Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Is it ever too late to send a thank-you note? I sure hope not.

My blog turned five in May, and I did nothing to mark the occasion. I could say I forgot –after all, I’d gone to Atlanta earlier that month and surprised my nephew for his fifth birthday by springing out of an Amazon box –but I didn’t forget. The truth is, I neglected my blog’s milestone because I’d been neglecting my blog. It nagged at me, but not to the point where I did anything about it.

My dear friend and podcast co-host, Philippa, hadn’t written much on her blog of late, either, and it was bugging her, too. Like former athletes who’d become couch potatoes, each of us lamented our descent into writing sloth and wanted to get back into shape. Actually, that’s not quite true. We didn’t want to get back into shape so much as we just wanted to be back in shape. As writers, and particularly as indolent ones, we knew an active verb like “get” would require way more work than a passive one like “be.” As lawyers, Philippa and I felt compelled to spend at least a little bit of time looking for a loophole, but we came up empty-handed. Faced with the inescapable reality that you can’t achieve the writing equivalent of six-pack abs without a whole lot of sweating, we decided to confront it together.

We committed to meet at her condo and spend all of today writing. Over a lunch of caramelized fish, expertly prepared a day earlier by Philippa’s mom, I tried to explain why I hadn’t been writing.

“I think I just got tired,” I said.

And it’s true. When I started the blog in the summer of 2012, I wrote every day for a while. Then my writing tapered off to a few times a week except in November, when I would participate in NaBloPoMo and punish, er, reward my readers by writing every day. Outside of NaBloPoMo, I tried to write at least once a week, and I largely succeeded until last May, when I started a new job.

The change has been great, yet I underestimated just how much mental effort it takes to leave something you knew and liked for nearly nine years and embark on a totally different path. As my energy stores got low, my writing slowed to a trickle. And then the election came along, leaving an ugly, divisive aftermath that killed my urge to look for humor in everyday situations, much less write about it. It felt frivolous and impossible, which explains why, of the 395 blog posts I’ve written since June of 2012, I cranked out only 17 from the election until now.

To get back into writing shape, I’ll be posting at least once a week. I’m kicking it off by celebrating my blog turning five, which means writing a long-overdue note of gratitude.

A gigantic and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has ever read this blog. I know you have your choice of time-wasting vehicles out there, and I want to thank you for choosing mine. Whatever led you to this site– curiosity, insomnia, Google searches like “the coffin switched stations again” — most likely could have been cured with professional help, so thank you for not seeking it.

I owe the most colossal debt of gratitude to those who’ve been there from the beginning, including but not limited to Mom, Dad, Suzi, Lynne, L.J., Michelle, LC, Matt and Philippa. Some of those early posts really stunk. And I don’t mean day-old banana peel stunk, either; I’m talking rodent-died-somewhere-behind-the-drywall-two-years-ago stunk. Behind every good writer is a whole bunch of really bad writing she has to get out of the way to get to the good stuff, so thank you for supporting me in my perpetual quest to get to the good stuff.

And here’s to the next five years…

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To write off, or not to write off? That is the (dating) question

As co-hosts of a podcast about dating and relationships, Philippa and I sometimes receive messages from listeners seeking advice. To show that we take these questions seriously (a statement we can’t always make about the answer), I’ll address in this forum one we received recently. But first, a little background.

Our listener, “Lisa,” was visiting friends out of town when she met a Person Of Interest (“POI.”). Though they didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, Lisa and the POI really hit it off and agreed they wanted to see each other again. When Lisa returned home, she and the POI texted. During one of those exchanges, Lisa mentioned she’d found cheap airfare and could easily arrange a trip to the POI’s town. The POI said he’d like that but didn’t ask about dates or show other signs of enthusiasm. She volunteered a date. The texts began to decrease in both frequency and verbiage –he’d been busy, he wrote. He had not spoken of the proposed date. Then, a week or so after they’d last seen each other, he called her. It was a bold escalation in medium (or an act of aggression, if you ask Philippa). That date Lisa had suggested? Not good. He offered a vague excuse and, instead of proposing another date for her trip, said he’d figure out a time to come and see her.

