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

My Disease

I have a disease. Although it’s not recognized by the American Medical Association, it is actually quite common among women. It is referred to as the Melting Flesh Disease.

The symptoms of Melting Flesh Disease occur quite suddenly – in fact, moments after giving birth. The skin on one’s abdomen suddenly sags as though it has lost all hope. Victims of Melting Flesh Disease can go to the gym as much as their hearts content, but this only causes psychological trauma because no matter how many crunches they do or abdominal machines they use, there is no hope for Melting Flesh Disease. The damage has been done. The skin will continue to wrinkle and sag like a deflated balloon. Once round and taught, belly buttons resemble a puckered face.

Some women victoriously avoid Melting Flesh Disease. These women are either 6 feet tall and/or had babies weighing no more than five pounds. For those of us who had hearty-sized babies and are of average height, we paid severely.

It is easy to blame the media for our angst. Every magazine cover, underwear sale flyer, and commercial show women sporting flat abdomens with suspiciously perky breasts. Yet, we can’t fault the media entirely. While at the grocery store recently, a woman in a halter top was sashaying through the aisles. She was not a model, but she had a stomach that did not have Melting Flesh Disease and she clearly enjoyed flaunting it. My reaction? I stood up taller and sucked in my breath until my stretched-out belly muscles ached.

“What can be done?” I asked my physician, “Is there hope?”

“Not really. Multiple pregnancies stretch out abdominal muscles and skin until their elasticity is lost. The only thing that can be done is surgery.”

Upon returning home I did an Internet search. The cost of curing Melting Flesh Disease would be around $10,000 and it’s considered major surgery. There is hope, I suppose, if I had nothing else to use $10,000 on and had a full-time nanny to help me while I recuperate.

Thus, the only option is to make Melting Flesh Disease attractive. Like a war wound that someone is proud of displaying (“See this scar? I got that in ‘Nam”), Melting Flesh Disease must be embraced. When our loose skin peeks out from under our shirts, people would nudge one another and whisper, “See her? She carried another life in her body for 9 months. She then went through intense pain to deliver the baby. Her body and heart were forever changed. She is so brave.”

When society looks at models prancing around in string bikinis they would scoff, “She doesn’t have a mommy tummy. She’s got a long way to go.”  Tummy tucks would be dismissed – a sign of hiding the ultimate sacrifice. Melting Flesh Disease would be renamed. Instead it would be called Warrior Stomach.

Losing It On The Job

“Would you care for some more lemonade?” the waiter asked.

“No thank you,” I said, studying my glass, “I think I’m good. But thanks anyways.”

The waiter stepped back – as though slapped – and held his hands up, palms facing outwards. After the waiter walked away from our table, my husband and I exchanged looks.

“Was it something I said?” I asked him.

“I don’t think so … but he did seem a bit offended.”

“Good grief! It was only lemonade!” I looked after the waiter before continuing, “Maybe he’s starting to snap and my declining another glass of lemonade is the tip of the iceberg.”

While we’ve all experienced bad days at work, most of us have managed to hold it together during those times. Granted, we may have been a tad snippy, but we didn’t tell our boss exactly what we thought of her, or lashed out at the difficult customer.

What would society look like if suddenly all social mores were tossed to the curb?

Here’s a glimpse:

The barista: What was that sir? You wanted a quad venti soy white mocha latte? Well, la-te-dah! Aren’t you all fancy and sophisticated. Here. Here’s a large coffee with good old fashioned milk. It tastes better than that fru fru stuff you call coffee. NEXT!

The gynecologist:  Hmmm … so it burns when you pee? I should have gone into psychiatry. Hell, I’m going to need a psychiatrist after doing this for a living.

The guest service desk at a hotel: Your room service hasn’t arrived yet?  Who do you think we have working in the kitchen? Superman? Guess what: You are one of hundreds of guests here and you’re no more important that the other ones. If you’re that hungry go find food on your own. Or better yet: go stay at another hotel. Have a nice day.

The historic tour guide: Hey listen, if your kid touches that vase one more time I’m gonna break it over his head. Seriously. And you! Over there! Didn’t I say no flash photography? What part of NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY do you not understand?

The waiter: This isn’t what you ordered? As my kindergarten teacher used to say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

The fitness instructor: Who are we kidding? We both know you’re not going to stick with this diet and exercise regime. Don’t give me that look! This is the third time you’ve been to this gym and you joined two years ago. And spare me the, “but I rarely eat” song and dance.

The psychotherapist: Lemme guess: It’s not your fault and your parents were terrible. Newsflash: life isn’t fair and it never will be.

The classroom teacher: Why am I crawling out the window? Because I can’t take one more second of your incessant chatter. The 24 of you sound like mosquitoes buzzing in my ears. You’re going to tell your parents? Go ahead! I’m a member of a teacher’s union. Good luck!

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.