“Come as you are.” Or, um, maybe not

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‘Decoding the dress code on party invitations’

Who doesn’t love getting invited to parties? Well, maybe The Dude, actually. He’d much rather relax in his jammies in the comfort of his own home than head out to a party after a long work week. But the last two Fridays in a row have found us helping two Birthday Boys celebrate very Big Birthdays at a couple of very Big (and very nice) Parties.

One of the nice things (aside from the free-flowing champagne and hors d’oeuvres) that we appreciated about these two parties in particular was that there was no dress code. At least, not a dress code that was spelled out on the invitation. I guess the hosts (or hostesses, in these cases) figured that guests old enough to go to a birthday party without holding someone’s hand would be able to figure out how to dress.

Now, me, I love parties. And I look forward to getting party invitations of almost any kind. Including the ones with the little notes on the bottom of the invitation that tell you what to wear.

Should I wrap myself in cellophane like a bouquet from the corner deli?

Or should I make like a rosebush?

Being a dyed-in-the-wool-New-Yorker-of-40-years-and-counting, I’ll probably just don my wear-to-pretty-much-every-party basic black. Maybe I’ll carry a nosegay. Or wear rose-colored lipstick.

But back to those dress codes. I’m sure you’ve seen your share of these. ‘Jacket and tie’, ‘Formal’, ‘Semi-formal’. (Does this mean half of you is dressed up, and the other half not? You know, like a suit jacket with jeans — a look I rather like, actually.) And then there is ‘Business casual’, which, honestly, I’ve never been able to figure out, except that when I was working in advertising, being ‘casual’ while doing ‘business’ (like on Casual Fridays) inspired the guys to dress like toddlers — in tee shirts, shorts and Teva sandals. At least most of them skipped the socks.

Some girlfriends and I were discussing the more creative party dress codes the other day over lunch. One of them (hi Sue!) had us all cracking up over her interpretation of ‘Casual Chic’. She said that when she sees this on an invitation she’s tempted to show up in something like sweatpants and a head covering. And what’s ‘Beach Chic’? Rudolph Valentino in a bikini?

Speaking of ‘Casual Chic’, The Child tells me that when she was in college she and her friends kept getting invited to events calling for ‘Casual Chic’ attire, and she said it got to be a running joke because they never knew what it meant either. Though they do seem to ‘get’ ‘Formal’.

The Child and her pals at a decidedly NOT ‘Casual Chic’ event

Oh, while we’re on ‘Formal’, my favorite party of the year is one I call The Prom because I get to really dress up, which I love. It’s a dinner dance and the dress code is ‘Black Tie, White Tie, or Full Military Dress’. Which tempts me to wear combat boots with my taffeta skirt.

Me in my One Long Skirt. Without the combat boots

That picture was taken at one of my late belated Tree-Trim parties, which is how I got my Christmas tree decorated Back in The Day. (I hate decorating, but love parties, so combined the two with great success. If you’re interested, I’ve got a funny story about this called ‘(No) Tannenbaum.’ These days, with no Santa-believing Child at home, I not only skip the decorating, I skip the whole tree.

But when I did send out invitations to those Tree Trims, I admit that I was guilty of adding a little note to dress ‘Festive’. Which, to me, meant dragging out the ole taffeta skirt.

And to everyone else, ‘Festive’ meant pretty much anything they wanted. Why, my guests didn’t even have to wear the festive little crowns that came in the Christmas crackers if they didn’t want to.

The Child appropriates all the Christmas Cracker Crowns, thus saving other guests the indignity of wearing them

Nowadays I’m even more casual, if that’s possible, in my interpretation of ‘Festive.’ Given a ‘Festive’ occasion, I pretty much wear whatever I want — jeans, even — and slap a tiara on top. Yes, I actually have a tiara. My Favorite Sister got it for me a few birthdays ago, and now I wear it not only on every birthday, but pretty much every chance I get. Nobody gives me a second glance, because at my age I’m invisible anyway.

Oh! Before I go, I should explain what occasion The Dude was dressed for in that picture at the top of this post. No, he wasn’t on his way to a ‘Come as you are’ event, though that would have been wildly entertaining for our hosts. He was dressed for a birding excursion. On his motorcycle.

New York City. May 2017

Just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it

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‘When everything in your closet is “vintage”‘

It’s getting to be Spring here (finally), so the other day I was participating in a seasonal ritual particular to New Yorkers (at least New Yorkers in apartments with small closets) — The Switching of The Clothes.

Which is when you dig your Spring/Summer stuff out of storage and switch it with the Fall/Winter stuff. In my case, “storage” is the second closet in The Child’s room. She has never realized that she has two closets; she grew up thinking it perfectly normal that Mommy’s out-of-season clothes lived in her room.

BTW, Switching The Clothes in Spring absolutely guarantees a cold snap. Today, the 9th of May, it is 48 degrees out, and where are my sweaters? Stowed away in The Child’s second closet. Sigh.