Lisa is in her 40’s and not a dating novice, so she interpreted this to mean he’s seeing someone where he lives. The drop in text frequency and quality fit that theory, and she was ready to chalk it up as a loss. (I would have, too.)  Then, last Friday night at 9 or so, the POI sent her a “hey hot stuff” text. That might not have been weird if his other messages had been like that, but they hadn’t. In fact, there hadn’t been many other messages at all, so she figured “hot stuff” referred to someone else –I would have, too –and didn’t respond.

Two hours later, he texted again: “Nothing? I figured I’d at least get a laugh.”

A laugh? Why? Because she’s not hot stuff? Lisa scratched her head and responded that she was at dinner with a friend. Almost exactly 24 hours later, POI sent another erudite text: “hey hot stuff.” I suspect by then Lisa was hot. She didn’t respond. (I wouldn’t have, either.) He texted Sunday night to ask if she’d written him off.

She saw it when she woke up Monday morning and, before her caffeine had a chance to kick in, wrote, “No, just didn’t think those texts were meant for me.” She probably expected an explanation of some sort in response. (I would have.) Instead, she got: “How are you today?”

She wrote, “OK, *now* I’m writing you off.” Actually, she didn’t. That’s what I would have written. She’d already responded with a benign, “Fine, thanks” before she turned to us, so that golden opportunity was blown. Leaving that aside, the fact that Lisa came to the two of us for counsel -one of us a humorist and the other such a ghosting expert someone once referred to her as “Casper Hughes” –tells you a lot, namely: she came to the right place.

As a human being, I feel obligated to give her practical advice: I don’t think she owes the POI anything, not the benefit of the doubt or responses to future texts. They’ve spent little time together and don’t have the same level of interest in keeping something going, so it seems like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Let it die of natural causes.

But as a humorist, I say: KEEP THE TEXTS ALIVE! And respond only in haiku, releasing one line at a time, every few hours. Had she followed that advice, she’d have responded to “how are you?” like this:

Fine! How you doing?

Wait, I meant *who* you doing?

Wait, who are you, yo?

So, Lisa, thanks for asking. We wish you the best of luck in dating, and remember those three little words: hey hot stuff.

The audit that didn’t make me feel like I’d been taken to the cleaners

Sometimes the best way to deal with a healthy fear is to confront it, which is why I decided to volunteer to be audited a few months ago. The agents who paid me a visit came not from the IRS but from DC Style Factory, and they didn’t care if I had my financial house in order: they’d come to examine the state of my closet.

I’d met Rosana Vollmerhausen, the company’s founder, and Jennifer Barger, one of the stylists and a fashion journalist, months earlier when the two were guests on Women of Uncertain Age. After watching them give gentle, constructive advice to a dude on how to dress for a date, Philippa and I invited them to critique two of my first-date outfits. I learned during those episodes that their approach is not to change your style, but rather to help you present the best version of your style, whatever it might be. During that episode, they dispensed so much great advice (no square-toed flats! Or shrugs that make you look like a matador!), and so gently, that I knew I would be in good hands. The website offers this description of the audit process:

We help weed out items that are outdated, worn out, don’t fit, or simply don’t work in your life anymore. We talk about body type, silhouette and lifestyle, to properly organize your closet so you can put together outfits with more ease. We also compile a list of missing wardrobe essentials, which can be purchased on your own, or with our guidance.

I knew I needed all of that, yet I still dreaded it. Letting someone see everything in your closet can reveal a lot, and in my case I worried it would hint strongly that I’m not actually a sighted person. I also feared having to admit something many have long suspected: my mother still dresses me. (It’s true. Unlike me, Mom enjoys shopping and stays reasonably current with fashion.) I’d have felt less exposed handing these women a decade worth of tax records.

I decided to do a pre-appointment purge. Like a patient trying to erase years of neglect by going on a flossing spree two days before seeing the dentist, I knew I had little chance of fooling a trained eye, but it seemed worth a shot.

When Rosana and Jen came to my home, they kicked things off with a brief interview.

Jen asked what I viewed as my biggest fashion challenge and I said, “Apathy.”

They laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. Though I care about my appearance, I can’t muster up much excitement about clothes. If someone forced me to subject my closet to the Marie Kondo theory of decluttering –get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” — I just might wind up a streaker.

On asking where I shop, Jen and Rosana couldn’t have been surprised to learn that I tend to land at places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. I realize those stores are often a year behind, trend-wise, but that’s never bothered me. We legal types are not exactly known for being fashion-forward. The most prominent members of our profession wear robes to work, for heaven’s sake. Black robes, yes, but robes nonetheless.

