Is Today a Pants Day?

Believe it or not, there is a holiday on which people walk around with no pants. (This year it’s celebrated on May 4 – the first Friday in May.) There are no official rules, other than not wearing pants and pretending that nothing is out of the ordinary. For the shy men, skirts or kilts may be worn. The traditional way to celebrate No-Pants Day is to ride the subway, but we don’t have one around here, so the idea hasn’t really caught on.

(It is a day, I suppose, to work out those dreams you have when you show up at work with no pants on. My problem is that I dream about showing up naked AND NO ONE NOTICES.)

Having a day to celebrate no pants is all well and wonderful. But what about people who wear no pants year-round? People like me.

As a freelance writer and editor, whose only commute is from upstairs to downstairs, I don’t really have to worry about pants. Other writers I know like to wear pants (or skirts) because it gives them a feeling of being at work officially, even if they’re doing that work in the privacy of their own home.

Not me. I relish the freedom of being a work-from-home person and I almost never wear pants while I work. Oh, in the winter I break out the Sheldon-esque plaid flannel jammies and work wearing those. But when the weather is warmer, I settle for a nightshirt or a t-shirt, sans pants.

Really, I could work in even less, except my study is on the ground floor and there’s a window. There’s a shrub in front of it, but still, I find it best not to encourage the neighbor boys.

I find nightshirts soothing and relaxing and completely conducive to work. They also make it easier for me to take naps in the middle of the day, which is one of the other perks of being a freelancer.

But there’s another aspect of the pants vs. no pants dilemma to be considered. A friend of mine and I refer to days when we actually have the energy to go outside and run errands or be social as “pants days,” because we have to put on pants to do so. He’s a writer too and has as much right to work in his bathrobe as I do.

Plus, both of us are given to spells of depression when we can scarcely get out of bed, much less out-of-doors. So we report, “I’ve had three pants days this week” or “I finally had a pants day yesterday,” and congratulate ourselves and each other for having the stamina to insert legs and zip.

I suppose I could wear a skirt or a dress and call it a pants day, but if I do go out, I almost always wear jeans – unless I’m going to a job interview or a meeting with the IRS. I’d be much more relaxed in pajama pants, but there you are. Society has dumb rules. And please don’t tell me that there are things called pajama jeans. That’s cheating.

And by the way, in case you wondered, for me, no-pants days are also no-bra days – but that’s a subject for another time. (




Why Do Models Look So Mean?


You hear it on Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model.

Apparently, that’s the “look” that designers and fashion models and photographers want to portray. Do they really think it will sell clothes?

Someone must think so. But why? Why would I take fashion advice from someone who looks surly and disagreeable and fierce? Whatever happened to models that smiled, like they were enjoying their clothes and knew they looked good in them?

Actually, I think the models in ads that appear in “women’s” magazines and online sites and TV ads may smile from time to time. It’s a question of who buys the product. If women are buying a product – say a pair of jeans – they’d like to think that they will be delighted by them. They will smile.

(Maybe the women in SI‘s swimsuit issue smile too, but I’m not going to do the research on that. It’s doubtful that many of the men who read it are thinking, “I think I’ll buy that for my significant other. That’ll make her happy.” What they’re selling isn’t bathing suits.)

But when it comes to high fashion – and Valentine’s day perfume ads – the women pout at the least, and more likely snarl and glare, directly at the camera.

I don’t get high fashion (or haute couture, if you want to be classy). I don’t mean just that I don’t buy or wear it (which, you may have guessed, I don’t). I don’t get the psychology of it.

Are the fashion shows and ads trying to appeal to the “male gaze”? Obviously, they are, with the boobs and butts prominently displayed. But what about the faces? I understand that men are supposed to fantasize about having sex with these women. But don’t most men prefer a partner who looks happy about the encounter? Apparently, ad execs and fashion show coordinators believe that men prefer what they think is a sultry gaze, but more often looks like a man-eater who’s been dieting for a month.

