Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How Decisions in My 20's Landed Me in the Hell I'm in Now

God knows why, but I had agreed to meet a twenty-something-year old for lunch the other day. Said twenty-something was newly engaged, newly promoted and a strong subscriber to the Prince Charming fairytale of being whisked off to happily ever after, or as I now refer to it, Never, Never Land. What she fails to understand at her age and experience level is that the spliced pieces of reality that Disney spilled onto the cutting room floor were intentionally left for Cinderella to sweep up on her wedding night. You can bet that in the real version, after being whisked, Cinderella then Wisk-ed the stains out of Prince Charming’s briefs for the rest of his jockey-stained natural life. This young woman sitting across from me still believed that Cinderella's life was crusted. I give her until her first anniversary to realize that it's just not crusted in gold.

But there I sat, listening to her sing the pop song that is her life. Placed beside her purified Pellegrino sparkling water, my three-olive dirty martini looked oddly misplaced; kind of like that funny bachelor uncle your mother never let you near and who was ordered by Uncle Joe to sit beside Grandma at the grown-up table at every family gathering. 

Ordering a second martini, post haste, I drained the sedimentary remains of my first from the glass chalice as I listened to her. As she spoke spiritedly and eagerly I wondered if I ever shared her confident enthusiasm; her dewy optimism dropping its life affirming splashes like spring rain all over the room. The only place my dewy optimism drops these days is into my Depends, or so advertisers would have me believe now that they have ushered me into a new demographic age range. A range, by the way, that includes the toothless and arthritic--my new compatriots. 

How could my mind not retreat to some speculative place where I was left undisturbed to question how the decisions I made in my twenties led me to this godforsaken hell of the here and now. 

Had the '90's come with equipped with a crystal ball, rather than marry the safe boyfriend (the only man I had ever slept with--gulp) I would have ran off with that Indie drummer from the East Village and never looked back. At the very least, he owned his rat-infested apartment on Avenue C and do you have any idea what that real estate is worth today?

I also would not have so casually passed up that opportunity with the lesbian lawyer with a house on Fire Island. Free and unlimited legal advice and a guaranteed beach vacation? WTF was I thinking?

Had I paid closer attention to the physical details of my then boyfriend, now spouse’s, apartment, I would not be surprised now that all of those piles of unopened bills haphazardly strewn across the sticky top of the kitchen table of his bachelor pad would result in a lifetime of having the utilities periodically turned off. Even now, every time I flip a switch and a light actually goes on I feel like I’ve won Final Jeopardy. 

In 1995, when that buff marine fighter pilot whom I met at Fleet Week tried to talk me out of my static relationship and join him for a weekend of pure pleasure, I should have packed a little brown bag of indecent underwear and fled with him. I wouldn’t know 48 hours of pure pleasure now if it smacked me in the face. I had saved myself for what? Life with an unruly dog, more unruly kids and a husband who insists on being unruly just so that he can stay relevant?

Fifteen years ago I decided not to transfer to D.C. and work in the White House because I wanted to stay close to my boyfriend. Here I am now sitting in a closet with the dog, drinking wine and crying over spilt opportunities while listening to Dylan.  

However, despite the missed opportunities, despite the waning of youth and virility, while at the dog park today a 28-year-old skin-head struck up a conversation that lasted longer than any conversation I have had with a man over the age of 8 and under the age of 60 in a long time. I briefly considered taking the dog and running away with my new skin-head lover. At least he wouldn’t complain about his hair loss. 

But I didn’t. I stayed firmly planted to the earth as I watched him walk away. But I will admit that as I watched my skinhead's tight ass move in those faded Levi's, I was filled with so much dewy optimism that you can Depend there was a (Victoria's) secret garden growing in the land that time forgot.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Where to Cut Your Own Christmas Tree in New Jersey

