Archive for February, 2012

Grey Expectations

February 27, 2012

Grey Expectations

Some of my best friends dye their hair. Correction. Most of my best friends do. And there but for the grey of God go I. You might say it’s a natural consequence of being female and over fifty – to which I would answer, Say what?

It doesn’t seem like so long ago, I could estimate the average age of a crowd by counting the grey heads. Now I can only gauge age by counting grey-haired males. Counting grey-haired females gives me a tally of my allies.

When did going grey gracefully become the exception? And why didn’t I get the memo? Okay. Maybe I did get the memo, but chose to ignore it.

The first time must have been twenty years ago, when the very nice woman who used to cut my hair randomly asked, “Been painting?” She’d discovered my first white hair. She sputtered an apology. I laughed it off.

And I continued to laugh it off as the white hairs increased and the hairdressers’ comments became more frequent, and less oblique.

“We can take care of those pretty easily.”

“No thanks.”

Meanwhile, more and more of my peers were going the opposite route. Some said they did it because their boyfriends or their jobs demanded it. Others felt it was necessary for acquiring a boyfriend or a job. Most simply preferred their hair not to be grey, and saw no point in not looking the way they wanted.

None of this reasoning applies to me. I am happily married to someone who likes my hair the way it was, and where it’s going. I don’t have to worry about my job, because no one cares what writers look like. These are lucky facts, because I could never deal with the fuss dyed hair would require. I’ve seen how much time and money it takes to maintain. I have never worn make-up or had a manicure. And I figured out a long time ago how to keep my hair so it doesn’t require any brushing or combing or blow-drying, or whatever the hell it is real women do.

Of course, the personal is also political. Is there really anyone out there who doesn’t think there’s something wrong with a culture in which men who show their age are considered wise and distinguished, while women feel compelled to look perpetually young? Raise your hand if you think the Academy of Motion Pictures would have handed an Oscar to an eighty-something-year-old woman for her role as a newly out lesbian. No one?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people dying their hair if they want to. What pisses me off is the societal pressure that makes so many women want to look younger than they are.

The upshot, for me, is that my greying hair now makes me the exception, rather than the rule. When I see a woman who wears her hair grey, I’m grateful. When I see one who does it beautifully, I think of the lining that makes a storm cloud not so bad, the forks and knives that mark a special occasion, settings for turquoise in the Southwest, classic photography, the newspaper of record before it caved in to color. And I’m riveted.

I find it hard to believe I’m the only one.

Search Me

February 21, 2012

One of the procrastination-encouraging cool things about keeping a blog is being able to pull back the curtain and check out what’s going on behind the scenes. You can follow an hour-by-hour record of how many times people visited your site, and see which posts they went to. You can find out which links they clicked on while they were at your site. And you can learn whether they found your blog through Facebook or Twitter or some other site.

But the best part of this inside look is the list of search terms that led visitors your way. It tells you a lot about your niche, and how people’s minds work. It reveals things about your writing you might not have noticed. And it can be strangely lovely, in a surreal way, like found poetry.

Here’ a sampling of search terms that led people my way over during the few weeks:

what’s wrong with this picture ghost couch

squashed head Barbie

my non jewish friend won’t let me light a yahrzeit candle

broken doll head

pictures of divorce style huevos rancheros

broken Barbie Facebook

what happens at the end of giving up the ghost?

doll head

I didn’t take the peanuts

doll part

Aramaic recipes

doll leg

Tunisian bakery

doll limbs

dog bakery windows

Zbarazh women

school children at staircase

Zbarazh Ukraine

drawings of skewed skylines

comfortably drawing

New York skyline from Montclair

cathar castles

man bottle opener

roman angels

Wine bottle opener broken away

sculptures Europe angels faces

man standing without words in my dreams

million dollars

artful nuns b shaped trees

old dark house

bugtank book

lace drawings

gate path wall water

drafts of houses

gop 2012 jack-o-lanterns

James Dobson makes surprise visit

fifteen spotted hono bother thash

What does it mean?


February 11, 2012

In this week’s episode, we found the Israelites gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments. It’s one of the Bible’s highest-production scenes. The original story gives us smoke and fire, earthquake and ear-splitting horns. As Moses addresses the people, God echoes him in thunder.

The rabbis of the Talmud add details to the picture. As a hammer splits a rock into countless pieces, we’re told, each word from God’s mouth split into seventy languages. Setting aside the question of whether God has a mouth, and understanding that “seventy” here means “every,” the point is that revelation is something experienced by each person according to her own terms.

Other rabbinical riffs put the same idea a little differently. At the moment of revelation, we hear, God appeared as a statue with multiple faces pointing in multiple directions, so each person felt individually addressed. A third rabbi suggests that God spoke to each person according to her capacity to comprehend the message.

These passages remind me of the revelations I’ve experienced, those aha instances when critical questions that were murky a moment ago are suddenly clear.

