Riding in cars with boys (from the Internet)

12 Jul

6410605245_f6d85d22c4_zMy mother’s headline on her online dating profile reads “I like to cut to the chase. How about you?” She does this to weed out any normal men who enjoy engaging in email flirtation before they give their phone numbers out to complete strangers. A virtual tête-à-tête is a necessary cautionary step that my mom, who is not web savvy, likes to skip. She just dishes out her digits to anyone with a cute enough picture. Having never seen “The Craigslist Killer,” she assumes that handsome men don’t carry knives.

As a woman in her 60’s (though if you ask any dude on Plenty of Fish, she’s 57), she believes that the safety rules of online dating don’t apply to her. Instead of meeting men in public places, she has guys pick her up at her apartment. Then she gets in their cars. As a worrisome only child, who feels like more of a parent most days, I sometimes think this is safer than her driving herself given that her other favorite rule to violate is #7: “Don’t drink more than two martinis on a first date.”

Last night she was out with “Ron” who she’d spoken to once the previous evening. She gave me his phone number so I could give it to police in the event of murder. When I insisted that she give me his email address too, she responded that she didn’t want to ask Ron for his handle because she didn’t want to give him hers. Her physical home address – no problem, but email address – which she only uses to collect coupons for penis enlargements? No way. “Don’t worry, baby. I’m just going to drink a spritzer tonight. I’ll be safe.” Real reassuring, mom.

At 8 p.m, I got the obligatory, “I’m good” text from her. Her pattern is to go silent after that. Her hearing starts to go after the third vodka goblet so she doesn’t notice that I’m calling. Incessantly. By midnight I started to panic. Lying in bed, frantically scrolling through pictures of teacup pigs on BuzzFeed, trying to think of anything other than my mother being hacked up by Ron, I began to realize that I’m not cut out to have a child. Unless I develop a Xanax dependency like my own mother did once she popped me out, I won’t be able to cope with the nightly worrying that my kid is safe. Especially when cars are involved. In that moment I almost sympathized with why she was so strict about me riding around with senior boys when I was a freshman in high school. Then, it occurred to me that driving to the mall in the back of Dave Vigneaux’s Bronco – a boy who had dinner at our home, and whose parents she was well acquainted with, is not the same thing as her mixing pills and booze with a man who won’t even pay for an online dating service. At least the boys I was doing donuts with used their real names.

By 5 a.m., after my third dream that a scary man from the web was trying to violate me, I had given up on hopes of sleeping. I let one last call to my mom go to voicemail and I put on Pitch Perfect while my newly minted husband snored softly beside me.

At last, I got an unapologetic text from my rebellious teen at 9 a.m., saying smugly that she was out late and “just fell asleep.” Having been around the block, I know that meant that she passed out drunk with her clothes on, after a sloppy makeout session by the door. Relieved that her body remained in one piece, I developed a new appreciation for just how difficult parenting most have been for her, without anyone else there in bed to assure her in the middle of the night that Dave Vigneaux wasn’t going to run me over with his car – just for kicks. Though empathy made me soften on the inside, like any good mommy, I didn’t show it. Instead, I threatened to stop paying for her Match account if she ever pulled this crap on me again. And then, with the soothing tunes of Anna Kendrick singing without accompaniment, I finally drifted into an acca-coma.

Camp

11 Jul

10963I never went to sleep-away camp. This is why I was a late bloomer. Or it least I tell myself that my slow foray into being felt-up had nothing to do with my chub, braces, or forehead acne and everything to do with the fact that I had no wooden bunks to make out behind.

I spent my summers reading advanced YA fiction – mostly the ones with hot summer affairs (in retrospect, the sizzlemeter was probably defined by number of moonlit glances per chapter). I went to a few day camps – one for theater, one for horseback riding and one put on by my school district to get the poor kids out of the house for a few hours each day. I did a lot with lanyard.

As an only child to a single mom, I was a total homebody. Every June I’d help my pals write their names in the labels of their t-shirts, pick up a packet of stationary and stickers from the card store, exchange friendship bracelets, and promise to write. All of the organized activity and time spent in wet bathing suits never appealed to me about sleep-away camp. I was content to water color my walls and take extended trips to the nearby duck pond.

