Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Pity Party In Self Importantville

Last week was a busy week for me. Between working on tedious nursing research projects and shepherding The Beav from one place to another, I was having a midlife pity party. Not the most productive way to spend my time; if I had any sense it could have been a midlife crisis and I would be sporting a new pair of Jimmy Choos or a driving a new car or driving a new car in a pair of Jimmy Choos. Some premenopausal women have hot flashes, insomnia or memory issues but not me. Nope. I have crying jags. Better yet I have--according to a dear friend--existential crisis’.

All of this was precipitated by catching a glimpse of people I went to school with thirty years ago, messing with my shaky self confidence and tottering self esteem. Those beautiful girls still look the same. Perfect hair, perfect faces, perfect teeth. Perfect. And don’t get me started on how gracefully the men have aged.

Going to school in North Texas during the 1970’s was almost Hell for me because at almost six feet tall, leggy (not in a good way) skinny, with scraggly thin hair and glasses I was the antithesis of the ideal: 5'5, an over abundance of fluffy hair and the body of a goddess. Fortunately, I found a niche at school and all in all had a lot of fun as a girl. But last week you would have thought I was the school’s whipping girl, always alone, too weird for friends. So weird even the teachers made fun of her. I probably was too weird for friends but luckily my friends didn’t realize it. (Maybe they did and they were just being altruistic and kind…hmmmm) But because I am terribly shallow, the adolescent experience of being average looking left a little scab on my psyche. So I took the opportunity last week to pick at the tiny scratch until it was a big festering, oozy wound. Given the tearful email I sent to Oldest Friend and the phone call I made to Best Gay Boyfriend, you would have thought my life was over because those Texas Women are still drop dead gorgeous, thin with Pilate's bodies and from what I can tell wildly successful and happy. In fact, I text messaged one of my --wildly successful, gorgeous and happened-to-be-vacationing-in-Paris--friends from high school:

“ When r u home? Feeling antifabulous surrounded by the beautiful peeps from 1979. Im the only 1 old and fat. The rest of u are beautiful! Oxo, ugly betty[*]. Srsly if u txt me u hkd up w/ jdepp I will cry myself 2 sleep.”

I think that text message just raised the bar for pathetic, don’t you?

But wait, there’s more: OF is farmed out to New Zealand because the state of academics in US is so piss poor English professors must outsource themselves, and their families, to island nations all the way around and upside down from the US. OF is mostly miserable, she can’t find a job, not too fond of the very expensive NZ and feels removed from the rest of her family. But because she is my OF she doesn’t tell me:

“Get. A. Fucking. Life. Please! Email me with real problems rather than worrying about the wrinkles on your forehead, you too short hair and trying to find new glasses that don‘t make you look like a bull dyke gym teacher.”

(she would use the word “fuck” in that context. Years ago, I had to turn the Net Nanny off because it wouldn’t allow me to read her emails) What we did have was an engaging exchange discussing how brutal our culture is on older women. OF was funny and sweet with her reassurances that I would not allow myself to devolve into Blanche Dubois; laying around and crying about all I have lost. If I'm going to dissolve into a dysfunctional middle aged woman, I think Little Edie is a much more interesting choice.

And who better to call when you are having an ugly and/or fat day than your Best Gay Boyfriend (BGB)? I sniveled and sniffed my way through the whole story about feeling fat, old and ugly, never bothering to ask him how he was doing. BGB is such a sage, this is what he said and he said it because he knows where I live: Self Importantville:

”Oh dear, you are having an existential crisis! There isn’t anything I can say or do to make this better, is there?”

Au contraire BGB: you just made it sound so important and meaningful! I’m not having a hormonal breakdown! Or the most facile person on the planet. No no no no no no! I’m having an existential crisis. Emphasis on the “crisis”. I felt infinitely better after talking to BGB. He turned my frown upside down into a crisis! That he was kind and supportive speaks volumes for my choice of BGBs, especially since the last thing he wanted to listen to was some middle-aged woman nattering on about her lost looks. As we were talking, BGB was multitasking and in the midst of winnowing out most of his worldly possessions trying to decide what he could live without in order to preserve a roof over his head. A day or so later, I winced when I thought about my emotional conversation with him. I felt like Paris Hilton, walking up to this woman : “Um, does this bag clash with my shoes?”

