Plus Size? Plus What?

I’ve been thinking about the strong reaction that comedienne Amy Schumer had to having her image published in a “plus size” edition of Glamour magazine.  I’ve been thinking about it because I honestly have a whole LOT of reactions to the whole issue.

Number 1: Who the hell needs to buy a magazine called Glamour anyway? Most of us are living in the burbs, trying to keep the laundry done, the dogs fed, the bills paid and the fridge stocked. Glamour? No one I know has the slightest idea of what that word even means.

Number 2: What the F* is “Plus sized”? Plus what? Like, “You are a woman, with extra”. Extra depth? Extra personality? Extra cellulite? What?

Number 3: Amy Schumer is fabulous. Smart, funny, articulate, warm, open and beautiful. In every way.

This whole thing just strikes a real nerve in this old Nonni.  I will tell you a story to explain my anger at this entire pile of bullshit.

When my oldest child, my daughter Kate, was 14 years old, she won an award for a piece of art that she had created. She was invited to the Massachusetts State house for a special reception with other award winning young artists.  I was so proud of her!

In preparation for the big event, I took my Kate shopping for a dressy pair of pants. We went to the mall, and into a popular store for young people. The salesgirl met us, asked a couple of questions and took some measurements. “Ooooooh,” she sighed to Kate, “Wow! You’re a size 00!”

That means “double zero”.

Kate looked at me, unsure of how to respond. My mama bear self reared up right then. I sure as hell did know how to respond.

“Excuse me?” I asked in my frostiest voice. “Are you telling my daughter that she is less than zero?”

The young salesgirl blinked at me. “Um. Yes. She’s so slim. She’s in a size double zero.”

Now here’s the thing.  My Kate was barely pubescent.  She had always been thin, but that was party because she’d had some health problems.

I absolutely hated the fact that at the very cusp of womanhood, my beautiful, tender daughter was told that the smaller and skinnier she was, the more admired she would be. Even more than that, though, I was completely appalled that the smallest size pants in that store were telling a woman “You are even less than nothing!” And: “We love that!”

I blew off a little steam at the poor salesgirl, and hauled my young artist out of there.  I stood her in atrium of the mall, my hands on her shoulders. I looked into her big brown eyes. “Kate,” I said, “You are young. Young women are often thin. You are lovely. You are going to get bigger and even more beautiful.”  She nodded. I’m pretty sure she had no idea of what had pissed me off so much.

So we went to Sears, where the sizes ran in actual numbers.  We got the pants, and a nice white blouse. We went to the ceremony in Boston, and we had a lovely time.

But here’s the point: Sizes need to run in normal, predictable ordinal numerals.  You know, the smallest would be “1”, the next would be “2” and so on.  No “Double zero”. No “Zero”. No “Plus”.

Women should be able to buy a pair of jeans without being told how the people who buy a magazine called “Glamour” choose to to rate us.

Amy Schumer, you are a goddess.

And so is my still slim daughter.


Wide Awake in America

I am a middle aged woman.

Therefore, I do not sleep.

This is a very well known, but much hated, fact. Middle aged women are awake when all the world is wrapped in blissful slumber.

We. Simply. Do. Not. Sleep.

And for the most part (at least according to the women that I know) we have no idea what is keeping us awake.

We finish dinner, clean things up, maybe do some laundry or correct some math papers. We make lunch for tomorrow, check our email, and fall into bed after yawning so hard that we are pretty sure we have cracked our jaws.

And we sleep.  Deeply and blissfully, we sleep.  Until somewhere between 2 and 3 AM when something suddenly pokes us in the ribs with an icy finger and yells “FIRE!”  Then we jolt upright, check for smoke/fire/alarms/crying babies and take our respective pulses.  Then we get a cold drink of water, go to the bathroom, pat the dogs, and head back into bed.

Where our adrenaline soaked bodies lie rigid,  and wait breathlessly for the dawn.

I have been trying to get to the bottom of my sleeplessness for a few years now.  I have tried drinking more water, drinking less water, leaving the window open, leaving the window closed, taking St. John’s Wort, taking melatonin, drinking “Sleepytime Extra”, drinking honey bourbon, meditating, listening to music, rubbing on lavender oil, rubbing on Aspercreme and listening to “Hey Jude”.   So far, nothing has worked.

Sometimes I think that I am just anxious about life in general, but then I have a supremely alert two or three nights when I realize that the biggest problem in my mind is whether I should make ravioli or ziti for Sunday dinner.

So what the hell is going on here?

Last night I fell asleep thinking about how cool it is that my son Matt will be hiking on the Appalachian Trail for a month.  This is a big family dream,  yearned for by his father and his siblings for as long as I can remember. I fell asleep enthralled with the idea of him achieving this wonderful dream.

And at 3 AM, on the dot, I woke up to the terrifying thought that       “A BEAR IS GOING TO EAT MY BABY!”  My heart was pounding, my head ached and I was in full out “fight or flight” mode. Never mind the fact that I know that black bears don’t eat big men.  Never mind the knowledge that black bears won’t even be wandering around a place that will be filled with hikers.   Never mind that all 6 foot 3 inches of Matt would be too smart to lie still while being munched on by a bear.

Nope: logic had no power.

It was the witching hour.  And I was petrified.

Sometimes I am kept awake by the realization that “OH, DEAR GOD.  I don’t have a decent homework plan for tomorrow.!!!!!!”      Or I toss and turn because “SHIT!!! MY DOG HAS A BROKEN TOENAIL!”   Or, “The Bruins are going to lose.”  Or, “I’m not real sure how to braise those lamb shanks.”

I am absolutely NOT making this up.  Sometimes I lie awake at night and worry about the shape of my eyebrows.

I am nuts.  But I am not alone.

I’ve written about this subject before now.  But I am reminded once again of my theory about insomnia in women.

If we could ONLY figure out a way to harness our combined adrenaline fueled middle-of-the-night energy, I have no doubt that we could solve world hunger, cure cancer, create a just and equitable world economy and write the great American novel.  And all before dawn.

If we could only figure out how to get some control over our angst, we could totally rule the world.

So let’s get together tonight, somewhere between 2:30 and 4.  Let’s make a plan, figure out an approach, and get on top of this whole situation.

Are you with me, ladies?


When my kids moved out, I read a lot of advice and information about the Empty Nest Syndrome.   I learned that I should look forward, not back, and that I should take on new challenges to help me grow.

So, as part of my “Get over it” therapy I am learning to bake cakes.  Its fun!

Fattening, but fun.  I made a chocolate cake during the blizzard, and when my daughter and her boyfriend were here for dinner, I made a really tasty peanut butter and chocolate cake.  They were good!

Except that they were a little lopsided, which bugged me.  And the frosting was great…fluffy, sweet, swirly….but the cakes were a little on the tough side, since I probably beat the batter too much.  I’m working toward fluffier cake, with a more tender texture.  I’m working toward cakes that stand up straighter.  Better, more perfect cakes.

Crooked, yet tasty.

Crooked, yet tasty.

And I’m not only learning to bake, I’m teaching myself how to knit, too!  Aren’t you impressed?

For my first project, I bought some yarn and some needles, and found a YouTube knitting video.  I cast on way too many stitches, with no idea of what I was going to make.  Two weeks later, I had a little lap blanket!  TaDa!!  Soft, blue and white, pretty warm.  It is draped over my nice blue couch right now.

Where every dropped stitch, knot and hole catches my eye a hundred times a day. I’ll keep it, of course, and use it to garner some laughs.  But it irritates me to see such imperfection.

Now I am on to my next project. I bought a skein of multicolored yarn, just because it was so lurid and eye popping.  Perfect for knitting with a group of fifth graders, right? I thought maybe I’d make a hat for one of my sons (Don’t cringe! They actually like crazy colored knit hats. They do!)

So I bought some “round needles” and tried to learn how to “knit in the round.”  H’m.

I tried to keep count of the stitches, but they were really tight and they didn’t slide the way they should.  So I pulled them off and started over.  Now they were too loose, and they kept slipping off the end, even though they were theoretically knit together.  I pulled them off and tried again.  Lopsided, lumpy, not even looking like a hat at all.  Pulled them off and rewound all that colorful yarn.

OK, I thought, I’ll knit a scarf! So I cast on 50 stitches and got started.  The stitches were just right!  Stretchy, neat, they kept popping out in beautiful little rows. And the yarn made an incredible pattern! Like a stretchy, kitchy Navaho blanket. I loved it!

Except that it was going to turn out to be a big rectangle, not a scarf.  Oops! Too wide, too short.

I pulled them all out and started over.  Again.

Now I am almost finished with a nicely shaped, good sized, supremely colorful scarf. But this time there is no lovely pattern. Just a random sprinkling of colors.  It looks like this:

Yikes. My eyes are melting.

Yikes. My eyes are melting.

I am absolutely not going to start over again.  But I’m not sure that anyone will ever wear this…..scarf.

So here I am in my empty nest, baking and knitting. And neither endeavor has produced perfection.

And that’s bugging me.

And the fact that its bugging me is kind of bugging me, you know?

Why do women do this?

We have a funny little habit, we women.  We seem to think that if we just try hard enough to eliminate every tiny imperfection in everything that we do, we will gain control over this messy, unpredictable world.

We watch commercials that tell us to clean deeper and more often so that we can wipe out every speck of dust, piece of dirt and invisible germ. They tell us to buy make-up that will “erase tiny imperfections” on our faces.  We use “Magic Erasers” to wipe out every smudge or smear that might indicate the presence of actual life in our homes.

And what I’ve noticed, after all these years, is that the harder we work to achieve perfection, the more anxious we become about every tiny flaw. The more we clean the floor, the more each muddy dog print impacts our peace of mind. We get caught in a spiral of chasing the impossible, believing that just one more burst of effort will get us  to a place that does not exist.

