Saturday, January 30, 2016

Brand New Barbie Bods

Feeling very popular right now; I've had so many emails and messages this week from Lovin' the Alien readers. 

Some congratulated me on reaching 130,000 page views. (Thank you!) 

Most, however, forwarded links to news stories about a certain famous lady, and asked when (or what) I was going to write about her. Really, I haven't had this much input since a former child star put on a teddy bear teddy and twerked on live TV. (What was that about?) While I'm assuming that Miley Cyrus's bits and pieces are all genuine flesh and blood, my new subject's figure is decidedly ... plastic.

I'm talking, of course, about Mattel's Queen Bee, the one, the only, the impossible shapely Barbie. The news this week, though, is that maybe those infamous curves aren't quite so impossible anymore.

I haven't written much about Barbie (or, as I like to call her, Barbieelzebub) for a while. It's been many years since my now eighteen-year-old daughter asked for one. Just the other day, I ran into Super Stop & Shop for a few items and saw a Valentine's Day display of individual dolls packaged in pink and red. They were $12.99, which reinforced how long it had been since I actually bought one (I think I usually paid about $6 bucks). But, there appeared to progress as well. There was firefighter Barbie and a pilot Barbie and a doctor Barbie. And, all of these accomplished characters wore pants (!). Firefighter Barbie looked trim and busty, but she didn't look like a stripper at a fireman's bachelor party. And even though doctor Barbie had hot pink leggings and high heels under her lab coat, the lab coat itself looked professional and was long enough to hide most, well some, of the leggings. (Hey, if my tush looked like that, maybe I wouldn't cover it up either.) All in all, I thought these were good signs.

The news this week isn't about Barbie's professional life. It's about her body. Some quick history first, though ...

Once upon a time, years before wholesome pig-tailed American girls sent Barbie and Ken off on dream dates, there was a more mature figure named Lili. She was based on a popular character in an R-rated comic strip that ran in the newspaper Bild-Zeitung in Hamburg. Her naughty adventures were so popular that she was immortalized in plastic with heavy make-up, stiletto toes, and that figure we all know so well but rarely encounter in real life. Lili dolls were sold in bars and adult toy stores; they were popular gag gifts at stag parties.

In 1956, Ruth Handler, the co-founder of the Mattel toy company was vacationing in Germany with her daughter "Barbie" and she brought the Lili toy back. Three years later, Barbie the doll was introduced. And the rest is, shall-we-say, bodacious history. 

Feminists have had issues with the divine Miss B for decades. But, Handler saw it differently, "Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future. If she was going to do role playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave it beautiful breasts." The breasts (and the infinitesimal waist and the longer than humanly possible legs) have always been part of the problem. Because, guess what Ruth? Ain't no girl gonna look like that when she's 16 or 17. No way. No how. 

This week, Mattel launched an expanded selection of Barbies with more diverse (and arguably realistic) body shapes. "Girls everywhere now have infinitely more ways to play out their stories and spark their imaginations through Barbie. Along with more overall diversity, we proudly add three new body types to our line."

According to Mattel's website, "The 2016 Barbie® Fashionistas Dolls will eventually include 4 body types, 7 skin tones, 22 eye colors, 24 hairstyles, and countless on-trend fashions and accessories."

Phew. I was worried we might run out of on-trend accessories.

Anyway, now girls can choose "Original Barbie," "Petite Barbie," "Curvy Barbie," or "Tall Barbie." Because, apparently, the original isn't curvy or tall enough. According to figures (no pun intended) released in 2013, Barbie would be 5'9" and weigh 110 pounds; the average American woman is 5'4" and weighs 166. 

An unapologetic feminist, myself, I've always thought the Barbie-backlash was a little overblown. I think critics overestimate the influence of a doll and underestimate our daughters' imaginations and common sense.
Still, I think there's been progress. And, just to be sure, I did a  quick reality check with my daughter. 

She said, "Well, it's about time." But then, she quickly pointed out, "There's still no fat ones."


If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.   