On wrapping up the interview, it was time to face the moment of truth and get into the closet. Unlike the hosts of What Not To Wear, DC Style Factory doesn’t wage a war on your wardrobe. They take more of a hearts-and-minds approach that involves pulling items from your closet, having you try them on, and asking, “What about this?”

Some of the things they saw in my closet probably made them want to ask, “What were you thinking?”, like the dress yoga pants I bought a few months ago, but they didn’t. (They probably know dress yoga pants are just the gateway garments to black robes.) They truly wanted to know what I liked about the things I wear.

If I said I’d kept an item for its sentimental value, they put it right back in the closet and never once did they seem to be fighting the impulse to say, “Wow! I haven’t seen anyone wear that since ‘Friends’ went into syndication!” They offered candid feedback but did so without snark and with such care that it didn’t feel personal.

I also learned “What about this?” wasn’t a rhetorical question whose only answer was, “It’ll look great at the bottom of a Hefty bag!” Sometimes they wanted me to keep something I was ready to toss, like a textured black suit Mom had bought me many years earlier.

“The skirt can go, but let’s take a look at that jacket,” Jen said. It never occurred to me to evaluate the two elements of a suit separately. Having grown up in the era of Garanimals, I viewed business suits as the fashion equivalent of Siamese twins, a package you can’t separate unless you really know what you’re doing. But sure enough, that jacket looked fantastic with some of the tops in my closet, and it definitely karen1 karen2classed up and modernized my skinny jeans. Never did I imagine my old clothes could somehow produce new outfits.

While Jen focused on the search-and-rescue mission, Rosana was busy re-folding clothes and otherwise organizing my closet, an invaluable service unto itself. Jen took the items I decided to discard and packaged them up for donation to Goodwill. A few days later, I received a memo summarizing my style and my challenges, as well as a shopping list recommending, among other things, that I consider owning more than three pair of non-athletic shoes.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad I turned myself in to the fashion police. Instead of judging me for my misdemeanors, they showed me that a few small changes could add up to meaningful reform. Now let’s see if I can avoid being a repeat offender.

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t say something nice, just make sure you’re anonymous

Last Friday my friend Philippa and I co-wrote a piece for the Washington Post’s Solo-ish feature about the pursuit of love in your 40s. The article presented an excerpt of a much longer email conversation the two of us had about how our perspective on finding a partner has evolved with age.

In case you didn’t read it, the article noted that I’m happy with my life and am fortunate to have a loving family and wonderful friends, but I’ve always wanted a partner, someone to share the proverbial foxhole with me. I mentioned a “companionship clock” whose tick I’ve been hearing since my 20s. I also observed that it seems to be gaining volume as I age, not because I fear being alone or aging alone but because I’ve been around long enough to know three things:

  1. I enjoy my favorite experiences just a tiny bit more in the company of the right partner;
  2. the presence of a great partner can ease some of the burdens of aging, like ailing parents and failing health; and
  3. the partnership pool shrinks with age, no matter who you are and no matter whether you, like me, cut a wide age swath when it comes to dating. On that last point, I admitted being concerned about hanging on to my appearance, I acknowledged the possibility that I’ve become invisible to younger men, and I joked about chest wrinkles.

Overall, I offered serious thoughts laced with a dose of obvious humor. Or possibly not so obvious.

When you write an article for an online publication, you hope people will read it. With the fulfillment of that hope, however, comes the possibility that readers will comment on the article and the likelihood that some of the commentary will be nasty. After all, gutless cruelty thrives where anonymity and the internet intersect.

By Friday afternoon, our hopes had been fulfilled and Philippa and I found ourselves awash in possibility and likelihood.

