Category Archives: Beauty and Fashion

In these shoes

Just to set the scene: This morning I’m coming to you in pajamas and high heels.

I’m told this is important preparation for one of life’s biggies. Wear the heels around the house so they don’t shred your tootsies when it counts: when you’re Motherofthegroom, standing for hours, with the weight of the world—and your body, your soul, your heavy emotions—held atop scantly more than a match stick, four inches high and an eighth of an inch around.

The Boy is getting married in a week. You remember when he graduated from college four years ago. In addition to getting a degree there, he found a mate for life. Next Saturday, they’re making it official at a small ceremony near their home in North Carolina.

They (whoever they are) say that Motherofthegroom has three jobs: smile, keep her mouth shut and wear beige. The bride and groom, having tended to nearly all preparations themselves, have made my job a piece of cake. Admittedly, Fatherofthegroom and I made a wave or two when we wanted to invite the universe, but the young people were set on keeping it intimate. And so it shall be.

As these stilettos—beige, by the way—endure their breaking in, they spur contemplation.

In these shoes, I’ll stand and watch The Boy take another big step.

In these shoes, I’ll become a mother-in-law, hopefully the best one this dear, beautiful bride deserves.

In these shoes, I’ll vow silently to cut the titanium apron strings and hope for the courage and guidance the severing demands.

In these shoes, I’ll pray silently for grandchildren and for the inspiration to be the best Nanny in generations.

In these shoes, I’ll thank God for my own marriage, for the best son in the world and the choice he made in a wife, for family members overcoming illness and disability to be there and for a whole new family to love, honor and annoy.

In these shoes, I’ll hand Fatherofthegroom Kleenex. Lots of Kleenex.

In these shoes, I’ll think of all those, alive and not, who aren’t there for the occasion but who should know how special they are to us. I’ll take pictures. Lots of pictures.

Okay, shoes. Let’s do this.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Family and Friends

Hair today…

Okay, this is getting a little scary. I have two things in common with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. You might remember, we’re both Fletch aficionados.

Much has been made of Congressman Ryan’s facial likeness to classic TV character Eddie Munster. I’ve heard their shared trait described a number of ways, including “that Little Hair Triangle-thing That Drops Down In the Middle of His Forehead.”

Does no one remember the correct term for such a feature?

It’s called a widow’s peak.

Unlike most people, whose hairlines run straight across their foreheads, fewer others have a V-shaped point in the hairline in the center of the forehead. Unfortunately, these others include me.

I say unfortunately for two reasons – one, the belief, going back to the mid 1800s, that a downward point in one’s hairline, which resembles peak of a widow’s hood, portends early widowhood; and two, I have always considered mine an ugly genetic deformity.

When I was an adolescent in the 1970s, the fashion was for girls to wear their hair parted in the middle. My role model at the time was actress Susan Dey, whose hair cascaded in perfect symmetry from the center of her hairline. My widow’s peak—and several other traits—stood in the way of looking like Susan Dey or any of the girls in my school. If I tried to part my hair in the middle, it curled at the hairline, each side bending in its own rebellious pattern.

I tried a number of things to tame my freakish triangle.

At bedtime, I’d take the hair on both sides and tape it down to my face, believing I could somehow train it to fall uniformly. But alas, I’d wake up covered in masking tape, which had by morning gotten all tangled up in my hair–and quite likely my orthodontic headgear.

One day I got the bright idea to take that whole darn triangle and rip it out by the roots. I drew a nice neat line where I wanted my hairline to be, twisted the widow’s peak into a tightly wound rope and yanked it right out of my head.

My parents were none too pleased with this self-mutilation; I might even have been punished for it. But punishment came anyway as it started to grow out – into a stiff vertical geyser, much like Martin Short’s Ed Grimley.

Isn’t it every young girl’s dream to look like Ed Grimley? Or every middle-aged woman’s to look like Paul Ryan?

Well, they’re no Susan Dey.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Foibles and Faux Pas, Politics

Flashionable accessories

Is it me or is it hot in here?

I was asking that question months before the 103-degree heat showed up.

To be sure, it’s me. (Actually, it’s I.)

One would think I’d have figured out by now that, at the moment the temperature in the room, in the car, in church, in a meeting, even at the podium, suddenly and without warning soars to a dangerous high, it’s me. But still I ask.

