Monthly Archives: June 2011

First Annual No Bitchin’ Day

Duck Cove, Early EveningSomething is terribly wrong with me.  I’m sure of it.  It’s serious, maybe terminal.  I need to see my doctor just as soon as possible.  The symptoms?  I haven’t bitched about anything all week.  Not one thing.  Is it Alzheimer’s?  Fibromyalgia?  Vanishing-sarcasm disorder?

Now, now, you say, sometimes even the snarkiest of people are nice.  It’s not serious.  It’s not deadly.  It’s not even unattractive.

But it’s never happened to me.  And I don’t quite know what to say about my new-found niceness.   Shouldn’t I have started being nice before puberty?  Can someone start being nice at fifty-four-and-a-half?  Shouldn’t I check for signs of brain washing since I have even remained pleasant for days after Michele Bachmann announced she really is running for President?

What caused these psychological changes? Are they permanent?  Am I still employable?

Right now, I am sitting on the coast of Maine, where I’ve been staying for several days.  I’m having a beer and looking out at a picturesque cove and the view of Placentia Island.  Well, I could bitch about the name of that island, but not today.

I could bitch about the mosquitoes that are the size of hummingbirds, but not today.

I could bitch about the sun that comes up so early that it’s a pleasure to get out of bed at 5 a.m., but not today.

Today I am in a grumble-free zone.  When I return to Washington, I’m going to demand that June 30 be designated as annual “No Bitchin’ Day.”

I don’t know if it will catch on.  But if it doesn’t, I’ll have a thing or two to say about it.  And I won’t be nice.

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Corrective Packaging

The problem became clear to me when I was naked, wet and in someone else’s shower.  Too late, I realized that I had forgotten my shampoo and conditioner upstairs in the guest room.

As problems go, this one wasn’t huge.  There was an assortment of products right there on the back of the tub.  At least eight bottles of stuff.  But I didn’t know what was in any of them because I have presbyopia.  Because I’m old.  Ish.

Presbyopia.  Sounds like a terminal disease or a religious sect, doesn’t it?  It’s neither.  It means my eyes are aging along with the rest of my generation.  Mostly, I see fine with my glasses.  But mornings are impossible:  first, I hobble out of bed, my joints cracking like pinecones in a fire. Once I get into the shower, I can’t tell the difference between shampoo, conditioner and body wash.  I make mistakes.

And it’s not just in-shower products.  And it’s not just in the morning.

I can’t tell my day from my night creams, so presbyopia may actually endanger my life.  The day cream has SPF to keep me from contracting skin cancer, which is vital to me as an Irish-American still awaiting my first tan.  The night cream has something in it to make me look years younger.  I’ve been using it since 1987, and if it worked as advertised I should just now be developing acne.

I don’t want to get them confused.  But I do.

Women with sagging butts still want what hasn’t relocated to look nice, you know.  In fact, it becomes increasingly more important as other body parts fail.  And we want to know that we are using the right stuff in the right order.  We need the “turn-around” cream first and then the regular moisturizer.  In that order!  We can no longer afford to do it the other way around by accident.  And we tend to shampoo first and then condition.

Products designed to be used by wet naked people who aren’t wearing their glasses in the shower should have HUGE printing.  They do not.  It is completely unfair.

No.  It’s worse; it’s discrimination.  Ageism.  Chauvinism.  Some “ism” or other.  This packaging bigotry prevents aging folks from making intelligent choices, minimizes their independence, and undermines their confidence.  Sometimes, it also makes their hair sticky.

It’s “Boomerism.”  Boomerism is “the practice of ensuring through packaging that Baby Boomers, who never were as great a generation as their parents because there were no Nazis for US to fight, will feel inept while grooming.”  Boomerism.  You heard it here first.

I blame the packaging industry for my distress.  I should sue.  Or go into assisted living.

Twenty-somethings – the folks who obviously design these labels – they don’t have presbyopia.  They can’t even spell it.  We aging boomers still have some cash to spend (at least until they take away our Social Security).  We need assistance:

LARGE FONT PRINT!!

The first company that trades on this need will reap HUGE REWARDS.

Imagine the advertising campaign, filmed in a low grade blur:  An attractive 50-something Diane Keeton-type takes off her glasses, steps into the shower, and squints at the 10 bottles on the back of the tub.  She chooses a bottle.  The camera shot changes to one of just the shower curtain.

“This doesn’t seem right,” she says, after applying something to her hair.  Her hand reaches out for her glasses and they disappear back inside.  We hear:

“Oh No!!”

She can now see that she’s just massaged Nair Hair Remover into her scalp.  The camera moves to a lineup of legibly labeled products on her sink, next to her glasses.

