Thursday, December 31, 2009

a moment of hope to end the year

You know what’s kind of cool? And kind of gives me hope? The fact that AT & T, Accenture and Gillette have either dropped entirely or “scaled back” their business relationships with Tiger Woods.

I love the statement from Accenture, indicating that Woods was “no longer the right representative” for their company’s values. That’s the closest I’ve heard anyone come to saying he’s a scumbag they no longer admire. Good for them! Still to come, an update from Electronic Arts and Nike regarding their relationship with Woods. Gatorade, as previously reported, had ‘already planned’ to drop their Tiger-labeled beverage before the uproar that resulted from the unzipped fly heard round the world.

As I said, this sort of news gives me hope for humanity. It turns out that with the exception of the behavior exhibited by some of Hollywood’s movers and shakers, we are not quite as willing as we seem to look the other way when someone does the wrong thing. Hollywood luminaries seem to get a pass from us. Some people still accept people like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Based on box office receipts and industry awards, we long ago forgave the aberrant deeds of Robert Downey Jr. and the downright slimy behavior by Jude Law; we’ve embraced that champion of free (hate) speech in this country, Sean Penn; Britney Spears' tour ranked # 4 in Top Concert revenue for 2009 and we keep tuning in to watch the personal train wreck called Charlie Sheen every week, right?

We’ve accepted the endless parade of children born to Hollywood “partners” who are not married couples. And although it seems charming and adorable and hip when they do it, it’s not so amusing when that behavior is emulated by fans with about 1/1000of the income and resources their idols enjoy in Beverly Hills.

We’ve read tabloid coverage of the scandals and breakups of Hollywood couples for years. Not one of us stopped buying tickets to see Brad or Angelina after he left Jennifer in the dust. I guess we expect (to some degree) that stars will act like stars – and treat themselves to their every desire - and then enjoy the resulting headlines.

But with the news about Tiger Woods, our mostly dormant and silent morals (remember morals?) have exerted themselves and made themselves known. A USA Today / Gallup poll on Woods’ popularity tells us that his “favorable rating” has dropped even faster than his pants as a result of his out of town activities. He had enjoyed an 85% favorable rating in June 2005 and he’s down to 33%. Just as significant, his unfavorable rating has grown from a mere 8% to 57%. Not one of those points was lost or gained as a result of his action on a golf course. Every single point was earned or lost because he cheated on his wife. That’s it.

Then again, maybe Tiger had remarkably bad timing and appeared last in the long line of cheaters we’ve heard from this year. Maybe we’d collectively just about had enough. If you’re David Letterman or Mark Sanford or even Elliott Spitzer, you’re thinking, “Thank you, God” right about now.

In the meantime, kudos to the Board of Directors or the PR departments or the accountants at AT&T, Accenture and Gillette. Like anyone in business with Woods, I’m certain they were watching his poll numbers plummet and were less than pleased about the millions of dollars budgeted for his endorsement. I’m also sure they were wondering how well their companies or products would fare with those folks who answered those poll questions. But even given all that, some part of their decisions had to emerge from at least a few people sitting in emergency meetings in boardrooms around the country saying something like, “He’s history. He’s kind of disgusting. And we need to end this now.” Announcing a separation from Woods is one small moment of common sense in a society that seems to be sorely lacking it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What a year for a new year....

There are two Christmas songs I can’t quite get out of my mind this year. One is called “What a Year for a New Year” by Dan Wilson and the other is titled “Maybe This Christmas” by Ron Sexsmith. Neither one focuses strictly on family or seasonal good cheer or the birth of Christ. When it comes right to it, they are wistful, melancholy songs about what has been and what could be. Hopeful, but not sappy.

I’m not sure I could describe my own feelings that way this season. Yes, hopeful is good but I can’t promise I’m not just a little bit sappy. I’ve welcomed my three boys home from college and can’t begin to describe how much joy that brings me. They are no less than the miracles of my life; and sometimes I wonder how I’ve been so blessed with them.

I've spent the last few months passing by three empty rooms that were pristine but vacant. Walking down the hall this past week or so, and seeing their three closed bedroom doors in the morning, is an old, familiar and comfortable feeling. (What’s behind those doors, scattered about and not necessarily neatly tucked away is a small price to pay for their company. It’s also why I prefer the doors remain closed throughout the day.)

At the same time, I know that home seems to be the ‘place between places’ for them these days. They’re here, but it will never quite be the home of their childhoods. They’re leaving more of themselves elsewhere these days, and less of themselves within our walls. And that will continue, until only a few traces of each of them remain here, to be brought to life from season to season, from event to event, from time to time.

The hopeful part of me wants them to move forward into their lives, full of confidence and tenacity, but mostly I want them to move forward with love in their hearts. For themselves, for family and friends, for the years they’ve spent in our home and for the memorable moments we created there together.

I’m hopeful that Dan Wilson’s lyrics don’t necessarily carry much meaning for them, at least not yet. The difficult times we all endure, the times when there was almost no light to be found are poetically expressed in his song:

Soon we’ll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
Hope we’ll forget about this place
Let it go without a trace
Wipe the teardrops from our faces
Oh! What a year for a new year!

Are there moments all of us want to forget? Times that would be best erased from our memory? Yes. Maybe new dreams will fill our heads and we’ll forget about the old.

If only I could believe that. I’m not sure there are things I can let go without a trace. The raised voices? The tears? The frustration that came out on the wrong people at the wrong time? We've spent nearly twenty years together as a family and not every moment was a Hallmark card. Not every event was a Rockwell painting. But can my sons do that? Can they let it go? Maybe that ability comes with the resiliency of youth and it’s more easily accomplished at twenty than at fifty.

Sometimes that choice to forget feels possible, even to me, but the Christmas season somehow adds another level of complexity to the question, doesn’t it? Which brings me to the lovely, hopeful but not sappy words of Ron Sexsmith:

Maybe this Christmas will mean something more
Maybe this year
Love will appear
Deeper than ever before
And maybe forgiveness will ask us to call
Someone we've loved
Someone we've lost
For reasons we can't quite recall
Maybe this Christmas
Maybe they'll be an open door
Maybe the star that's shone before will shine once more

That’s really the heart of it, isn’t it? That even though we’ve lived through some difficult moments, a star will shine again for us?

All of which gets me exactly no where it would seem. I’m at some kind of unfamiliar and surprising crossroads, where the first act of my life as a mother is coming to a close and the second act will begin soon enough. A second act, I might add, where the role has been quite diminished to that of a supporting player, even to ensemble member. These songs force me to consider a couple of questions I’d rather not contemplate about my nearly grown children: would they prefer to forget this place? To let it go without a trace?

I don’t think so but then again, I don’t really know. We all have our secret moments and quiet thoughts we don’t easily share.

Are they hoping for an open door somewhere out there in the world, with a light that shines so brightly it will replace the ever-diminishing one at home?

Maybe so and maybe that’s all good. Maybe there is supposed to be a brighter light, to serve as a beacon that calls them to their adult lives; one that dims, but doesn’t extinguish, the light shining at home.

But I'll leave it on anyway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"...a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time"

If I ever won a lottery – unlikely since I never buy a ticket – my dream would be to do the following every single year:

I’d travel to New England, and find a perfect house to rent every year at Christmastime, one with plenty of bedrooms and a warm, open living space, complete with fireplace and snuggly furniture. A view out toward a winter landscape would complete the setting, and make it all Currier and Ives-ey.

But this isn’t just for me. In the days leading up to Christmas and then beyond into the brand new year, I’d want everyone I loved gathered there, in this perfectly suited place, preferably with snow on the ground around us. As I said, there would be room for everyone, and the house would be beautifully appointed with holiday touches.

If working people didn’t have the vacation time coming to them to enable them to join the group, I’d ask them to take the time unpaid and then give them the money. (I’m a lottery winner, remember?)

Gifts would not only be purchased, they’d be wrapped and ready to place under a picture-perfect tree long before December 24. I’d stock the house with delicious treats and great food. Some of the best moments of our holiday together will be the memorable meals we linger over around the table.

We’d have time to welcome the day with a quiet conversation over a hot mug of coffee in the morning; time to take winter walks through the gorgeous woods, time to play a game, listen to music, read a book, watch a movie together. Time to have all the conversations that get cut off throughout the year with phrases like this: “I have a meeting in one minute – have to jump off and dial a conference line.” Or this: “Call home when you get a chance, honey. Just want to hear from you; see how you’re doing.” Or this: “Can I call you back? This is a really, really bad time…” and then, somehow, you never do.

We’d have time to listen to each other, to ask the questions that need space and thought; that need contemplation and discussion. We’d give each other time to answer.

We’d sometimes do little more than sit around together and do almost nothing except enjoy the downtime together. We’d share great tea or delicious wine together as the dark surrounded us.

Conspicuously absent in my lottery dream are anxiety and sadness. Stress is strictly forbidden as are tension and anger. There is no room for these in my Christmas house and anyone who packs them along with their winter woolens will be discouraged from making the trip.