The bed bursts into flames at exactly 3:30 every morning. Every evening, simply sitting down to dinner triggers onset of SPP, or sudden projectile perspiration. Is it me or is it hot in here?

Recently, as I walked red-faced into my local GNC store, dripping on the counter, a young man smiled pitifully and walked me over to the women’s herbal products, where he made some helpful recommendations. Three weeks later, I’m still a raging inferno of Colorado proportions.

Yesterday, I went to the dollar store to find one of those handheld fans I swore I’d never carry. I bought one in every color. After all, mustn’t one’s peacock-embroidered purse fan always match her shoes?

Sisters, if that fashion trend doesn’t strike your fancy, how about this:  When the devil strikes, I take a washcloth from the stack in the refrigerator, drape it around my neck and attach it with a chip clip. For women our age, it’s the new black. Look for it on the cover of More magazine.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Health

Venus and Mars

This one goes out to the guys, but gals, pay attention; this may help you too.

My husband has decided to clean out his side of the medicine cabinet. In an act of kindness and generosity, today he offered to yield some real estate to me. He knows women need more space, but I know he wonders why.

Olay Micro Sculpting Serum

I’ve heard many a man bemoan the fact that his missus takes up disproportionate space in the bathroom and bedroom with her mysterious self maintenance gear. I know couples who have engaged in warfare, usually waged by an encroached-upon mister trying to reclaim his rightful flossing zone.

I maintain that the root of the decades-old gender conflict is a simple lack of understanding. And–unlike the self tanner we chickadees apply at the first sign of spring–it’s natural.

Is there any wonder? A random pluck from my own shelf surfaced “Night Recovery Cream.”

Perhaps men wouldn’t shake their heads and their fists at our products if they understood—in their terms—what each one was for.

For the educational benefit of the males, I’ve contemplated the contents of the Venus side of the cabinet—or tool shed—and tried to put them into a context a Martian might better appreciate:

pore minimizer spackle
foundation paint and primer in one
exfoliator sander
self tanner stain
hydrating body gloss shellac
lip liner painting tape
anti-gravity lift cream ceiling paint
Nair® weed killer
tweezers weed whacker
PedEgg™ lathe
foot smoothing cream foot smoothing cream. Would it kill you to use it?

Would anyone care to put on an addition?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion

Charmed, I’m sure

This year, as in years past, charm bracelets are a hot holiday gift item.

Most of the ones I see advertised come ready-made, with the decorative trinkets already dangling from them: bulbous hearts, seashells, and other, dare I say, gaudy baubles that may or may not bear any special significance to their wearer.

There do seem to be individual charms available for those who might like to personalize their bracelets to reflect their love of cats or ladybugs.

In my day (that’s what ladies of my age say when we reminisce), we accumulated charms based on our interests, hobbies or places we’d visited.

I started adorning my charm bracelet early on, with tiny pendants I collected in my younger years. My mother insisted we have the charms soldered on to the bracelet so they didn’t fall off. I’m pretty sure that somewhere I have a pouch of charms that we never got around to having soldered.

Last night, after seeing several holiday commercials for charm bracelets, I decided to dig mine out. I wondered what people would learn about me—or at least who I was as a child—simply by what hangs from my bracelet.

There are 20 charms, not counting the ones that were never affixed. Almost every one has a story of one kind or another:

  1. A train engine, representing a cross-country trip my father and I took in 1969
  2. An Alpine tram car, from our family trip to Switzerland in 1970
  3. A Christmas tree
  4. A crutch, representing my brittle ankles
  5. An ice skate, right next to the crutch
  6. A telephone, on which I spent many hours when I was young
  7. A space capsule, representing man landing on the moon
  8. A house; in particular, 4615 Duncan Drive, Annandale, Virginia
  9. A swimmer (technically it’s a diver wearing a light blue swim cap), from when I took swimming lessons–and failed
  10. A piano. You’ve already heard that story.
  11. A pendant bearing my astrological sign, Sagittarius
  12. A four-leaf clover, engraved with Lucky 13 for my 13th birthday on the 13th
  13. A framed photograph of my best friend, Mary Engdahl, who I hope will one day Google herself and find me here, because I sure as heck can’t find her
  14. A church, with a tiny window through which you can read the Lord’s Prayer
  15. A cowboy hat from the Ponderosa Ranch, a souvenir from Mary Engdahl
  16. An Amish buggy, from my trip to Lancaster, Pa., with Lisa Vernon and her family
  17. A dachshund, representing Gretchen, an early pet that used to belong to my Nana Marie
  18. A yellow and green flowered sleeping bag with the words Slumber Party engraved, representing a time when family friends stayed with us for an extended period. The charm was a gift from Becky Sterago who, when she gave it to me upon leaving, said sharing my room had been like one long slumber party
  19. Ballet slippers, representing another attempt at something I never mastered
  20. A black cat, representing Gus, my first feline friend

Somewhere I have an Eiffel Tower, a Sweet 16 and a few others, but I have no idea where they are.