I’d receive letters every week from my BFF’s signed KITKAT (that’s “Kall Any Time, Keep In Touch,” Kardashian-style) and even some notes from my bored acquaintances who couldn’t bother with real narration – just the lazy form-letters alerting me that “Camp is…..fun!” “The food is….yummy!” “The boys are…pre-pubescent!” I seldom wrote back to those, or if I did, I certainly didn’t include my best oily stickers.

I loved receiving notice of my inner-gaggle’s transient crushes.The letters read better than any chick-lit. Like the Austen-ian Summer of ’97 when both Rebecca and Rachel had been canoodling with Matt Schwartz at theater camp. Neither knew of the other’s dalliances but as the omnipotent reader, I got to watch both plot-lines unfold. Rebecca was tired of Rachel being such a flirt. Rachel was annoyed that Rebecca got all the boys. Matt was basking in being the lone “straight” guy at queer camp. He’d come out the following summer after starting a romance with a boy who played “Brother” to his “Joseph.” Rachel and Rebecca claimed they knew it all along but I have it in writing that their hormones got the better of them.

While my comrades got their first kisses, I started a book club with my fellow underdeveloped friend. We were the only two members. Our interests included A Wrinkle in Time because of the boy-girl story, going to water parks and playing Mall Madness.

I didn’t need camp to feel like an autonomous adult. My mother let me go to the aquarium whenever I pleased.  And once college came around, I got the full taste of what it would have been like, but with less damp towels. And as for the boys, I’m glad I didn’t live out my  tweens sharing awkward moments on bunk beds. There’d be plenty of time for that later.

Searching for trousseau

13 Jun

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 3.59.55 PMOne of the final steps in wedding prep is finding the perfect bustier to make sure your décolletage looks tasteful yet stunning. Yesterday, while shopping for undergarments, I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman except instead of a mid-level hooker, I looked like a “Biggest Loser” cast-off who wreaked of sunscreen and sweat. Better than body glitter, I guess.

I now know that it’s unwise to go directly from a run to La Perla on Madison Avenue. They don’t take kindly to your spandex, even if it is Lululemon. Like the film siren before me, I felt a certain sense of entitlement walking into the lingerie shops, despite how I was dressed. How did they know that I didn’t have a platinum AmX card tucked away in my fanny pack? But with one touch of my clammy back as they hooked up my corset, the truth came out — all I had to offer was a debit card and some crumpled up $1’s.

I’ve done everything in my power to resist being a glam bride-to-be. Initially, I’d dress the part by getting manicures before fittings and wear pearls. I even bought new cotton undies. Now in the lead-up, all the motions towards getting married have been stripped away of any niceties. It’s been strictly business.

Instead of bringing a bridesmaid along to watch me blush as she points to garter belts,  I’ve been going alone to every lingerie store in Manhattan in search of a nude strapless push-up bra (sexy!) In a weak moment at Journelle, I asked the sales girl if they carried any underwear with “Bride” scripted on it. When she handed me a thong with “I do” bedazzled on the hip, I lied and said my “friend” preferred briefs and promptly left the store without anything that would remind my booty that it was getting hitched.

I’ve heard of brides who register at lingerie stores. I’d love to meet this specimen and have her genteel qualities rub off on me. How did she get so confident around underwire? Does all that lace make her itchy?

In a last ditch effort, I went to Nordstrom where Bernice, a matronly saleslady led me to a bra she promised would give me that “va va voom” look. Bernice then offered a wry smile, implying that she thought I was a naughty girl. When the strapless didn’t do as she assured me it would, I asked her if I could just wear those stick-on cups. “No!,” she squealed, in horror. “Those only work on women with perfect, fake boobs.” My puppies might not be “perfect.” A gal at Victoria’s Secret once told me they were slightly different sizes (I’ve since stopped shopping there), but I don’t exactly mourn for the perky breasts of my misspent youth. I’m only 28. As if to make up for offending me, Bernice then pried the Spanx out of my hands and insisted I didn’t need to wear them below my wedding dress. “Those don’t help anyway. The fat has to go somewhere, after all,” she said. I bought two pairs,  just to spite her.

In the end, I’m left with a questionable bra, a dress that might fall down during “Shout,” a pair of flesh-toned tummy shapers and nothing to prove to my bridesmaid’s when they help me pee that I am a “Mrs!” I’m hoping the ceremony will be reminder enough.