I'm still not sure how our marriage survived this adventure

There are two types of Christmas tree people: those who prefer to buy at garden centers and local stands, and those who like the adventure of cutting their own.
If you are a "cut-your-own" type of person, or think you might be if given a saw and permission, here are the tried and true places in New Jersey where you can release your inner-yuletide lumberjack. 
Rest assured. Almost all cut-your-own Christmas tree farms will cut them for you. Advice: bring gardening gloves to wear because the needles will pinch, and remember that most farms accept cash only. 
Dixiedale Farms: Family owned and operated since 1911, Dixiedale farms is a short ride from Bergen County. Dixiedale never disappoints. The town of Chester is also a great place to grab a bite to eat or a cup of hot chocolate. Open Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 
Dixiedale Farms is located at 347 Hillside Ave & River Road, Chatham, NJ
Hidden Pond Tree Farm: Hidden Pond Tree Farm makes cutting your own tree a family even you'll remember forever. Aside from roaming the farm looking for the perfect tree, they offer free hot chocolate and marshmallows that the children can roast over an open fire. There's nothing like watching the sun set while roasting marshmallows. Open daily (except Mondays) 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Hidden Pond Tree Farm is located at 4 West Field Road, Mendham, NJ 
The Village Tree FarmOpen weekends. To make the day even more fun for the kids The Village Farm is offering hay rides pulled by an antique tractor, cookies, candy canes and while supplies last a free coloring book! This year they will also be offering photography service where your pets and children can have their picture taken with two of Santa's Reindeer! 
The Village Tree Farm is located at 8 Meyersville Road, Green Village, NJ
Shale Hill Christmas Tree FarmOpen weekends through Christmas from 9:30 a.m. to dark. All trees are $75 plus tax--cash or check only. Cut Your Own Pines, Spruces and Firs, NJ State Fair Award Winning Trees. Adorable farm animals, tasty refreshments, the “REAL” Santa Claus. Christmas movies in the hayloft! 
Shale Hill Christmas Tree Farm, 98 Pond School Road, Sussex, NJ
Plut’s Christmas Tree FarmFamily-owned and operated since 2000, Plut’s is open Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.–9 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Trees start at $35. After cutting your tree visit the gift shop.
Plut’s Christmas Tree Farm, Rt 31, Washington, NJ (2-1/2 miles south of the intersection of Routes 57 and 31)
Wyckoff’s Tree FarmFamily owned since 1839, Wyckoff’s Tree Farm has been featured in the NY Times. Open daily 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. You will find an ample supply of both cut-your-own and fresh cut trees available. Wyckoff’s Farm starts the season with approximately 5,000 trees available including: Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce & Concolor Fir. Wyckoff’s also has a gift shop that features wreathes and ornaments. 
Wyckoff’s Tree Farm, 249 Country Road, Belvidere, NJ
Jolly Holly Christmas Tree FarmAll trees $48 no matter what size. Open weekends through December 18th 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Santa comes to visit!
Jolly Holly Christmas Tree Farm, 56 Maple Lane, Blairstown, NJ
Stonerow Tree FarmAll trees $50. Open weekends through December 11th. Stonerow also has the Merry Moose Gift Shop where you can find all kinds of holiday decorations and gift ideas. 
Stonerow Tree Farm, 242 Wykertown Road, Branchville, NJ
Holiday Tree FarmOpen Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through December 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All trees $61 regardless of type or size. The Christmas Shoppe offers holiday decorations, gifts, and refreshments. 
Holiday Tree Farm, 44 Augusta Hill Road, Augusta, NJ
Anne Ellen Tree Farm & ShoppeOpen daily from 9 a.m.–8 p.m. through December 23rd. Over 100 acres of trees to choose from, farm animals, and Santa visits on the weekends! Anne Ellen Tree Farm is also an ideal place to grab a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie and have a picnic with the family. Anne Ellen’s also has a holiday shoppe that will personalize your ornaments while you wait. 
Anne Ellen Tree Farm & Shoppe, 114 Daum Road, Manalapan, NJ
Simonson FarmOpen daily through Dec. 23.M-F: 12 p.m.- 7 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Featured on CNBC, Simonson Farm has two fields with over 50 acres of trees to choose from. All U-Cut White Pine $10 off. Retail Lot White Pine $6/ft. Wagon rides and horse-drawn carriage rides available; barbecue sandwiches for sale on weekends. Simonson Farm has a Holiday Shoppe that features wreaths and other holiday gifts. 
Simonson Farm, 118 Dey Road, Cranbury, NJ
Cherryville FarmsOpen weekends 9 a.m. to dark through Dec. 24. Cherryville Farms is a family-run farm that offers the best in cut your own trees. They also offer handmade wreaths and crafts for sale. Hot chocolate provided with a tree purchase. Cash or personal check only. 
Cherryville Farms, 352 Quakertown Road, Pittstown, NJ 
Perfect Christmas Tree FarmPerfect Christmas Tree Farm is owned and run by John and Cynthia Curtis, the farmer and his wife. As part of the William Penn Land Grant of 1681, this historic 45-acre farm has always been a farm, preserving this special place as a working farm. You can take a hayride out to the fields or walk across the covered bridge to find the perfect tree. Watch wreaths being made and decorated in the barn and then come inside & warm up by the fire in the Gift Shop. Children find Santa’s Box – a special trunk filled with small toys for good boys and girls, irresistible. Free trees for churches. 
Perfect Christmas Tree Farm, 999 U.S. 22, Phillipsburg, NJ
Spruce Goose FarmOpen daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Spruce Goose Farm is a family-owned farm. Ride the wagon into the fields to cut your tree and then visit the gift shop.
Spruce Goose Farm, 194 Bordentown-Georgetown Road(Rt 545) 
Chesterfield, NJ
The Evergreen FarmOpen weekends through Christmas 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Family-owned and operated, The Evergreen Farm has a number of different types of Christmas trees all in the 6 to 9 foot range. Cider and cookies await as you pick your perfect tree. 
The Evergreen Farm, 4 Bass Lane, Lebanon, NJ

