Writing Can Get Pretty Ugly

*Note:  I write a weekly opinion column for the Kansas City Star. Some of the stuff I muse about is a little more political in nature than I what share on this blog and by that I mean in the past I have written about education reform, health care etc. Because of this I get emails where people disagree with me, which is totally appropriate and welcome. This recent column was in regards to people who feel free to write to me about my looks – because that’s how you disagree with a woman right – by disparaging her appearance? Ugh. I’m sharing this column on my blog because I believe it has a message that will resonate with a lot of you.

 

I don’t get a ton of emails from readers of my Kansas City Star column hating on me but I get enough that I’ve been able to classify them into categories.

There’s the people that can’t grasp the concept of self-deprecating humor and therefore think I’m an idiot. There are the people that like to write me six paragraph emails on an almost weekly basis with the theme of, yep you guessed it, that I’m an idiot. There’s the people who disagree with me on a topic and use this as an excuse to take out all their life frustrations on me and then there’s my favorite – the people (all male based on their email signatures) that like to tell me an idiot AND that I’m unattractive.

These brings me a special joy because I’m in awe of how any man could have the hubris to believe that I care about their opinion in regards to my looks. As an advanced middle-aged female giving a hoot and holler about what any man thinks about my appearance ended about four decades ago.

How some dudes could conceive that telling me I’m unattractive or fat is going to be the coup de grace of my existence makes me laugh. Also, what makes these men presume womankind cares about their opinion on our looks?

Haven’t we as a society gotten past that just a wee bit? Sure, based on social media you could think that that answer to that question is a great big NO.

But don’t be fooled by all those filters and sexy posts by women on Instagram who are living the “like my post and link in bio” lifestyle. Most females today care more about than own judgment way more than what any guy thinks. Plus I think we’re raising girls today to have what I call self esteem swagger.

I’d like to believe that my father was a pioneer in this trend. Almost every day of my life he told me I was smart, beautiful and strong.

When I was in high school he drove me to school in the mornings and the entire seven-minute drive consisted of my dad telling me how amazing I was. It became a running joke between us. I called it “Dad’s morning pep talk.” He called it “telling it like it is.”

I would greet his soliloquy with rolled eyes and share that he was “full of it” but the man knew what he was doing. To this day if I’m having a crisis, large or small, I go back to what he told me on those drives to school.

This is why when men send me disparaging emails I feel sorrow and it’s not because they think I’m a “fatty” or “could use some work” but because based on my father and role model they’re failures as human beings.

I worry about any man who could write me, an aging female with no illusions about becoming an AARP super model, to call me out on my looks. What kind of man, husband, father are you that you can email a woman and attempt to tear her down by commenting on her appearance?

If you’re doing this to me, a total stranger, than how must you treat the women in your lives and what kind of damage are you doing to their mental health?

My dad’s name was Bob. I’d like to suggest that before you hit send on that next hate filled email you think about your legacy or as my husband likes to say during any big family decision ask yourself, “What would Bob do?”

 

 

 

Oh No, She Didn’t

When a trip to Walmart results in deep thoughts about face creams and “jowl alerts.”

I am not a grandma. It’s important for mto say this because I just got an ego beat down at Walmart. Could I be a grandma? Sure. Could I be a grandmother to a 22-year-old? Yes, I mean biologically speaking, I guess I could be, but a lot of tumultuous twists and turns would have had to happen for that to take place. And for the record, Walmart should be a safe space concerning your appearance. You should be able to walk into any Walmart and as long as you’ve got on a bra you’re Miss America.

Imagine my shock when I was standing in a Walmart check-out line with some plastic hangers chatting up the woman behind me about moving kids into dorm rooms and seeing kids graduate college. You know, the whole cycle of life thing and then being asked, with a straight face if the 22-year-old “child” I had mentioned was my grandson.

This caught me so off guard I was, at first, rendered speechless. My immediate thought was, “Oh no, she didn’t.” I responded with a smile that I hoped conveyed that I thought she was mentally unbalanced for asking that question and responded with, “No, the 22-year-old is my oldest CHILD.”

This cretin, who looked to be in her late 30s, didn’t even seem embarrassed or even attempt to back pedal (and I wanted to see some first-rate backpedaling). She just shrugged her shoulders and crooned, “Oh, I would have thought grandmother.”