Now, this is my idea, my design.  So any of you advertising folks need to know that I expect a percentage of the excess profits from products that cannot be accused of Boomerism.  And I know just what I’ll do with my share of the proceeds.

I’m getting Lasik eye surgery so that I can read my stupid alarm clock.

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Sharon, Paul, Bob and Me

When Sharon Osborne, wife of Ozzie, appeared on the cover of AARP Magazine, I should have known changes were coming at the Association of American Retired People.  I should have been afraid.  I should have opted out.  I should also have realized I have not yet retired.

But I’ll admit that I did not see today’s news coming – that AARP would ever agree that Social Security can be cut.  Drugs must be involved in both decisions by AARP.  And we are not talking about legal substances.

Tonight, I’m embarrassed to admit that I am a member of AARP.  A reluctant member of AARP, but a member nevertheless.  You know those commercials that are playing now?  The ones with Betty White, talking to me and other reluctant middle-aging folks who don’t really want to be in AARP, telling us to “GET OVER IT.”  Well, recently I did get over it. Betty White didn’t convince me.  But still, I joined.

Shit.  Why didn’t I listen to Woody Allen and not join any organization that would have me?  Maybe it was because he was stealing the line from Groucho Marx.

But it was the magazine that seduced me.  Or rather, it was the cover boys who did.

When I reached my 50th birthday, AARP sent me Paul McCartney – Paul was my very first crush!  How did they know?  It’s a little bit scary that they knew about me and Paul, but I figured they’d sent me a sign in a good, wholesome way — I mean, they didn’t send me Ringo.

When I was seven years old, the Beatles had just been on Ed Sullivan, and for months afterwards I used to play “Married Beatles” with my friends, Laura, Lucy and Lisa.  They were sisters who had four wonderful apple trees in their yard, and we each got a Beatle whom we could keep in our individual tree and with whom we could smooch.  Hey, I was seven.  I didn’t realize that there could be better things to do with Paul in that tree.  Well, we fought for Paul, and somehow I usually won him.  (John’s marriage to Cynthia was something we knew, even at that age, wouldn’t last.  And Yoko would have confused the hell out of us.)

So when I got that first magazine, I knew my days of holding out against aging, against AARP, against Paul, were numbered.

And then came other heartthrobs:  Harrison Ford.  An adult crush.  Bob Dylan, an early hero.

Robert Redford, my early teen crush, appeared in January to help me celebrate my 54th birthday. He sealed the deal.  I’d had a crush on him before he was even a star, when he was in Inside Daisy Clover and This Property is Condemned with Natalie Wood, before he’d so much as met Paul Newman  And Robert hasn’t aged too well, either.  So he makes me feel better about that, too.  The list of the crushes of my life goes on across the cover pages of AARP Magazine.  The list for men is equally impressive, but that’s for them and their apple tree memories.

And so on my 54th birthday as I read the interview with Robert (or Bob as I called him in my later day apple tree-equivalent),  I thought:

“You know, this organization is doing good things.”

And I continued to think (hey, I can multi-think!):  “They will protect me in my dotage, when I need Social Security and Medicare!”  And so I joined.

So imagine my surprise when I got this month’s issue:  Sharon Osborne was on the cover.  I can say with absolute certainty:  I never had a crush on Sharon.  I never had a crush on Ozzie.  In fact, I never quite understood why anyone would spend their time with either of them without mind altering drugs.

So as an official AARP member, I have a question:

Who put Sharon Osborne on the cover of AARP?

Probably more importantly, however, are these questions:

Who the HELL at AARP decided that it is okie dokie  to

(1) totally abandon  their position on Social Security and Medicare that AARP has held since the Civil War (“LEAVE IT THE FUCK ALONE!” is what I recall seeing on their posters and position papers);

(2) screw over AARP’s entire middle-aging clientele, including newly minted and especially funny bloggers, and

(3) support cuts in Social Security that will leave millions of elderly people in poverty in years to come?

The answer to these questions?  They obviously inhaled.  A lot.  Residual effects from illegal drugs ingested between 1968 and 1978 have begun to take control of their minds.  And that is not my fault.  Don’t penalize me and my fellow middle-agers  for your folly.

We middle-aging folks need to get a hold of the folks who are reconsidering their positions on Social Security and give them a nice California Chardonnay to clear their heads.  Because we need the real folks at AARP to get back in charge.

Sharon and Ozzie will do okay without you.  The rest of us won’t.

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Tea for you?

I just hate it when common sense gets into the way of a political movement, don’t you?  And so, I need help, because there is one thing I don’t understand about the modern Tea Party Movement.

Why do they use teabags?

Now I know that two of their leaders, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are both a little iffy about their history.  By now everybody knows about Sarah’s contorted description of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and that little oopsie Michele Bachmann made when she forgot that the first shots in the American Revolution were fired in liberal Massachusetts rather than in conservative New Hampshire as poor old Michele announced at a stump speech.