I’ve already shared accounts of the family trip to Europe, a little about my love of the phone, my dislike of piano lessons and my zodiac sign. Many of the others could easily be woven into blog tales.

Which ones would you like to hear? Or do you prefer I keep my memories to the quiet jingle of the bracelet?

Better yet, what’s on your charm bracelet?

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Family and Friends, Holidays

Penalty for possession

Long before the Word Nymph aired her first grievance, a friend had whispered a complaint into my sympathetic ear. She wondered what prompted those close to her, God-love-’em, to make the names of all restaurants and retailers possessive.

She observed that her mother, along with so many of our mothers’ generation, always adds an apostrophe + s to the name of just about every business in town.

Perhaps it’s because so many businesses used to be owned by individuals: Mario’s Pizza. Harry’s Bar. Bertha’s Mussels. (All right, not Bertha’s; that’s another story.)

Years ago, department store names, such as Woodward & Lothrop, The Hecht Company and R.H. Macy & Co. were shortened to such neighborly nicknames as Woodies, Hecht’s and Macy’s. The nicknames took hold, to no one’s objection. Eventually, these stores branded their possessives.

Now, however, businesses whose names were neither possessive to begin with nor shortened to nicknames are being made so by those who link every business to a person.

In this shopping season, let us be reminded to call our retailers by their correct names. It is Nordstrom, not Nordstrom’s. Lord & Taylor, not Lord & Taylor’s.

Far more egregious examples exist with regard to restaurants. It’s gone rampant. Let us not assume that every restaurant is named after a person. Restaurants take great care to give their establishments fitting and clever names, many of which don’t bear the moniker of the owner, founder or chef. Yet we can’t seem to help adding an apostrophe + s. Examples of these violations are too numerous to mention, many coming from within my own circle.

Maybe these complaints are nit-picky. Can we at least agree that, when the name of a business has a possessive built in, we should fight any urge to add an apostrophe + s?

Here’s an example. A Mexican restaurant near me is called Mi Rancho, Spanish for “My Ranch.” Is it not redundant to call it Mi Rancho’s? The same goes for any establishment beginning in Mon, Mes, Notre, Nuestro or any other possessive pronoun, as well as any beginning with Chez.

This also stands when the name of the restaurant is a noun; Panera, for example, meaning “Bakery.” In English, we would not say we are going to the bakery’s. Why, then, do we say we’re having lunch at Panera’s? Let’s not.

Sorry for the grumpies. I’ve suddenly become very hungry.

(But while we’re at it, it’s Williams-Sonoma, not Williams and Sonoma. Jones New York, not Jones of New York.)

When in doubt, take your cue from the sign:

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Rants and Raves

Wrap song

Here in the Eastern United States, October’s final week welcomes the brilliant colors of hardwood trees, the seasonal bloom of bushy chrysanthemums and the annual return of my favorite cold-weather symbol.

From the soft underbelly of the Himalayan yak to the vulnerable neck of the female human, comes one of the world’s most beautiful and utile inventions—the Pashmina.

The Pashminas were out in their vibrant glory this past weekend, as they should be.

I have several fringed rectangular scarves, though only three qualify as authentic Pashmina. But whether woven of this particular Asian cashmere or its synthetic sister, I’ll wear and enjoy each one throughout the season and, if I’m lucky, maybe even acquire a missing color.

Indulge me, if you would, in an ode:

You, oversized scarf, keep me toasty when you’re folded, twisted, swirled.
You protect me from the breezes, as a blanket, when unfurled.
O, Pashmina, dear woolen protector, without you how could I live?
Let us share our
ritual of sorting you by color, à la Roy G. Biv.

Ladies and gentlemen, feel free to add your own verse or salute your favorite article of autumnal attire.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion