The Fur Ball

I knew we ‘d arrived at our destination based on the bumper stickers in the parking lot:  My Cat is My Best Friend, Who Rescued Who?, Don’t Buy and Don’t Breed – Adopt a Homeless Pet in Need!

My husband, friend, and I were attending a fundraiser for an animal rights organization. We liked animals, cared about their welfare, and (to be honest) the event was being held in a boutiquey hotel we were curious to visit.

As soon as we entered the lobby, I felt simultaneously overdressed and underdressed. There was a woman wearing a glittery evening gown with pendant diamond earnings swinging from her lobes – her hair was swept into a French twist. Next to her stood a woman in a cable knit sweater, jeans, and Birkenstock sandals.

My husband, friend and I moseyed around the ballroom, surveying the items on display for silent auction while munching on organic crackers and cruelty-free cheese. It was clear meat of any form was not going to be consumed at this gathering.

“Hey look!” I said, nudging my friend so that her wine sloshed in her glass, “You should bid on the massage.”

“Um … that isn’t a massage for a person.  It’s a massage for your dog.”

“Oh.”

We sat at our designated table and proceeded to introduce ourselves to the others already seated.

“I’m Dina,” a woman with red hair said, “I’m a cat whisperer. And I’m gluten free.”

“How interesting!” my husband – always the socially gracious one – said.  Dina beamed.

A dinner of vegan lasagna was served.  (After demanding proof that her lasagna was not only vegan but also gluten free – Dina accepted her plate.) Board members from the organization began their presentation. The organization was desperate for money, and there were simply too many abused and homeless animals for them to help.

Whether it was the slideshow of the abused animals or the cardboard-like consistency of the vegan lasagna – I was having difficulty swallowing.  When a disturbing picture of a malnourished Doberman was flashed on the screen, the speaker paused and began to cry. Several people jumped out of their seats and surrounded her.

“Vera has a very special connection to Dobermans,” one man said, leaning into the microphone so that his voice was muffled.

Vera was led off the stage. Another board member took over for Vera (who was weeping in the corner of the room). As more unsettling images were flashed on the screen, a man sitting at the table behind us shot out of his chair.

“And what about the chickens? And cows?” he yelled, “When you-all buy milk? And eggs? Do you ever give thought to how those animals are treated?”

There was the briefest moment of silence before a round of applause erupted. Apparently, public disturbances are accepted in animal rights organization fundraisers.

The auction began. The first item, a beautifully framed watercolor painting signed by the artist, received no bids and was eventually tossed to the side.

“Next, you have the opportunity for your cat to be on the cover of our organization’s national brochure.  Do we have any bidders?”

Chaos erupted.

“Three hundred dollars!”

“Four hundred dollars!”

“FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!”

“ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS!”

There was screaming, shouting and tears. Two people began to argue.  At last, a man won the bid for $2,500. He collapsed into his chair, exhausted but smugly triumphant.

After peace was restored, the auctioneer continued.

“How about a weekend away in the mountains? A delightful little cabin. Starting bid at $25.”

Silence. The auctioneer peered around the room before shrugging and picking up the next item, which resembled a miniature lounge chair.

“We have,” the auctioneer boomed into the microphone, “What appears to be a settee for your beloved pet.”

Around us people sprang out of their chairs, hollering and waving their arms over their heads in a frantic attempt to win.

When at last the auction ended, one of the board of directors took the podium as dessert (sandy tasting vegan cupcakes with vegetable shortening icing) was served.

“And now, the moment we have all been waiting for,” he said, “Our special guest: Tiki, the rehabilitated dog! Tiki lived in a shelter where he was rehabilitated and eventually adopted.”

We turned to see a black, Standard Poodle enter the room. Several people slid off their chairs and crawled toward Tiki, reaching out to touch his curly coat. It reminded me of the scene in the Bible where the Lepers reach out to Jesus Christ for healing. People were whistling, coaxing Tiki to come their way.  Tiki seemed more interested in sniffing the dinner tables, but then gave a disgusted snort of disappointment. Apparently, Tiki didn’t care for vegan food either.

“Give Tiki some room!” the president said, “We don’t want to frighten him!”