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In Defense of Yellling

I yelled at my teenage daughter the other night. I admit it. There were several extenuating circumstances, some my fault; some hers; some nobody's, just situational.

First of all, I was worn out. We are under tremendous pressure at work right now; a client's pending acquisition has created a ton of new projects and it's been all-hands on-deck for the past couple of weeks. (This is wonderful news for business, but doesn't really make for the most patient parent after hours.) 

My daughter is worn out as well. Like most high school students, she doesn't get anything near enough sleep. And, after almost twelve years of classes and homework (I won't count kindergarten), she's pretty much "done" with school. Attitudinally anyway — hey, we've still got five months to go.

Add to this the concurrence of senior-year mid-terms, a looming scholarship competition, a naughty puppy, car trouble, the season's first significant snowstorm ... no wonder the atmosphere at ye olde homestead was what one might call "fraught." 

The aforementioned yelling was in response to something that my daughter had promised to do but was not doing (something that I thought was important, but she clearly did not). It turned out to be a moot point, but that's another story for another less stressed-out day.

For the record, I don't yell very often. Generally, I speak in dulcet, measured tones. But, my daughter would tell you otherwise; she insists that I do. I confess that I often nag, but I don't yell. To me, yelling involves raising your voice. My daughter, on the other hand, thinks that any negative observation or constructive criticism, no matter how soft-spoken, constitutes a "yell." I say, "Get thee to a dictionary."

To yell (a verb) is to say something very loudly especially because you are angry, surprised or are trying to get someone's attention. Thank you, Misters Merriam and Webster.

Definitions aside, I did yell and I'm sorry for it. But, in my defense ...

Is it not human nature to raise one's voice when one has repeated a request so many times that one has lost count?

Is it not natural to become frustrated and to voice said frustration in a "loud and sharp cry" when one's high honors student, for whom English is a first language, appears to be mystified by the simple words, "Do it now?"

Is there not some benefit to helping one's offspring understand that a person should only push another person so far?

I would argue yes to all of the above.

And I would do so in dulcet, measured tones.  

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.   

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Speak the Speech, I Pray You Sis

As an advertising copywriter, I've had to learn a lot of new languages. Not German or Spanish or Japanese or French (an actual language, which after eleven years of classes, I should speak beaucoup better than I do, mon dieu). But, more like CFO or IT Guy or Lawyer or Airline Executive. Much of the client work that my partners and I take on is business-to-business high tech. Our target audience has to believe in the solutions we're selling. 

And speaking their language is an important part of building that trust.

Speaking Teen, on the other hand, doesn't seem to work like that. In the trust department, I think I actually lose ground every time I try to use the vernacular shared by my daughter and her peers. Maybe it's because I'm so old. Or maybe because what comes out of my mouth is so wrong. Then again, it could be a lethal combination of both. Old and wrong. There are nuances I just don't get. 

By the way, "You don't get it," appears to mean the same thing in my language and in my daughter's. It's a sort of cross-generational Esperanto.

I certainly don't pretend to be fluent in this younger native's tongue. Words are words, but context is everything. And usage and definition don't always go hand in hand. But, whether you can converse or not, having a dictionary is helpful when you're trying to translate. So here, in mostly-alphabetical order, are some of the latest additions to the language of Teen. Good luck.

Not to worry. You won't be tested. And the revolution won't be televised either (but you can probably follow it on Snapchat).

This is an acronym for "as f*ck." Apparently that's a good thing, because it's used to add emphasis. So, someone's not just a "babe," they're a "babe af."

This is added to the end of any word to approximate adding "very" to the beginning of it. E.g., "I'm hungry boots." "I'm tired boots." "I'm broke boots."

Another word for money. Many teens work after school to "make that cheddar." If they're "broke boots," they have "no cheddar."

Doing laundry
Well, does your teenager ever do laundry? Neither does mine. This means "hiding something from your parents."

A person who is trying too hard. (Like me, right now, reminding my daughter that her AP Bio test is Tuesday.)