By this time, I was clutching my Walmart Mainstay 18 pack of plastic hangers with all my might because if I let go someone was going down. I channeled my mother, smiled back at her again and said, “Well, aren’t you sweet,” which is southern for “insert four letter word here” and then “you.”

Once I checked out I held my apparently very aged head high and did my best swagger walk out of Walmart. Unfortunately, I had hurt my knee a couple of days ago so it was more of a swagger stumble. At best, it was a Captain Hook – inspired peg leg pirate swagger. But, I still owned it. No one was going to age shame me and think I minded in the least.

When I got to my car I immediately did a thorough inspection of my face in the most unforgiving mirror known to man –   a rearview mirror on a sunny day – and concluded that perhaps it was time to do what I had been tenaciously avoiding. Yep, I had to admit that I needed to up my game and so I ventured to where no woman in the deep throes of advanced middle age wants to go – the department store makeup counter.

It’s not that I don’t like makeup or face creams. It’s just that I hate that the new sales tactic seems to be pointing out your flaws. One time I was told that I needed to be on “jowl alert.” Not just any jowl alert, mind you, but a “Defcon 2.” Ouch.

I also don’t appreciate being assaulted with dire predictions of “rapid advanced onset aging.”

Excuse me, that the only sunscreen in my childhood was Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil. No one had ever heard of SPF’s. If you had asked me what an SPF was back in the day I would have looked up from drinking a TAB while reading “Young Miss” magazine and responded with a “I dunno.”   

What happened to wooing the customer? I want to be told that I look amazing and with just a little dollop on of this and that I would be beyond stunning. Instead, I have to give myself a pep talk before I darken the Lancôme counter at Macy’s.

Hey, wait a minute. I think I’ve figured this whole “grandma” thing out. That lady at Walmart must work at a cosmetic counter. Come to think of it, she did have on a lot of eye shadow. Maybe her whole “grandma” statement was more of a sales pitch and less of an overview on my face.

That must be it and even if it’s not – that’s the story I’m going to go with.

Random Act of Jerkdom

You hear, it seems more than ever, that people have gotten downright mean. I don’t buy it. If you step away from the Internet and social media and actually interact with your fellow humans I think you’ll find, that for the most part, people are kind.

Even when my beloved father was in the throes of Alzheimer’s he still liked to be out and about. The man loved a quality errand run. When I would visit him in Texas we would go everywhere together. And although you could tell he was off, like seriously off, strangers couldn’t have been more compassionate. A simple jaunt to Target with him elevated my faith in humanity.

Recently, I told a group of people who were bellyaching about how hateful the world is that they were wrong because the world is not the comment section on Facebook. Specifically, the comment section of any political post. To prove my point I decided to spend a day recording the everyday friendliness that came my way.

My morning started off with my teenage daughter being really surly. So surly I was asking myself, “How soon is this child going to college?” With the answer being perhaps, “Not soon enough.”

But let’s throw that out because a teen’s mood swings are in no way indicative of the real world (Again, unless your real world is social media because the collective maturity level is probably 15.)

My morning turned to smiles when I got my morning Diet Coke and things were all sunshine and unicorns as I went to two meetings and then enjoyed the jovial camaraderie of the QuikTrip. When I got home my dogs, as always, were delighted to see me, and an outside jaunt with them was graced by some happy talk with the neighbors.

After I was done with work I ventured out to run an errand to the craft store to get some spring themed ribbon. I skipped through the 60 percent off Easter decor, shared cheerful chitchat with fellow customers and then proceeded to check out.

The twentysomething cashier greeted me and then began staring at my face. At first, I was worried that I had food in my teeth, but then she lowered her gaze and gave me the slow once over. Now, I’m really uncomfortable and having a flashback to going through sorority rush. Lord, no one had given me that long of a judgmental look since I went to the Pi Phi rush party in knee socks. (I still stand by my knee sock choice because the theme was preppy.)

After what seemed like hours she finally spoke and said, “Well, I’m guessing you qualify for our sixty plus discount.”

Oh no she didn’t!

She did not just age me up by almost a decade. I’m even wearing concealer and mascara. How is this possible? I was livid and sad (and still in the throes of my recovery from when some McDonald’s employees assumed I might need a “welfare check” when I didn’t show up at the drive thru for two weeks). I seriously wanted to punch this woman, but because I’m also thrifty. I muttered, “Um okay.”