But how can those little Lipton Tea Bags be the symbol of the Tea Party Movement?  Wikipedia tells me that there were no tea bags at the original Boston Tea Party back in December of 1773.  The Patriots, dressed as Indians, threw crates of loose tea into Boston Harbor.  No tea bags were dunked.   And certainly, no tea bags were hung from hats, tri-corner or round.

How do I know?  Because tea bags were not invented until 1903, 130 years later.  Oops.

When the symbol of a “movement” is wrong, what does that say about the movement itself?  I’d speculate that maybe this whole Tea Party Movement is not all that well thought out.

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Thumbs Up!

Nobody has accused me of mellowing as I age, but I’m starting to think I am.

This morning as I was driving to work, a truck coming the opposite way on a narrow side street, veered around a parked car and missed crunching me by the width of the driver’s soon to be confiscated drivers’ license.

Did I swear at him?  Did I threaten his children?  Did I take down his tag number and report him to the police, to his boss, to 1-800-U-CNT-DRV?  (Oh, behave yourself — that’s ‘CAN’T.’)

No.  I raised one finger to him.  But to the surprise of both of us AND all the kids at the nearby school bus stop, it wasn’t the middle finger.  For some inexplicable reason, I raised my thumb to him. 

Do you consider the thumbs up after a near fatal crash to be

(A) Pandering?

(B) Sensible?  or

(C) Incredibly Weird?

Clearly, I’m mellowing.  Then again, I have to.  Traffic in Northern Virginia where I live has intensified recently.  Eight years ago, I was lucky.  I worked only 30 minutes from home.  Now, I work about an hour and a quarter away on light traffic days.  Same job; same route, same house.   It makes me crabby.

But in January, I came to a realization.  Since I’m in the car a lot, I either need a bazooka or an attitude adjustment.  A quick price check made the decision for me in no time.  Vehicle destroying weapons are tres cher, according to the plain clothes policeman standing outside CIA Headquarters holding a late model bazooka.  So attitude it is.

And I have the perfect role model for my new-found sunny driving disposition:  my mother.  Unlike my friends’ mothers, my Mom was a horrible driver.  My siblings and I fought her for the keys for even the shortest car hops.  And that was before we got our drivers licenses.

Mom was always nice to everyone when she was driving, though.  She was especially nice the time that guy jumped onto the hood of her car at the 7-11 around the corner.  Of course, he hadn’t started out on the hood.  He was originally on the pay phone in front of her when she put the car into drive instead of reverse.

“I’ve never seen anyone jump that high,” she said, once she stopped shrieking.  “Do you think he’s an acrobat?  He landed right on top of my car, jumped off and ran away.”

“Mom, he jumped onto the hood to avoid becoming a paraplegic,” I reminded her.

“I suppose you’re right.  But you know,” she said, “he should have checked to see that I was OK.  That would have been the polite thing to do.”

And so, with Mom as my role model, I will be nice to everyone on the road, even folks who jump onto the hood of my car to avoid hospitalization.  And I will continue doing this until my family pries the keys out of my hand one last time.  And they’ll have an easier time of it, too, because of my new attitude.  With my thumbs up, it’ll be easier to get the keys.

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Downsizing

My husband John and I had an appointment to look at smaller houses with a realtor.  We were going to go this afternoon, but after going to the grocery store early this morning, I cancelled.

“Why did you do that?”  asked John, puzzled.  John wants to get rid of the big house.  He wants to get rid of the big mortgage.

“Sorry,” I told my husband.  “I can’t downsize.”

“Why not?” he asked again.

“Toilet paper.”

“Huh?”

Everyone I know talks “downsizing.”  Our friends are mostly middle-aged like us.  We all bought 4 bedroom 2-1/2 bath colonials back when our kids were small – we thought it was a legal requirement that came with the birth certificates.  Now the kids are off at college, or off working, or just off.  Occasionally friends decide to downsize because they are not yet empty nesters and are trying to push their overgrown open-mouthed offspring/bloodsuckers out of the nest.

As I said I had just come home from the grocery store.  With 36 rolls of toilet paper.  Double sized rolls.  That means I had actually just come home with 72 rolls.  For two adults and one dog.

What made me do it?  We really only need a fraction of that.  Why not get a six-pack?  And then a six-pack of toilet paper?

Earlier, I stood in the aisle at my local Safeway and considered my options.  Hmmmm.  I thought.  This HUGE package costs $15.00.  The size I really need costs $9.00.  But the 36-which-equals-72 roll package was only 6 bucks more.  I had no choice.  I bought the big package.  It was cheaper.  Unless you totaled up today’s groceries.  Then it wasn’t cheaper.   But into the cart it went.