But back to the topic at hand, which, I suppose, is Age Comes Out of The Closet. See, in years gone by, The Switching was a pretty easy chore. I’d just grab everything — and switch. I wouldn’t even try things on to make sure they still fit; I’ve been basically the same size my entire Adult Life. Not because of anything I’ve done; I follow no annoyingly virtuous regimen or routine. It’s because I’m (mostly) a Swede. And it’s a well-known fact that Swedes don’t get fat. We shrivel. As we age, we sort of turn into the human equivalent of beef jerky.

And the past few years, yes, beef jerkiness has been quietly sneaking up on me. Except for the odd arthritic twinge now and then, I don’t feel all that different. And like most people, I don’t realize I look any different (er, older). Except when, say, I see my reflection in a store window and wonder “who is that old woman who looks just like me?” Then I realize — good grief — it is me! Oh, and The Dude once thoughtfully got me contact lenses (he’s an ophthalmologist) which I gave up wearing after I scared myself silly glimpsing myself bare-faced in the bathroom mirror. Blue glasses cover a multitude of sins. And eye bags.

But lately people have been offering me The Senior Discount. (Attention, those of you in the Service Professions: if someone wants the Senior Discount, trust me, she will ask for the Senior Discount.) Even worse, people have started offering me their seats on the bus. Sometimes, if I’m feeling frisky, I’ll look down, pat my stomach, and say “Oh! Am I showing already?” Then I smile. And remain standing.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. I’ve come to notice, if not embrace, my Older Self. So this time when I Switched, I paused and actually looked at my clothes. Some, like The Dress pictured below, I’ve had — and worn — for decades. These days I can definitely identify with one of my bosses, who once said to an uppity Whippersnapper Account Executive, “I’ve got belts older than you.”

But a belt — or even The Dress — is one thing. A pair of hot pink paisley pants (which I actually owned, until last week) is another. Before, the only risk in wearing a favorite item year after year was that people would recognize it instead of me. I was once introduced to a woman at a party who said, “Oh, I think I met you last year — I remember that dress.”

These days, the risk is that I might, as my gramma used to say, “scare the horses”. True, I live in New York, where pretty much anything goes. (See Betsy Johnson.) But, alas, I’m no Betsy. (See Much-Missed Role Model Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck.) I just don’t feel comfortable wearing hot pink paisley any more. At least not out of the house.

Interestingly, I picked the photo at the top of this post because, if I still had it that outfit (which, alas, I don’t) I think I could still get away with wearing it. Though maybe with a bra these days (not that I need one any more than I did then). And there’s a pleated skirt I remember from high school that I would kill to have saved. It was one of the few clothing items I owned that I did not sew.

I even sewed this dress for Homecoming: crushed velvet with blue satin sash. I no longer own it, though I do, in fact, own a similar crown

I saved up babysitting money and bought the skirt at Topper’s, which was sort of the Barney’s of Southern Illinois. It was lime green and hit just at the middle of the knee. I used to roll it up once I got to school so it would be super-short; now I could wear it as is and it would be perfect.

This proper Englishwoman and I are roughly the same age. Noticing the above-the-knee skirt, she asked ‘Aren’t your legs cold, Dear?’

So, this latest Clothes Switching Time, to avoid gathering unsolicited comments from Englishwomen — or appearing, as another Gramma saying would have it, like “mutton dressed as lamb”, I edited out the short skirts, the tight pants, the bare backs. Put them all aside for The Child and her friends.

What I wore to my first — and only — wedding rehearsal. No danger of your seeing it again. It’s long gone, as is the First Husband

Interestingly, it’s the stuff that I thought was really cool that she and her pals rejected. And the stuff that I think is dowdy that they wanted. The sober Joan and David nineties-era pantsuit? Grabbed. That short silver cocktail dress I bought on a shoot in Australia? In the Bargain Box pile.

And anything “vintage”? It used to be fun to scout thrift shops for choice vintage pieces. But it doesn’t work for me anymore. No one gets that I’m being ironic. They just think that I’ve owned that sixties jeans jacket or seventies wrap dress for a long time and haven’t gotten around to donating it yet. And they’d probably be right.

New York City. May 2017.

Signs of Spring (Fever)

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‘An it’s-too-nice-out-to-be-chained-to-a-computer story featuring funny signs, though not necessarily about Spring’

Okay okay. I have a zillion ideas for stories that should amuse the bejeepers out of you. I’ve got trip stories, like the one about when we went to Rome right after Chernobyl and nobody was there. Or the one where we left The Child by the side of the road next to a pueblo.

I’ve got ad-biz stories, like the one where we went to South Africa for a diaper shoot and the baby wrangler would only eat foods that started with ‘C’. Or the one where I got lost finding my office in the new Ogilvy digs at Worldwide Plaza and wound up in a British documentary.

