Monthly Archives: January 2013

Ice Station Bathtub

“Most women complain they cannot take cold baths.  Not because of ill health, but because the shock of the cold water is too much for them.  I have a way of getting into my cold bath that overcomes the shock . . .I grasp the sides of the tub and lower my body into the water so that the base of my spine touches the water first.  Then I lower the upper parts of my body until the water touches the base of my brain, at the same time splashing my chest and throat.  Then I let my feet down and am wet all over”  Edna Hopper Wallace, “My Secret of Youth and Beauty” (1925)

I’ve been dreading this one all week.  My apartment doesn’t have a bathtub, so I had to wait until I was in a hotel to try this one out.  A hotel, I might add, in Maine.  In January.

When I was a kid, my sister Hilary, our friend Lando and I used to do Polar Bear Jumps at the Hidden Lake girl scout camp in the Adirondacks   We’d get up at 6 a.m, sing a Polar Bear song, then jump into a freezing cold mountain lake and swim until our lips turned blue. Maybe three summers worth of that explains why, as I edge up on 30, I still occasionally get carded for R-rated movies.

Matthew, my assistant/writing partner/BFF, helped fill my bathtub my hotel ice and cold water.  I followed Edna’s instructions carefully, and ten seconds later was screaming “TAKE THE PICTURE TAKE THE PICTURE TAKE THE PICTURE!!!!!”

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The Blogger, Wet, Miserable and Possibly Insane

I have never been so cold in my entire life.  I don’t care what Edna said, easing my body–no matter what part first–into a bathtub filled with ice water cannot be not-shocking.  My core temperature immediately dropped to absolute zero.  I felt like my flesh was being scraped off with a vegetable peeler. I catapulted out of the tub, grabbed a towel and stood shivering in the elevator until I could get to the hot tub, where I shivered for a good two minutes until my body temperature rose back up to just above freezing.

On the plus side, Matthew did say I had a nice glow in my cheeks.  I thanked him through chattering teeth.

Dinner Challenge #1–Gritty’s.

“In a restaurant, let your mate or date do the ordering. It’s more fun to eat hot dogs with a man than caviar by yourself. You may know more about vintage wines than the wine steward, but if you’re smart you’ll let your man do the choosing and be ecstatic over his selection, even if it tastes like shampoo.” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man

“I’m going to take you to Gritty’s,” my BFF/writing partner Matthew said.  “Because I want you to feel like you’re at home.”

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If I had a Pop Tart right now, I’d eat it in the bathtub!

Matthew and I are up in Freeport, ME for our annual graduate program alumni meeting and he is the subject of tonight’s study in having men order me dinner.  Here’s the thing: I like food.  A lot.  Eating delicious food is one of my greatest joys in life, and Freeport has some of the best food in the world.  Great seafood chowder, amazing lobster rolls, Wicked Whoopee Pies in Red Velvet and Orange and Gingerbread, and Gritty’s pork fries with maple sour cream, (which I will NOT be smearing on my legs.)  And beer.  Oh the beer!

Matthew and I travel a lot together, and he knows what I like to eat, so I put him in charge of picking where we were going to go and ordering for me tonight.  He hemmed and hawed over some menus and decided on Gritty’s.

Once there, I didn’t even look at the menu.  We were seated at the same long table as a father and son.  The dad complimented my herringbone cap.  I felt very pretty.  I wanted a glass of water, but everything was up to Matthew, so I didn’t say anything.

“This is nerve-wracking,” Matthew said, pouring over the menu.  “Do you like mushrooms?”

I let slip and said no, because mushrooms are gross.  Oops.  I would have pretended to be ecstatic if he’d ordered something with mushrooms, even as I silently gagged on them.  For drinks, he ordered us two Red Claw ales, which I had never had.  Normally at Gritty’s, I get the 21 IPA, or, in the summer, Vacationland.  For dinner, he ordered us each a pork shank with ginger, because he had never had one either.  

“I wanted us to have the same thing because I wanted us to be on equal footing,” he said. We really are partners.

The beer was excellent and the pork was delicious.  Perfectly seasoned, but way too much of it. We probably could have split one and still had leftovers.  The bacon hash on the side was a little much, probably could have gone with potatoes or something a little more carb-y.  But all and all, a genuine good pick, and I’m not just saying that because Arlene told me to.