Fortunately, my existential crisis ended after twenty-four hours of self flagellation and carb consumption. It also helped to make an appointment with Nurse Poison for some Botox. A birthday present to my loved ones so they don’t have to hear whining about the lines etched over my face me.

What really shut the party down was when an old friend called and left me a message that started: “Hello beautiful. . .”

Because I am shallow like that.

*For the record, I thinkAmerica Ferrera is hot and Ugly Betty is adorable.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Proust Effect

(image from

One of the many things I love about The Girl is she never needs an excuse to go out for dinner. She worked in the food/beverage industry for years before doing what she does now so the woman knows her way around a kitchen, behind a bar and the front of the house. We don’t do Valentines Day so it wasn’t like we were going out to celebrate what we see as a non holiday. I wanted to go out because I was tired, pining for a cocktail and fancy food. So last night I greeted her at the door with: “Let’s go out to dinner. You choose.” After ten minutes of a good natured back and forth of: “No, you choose. . .“ I finally decided on this place. I hate making the restaurant decision because if the food sucks, I feel responsible. At Mizuna’s, we walk into the room where TG is immediately greeted by a charming man who was genuinely thrilled we had come in for dinner and then he spent the rest of the evening treating us in the manner we so richly deserve. Like princesses. Our meal was fabulous: she had the mac and cheese with lobster and lobster oil; I had the escargot pot pie. But dessert. Dessert was amazing.
I’m usually disappointed in my desserts. Even in my favorite restaurants dessert is usually meh at its best and sent back at its worst. I don’t think of myself as a picky eater but when it comes to dessert I guess I am. Dessert is a special occasion for me. When I was a little girl, my mother--Susie Homemaker--always served dessert with dinner. Mind you, it was a Duncan Hines cake frosted with resentment and a sense of duty. When my dad started gaining weight and his blood pressure went up she gratefully gave up the cakes and dessert then became a rare thing. It is still a rare thing for me and as I try desserts in my city’s restaurants it is becoming even more rare to have a dessert.

The most memorable dessert I’ve ever had was in 1987 at a country club in Orlando. A small serving of fresh raspberries, served in a frosty martini glass with a sugared rim. The presentation was simple and the berries exquisite. Frankly this dessert is the litmus test for all other desserts. Unfortunately, the last great dessert I had was a crème brulee in 2008 at John Gray’s in Puerto Morelos. The rest of the experience was so bad I wrote and tried to contribute an online review but the Trip Advisor nanny didn’t approve of my reference to the bartender as a “surly bitch”. Besides that, she was so busy trying to get into Chef Gray’s pants it was obviously an inconvenience to serve anyone at the bar, especially a couple of middle-aged lesbians. This year, in Mexico, we went to one of John Gray’s restaurants and revisited the crème brulee. He tried to whore it up with espresso powder and ruined it. He happened to be in the house that evening, and because I will say anything to anyone, when he asked me how we enjoyed our desserts I told him. Something to the effect he ruined it by trying to make it fancy. Chef Gray’s excuse was he couldn’t get vanilla beans. In Mexico. Yeah. Whatever. Wouldn’t it have been funny if I asked him if he was still getting some strange from his homophobic bitch of a bartender.

And please, don’t hide a mediocre dessert behind a huge portion! In the south suburbs (land of the minivan and mega church) there is a restaurant called “The Claim Jumper” and it is the glutton’s paradise. The chicken dinner? Half a chicken. A piece of chocolate cake? Half a small sheet pan. Is the chocolate cake any good? No it tastes like my mother’s Duncan Hines cake. So give me enough for a small family and I’ll think it’s better? Um…no.