Again, man-on-the-street men aren’t the target audience for high fashion. Seemingly, neither are non-independently-wealthy women. Who does that leave? Androgynous buyers for high-end department stores? Art directors of expensive, glossy magazines that cater to the glamour set? Other fashion designers?

In other words, people to whom the clothes may be important, but the women wearing them aren’t. The models are walking clothes hangers, so who cares whether they’re happy? And the fashion purveyors have convinced themselves that fierce is fashionable, as long as you’re not really trying to sell a product.

Of course, the smiling, laughing, dancing model isn’t all that accurate either. “Women laughing alone with salad” is the stereotype. But it appears in other forms – women dancing over how good their probiotics make them feel, frolicking playfully at the thought of new lipsticks and blow dryers, or singing about their favorite brand of cottage cheese. I roll my eyes at them until I’m afraid I’ll get stuck staring at the inside of my skull. Other times, I just assume they’re all on amphetamines.

Male models, now. No smiles there either, but the word for them is “aloof.” Half the time they don’t even look at the camera. If this is supposed to be attractive to the female gaze, again I don’t get it or must not have it.

The stereotype here is that women want cool, unapproachable men whom they can arouse and then domesticate. Think Mr. Spock, for example. Only with better abs.

Again, I’d prefer a partner who seems to enjoy being with me.

But maybe that’s just me.

Fed Up With Telemarketers!

First, let me say that telemarketing is (scams aside) honest, hard, low-paying work that I never would do myself, at least not if I had a choice in the matter.

But there are limits.

While the Obamacare enrollment window was open, I received a fair number of calls from folks that just wanted us to know that they had the perfect health insurance policy for us and would we be interested.

That was understandable.

I’d say, “Sorry, not interested. We just got health insurance coverage from my husband’s job.” And that would be that.

I thought that once the enrollment window closed, the calls would stop.

Silly me.

Most of the subsequent telemarketers were dispatched with a polite, “Please take me off your calling list.” They would say, “Thank you” or “Sorry to bother you” and hang up.

I thought that would be it.

Silly me.

There was one health insurance telemarketer that kept calling back. And calling back. And calling back. Sometimes several times in one day. For a while I turned my phone off, thinking that would discourage them.

Silly me.

One caller persisted. She left voicemail. And when I couldn’t keep my phone turned off any longer, she kept calling back. She had a long spiel before she stopped to take a breath and then ask me if I would be interested in healthcare insurance.

I tried waiting to the end of her pitch, then saying, “Please take me off your calling list.”

It was always the same person (Hi, this is Annie, from blah-blah insurance. Now that the window has closed for the Affordable Care Act, you can still get et endless cetera).

I took to talking at the same time she did, repeating over and over, “Please take me off your calling list. Please take me off your calling list.” Finally, she would get to the point in her spiel when she paused to take a breath and ask a question designed to elicit a response from the callee. I would repeat, “Please take me off your calling list,” and hang up.

I know I could have hung up as soon as I heard, “Hi, this is Annie,” but I wanted to get across the idea that she should simply not call back, ever. Ever, ever. Ever. (My phone is a stupid phone and doesn’t show the phone number of the calling party.)

Silly me had had enough. The next time Annie called, I talked over her spiel again, and at her pause for a response, said firmly but still reasonable politely, “There is a law that requires you to take me off your calling list if I ask you to. Do I have to report you?” and hung up.

I was bluffing. I had no idea who I should report her to. The FCC? Ma Bell? Some telemarketing regulatory agency? The Department of Repetitive Calls Department?

For the next call, we went through our usual routine, except that I said firmly, but crankily, “I will report you to the authorities.” (Still bluffing. I still had no idea to whom to report them,)

Then I reached the end of my proverbial rope. I was through with being polite. The next time Annie called and said her name, I simply screamed into the phone, “AAAAAAAAAHHH!” It woke up my husband, who was sleeping beside me.

I was a little ashamed of myself. Not for waking my husband, but because I don’t approve of blowing an air horn into telemarketers’ ears when they’re just trying to do a job. I’d like to think I was less likely to cause hearing damage than an air horn. But I had been patient and polite long enough.

It stopped the calls. I should have thought of it sooner.