 

A woman working in one of the erstwhile masculine strongholds, such as a newspaper office or a printing house, may find strong language an ever-present help in getting action. — Helen Valentine & Alice Thompson, Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm, (1938)

I am a second-generation journalist.  My dad ran The Daily Editor for a good chunk of my childhood, and I always thought he had the coolest job.  I got a B in journalism in college, but still somehow managed to get an amazing job with a local paper, where I get to interview cool people (including The Amazing Kreskin, the women who inspired A League of Their Own) and, when I’m really lucky, listen to people bicker at meetings.

But my office is anything but masculine.

The only man in the office is Jim, the owner, editor, publisher and Greatest Boss Ever.  Everyone else–the sales team, the graphic artist, the office manager, the associate publisher . . . all women.  Ian is the photographer, there’s a columnist named Tom and the computer guy, Shawn, but none of them are in the office.

And needless to say, there is no “strong language.”  Things occasionally get a little heated, and once I heard my boss say the word “Chippendale,” (we were talking about The Amazing Race; The Beekman Boys are from our area and we were all discussing how awesomely they were going to win, which they did.).  But otherwise, we keep it pretty PG, even on press nights.

Sometimes Jim tells stories of his old newspaper days, when everyone kept a bottle bourbon in their desk and once someone died at their typewriter.  Now I love swearing (and I’ll be giving it up for Lent!) and I can’t help but picture myself in that office, with a fashionable hat and red lipstick, calling out for more typing paper and a cup of coffee in a loud Lauren Bacall voice.

If anything, my plain office means that I don’t have to change my tone when I return home . . . if anything, my tone changes when I go into the office.  I’m a little meeker and a little modest, trying my best to be charming and polite even when I’m exhausted from the long toil of the newspaper work.  But you really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Point is, it pays to be charming.  Man or woman.  After all, George Clooney is far more charming than Kanye West.  No one likes a loudmouth for long, even if it does help you “get action.”

Putting the “Lady” in “Homeless Lady”

The reason I have not been posting these past few days is because Ian and I had to leave our house due to some sort of massive plumbing failure that struck at 1a.m. on Friday.  We have no water, and don’t know when we’ll have water, so we’re living with his dad until we can find a new place to live.

But I am not deterred from my quest.  If anything, it means I get to fuss over Ian AND his dad, set up a new household . . . but if my posts aren’t as frequent for the next few days, just trust that somewhere in upstate NY, I am primping and preening and tidying and packing.

But back to the good stuff.

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Looking Fab!

For a week I followed Arlene Dahl’s advice to get up, put on makeup and look pretty for when the man of the house arises.  I ditched the “gay housecoat” the second day in, realizing that my loud lumpiness was not exactly impressing Ian.  The second day was harder than the first; my friend Ari was visiting and we stayed up late chatting, so I was exhausted and kept trying to make excuses for why I should stay in bed.

But I got up and got ready each and every day.  And I started to enjoy the time to myself.  I felt more prepared to take on the day, I was relaxed when Ian did get up.  I had time to have a cup of tea and write a little.  It was nice, and I intend to continue.

 

Arts & Crafts: Ruffled Apron

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I Want to Go To There!

I have always loved making and altering my clothes.  I’ve turned tee-shirts into dresses, sweater sleeves into socks, plain black jeans into gothy D-ring bell bottoms (take that, Hot Topic!).  I made two of the dresses I wore to my grad-school dances, one disco-ball sparkle a-line inspired by the B-52’s and, for my graduation, a modified version of the pink dress Geena Davis wears at the end of Earth Girls Are Easy, because Geena Davis is my idol.

I’m a craft geek, and I’m not afraid to show it.

A few years ago, my sister Hilary bought me Megan Nicolay’s awesome Generation T, which, along with the sequel Beyond Fashion, has hundreds of ideas for what to do with tee-shirts.  I’ve made throw rugs, placemats . . . heck, the hoodie I’m wearing as I type this is just an Old Navy one with the image from an vintage XL Morrissey tee-shirt stitched onto the back.