Monday, September 26, 2011

Braless in Briefs

After writing my column every week for 4 years I finally took a mental vacation, but I'm back with a life more mental. Here's what happened on my summer vacation! 
In my next life, I want to come back as a douchebag cop. Now, I have many, many dear friends who are cops and are the most caring, community-minded, service-oriented people I know. In fact, they hate douchebag cops more than I because they have to work with them and invariably clean up their messes or suffer getting dragged into their morass. However, just like with every profession, there are the douchebags with badges. And those are the ones who always seem to find me. 

Like I was saying, I want to come back as crotch-adjusting, belt hoisting, elbow-on-my-holster kind of cop. Aside from the rush of unbridled power, there must be such freedom in not giving a shit and having a bullet to back up that emotion. 
Take for instance a day in my life this summer. One morning, after dropping my kids off at the town summer camp a cop came up behind me and rode the bumper of my sporty minivan while giving me an impressive display of his lights and sirens. 
Foolishly thinking he was trying to pass me, I pulled over to the narrow shoulder on the busiest street in town. Guess what? He didn't pass me. Instead, he locked his bumper onto mine as if we were teenagers whose braces got stuck together while making-out in my parents basement just as my mother was coming down the stairs. Awkward and more than just a little bit shocking. 
Ordinarily, being stopped by a cop would completely freak me out. However, this time I could feel myself heading straight for a seizure. Por Qua? I left the house in my pajamas figuring I was just going cross town so who would ever see me? The problem is my pajamas consisted of  a pair of boys boxer briefs and a tee-shirt that hovered just slightly north of my navel due to all the baby fat I have failed to shed in the last 10 years. And, it goes without saying that I was braless. 
Looking through my sideview mirror, the officer pulled himself from his patrol car and immediately adjusted his crotch. 
In the fantasy of my head, I made the following imaginary report into my imaginary oversized Motorola handheld, "Headquarters, we've got a douchebag on our hands. Roger that." 
Instead, while I tried to keep my unharnessed breasts from grazing in the open pasture of the dashboard I impishly asked, "Is there a problem, Officer?" 
(Authoritative tubercular cough that released stale fumes of a recently extinguished Parliament.) "Um, mam, do you know your rear tail light is out?" 
Really? Seriously? I'm sorry, but I couldn't help myself and replied, "Not unless I'm clairvoyant." 
Did you know that douchebag cops have absolutely no sense of humor? Well, take my word for it. They don't. 
"Mam, step out of the vehicle now." 
Good grief! My body froze with fear as I saw my friend's husband standing at the bus stop and the president of the school board standing at the corner waiting to cross. Both looking in my direction. 
"Mam, I said step out of the vehicle. Now!
I hesitatingly opened the car door and placed one barefoot on the ground, took a deep breath and boldly climbed out of the car. Waiting to be publicly excoriated, I prepared myself for Officer Douchebag's tirade. But all I could hear as I stared at my naked feet was the sound of traffic passing slowly by. Very slowly. 
I raised my gaze to O.D.'s face. It took a few seconds before my brain could process the look on his face. He was thoroughly embarrassed seeing me standing in the line of traffic, in front of him, braless in briefs on the streets of his town. I could feel the power washing over me and I stood there waiting until the transfer was complete. Neither one of us said a word in that momentary powerful pause.  
By the time he muttered, "Okay mam, you can get back into the vehicle," I was sufficiently pissed off enough to righteously counter, "No, no, no, officer. I'll stand here like you requested. No problem." 
"Mam, please return to the vehicle." 
"No, no officer. Show me the broken light so I know which one to have my mechanic fix. Wait, let me just adjust these briefs before I bend down," I said as I exaggeratedly tugged at the little-boy fly-hole. 
"Mam, I'm directing you to please get back into your vehicle and make sure you get that taken care of as soon as possible." 
Dropping his pen without bothering to pick it up, he ran to his marked car and jumped in without the prerequisite tug 'o the crotch hopefully giving himself a bad case of ball burn. 
Now, with the entire bus stop filled with men watching me like I was some kind of freaky circus side show, I triumphantly climbed back into my minivan, but not before once again tugging on my crotch to let everyone know that there's a new sheriff in town and she's braless in briefs!