I grouped reader responses into four categories. I’ve given each category a descriptive title in bold that I think summarizes the contents of the comments, followed by a sample of the most popular comments in italics (based on number of “likes” generated) and my response to those comments:

  1. My sentiments exactly!

Interesting read. I’m a single guy in that same boat. Basically happy with my life, but concerned about facing older age alone. The thing is, who wants to buy a used car and have all the hard repair work without getting the good years out of that car, and hence having the GRATITUDE? I’m still in decent shape, but I’m not what I was at 30. If I find a wonderful woman when I’m 55, she’s taking quite a chance partnering with me, and me with her. What if I have cancer or a stroke at 60? If she had 30 good years with me….raised children….saw the good times and bad times through with me, then I’d expect that although it would be tough, she’d do right by me with a heart full of love and compassion. If she’d only been with me for 5 years and I begin really falling apart, there is no “gratitude glue” there to make her want to stay and help me through those difficult times. Gratitude builds over time, and time to generate a history of love and gratitude in the heart of someone else is the very thing I’m running out of. You may say “What kind of shallow women are you dating?” Well….I’m just going on what I’ve seen going on around me in my life. Often, without a very strong bond developed over time, when the going gets tough, the “not so deeply committed” bug-out. Sad to say, but true. (5 likes)

People like this got it. They laughed at the chest wrinkles. They understood we might be happily single but still want companionship and they didn’t read the piece as being about solely about women. (Men certainly don’t fret about their appearance as they age. They use Rogaine purely recreationally.) Perhaps those readers realized that Pips and I wrote from the perspective of two women because, well, we’re women. Cat’s out of the bag, folks.

  1. You two are a disgrace to women. And possibly also feminism. (Assuming there’s a difference, because if I’m being honest, I’ve never really been sure.)
  • This is shameful (7 likes).

I don’t quite know what to say to this one, except to give it an Achievements in Vagueness Award. Not that this person would show up to accept it.

  • I’m sorry, but this is disgusting. You have totally bought into this idea that women over a certain age are likely to lose out in the relationship market. Why would you peddle that crap to your readers? I am a 50-something woman (that’s right! 50-something!) who is extremely happily re-partnered and I met him in my 50s. So have many of my friends – several of whom have remarried or are happily cohabitating well after their 50th birthdays. Some of us look young for our age, some not so much. But is that really what leads to lasting love and companionship and, ugh, your “person”? Because if you’re worried that no-one “hot” will love you when your (seriously?) Asian skin starts to age a bit, you have bigger problems than a lacking love life. Be single, date, look for love, enjoy hot guys, fine. But get a grip! What you need for a successful relationship comes from within, ladies. (7 likes)

First, I am delighted to hear that someone over 50 is still alive. Who knew? Philippa and I thought life ended at 40, possibly sooner. But what is this “from within” place she speaks of? Philippa and I only care about without. As in, we are without a fine-looking dude and that, my friends, is a full-blown crisis. This commenter implies we might encounter a hot men shortage after we’re 50, in which case I just don’t know if we’ll be able to go on. But overall, I really appreciate this commenter’s concern for us, as evidenced by her hope that we get a grip. I’m concerned about her, too, because if the number of exclamation points is any indicator, her grip just might need a little relaxing.

  • You both sound ridiculously superficial. Like your entire chance of finding a partner is based on whether or not you have wrinkles. We live in such an ageist society and drivel like this just perpetuates the idea that it’s all about the superficial (6 likes).

Why would I care what this person thinks? Obviously s/he is ugly.

  • [More from the same person, whom I picture raising a finger and saying, “And ANOTHER thing!”:] I’m glad I’m not dating either one of you, but you wouldn’t be interested in me anyway, what with me being a 51 year old with some gray hair and wrinkles. I guess we can both count our blessings. (6 likes)

He’s right. I would never date someone who’s 51. That’s only 7 years older than I am, and history says my interest isn’t piqued unless you’re 12-18 years my senior, at which point there’s a good chance I’ll marry you. Count your blessings, indeed.

  1. Suck it up and get a dog.

Why does it have to be what all the men want? Can you just live your life & try Match.com or other dating venues? I’m 60, though I have a boyfriend. If I were single, I would not care about finding a partner, I am too busy with my life. I don’t care who is looking at my wrinkles. I do go to the gym regularly so I’m in shape. I’ve met some really nice men at the gym. Get a rescue pet. They are more likely to love you unconditionally than some man. (4 likes)

I love everything about this comment, beginning with “though I have a boyfriend,” (translation: whatever you do, don’t dump me into that bucket of losers who don’t have a significant other!) and ending with “Get a rescue pet.” Though, based on what Philippa wrote in the article about intimacy, I’m a little worried about what kind of relationship this person wants me to have with my pet.