Your OTP is your "one true pairing," the celebrity couple for whom you wish an impossibly perfect relationship.

Something particularly messy. As in, "My daughter's room is so ratchet right now." (Now and always.) 

This means buddy and, technically, it's short for "sistuh." It's the same as saying "Bro," but with a feminist slant.

Short for relationship, but used as a verb. If you "ship Brad and Angelina," it means they are your OTP. 

(See how this all works together?)
Anything that looks really fine on someone. For those of you (like me) trying to keep up, "Snatched" is the new "Fleck."

To stan someone is to obsess about them. You could stan Justin Bieber by going to all his concerts and getting a Biebs tat.
An action with questionable motives. "She knows he's trying not to smoke, so giving him that bong was sus."

Another word for "desperate." Like that guy who won't take "no" for an answer? "He's so thirsty!"

Watch Netflix and chill
Used as an invitation, this means you don't actually want to watch Netflix. You don't actually want to chill. You actually want to "hook-up."

Extra, out of alphabetical order, but apropos of the above ...

Have sex. No strings attached.

You may have already known that last one. (And/or, you may (like me) have been corrected when you used the phrase to mean anything other than the above. 

Me: "I'm going to hook up with Lauren for a movie this afternoon."

Her: "I don't think so, Mom."

See what I mean about usage versus definition?

I mean, Lauren is my BFF, but ...

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Binge Is Back

Last winter, we were buried under about ten feet of powder. My teenage daughter had snowdays week after week, and it was pretty much impossible to go anywhere. Work slowed down as New England waited to thaw out. Even though my office is right upstairs, most of my clients were having a very hard time getting to theirs, and there wasn't much going on. 

So, while my husband was busy shoveling, my daughter and I did what any self-respecting digital cable subscribers would do. We binged on Netflix.

For months, my daughter had been trying to turn me on to How I Met Your Mother. Being housebound gave us the perfect chance to watch it together. 9 seasons, 208 episodes, 20 minutes each (without commercial interruption).

You do the math. (Yikes.)

This wasn't my first binge. I've been known to devour all 6 hours of the BBC Pride & Prejudice in a single, heavenly, afternoon. And, sometimes, I have to binge in order to review a new show for my regular column in Women's Voices for Change, like Grace and Frankie, House of Cards, and my favorite Orange is the New Black. At one point, I even wrote a primer on binging for other would-be couch potatoes.

But, binging still feels like a very guilty pleasure to me. Not so for my daughter (who can't remember a time before on-demand TV, much less DVDs or VHS tapes); it's par for the course. Why stop your life for a particular time on a particular night to watch a particular episode, when you can watch any and every episode, anytime, any place and on any device.

I mean, really, adhering to a network line-up is so last century.

While I may be a dilettante, my daughter is a committed binger. Thanks to Netflix (which she can see on our TV, on her laptop, on our iPad, and on her phone), she has relished season after season of series after series. 

How she continues to get good grades is beyond me.

Nevertheless, here are some of her best binges:

Gossip Girl

Suffice it to say, this is not the New York I grew up in! It's a show about the 2% and their teen children  — who have better-looking homes, hair, outfits, and boyfriends than the rest of us. 
The Office
Not quite sure what the allure was here. My daughter has never worked in an office and has rarely even been in one. (Plus, that handheld camera thing always makes me a little queasy.) But she stayed with it.

One Tree Hill
Between the love affairs, terminal illnesses, basketball rivalries, and hostage situations (seasons 3 and 6), who would ever want to live in this place? All they need is a guest appearance by Susan Lucci. Can you say s-o-a-p o-p-e-r-a?

Pretty Little Liars 
Another town you would be well-advised to steer clear of. A group of high school girls have more on their plates than homework and SATs. Like murder, blackmail, secrets, queen bees, and the mysterious "A." 

Grey's Anatomy
An ensemble cast portrays young doctors at a busy hospital. It has great actors and good writing, and it somehow feels more "real" than any of the above. I walked by the TV the other afternoon and a patient's artery exploded all over his attending medical student. Niiiiiiice.