Friday, July 29, 2011


“Why is that every time I go to use my balls they’re lying all over the place dirty and deflated?” Jim huffed as he came in from outside balancing two dirty basketballs in his hands. “People in this house better start respecting my balls and treating them a little better!”  
          It isn’t often that life, specifically my husband, hands me such a golden nugget. Retorts popped in my brain like kernels of Jiffy-Pop until the overload switch kicked in and I was rendered completely speechless. The best I could do was cock an eyebrow at his dirty balls.  
          Yes, I know this is juvenile, but I have an eight-year old son so I’m kind of stuck in the land of all things juvenile right now. And recently, the eleven-year old brother of one of his friends decided to inform all the neighborhood eight-year olds that the word ball carries a dual meaning. I know this because he told me as I was tucking him into bed one night.
          “You know mom ‘Sam’s’ brother told us today that the word ball means something else,” Jack confided.
Okay, I learned that before jumping to conclusions, it’s always good to Perry Mason your kids because often (in my case) conclusions are jumped to that often convict them of offenses they never intended to commit.
The last week of school Jack informed me that a classmate urged him to say the “C” word. Horrified, I cut him off, stormed out of the room and immediately called said classmate’s mother. She emphatically protested that there was no way her son would ever know that word let alone say it, and summarily hung up on me, ending what never would have been a friendship.
          Filled with indignation, I went back to Jack for more information to prove her wrong. Not wanting to have Jack say the offensive word the boy tried to force him to say, I instructed him to spell it for me--letter by letter.
“Jack, what letter comes after C?”
          D,” he replied matter-of-factly.
          C-D?  Jack, what letter comes after C? I asked, beginning to lose my patience.
          “I told you D.”
          “The C in the C word isn’t followed by the letter D.”
          “Mom,” he replied in irritation. “You asked me what letter comes after C. D comes after C in the alphabet.”
          “No, No, No. The C word. What letter comes after C in the C word?” I pressed.
          “Oh. Are we still talking about that? R. R comes after C he said.
          “C-R?” I couldn’t make it out. “What letter comes after R and if you tell me S I’ll send you to your room!”
          A comes after R.”
C-R-A…the C word isn’t spelled that way. “Give me another letter,” I demanded, mingling my impatient frustration with his.  
          “Geeze mom, what is this Wheel of Fortune?” he angrily retorted.
          “I want to know the next letter in the C word!” I yelled.
          P. C-R-A-P. There mom. Are you happy now? You just had me spell the C word.”
          Crap? Crap is the C word you’re talking about? Are you kidding me?” I almost said “Are you fucking kidding me? but thankfully my half-second delay had miraculously kicked in.  
Relieved that the C word he was talking about was only crap I said, “You’re right Jack. That is a bad C word. I’m glad you didn’t say it. I’m proud of you.” And considering that swearing is my second language, I was indeed proud of him for not saying it to his classmates.
          Which is why I hesitated jumping to conclusions with his balls story. I wanted to make sure we were both on the same page.
          “Mom,” he whispered conspiratorially, “did you know (laugh, laugh, giggle, giggle) that a ball isn’t only something you toss, kick or dribble. It’s your…you know,” he continued to laugh as he pointed towards his SpongeBob briefs that he was wearing inside-out.
I don’t know which was cuter. Him thinking that he and his friends were let in on a great newly discovered secret, or the fact that he thought he was teaching me something entirely new. I was just so thrilled that I still had enough currency in his world that he wanted to share this with me.   
The problem is that he now tries to fit this double entendre into every possible sentence and scenario. And his father, so happy to have a bona fide excuse to act like an eight-year old again, was happy to indulge. He did not see it as immature; he preferred to see it as bonding with his son.
So, needless to say I am referee to all the dinner table father-son ball-banter stories whether at home, at restaurants, or at Grandma’s; all the sports references about chasing balls, kicking balls, balls hitting the net…
And then there was my son’s original song, “I’ve Got 3 Balls, That’s Why I Limp” created as we were walking to the field while he was carrying his basketball, soccer ball, and baseball.  
So how could I possibly pass up the opportunity to unleash my inner eight-year old when my husband stood before me asking about his deflated dirty balls? However, the moment was interrupted by the doorbell.
Standing in my doorway was our neighbor holding a mud crusted basketball in her hand that she had plucked from the body of her newly planted azalea bush. She and I just stood there staring each other down until she cocked her untrimmed eyebrow at the dirty ball.
“I believe this dirty ball belongs to you? Can you please keep them out of my bushes? ” she scolded.
“Jim,” I called from the porch. “The neighbor wants you to keep your dirty balls out of her bush!”   
 Because I’ve learned that if you can’t beat your metaphorical balls, you might as well join them. And laugh out loud.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Will Somebody Please Jump My Husband?