  1. Huh?

Dumbest article I ever read. Actually, I only got half way through. Can I please get my 40 seconds wasted on this back? (1 like) Okay, I admit this was nowhere near the most popular comment based on likes, but it’s my favorite by miles. Sure, pal, contact the Post to get a refund on those 40 seconds. But the ones you spent writing this comment? Those are on you.

I’ve written this whole post with tongue planted firmly in cheek, in part to make the point that some people seemed to take not just me and Philippa but themselves far too seriously. If I could, I’d invite these people to join me for a beer and to say to my face, the face of someone they don’t know at all but purport to, the things they wrote. I don’t mind that they made those comments, I just doubt they would say them to my face. Whereas, if I were sitting opposite them holding a beer, I know I would respond exactly as I did here and laugh, because that’s how you’re supposed to respond to jokes.

And then maybe we would all take ourselves a little less seriously.

The headshot that appeared with the article. Wait a minute, are those crows' feet?!?!?!

The headshot that appeared with the article. Wait a minute, are those crows’ feet?!?!?!

 

Speak softly and carry a big bottle of Nyquil

I came down with a case of laryngitis yesterday.

Maybe I got it from shouting helpful but unheeded suggestions to Andy Murray Wednesday night. Or perhaps one of the many mini-Yanks who came to last weekend’s family reunion left a germ grenade that just detonated. Or it could be a temporary and very targeted response to the many people who pray for a silent lawyer.

Regardless of what caused it, the inflammation of my voice box put a real damper on the plans I had for last night. I was supposed to be at the Rock and Roll Hotel, a cool funeral home-turned-music venue on H St NE, to celebrate the release of my friend Sara Curtin’s new album, Michigan Lillium. I fell in love with Sara’s voice last summer, when she and Maureen Andary (the equally talented other half of The Sweater Set), performed as musical guests for a live recording of Women of Uncertain Age at the DC Arts Center‘s “25 Hours for 25 Years” celebration. After that show, we begged The Sweater Set –winners of multiple Washington Area Music Awards – to lend their trademark harmony and wit to writing a WOUA theme song, which now kicks off every episode. Not that I’m a fangirl or anything.

Anyway, Sara’s album party had been on my calendar for months, and I’d really been looking forward to cheering her on. But instead of rooting for my pal, I was stuck at home, rooting for the return of my voice and for the double-dose of Nyquil I’d taken to kick in.

Plenty of people would say last night was the perfect night to stay in, since the first Republican Presidential Primary Hootenanny and Spectacle, starring Donald Trump as the Clown-in-Chief, promised hours of gut-busting entertainment. But I couldn’t bring myself to tune in. Not having a working larynx while watching a program guaranteed to make me want to scream at the TV sounded like pure masochism. I opted to watch The Wire on Netflix (I’m the one person on Earth who still hasn’t seen it) and eventually settled in for a long, if trippy, sleep.

I woke up down one voice and up one Nyquil hangover. That proved the ideal condition to be in while perusing this morning’s seriously Trumped-up news. When I got sick of reading what professional commentators had to say about the debate, I moved on to social media, where lots of not-so-professional commentators live.

My favorite thread was started by my friend, Shawn Westfall, who happens to be an improv comedian:

“When you find mush you push?” Scott Walker’s talking points apparently written by Salt N’Pepa.

It was only a matter of time before someone noted that Salt N’Pepa “would at least advocate for pushing it real good.”

If this is a sign of what lies ahead, I think I’ll continue to choose music over the cacophony of the debates. But I think I’ll skip the laryngitis. I’m pretty sure I can make the case that there are at least ten better candidates for it than I.

[If last night’s debate left your ears bruised, this might soothe them…]

My book and I returned to Elizabeth City like moths to a flame. A very old flame, in fact.

A few readers noted that my Easter recap post said nothing about my usual role as the neighborhood Easter Bunny. (They know it takes a special person to dress up as an oversized rodent with a face straight out of Poltergeist.) Sadly, when the date of this year’s Easter Parade rolled around, I had to step aside.

What would cause me to leave the infliction of lasting psychological trauma in the hands of an understudy? A book signing in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

If you haven’t heard of it, E.C is a town of roughly 18,000 people that was founded in the late 1700s and sits on the Pasquotank River near the Albemarle Sound. My personal history with E.C. dates back to the fall of 1999. My then-boyfriend (hereafter “TB”) moved there seeking a respite from the chaos of Northern Virginia, so I made the four-hour trip to see him often.