In Pursuit of Stuff

15 May

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The first time my mother pulled out food stamps in our local supermarket, I was confused. She had just bought me a new Kate Spade bag – a gateway purse  for any girl growing up in a wealthy enclave of Long Island. Could we really not afford cheese?

I had all the trappings of a middle class teen – Hard Tail pants that sagged ever-so-grandly in the derrière, Juicy Couture velour, and enough Abercrombie billboard apparel to wear to every gym class. While this could hardly compete with my peers who held their books in Prada backpacks and owned a Fendi bag in every make of  animal, I was content. I never coveted what they had. I understood that  excessive tokens were bestowed on these 16-year-olds on no merit of their own. Their mothers simply wanted them to be able to keep up with the over-Keratin’ed class.

We weren’t quite poor, at least not in the traditional sense. My one bedroom apartment was modest compared to my besties’ estates. Instead of a housekeeper to make me grilled cheese after school, I packed a snack and nibbled in the lunch room of my mom’s hair salon. I did all of the vacuuming.

My mom raised me by herself, with some weekend help from my Bronx-bred dad who considered brands like Express high-fashion. He owned a t-shirt company and couldn’t understand why I’d ever want to purchase pants with someone else’s name on it when I had a perfectly good arsenal of tie-dyed hoodies waiting for me at his warehouse. Despite occasionally admiring quilted clutches with signature c’s, I had enough confidence on my own that I didn’t need a $4,000 shield against the cruel kids.

While my brethren were in class plotting who was going to use their fake ID to buy Smirnoff that weekend, I was spending sick days on the welfare line with my mother, getting a humbling portrait of humanity that the kids in bio class had only seen in Spike Lee films.

This duality gave me a solid comprehension of dollar value and a nearly holy knowledge at an impressionable age that having “stuff” doesn’t make you better.

Being at peace with my outlook on pricey goods has been almost entirely compromised since I started planning my wedding. I always knew I wasn’t going to spend an inordinate amount on my gown (and by that I mean, I’d keep it under 3K) but what I didn’t realize is how many other props need to be purchased to accompany your “big day,” or in my case, my big week.

I chose to have a tropical destination wedding for two reasons. Firstly (and most importantly) I wanted to kidnap guests for a few days to have one extended party where they were all laughably drunk for 48 hours with no car access. Secondly, I didn’t want to be tempted to fixate on details like linens and votive count. Currently, my wedding is in the hands of Mayte, a bohemian Argenintine who runs the remote beach restaurant we’ll be wed at in the Dominican Republic. Her average response rate between emails runs about three weeks but she closes our exchanges with “un abrazo” (Spanish for “a hug”) so I feel more at ease. There are entire bridal forums dedicated to this woman and the neurosis she stirs in Type A brides who nightly fret that they won’t see their centerpieces until two days before their reception. For me, this is perfect. I’m entirely too indecisive to control the outcome of my decorations. Instead, I sent my Pinterest board off to Mayte to give her a sense of just how many twinkle lights I desire, dappled with a few photos of peonies. Presto. Wedding planning done, right? So very wrong.

In an unforeseeable circumstance, I have found myself unemployed in the months leading up to my wedding. A note to brides everywhere: this may seem like a fantasy. It is not. Too many hours logged on Style Me Pretty will make you feel utterly inadequate. These virtual bride-to-be’s transformed from my inspiration to my nemeses who did everything better.

To fill my free time, I use task lists to feel productive. Things like “find best ever monogrammed tumblers,” and “research tankinis with complementary swim skirts” have become full day affairs and sources of stress. Even after ticking off jobs, I’m left wondering if I did in fact get the perfect robe for my bridesmaids. Perhaps they’d prefer boxers, or tanks or ironic headbands. How do you pick one item that expresses proper gratitude to your outstanding friends? I know! A chevron makeup case with their initials on it definitely says, “I appreciate you.” There’s no harm in the occasional procrastination when you’re on the clock, but when finding these items is your only occupation, absolute bride-sanity ensues.