The thing is, I haven’t won the lottery and I don’t have a rustic but spectacular Christmas house to escape to for the perfect holiday. Instead, I have found myself weighed down by stress, and anxiety and some sadness from time to time. I have felt tension and anger as well, and at this time of year, it just feels harder to bear, doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s a universal truth that has no easy resolution. We get seduced by the pictures we conjure up of a post-lottery life but then we check our ticket and find we’re not a penny richer. And if that’s not enough, we look around on December 22 and find that the cards haven’t been addressed, the cookies haven’t been baked, the last few presents still need to be purchased, and the others need wrapping. But even with all that you know one thing for certain: not one bit of it matters. Not really.

Charles Dickens knew it. (I have a semi-obsession with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.) Tonight I keep thinking about these words, which Fred expresses to his Uncle Ebenezer: “…I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely…and therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Maybe I just need to open up a shut up heart; maybe that will do me good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An indefinite break from common sense

By now, we’ve all read or heard his statement: “After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”

I’m positive this has been said or written about already but I have to ask: when Tiger Woods says “professional golf,” does he really mean, “cheating on my wife?” Because that’s the only way this statement makes any sense to me. Read it again and you’ll see what I mean:

“After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from cheating on my wife. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.”

Sounds better, right?

Look, it wasn’t the 18 holes, the fairways, the greens, the bunkers, the drives, the putts, and the chips around the course that got him into trouble, at least not directly. Clearly, his performance dealing with any one of those things brought him into the international spotlight and earned him his millions. That fame and those millions also earned him entry and VIP status into exclusive and high profile places around the globe. But why take a break from professional golf? What did golf ever do to his marriage?

I’ll tell you. Nothing. But the road from Pebble Beach to the Blue Martini Club is not paved with good intentions. Only through golf, and the travel and independence it allowed, was he able to spend time off the course, pursuing his desires. Unfortunately, his desires didn’t seem to be to return home to be “a better husband, father and person.” What he did with that time off the course led to his current status as the $100 million dollar man none of his sponsors care to discuss.

Let’s get honest. If he really wanted to curtail his transgressions and make up for them, he’d issue this statement:

“After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from London, the MGM Grand Mansion and “Bank” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas; from cocktail waitresses, porn stars, Perkins restaurants, the Blue Martini club in Miami, “Butter” nightclub in NYC, and Trashy Girls lingerie models. I need to focus my attention on being a husband, father, and a respectable person overall.”

I have to believe Elin wouldn’t care one bit if he played in PGA tournaments when the Tour starts up again in 2010. After all, none of the news reports discovered that Tiger and his latest partner gave it a go in the Amen Corner at Augusta. No, all of his trysts seem far removed from the greens. In fact, the golf course may be the only place he hasn’t cheated on his wife. In fact, it’s the only place any of us can be sure of exactly what he’s doing, when and with whom he’s doing it.

So I say: have at it. Go right ahead, Tiger. Join the Tour in full force in late January. But Elin? Here’s one tip: confiscate his cell phone before he leaves.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The first rule of cookie exchange is:

At this joyful time of year, I can’t help but ask this question: How did something as simple as a cookie exchange become so labor-intensive?

Full disclosure: I’ve done this only once in my life, at my sister-in-law Amy’s house. It was a lovely gathering, as is every event Amy hosts. And I left with some very yummy cookies in my very own pretty shopping bag. But it was obvious that I was the Roseanne in the room, trying to fit in with a bunch of Marthas, and I mean that in the nicest way about every woman who was there. They all seemed to have a real, almost innate, grasp of this whole thing. I did my best but was basically clueless and unprepared.

For every man reading this, or every woman like me who is obviously missing some kind of girl gene, I’ll explain. Like many things in life, the concept of the cookie exchange is fabulous. But a cookie exchange party is one of those things that sounds way better than it actually is; kind of like Spanx, or mixing rum and Tab in college.

The idea here is that a bunch of girl friends, co-workers, congregation members, bowling teammates, workout buddies, walking companions, den mothers, sorority sisters, family members, or any other connected or unconnected group of women – in other words, pretty much any group of women who could almost randomly gather together – meet in someone’s home, sometime before Christmas Day.

The exchange masquerades as a real timesaver for women, something that will replace hours in the kitchen surrounded by cookie sheets, flour, colored sugar and something called cheesecloth, which I can’t really define. The exchange offers a way women can add real variety to their cookie trays without dragging out the faded, dog-eared recipes and buying dozens of ingredients they’ll use once and then shelve until next Christmas. The exchange presents a challenge for women like me.

It kinds of delivers on its promise. You bake once; one kind of cookie; and end up with dozens or assorted cookies for family and friends to enjoy. Here’s how it works. Each woman chooses – and reports to the group before they gather together – the kind of cookie she’ll bring to the exchange. Nothing ruins a cookie exchange faster than two or three women baking and sharing the same Snickerdoodles with the group. I chose to bake and contribute Scottish Shortbread.

If you know anything about baking Scottish Shortbread cookies, you know that they require a long (in terms of cookie-time) time to bake, you have to cut out the shapes with a cookie cutter or other forms, not simply drop them by the spoonful onto the cookie sheet, and you need to make a lot of dough to make a dozen or two cookies.

Tip number 1: choose a scoop and drop cookie. You’ll thank me when you aren’t using a rolling pin to create your exchange recipe.

In addition to offering cookies at the exchange, women literally exchange recipes. At Amy’s house I received recipes from every woman who attended. They were designed – not just printed or written out. They were decorated with holiday graphics. They were laminated. I’m not kidding.

You won’t be surprised to hear not only did I not have the recipe with me, with adorable, festive copies for everyone, I could barely remember it. “ummm... Sugar, flour, butter...maybe a little salt.”

Tip number 2: If you’re not going to hand out recipe cards, make sure you’ve at least memorized the recipe.

Tip number 3: Based on the Tyler Durdan school of discipline: First rule of cookie exchange? Know the rules of cookie exchange. This is one bit of wisdom that is apparently part of female DNA that I’m missing. When you attend a cookie exchange, you bring one dozen cookies each for every woman who attends, plus a “dozen for the table.” In my case, that meant I was to bake and bring 13 dozen.

Maybe it’s exactly like Fight Club. Maybe the first rule of cookie exchange is you don’t talk about cookie exchange. All I know is that I baked about three or four dozen. Which left me just 108 cookies short. I discovered my error about five hours before the party and – yes, I can’t help it – I baked like a mad woman and arrived at the party with 156 cookies. I was all set. Except for the missing pretty, laminated recipe cards. And the little bags that everyone had packaged her cookies in. Tied up with holiday bows.

Even still, I loved that. I loved the way they looked and the sharing that was taking place. But I truly felt like I had missed a week of ‘girl school’ somewhere along the line, when they taught us about stuff like cookie exchanges and laminating. The problem was me, not everyone else.

Funny thing, though. It’s not just me. The other day I spoke to a young woman I work with – she could be my daughter – and she was about to attend a cookie exchange. Without going into all the details, she was all set to repeat my CE transgression. She could deal with printing out some recipes – had that covered – but there was no way she could bake another 9 dozen cookies in time.

The best part ever: at the end of the day, she was relating all of this to her husband over the phone. He cheerfully offered to run to the store, buy the ingredients, and bake the missing cookies for her.

Husband of the year, right there. I may have to apologize to Gloria Steinem for all the horrible things I’ve thought and written about her over the years. Maybe all the equal partner stuff is real, at least for 25-year-olds.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

List your top ten. I came up with eight.

Disclosure: I’m guilty of regularly breaking the cardinal rule of blogging which is pretty simple actually: write about one thing. Write about something you know and something that readers (and hopefully dear god in heaven readers who comment) will feel comfortable coming back to again and again to read your latest thoughts on the topic.

One problem I have with that rule is that I don’t know about anything. I’m not trying to me shy or self-deprecating. I really don’t. Which makes me an expert on nothing and therefore qualified to help enlighten people about nothing.

That said, I can’t help how things align sometimes. The universe seems to place things in my path and for a while, I’ll write about the same topic from a slightly different reference point. Tonight is one of those times. I just wrote about the women’s movement or lack thereof and then boom! It happens again. Please read on for the latest affront to 21st century women and further proof that we are honestly, sincerely, and unrelentingly pathetic.

Half a century or so on the planet should count for something but it turns out, it doesn’t.

Which is exactly why I found myself incredulous at the promotion I watched tonight for a new television show on The Style Network. You ready? Here you go: What I Hate About Me. Check out the website if you want but the basic premise is this: women list the top ten things they hate about themselves. As they put it online, “real women admit their imperfections.” We admit them? As if they’re a secret to everyone? Are we not allowed to be imperfect? The host of the show listens compassionately (no doubt) and then proceeds, over the course of the next hour, to give the self-loathing woman the tools she needs to help her confront her demons and solve all her issues of self-hatred. Again, quoting the website: “experts share practical tips for fixing every foible.”

First of all, I am far from confident about many, many things but even I would probably have a hard time coming up with ten things I hate about myself. Ten? Do I have ten things I HATE? My thighs, for sure. But is that one or two things? My weight. My figure in general, I guess. Maybe I just go with “shape” and that covers a multitude of sins.

