Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fashion Forward

My nephew Griffin, although he still gets a kick out of watching SpongeBob SquarePants, would not be caught dead outside of the house actually wearing SpongeBob anything – not a jacket, not a shirt, and certainly not the hat and scarf set I got him last year.


And so it now goes for my grandnephew, Little Timmy, who, as he approaches 7 years of age, is embarrassed by his once way-cool Spiderman coat.  Sorry, Spidey. 


As Timmy fought back tears while putting on his coat the other day, Linda confided to me that she was saddened by this unavoidable, evolutionary step in the maturing process of her grandson.  "It's normal," I said, before sharing with her how Griffin, apart from some pajamas, has all but retired his complete SpongeBob wardrobe.  Just to be fair, I suppose condolences should also go out to that bug-eyed, yellow, marine freak from under the sea.


"All kids go through this," I told her.  "Don't you remember how we hated when Mom and Dad would make us go places with them unannounced – leaving us little to no time to prepare ourselves for being seen out in public?"  "Yeah, when we were teens," she said, "not 7."  This got me thinking.


My niece Olivia once remarked that I don't care how I look – she meant it as a compliment.  I'm a no-muss, no-fuss person – a real jeans and T-shirt girl.  You almost can't get any more casual than I do – not as long as it's still considered inappropriate to go out in public in your PJs anyway. 


So, when did this happen, I wondered.  We already know why I'm not flaunting my… girly assets, will call them (see 7-20-08 post Conservative by nature?), but when did I give up the style ship?  When did I conclude that Levi Strauss would be the name brand for me?  When did I decide that one can never have too many white T-shirts?  When? When?  Well, I think it may have been as far back as sixth grade – that's right, at 11 years of age, I jumped off the fashion train.  (How many modes of mass transportation do you think I'll mention here?)


It was 1975 and I remember leafing through the Sears catalog – hey, it was 1975 – when a dark green pantsuit, yes, a pantsuit – it was 1975 – with a butterfly theme caught my eye.  It was beautiful.  The bell-bottom pants were complimented by a leisure-style, man-tailored jacket with a huge embroidered butterfly on it.  Completing the ensemble was a white shirt, also stitched with colorfully winged creatures – as I said, beautiful. 


I pined for this pantsuit.  When my birthday arrived, I was thrilled when I opened my grandmother's gift to find that lovely piece of polyester haute couture just lying in wait for me amid a bed of wispy tissue paper.  I could not wait to wear it to school. 


Unfortunately, it brought me a lot of unexpected attention – a lot: "What's with the suit?"  Huh?  "Whadya tryin' to look like a teacher?" Hm?  "Where'd you get that – the Sears catalog?" "NO! I said as defiantly as I could, trying to mask my embarrassment.  In those few moments all my previous excitement was completely obliterated, and when I got home that day, having miraculously survived the failed foray into fashion, with a sigh, I hung up my fancy pantsuit – never to be worn again.


Boy, when you couple that experience with the confirmation gown episode, it's almost a wonder that I ever leave the house at all.  Of course, I was never forced to go out in public in my bedroom slippers like my brother once was – but that's a whole different story.  Look out – here comes the Slipperman!


- M

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Have you ever had anyone do something completely selfless for you? I mean completely selfless – going above and beyond – just for you? I have.


Last weekend I happened to be in New Jersey.  Yes, I took the redeye again, of course – and, no, I did not see Sonny again.  Thank goodness for the small things.  And I must say thanks for the big things – for the super-duper, really big, humongous, unexpected things.  My friend Elena is an amazing person.


As I said, I was in New Jersey last week where Elena turned what was supposed to be a small gathering with friends into my first official book signing for The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir.  Elena orchestrated the whole affair:  A huge banner was hung, small signs adorned her yard, and people were invited.  She had finger foods, snacks, treats and goodies of all varieties, plus beer, wine, soda and juice – you name, she had it – if you wanted to eat or dink it, it was there!  A draped card table stood with an inviting potted Gerbera daisy beside a pile of unsigned books.  Manning this 'sales station' was her beautiful daughter, Lauren, smiling and eager to assist any attendees wishing to purchase an autographed copy of The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir (not that anyone was obligated to buy).


Shortly after 3:00 p.m. people began to arrive.  Elena's husband Doug (a real trouper for allowing this event to take place at his home) helped me greet the neighbors who came in from all sides. 


First to arrive was Navy guy, Tom, who was joined by his wife, Karen.  Having already read the book, Karen knew all the sordid details of my past and, in a private conversation, she and I discussed certain 'details' pertaining to my story.


Dennis and Ellen came over shortly thereafter with their two boys.  Ellen cautioned her eldest, James, not to grow up like one of the ones that got away – James, looking quite uncomfortable, quickly left to go play with some of the other children frolicking in the yard. 


Many others arrived – Kathy, Kiley, Stephanie, Kathleen, Maryann, Kristina, Cheryl and Katie just to name a few – representing all types of women: teen, young adult, married, married with kids – each one obviously at different life stages, each one, a female with stories of her own.  One young girl shared with me that she loves to write and keeps a journal.  I encouraged her to keep writing, sharing with her how stumbling upon my 'Rita' story, penned at the age of 10, was the catalyst for the very book they were all there to support.

Some friends came from afar to partake in the event and help champion my cause.  There was Beth, a new friend, who only recently became acquainted with me through the reading of my book (don't compromise yourself just to appease your family – stay strong; there is nothing wrong with being single – do not settle!).  Trish was there – my college friend, a real-life character from my book (Chapter 24), who was as popular as I was to those who already read the story (you can see Trish Wednesday nights at The Squan).  And Sue, my childhood friend, came with her whole family just to be a part of it (lemon-curry!). 

It was quite the event.  I was blown away by all that Elena did for me.  Now here's the thing: I'm supposed to be a writer, and yet, I cannot come up with words adequate enough to express my appreciation for this unbelievably selfless act she did totally for me. 

See, this really exemplifies what I touch on near the end of my book.  You don't need to be in a committed relationship to experience love.  There are many types of love out there – love to give, love to take, love to share.  I don't want to burst into song here, but… love is all around.  There is the love you share with children, there is love expressed by neighbors responding to a friend's backyard book party, there's love on display when friends drive over an hour to share in an experience – showing support, and there is the love of a friend who spends over a week planning, preparing and hosting an event like this.

What Elena did reminds me of the Sex and the City movie.  I don't think I'll spoil anything here – didn't everyone see that movie already?  When I left that feel-good, fluffy, hangin' with the pals, NYC revisitation, I said to my sister-in-law, "That's what true love is all about," and I wasn't talking about Carrie and Big either – Kanna knew that.  I was talking about Carrie and her friends – Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte.  When the rug is pulled out from under Carrie's feet, and she's shattered, her girlfriends are there for her – 100% totally there – selflessly giving of their time, to help their friend.  There is nothing 'in it' for them – nothing other than the genuine concern for their friend.  That is true love.

I have always tried to do whatever I can to support my friends and loved ones – if there is a need that I can assist with, I'm more than happy to do it.  It's just my nature.  But to be on the opposite end of that, the receiving end… wow.  So, don't let me hear anyone say, "Oh, it's too bad she's single and doesn't have love in her life," because that's just not true.  I have true love, selfless love, pure love in my life.

Thanks Elena Sue – you're the best!

Filled with gratitude,