My daughter's still working her way through Grey's. But, I may ask her to hit pause and watch something with me instead. Pretty much any season of Downton Abbey (5 years, 43 episodes, on Amazon Prime) will do.

After all, we have another snowstorm on its way this weekend.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

(No) Control Freak

This morning, I brought a small bowl of apple slices to my teenage daughter's bedroom. The light was already on, so I assumed she was up. 

Not! 'Turns out her father had turned on the light because he was looking for an iPhone power cord that had mysteriously disappeared from the kitchen.

"Mo-o-om," she groaned from beneath her covers, "Please go away. I have an alarm."

Her voice had an odd mix of civility and exasperation. I slunk out of the room, but not without reflecting on the injustice of it all.

Having an alarm is nothing new. In fact, my daughter has two different alarm clocks — one beside the bed and another strategically located across the room on her desk — plus her smartphone. This has never invalidated the need for parental intervention. In fact, on a typical morning, we hear alarm after alarm after alarm go off long before we see said offspring. In fact, there is serious doubt that we would ever see her if one or the other of us didn't go in and beg, plead, cajole, insist, verbally drag her out of bed.

And all the while, we are getting closer to the time she needs to leave or be late.

Yes, she's eighteen (I guess), so technically (I guess) she's an adult (I guess). But, she's living under my roof, right? 

Hmmm. Doesn't that sound like a 1960s television series? 

It's not so much about "My house, my rules." (Okay, it is a little bit about that.) It's more a genuine concern for her welfare. What was the point of years of school and studying and science projects and bio tests and research papers and all that literature by dead white guys if she's going to mar her nearly perfect attendance record by a rash of final stretch tardiness?

The truth is, we have so little control anymore. Did I say "So little?" Sorry about that. The word I was looking for was actually "No." We have no control.

Here is a (woefully partial) list of all the things I used to have control over, but no longer do:

What she wears
What her hair looks like 
Whether she takes a shower (and whether she stays in 45 minutes once she does)
Where she goes
Who she hangs out with
When she does her homework
When she's on her computer
When she's on her mobile phone
Whether she makes her bed
What time she goes to bed
What time she gets up (this is where we started)
What she watches
What she eats
Whether she takes a vitamin
What she reads
Whether she reads 
Who she listens to

And these are broad categories; within each are myriad decisions I used to make for her. For example, when she was turning two years old, her wonderful pediatrician advised me that I couldn't control what she ate. I could only control what I put in front of her. So, each morning, I'd artfully arrange a plate with fresh fruit, a hard-boiled egg, a mini bagel, a piece of cheese. She would graze to her heart's content and I would smugly congratulate myself on my tremendous parenting skills.

These days, if I were to put such a varied and nutritious breakfast in front of her, the result would be rather different. She would look at me like I had two heads, then grab a chocolate chip cookie dough Zone bar (yes, such things do exist) and head out. Case closed.

I know I can be a control freak, and not just where my daughter is concerned. I like things "just so." Having a child is an act of courage and faith, and it can involve a lot of messiness. Not just unmade beds and cluttered carpets either. Having a child, especially one who is no longer a child, is incredibly messy business. Emotionally messy business.

But, true to Type A, overachieving form, I still give it my all. I remind her that next year, I won't be around to do her laundry, make her bed, or get her up in the morning. She doesn't seem particularly worried about it.

I guess the person I need to remind is me.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  


Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's All In The Mind

The question for the day is ... "What were you thinking?"

Getting inside your teenager's head is a difficult thing to do. The choices they make, the risks they take, the consequences they don't even consider. As parents, our reactions range from shaking our heads to yelling out loud.
"What were you thinking?"

More often than not, we seriously doubt they were thinking at all. 

Truth is, they are thinking, sometimes over-thinking, all the time. It's just that they aren't thinking the way we think.  And the reason for this isn't attitude or laziness or a heightened sense of the dramatic. Teen brains are wired differently than ours are. 

And they are changing every day.