“I have to ask my husband, first,” the slightly overweight woman with one flip-flopped foot out of her child-bearing years hesitatingly responded as her face blushed a terrific shade of ruby red. “I’ve never done it alone with another man. I wouldn’t even know what to d-d-do,” she stammered before turning away.
          Critically, I watched as she shuffled away from my husband and through the door of Syms still tightly clutching to her chest her husband’s dress loafers that she had come out to her car to retrieve so the tailor could properly measure the cuffs of his almost purchased pants. Even from where I stood I could tell by the width of the shoes, along with the visibly worn condition of the heels (the sides depleted into lopsided discs from the weight of wear), he was quite the loafer.  
          “What did she say to you?” I asked my husband, Jim, as he returned to our car, shoulders slouched in total dejection.
          “She said she had to ask her husband first.”
          “What? When the hell is a man as good looking as you ever going to ask a woman like her for a jump!” I demanded. I wanted answers.  “Did she see that you’re wearing a Fort Lee Fire Department tee-shirt?” He just gave me the look.
          We stood in the parking lot, the hood of our aging mini-van propped open; two hot, sweating, irritable children leaning against the trunk. The jumper cables hanging precariously from the hands of my eight-year old who, by the way, felt compelled to put on his old hockey helmet he had retrieved from the Goodwill bag in the trunk only to realize that the reason it was in the Goodwill bag is because it’s too small. It was now firmly affixed to his skull. While I was yanking at his head, Jim was approaching people as they exited Syms asking if they could give our car battery a jump.   
          The 50-year old man with his trophy girlfriend responded, “Sorry, man, we’re in a hurry.” Trying to stay positive, I just assumed he had to get her home before curfew.
          The 30-year old with the brand new Lexus murmured, “Sorry, I don’t want anything to happen to my car.” (My positivity waning, I wanted to instruct my son to head-butt the Lexus with his helmet.)
          The father of the family of six informed Jim, “Wish we could help, but we have to get the kids home.” (Oh, don’t worry. My kids have been pining for us to let them spend the night in the parking lot of Syms.)
          My favorite, however, was the man with the shiny Ford pick-up truck, oversized wheels, adorned with American flags and 9/11 decals, who looked our way, but didn’t respond. He just got into the cab of his truck and drove away. This man who probably shed buckets of Budweiser tears on the anniversary of 9/11 for people he doesn’t even know. This man who feels it necessary to billboard his patriotism for the entire world to see so his love and devotion to country is never questioned, has not one ounce of compassion for his countrymen or their young children.  
          Rejection after rejection after rejection. I was stunned by the conscious diffidence of humanity as it passed before us, refusing to make eye contact. Is this what we’ve become? We can all be friends on Facebook, but isolate ourselves from each other when real life interferes? Have we been reduced to Sims characters—just virtual shadows desensitized and controlled solely by the functions of the keyboard?
Growing up our car regularly broke down. Hell, everybody’s car regularly broke down. I have no memory of my father ever having to ask anyone for help—people would just pull over and help us. And I don’t think we ever went anywhere without stopping to help someone whose car was disabled. I was raised to understand that an open hood was the universal sign for “Stop and Help Your Neighbor.”
          Finally, listening to yet another rejection and unable to take it anymore, the sky now black with night, I stood in the middle of the parking lot and literally screamed to everyone walking past us, “Can’t anyone JUMP my husband? He’s a firefighter for godsake! He doesn’t say ‘No’ when your house is on fire—he just runs in! He leaves his family to help yours, but no one, NOT ONE OF YOU can give this man a jump! What’s wrong with all you people?”
          I wish I could tell you that everyone came rushing to our aide, but they didn’t. Although they listened to my rant with seeming amusement, most kept on walking. Walking without pause or concern. Except for a group of elderly people, two men and their wives. Four people, their words thickened by accents not native to our country, put their hands upon my shoulder and said of course they would help. They drove their car up to ours and within seconds our motor was humming. I could have cried from their simple generosity.
          As our family piled back into the running van my husband looked at me and said, “Wow, that was embarrassing.”
          “I know,” I replied in agreement. “I can’t believe no one would help us.”
          “I’m talking about your outburst,” he said before bursting into laughter.
          Momentarily I considered pushing him out of our van that was now doing 60 m..p.h. on Route 17 North, but thought better of it. Not only because we’ve been together for so long he’s like an accessory that never really goes out of style, but because I cancelled my life insurance policy on him.  And who could I possibly get to walk Bad Dog every day? But just see how long he has to wait for me to give him a jump!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Barbie in better days

