, Winberrie’s and a long closed gourmet salad place next to the train station in Westfield, whose name escapes me.  
  • Speaking of my college departure, she was not the type of mom who choked up or got the least bit sentimental when she thought of her first-born leaving for college 300 miles away. In fact, the way I remember it, she couldn’t wait to get rid of me. She claims she was just excited about the wonderful opportunities that awaited me. (None did, FYI.) I didn’t buy it.  I wanted tears. She found it incredibly irritating that I continued to question her lack of emotion about my impending departure, but I couldn’t help it. Then, just before she and Lew left me in my 2×4 freshman dorm room, she gave me a mug decorated with pleasant gold script that read, “I Miss You,” “Hugs & Kisses,” and “XOXO.” It was wrapped in purple cellophane and filled with Hershey kisses.  Looking at them after she left made me so happy I couldn’t even eat them. And you know how much that says.
  • She is very astute at detecting anxiety and always worries when someone she cares about is “not themselves.”
  • When people are mean or obnoxious to me, she always takes my side and makes me feel better. Unless I happen to be telling her about it after 10 pm, in which case, she can only respond with something that sounds like “feh.”
  • She exchanged emails with Ollie ( when we lived in Philly and once wrote, “Dear Ollie – I laughed and laughed at your newsy email.”
  • She is the best owner I can think of to Claire, the fuzzy Maine Coon/Norwegian Forest cat who used to live with Kiki and me on East 95th Street. Claire is fed jars of baby food, premium yogurt and slices of fresh turkey. When I was Claire’s age, I made my own lunch on mismatched pieces of bread.
  • I am incredibly proud of what she’s been doing in her post-retirement years. She has overcome her fear of MetroCards, mastered the public bus system here in Manhattan and spends her time exploring the galleries in Chelsea and leading museum tours on the Lower East Side.  She’s much more New York than I am!

One of my favorite college professors, Joyce Antler, has written extensively about the topic of mothers and daughters – particularly those of the Jewish persuasion. Last winter, Jan and I were scheduled to hear Professor Antler speak and attempt to answer the question of “Why We Make Fun of Our Mothers.” Jan chickened out at the last minute because of the inclement weather (giving me another reason to make fun of her), but I went anyway with Kiki and Lisa.  The audience was full of daughters who couldn’t wait to share their mockable mother stories. Even Professor Antler herself – a woman I had always thought of as a model mother – reported that she was the main topic of her daughter’s stand-up comedy routine. 

I’m still not sure why we make fun of our mothers. But I am sure – even if Jan isn’t – that a mother can be very much made fun of and very much loved at the same time.

1,000 Apologies