According to neuroscientists, teen brain development is incredibly dramatic, second only to very early childhood. Maybe this should all feel more familiar then. When my now eighteen year old (when did that happen?) daughter was a toddler, I delighted in her progress. New words, new skills, it was like watching lightbulbs turn on in her head each day. Of course, there was also boundary-pushing and lots of testing. "If Mommy says 'No,' and I do it anyway, what will happen?") Having survived the "terrible twos," I think some of us are blindsided when we reach the "terrible teens."

When this happens, it's helpful to think of them as going through an adolescent awkward phase. We wouldn't blame our daughters and sons if they had acne or big, clumsy feet or needed braces, right? In many cases, what's going on in their cranium is just as out of their control.

If you're living with a teen, here are a few familiar phenomena you may have observed — along with the biology behind them.

1. Your teen has trouble figuring out what to do when. (AP Bio homework, anyone?)
In the years between 12 and 25, the brain reorganizes itself. During that time, it's kind of like a filing cabinet that isn't alphabetized. The grey area between things they "should do," "might do," "could do" and "have to do" is  ... well ... grey.

2. Your teen does things they know are wrong, even though you've asked them not to, like, a million times.
At this point their emotional development is greater than their decision-making ability. So, even though they know speeding is dangerous, even though you've told them not to, even though they shouldn't, the thrill wins over the practical.

3. Your teen is quick to turn a conversation into a conflict and a conflict into a full-blown fight.
Teen brains are swirling with cognitive, emotional and social stimuli. Without the abstract thought skills necessary to cope, they tend to erupt. And when that happens, parents are the safest target. No matter how often I threaten to go get an apartment in the city, my daughter knows I won't.

4. Your teen succumbs to peer pressure, or gets his or her feelings hurt.
Social anxiety is a painful byproduct of the analytical skills they're beginning to fine-tune. Teen emotions are much stronger than a teen's ability to have perspective. So, if they're feeling victimized, they're feeling really, really, REALLY victimized.

5. Your teen thinks he or she is the center of the universe.
It's easy to assume that teenagers are self-absorbed — they are — but it isn't because they have big egos. They're just not yet able to see things from any perspective other than their own. It's like they're starring in the movie of their own life and everything and everyone is playing a supporting role. 

This last, like the other things I've described, is grounded in brain development. But, it serves a purpose too. They are about to go out into the world. They need to know who they want to be.

Not just who we want them to be.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Alors, French Models: "Bon Appetit"

We live in a world where size matters and less is more. As mothers of teenage girls, we're well-advised to keep our eyes on their eating habits. 

According to Eating Disorder Hope, an organization that "promotes ending eating disordered behavior, embracing life and pursuing recovery," as many as 50% of teen girls (and 30% of teen boys — really) use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight. And this behavior doesn't necessarily end when girls leave high school; 25% of women on college campuses binge and purge. 

My own daughter, I'm happy to say, doesn't have any of the above problems. She's an athlete and hungry ... well ... pretty much all the time. Don't get me wrong, she's no health food nut. In fact, you might even say she has a "love/hate relationship." She loves to snack all day and hates it when we're out of her favorites, like cookie dough, cheese poofs, and tortilla chips. Luckily she also craves more nutritious options like fresh fruit, steamed edamame, and chicken caesar salad. Otherwise, I might not win that "mother of the year" award I've been counting on.

Anyway ...

Society has sent adolescent girls mixed messages since long before my daughter — or even I — was born. Take popular magazines, for example. Editorial will warn against crash diets and then on the next page you'll see a model who looks like she's a heroine addict in a famine-stricken country who's had four of her ribs removed.

Not cool.

I don't expect the United States to do anything about it. After all, we don't exactly embrace regulations of any kind. (Don't get me started on gun control. More than 90,000 gun deaths since Newtown? I told you, don't get me started.) Common sense here takes a backseat to protecting our rights, partisan politics, and almighty commerce. But, it's with great interest that I've followed news coming out of France the last few weeks.