Sometimes clarity comes in the form of new information that upends old assumptions. A secret is confessed, a mystery is solved, new data is offered, an unexpected diagnosis slaps you upside your head and forces you to rethink reality. That sort of revelation can be shattering and life-changing, but it’s not what I think of when I try to make sense of the Sinai story.

You think the fact that they weren’t supposed to murder or steal from each other was news to the Israelites? Of course not. They just needed to see their innate morality laid out in plain language.

The sort of revelation I’m thinking of isn’t announced. It’s uncovered. It’s the moment when you finally recognize what you already suspected, but wouldn’t – couldn’t – acknowledge, because you were too distracted or confused or set in your ways, too attached to your previous plans. Or too scared to take that next step.

Marry him.

End it.

Blow the whistle.

Ask her.

Try it.

It’s time.

Step close enough to the mountain, and your heart starts beating like thunder. Stand still enough to listen, you might hear what it’s trying to tell you. What you’re trying to tell yourself.

My Super Bowl Sunday

February 5, 2012


I’ve never been to a Super Bowl party. David and I aren’t exactly shy about letting friends know we’re not into sports. And then there’s that thing about our not having a TV. If I were to watch this year, I’m not even sure who I’d root for. If I watched here in Rhode Island, I’d probably go for the Giants, since they play in the Meadowlands, and I’m a Jersey Girl at heart. And if I watched in New Jersey, I’d probably favor the Patriots, since I’ve lived in New England longer than I ever lived in Jersey. I suppose that when it comes to sports, my strongest impulse is contrarian.

I was feeling contrarian on Super Bowl Sunday, 1988. Back then, it was still widely assumed that football was for men. Super Bowl Sunday meant men watching the game while women huddled in the kitchen, preparing nachos and pigs in a blanket to shove under the men’s faces. Liberated women might say screw that, and plan a night out with the girls, instead.

That’s what my friend Pat was thinking when she suggested we spend the evening watching the Chappendales Dancers revue. Pat and I were just getting to know each other. We’d met in a playgroup for two year olds at Burlington Public Library. Pat had two sons. I had Sophie, and was nine months pregnant. “It’ll be fun,” Pat suggested. “Your last hurrah before the baby’s born.”

The revue was booked in Memorial Auditorium, a cavernous hall best suited for mixed martial arts and political caucuses. When Pat and I arrived, the place was already packed. Seventy-five percent of the crowd consisted of middle-aged women. The other twenty-five percent were women in their twenties or sixties. Pat and I had to climb clear to the top of the bleachers to find empty seats. Seeing the stage from that height required doubling over – a position that would have been awkward in any circumstances, and was almost unbearable around a pregnant belly. The cranked-up base of the disco throbbed through my uterus. What if I went into labor right there in the bleachers?

The show consisted of a series of sets in which men dressed in various fantasy get-ups — cop, motorcycle tough, businessman, cowboy and yes, football player — flexed their muscles and gyrated their hips as they stripped down to thongs, and the crowd went wild. The guys were good-looking enough, their arm muscles oiled and their abs well defined. But I really couldn’t see what these women so damned excited about. Maybe they were just whipping themselves up for the sake of whipping themselves up, getting excited more by the idea of getting excited than by the actual show, which may have been interesting at first, but soon became tedious. But the fact that I found it so said more about me than about them.

Between sets, the lesser gods of the Chippendale pantheon, kids dressed in the iconic Chippendale collars and bow ties, came out into the auditorium to hawk calendars and kisses. Everything stopped as the women lined up by the dozens and patiently waited their turn, their five- and ten- and twenty-dollar bills clutched in their fists. If the stage show had been boring, this part was, well icky. And more than a little depressing.

What were these ladies thinking? What was going through the guys’ minds? What had I been thinking, coming? And what about my friend Pat, sitting quietly beside me? Was she as put off as I was, or was my obvious distaste spoiling her good time? I had come with a sort of ironic curiosity, and had assumed she shared my attitude. Now I wasn’t so sure what she thought, or even whether our budding friendship would survive the evening. I forget whether we stayed until the end. But I do remember what Pat said to me as we walked to our cars. “It wasn’t what I’d expected. I thought it would be more…artistic.” Her husband wasn’t in the best shape, physically, she went on. “I just wanted a chance to see some, you know, different kind of guys.”

I gave birth a week later. That baby boy turned out to be artistic, though not in the way Pat meant that night. Sam is a sculptor who works mainly with recycled cardboard. Last weekend, David and I drove to Syracuse to attend his first solo show (that image at the top is one of his pieces from the show). Pat and I did remain friends for several years. But first she moved to the Northwest, and then David and I moved to Rhode Island, and eventually Pat and I lost touch. Needless to say, I haven’t been to another Chippendales show. But I think of them each Super Bowl Sunday, when I’m busy not watching the game.