As if admonished, the people crept back to their chairs – except for one woman who curled into the fetal position at Tiki’s feet. She held her palm up to Tiki in offering. Tiki gave her a bored glance before moving on to the next table.

“Can we go now?” I whispered.

Before the words were out of my mouth, my husband and friend grabbed their jackets and we rushed out of the room. The cold night air felt refreshing and familiar.

“Ya know,” I said as we climbed into my husband’s car, “I’m still really hungry.”

“How about some steak?” my friend suggested.

And we pulled onto the street in search of some cow.

A Salutation To Strangers

To all the strangers I observed throughout the day.

Dear …

Person Driving The Car With The Columbia University Window Decal: Thank you for letting me know you were smart enough to get into an Ivy League school … and I was not. That felt great.

Creepy Guy Checking Out Girls From The Corner Of His Eye: You look like a deranged Ron Howard. You may think you’re discreet but you’re not. Us gals all know you’re watching us and it’s freaking us out.

Middle-Aged Man Zipping Around In The Audi Convertible: Driving an expensive German car does not change the fact that you’re middle aged and bald. Please drive responsibly.

Woman in Grocery Store: Thank you for offering to help me with my awkward grocery bags. It’s wonderful to know sweet people like you still exist.

Person Who Left The Plastic Shopping Basket In The Parking Lot: I know people tend to leave shopping carts in the parking lot, but baskets? You have taken laziness to a whole new level.

Person In Corvette: Your car may be fast and cost an impressive $60,000, but whenever I see Corvettes I will forever think “Barbie Car.” Blame Mattel.

3 People Standing Under Their Beach Umbrella: Is there a standing contest I am unaware of? In all my years of going to the beach I have never seen people stand under their umbrella and not sit. So far it’s been almost an hour. I wish you would sit, because now I can’t stop watching you. I should be enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, but instead I keep waiting for you to sit down.

Woman In Bikini With Twin Baby Girls: You had a tummy tuck, didn’t you? C’mon. Admit it.  

Man Talking Loudly on Cellphone: Your white blood cell count is low? And the specialist you need to see has no appointments for three weeks?  You’re also planning a surprise party for your wife? Yet your boss won’t let you leave early that day? You bet he’s a jerk!  But listen, could you please lower your voice so I don’t hear about your bowel issues, or whatever you’re going to talk about next?

Man Hitchhiking Outside of The Department Of Mental Health Building: Dude, if you have any hope of getting a ride, you might want to scooch down a few feet so you’re standing in front of a different building .

Thank you for making my day a little more interesting.

Sincerely,

The Underground Writer

If I Could Change The World: Thongs, Bacon and Checkout Lines

If we were each given a magic wand that could end social problems, we would all probably wish for the same things. Poof! No more war, hunger, suffering and abuse. Poof! Good-bye global warming. Poof! Hasta la vista loneliness. Suddenly, every child would have a best friend and live in a loving home. Terrorism would be equated to Small Pox – a scary, deadly thing that had thankfully been eradicated. All at once, the world would be a friendlier, happier, more peaceful place.

Once those larger issues were taken care of, perhaps we could use those wands to fix smaller problems. The wand would still have to help society at large, mind you. You couldn’t swish your wand and expect to win millions of dollars and for your kids to suddenly sleep through the night.

After some thought, I decided the first thing I would wish for would be that bakers suddenly realize no one eats the end of the bread that sticks out of the paper sleeve. All loaves of bread would come completely wrapped so people would be able to enjoy every inch of bread without worrying about what the exposed piece had touched.

Second, thong underwear would be recognized as the torture devices they are and would be banned. After the massive thong recall and subsequent burning, I would wave my wand around and every shopper who uses the self-check out line would receive a significant percentage off their order (since they’re doing all the work).

Next, bacon would be considered heart healthy. Then, phone trees would be obliterated. The next time you call your bank or health insurance company, an actual living person would answer the phone. While we’re on the topic of phones, I may as well get rid of all telemarketer calls. Let’s make the National Do Not Call List actually work. Poof! (You’re welcome.)

While not an everyday occurrence, door-to-door solicitations can be really intrusive. Now, instead of selling new windows, vacuums, or cookies, the people who ring your doorbell with the intention of selling something would suddenly be brandishing a bouquet of flowers. That’s right. All door-to-door solicitors would all at once turn into flower delivery people.

Before my wand runs out of wishes (all good things must come to an end – including magic), the very last small thing I would change would be that milk would never expire. No more sniffing the carton and wondering if milk always smelled that way. Pouring sour milk into a cereal bowl and realizing it had gone bad after that horrifying first taste would never happen again. Last minute runs to the grocery store for a fresh carton of milk would be a thing of the past.

Perhaps other people would use their wands to wish away high gas prices or obnoxious drivers. Maybe someone would wish mosquitoes to become extinct, and teenagers to offer to babysit for free. After all, the little things in life are often the big things.

Is Age Just A Number?

Recently, I overheard a woman say she was too old to have long hair.

“At a certain age,” the woman declared, “ponytails and braids just start to look foolish.”

As I pondered her statement, I was reminded of the time my grandmother said that old women shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops. (Conversely, my other grandmother wore pink baseball caps with matching pink shoelaces well into her 60s.)

This brought a question to mind: when is someone officially old? Is a 76 year old woman who bicycles 3 miles a day, every day, old? Or is it the woman who is also 76 but uses a walker and reeks of White Diamonds perfume?

I lost sleep. I paced the floors. I forgot several items on my shopping list because I kept repeating the thought, “When is old, old?” I studied everyone. I took notes. I visited random nursing homes and stuck my head into the rooms before visiting a local American Legion to watch a Bingo game in progress. I then sat and worked late into the night –  by candlelight. I compared my findings. I chewed through three pencils and drank two cups of coffee until, at last, I had answered the question to my satisfaction.

“I have done it,” I whispered to a silent house, “I now know when someone is truly old.”

Actually, I didn’t do any of the above. I simply thought about the question as I washed breakfast dishes one morning. But I was – among the suds and aroma of lemon scented dish soap – able to devise a “You Know You’re Old” list.

The Underground Writer’s “You Know You’re Old When …” Checklist*

If you do five or more of the following, you are officially old.

  • There is a tissue box in the rear window of your car.
  • A flower is taped to your car’s antenna. 
  • You use the term “slacks” for pants, and wear said slacks when you exercise.
  • Everything costs too much, and you have difficulty making a purchase without comparing the cost of the item to what it used to cost “back in the day.”
  • You’re astonished that an adult could be born as recently as the 1980s.
  • Even if your financial situation does not require you to use the Early Bird Specials at restaurants, you always do so out of principle.
  • You are simply appalled by the younger generation: their clothes, music, behavior, and/or electronics. You also take issue with what people are naming their children nowadays. Names such as Kaden, Brooklyn, and Jayden are not real names in your mind.
  • If you are female, you wear nylons all of the time – even with “slacks.” 
  • You find electronics mind boggling. Just as you finally figured out how to set the time on your DVD player, your younger friend questions why you even have a DVD player since they will soon be obsolete.
  • Your car is either large (such as a Lincoln Town car) or small (such as a Toyota Corolla). Mid-size cars, such as Honda Accords, are never considered.
  • Your reason for visiting the mall is to walk for exercise, and not to shop.
  • While sleeping at night is nearly impossible, you find yourself randomly falling asleep throughout the day. 

*This checklist has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, or any other professional organization for that matter. This list it not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent aging*

Summer Etiquette Suggestions

Northeast residents are joyfully embracing the warming weather. Off with the winter coats, long pants, gloves, hats, and boots! Out come the shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. All of this signals the joyful message that winter has left the premises!

Now. With that comes some suggestions for summer etiquette. Please don’t take this personally; we are all known to show some lapse in judgement in our unbridled excitement in welcoming the long awaited spring and summer months.

Feet: Indeed, it is a wonderful feeling to shuck off those winter boots and slip our feet into sandals. But let us not forget that to whom sandals are given, sandal wisdom is expected. This includes toenails that are trimmed; corns and callouses that are removed. The only people who want to see gnarly feet are podiatrists (and even they charge a fee to look at them).

Shorts: Girlfriends, I detest the Kate Moss/emaciated runway model look just as much as you do. Society places unrealistic (and unhealthy) expectations on today’s females in regard to weight. However, let’s not shove our healthy-sized thighs into shorts that are too short. Here is a test: if you lean over and a butt cheek escapes, your shorts are too short.

Shirts: Men, I am talking to you. Let’s be honest. Many of you take advantage of being allowed to walk around shirtless. Yet, how do you know if it is truly acceptable to remove your shirt and bare all? If you have more hair on your back than your head: Unacceptable. If you look down and see the flesh of your stomach instead of  your feet – keep that shirt on. Lastly, if you have man boobs and require a Manzier (or “Bro”), then being shirtless is an absolute no.

Music: With the warm weather comes fresh air. We all love to roll down our car windows and play our favorite tunes (I am partial to Bruce Springstein’s Lonesome Day in the summer. For whatever reason, it sounds better with the windows down and the volume up). However, let us all remember that not everyone enjoys our taste in music, so consideration must be made about the volume that we play our favorite songs. This especially goes out to those of you who enjoy PSY’s “Gangnam Style” or music in which expletives outnumber all other words.

 Deodorant with Antiperspirant: This is a must. Please remember to apply liberally. And I am talking the old school kind: Sure, Ban, Secret. Worried about antiperspirants causing cancer and want to opt for the all-natural kind that allows you to sweat and “masks” odor? Um… it’s great that you want to avoid cancer, but please don’t punish the rest of us in your quest to do so.

Hopefully, if we can agree to adhere to some of these suggestions, it won’t be (as Bananarama sings) a cruel summer.

Special thanks to Adam J. Holland of The Unorthodox Epicure for his help with this post.

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Tiny Polka Dot Bikini

It’s that time of year again.  The temperature has barely hit 40 degrees and yet stores are displaying swimwear.  As I unwrap the scarf from around my partially frozen face, I find myself staring at a flaming red bikini. It barely seems big enough to fit on a doll, let alone a living person.

I step back and look at the rest of the swimsuits.  They are mainly two pieces, with one or two full pieces thrown in there as though they were an after thought.  “Might as well put this out,” I picture the Target employee saying as he is holding up a one-piece bathing suit that resembles a mumu, “There must be some old broad out there that’ll want it.”

That “old broad” is me.  And excuse me, Mr. Target Employee, I don’t consider myself old … nor a broad.  I am merely a woman who has some sense of modesty. I also happened  to have given birth to two wonderful children who did some major body reconstruction as they were incubating in my belly.

Above the bathing suits hangs a huge photograph displaying models frolicking around in the very swimsuits that are being sold.  Their stomachs are taught and flat; their boobs perky.  As I study these seemingly carefree, perfect bodied women, I suddenly pictured an asterisk next to their heads.  At the bottom of the photograph is the footnote that lists the disclaimers about these women:

The pony-tailed blonde in the striped bikini: Isn’t actually a blonde.  Has had breast implants and liposuction.  Smokes 2 packs a day to curb her appetite. Third toe on left foot is longer than all her other toes. Is mean to old ladies.

Brunette playing volleyball: Doesn’t actually play volleyball.  Hates the blonde in the striped bikini. Lives with 6 cats. Airbrush artist spent an hour making her waist look smaller than it actually is.  Airbrush artist also painted over her acne outbreak.

Second blonde wearing black two piece: Actually is blonde.  Smiling broadly while trying to ignore the burning pain she is still enduring from her most recent bikini waxing.  After photo shoot she is going to exercise for 4 hours straight.  Will then enjoy a salad with fat free dressing for dinner.

Brunette with arm draped over 1st Blonde’s Shoulder: Although laughing, nothing is actually funny.  Bleaches her teeth.  Has a high pitched laugh that mimics a hyena.  Airbrush artist had difficulty making the dimples on her thighs disappear. 

There.  Now these swimsuit models are just like the rest of us.  I push my cart towards the laundry detergent aisle; smiling because I suddenly feel much better about myself.