Silly me.

When You Have a Cold: Some Unsolicited Advice

Say you’ve got a cold or a light touch of the flu. Then keep far away from me. You feel awful and I don’t want to feel awful too. I know you don’t want visitors, but here I am. And at least I’ve brought a gift: a few suggestions for entertaining things you can do while you suffer in peace and quiet. Except for, you know, the coughing and sneezing and assorted other noises you’re making yourself. Relative peace and quiet, if you know what I mean.

Drink tea. It really doesn’t matter what kind, since you can’t smell it anyway. Earl Grey will smell just like jasmine. Peppermint and Irish Breakfast, the same. And if you want to, you can use it as the base of my father’s restorative tonic, which consists of tea, bourbon, and horehound candy (tea optional). Or boring old lemon and honey, if you insist, though my father would not approve.

Cuddle large, fuzzy cats. Even if you’re allergic to them. You’re already sneezing as much as humanly possible, so you have nothing to fear from dander. Bonus: A large, fluffy cat makes an excellent substitute for a heating pad or hot water bottle.

Read. Or pretend to. Actual reading may distract you from how miserable you are (unless you’re reading Les Miserables). Pretend-reading will encourage people to keep their voices low, plus it doesn’t matter if you fall asleep with the book elegantly displayed on your chest. (Make sure it has a classy dust jacket, even if the book inside is Fifty Shades of Grey. Which I don’t recommend, unless it’s for pretend-reading. It may lead to barfing, which may be in your future anyway.)

Eat chicken soup. Tell everyone that you need it for the fluids and the electrolytes. Egg drop soup is an especially good variety, since if you can’t convince someone in your household to make it and bring it to you, you can always convince the Chinese take-out down the street. Nibble saltines daintily, or the little fried things that look like Chinese tortilla strips.

Hit the Nyquil. And I don’t mean the non-drowsy kind. Sleep through as much of the cold as possible. Warning: Do not mix Nyquil with Southern Comfort or the bourbon-horehound mixture (see above). You’ll barf and you may be doing that already. Also, don’t mix Nyquil with cough syrup, which can cause unintended psychedelic effects and more barfing.

Squash tissues. Let them blossom all around you in a protective ring that no one will want to cross. If you try the ones with built-in lotion, don’t use them to wipe your glasses before actually trying to read (see above).

Call the doctor. Don’t go see the doctor. You’ve got a virus and there’s nothing she can give you for it. Just ask how long it is until you can get an appointment, then rest assured that your cold will be over before that. Unless you start making a sucky, moist kind of wheezing sound when you breathe. The advantage is it will keep people even farther away from you, but the downside is that you may have pneumonia, which is even less fun than a cold.

Use Vick’s Vapo-Rub. You won’t be able to detect the scent because your nose is busy with something else (snot), but other people sure will, encouraging them to keep a respectful distance. If you don’t have Vapo-Rub, try Ben-Gay. Bonus: Nice warm feeling on your chest. Note: If you use either Vapo-Rub or Ben-Gay, do not cuddle the large, fuzzy cats (see above). Unless you want to look like Bigfoot. Just sing “Soft Kitty” instead, or insist that someone else sing it to you.

Whine. Punctuate with coughs and sneezes. Again, the goal is to get people to leave you alone. If this isn’t working, move on to even more disgusting symptoms. Keep a bucket by your bed, just so people get the idea that you could use it at any moment.

P.S. I’ll give you one guess why I wrote this. If you don’t get it right, I’ll start whining. And coughing. And sneezing. And barfing. Just bring me some egg drop soup and leave quietly.

You wouldn’t want to catch what I’ve got.




The Future of Sex and Cleaning

Forget about all the robot assembly and manufacturing machines that are out to steal our jobs. As far as I can see, the only occupations chores activities that are likely to be overrun by robotic thieves are sex and cleaning.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite – cleaning. (I mean favorite in terms of one thing we’d like to have taken off our to-do lists hands plates – including cleaning the plates.)