“Here—these have been in my hall closet for 35 years,” my mother said as she walked into my house and thrust two ragged vinyl cases into my unsuspecting hands. There was a familiar feel to them, and as she walked towards my kitchen, I lifted one of the cases closer to my failing eyes. I focused on the familiar script scrolled across the flamingo pink case – BARBIE.
For some reason the moment became awkward; like unexpectedly meeting an old flame and pretending that you meant to leave the house without wearing a bra because you believe that your breasts are up for the challenge.
I shoved them (the vinyl cases, not my boobs, although there was an iffy moment) underneath my son’s train table and decided not to think of the implications of having a forty-something year old Barbie living with me under my roof. Let’s face it—at seven Barbie presented our un-formed bodies and ego with endless possibilities which is why we played with her for hours. At forty-something, Barbie is a reminder of all I never achieved--a camper, plane, or cruise ship with my name on it; breasts that never needed a bra; no back fat; a high-arch from wearing heels to the moon and the beach; a pose-able body; and an androgynous boyfriend (no, wait—I had one of those in college).   
Those cases sat hidden beneath the train table for weeks. I felt compelled to wait until I was alone to open them. Truth be told, I knew how the last 35 years treated me; I was afraid to see how they treated Barbie. I chose to open the Barbie Dream House case first. I was startled by the familiar fragrance--piquant plastic with just a hint of toxicity so evocative of everything 1970’s. I remember the Christmas morning The Dream House case sat sparkling new beneath the artificial tree. I was beside myself with joy because unlike the standard Barbie cases, The Dream House case came with drawers for Barbie’s clothes and two Murphy beds—you know, for when Barbie had those fabulous all-girl sleepovers! She slept in the camper whenever G.I. Joe visited.
Hanging onto the memory of that Christmas morning I opened the Dream House door and…OH! The horror! The horror! The years had not been kind to my beloved Barbie. Shrouded by a pile of knotted clothes, I found Barbie. She was missing an arm, and had a gaping bald spot. However, even in her amputated state Barbie oozed that haughty deluded “You can only dream you were me” attitude.  When I opened her dream drawers I half expected to find a collection of empty bottles of Prozac and Jack Daniels buried beneath her pastel string bikinis and matching kerchiefs.
My mother had thought that my Barbie collection might be worth something; sadly they held value only to those who collected “Crack Whore Barbie.” Was it the free love 70’s, or the boom-boom 80’s, or never being able to walk flat-footed that ultimately broke Barbie? Perhaps it was her sexless relationship with Ken—I mean, Mattel may have given him mod hair, but they gave him nothing down there.
Was Barbie’s sad condition just a product of her being overworked? Her career(s) really took off in the ‘80’s—she was a teacher, an astronaut, a roller-boogier, an aerobics instructor, a veterinarian, a doctor, a rock star…could she realistically maintain that workload without a little help from her friends? (Wait, am I talking about Barbie or me?)
          Almost like a premonition of their future divorce, I had stored Ken in the other case. The years had been kinder to him, but the glue from his 1973 mod hair left a permanent sticky, icky five-o’clock shadow and his plaid sports coat seemed grossly dated. Although I must say, his plastic Birkenstocks seem so today. Mattel discontinued Ken (read: divorce) and I always thought that Barbie preferred the roughness of G.I. Joe (read: penis) ergo their camper sleepovers.
Stuffed into the case with Ken were Barbie’s friends, Midge and Francie. The way they were all tangled together it might have looked like a sick orgy, but they were worse off than Barbie—legless and naked, and let’s be real—Ken’s Birkenstocks don’t exactly scream orgy. At least not with Midge and Francie.
I decided Barbie and her friends desperately needed a Bratz intervention. Of all the housewives, my Barbie’s were the most desperate of all. The Bratz girls could introduce Barbie and her friends to Crazy Glue, Rogaine, Botox, more natural looking implants, and martinis. In exchange Barbie could teach the Bratz girls the merits of working rather than “working it”. My girlfriend suggested that a better solution would be to send one of the American Girls over to the Dream House, but with the way my Barbie dolls looked, the American Girls would need serious therapy! And just wait until those American Girls hit puberty. 
I closed the cases and looked around at my own dream house. The paint is peeling from where the tub leaked into the dining room, baskets of laundry are waiting to be ironed, and my Mod Hair Ken is just happy to have any hair, mod or not. 35 years later, I finally looked better than my Barbie, but I wouldn’t mind a Bratz intervention – or a martini – right about now! But that’s just this American Girl’s opinion.   