So much for my friendly experiment. That was in the dumpster. Maybe the world does suck. I had no choice, but to haul ass to the Macy’s Lancôme counter.

Once there I told my story and like angels from the puffiest, prettiest, cloud, all the women (and one man from over at the Chanel booth) came and soothed me with gentle words of affirmation and hope and whispered advice disguised as a compliment that I might need an anti aging serum.

I left  feeling loved and uplifted and totally believing the Estee Lauder lady when she said that the craft store employee must have been “high or brain-damaged.”

See life is good and people are good, except for random acts of jerkdom (specifically craft store jerkdom). But that just makes us appreciate kindness and, wrinkle serum, even more.

 

 

This Is Getting Old

I’d love to start a new Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 12.58.59 PMmagazine for women. Yes, I know the print publication business is not exactly what I would call a robust commerce to embrace, but I still think I could fill a niche. I want to do a monthly magazine that doesn’t insult, scare or bully anyone walking around with a uterus.

I was stuck at the Dallas airport last week and while killing time at a Hudson News perused almost every magazine they had up to and including the very traumatic More. More magazine is billed as being for mature females. It’s slogan is “for woman of style and substance” which in marketing parlance translates to “because birthdays happen.”

I try to steer clear of the magazine because in it’s attempt to do the whole “you’re not getting older, you’re getter better” thing it hurts my feelings. Primarily, because “mature” means being one of the 30-year-old actress they put on their covers. What happened to 50 is the new 30? That sentiment lasted for a hot flash minute.

In my head I can visual how these women’s magazines editorial meetings go down. I see a group of well-groomed females, all clutching Starbucks with their manicured talons, and all in need of some sort of solid food sustenance. In the pre-meeting chatter, every single one of them with a body mass index so insignificant that their overly pronounced clavicle could do double duty as a coat rack, is moaning about being fat.

Pardon me for a moment as I abandon my story to do a little public service announcement. Woman who are not fat, stop saying you’re fat. It makes everyone who hears you say this question your intelligence and your mental health. Plus your pathological quest for constant compliments about how you “look amazing” is not only tiring, it’s beyond boring. If you’re old enough to vote than let’s all agree that you should have more going on in your life than complaining about your thigh gap.

Back to the editorial meeting which I’m envisioning as a coven complete with cackling and an organic based eye-of-newt and kale juice cleanse cooking in a Vitamix cauldron. Now cut to witches discussing the best, newest, and most alarming ways to make bearers of two X chromosomes feel bad. I’m sure they even have a life-size target of the female form in their conference room and throw darts to see what body part they’re going to make women weep    over next.

I just know have to be right about this because how else did we become obsessed about elbows and the already mentioned thigh gap. Ladies, how can we not like our elbows? Their nature’s amazing hinge. The elbow is work of art. Who cares if it’s not smooth? Was it ever smooth? I mean it’s hinging all the time so that would preclude a 24/7 smoothness wouldn’t it? As for the  thigh gap that concept is so ridiculous I can’t even go there.

The latest dart thrown must have landed right smack dab in the middle of the metacarpal and phalanges because something called “rhino hands” was in a lot of magazines. First, can I just say I love rhinoceros. Have you ever seen a baby rhino? It’s cuteness quotient is off the charts. Plus rhinos have a thick protective skin full of collagen. Isn’t collagen the holy grail in the anti-aging industry? So, how can rhino hands be a bad thing?

Okay, I’ll grant that the appearance of a rhinoceros’ skin doesn’t scream, “velvety softness,” but I guess rhinos are enjoying a busy, fulfilling life that precludes them from worrying about having a silky epidermis. Sadly, it seems I can’t say this about women magazine editors.

So, while rhinos are out there living large female homosapiens are being told that they are in dire need of a “hand lift.” This is when you inject, yes inject with a big old needle, some chemical filler in your hands to make them “plump and smooth out.”

I don’t know about you, but I just got woozy over the thought of getting freaking needles shoved in my bony hands. I’d rather be out on the African grasslands kicking back and taking a mud bath with a real rhino than subjecting myself to this latest “beautification” ritual.

I’m looking at my hands right now, because you know, I’m typing and while they don’t resemble the adorable chubbiness of a dimpled toddler’s digits they appear to be okay. Better than what they look like is what they do. Hands do all the emotional heavy lifting in life from hugging, to touching, to holding. We are nothing without our hands and I, for one, don’t care if mine are a little “rhino.”