I always enjoyed the time I spent there, whether wandering down historic Main Street and imagining life inside one of the beautifully restored Victorians, sitting on a bench at Mariner’s Wharf and staring out at the Pasquotank, or shopping for my next great read at Page After Page bookstore.

But in August of 2001, after a summer of living together unhappily, TB and I split. We parted amicably in the sense that we managed to refrain from setting fire to each other’s possessions. As I drove away, I had every intention of leaving both the relationship and the town in the rear view mirror.

Two things changed that—a fence-mending and the book signing. I’ll come back to that second one, which couldn’t have happened without the first.

I initiated the fence repair this past September. My friend Philippa and I had recorded an episode of “Women of Uncertain Age” that focused on good courting, and I found myself holding up my relationship with TB as a shining example. As I talked about the relationship, I realized I viewed it in mostly favorable terms despite our terrible ending.

I decided TB deserved to know that, so I found him on Facebook and blasted out of the past bearing an olive branch. He accepted it quickly and gratefully. I guess I wasn’t the only one who cringed any time I thought about that breakup. TB soon friended me on Facebook, saw that I was writing a book, and joined Team Karen as an enthusiastic cheerleader and beta reader. We’d always been great friends, so I was glad to have my pal back.

When Good Luck With That Thing You’re Doing came out, a return to E.C. and Page After Page –this time as an author—made perfect sense. The bookstore and I set a date for April 3, when the downtown merchants would be hosting their First Friday Artwalk.

Page After Page set me up at a cute little table near the front door. It was a great location, but I wondered whether I would attract the attention of anyone other than TB, who’s already read my book twice and bought enough copies to stock a Bookmobile. Mother Nature threw my friend a block by giving E.C. glorious spring weather, ensuring a steady flow of traffic into the store.

That created a new dilemma: What was I supposed to do when people came in? Say “hello” and hope they’d stop to chat? Sit there like a pen-wielding mannequin? Do interpretive dance?

I went with a blend of the first two, mainly out of consideration for TB, who has a reputation to protect. TB, by the way, maintained a vigil while seated in a chair opposite me near the front door. Every now and then someone would show some interest in me and Good Luck, but most people just smiled and kept going. Eventually an older woman sat down in the chair next to him and I got my hopes up. She then politely explained that she just felt like taking a load off while her daughter shopped. I was seriously tempted to try the interpretive dance.

As the woman rested, patrons continued to come into the store, several of whom stopped to ask about my book. I explained its title, described my connection to E.C., and then offered an anecdote from the book that I thought the reader might enjoy based on our short conversation.

Ten minutes later, the woman’s daughter returned and said, “Are you ready to go, Mom?”

“No, I’m not,” the woman said with a slight drawl. “I’ve been listening to this lady talk about her book for a while and now I want a copy. And I want her to sign it.” After TB helped me pick my jaw up off the floor, I was only too happy to oblige.

The woman told me her name was Faydie, which I’d never have known how to spell. As she came to my rescue, she explained that it’s a feminized version of “Lafayette,” a last name that carries important history in her family.

I felt honored to be the recipient of that story and of Page After Page’s incredible Southern hospitality.

The store’s thoughtful selection of books is complemented by a warm staff and enthusiastic owner (and also a guardian Chihuahua named Sadie). Thanks to Page After Page, TB, and the many patrons who bought my book, my return to E.C. was nothing short of triumphant.

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You know you’ve arrived when you have your own theme song

I love November because it features Thanksgiving, my very favorite holiday. But I will always have special affection for this particular November, a month that featured the publication of my first book, my arrival on the fourth grade show-and-tell circuit, and the composition of a theme song just for me.

Well, “just for me” is perhaps an overstatement. Technically the song belongs to Women of Uncertain Age, the podcast I co-host with my friend, Philippa. Written by Sara Curtin and Maureen Andary (the hilarious, talented and beautiful duo who make up the Sweater Set), this little ditty really reflects the personality of our show, only Philippa and I are less harmonious. Have a listen right here.

They nailed it, both musically and lyrically. And I know what I’m talking about, growing up as I did on a steady diet of sitcoms that all featured memorable, if not musically good, theme songs. Make no mistake: musical quality or lack thereof aside, I feel simple and complete affection for those campy, vapid songs that meant equally campy, vapid programming was about to begin.