My habit of hanging on to thousands of scraps of paper with some bit of story or fact or headline that I tell myself “I’ll write about tonight.” I seem to collect these daily and then never look at them again. And in the rare instance that I do, I think: what was so interesting about this?

My tendency toward procrastination, even toward things I really WANT to do.

My semi-disorganized closet and my semi-disorganized attitude toward it.

I’m up to four. I need six more things I hate about myself. My short temper toward people who aggravate me.

My tendency to get aggravated by too many people.

That’s six. Four more. My impatience with my kids from time to time.

My failing skills when it comes to my memory.

Eight. I give up. Like I said, I’m very far from perfect but I don’t know that I could really list ten things I hate about myself. It feels like a lot of hate to me. And now there's an entire season of shows filled with women who hate ten things about themselves. That has to be something like a hundred things women hate about themselves. Imperfections they need “fixed.”

Back to my premise: proof that women have gained not one inch in terms of respect, position and confidence. Our quest for equality is a proven failure because there is no way on earth that this show would ever exist for men. Quite the opposite. Many men seem to overlook the bad, or at least made tacit peace with it, not brood about it. They don’t list it and categorize it and ruminate about it. They move on, they don’t linger over misery the way women do.

Dissecting things you hate about yourself feels enlightened and empowering, which is why women love doing it. We’re wrong. It’s actually depressing and debilitating.

No, a program with this premise would never appear on Spike TV. Not ever. And good for them.

But that’s showbiz, right? I guess no one would watch a show called Ten Things I Love About Myself. We need the moth into the butterfly; we’ve been trained to wait for the “reveal” on shows like this. We need the magic. Which is exactly what little girls like about fairy tales. We may have outgrown Cinderella but we haven’t truly given up on her story.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Elin's tough week

Here is all the proof anyone needs that the “women’s movement,” or at least the idea that women have more to offer than their looks and should be acknowledged in a non-sexual way in many facets of society, is neither alive nor well in the western world. In fact, it’s all but invisible. Otherwise, there’s no explanation for the following.

First, there is simply no reason that anything as revolting as the Victoria’s Secret Holiday Fashion Show should get network airtime every December. Isn’t this exactly why Al Gore invented the internet? For events like this? Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve never watched this horror show but I can guess what it contains. Stunning women, wearing lingerie and heels, staring into the camera, looking seductive and needy.

When I looked it up online, I was hoping to find a charity connection. Maybe that could touch off some kind of kind feeling of warmth and forgiveness toward this celebration of female sexuality and oppression. Nope. (Please: I know some of these models make a fair amount of money. They’d better make it while they can; perky boobs and smooth skin won’t last forever.) The only good news I found was that something must have happened in 2004 which precluded this event from taking place. Otherwise, according to the episode history, Victoria and her spokeswomen have been sharing the holidays with us since 2001.

But truthfully, it wasn’t the “fashion” show that aggravated me the most in terms of women and our “liberation.” No, that honor goes to the MSN homepage. I hate the fact that one of the top stories there was titled “Tiger’s tough week.” Tiger’s tough week? Tiger’s? Every single thing that happened during this “tough week” to keep him in the news was the result of his own choices and activities. The latest news is that four women have emerged to tell their stories about his sordid recreational life. That’s practically one woman for each year of his marriage.

I can think of someone who may have had just a slightly tougher week than Tiger. What about Elin’s tough week? What about the fact that Mrs. Tiger Woods has had her sham of a marriage exposed for the entire world to see and judge? Yes, the man she married was already in the sports spotlight, a legend in the making on her wedding day, and she would enjoy a lifetime of material comforts courtesy of the PGA and various companies who paid for a piece of the Tiger magic. But even given all that, I’m guessing Elin never counted on infidelity and multiple affairs following after love, marriage and the baby carriage.

Maybe Tiger did, though. I read the People magazine blurb about his marriage in 2004 and the writer observed the following: But it was Tiger’s trademark cool that really took the cake. "He didn’t act like he was going to get married," says a source. "He was very relaxed, like this was any other day for him.” I think the source got that exactly right. Appears this marriage didn’t changed a thing for old Tiger, did it?

If we’ve learned anything from people like Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Donald Trump, Elliott Spitzer, Mark Sanford, and David Letterman, men seem to emerge from these marriage-shaking media events more or less unharmed. Sure, we all laugh at their exploits and the comedians come up with a day or two of material, but then we move on.

And just as the men seem to come shining through, their scorned women seem to fade from our consciousness, the tell-all books some of them write notwithstanding. I have to believe that money goes a long way to keeping a lot of those women from ever sitting down with a literary agent to discuss a book deal. That little annoyance may even be covered in a pre-nuptial agreement or divorce settlement.

I suppose it’s too much to hope that the next time some famous man has his affairs come to light, the media will address it in terms of the people he’s hurt with his selfish, narcissistic behavior. That way, it may not be so easy for the rest of us to overlook the real, live un-famous wives and families who are the most harmed by his behavior. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be a little more reluctant to place those icons back on their pedestals.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The cavalcade of cads continues.

I don’t know about you but I can barely keep up with the public statements made by men who can’t seem to keep it in their pants. As a public service, I’ve gathered four statements from four men, all issued after their indiscretions were made known to the world and they were forced to acknowledge them. I guess I could have gathered a few more – God knows the list of indiscreet men is lengthy and tiresome - but reading the sentiments of these four slimy liars just about made me sick. I don’t think I could have taken even one more.

But after reading them, it became obvious that a number of common themes run through them. Perhaps they all hired the same PR firm, one that specializes in repairing the damage to high-profile individuals once their cheating is discovered. Sure, each statement has its own flavor and personality, but they are more alike than different. I’ve deconstructed the comments and noted several themes that appear in each “apology.”

Let’s go back more than a year and hear from Elliott Spitzer, former Governor of New York, once his sexual escapades were discovered:

Themes: Gratitude for the love of his wife, love of his family, regrets about letting so many people down, including every resident of his state, abusing their trust, atoning for this in private, appreciating the support, yadda, yadda, yadda:

“In the past few days I have begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children, and my entire family. The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me. From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much: the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.”

Themes: I’m not a total scumbag and my track record proves it; plus, the people I worked with here are pretty cool:

“I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, but I also know that as a public servant I, and the remarkable people with whom I worked, have accomplished a great deal. There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor. At Lt. Gov. Paterson’s request, the resignation will be effective Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition.”

Themes: I can do better; really I can, plus a reference to a hackneyed aphorism about falling down and getting up again. More healing, more hoping for better days, good luck and thanks for the memories.

“I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family. Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children. I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission, and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service.”

Thanks, Elliott. And what’s this I read about you mulling a new candidacy? I’m glad you’re trying to serve the common good outside of politics.

From one politician to the next, we hear from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who told quite a whopper to try to distract us from the truth of his situation. The Appalachian Trail is a far walk from Argentina. But once he began confessing, he couldn’t seem to stop:

Themes: letting down wife and family, repairing this will take a while, and isn’t my wife wonderful for sticking by me and raising our family while I pursued my dream. Note: first time we’ve come across the word “profound” in an apology. We’ll see it again later.

“… let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys, Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake, for letting them down. One of the primary roles, well before being a governor, is being a father to those four boys, who are absolute jewels and blessings, that I've let down in a profound way. And I apologize to them.”

“ And I don't like apologizing in this realm, but given the immediacy of y'all's wanting to visit and my proximity to them, this is the first step in what will be a very long process on that front.”

“I would secondly say to Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 20 years of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side in campaign after campaign after campaign, in literally being my campaign manager and in the raising of those four boys and in a whole host of other things throughout the lives that we've built together.”

Theme: My staff has been great; I’m really sorry about lying to them, too. And to everyone in South Carolina, too. I like his use of the phrase “creating a fiction.” I think that means “a lie.”

“I would also apologize to my staff, because as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail, that was one of the original scenarios that I'd thrown out to Mary Neil (sp), that isn't what -- where I ended up. And so I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I had then, in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across this state.”

“And so I want to apologize to my staff and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.”

Theme: another “profound” apology, this time to a good friend: Tom Davis. But not only to him, to all the Tom Davises of the world, whoever they are.

“I want to apologize to good friends. Tom Davis came over to the house. He drove up from Beaufort. And he has been an incredibly dear friend for a very long time. In my first race for governor, he moved up and he lived in the basement of our house for six months….”

“And he gave of his time and his talent and his effort for ideas that he believed in, to try and make a difference in those ideas. And so I, in a very profound way, have let down the Tom Davises of the world.”

Theme: more apologies, this time to the in-laws, who must hate his guts at this point, and how he “let them down.” And something inexplicable about a conversation he and his father-in-law had about where his heart was. (?)

“On the ride over here, I called the house, and in the background I could hear my parents-in-laws, who'd come up to be with Jenny, and I've let them down. I had the most, you know, surreal of conversations a number of weeks ago with my father-in-law, laying some of the cards on the table.”