Of course everyone knows by now about the Roomba and its cousins, those vacuuming wizards and automatic cat transports. And although they’re not the Jetsons’ Rosie the Robot Maid, they’re fine. As far as they go. Which supposedly is around corners and table legs, over shag carpets and pet stains, and through any detritus (other than Legos) that is conveniently lined up in a perfect rectangle, according to the commercials.

But do you have any idea what other household chores have been usurped by mechanical minions?

A quick tour around the Internet reveals the possibilities. As of this writing, there are, in addition to mechanized, self-propelled vacuums, robotic:



barbecue grill-cleaners



dustpans (I can’t make this stuff up)

cat litter-scoopers


plant- and lawn-waterers

and lawnmowers (at $2100 per, a bit pricey compared to the kid down the street or your own reluctant teenagers).

It would be nice if there were one robot that would satisfy all our needs do all that, but unfortunately, every chore needs its own robot. So we humans still have to multitask, even though our machines don’t.

But, speaking of multi-tasking, there is the RealDoll (Abyss Creations), apparently the be-all and end-all epitome (for now) of sex dolls. They’re easy, but not cheap. And they’re marketed to men. (Do I need to say that? The sexbots-for-women industry is tiny minuscule nearly invisible not yet growing unimpressive.) Starting at about what you’d pay for a robotic lawnmower, but rising rapidly at increasing price points or more, you can have a “plastic pal who’s fun to be with.” (Apologies to Douglas Adams. Couldn’t resist.)

Make no mistake, for that price you’re getting more than your standard blow-up doll. Or sheep. Or whatever. More than “just silicone orifices,” according to one writer, the sexbots are jointed, with synthetic skin, and customizations tailored to the customer’s preferences desires specifications as far as hair color, skin tone, eyes, clothing, booty jiggliness, and genitalia go.

(That customizable genitalia feature has me perplexed. According to the specs, that can mean “removable, exchangeable, flaccid, or hard.” I don’t quite get why someone would want a sexbot with flaccid genitalia. And if you know, don’t tell me. Removable kind of gives me the creeps too.)

For those of you not in touch with an aficionado of deeply into conversant with the world of artificial intelligence (AI), any number of quandaries are brought into being by the creation of sexbots. You (well, not you) pay for them, so are they prostitutes? What happens when a company decides to make a robo-sex-sheep (and you know they will)? Will a sexbot that can fulfill antisocial desires make it more or less likely that users will act out criminal lusts IRL (as the saying goes)?

Sexbot visionaries have lots of plans for the future: camera eyes for facial recognition, multiple downloadable personalities, etc. The goal is to have either a sexbot that can pass the Turing Test (being indistinguishable from a human being in conversation, the gold standard of AI) or one that you can fall in love with.

Long before then, however, we’re going to need a sexbot-cleaning cleaning robot. ‘Cause otherwise, ew.

Adventures in Cat-Sitting

House-sitting is a great way to get away from home, relax, water a few plants, and scare off burglars who are frightened by lights turning on and off without a pattern.

Cat-sitting is an entirely different matter.

Most cats do all right if you leave them alone for a day or two – even a three-day weekend. Just set out extra food and water and maybe an extra litterbox (depending on how many cats you have). They’ll be fine. They’ll snub you when you get back, but they’ll be fine.

When you’ve got a special-needs cat, or your trip is longer, it’s a different story.

My friends were off to DisneyWorld for a ten-day stay and one of their cats is an insulin-dependent diabetic. I volunteered to sit house and cat. It was a house in a quiet country setting by a stream and the cats were pretty chill, even the diabetic one. Give him treats, I was told, and you can stick him easily. There were four of the critters, but I’ve had as many as five (I love cats), so I left our two in the tender care of my husband and headed for the north woods.

When I arrived, the cats assembled to sniff and greet me and I quickly discovered that they, having been described to me as “large,” were in fact small, medium, large and HUGE. (The small cat had somehow given birth to the other three, a feat I did not envy her in the least.)