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the facts of life” was not the stuff of Aristotle but of Mrs. Garrett, Natalie, and Tootie. I never did know the origins of Tootie’s nickname but assumed it had something to do with intestinal distress.

Or how ’bout this one: “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, schemeel, schlemazel, Hasenfeff Incorporated.  We’re gonna do it!” I kept hoping that what Laverne and Shirley were gonna do was tell me what the heck a schemeel and schlemazel were. They never did, but with only half an hour to work with, they had more pressing matters to attend to, like finding a way to make it despite the fact that they consorted with men named Lenny and Squiggy.

And perhaps my all-time favorite was the song that introduced a show about everyday people: a Manhattan millionaire and the two boys from Harlem he adopted, taking them from rags to riches overnight. Who couldn’t relate to that?

I remember every word to these songs not because they were musical or lyrical tours de force but because they were catchy.

The Sweater Set pulled off that kind of catchy, and added to it a healthy dose of silly and smart, essential ingredients for any woman of uncertain age.

 

I can definitely stand the heat in this kitchen.

A handsome man cooked in my kitchen tonight.

Maybe that’s an everyday thing for some of you, but it’s a real rarity for me. In fact, this particular man has been compared, not without reason, to Matthew McConaughey. I will say, though, that in a show of truly poor form, instead of pulling up in a Lincoln Navigator, he swung up to the house in a Nissan Altima.

My and Philippa’s new pal, Luigi Sottile, is one of the stars of Sex with Strangers, currently playing at the Signature Theater in Arlington. We liked the show even before Luigi agreed to be a guest on our podcast, but the deal was sealed when he offered to cook dinner for us as a condition of being on the show. His agent drives a hard bargain.

It’s not that I’ve never had men cook for me, because I have. In October of 2010, I married a very handsome man who was all about the kitchen.  When we were dating, he would crank out a batch of bananas foster, the very act of flambéing making me think I was the most special woman in the world. Any man who would risk third degree burns must have really loved me, or so I thought.

I soon realized that the fancy meals weren’t so much about me as projecting a particular image. I just helped to complete the transaction. It also didn’t matter that I loved to cook, because the kitchen became a place that was nearly off-limits to me. My ex-husband didn’t mind if I made the occasional meal, sure, but I was mainly relegated to dishwashing.

Cooking stopped being fun for me until I got divorced and bought a new place. The new-to-me house lacked a gigantic, open kitchen with a six-burner professional stove, but it did have a large and welcoming bar where my friends could hang out while I poured them a cocktail and tossed something in the oven, a simple thing that made me far happier than any flaming bananas ever could.

I’ll drink to that any time.

 

A guy who could be mistaken for Matthew McConaughey cooked dinner in my kitchen. Yep.

A guy who bears something of a resemblance to Matthew McConaughey cooked dinner in my kitchen. Yep.

 

Should you get back into the dating game if your heart’s not in it? Let’s ask your lungs.

Everyone knows Americans are celebrating Veterans Day today. But did you know 11/11 is also known internationally as Singles Day?

I, for one, did not, which is shameful considering I co-host a podcast about dating and relationships. According to BBC News, Singles Day happens to be the world’s biggest online shopping day of the year. This makes perfect sense, since we unattached types prefer to stay home and enjoy the company of our seven cats.

Since it is Singles Day, it’s somewhat fitting that Philippa and I have chosen to dedicate this week’s blog duel to answer a question from one of our listeners: Should you date if your heart isn’t really in it?

As a practicing lawyer, I long ago lost the ability to answer a question using with brief and clear responses such as “yes” or “no” (though that would allow me to end this blog post quickly and pop open a beer). So instead I’m going to answer this by invoking an analogy: I believe one’s fitness for dating has a fair amount in common with how one approaches physical fitness.

Are you the kind of person who just completed your third Ironman, or is ironman the term you use to describe the guy who presses clothes at the dry cleaner?

If you fall into the first category, throwing yourself into the dating pool when you don’t exactly feel like swimming will probably end up just fine. You’re used to motivating yourself to do things you don’t necessarily want to do and even exert yourself beyond ordinary discomfort by telling yourself that, when it’s over, you’ll be glad you did it. Sure it might make you flail, gasp for air, and flail madly at first, but after going through the motions for a while, it doesn’t feel so bad, and pretty soon you won’t even dread the next workout. You’ll fall into a regular cadence, enabling you to power through a bad workout, confident that a better one lies ahead.