“And he was incredibly gentlemanly, as you cannot imagine, in saying here were some things that I was struggling with -- in regard to where my heart was, where I was in life, those different kinds of things. And I let him down. I've let down a lot of people. That's the bottom line. And I let them down -- and in every instance, I would ask their forgiveness.”

Theme: Time. This will take some time. Other than that, I can’t quite make out what he’s trying to say here. How God’s laws will protect him from himself; that the biggest self of self is, indeed, self. What?

“Forgiveness is not an immediate process; it is, in fact, a process that takes time. And I'll be in that process for quite some weeks and months and, I suspect, years ahead.”

“But I'm here because if you were to look at God's laws, they're in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. I think that that is the bottom line of God's law, that it's not a moral, rigid list of do's and don'ts just for the heck of do's and don'ts. It is indeed to protect us from ourselves. And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self; that sin is, in fact, grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else?”

Theme: one more time, apologies to the people of South Carolina; well, actually just to people of faith in South Carolina.

“ And in this regard, let me throw one more apology out there, and that is to people of faith across South Carolina, or for that matter, across the nation, because I think that one of the big disappointments when -- believe it or not, I've been a person of faith all my life.”

Theme: but hey, you should know more about the woman who stole my heart and why. And how he hurt her, too. Ummmm, Mark? Shut up. No one cares if you hurt her. This theme is not found in any of the other apologies, thank God. This guy is nuts.

“And so the bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one's life there and advice here.”

“But here recently over this last year, it developed into something much more than that. And as a consequence, I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize.”

Theme: Privacy. Finally we come to it: his request that the media please leave his family alone. We need our privacy to heal and work through this. We love the cameras until we don’t.

“I -- I -- I would ask for y'all's -- I guess I'm not deserving of indulgence, but indulgence not for me, but for Jenny and the boys. You know, there are a team of cameras and crews and all those sorts of things camped out down at Sullivan's Island.”

“And I would just ask for a zone of privacy, if not for me, for her and the boys. As we go through this process of working through this, there are going to be some hard decisions to be made, to be dealt with, and those are probably not best dealt with through the prism of television cameras and media headlines.”

In a much more succinct fashion, we move onto David Letterman. He took a bit of different approach, and addressed his “work family” before he mentioned how horribly he behaved toward his wife. Interesting choice.

Themes: I’m not a total scumbag, just a dummy numbskull who can’t think beyond the moment, and the people I work with here are pretty cool:

“I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position. Inadvertently, I just wasn’t thinking ahead. And, moreover, the staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we’ve been on television and especially all the years here at CBS, so, again, my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I’ve gotten myself involved in.”

Themes: acknowledging that his wife has been hurt; atoning for it, yadda, yadda, yadda. Note there is no mention of love or support; nor expressions of compassion and trust. No, it feels like this whole episode is much more pragmatic for Dave: we’ll fix it or we won’t.

“Now the other thing is my wife, Regina. She has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed, so let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me.”

Which brings us to Tiger Woods, clearly the biggest narcissist of the bunch. This guy is unbelievable. Lied to cover everything up, and now that he’s been found out, he kind of has an attitude about it.

Themes in this paragraph: Like Mark Sanford, Woods “let his family down,” kind of like he might if he couldn’t come up with enough tickets for the Masters, his enormous regret, a self-deprecating “I’m not perfect” line, followed by a big ‘get lost’ to the press that helped build his career.

“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”

Theme in this paragraph: More on how much he despises the press for what they are doing to him in his hour of shame. Plus a nod to his wife for her “grace.” Damn straight.

"Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect."

Theme: Hate the coverage. Hate it. I’m not going to share one more thing about this. And how what’s at stake is not fidelity and honor and taking marital vows seriously; what’s at stake is his privacy. Oh, and he “let them down” again.

"But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."

Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult."

Theme: I can do better; sorry to everyone; and another “profound” apology.

"I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology."

Notice that not one of them mentioned learning a lesson in hubris and entitlement and over-playing power. No one promised to never do it again, not that their promises are worth much.

These men all have power, influence, and millions of dollars. Some of them have millions of fans, too. And what do they need to be happy? An adoring woman (or two) on the side who will remind him over and over again how amazing he is, how alluring, how sexy and intoxicating, all without the realities of everyday life intruding on their bliss.

I wish I had millions, too. I’d make it my job to show up wherever these guys were on a regular basis, and hold up signs that read ‘lying scumbag cheater’ right in front of them.

Okay, that’s not realistic. Maybe we should just make it a rule that for the year following a transgression, each one of them gets his name prefaced with “Lying, scumbag cheater” every time anyone writes it in an article or announces it on TV. I’d enjoy that.

“And now, approaching the 18th, sitting at three under par, lying, scumbag cheater Tiger Woods has this championship all but wrapped up.”

“Tonight, lying, scumbag cheater Dave’s guests include …”

“Joining us on the panel, lying, scumbag cheater Governor Mark Sanford…”

“According to lying, scumbag cheater former Governor Elliott Spitzer…”

Hey, it’s just for a year. If they’re all so darn sorry, seeing this in writing or hearing it on the air would be far less painful than anything their families have already endured. It’s the least they can do.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Webs...and the breaking thereof.

“On this doorstep I stand, year after year and watch you leaving.

And think:

May you not skin your knees; May you not catch your fingers in car doors;

May your hearts not break; May tide & weather wait for your coming.

And may you grow strong to break the webs of my weaving.”

Several years ago, I referenced this simple and perfect poem by Evangeline Peterson in a column I wrote to mark the passage of time as my boys were growing up. They were about 11, 11 and 12 years old and living through those exploratory years that build the bridge between the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence.

What I didn’t quite recognize at the time – even though the poem references it so beautifully - is that they were in the early stages of stretching their webs, creating the tension and the tugging that would eventually lead to breaking them. In my mind, we had so many more years together. It didn’t feel possible that they were starting to grow stronger – and away from me - already.

Did I really believe in that last line in the poem? Hat tip to Evangeline if she truly did: she’s a braver mother than I. Did I want them to break those webs I had been weaving for more than a decade?

Intellectually, I think I believed it. I knew that realistically, barring no true heartbreak for any of us, they would eventually break their ties to me and to our home and make their way into the world. And if all went very, very well, they would do so with “tide and weather” waiting for their coming. In my mind, I understood that even from babyhood, our children break or at least stretch the webs we weave almost daily.

Emotionally, I didn’t really mean it. I wanted nothing to change and no webs of any kind to be so much as tested, much less broken. It’s not that I yearned for their baby days or the preschool boys who melted my heart daily. I accepted the passing years because I found the boys relentlessly fascinating and stimulating and challenging at every age. I accepted those years for one other main reason: the boys were right there. Right upstairs, or across the table or next to me in the car.

Yes, of course I imagined them grown up someday and contributing to society. I believed they would find their way, even that they might make a couple of wrong turns from time to time, and it was a comforting thought. The bad news, the difficult part for me, was that it was very unlikely that any of the paths they chose to follow would lead directly back to our front door.

But they have walked back in, for a few days at least. It’s the first Thanksgiving holiday where all three of them “came home” from their new lives. And in a very real way, it’s confounding. Growing up, we lived through thousands of comings and goings on a daily basis. And even then, even when separations lasted only hours, not weeks, every single time we reconnected, some part of each one of us had changed. One of us had lived a tremendous day or a crappy day, or had an argument that debilitated us or a stimulating discussion that would be long remembered, or enjoyed a connection made of friendship or love, or a endured a hurtful flash of ignorance or hate. We carried it home with us that day – and whether or not it was evident – it was there. And sitting around the table almost every night, even though we lived together and spent hours and hours around each other daily, it was sometimes difficult to read their faces and hear their tone and pick up the clues that gave away the details of everyone’s day.

So this holiday weekend, I can’t help but look at my boys and think in the most profound way: how have you been? What has changed inside you? I wonder about the thousands and thousands of moments they have lived over the past few months without that physical, daily connection between us. Let me be clear: I don’t expect – nor really want – full disclosure here. I went to college, too, and prefer to leave some decisions I made at that time, and the resulting memories, behind. The activities themselves don’t concern me as much as the remains of those activities. Are they happy? Confused? Despairing? Optimistic? I’m not sure I can get a good sense of that in the next four days.

The truth is, I’m straining to hold onto that web I weaved so carefully and lovingly for the past two decades. It’s showing signs of weakness and it’s not going to last. It can’t. It wasn’t made to endure. It was created to keep everyone connected and safe and secure – for a while.

We’re all way past the web stage anyway. As our webs break – or even stretch thinner for the next few years – I have to believe something less noticeable but even stronger replaces them. The extra long hug or our clasped hands or the strong arm thrown over my shoulder. The shared laughter so hearty that it brings tears. The smile that translates as “you’re still a little bit crazy but you’re my mom.”

My sons are growing stronger, in invisible, untold ways so they can “break the webs of my weaving.” I’m resolved to that (I think.) But maybe, just maybe, we all leave a single thread or two dangling, just in case we need to hang on from time to time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the 'Things I Never Imagined I’d Think About' file:

The "perfection” of eyebrows.