P.J., my soon-to-be patient, flopped on his side and demanded a belly-rub. He was the large cat, easily 15 pounds. Maybe more. He was wearing a jaunty purple collar so I could tell him from his brother Red, the HUGE cat (upwards of 20 pounds, I would estimate). Both of them were orange tabbies and only a few pounds separated their heft.

The trial injection went well. I had experience giving cats subcutaneous fluids, which was one reason I was tapped for the job (the other being that I could do my work on the family’s computer instead of my own). Pinch up a fold of skin between the shoulder blades, stick the needle in, squirt, and voilà!

There was a packet of needles on the counter, a bottle of insulin in the fridge, and a handy sharps container for the used needles. Two water dishes and two food dishes, a huge plastic bin of dry cat food, four litter boxes, and several bags of treats stashed in the cabinet completed my cat-sitting kit.

For the most part, the cats ignored me. That was okay. Most cat owners are used to being ignored by their cats. On occasion, Red would accept an invitation to curl up on a blanket beside me on the sofa and allow me to stroke him, or demand treats. P.J. would do his belly-exhibiting routine on the dining room table, and Mama Cat and Vaughn (small and medium) wouldn’t give me the time of day.

Then one day, when I checked P.J.’s litter box (he had his own; he was the only cat in the household who would use the granules with an absorbent pad underneath them), I found a circle of pink around the yellow. Blood! I thought. I had instructions on what to do if the big boy looked lethargic and zoned out (rub corn syrup on his gums), but nothing had prepared me for this. Except when one of my own cats had a blocked urethra, which required surgery.

The vet’s number was on the refrigerator and on my list of instructions. But it was the weekend. I didn’t know if the vet’s office was open, or what the charge was for emergency visits, or where the cat carrier was, or whether I could get P.J. in it, or whether I could even pick up and carry the awkward thing with my bad back. (It was hard enough picking up Red when he wanted to be on the sofa but couldn’t be bothered to jump.)

Well, you all know what the next thing I had to do was: text DisneyWorld, or at least my friends there. They got back to me remarkably quickly (must have been waiting in a line). They discouraged me from running off to the vets and advised I just keep an eye on things, i.e., the pee-pad, and see whether P.J. pee-peed pink again. Or red. (Not Red.) Or some other color.

Two hours later I checked the pee-pad. Nothing. Not yellow, not pink. Nothing.

I had lunch. I checked the pee-pad. Nothing.

I did some work. I checked the pee-pad. Nothing.

I took a bath. I checked the pee-pad. Nothing.

By this time I was biting my nails. The next symptom of a blocked urethra is an inability to pee at all.

I checked the pee-pad. Nothing. I went to bed.

The first thing I did when I got up (after peeing) was check the pee-pad. There was pee and all was clear (or at least yellow).

Then P.J. flopped down on the dining room table and grinned at me.

Sometimes I hate cats.



Who Is a Lady?


Lately there have been a lot of memes portraying Michelle Obama and Melania Trump. Among the many questions raised, along with personal style, charitable activity, physical grace, and styles of dress, is this: Which one is a true lady? If I remember correctly, one specific meme asked about “showing skin” vs. “class.”)

Since this is a problem of definition and I am a former English major, I felt compelled to jump right in. Here are some definitions I’ve heard for the term “lady.”

“A lady never wears white after Labor Day.” As far as I can tell, all prohibitions regarding fashion have, praise be, flown out the window. Here’s what has to say about the white/Labor Day rule:

In many parts of the United States, a rule about not wearing white after Labor Day . . . is heavily ingrained. The roots of the idea . . . appear to be shrouded in mystery, and the rule has been greatly relaxed since the 1950s and 1960s, when it was more heavily enforced. People who choose to wear white into the fall are no longer heavily criticized for the choice, and are sometimes embraced as fashion forward trendsetters.

Originally, the restriction applied only to white dress shoes and pumps, which are typically unsuitable for winter weather anyway.

“A lady is never unintentionally vulgar.” My friend Doreen said this, though she was paraphrasing Lillian Day, who said, “A lady is one who never shows her underwear unintentionally.” (The gender-flipped equivalent of this is Oscar Wilde’s “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.” I have also been informed that there is a version that goes “A gentleman is one who, when he pisses in the sink, removes the dishes first.”)