Friday, June 10, 2011


“You know, we really need to put more effort into having a date night every week,” my husband Jim told me as I breathlessly pushed the over-flowing basket of just-washed laundry past him so I could begin the titillating task of folding underwear, towels and socks.
          “Great,” I replied as I struggled to dump the heavy load of laundry onto our disheveled bed, “That’s exactly what I need. You babysit and I’ll find a date.”
          He looked at me with a gaze that was less, “I’m passionately bemused by you,” and more like a little boy who’s gone and got himself lost at the zoo and he’s scouring the crowd for the familiar face of his mother.  The same look he wears when the mortgage is due, or when a kid in the playground mistakingly calls him “Daddy.” 
          “Okay, okay,” I surrendered. “I’ll babysit and you get a date. If you find someone with paid health benefits, I’ll even buy the two of you dinner!” I shouted after him since he had already turned and walked away. I even leaned over the railing and repeated my offer as he descended the stairs to find comfort in the storied arms of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars.  
          What happens as we get older? I mean, when I was in my twenties, if anyone looked at my man I would have unleashed my inner-Jersey on them. I guess when you’ve been together for as long as we have, it’s like going to war—you’re so weary that you can barely sit hunched in the trenches together let alone converse. Except the trenches in our war are in desperate need of being reupholstered. We’ve been through good times, bad times, two kids, one Bad Dog, holidays with a houseful of people when the town sewer backed up into our basement, unemployment, partial employment, sickness, more sickness, dog’s sickness…tell me when to stop.
          Thinking back now, our marriage didn’t really begin until we had children. Prior to that, it really was one big endless date night interrupted only by the occasional major blow-out fight. When I think about those fights now I think two things: 1) Wow, we had a lot of time on our hands. I mean with kids, when do you have time to put a coherent sentence together let alone fight and indulge in a good post-fight three-day brood-fest (oh, how I miss those brood-fests!); and 2) we had money in our pockets, sneakers without holes, my ex-boyfriend’s rent-controlled apartment, and a weekly house cleaner so what the hell were we fighting about?
          Once, only once, I threw my engagement ring at Jim’s head. It was after he dumped me at “pre-Cana.” For the uninitiated, pre-Cana is required pre-marriage marriage counseling that the Catholic Church requires all engaged couples to take part in before you can get married in the church. Having gone through 12 years of Catholic school and having, at that time, never missed a Sunday mass, I opted (yes I) for the pre-Cana weekend retreat (rather than the six-hour quickie session) that was being offered in a church somewhere on the foreign soil of Maplewood.
Mike and Carol Brady were our pre-Cana chaperones. I don’t think that it was physically possible for them to stop smiling. Now, that wouldn’t have been so bad if they had been older than me and Jim, but they weren’t. Nor were any of the other couples in attendance. And of course, we had to bunk with a same-sex partner (the only time the church condones same-sex anything) in assigned rooms in the rectory. Unfortunately, they had overbooked the weekend, and because we were the last to arrive all the men had already grabbed their partner and had claimed their room which meant that Jim didn’t have a room. Somehow I ended up in a three-way with two cousins from Kearney, but I think Jim’s 6’5” frame was too intimidating for any of the men to consider bringing  him into their fold, so to speak. So, Mike and Carol assigned him to a loveseat in the rectory foyer and asked him if he wouldn’t mind answering the door and phone if someone should ring. The love seat was about 3’ long which is about 31/2 feet too short for him. Being the silent type, Jim said nothing.
