“This old thing?”

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‘How to respond to a compliment’

Perhaps you’ve noticed this: women are funny about compliments. Approach one with “Wow, what a pretty dress!” or “Gee, I love that coat” or — as I exclaimed at a recent party — “I seriously want to bonk you over the head and steal that bag!” and she is apt to reply with an abashed “This? I’ve had this for years.

Or, if you live in New York, like I do, she may very well reply with “This? It was an absolute steal at a sample sale.” Or “My brother-in-law is a furrier.” Or, simply, “I got it at Loehmann’s.

Yup. I got that dress at Loehman’s. Wore it to so many parties that, at one, a woman said, “Oh, we’ve met; I remember that dress

Whether a dress, a coat, earrings (“They were my grandmother’s”) or even a haircut (“I know a guy in Chinatown”) — whatever draws your compliment, it seems to be a feminine gambit to deflect it.

Sporting the fur that a blog fan sent me (seriously!)

Guys don’t do this. Or at least not many of them do. At The Child’s wedding (which was amazing, and which you can read about here), when I complimented a man on his dinner jacket (It was also amazing; white silk), I got, “It was my father’s.”

Amazing white jacket at the amazing wedding

But that’s pretty rare. Usually you just get a “whah?” look, like they completely forgot what they have on. Which, if we’re talking about The Dude, is probably the case.

No one complimented Dude Man on his “raincoat.” Though it would have been fun to hear his reply

I won’t try to analyze or explain why it is that some women have such a hard time with compliments. I say “some women” because my mother has it down. You say, “Omigoodness, those earrings are gorgeous!” and she’ll smile and say, “thank you.” That’s it. “Thank you.”

Mom showing off the earrings Favorite Only Sister Laura brought her from Mexico

I wrote a piece called “How Much is Too Much to Pay for a Party Dress?” that proved pretty popular. (Thank you!) It was about my CPW Theory, “CPW” standing for “cost per wearing.” Basically, it means that you divide the cost of an item by how many times you wear it. That 20-buck purple H&M top costs a full $20 if you wear it once; whereas that Burberry coat I’ve worn hundreds of times? It’s practically free by now.

And the compliments I get? Priceless. In fact, another way to interpret “CPW” is “compliments per wearing.” Which, thanks to my mother, I’m learning to accept with a smile — and a modestly murmured “thank you.”

Or maybe not-so-murmured (!)

Amagansett, New York. May 2023

 

 

 

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Wombat

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‘Camouflage for kitties. Er, cities.’

“I’d pass the stuffing, but I can’t see you,” I wise-cracked to a Young Relation at the Thanksgiving table this year.

He was wearing a teeshirt in a camouflage pattern, you see. (Or don’t see; hahaha.)

I get my sense of humor — and of the absurd — from my mother, who once famously remarked that she would have bought that set of camo sheets on sale at Target but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to find her bed.

Look closely; that ornament in front is actually Yours Truly

But back to the Relation in the camo shirt. His was the pattern that one wears while hunting. You know what that looks like; it’s that woodland/jungle pattern that’s not only on teeshirts, but on cargo shorts and leggings, raincoats and totes. Pretty much everything has been “camo’d,” including those sheets on sale at Target. In fact, I’m sticking my neck out and saying that camo print is the young version of animal print. Instead of leopard or zebra, the under-MediCare Fashionista slink around sporting U.S. Woodland or Desert. (See my “At Least it’s not a Dead-Squirrel Stole” for a riff on the Elegantly Mature and their penchant for animal prints.)

In my humble opinion, the only person who ever looked good in this hat is The Child. When she was five.

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Tawking the Tawk

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‘”New York” as a second language’

I once worked with a fabulous art director named Jayne. (Hi, Jayne!) She was — and probably still is — not only visually talented, but verbally funny.

I forget now where she grew up, but she was living in New Jersey when we were working together and she was concerned that her daughter was picking up the accent.

“Mommy, Mommy,” the Little Cherub cried while playing on their outdoor deck. “I have a splintah!” It says something about Jayne’s devotion to good diction that she corrected her daughter’s pronunciation before extracting the “splin-ter.

My boss Harvey, the master of New Yorkese. Read about him in the ever-popular and hilarious “Harvey and the Grilled Half Goat Head”

Speaking of accents, you may have a good idea of what a New York accent sounds like even if you’ve never spent time here in the City. (Note: New Yorkers never refer to their town as the Big Apple; it is “the City.” But, yes, some do refer to it as “New Yawk.”)

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Accessories after the fact

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‘An ode to those pieces of personality that spice up your wardrobe — and your life’

During the last big ole bad recession, there was a piece in The Times about how handbag sales hadn’t been hurt. Even though they had less money to put inside them, City Ladies were still toting It Bags like that Chanel number with the chains. There were even waiting lists to get Birkins and Kellys.

Well. Having lived and worked in Manhattan for over 30 years, this didn’t surprise me one bit. In fact, I wrote a letter to said Times after reading this piece saying, essentially, that it’s no wonder that accessories are recession-proof. After all, in Manhattan your coat is your car, your shoes are your wheels — and your handbag is your trunk. Yes, they printed it.

Me, demonstrating the Mary Tyler Moore trick: throw a scarf over a turtleneck for instant workplace polish

Speaking of It Bags and speaking of work, I once had a freelance gig at Grey Advertising. The gig paid well but was very boring. It was so boring that I asked for extra work to kind of spice things up. No dice. They wanted me to work on whatever the heck it was and be quiet about it. (This was when Grey had a reputation for work so mundane that headhunters would tell you to take it off your work record — otherwise your resume would have “the stink of Grey.” I mean, this was an ad agency that put posters of their frozen turkey ads in the elevator.)