“A lady only accepts countertop appliances.” This idiosyncratic rule was voiced by my friend Karen upon learning that a male acquaintance had offered to buy a mutual friend a dishwasher. I’m sure there must be a rule somewhere about gifts of jewelry (“A lady only accepts semi-precious stones”), and if there isn’t, I’m inventing it now. One has to be more than just good friends with a man to accept diamonds.

“A lady has modest and maidenly airs and virtue a blind man could see that I lack.” Uh-oh. Now I’m quoting from Man of La Mancha. Someone stop me. It takes us into Madonna/whore territory, where I suppose this discussion has been heading all along. Or Lady/Tramp. No wait, that’s Disney.

Notice that in all but the first and last instances, the qualities of a lady can be seen only by her actions and not by her appearance. A lady is as a lady does, as it were. That’s one reason that Michelle/Melania memes are ridiculous. You can’t tell whether either woman is a lady simply by her appearance. It is her actions (not showing underwear, not accepting large appliances) that are better at separating ladies from women.

And after all, isn’t that what we’re talking about here? Having rules that separate women from other women and making a judgment on who is the better person? This dichotomy has assorted male versions as well (sperm donor/daddy, gentleman/jerk, redneck/anyone else), but it’s the woman/lady rules that carry a real bite. Ladies are worthy of respect; mere women are not, is the implication. There are even further distinctions: lady/slut is the most common and most invidious.

It’s my belief that these comparisons are frivolous and ridiculous, meant to divide (and conquer) women by pitting them against one another instead of paying attention to issues and distinctions that really matter. Then another person is entitled to hoist his (yes, his) nose in the air and say,”Women will never be able to hold power when they’re always sniping at each other and obsessing about shoes.”

Apologies to Doreen and Karen, who I think were being ironic rather than sniping, but if we want other people to stop judging us, we should give ourselves a break too. “Lady” is a term with little meaning. It essentially says only, “I like and approve of this woman but not that one.” It’s not worth mud-slinging about. Or wasting our time on insulting memes.

What Dreams May Come (Whether You Want Them to or Not)

My husband has the extremely annoying habit of just lying down and going to sleep. It is especially irritating when he does this in the middle of a fight.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

<head hits pillow>


(I am more of the sit-up-and-stew-all-night type.)

Another thing that Dan can do that I can’t is “lucid dreaming.” What is that?

WebMD says,

Lucid dreaming represents a brain state between REM sleep and being awake. Some people who are lucid dreamers are able to influence the direction of their dream, changing the story so to speak. While this may be a good tactic to take, especially during a nightmare, many dream experts say it is better to let your dreams occur naturally.

Basically, it’s when a person is dreaming and knows that it is, in fact, a dream. As if that weren’t meta enough, the person can also influence events in the dream, just by thinking about it. For instance, if my husband is about to be attacked by a dragon, he can say (in the dream), “Hey, you’re not real,” and *poof* goes the dragon. Or if he’s back in high school, unprepared for a test, he can realize that he’s graduated and been to college; therefore he doesn’t have to take the test.

My dreams aren’t like that. I have four types of dreams and usually rotate among them (interspersed with dreams in which I can fly, or at least jump long distances or hover 6-12 inches above the ground).

Anxiety/frustration dreams. I have plenty of these. When I traveled on business, they were about missing airplanes or being lost in a hotel. Now that I no longer do that, my subconscious has regressed. Now I dream about missing the school bus and being lost in my junior high or high school. I also have the not-prepared-for-a-test dream, but it doesn’t usually provoke anxiety unless it’s a math test.

The being-lost portion of the dream produces frustration rather than anxiety. I know the building intimately – it is almost always a perfect replica of the school – but I don’t know where my next class will be held. Either that or I don’t have a copy of my new schedule and there’s a line at the registration desk.