We were the last to arrive because we had both got out of work late  (I believe we were the only ones old enough to hold a full-time job) and not only did Jim not get a bed, we also got no dinner because they had already served the buffet and locked the food away in the pantry. Neither of us had eaten all day. When Jim told Mike and Carol he was going to run out to get us something to eat they told him he couldn’t leave the premises and gave him a pack of gum to stave off the hunger. Jim, being the silent type, said nothing.
          There was a priest there; in fact, he had married Mike and Carol. He corralled us into a room to tell us what we could expect from marriage, which struck me as odd then, but odder now. He even discussed the woman’s role in sexual relations which, yes, was odd though I marveled at how many people were furiously taking notes. I didn’t even have a pen. Then the priest, Mike, and Carol gave us notebooks and sent us all off to find a quiet place where we could write to our betrothed our true and honest feelings. After 10 minutes of writing how much I loved him, and how excited I was to spend the next 50 years of my life with him, Jim arrived at the door to my room. Jim being the silent type, threw the notebook directly at my head and seethed, “Here read this,” and stormed out.
          I opened the book and read, “I hate this fucking place; this is a big fucking mistake. I’m leaving. Love Jim.” I did what any other woman in my circumstance would do. I started sobbing. Not crying, not weeping, we’re talking deep, soulful my man gone done me wrong sobbing. Mike, Carol, the Kearney cousins, the priest and all the other pre-Cananites came running and before I knew it I was in the middle of some twisted group Kumbaya. Through heaving sobs I explained what had just happened and showed them what Jim wrote. Carol said this was a direct message from God that I shouldn’t marry him. As the group avidly concurred and started a prayer chain invoking Jesus to bless me, I snapped back to my senses and took a good look at the crowd. Then I, too, said a little prayer to Jesus, “Jesus Christ, if I don’t get out of here quick I’m going to be stuck with these crazy people.” I grabbed my knock-off designer duffel bag and ran outside to the parking lot.
          Jim was sitting in his car, two lit cigarettes in one hand while the other proceeded to unwrap and chew each stick of gum as if they were pieces of filet mignon. I threw myself into the passenger seat just in time for him to peel out of the chain-linked fence parking lot. Except for the chewing, all was silent until we reached the entrance to the Turnpike. That’s when I took my engagement ring off and threw it, no,  I mean wailed it, at his head while screaming, “You dumped me at pre-Cana???? Really??? What kind of sick fuck does that???”
          He took me home where I brooded for a week. Ultimately I ignored the advice of Mike and Carol Brady and went through with the wedding. Thanks to a compassionate priest, we did a drive-thru version of pre-Cana in a church hall that had vending machines and allowed smoking.
And here we are, years later, still together. Thinking about this as I folded the laundry, listening to the kids screaming over the incessant barking of the dog, I shouted, “God bless you for still wanting to have a date night with me after all these years,” but he couldn’t hear me. Not even I can come between my man and his Pawn.