But if you’re a dating couch potato, convincing yourself to get back in the game when your heart isn’t in it might not be the best idea. Even if you muster up the energy for the first trip to the gym, if it’s at all painful—as so many first forays are– you might be too discouraged to go back. That’s worse than not trying to begin with. If, on the other hand, you wake up one day feeling like it’s high time you got fit, then just start moving and see what happens. No matter how it goes, you’ll at least have some idea of what you are (and aren’t) missing before you return to the cozy comfort of the couch.

Regardless of which category you fall into, as they say in those Cialis commercials, make sure you’re healthy enough for this kind of activity before you return to the gym. If, for example, you just experienced the relationship equivalent of a blowing a hammy, don’t risk re-injury by going back to the gym too soon. Take a breather, let yourself heal a bit, and then ease your way back into it.

And may you have good luck with that thing you’re doing.

[And speaking of GLWTTYD, have you gotten your copy yet? If not, why not? Discuss. (And if you’re waiting for the eBook, it comes out on November 19!]

 

 

When art imitates life, does it have to do such a good job?!

My friend Philippa and I met this afternoon to work on our podcast (read: conscript two of our dearest friends into filming another Dating Public Service Announcement since Dating PSA #1 went over so well). She also invited me to join her afterwards at the Signature Theater in Arlington to see a play called Sex With Strangers.

“It sounds relevant to our demographic,” she said.  I hadn’t heard anything about it yet, and the last time I went to a show without knowing anything about it, I got a whole lot more than I bargained for, but I agreed to go for the sake of the show.

As it turns out, the show was relevant not just to our listening demographic but to the two of us.

The Signature Theater website synopsizes it as follows:

A raging snowstorm traps strangers Olivia, an unsuccessful, yet gifted, thirty-nine-year-old writer, and Ethan, a tech-addicted and wildly successful young blogger, in a secluded cabin. Opposites instantly attract, undeniable chemistry ignites and sex is imminent. As the dawn rises, however, what could have just been a one-night-stand transforms into something more complicated when online exploits interfere with their real-life connection.

I later learned the show is based loosely on a book called I Hope They Serve Beer In Hellwhich of course I’ve heard of because my book lives in the same sketchy neighborhood on Amazon.com.

Shortly after the characters meet in the opening scene, Ethan freaks out when he learns the cabin does not have wireless. I actually snorted, having lived out a very similar episode this summer, not with a handsome stranger but with Philippa. She and I were at the DC Arts Center, doing a live recording of our podcast, when Philippa’s phone began to malfunction.

“My phone’s not working,” she said.

“That’s okay, mine is,” I said,  thinking that Philippa’s concern was having a device to record the audio portion of our show.

“But my phone’s not working,” she repeated, only louder and slower this time, as if she were a foreigner visiting my country for the first time, found us natives stupid, and hoped to overcome our ignorance by cranking up the diction and volume. I decided to go native.

“I…know…Mine…does.”

“But I can’t get on Facebook!” she said.  Ah, she wasn’t worried about the show so much as the loss of access to cat videos. A crisis of epic proportions.

“Maybe it’s a good thing,” I said. “You can enjoy being unplugged for a bit.”  When Olivia said something similar to Ethan he reacted  with a glare so icy we got frostbite in the third row. I couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact with Philippa but I could feel her looking at me.

A few minutes later, when Olivia was lamenting that the novel she’d written years earlier didn’t sell well because of how the publisher marketed it, Ethan suggested that she self-publish.

“Are you kidding?” she said, and went on to note that self-publishing is the refuge of “hacks.” I reached into my purse for the rotten tomatoes I keep handy for just occasions and hurled a piece of overripe produce at her head. Or perhaps I just inched down in my seat until my shoulder blades were resting on the cushion.

I’d like to tell you that was the only moment that made me cringe, but the show is full of uncomfortably authentic dialogue on all sorts of topics, and the excellent acting enhanced it. It’s also packed with insight into how most of us humans wage a constant battle between logic and impulse.

And one of its minor themes –the idea that a book has the power to make readers fall in love with its author–stuck with me long after I left.  I hope that’s right, because as regular listeners of our podcast know, I’ve had just about enough of OK Cupid.

Philippa and I snapped a post-show photo with the stranger himself. No wonder Olivia did what she did.