Naked dreams. These, I understand, are fairly common. You appear in some public place, such as where you work, with no clothes on. This has happened to me many times (in dreams, I mean). But in my case, no one ever notices that I am naked. They just carry on with the meeting or whatever without blinking an eye. I know most people who have naked dreams find them embarrassing or humiliating. These dreams don’t happen to me very often, but when they do, they piss me off.

Bathroom dreams. Speaking of pissing, another of my dreams is being unable to find a bathroom. I have to pee desperately, but all I can find – even in a swanky bathroom – is a bucket. Or a hole in the floor where a toilet ought to be. Or no toilet at all. Or a toilet stall I can’t fit into. Or toilet stalls with no doors. Or, worst of all, plenty of toilets with appropriate doors, but every one of them disgustingly filthy in ways I won’t describe. (You’re welcome.)

Hot-n-juicy dreams. Now we come to the dreams that I actually enjoy – sex dreams. (My husband says he doesn’t get these, but I think he’s lying.) I enjoy these dreams enormously – I feel they’re like freebies. You can cheat on your partner without doing anything he or she can complain about. So what if I boink Ken or Paul, or a stranger? Nothing happened! My subconscious just had a riotous good time. (Except when it didn’t. Sex dreams can merge with other kinds of dreams – naked is fine, but not frustration or humiliation.)

I don’t want to know what Sigmund Freud or any Freudian therapist (if there still are any) would think of these dreams. Probably something sexual. Except for the sex dreams. Those would be about potty training or fear of clowns. I’ll just interpret my own dreams, get through the ones that bother me, and enjoy the ones I can. And wish I remembered more of my dreams, especially the hot-n-juicy variety.

Whatever Happened To…?

Have you ever had the feeling of waking up one morning and not recognizing the world around you? I’m not talking about the results of a weekend in Tijuana. Just the sense that the world is passing you by. Phones are now cameras and recorders and TVs and computers and watches. To communicate, you must recognize obscure acronyms – not just LOL or BRB, but IIRC, AFAIK, SUATMM, and FTW (two meanings). Your car tells you where to go and parks itself.

Still, the things that bother me most are the things that I DO remember that don’t exist anymore.

Whatever happened to…

… packaging concerns? Remember that circle of little green arrows that appeared on everything? They used to mean “Recycle – Reuse – Rsomethingelse.” Resist, maybe? Anyway, it was a plea to think of the environment, particularly in packaging. Styrofoam and plastics were going to be replaced with paper, cardboard, and other substances that wouldn’t persist in landfills until the dinosaurs returned.

If plastic packaging couldn’t be eliminated, it was going to be reduced (that’s the other R!). No more individually wrapped slices of cheese inside another outer plastic wrap! No more toys encased in plastic inside an additional plastic shell wrapped in bubble wrap with styrofoam inserts! We were all going to carry string bags and put our vegetables straight into them. Toys were going to have a simple paper price sticker on the bottom.

Needless to say, none of that happened, except in a few enclaves of hippiedom, which have not been supported by the manufacturers and wrappers. We still see styrofoam trays of two tomatoes wrapped in plastic, and we bag them in plastic instead of nice, biodegradable paper. (The plastic bags are supposed to biodegrade too, or be repurposed as plastic water bottles, which are now taking over the earth.) Now we even have tiny plastic snack trays with wee little compartments for each separate snack and a foil topper.

…dark roots? It used to be that dark roots were a bad thing, especially for blondes. They gave a graphic way to measure exactly how long it had been since the last beauty parlor visit or home dye job. Just look at Penny on The Big Bang Theory – every season her do-of-the-year features blonde tips and brown roots. Look at any number of Hollywood icons (male and female – think Guy Fieri). Hell, look at the cashier at the local CVS or Waffle House waitress. Her roots could be six inches long before the blonde starts.

Of course, hair color companies still sell root touch-up kits, but their hearts don’t seem to be in it anymore. Maybe it’s the rainbow-colored tips that are doing it. Who looks at your roots when your coiffure features stripes of electric blue and pink? Not that I’m knocking it. I have once or twice considered getting those clip-on colored stripes, just to see how they looked. I feared I was too old to get away with it, though, until I saw a commercial featuring a woman with gorgeous silver hair with two inches of blue tips.