One of the simultaneously best and worst things to happen to news media was the creation of 24/7 coverage. I can say this with complete authority because I spent a fortune on a masters in journalism and once met Ted Turner. This is how I feel about the bridal publishing market. It’s so over saturated that every website is just trying to make some noise. This creates major anxiety in otherwise normal girls. I’ve been able to tune most of the chaos out over the course of my nearly three year engagement. But now, with two months to go before my wedding, I’m beginning to worry that I didn’t study enough for the exam. Did I get enough facials? Some blogs say you should be going every month. Should I have stopped eating salt / white bread / white chocolate / brown soda / tequila by now? I’ve never even had an acai berry! Which of the 700 workouts on Pinterest will actually give me the best bridal booty in 7 days? And where do I get a trousseau? Does that come with the cake?

Every time I pass a shop window, I feel a strong pull to go inside – maybe within lies the one purchase that will give me composure before I make his life change. Maybe, just this once, the high end outpost will have the answer.

Like my grade school peers in Prada, my constant pursuit of items that I hope will make me my best self the week I get married has made me lose sight of what really matters. While I may not be secure in my choice of flip flops, cover-ups or crystalline sash, I am confident in my choice of who I’m marrying, even if I really need to work harder on finding him a proper swimsuit. That’s on next week’s to-do list.

Internet 101

16 Feb

photoMy mother has recently discovered the Internet. Here she is (bottom right) pictured with the graduating class of Roslyn’s Adult Education: Web for Beginners course. It’s been over a year since I donated my baby pink laptop to her so that she could solicit bachelors on E-Harmony. She’s only now begun to grasp that other websites exist and that they can all be accessed through “Google” which she always pronounces as if she’s speaking English as a second language.

My mom’s even starting to crawl on Facebook. However, she hasn’t mastered what it means to post something ON someone’s wall versus just out there in the ether. Highlights include setting her status as “JohnPeters@hotmail.com” instead of emailing the guy directly; posting “HEY BABY I LUVYOUR WORK!!! (sic) to no one in particular, and going on a commenting spree whenever I’m tagged in a photo to the tune of, “YAY! Your all biutiful. Let’s party!” Luckily, she’s extremely complimentary so like me, my pals all find this scholar of social media endearing. Here’s her latest learning exercise in uploading and captioning.

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I want puppies too, mom.

Besides wall commentary, her most recent hobby has been using the web to find favors to give out at my bridal shower. As far as I know, it’s not customary for the bride to select said party treats, but I’m unemployed, hands-on, and this is a project that my mother believes in very deeply. Her only daily interactions are with her doctors, and now, my FB friends so I’ve been delighted to send her links to heart-shaped wine openers, now that she actually knows what a link is.

I think it’s rather impressive for a high school dropout, who only discovered word processing in her early 60’s to be as savvy as she is, even if she advertises the occasional e-harmony guy’s email address along the way.

Mom, if you’ve navigated to this post, keep up the good work. And, hats off to your fellow graduates! May you live long and tweet often.

Size Doesn’t Matter. And Other Lies Girls Tell Their Boyfriends

12 Sep Screen Shot 2012-11-01 at 4.11.44 PM


When you’re told that someone gets engaged, the first question asked is always, “how big is the ring?” Every other g-chat convo contains a link to some poor sod’s engagement ring, followed by catty commentary from girls who’ve never met her. It’s an unspoken truth that all women are terrified that their ring will be the protagonist in this judge-fest. We’re met with giant sighs when we finally get the approval of our closest friends.  It’s not beautiful until someone you care about tells you it is. This makes me altogether terrified to have a baby.

Some girls assuage their fears by sending besties along with their fiancés to shop for the ring. Others put pics on the fridge as subtle hints (I don’t actually know anyone who’s ever done this). Many accompany their boyfriends to look for jewels on spec. She points to things. He takes note of the clarity and mentally calculates how he can afford it without becoming visibly nervous.

Ben and I did this exercise exactly twice. Once, after a dinner in Chinatown, hopped up on Tsing Tao’s and MSG, we looked at some heart-shaped CZ’s in the downtown diamond district. I swore at the time that I didn’t understand why people fuss over diamonds. I proclaimed that I didn’t want a boring “rock” (he was relieved) and that I’d prefer a Chanel bag over a cushion cut (he started to sweat).

The second time was after a boozy brunch. Bloated from mimosas, he took me to Tiffanys. The Puerto Rican Day Parade had just cleared and the streets outside of the flagship store were left with remnants of orange confetti and the pridefuly  inebriated. It was perfect.

Under the artificiality of the UV lights that would have made even those glass Chinatown baubles look stunning, I tried on ring after ring and I finally started to get it. “Diamonds are kinda pretty,” I whispered to Ben, still trying to keep my cool with the sales gal. “She seems to like round, brilliant cut” the associate said to him with a wink and pulled him aside to hand over her business card and note the size of stone that would be appropriate for me. Big, but not ostentatious. Naturally.

“I guess having an actual engagement ring wouldn’t be the end of the world” I confided in Ben after our trip to the land of the mark-up was through. We then drank some more to celebrate my awakening and had self-righteous conversation about how we were too smart to fall for the ruse of buying a ring from a store that charges a 300% premium because of the blue box it comes in. I didn’t mention that I once owned every toggled item Tiffany shelved, but they all lay tarnished in some drawer on Long Island alongside those neck chokers that looked like tattoos.

After that, feeling more confident that I knew what I didn’t like in rings, I was sure to show Ben every time I saw something that was so “not me,” leaving the immense task of figuring out what was “me” to him. A note to boys with fickle fiancés out there: buy the ring from somewhere returnable. It takes the pressure off.

Luckily, I love my ring (though I imagine I’d grow to love anything he picked out for me. Maybe). I think his happiest moment in our relationship was when I finally gave him the okay to insure it. Though despite adoring my new jewelry, it took a great deal of adjustment. I’ve amassed a nice collection of antique cocktail rings. I’m used to those. There’s no expectation that I’ll wear them every single day. In sweatpants. I worried the ring was too dressed up to wear to work. Perhaps I’ll just wear it on special occasions, I thought initially.  I got over that.

My ring and I have a special bond now. Recently I was caught gazing at it at the nail salon while I was drying. The lady next to me leaned over and asked nicely if I’d just gotten engaged. “Two and a half years ago,” I told her, even though it’s only been two but when I feel uncomfortable I exaggerate the length of my engagement by a half of a year.

Though I was slightly embarrassed that the woman spied me checking out ma piece, the novelty of having sparkles on my forbidden finger hasn’t worn off yet. And I no longer wish that I had a purse instead.

I Sometimes Fake It

12 Sep

Remember that scene in “Sex and the City,” (the TV show, not the sad film franchise) when Miranda finds out she’s having a boy and has to fake an excited reaction? The sonogram-ist reveals the sex, waits for Miranda to get wildly giddy, and and not wanting to disappoint the lady with the belly jelly, Miranda exclaims “a boy!” That basically sums up what it feels like when you first get engaged. Everyone (and by everyone I mean females) expect you to be foolishly overjoyed at even the slightest mention of a wedding. You have to perform the role of jubilant engaged girl or else you’ll deprive people of the moment they deserve.

Here’s how a typical scene goes:

INT. Office bathroom. Day

Under harsh halogen lighting, Recently Engaged Girl (R) sees Woman (W). She barely knows W but is cordial because they’re on identical pee and kitchen schedules. R leaves her stall. W, who is at sink, turns and points excitedly. R glances down, checking skirt for poop.  W remains silent and grabs R’s unwashed left hand. R offers a half-smile, willing this moment to pass quickly.

W: When did it happen? Are you so excited?
R: (awkward laugh). Yeah!
W: When’s the wedding?
R: We’re thinking fall.
W: Pumpkins!  How.did.he.do.it? (she’s squealing now)

R tells the story as if reciting facts off of a flash card. W doesn’t register the dry delivery. She abruptly pulls R in for a hug.

END SCENE.

After you get engaged, every person you encounter feels like those curbside clip-board holders who stop you to ask if you care about the gays and then stick a pencil in your hand. You fake phone calls, dodge glances, and walk with purpose out of fear that you’ll be pulled aside and asked if you have a minute for romantic rights. Like the wayward teens in the “Save the Children” t-shirts, these people who just want to hear your origin story are well-intenioned. They’re either genuinely happy for you or hoping that your fiancé proposed in a totally dull way so they can win. “A fortune cookie!” “In the champagne glass!” “While you were jogging!” HOW SPECIAL. But, once I got used to the dance I learned to use less and less self-deprecation and mockery with each re-telling. Now I can get through an entire proposal recanting without mentioning the awkward bits or apologize for being engaged. Baby steps.

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