And of course I still have plenty of fuel left in the family-story tank — plus major holdings indeed in the growing-up-in-a-small-town memory bank.

But. It is Spring. And Spring is distracting. I’ve been so distracted that the photo at the top of this post was mistakenly snapped by my iPhone-clutching hand while strolling along checking out Spring in New York City. (Actually, I was in a rush to deliver some crutches to The Child, who had just sprained her ankle badly in a fall from a climbing wall — but that’s, ahem, another story.)

Photo taken while wandering lonely as a cloud. If one can ‘wander’ while on a bike

And then this weekend, while on a bike ride out in Amagansett, hoping to clear my head and focus — focus, already — on a story, I found signs of Spring springing out at me from every which way. Continue reading

“You looked so nice I almost didn’t recognize you.”

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‘Appearances can be deceiving. Or something like that.’

So. Today is February 14. And yes, I did get something red and shiny for Valentine’s Day: my nose. Maybe by next week — when it’s (fingers crossed) only a miserable memory — I’ll find this cold amusing enough to write about. We’ll (sniff) see. In the meantime, I’m going with what I originally planned.

Which is a riff on Being Compared to Someone Else.

You know. Like when someone comes up to you at a family reunion and says something along the lines of “You remind me so much of your Aunt Net”. (A real Aunt of Mine whose name was Annette. She wore a hairnet, which is how she got that nickname. Or so we kids thought.) Continue reading

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

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‘Practice practice practice. But please don’t fake your practice notes and forge your parents’ signatures’

If there’s anything I’m more tired of than reading about the election, it’s writing about the election. So this week, I thought I’d switch gears and write a story that makes fun of inept people in positions of power. It also involves some lying and cheating.

It’s about the time The Child faked her violin practice notes.

First, I have to say that the whole situation was absurd from the get-go — the fact that she had to take the violin. See, The Child had been playing the piano basically from birth. And playing it very well indeed, I’ll have you know.

The Dude introduces The Child to Mr. Piano

The Dude introduces The Child to Mr. Steinway. She is, oh, two days old here

 

Here she is, actually touching the keys. This piano was in the soon-to-be-pummeled-by-storms teeny-tiny beach house

Here she is, actually touching the keys. This piano was in the soon-to-be-pummeled-by-storms teeny-tiny beach house

She played the piano so well that she played in competitions and gave recitals. She and some of her fellow piano prodigies once played for the residents of a nursing home in New Jersey, where a little boy was startled enough to almost miss a note when he was in the middle of Chopin’s Fantaise-Impromptu and all these oldsters started swaying in unison and singing ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’. Continue reading

Laughter is the best medicine. Well, except for maybe a manhattan.

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‘Waking up to Mo(u)rning in America. Trumped’

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But what do you do when life (or, er, almost half of your fellow Americans) hands you a Big Ole Orange? Well, you can weep or rage or march. You can tear at your clothing or hair. You can move to Canada or even threaten to secede from the Union. (Bye, California, including Oldest Younger Brother Scott in Petaluma; just don’t take Mom with you.)

And sure, you can look for a way to try to squeeze a little orangeade out of that Big Ole Orange. Here’s a way that involves squeezing a trigger. (No, no. Do not call the Secret Service; this is perfectly-harmless-yet-remarkably-satisfying paintball, folks. And, yes, The Child approves the use of this message.)

paintball-wizzard

Caption to this pic on The Child’s Instagram feed: ‘Good way to let off steam after a tough week #stillanastywoman’

And of course you can indeed toss off a few Manhattans. I chose this other favorite beverage this time because I’ve already ‘done’ Martinis. You can read about my cocktail adventures in ‘Three, and you’re under the host’, in case you missed it or just want to bail already on this Trump post and skip right to drinking. Reading about it, anyway. Continue reading

Sixteen Candles. Plus another sixteen. Or so.

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‘Thinking flaming birthday thoughts today.’

I would light the candles on my cake this year, but I’m afraid I’d trigger the sprinkler system. I have reached a remarkable age. An age that is somewhere between ‘Can I please have a tea set for my dolls?’ and ‘Can I please leave a tea set for my Child?’

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t appreciate having a birthday. After all, as our good friend Andy (who is a heck of a lot older than me) says: ‘Any day above ground is a good day’.

Andy, in fact, doesn’t just say this. He has it printed on birthday pens and birthday tee shirts and even birthday chocolate bar wrappers. Andy is into birthdays, big time. He’s also a Trump Supporter. So there’s that.

Andy’s attitude toward the inevitable accumulation of more and more birthdays is, alas, the opposite of my own late lamented father’s. He, when wished ‘happy birthday’ (or even when not wished ‘happy birthday’, like just on any ordinary, random day) would often remark: ‘Don’t get old’. Which, um, sort of triggers a response of ‘Hmmm. Okay. But I’m kind of not into the alternative.’ Continue reading