Last night our lovely waiter/bartender told us he was buying us dessert. In the past, I’ve learned this is most likely because the pastry chef fucked something up and they are trying to get rid of it. I was crossing my fingers he was going to bring me a flight of their sorbets but instead He brought out a bruleewith these amazing macaroons for TG and a flambé with bananas and grapes for me (it wasn’t even on the menu). Not only did they do what dessert should do, but they were transcendent. I never wanted dessert to end. I wanted those lovely tastes to linger on my tongue for the rest of my life. These desserts became an existential experience. (Please don’t lose sight of the fact a trip to Walmart for tampons can become an existential experience for me!) Like Proust’s cookie, they triggerd memories and became the creators of another wonderful memory with The Girl. We waxed philosophically about dessert, how it should be the end note to a meal; without overshadowingit in either it’s mediocrity or flamboyance. It shouldn’t be the late arriving guest, that is like, your best friend from college rolling into your dinner party--late-- all sloppy drunk and loud.
TG explained to me the German for dessert: nachtisch, literally translates “after the dish”. Well of course it does! Leave it to the Germans to be completely pragmatic about dessert. “Und now vee eat cake und vee will undjoy dee cake for we have had our dish or schnitzel!” I woke up this morning thinking about dessert. I doubt I’ll have any for a few months and when I do have one it will have to be as delightful as a simple goblet of raspberries or last night’s vanilla induced petite mal.

Here’s to the Proust Effect! Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday's Thirteen* Random Thoughts ala June

1. It feels good to be writing again. I just wish I had time to write something besides articles for work.

2. Kipper is ten today!! Last night we sang Happy Birthday to him before he gulped down a vanilla cupcake with white frosting and sprinkles.

3. Wally moved out. I thought I would feel bad when he decided to live with his father but I don’t. I am relieved he has taken his snarky frustrated energy somewhere else.

4. My 30th high school reunion is sometime this year and I’m already anxious about how much older I look than the other women in my class. Mind you, I went to school with about 450 beauty queens. Seriously. Beauty Queens. Damn. The other 300 women were adorable. I was somewhere between plain and cute. My dear friend Jen commented a few years ago: “If we had gone to school anywhere else, we would have been the prom queens!”

5. I literally vacuumed in my pearls yesterday. I forgot to take them off before I went to bed the night before. Too bad I didn’t realize it until I was finished, I could have donned a pair of heels. Because even alone and in private, I relish irony.

6. Some people feel like adults once they have kids, or buy a house or some such occasion. Me? I finally made it to adulthood because I have a professionally done something that isn’t a part of my body or taxes. I have a professionally landscaped yard.

7. I think I brought the wrong baby home from the hospital in 1994. The Beav showed me a list of classes he has to take over the next four years; the sports he wants to participate in and is already formulating an essay for his Air Force Academy application. I don’t remember ever being that focused on anything (aside from getting a date on a Friday night) and I sure as Hell know Ward wasn’t ever that driven to do anything but lark off.

8. Everyday I think about smoking. Everyday I say no.

9. I love McDonalds hamburgers. I let myself have one every few months. I eat it guiltily, too. Like I’m snorting cocaine or shooting heroin. I snarf it down alone and usually in my car. With such dysfunctional eating habits, I'm surprised I'm only 20 pounds over weight.

10. Last month, I dreamt I wrote a novel and was reading from the first chapter. I remember what the novel is about and the characters.

11. A few weeks ago I discovered I had Mean Girl tendencies when I was 17-18 This helps me understand them/us better. I was acting from a place of overwhelming insecurity and grief. I’m only now dealing with some of the grief that precipitated the behavior. Better late than never, right? But it still doesn’t mean I don’t want a redo on a few months of my life. If my kid treated someone the way I did, I would spank him.

12. My father wants to travel with a woman (a widow, old friend of the family) and asked my permission. I’m delighted he has someone to travel with and love how his eyes light up when he talks about her and their plans for Ireland.

13. We have state of the art music systems at home but I usually listen to the quiet when I’m home alone. I developed this habit after years of working in the noxiously noisy ICU.

I swear next week, I’ll have my continuing ed done, the articles due for my unit’s newsletter, and my certification study guides in place. Then I can write something aside from random lists and work on the scrapbooks. At least all this nursing as science stuff makes me realize how much I love my job.

* I stole the "Thursday Thirteen" from my friend at Alpha Heroes.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I have an uncanny ability to remember trivial details from Texas History class and "GTT" stands for "Gone To Texas" carved into cabin doors in Tennessee and Kentucky during the 19th century when pioneers were seeking their fortunes in Texas. Consider me GTT.

I found my fortune here. I'm blessed with a father who is 80 years old today and the picture of good health.