The so-called "Skinny Model Ban," passed into French legislation right before Christmas. It stipulates that models must have a doctor's note saying that they are of a healthy weight (technically with a BMI of 18 or higher). Advertisers that hire non-conforming models risk a 6-month prison sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros. In addition, if a photo of a model is edited to make her appear thinner, a disclaimer of "Retouched Photo" must accompany it. Failure to do so could incur a lesser but still significant fine of 37,500 euros.

As you can imagine, the outcry from France's fashion industry was swift and loud. Some threatened that the new law would drive design, photography, and publishing out of the country altogether. One stylist insisted that the new rules are body-shaming women with eating disorders and that garment sizes should be regulated rather than the people wearing them.

Regardless of the brouhaha, Frances is not the first country to address the dangerous epidemic of wasp-waisted runway waifs. Israel, Spain, and Italy have similar laws and the United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority has the right to ban ads that are "misleading, harmful and offensive." Apparently, images that tell young women that their goal should be zero percent body fat fall into that "harmful" category. I agree.

And, I wholeheartedly applaud France's efforts. The worlds of media, fashion, and publishing hold great influence over the self-image and subsequent behavior of their audiences — especially of pre-teens, teens, and young women. But, I also find it interesting in light of a strange dichotomy I've always observed about the French.

French women, in particular Parisian women, are noted for their sophistication and glamour and — especially — their thinness. In fact,
Mireille Guiliano, former CEO of my favorite champagne Veuve Cliquot, wrote a bestselling book series about it: French Women Don't Get Fat ®.

Three years ago, my daughter and I spent an incredible week together in Paris. Here's what I remember about the beautiful city's beautiful women.

They were stylish.
I knew better than to wear my running shoes (bien sur!), but I still stood out as une americaine. Even my expensive embroidered flats couldn't compete with their sky-high heels. (And on cobblestones, wtf?)

They were smokers.
We're so used to nicotine-shaming our colleagues and neighbors here that it was rather a shock to see virtually everyone, old/young, male/female puffing away.

And they were impossibly thin.
How, one might ask, was this possible given that Paris has arguably the best and most delectable food available everywhere you look? How do French women resist soupe a l'oignon gratinee, des patisseries,
coq au vin, boeuf bourguinon, or even a simple crepe from a street vendor?  

My daughter and I didn't care. After all, it just meant more for us. 
If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

College-Level Math

Like so many other parents of high school seniors, we're in a holding pattern right now. My daughter has been accepted at three of the four schools to which she applied. We're still waiting to hear from number four, but since that fine institution wasn't her top choice, it's a moot point. Although she seems to be honing in on a decision (and a campus visit several weeks ago knocked one contender out completely), she has been thoughtful and patient about it. 

Or else she's procrastinating. A more than likely possibility. After all, she's eighteen.

Meanwhile, her father and I (well, mainly I) have been doing a lot of math. For the next four years, not just her higher education expenses, but things like new cars and vacations, are up in the air. Mathematically speaking.

How much will we owe? That's the two hundred thousand dollar question.
Each of the three colleges that have accepted her have offered my daughter handsome merit scholarships.

Me: See, honey? All that hard work paid off.

Her: (eye roll)

But, each school presents a unique and complicated equation. For example, one school has a discount for students from our state majoring in her concentration. Nice, right? But, then they offered her slightly more as a merit award. The two are mutually exclusive and come with their own rules and regulations. If she takes the merit, she has to requalify every year. If she takes the discount, she can't change majors.

And none of this comes without work on our part. The FAFSA is looming, although we won't qualify for need-based aid (like so many middle-class Americans, we can't exactly afford tuition, but we can't can't afford it to the extent that someone else wants to pay it for us). But, we've saved since she was three, plus there are grants, work-study opportunities and the dreaded college loans to consider. And, she is being considered for an additional equestrian scholarship and will compete for several more sponsored by organizations in our town.

And, let's get real, it isn't as though we'll stop working while she's in school. (Don't I wish?!?) Tuition will become another bill that we pay. We're used to that. (Aren't we all?!?)

The good news (well, aside from acceptances and scholarships, which I would classify as great news) is that — in theory — some of our expenses are going to decrease when she hits the road. For example ...

1. Stabling and other costs
Wherever my daughter and her trusty steed end up, we will still be footing the bill for his room and board as well as hers. But, happily, the costs are considerably lower outside our general area. Then again, so is real estate, but we'll probably wait on that.

2. Cookie dough and other comestibles
This fairly expensive so-called "after-school snack" (so-called by my daughter, obvs) will no longer be required. Call us crazy, but my husband and I prefer our cookies cooked. The same holds true for other weekly grocery staples, such as orange soda, fruit roll-ups and cheese poofs.

3. Boots and other necessities
My daughter has only two feet, but a boot collection that somehow continues to grow. In fact, many of our trips to the mall for completely unrelated errands result in a new addition. And, I could make the same observation about leggings, tee shirts, jewelry and more. You may (rightly) view this as an inability on the part of yours truly to use the word "No." But, we have to assume that less shopping together will mean less ... well ... shopping.

Hmmm. Our monthly finances may not feel so different after all. 

Now, if I can just make sure there isn't a Starbucks, Panera, Bertucci's or Chipotle (e coli scare not withstanding) near her campus, we'll be all set.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Star Wars: Ms. Fisher Awakens

After too many decades of way too many Christmas gifts, my family finally started a "Secret Santa" tradition a few years ago. At first, it was just the grownups; my daughter who was probably a tween when we started and my niece who is ten years younger were exempt. They still raked in truckloads of toys. 

The rest of us agreed to a more sober approach, drawing names at Thanksgiving and then purchasing one, fairly modest gift for the person we've chosen. Nice and civilized. This year, my mother pulled my name and gave me a soft infinity scarf (from Ann Taylor Loft), which my daughter is already coveting.

But, I wrangled another gift as well.

My younger brother, aghast upon learning that I had not yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, treated me to a matinee. And not just any matinee. The theatre, on 42nd street just west of Times Square, boasted a food court rather than a lowly concession stand, enormous reclining seats, and a sound system so advanced that said reclining seats shook all through the previews. I could only imagine what would happen once we boarded the Millennium Falcon.

I saw the first Star Wars the year it came out (more than once). I was 15 and loved it, particularly moody young Luke Skywalker (as the second and third movies came out — and I grew up a little — my allegiance switched to roguish Han Solo). At any rate, my holiday invitation to the new installment included one for my own teen daughter. Alas, after Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent, Star Wars was a bit too old school for her. (Plus, she was in NYC for just a few days and wanted to enjoy it. She ended up going downtown with her dad.)

The movie was really quite wonderful. ("Awesome" is actually the first word that comes to mind.) My niece was kind enough to show me how to work the space-age seat, and with some gentle if persistent reminders from my sister-in-law didn't give anything away. Not to worry ... I won't either.

Of course, one of the best things about the new Star Wars is the reunion of the cast members of the old Star Wars. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are all in attendance, and appear to have enjoyed the experience immensely. But, let's do a little math. The first film was made in 1977. That's 38 years ago. 

Do you look like you did 38 years ago? 'Didn't think so.

Should we expect actors — and, more particularly actresses, since they're the ones under fire — to stay young and slim, gravity-defying and ageless? Apparently, there are thousands of trolls on the Internet who think we should.

It's ridiculous. Of the movie's three stars, I would argue that Fisher looks the best. Then again, Hamill and Ford aren't being unfavorably, and unfairly, compared to 20-year old versions of themselves in gold bikinis. And, while much has been made about Fisher's 35-pound weight loss for the role, there's been very little press about the 50 pounds Hamill had to lose.

So, once The Force Awakens actually awakened (after the most hype Hollywood has ever generated and exponentially record-breaking presales), the Web pretty much exploded with mean-spirited criticism about her looks and whether or not (they were quite vocal about the "not") she had "aged well."