This is exactly why I was born too late. I guarantee you not one woman of my mother’s generation ever spent more than nineteen seconds at a time thinking about, contouring, shaping, coloring (yes, coloring), or plucking her eyebrows. Make that eighteen seconds.

And yet, there it is, every time I open my Facebook profile. That ad, encouraging me to enter a contest to win $3,000 worth of laser hair removal. I don’t know if this will take care of my eyebrows, plus one entire side of my body, or just my eyebrows. Three thousand dollars is a LOT of money for just eyebrows, isn’t it? I doubt I even have 3,000 individual hairs that could be removed from my eyebrows without leaving my brow-less. I really do. But the promise in the promotion is that I’ll never have to wax or pluck again. That should be enough to entice me to enter to win the grand prize.

Months ago, I wrote about an MSN homepage article – you know how I love those - when I came across one that discussed the way to “perfect,” even “sexy” if I’m remembering this correctly, eyebrows for women. Sexy eyebrows. Is there some kind of eyebrow beautification movement going on that I’ve missed? Are the eyebrows found on American women wretched and disgraceful? This must be the secret turn-on men never admit to feeling.

I refuse to believe any of this. We have reached some kind of nadir in terms of ‘beauty’ and the pursuit of same when we can somehow get all charged up over the look of our eyebrows.

Then again, maybe my eyebrows are a disgrace and cause much consternation among people who know me. I had a manicure recently and the technician asked me if I wanted anything else done. “Your eyebrows?” she asked helpfully. I’m not kidding. I couldn’t tell if she was simply hoping to add another service to my tab or was honestly dismayed by what she saw above my eyes.

It’s not enough that women are encouraged to worry about every single aspect of our appearance. I know – we’re not forced to do that and I swear I’m getting so much better at ignoring those commercials and magazine covers that tell me what a pathetic case I am on a daily basis. I know I am. Must be that “second half of my life” phase kicking in. But despite all my intentions, like every truthful woman in this country, I'll admit the following: Yes, I think about my hair – the stuff on my head, I mean - the hair on the rest of me, the health and 'glow' and elasticity of my skin, especially the skin on my face and neck - yes, now I'm thinking about my neck on a daily basis - my hands and how “old” they make me look, my nails, my overall measurements and our various other ways I can brood about my appearance.

But. Even I have limits. I draw the (custom brow shaping pencil) line at eyebrows. I really do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Puma life. Nah - doesn't sound nearly as exotic, does it?

Up until Sunday, I was able to mostly overlook the idea of a website called Cougar life, or something like that. I wrote it off as something of a freak show that advertised on Howard Stern. But it has gone beyond that now.

Let me back up a bit. Before I heard of Cougar life, I had already endured at least a year of radio ads for something called Ashley (Yes, I always hit another channel when the bank of ads begins playing on Howard’s show but it’s impossible to skip all of them.) Who named the company Ashley Madison, I’m not sure – not doubt it’s a combination of female names that tested positively with focus groups of a certain age. But here’s the best part: is basically a dating service for married men and married women who want to have affairs.

Isn’t that admirable? If you’re married, I think we can all agree that it’s basically slimy to join a dating service and present yourself as single and unencumbered. But by joining, you can participate in a dating service filled with people just like you: they are unhappy in their marriages and want to find love elsewhere without going through the hassle of separation or divorce. This is a group filled with honest cheaters, if that kind of person is even possible. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

But back to Cougar life. As the name implies – sadly, the word cougar now “implies” something about women in our society - this is a dating service for women over the age of 40 and younger men who want to date women over the age of 40. (I think age forty is the cutoff. I refuse to fact-check this.)

My dismissive attitude toward something like Cougar and its purpose changed when I read the story in the Times on Sunday. This is no longer some kind of fringe, off-the-radar activity. It is real and even more alarming as a result. has added a monthly “Cougar/Boy Toy” night to its events. At the latest event, the men ranged in age from 23 to 31; the women were between 35 and 56.

And lest you think men might feel confused or unsure of the next steps when they think about dating older women, don’t you worry about it. They can turn to something like to have all their questions answered.

Still need help finding your next relationship? Sign up for the first international Cougar cruise next month.

“ ______.” I’m not sure how to put this.

KUUUUUUUUUSSSSCHH! (That’s the sound of my head banging into my laptop screen.)

In no particular order, here’s what is running through my brain, besides a slight headache:

1. What on earth could possibly attract – in a real, substantive, enduring way – a woman of a certain age to a man who is twenty-four years old? (Okay, besides that. I can appreciate the Orlando Blooms of the world as much as the next person. And sure, no one mentioned “real, substantive or enduring” but I can’t help myself.)

2. Same question, reversed. Let’s be honest here. Not many of these cougars are Heather Locklear or Courtney Cox or Demi Moore. In fact, exactly three of them are: Heather Locklear and Courtney Cox and Demi Moore. I’m pretty sure none of them are hanging out at a Cougar speed dating event on Long Island, looking for a date. Are these guys really looking for woman who could be his mother, who shops in the same stores she does and listens to the same CDs? That's a whole 'nother issue.

3. Are women that needy? That lonely? Have we rationalized our need for affection and “love” to the point that we’ll agree to create some kind of empty relationship with a man who is twenty years younger than we are in order to prop up our own sagging (among other things) egos?

4. Somehow, I don’t think the men in these relationships are all that lonely. This is their way of spending time with women who “have seen how bad things can get” according to one Cougar-dater, and as a result they look like heroes. They get zero pressure for marriage or children from these women. The mature woman will overlook a young man’s minor flaws; they’ve seen worse after all.

5. I hate the title “cougar.” I really hate it. Don’t know who started it but it’s completely aggravating and somehow even more fake and pretentious than almost any other title that could be affixed to this fake and pretentious phenomenon.

Maybe this whole thing will fade away as quickly as it arrived. It’s just sort of embarrassing, isn’t it? For me, there is something kind of pathetic about women who use – yes, use - younger men to help them make peace with being in their forties and fifties.

Come on, sisters. We’re better than that, aren’t we? Right? Didn’t our sisters (and mothers and grandmothers) march for the right for us to be forty and fabulous? Or fifty and fantastic? Or sixty and sensational? It somehow diminishes all their hard-fought battles when we all show up at the company Christmas party with a twenty-six year old.

Call it what you want. Cougar life. Or Cougar / Boy Toy night. I call it female insecurity masquerading as twenty-first century sophistication. May it soon be in our collective rear view mirror.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If he "lets" me? Really?

Okay, I’ve been married for more than twenty-three years – to the same husband by the way – so I may not be the best source for stuff like this but I don’t understand why MSN keeps posting articles about men and how they think. Men aren’t that deep. They really aren’t. [Disclaimer: thoughts included in this post have not one thing to do with my remarkable, amazing, charming, talented, loving sons. They are three notable and worthy exceptions to the “men aren’t that complicated” rule. But they’re wonderfully – not exasperatingly – complex and interesting if you see my point.)

By the way, I don’t particularly think there’s anything wrong with being uncomplicated. I really don’t. In fact, I think I could live a happier life if I took a less intense, less convoluted approach to almost all things in life. But let’s check back in on those MSN home page headlines, shall we?

Yesterday, I read something about why men can’t commit. I tried to find it again and searched this phrase: “why men don’t commit.” In response, I received a list of 5,310,000 links. That’s more than five million places I could go to find out why men won’t commit. No one could possibly be that interested in why men can’t / won’t commit.

I’ll save you the time for God’s sake. Men won’t commit for the same reasons women won’t. Fear. Past mistakes in his painful relationships with women. Maybe he witnessed too many bitter breakups among his family and friends. Perhaps he wants to do something as simple as meet a lot of women and see who appears to be the best fit in all ways. Or maybe he wants to travel, and take a semi-annual golf outing to Scotland, or go on ski trips, or play in chess tournaments around the country or climb mountains, or follow Blink 182 around the world or bowl / play softball / go fishing every single weekend all weekend, or hang out at a bar, or read books or play music or paint or write or build furniture in his spare time, or spend his money on the largest collection of video games or porn on the planet without having to explain it to or hide it from his wife.

Please: I know. He can do every single one of these things while he’s married. Sure he can. Assuming his wife is equally enthralled with doing her own thing without him or she’s in a coma and never even misses him. But not one of the activities will feel the same as it did when he wasn’t married. It’s no one’s fault. It just is.

So while I couldn’t find the commitment-phobe MSN story, today – yes, one day later – they have a new one posted: If he lets you buys his undies, you’re The One. Excuse me – if he “lets” me? I’m kind of cranky about that verbiage. Is this some kind of girlish dating privilege I’ve forgotten about over the past twenty-three years? That makes me “The One?” The one who what? Buys underwear? What an honor.

And I have yet to meet an adult man – or even a boy – who calls his underwear his “undies.” That should be a deal breaker for any women. Rule: Run in the other direction if he talks about his undies, or anyone’s undies for that matter. (The underwear-purchasing article was based on a British study so maybe it’s a European thing, although I doubt it.)

Without giving this report too much credence, it would appear that men buy their own underwear only when they’re dating and looking for a partner. This seems to have something to do with good grooming and looking presentable. Once a man is settled into a relationship, the study reveals that he stops shopping and turns the task of girding his loins over to the woman in his life. (There is mention of a brief flurry of activity once again in the late thirties / early forties… presumably his marriage has broken up and he’s looking for love again.)

The article basically admits that men rely on their mothers to buy their underwear for about two decades or so. Later, they rely on their wives to perform the same task. It’s only when they’re “on their own,” those single years spent as a man who can’t seem to commit, that he finds the time to stock up on the Hanes or Fruit of the Looms.

Let’s face it. How complex is buying men’s underwear? Once you get the waist size right, the decision making is virtually over. Anyone could buy a guy his underwear. Mother Teresa could buy guy his underwear. It’s just that unspectacular and just that sensual.

This is just one more way men are … not complicated. If you’re a single woman who read the MSN homepage article with hope in her heart and a three-pack in her shopping cart, sorry sweetie, buying the boxers doesn’t make you “The One.” It makes you helpful. And if you do it too much, with too much joy, it makes you kind of pathetic. We’ve established that buying men’s underwear is not exactly a challenge, so if a woman is willing to pick some up once in a while at Target, why would a man would turn that down?

In fact, I think just the opposite of this “study” is true. When a woman ‘lets’ a man buy her underwear, he is definitely The One. It’s intimate. It’s personal. There are lots and lots and lots of choices to be made about this purchase. The female timeline on this activity is exactly the opposite of the male timeline. Women buy their own underwear from their teens into their twenties. We may turn that task over – at least partly – to our partners while we’re in our twenties. Then we move past that phase, and the lingerie becomes a blouse that becomes a sweater that becomes a lovely piece of jewelry. Victoria’s Secret turns into Target for us, too.

And for couples everywhere, if all else is well, that arrangement is okay with everyone.

Monday, November 09, 2009

It's November, 2009. Yes: 2009.

I think I must have missed the outrage. Yes, I read the news in the media over the Kellogg’s cereal claims about fiber. God bless them; they tried. How can parents go wrong if they serve a bowl of sugary milk that’s also filled with fiber-rich cereal?

Unfortunately, people didn’t quite take to that notion with as much enthusiasm as Kellogg’s PR team may have hoped. No one really believes they’re buying a wonderful nutritional choice when they take home these kinds of kids’ cereals. Popular with kids from sea to shining sea? Yes. Nutritious? Not so much.

I think we can all agree that no one buys sugary cereal in order to add more fiber to their diet. But Lucky Charms or Reese’s Puffs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Apple Jacks were some of the sweet cereals my kids could usually find in our house as they grew up. We weren’t candy buyers, and rarely had cabinets of cookies or other treats in the house. But yes, we had our share of kids’ cereal. So sue me.

The fiber thing isn’t really my issue here. I just watched the Froot Loops commercial again and confirmed what I thought I saw before. I also checked the calendar and confirmed that we have just about completed the first decade of the 21st century. Another way to calculate the time would be to note that it’s almost forty years after the debut of Ms. Magazine.

Here’s the problem. The premise of the Froot Loops commercial is that one child – a boy - is in a doctor’s office and getting his check-up. He gets called into the office by another child, playing the receptionist, or maybe the nurse – a girl. Then the patient gets his check-up by the doctor – a boy.

Ummmm…once again, did I miss the outrage? Is there a reason the ‘doctor’ here had to be portrayed by a little boy and the ‘helper’ had to be a little girl? I’m not some kind of lunatic about political or social correctness or a radical feminist but let’s face it, shouldn’t someone at the ad agency who produced this commercial for Kellogg’s have raised this objection to typecasting straight out of 1956? Did anyone speak up and wonder aloud about the little girl being the helper and at the little boy being the boss?

And what about the people at Kellogg’s? I’d like to think someone at some point raised some objection – or at least a question - about the stereotypes we all thought would be anachronisms by now, that appear to be alive and well in their 2009 commercial. I’m so sorry but I can’t quite get past this. Even if I loved Froot Loops and my kids begged me for them, I’d stop buying them on principle alone.

If I missed the commentary on this, I'd be grateful if someone could post a link to a column or some reaction to this commercial. I may be getting more cranky in my old age - in fact I know I am - but this can't just be me, can it?

Friday, October 30, 2009

The startling news about Baby Einstein

Well, I was shocked, I tell you. Just shocked when I read the news about the Baby Einstein products. Turns out, buying the videos, now DVDs, and then plopping your baby or toddler down in front of them for a couple of hours does not automatically grant them a waiver from submitting an essay along with their applications to The Ivy League. (I thought perhaps there was a box to check on those admission forms that confirmed: Yes, I watched and enjoyed thoroughly all the Baby Einstein videos by the age of 26 months.)

That sounds a ridiculous, I know, but it’s no more ridiculous than the idea that watching videos of any kind will improve your child’s I.Q.

Before I go much further, I’m not some kind of “no television ever!!” parent. I remember enjoying many moments of sanity that came in 30-minute increments, courtesy of Disney’s Sing-Along-Songs videos. Those video compilations of Disney’s greatest hits, with the lyrics accompanying each song on the screen, entertained my kids many times. The words on the screen were simply an added bonus; at no time did I ever imagine that these videos were also teaching the boys to read. Not once.

I have to congratulate the marketing team here. If you want to lure parents into the making quintessential purchase that will benefit your child, how do you go wrong if you evoke the Einstein name? Who doesn’t want a baby Einstein?

Turns out, nearly everyone does. At least among the enlightened parents who want “in” on the latest thing that will elevate their progeny to the rarified air we call “gifted” or “advanced” or whatever title we affix to special children who are somehow quantified as more intelligent than their peers by the age of six. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The headline we should all take away from this is that, sorry, not everyone is intellectually superior and you can’t train someone to be.

There’s a reason that an entire culture connects with that name, and exactly why the title of this series was so brilliant. Einstein was a genius who comes along maybe once in a generation. The very name itself represents a phenomenon, an anomaly, something we won’t see again for perhaps decades. According to Wikipedia (not my favorite source but it was more concise than most), the recap of Einstein’s career included these contributions to physics: the special and general theories of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the first post-Newtonian expansion, explaining the perihelion advance of Mercury, prediction of the deflection of light by gravity and gravitational lensing, the first fluctuation dissipation theorem which explained the Brownian movement of molecules, the photon theory and wave-particle duality, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, the semi classical version of the Schrödinger equation, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose-Einstein condensation.

Got that? I also learned that Einstein never wore socks, was basically a slovenly dresser, didn’t like games like Scrabble that made you “think,” and was a horrible speller. Okay, fire up the DVD and let’s go! Your child is just six disks away from being a genius!

All I know is I must have some money coming to me from various exercise gurus and trainers. I bought their videos and did the workout exactly as they proscribed for weeks and weeks. I wanted to ‘hit the spot’ or get various body parts ‘of steel’…I wanted it all. Guess what? I don’t have rock hard abs or killer arms. Class action lawsuit, right? Anyone want in?

It’s called marketing, folks. It’s advertising. It’s putting the right name on the right product for the right audience at the right time. You can’t go wrong. Baby Einstein worked for these reasons and more. But now you can get your money back for up to 4 DVDs, purchased between June 2004 and September 2009. For the record, Baby Einstein notes that this is simply an extension of a refund policy that has always been in place, mostly to publicly address an attack by a vengeful consumer. You can read their statement here.

Look, I’m not opposed to video entertainment for children. I’m not even opposed to video edu-tainment (cringe). I am opposed to parents who view some videos as more equal than others, and then feel somehow misled when they find out that sometimes a DVD is just a DVD. Entertaining, enjoyable, fun, light-hearted and yes, enthralling, even for just 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A publishing miracle.

Inexplicably, something that actually makes sense came about as a result of James Arthur Ray’s depraved indifference toward human life, otherwise known as his sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona. You may have heard of Ray: he was one of the contributors to the mega-bestselling The Secret. His latest news made headlines everywhere but the basics are these: About 50 people, dedicated to Ray’s teachings and philosophies, paid almost $10,000 each to attend his “spiritual warrior” retreat in the Arizona desert earlier this month. After several days of participating in various practices and rituals, including food and sleep deprivation, they entered into an enclosed space – Ray’s new age version of a Native American sweatlodge.

The tragic result was that twenty-one of his followers needed medical attention and three of them died as a result of his enlightened approach to spiritual “cleansing.” It’s very likely a number of factors contributed to their deaths, among them the oppressive heat, and Ray’s own direction to everyone to stick with the program and not give in to their desire to abandon the effort. Even while the criminal investigation is underway in Arizona, Ray is continuing to enlighten different followers, otherwise known as same s—t, different day.

The surprisingly lucid news about this story follows: On Monday, I read an update in Publisher’s Weekly, stating that Ray’s publisher, in a moment of clarity that was no doubt encouraged by the company’s legal team, had postponed the upcoming publication of two new books by the financial advisor turned spiritual guru. The first title scheduled was the paperback edition of his bestseller Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want. The second was a new book from Ray, titled The Seven Laws of True Wealth.

Before I go any further here, I have a few questions: why is everything that can make me happy in life is a secret? And why does everyone seem to know it but me? Why would I want to attract a life I don’t want? When there are laws or rules or habits that everyone should know, why are there always seven of them? Why aren’t there 23? Or 6? Or 327? What is false wealth and who would desire it?

Okay, enough about my issues. Hyperion, Ray’s publisher, has postponed his books until January 2011. Yes, that’s fourteen months away. By that time, Ray could well have offered the injured and the grieving families of the dead enough money to help this all fade from public view.

I hope they get some kind of compensation for their pain – whatever that could possibly be - but not one of them should allow him to get away with this. I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know Ray committed some kind of crime here and needs to be held responsible. Arizona must have its own real life version of Jack McCoy.

Hyperion has started to pull the plug on his deadly game of smoke and mirrors and good for them. The book-buying public needs to begin to do the same, not only to James Arthur Ray, but to every specious guru like him who professes to know exactly what we need to know to be fulfilled and happy and enlightened…knowledge they’ll happily share with us if we pay them a small price (in the case of a paperback book) or a very large fee, like those required to attend the horror show in the Arizona desert.

Because no matter how enthusiastically these now deceased people followed Ray, I refuse to believe that any of them were willing to pay with their lives.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baseball questions that spring to mind.

I will rarely watch a baseball game during the regular season. I have little patience for a game where the ball is actually moving and literally in play for somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes during the entire game.

I will, however, stage my own rally during the post season and support my super-fan husband when his beloved and erstwhile Phillies are involved. He has his own ridiculous rituals when it comes to doing his part to bring about victory, rituals that will go unexplained at this point. Suffice it to say, they are pointless and I guarantee you they will influence exactly nothing that's taking place in the City of Brotherly Love tonight. He also has a lot of opinions, especially about pitching, that he'd be happy to share with Charlie Manual should he place a call to us one night.

But here are my questions:

Why would Joe Torre, the Dodgers' manager, hold a mini-interview with the TBS commentators during the game? I know this is more of a TV thing, not necessarily a Torre thing, but shouldn't the manager of a major league baseball team, a team playing for a spot in the World Series, push that mike away and explain, "Can't talk to you now, I'm working." I mean, would a surgeon step away from an open chest cavity to take a couple of questions about the procedure taking place? Would an orchestra conductor step off the podium and speak to a reporter and let the musicians hold it together on their own? No, no they wouldn't.

I don't get players like Manny Ramirez. He not only left the dugout, he literally took a shower and was practically out the door before the game ended the other night, only to find that not only did his team lose the game, they lost it in quite dramatic fashion? Isn't he part of a team? Doesn't a team work together, and support each other during the disappointments? (This isn't the high school team, I get that, but still. These are grown men - extremely well-paid grown men, I grant you - playing a game they've adored since childhood. If there weren't at least a little leftover boy in each one them, I don't think they'd pursue the dream.) I guess his work day was done and regardless of the excitement swirling around him, he was out the door. That's camaraderie. That's brotherhood. Very impressive stuff from Ramiriz.

Since when do managers put pitchers in a game to pitch to one batter? This idea of a specific kind of pitcher to face a specific kind of batter is nonsense. Aren't these guys professional ball players? Don't they pitch to all kinds of batters all season long? Doesn't Charlie Manuel remember that this is the kind of poor management that lost the game in Colorado a week ago? (This is one of the reasons the mister wants Manuel to call him. He can remind him.)

Are the umpires nervous about that little box that indicates where all the pitches land? If they can be tracked accurately through this "cyber-ump," why does the game need these guys? Is it the human factor and the idea that ballplayers and managers love to look aggravated and argue with umps whenever they can? That baseball wouldn't be baseball unless fans could complain the next day (and for the next thirty, forty years or so) about the calls that went against them during that fateful game?

Okay, I think that's it for tonight's baseball mysteries.

Oh - one more thing. This isn't a question, it's an observation. I have personally witnessed the sign of a true Phillies fan: he can find misery in a game where his team holds a six-run lead. Should the Phillies win tonight, I've learned that there is too much time between now and the start of the World Series. Why? The Phillies will cool off and no one will cool off faster than Ryan Howard. What the heck is that about? Only a real Phillies fan could find the crumb of torment lurking inside a possible victory for the National League pennant.

You gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another (but this time, a lucid one) view of success

I can’t help but juxtapose Ivanka’s “we all have our advantages” philosophy against another world view I read just recently, in an enlightening and ultimately uplifting book titled Closing Time by Joe Queenan, a writer I admire a great deal for many reasons. What follows is an excerpt, Queenan’s take on the crapshoot we all call our destiny:

American folklore stipulates that those who rise above their humble circumstances do so because of an indomitable will to succeed, coupled with the good fortune to inhabit a country that rewards industry. Here’s another: Poor people who succeed do so because they are born with talents that other poor people do not possess, because they are cunning enough to capitalize on these talents, and / or because they are either born lucky or develop a lucky streak pretty damn quick. If you are born poor and stupid, you’re going to need to be very lucky. If you are poor and stupid and ugly, you are going to need to be even luckier. If you are poor and stupid and ugly and a member of an ethnic group that American purports to admire but secretly abhors, then you might as well skip the preliminaries and get yourself started on a life of crime at the earliest possibly opportunity.


“Most things in life come down to the luck of the draw. Line up ten poor people. Nine of them won’t make it. One maybe two, will. It might as well be you, third pauper from the left. It will help if you are born with chutzpah and personality or are capable of unleashing a stupefying amount of violence on complete strangers in a short period of time with little concern for the consequences. But even that will not be enough. Everyone who is saved is saved because someone tossed him or her a lifeline or, in my case, numerous lifelines. It may be a parent, it may be an employer, it may be a teacher, it may be a priest, it may be a boxing instructor, it may even be a parole officer. But, as the events of Good Friday make abundantly clear, no one is saved all by himself. Alumni of the slums succeed either because someone is reaching down from above or because someone keeps pushing hard from below. Or, in the ideal situation, both.”

I don’t know about you but I find that viewpoint enormously refreshing in these days of endless empowerment or enlightenment or illumination or whatever the "you're wonderful" scheme of the day seems to be. I love the fact that first and foremost on Queenan’s list of “how to succeed” qualities is a little thing he labels “talent.” It's not a specific talent, not an option, not a vague concept none of us can quite grasp. A concept like, oh I don’t know…a concept like “some kind of advantage.”

Nope – Queenan chooses “talent” first and adds the ability to capitalize on your gifts and maybe a little luck as well in order to have “success.” He adds things like “chutzpah” and “personality” and then, only after those ingredients are in place, does he acknowledge that the assistance of others who want to see you succeed is vital.

So who do you side with here? Ivanka or Joe? I am clearly in the Queenan realism corner here. My sense is that when you achieve your success on something other than honest talent and ability, you’ve built it on a house of cards and your success is just about that secure. Unless, of course, the foundation on that stunning house of cards was built by the Trump Organization. Then, sure, you’ll probably be in pretty good shape all around.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Willy DeVille tribute: notes from the day

From Sister Sue -

The story below is also attached to the original post ("And another musical light flickers out" August 2009), but here they in one place, for everyone who asked about the event on Saturday in New York.

Thanks for writing, Sue - it sounds like the kind of loving commemoration of a life all of us would like to leave behind someday. Please do share my August blog post with Nina - and let her know Willy's music will remain in my heart.

Here is Sue's recap:

Hello all. My apologies for taking so long to get back here. As you can imagine, I have been just overwhelmed.

The event was incredible. There was a ton of work to be done getting ready. I mean weeks of work. It consumed my life and at times I had to wonder if it was worth it. It was.

Nina (Willy's wife) had written to me asking if she could come. I had a feeling that she would not show and she ended up deciding at the last minute not to come. That was fine. If she didn't feel it was right for her then I think she did the right thing. I only wanted two things. And I wanted them desperately. To honor Willy and to find someone... ANYONE!... to share emotions with.

We had a good turn out of fans and the bar was perfect (Bar on A at 170 Avenue A, NYC). I spent hours decorating it. Pictures of Willy everywhere. Candles. Signs. Memory book. White roses. Etc... The bar was homey with couches and was intimate and it looked great!!

We had only been going for about 15 minutes. People were eating, drinking and singing (very loudly!!!) to all the Willy songs I was playing. A man in his 30's came in, looked around and immediately became teary. It was Kevin. Willy's nephew. Kevin has lost his mother and father. Willy was everything to him. Everything.

Someone immediately introduced me to him. He grabbed me, hugged and kissed me and told me multiple times how much the family appreciated this. After he calmed down a bit I asked him if he would like to speak when I got the program going. At first he was uncertain because he is extremely emotional still. But he resolved that he wanted to speak. So I told him that we'd let people get drinks, mingle, more people arrive, then start the program.

I had put out a sign up sheet for audience members who wanted to speak. Quite a few signed up. So I told Kevin that I would speak first to break the ice, then he would talk so he could get it out of the way and relax and listen to the audience speakers.

When I went up to the stage to speak, Kevin got a bar stool and put it down right next to me. He would laugh, cry and comment on many of the things I said, often grabbing my arm and pulling me towards him. He made both public and private comments, which I will always treasure.

Kevin's speech, totally unprepared and from the heart, was amazing. People in the audience were literally sobbing.

The event went on for about 6 or 7 hours. Everyone in the place came up and expressed thanks for organizing the event. They all needed to acknowledge, celebrate, remember... whatever... Willy. Willy's son, Sean, showed up as well. He, Stephanie (Kevin's girlfriend) and Kevin expressed thanks many times from the family. It was very touching.

We had a memory book at the event. People wrote thoughts, emotions, and messages to Nina. I am going to send the memory book to Nina on Monday. I had to bring it home because I had not had time to write in it, my daughter (11 years old!) wanted to write in it and a few people here in Kansas City want to write in it.

Would anyone here like to contribute as well? I think it woud be awesome if you would share your thoughts, feelings, emotions, whatever you want to share. I know that Nina will treasure it. If you write something I will print it off and make sure it gets into the memory book and directly to Nina as long as you get it to me before Monday. I really really hope that you are able to do this!!!

If you do write for the Memory Book PLEASE get it to me before Monday. Do not write it here. Email it to You can certainly post it here also if you want, but I need everything coming to one place. Please!! I am completely overwhelmed as it is!

That's the report for now. I look forward to getting your thoughts for the memory book. We all know how much Willy would appreciate us writing to Nina and letting her know our feelings for Willy and his music.

If anyone can tell me how to post pictures I will be happy to post pics of Kevin, Sean, audience, decorations, etc.

Love and Emotion to all! SisterSue

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What were your advantages?

We’re in the midst of the next greatest generation in the media. This can’t be good.

We’ve seen the likes of Luke Russert – remember him? - and Jenna Bush invade the airwaves at NBC. Russert was supposed to be the voice of his generation for NBC News. I’m not sure whether or not that’s still happening. He seems to have disappeared. Jenna Bush apparently does some kind of reporting for The Today Show on NBC. I think she’s still there.

What these two bring to their positions other than their family name is beyond me but I didn’t hire them and as you can tell, I don’t watch them on NBC. Like everything to do with television, it’s about ratings, building your audience and doing whatever you need to do to beat the other guys so you can charge your advertisers more money for your commercial airtime.

None of this explains a new book on sale this week, titled The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life. The author is the 27-year-old daughter of Donald Trump, Ivanka.

I’ve watched the Nightline interview with Ivanka, and read two excerpts from the book. She is smart, no doubt about it. From the very start, she acknowledges her privilege, her advantages, her status, her family’s wealth, her connections and the fact that she entered the real estate business, the same business both her father and grandfather had built and excelled in for generations. This is how she addresses it:

“Yes, I've had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match. Yes, I've had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I've chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather, so I can certainly see why an outsider might dismiss my success in our family business as yet another example of nepotism.”

She acknowledges this all over again when she recalls her post-college plans: “I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and how to accomplish it. I also had an edge: there’s no denying that my family name, first-class education, and top-tier contacts gave me a bit of leg-up, a Trump card if you will but I’m also a firm believer in making your own luck and the most of your opportunities.”

That’s clever, right? How can we object to her, now that she has acknowledged everything we’re all thinking? How honest and refreshing! How disarming and self-deprecating – if you can call what she wrote deprecating – of her!

On the other hand, I read sections that reveal just how a life of privilege colors your view of something as universal as a job interview. Words of advice from Ivanka about your interview skills: “It’s not about the school you went to, what you majored in, what your GPA was, or who your parents happen to be or know.”

You’re joking, right? I’ve been on lots of job interviews in my life and not once did I ever worry that the interview would turn into a monologue about who my parents happen to be and who they know. Not once. Never happened. But thanks for the tip!

Ivanka also describes the process she uses to overcome the preconceived notions others might have about her because of her background. It’s pretty simple, actually:

“Get over it. It's the same message I used to give to myself whenever I spent too much time worrying what people would think of me or how I'd risen to my position in the company or what attributes I brought to the table. I'd catch myself agonizing along these lines and think, Just get over it, Ivanka. Or, It's not your problem, it's theirs. After all, I eventually realized, we've all got our own baggage. Whatever we do, whatever our backgrounds, we've all had some kind of advantage somewhere along the way. Some break that might have gone to someone else. Some edge or inside track we couldn't have counted on.”

Examining this entire statement would just about wear me out and make me want to weep so I’d like to focus on just one thought here: “Whatever we do, whatever our backgrounds, we’ve all had some kind of advantage somewhere along the way.”

Hmmm. Whatever we do, whatever our backgrounds, we’ve all had some kind of advantage somewhere along the way. I need to break that down and since this is primarily supposed to be a business book, I’ll focus on that:

Whatever we do…: no matter what job you have, what career you’re pursuing, what specialized skill you possess, be it plumbing, farming, toll-taking or performing brain surgery, you all had some kind of advantage somewhere along the way.

Whatever our backgrounds…: whether you are the daughter of a blue collar family in western Pennsylvania or the daughter of an international real estate mogul in Manhattan; the son of an illiterate father and poorly educated mother in West Virginia or the son of an international real estate mogul in Manhattan, you all had some kind of advantage somewhere along the way.

Once again, the message for us is unmistakable: “…we’ve all some kind of advantage somewhere along the way.” I asked my husband to share the advantage he had along the way. He’s thinking about it and said he’ll let me know. I’m still thinking, too.

Let's face it. Ivanka is pretty, she's a household name thanks to her father and her appearances on his television show and she seems fairly grounded. At the very least, we didn't have to witness her devoting herself to some kind of lawless, rudderless "wild days" a la Paris Hilton. I suppose writing a book about success in work and life isn't the worst thing she could do. I only hope she's donating her advance and any subsequent earnings to charity. Maybe someone on the receiving end of that contribution will realize a couple of "advantages" as a result, somewhere along the way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Life Lessons from Q.T.

My day started out with a headline and story blazing across my screen, a headline that couldn’t have portended anything good: Life Lessons from the Wizard of Oz or something like that. I’m not going into the details of this because the article itself could have been written by everyone who has seen the movie, provided they have mastered the ability to hold a crayon.

But it got me thinking. What other movies have I seen that taught me some important things about life?

After some deep thought, I came up with this: Life Lessons from Pulp Fiction. I know; it’s not nearly as cuddly and not exactly as obvious but the Oz Lessons article more than covered those categories. So just go with me on this, okay?

1. “Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” In other words: be prepared. This timeless piece of wisdom is nicely illustrated by Vincent and Jules, preparing for their meeting with Brett and Roger, who stole their boss’s property. They need shotguns but don’t have them and have to make do with handguns instead.

2. “Never be afraid to try; you just might surprise yourself.” Vincent didn’t have any idea he would find himself participating in a dance contest with Mia Wallace during their evening together and yet, not only did they enter the contest – they won. Sometimes when we try things that frighten us, we find they aren’t so intimidating after all.

3. “True friends are there for you, even when you’re not at your best, even in the very worst of times.” Lance is there for Vincent when he needs to inject Mia with a hypodermic needle to bring her out of her heroine overdose; Jimmy is there for Jules and Vincent when they need to cover up the murder and subsequent mess left behind by Marvin’s brains when they shot him in the backseat of their car. Real friends never let you down when you need them.

4. “Always keep your promises, even when that’s a challenge.” Pulp Fiction illustrates this perfectly through a memorable scene featuring Captain Koons and a young Butch. Koons gives Butch a watch; a watch that had been hidden on, or more correctly in, two soldiers during the Vietnam War and secretly transported home through – shall we say – an unusual method.

5. “Indulge yourself in wonderful moments. If not now, when?” A lovely notion is made obvious by this classic line from Fabienne: “Any time of day is a good time for pie.”

6. “If you made the mess, take responsibility for it and clean it up.” Nothing drives this message home better than Jules being on “brain patrol” and then encouraging Vincent to switch jobs with him so Vincent can take on the more onerous task of scraping together Marvin’s remains.

7. “Always turn to experts for the help you need.” Let’s not forget how Lance consults his medical book before instructing Vincent on exactly where and how he needs to plunge the needle into Mia’s chest to revive her. And suffice it to say without Winston Wolfe's expertise, Vincent and Jules would have never solved their Marvin problem.

8. “The enemy of your enemy is your friend.” Zed, Maynard and the Gimp vs. Marsellus and Butch. Enough said, I hope.

9. “Manners always matter, even during times of stress.” Vincent asks Winston for a “please” after being ordered to start the clean-up in the garage. To his credit, Winston complies, albeit with a big helping of sarcasm.

10. Articles that offer “Life Lessons” based on movies are predictable, specious and insipid.

Yes, including this one. Which proves my point.