… pantyhose? One day I had a meeting to attend, after years of not being in the business community. So I dusted off one of my respectable business lady outfits and went to the store in search of pantyhose. There weren’t any. At least the only kind I saw were knee-high hose meant to go under slacks. And damn few of them. Plus, this was after tights, but before leggings, so I didn’t have many other choices. I bought the knee-highs and quickly switched my outfit to a nice Hilary pantsuit.

Later I asked a friend. “I know women still wear dresses. What do they wear on their legs now?”


“They go bare-legged? In offices?”


“And what did they do with all the space in the pharmacies and grocery stores that used to have walls of pantyhose?”

“Razors. I think young women shave everything from the waist down. You know all those razor commercials with topiaries? They’re metaphors.”

“Ordinarily I like metaphors, but that is just too…”

“Suggestive? Subliminal? Funny?”

“Something, anyway.”

Yes, I’m old! Yes, I’m cranky! No, I don’t want pantyhose to come back! But at least stay off my lawn, all you hussies with nekkid legs!

A Taste for Wine

Wednesday afternoons at 4:30 were special at my college. We’d gather in an auditorium and spit in buckets.

Well, that’s not all there is to the story.

It starts back when I graduated high school and was old enough to drink. I discovered wine. Really bad wine. Not quite as bad as Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. Not quite as bad as my mother’s Mogen David, but pretty bad. Pink champagne on New Year’s Eve bad.

Candy wine. (This was before distillers started putting marshmallow fluff in vodka, you understand.)

My tastes developed over the years. I graduated (as it were) to Yago Sangria. The only cheap wine that was too disgusting for me, besides the Mogen David, was Carlo Rossi Grenâche Rosé. So I added orange juice and seltzer water and called it a spritzer.

Then, in my junior year of college, I had an epiphany. It was called Wine Tasting 101 for Non-Majors. The class met on Wednesday afternoons in the aforementioned auditorium and sampled various wines. Good wines. Bad wines. Wines from France and Italy and California and New York. We passed bottles of wine and small plastic cups down the row like we were in church, only without the collection baskets. There was a spit bucket at the end of each row of the auditorium seating for those who didn’t drink (very few) or those who hated a particular wine.

There was lots to hate, as well as lots to love. We sampled the candy wines (I was actually fond of Pear Ripple, which I don’t think you can get nowadays). We sampled wines that had gone bad in various ways so that we knew what to say to snooty wine stewards: “This wine is foxy,” for example. (Or “musty” or “oxidized.” Those were ones for the spit bucket.

Every week we tackled wines from a different part of the world. We learned to tell a Bordeaux from a Beaujolais, a Sauvignon from a Sauterne, and which ones we liked better. We learned why you swirl the wine in the glass before you drink it and what information you can get from that.

But this, as I mentioned, was the course for non-majors. Cornell had, in addition to the usual schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Agriculture, and the like, a Hotel School, which ran an actual hotel on campus, much beloved of alumni and visiting parents. Hotel majors had a very different wine class, the sort in which you took a sip and had to identify the country, the variety, the grape, and the name of the woman who stomped it. It was not pass/fail, the way the course for non-majors was. It was not a jolly passing of bottles. It did not enliven Wednesday afternoons.

I never took the class for majors, though I once thought about transferring to the Hotel School. But over the years, my taste in wine has changed. I now like dry red wines, and I no longer drink them chilled. I ask for Brut or Extra Brut champagne at New Year’s Eve. I can tell when a wine is oaky or has undertones of cherry. Oh, I still drink Three-Buck Chuck when I’m down on my luck. And I will indulge in the sweeter, fruitier wines like Pinot Grigio that my husband prefers, when I’d rather have a Pinot Noir.

The only gap in my education is German wines. I still can’t tell a Riesling from a Liebfraumilch. I was absent that Wednesday.

Every other Wednesday I would roll home to my sorority house, bathed in a grape-y glow, satisfied with the knowledge that I had just furthered my education – and with something that would be useful in years to come.