The way I see it, If I’m going to be cooking for my man, it’s probably a good idea to have an apron so I don’t get bacon grease all over my gay housecoat.  Good thing Beyond Fashion has project #41, “Central Cooking (Ruffled Apron).”

I used my The Odd Couple (Female Version) cast tee-shirt (I was Vera) and tacked on, a la project #79 “Tattoo You,” cut-outs of Princess Peach and Gizmo from two other shirts.

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Only slightly less traumatizing than “Am I Normal”

I do all my sewing by hand.  Not because I’m retro, but because that’s how my grandma taught me.  My Home Ec. teacher in 8th grade was supposed to teach us how to use a machine, but she always forgot the materials and would pop in whatever PG rated movie she’d forgotten to take back to Victory Video on her way to school.  My take-away from 8th Grade Home Ec. was that Alaska is a very stupid movie and Thora Birch is not a very good actress.

The project was fraught with the usual peril that strikes whenever I sit down to be crafty (just because I do it doesn’t mean I’m all that good).  For starters, I cut the Odd Couple square too small, so now Peach and Gizmo sort of obscure the title, and the date, and the last part of Neil Simon’s name (measure twice cut once!).  Because it is January, and I live in upstate NY, my fingers went numb sewing the miles and miles of ruffle (96 inches, to be exact . . . and then sewing another basting stitch back through it to gather)

But despite the craft agony, the result is just as cute as the one in the book, and will keep me clean as I slave over a hot stove.  

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A nice, home-cooked meal!

Seriously, get this book.  And while you’re at the bookstore, get me a new copy of Generation T–mine’s falling apart from use.

Moist As I Wanna Be

“For softer skin, rub rich sour cream into your body before you take a shower, then let the water rinse it away” Barbara Walden, Easy Glamour (1981) 

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Yummy . . .?

My first attempt at bizarre beauty was from my own kitchen.  When Matthew came to visit, he made goulash, and left a whole bucket of sour cream in our fridge.  I don’t like sour cream on anything; might as well put it to practical use . . . for vanity.

The application was not pleasant.  It was cold and slimy going on, as expected, and the scent of sour cream warming on human flesh in front of a space heater is not exactly appealing.

What surprised me is that it actually worked.  The stink was gone pretty quickly.  My skin was noticeably softer, sort of velvety.  However, it didn’t feel well moisturized, just a little dewy.  Think I’ll stick with Vitamin E oil instead.

Happy New Year!

It is important to be fresh and attractive in the morning as it is at bedtime–even if it means you have to get up 10 minutes earlier to wash your face, put on a little makeup, brush your hair and slip into a gay housecoat.”  Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

Up at 8a.m. from a dream that Ian bought us a really nice little house.  I don’t think he wanted me to go, but today’s the first day of my new, glam life!

Not sure what a “gay housecoat” is and too afraid to google it.  I hope my red kimono will suffice and not send Ian into the arms of his secretary.  If he had a secretary, I’m sure he would run to her now.  With my blue fleece “cozy” pajama pants, my tie-dyed fleece socks and my red wool “JOIKE” sweater (from MST3K Santa Claus) I look like a hungover clown.  Time for makeup!

Does having makeup on from the night before count?  The hot pink eye shadow I wore to cover the New Year’s Gala refuses to budge.  Two face-washings later, I can finally smudge on some eyeshadow.  I try out a few new ways of combing my hair, but within moments, it has fallen like Fort Sumter in the same slightly-right part. At least it’s combed.

I’m already wearing lots of red, so I try to find a lipstick that’s a little more neutral.  In my train case I find a copper lipstick I wore when I was going through my weird, androgynous Brooklyn phase, where my style icons were Tom Waits and Benicio del Toro in Sin City–lots of ugly button-down shirts, suit jackets and off-putting cosmetics.  Arlene would not approve.

The lipstick backfires the neutral test.  Two tissues later it’s left a faint, pretty trace.  I slap some gloss on it and declare victory.

Ian is still asleep, so I decide to tidy up so he wakes up to a pleasant household (except for my housecoat).  By 8:36 I have lit the furnace, finished the dishes, swept the kitchen and dining room, folded the clothes he left on the chair the night before and put away some stray things.  I feel a surprising sense of accomplishment.

When Ian does wake up, he doesn’t really seem to notice except to snicker at my kimono.