Where’s that story women magazine editors?

Since we’re talking about stories well have I got one for you. Say hello to the latest book in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Trouble in Texas. If you haven’t experienced a Snarky book yet may cover_1-3-21I suggest you give it a try like right now. Yes, my friend just click on one of the links and presto you can get yourself some Snarky for only, wait for it, wait for it, 99 cents!  You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. 🙂

 

Girl Problems

fdd1abf16e75f6f41ce7d828686e31b2All the recent gender news has me thinking why anyone would want to be a woman. The hard truth is it’s a brutal business being female and it always has been. I’m sure even Betsy Ross as she was stitching on stars and stripes was thinking “does this flag make me look fat?”

Just take a gander at the whole “body after baby” craze. It’s not enough to create a human being you must attempt to be gorgeous during the entire nine-month process.

You know what the biggest compliment you can get when you’re pregnant is? Weirdly, (at least to me) is that you don’t look pregnant. All hail the women at 32 weeks gestation who has a tummy bulge so insignificant that you would never guess she was with child but instead think that maybe she just ate a steak burrito at Chipotle. Yes, indeed my friends a mother-to-be’s goal is to have a stealth pregnancy.

Then after you bequeath the world with a new life the race is on eradicate any sign of a lingering maternity footprint because the second best compliment you can get is not a gushing “Oh my gosh what a cute baby” but an “Oh my God you don’t even look like you had a baby.” Sigh.

Now, I realize I sound bitter and I promise it’s not because I’m 168 months postpartum and still trying to lose my baby weight. (Okay, to be fair that might be a little bit of the bitter.) It’s just I’m so sick of the beauty marathon. Not that I’m competing in that race (let’s just say I’m on the injured reserve list because it sounds better than I quit), but I do have a daughter and it saddens me to see that this quest for female perfection is not abating in the least.

The most disingenuous is the whole “natural beauty” trend. Every time a magazine does a celebrities without make up pictorial proclaiming the “braveness” of these women for being photographed without cosmetics makes me want to scream.

One, the celebs maybe make up free, but that doesn’t mean make-ups “bestie” Photoshop didn’t make an appearance. And two, do beauty editors even know the meaning of the word brave? Brave is not the word to use for females who have just started having birthdays in the double digits being photographed without eyeliner.

This perfection phenomenon has hit warp drive with the “selfie generation.” Teenagers don’t just post pictures of themselves. They do digital surgery. Apps are used to whiten teeth, add false eyelashes, slim facial and body parts, erase zits, stretch smiles – you name it. After that you add filters and voila I almost didn’t recognize a picture my own daughter. My son recently joked that years from now anthropologists will have to use “un-digitizing” techniques to see what the humans of the 21st century really looked like.

Then there was that whole twining thing that hit social media. Just in case you missed it, and lucky you if you did, here’s the back-story. 26-year-old Rumer Willis, recent Dancing With the Stars winner, and daughter of 52-year-old actress Demi Moore posted a picture of her and with her mother on Instagram with the hashtag “twinning.”

In the photo they appear to be wearing almost identical outfits, glasses and hairstyles. This prompted a flurry of “twinning” pics of mothers and daughters on social media. Some were downright scary.

Moms just because you can fit in your daughter’s clothes doesn’t mean you necessarily should be wearing them. Am I the only person left who thinks dressing younger can make you look older? I’d like to gently suggest that wearing something called “teaspoon low rise shorts” from Abercrombie and Fitch is not for anyone who’s had their medically recommended mid-life colonoscopy.

I get it, we all fear aging, but using a physics formula (force = mass x acceleration) to squeeze your fanny into a piece of denim the size of a Brawny paper towel square is not the way to go. We need to kick it old school.

That’s right I said old, as in back in the day when the “I’ve seen 50 something in rearview mirror” females were revered for their life experience and wisdom (think the dowager countess in Downton Abbey) and not the engineering feat of harnessing their chest into a halter top.

By this I mean we should luxuriate in our awesomeness. Unencumbered from trying to constantly visually impress the world at large (not that I don’t advocate a superior moisturizer and SPF routine) and secure in the knowledge that we’ve still got it in all the ways that really count – savvy, smarts and swagger – we could take over the world. Who’s ready to join me?

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