Critics and TV personalities participated in the bashing too. John O'Reilly on Fox stumbled through an attempted Fisher diss after alluding to a major spoiler: "But it comes out worse for our friend Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia, because she doesn't look like Princess Leia."

Um. Maybe because she's General Leia now. Did ya see the movie, John?  

When Fisher responded, she was greeted with more abuse. 

"Showbiz is optional ... fame and age come with it ... don't agree Carrie? Give all the money back."

"So you want the money & adulation that comes with being a famous actor but not the criticism. Whoever told you life was fair?"

But, if there's anything to be learned from this, it's not to match wits with Carrie Fisher. She will win.

"Please stop debating about whether OR not I aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn't aged as well as I have."

And, even more thoughtfully ...
"Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they're the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don't hold your breath for either."

You tell 'em, Princess ... er ... I mean General! 

And, one more thing. I'm five years younger than Fisher, and I won't be getting into a gold bikini any time soon. 

So, don't hold your breath for that either.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

You Say You Want A Resolution

Happy New Year!

Here's what I've done this time every year since I was in fourth grade or so: make resolutions. Here's what I'm not doing this year: make resolutions. At least not the ones I've made before.

I went to the gym this weekend and had to laugh. Even if I'd been living under a rock without any link to the outside world, I could have told you it was early January. The joint was jammed! Finding a parking space was more of a workout than my 60-minute Zumba class. This happens every winter as we all atone for too much holiday spirit (not to mention cookies, candy and every other indulgence). "Lose weight," "Eat less," "Exercise more." How long will these resolutions last? Ask me again in March or so. That's when it won't be so tough to find parking.

Resolutions aren't all bad, of course. Each new year brings the promise of a fresh start, which can be applied to everything from the size of our blue jeans to the state of our bedroom. (When we returned from our holiday trip to New York, I commented on all of the detritus unceremoniously dumped on my teenage daughter's floor. "What about your resolution to keep your room neat?" I asked. "I didn't make any resolutions," she replied. "I know," I told her, "I made them for you." Suffice it to say that negotiating her room right now would be about as tricky as finding a parking space at the gym.)

Parent-of-a-teen humor aside, I've resolved to reflect on more important things.

In mid-December, I received a Christmas card from an old friend who lives in Europe. I look forward to her card each year because in addition to sending a picture of her beautiful boys, she always includes an entertaining newsletter. I'm not being facetious in the least. Not only is she a great writer but her husband is a diplomat and their year often includes things like royal weddings. Real ones.

I opened the oversized envelope and was stunned to realize that the card and a brief heartfelt missive were sent by someone else. My friend had died.

This was not someone I saw often, but she was very dear to me. An agency client initially, she had become a good friend and we attended her wedding twenty years ago or so. (Her besotted husband had, famously, sent dozens and dozens of roses to her office after they first met on a vacation along with a series of postcards sent out of sequence that fit together into a love letter.) Over the years, we exchanged parenting tips and tales (you'd be surprised how similar those pushy PTA mothers are on both sides of the Atlantic), and we joked that if my daughter married one of her sons we'd get to see each other more often. She was incredibly supportive about my writing and it was with her urging and encouragement that I started Lovin' the Alien in 2011.

The last time I spoke to her was almost a year ago, on her birthday. And, while I'd thought of her many times over the past months, I was always too busy with something or other to reach out. My thinking was that I would wait for her annual newsletter and respond to it.

Sadly, I didn't get the chance.

My friend had everything going for her. She was beautiful, smart, talented, comfortable, happy, and loved. But, now she's gone, years too soon. It puts so much in perspective. And, I'm left with a feeling of, not guilt so much, but missed opportunity. Assuming she was healthy, assuming we were still (relatively) young, I missed time we might have shared. Most importantly, I missed letting her know how much I admired and appreciated her.

So, I will not waste the new year resolving to fit into a smaller size (that never works anyway). Instead, I'm going to reach out to the people I care about and find time to be with them, by phone, online or, hopefully, in-person. I want to make sure that I don't regret leaving anything else unsaid.

I think that sounds like a much better plan for the new year, don't you?

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.