There is no perfect. There is only real. Humans are flawed, life is messy, we actually don’t have control.

So its time for me to embrace the dropped stitches and the crooked cake. Its time to wrap up in the patternless, randomized scarf and just go with it.

Right after I wipe the muddy paw prints off the floor.

Ladies of the night

Its Friday night, and its almost 10 PM.

And I am still awake.

If you are not a woman of a certain age, you probably have no idea of just how miraculous a fact this is.

If, on the other hand, you are a woman who has passed her 50th birthday and is enjoying all the delights of her own tropical climate and her own midriff adorning spare tire, you are probably nodding your head right now and saying something along the lines of, “Uh, huh! 10 PM, and she’s still got both eyes open!  You go, girl!”

If you are one of my hormonally challenged women-of-wisdom friends, you are no doubt acutely aware of the fact that I should be sound asleep by now, all nestled under the covers and snoring like a passing freight train.  Because you are also no doubt aware that come 3 AM, no matter what, my eyes will magically pop open and every semblance of sleepiness will disappear in a puff of unnecessary adrenaline.  You know that I will then lie as rigid as a board, counting my heartbeats and feeling the sweat turn to icicles on my neck, for the next three hours.  You know that no amount of melatonin, “Sleepytime Tea” or soft music will lull me back into the sleep I so desperately desire.

Ah, the joys of middle aged womanhood.

It was my blogging friend at “Text Me, Love Mom“, who reminded me tonight of just how fragile the world of sleep, and rest, and sanity can be for we middle aged ladies.

And that got me to thinking about the fact that every time I have a horrible night’s sleep, and go into work all saggy and groggy and brain fogged, at least four other women sympathize, and say, “I was awake all night, too!”

So I have a suggestion for all of you out there who know just what I mean when I refer to the crazy hours between 3 and 5 when our eyes simply refuse to close for even a second.

Let’s form a group, shall we?  We can call ourselves, “Ladies of the Night”.  We’re all awake, we’re all buzzing with energy, and we all need something constructive to do while we wait for the sun to come up and the automatic coffee pot to click on.

I’m thinking that we can all go on line, to some menopausal chat room, where we can swap ideas, gripe and complain, and ultimately solve all of the world’s problems while we wipe our upper lips and listen to our husbands snore.

Don’t you think we could solve the whole fiscal cliff thing? (“Throw the bastards over the damn cliff and put some of us in charge!”)   We could solve that pesky middle east problem (“Smack ALL those guys into submission and make them listen to their wives and kids for a change!”)  I have no doubt that we could take care of global warming (“Stop drilling and just tap into the air under our arms!”), education reform (“Shut up and listen to some teachers for once.”), and the European debt crisis (“Just sell of those fabulous Italian shoes…, I mean, seriously.”)

We could share recipes, compare child care stories and keep each other sane through yet another night of sleepless worry and angst.   I think it sounds like a plan!

So… guys want to join me, or what? “Ladies of the Night”!  First meeting at 3 AM tomorrow morning, right here on Word press.

Now I gotta head for bed, while the sleepiness fairy is still hovering around my head.

Small town life

One of the best things about living in a small town is this: when you need people, they are right there.

They know you. They understand you.  Even if you haven’t seen them in two years, they remember the way your kid shared his snack with their kid in kindergarten, and they will always love you for it.

Small town life means that everyone knows who is fighting and who is making up. They know who has moved out of the house, and they rally around to support both the one who moved out and the one who was left behind.

Small town life means that when kids step out of line, their crimes will be discussed at “Wild Cuts” hair salon.  It means that when someone who isn’t yet married becomes pregnant, we all know the Momma, we all know the Dad and we all pitch in for a fabulous shower.

Life out here in a Small Town is filled with petty political squabbles and the strutting swaggers of ridiculous Big Fish. But it is also filled with gentle souls who have been here forever, and who welcome every new face.

Life in a Small Town means gossip and secrets and everyone turning out for the funeral of a local veteran.

It means that when a young man dies suddenly in a crash, there will be no shortage of flowers, prayers, mourners or covered dishes.

Small town life means that when a middle aged woman finds herself stranded at home alone on the third weekend in a row, she can put out the call to all of the other women in town. She can be honest and tell them that her husband is off on another jaunt and she is looking for some fun and some Saturday night company.

Small town life means that even though all of those women are busy with weddings, graduations, first Communions and baby showers, many of them will drop by to say Hi.  It means that after a day of cleaning, cooking and setting up the wine glasses, the middle aged lady in question can put aside her fears (“No one will come.  Everyone is busy. This was a stupid idea!”) and enjoy an evening in the company of friends who understand her.

Small town life means that we are all included. It means that when one of us sends up a distress call, many of us will answer.

Thanks to the ladies of my small town who came by tonight to eat, drink, be merry and share a story or two!!! I love you all.