I continued on down the aisle.  Damn, I thought.  I need paper towels tooSixteen rolls?  Why not?

Go through any grocery store.  You can buy small, but it’s gonna cost you.  You can buy a six-pack of soda for $4.99.  Better still, you can buy a twelve-pack of soda for $6 or two twelve-packs for $12 and get three twelve-packs FREE!  What a deal.  You save $18 just by spending $6 more than you were going to spend in the first place!   I must buy them.  Just because I stopped drinking soda in 1996 doesn’t mean I should pass up this deal.

Twenty-four 12 oz. bottles of pure spring water?  Sure.  I only have six left from the two dozen I bought in 2007.

These promos work on me every time.

The price of wine also goes down as the quantity goes up.  I can buy one bottle of my favorite Pinot Grigio for $9.00 or I can buy two for $7.50 each.  If I want to buy even more, I can buy six or more bottles for $6.00 each, get totally sloshed and not really care what I’m spending.  There’s some logic there.

It even happened in the produce section. I wanted one small container of blueberries and one of strawberries.  Instead I took home two hefty containers of each.

“Are you going on a ‘berries only’ diet?” asked John as he helped me unload the groceries when I got home.

“No,” I responded.  “It was ‘buy one, get one free.’  I couldn’t let them go to waste, could I?”

“Well at least not until the extras have been in our fridge for a few weeks,” John muttered.

So you see, I can’t downsize.  I cannot get a smaller house. I can’t even get a smaller car.  How would I get my groceries home?

I think I’m going to call the realtor back.  We need a bigger house.

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Gizmos and Gadgets

In the last two years electronics manufacturers replaced  product instruction booklets with human tears — mine.

Until 2008, each computer, radio, TV, cellphone, or other electronic device had a little booklet that told all about the product I’d just bought.  Important things.  How to turn it on, for example.  It is not always that obvious, you know.  The booklet also told me how to turn it off, and how to mute it.  That last one’s especially important given the current crop of advertisements, mostly for other gadgets that won’t have booklets either.

Those were the days.  I remember fondly that I would pull out the instruction booklet first.  If I’d had any inkling that the lines and those pages would soon disappear, I would have treated it better.  But when I’d get something new, I’d push the manual aside, heartlessly toss it to the floor and completely ignore it.  I would turn on the gizmo and figure out exactly how to make it do just what I wanted done.  I could always figure out how to use it, even the most complicated ones.  The instructions were then put into the drawer next to the oven with the rest of the booklets.  That drawer collapsed in 2009 under the weight of instruction booklets for the 4,153 electronic devices we’ve purchased since we bought the house in 2002.

Now, I understand the need to cut back on paper usage.  I am all for saving rainforests I’ll never see, limiting emissions that may or may not be causing global warming.  I’m into all that sort of environmental crap, really I am.  But  they cut out my little booklets at exactly the same moment that they made the damn gizmos completely incomprehensible.

When manufacturers first removed my instruction booklets, I was brave.  I didn’t cry for the first three or four hours while I pushed every frickin’ button on my new cell phone, hoping in vain that one of them might just turn it “ON.” Naturally, the power button was the one I didn’t press because that had a picture of what clearly represented “OFF” and the bloomin’ button is RED.  Am I the only person who ever played Red Light/Green Light????  RED IS STOP.  GREEN IS GO.  Jeez.

OK, I know I should have gotten over this particular problem with my very first Windows product, but I didn’t.  And I won’t.  Not ever.  And I will never feel stupid for not pressing OFF when I want ON.

Still, I do try to not be a crybaby.  And sometimes I make it.  For a while.

I didn’t cry for 6.5 hours when my new “plug in and use” laptop couldn’t be.  Equally exasperating, this laptop had no installed software that would have permitted use once it was plugged in.  As I sobbed to a Geek Squad Rep at Best Buy, I was told “there’s no software on it because people like to individualize.”

“I’m pretty sure,”  I said, pulling my head out of the paper bag I’d been breathing into, “that Neanderthals like me who buy products advertised to be ‘plugged in and used’ aren’t all that into individualization.”

It has gotten to the point where sometimes I don’t even bother crying.  I just throw stuff.  In fact, hospital emergency rooms see a 5-fold rise in shoulder, elbow, wrist and foot injuries during the holiday season as consumers throw, fling or kick their electronic Christmas gifts across the room, trying to miss the Christmas tree it took them so damn long to hang lights on.   Personally, I worry that I might decapitate relatives who wander into my house within 24 hours of a technology acquisition, when I have just sent something flying.

So all that is left for me to do now is cry.  And I do.  Every single time I buy something.  I’m considering going for a Guinness World Record for “Most electronics-related crying jags.”  Other contenders should just throw in the towel.  Or a tissue.

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