I’m a fast worker, so I’d do whatever boring project they wanted done, then roam the nabe. On one of my sigh-filled ramblings I discovered a designer resale shop. A really good designer resale shop. This was about twenty years ago, but I still get compliments on the stuff I bought when I was taking Boredom Breaks. A Pucci jacket. A Chanel pants suit with tulle trim. A hot pink boucle Dior number with a detachable mink collar. (Some of these have been “downsized,” mainly because I came to realize that when you wear “vintage” at my age no one gets the irony. They just think you’ve owned that gold brocade Christian LeCroix for a very long time.)

One of the coats I “downsized” to The Child. I had to borrow it back recently. She didn’t mind. Or, if she did, she didn’t let on

One of the things I kept eyeing in that shop was a Kelly bag. Now, if you know anything about the Kelly, you know that it was named after Grace Kelly and is very ladylike and very cool. Also very expensive. This one was also Kelly green. I mean, how cool would it be to own a Kelly green Kelly bag? Well. I did the math: How many days would I have to be “bored Grey” to earn that bag? (That’s how I’d decide whether I could afford something: I’d take the price and divide it by my day rate.)

I started a little negotiation with the proprietress. “That’s a nice Kelly” I said, hoping to hide the glee in my voice. “But I wish it was in a more basic color. LIke black.” To which she replied, “Are you kidding? If you carry a Kelly green Kelly, everyone will think you have a black one at home!” Brilliant. But nope. I didn’t buy it. Which is probably a good thing, because we had another recession around then and my Grey gig dried up. At least I could stop being bored.

A curated selection of things I don’t get bored looking at. Including some handbags on the top shelf

Now I admit to a certain accessorial (is that a word? if not, it should be) obsession. Not only are coats and shoes and handbags practical when your commute involves walking — and yes, even if you take subways and buses, you still do a great deal of walking when you live and work here — they can help you make your clothes work a little harder.

Given a good arsenal of accessories, why you could basically wear the same thing every single day and look different each and every time. The picture at the top of this post is a demonstration of my Wedding Outfit. I swear I’ve worn that same pale green dress to dozens of weddings. I just change the jacket and the shoes. And yes, some of the weddings have the same people in attendance. No one’s noticed. Yet. Though I suppose I should spring for something new for The Child’s Real Wedding in August.

Same dress, different wedding. I have no idea who those people are, tho they could have easily been at one of the other weddings too

Yes, I love accessories. Bags and shoes and coats and scarves and jewelry. Heck, I even treat glasses as accessories. I have frames in red and blue and black and tortoiseshell. They transform a look — and hide the bags under my eyes.

But there is one accessory I haven’t collected and am decidedly not in love with:

Nope, it’s not the hat. I love that trapper hat. It’s the mask. Even tho I did get that one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it’s definitely not going on any curated shelf

New York City. March 2022

Let there be light

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‘Just make sure there are dimmers’

I’ve written before about how people who like to keep stuff are invariably married to people who like to purge. Well, same deal with light.

Those who prefer a soft and lovely ambient glow are sure to be paired with those who insist on lights so glaringly, wincingly bright you could perform cataract surgery at the dinner table.

Dude Man’s favorite kind of lighting: ceiling cans, only turned up to eleven

Maybe it’s because he actually was a cataract surgeon that Dr. Dude likes his lighting so, well, megawatt. But I bet there are plenty of you out there who are married to doctors, lawyers or even Indian chiefs with similar taste in luminosity.

It’s just one of many funny things about marriage. And another reason I am so gol-darned happy here in the Ken & Barbie House. Just as I am grateful for the pocket doors sealing off its teensy-but-separate bedrooms (See “Why Dude Man’s Not Dead”), I am happy about my ability to dim as low as I want to go.

I can also have a bathroom light that looks like a giant diamond. Not to mention a framed lipstick-print watercolor. And (in the photo at the top of this post) a disco-ball ceiling light

Speaking of lighting, remember that character on Seinfeld called the Soup Nazi? He was the really crabby food-cart vendor who, if you didn’t place your order just right, wouldn’t give you your soup. (Oh, and speaking of Seinfeld, I saw Larry David on my walk this morning. I almost stopped to ask him what the heck he was doing on the East Side.)

Another thing I saw on my walk this morning. And no, I don’t want a dimmer on that forsythia

Well, there’s another New York Institution that was featured in a Seinfeld episode. It’s called Just Bulbs. (Forgive me for not finding that episode for you. I’m already a day late with this story and time’s a wastin’.)

Anyway. Just Bulbs is to lightbulbs as the late lamented Gracious Home was to basically everything. Gracious Home had bedding, they had pots and pans, they had candles and paint and placemats and gadgets galore. In fact, when she was little, The Child and I played a game called “Stump Gracious Home.” We’d go in and ask for, say, a sink strainer. And the Gracious Home Greeter would lead you to a whole wall display of them.

Well, Just Bulbs is like that, only with bulbs.¬†They have every single kind of bulb you can possibly imagine, even the teensy ones that go inside your car’s glove compartment. (Does anyone really keep gloves in there?)

I don’t know what happens in the Just Bulbs Seinfeld episode, but I can tell you about an actual episode I witnessed there not long ago.

One of my adorable glam-girly lamps needed a new bulb. (The crystal one with the beaded shade.) So I marched on over to Just Bulbs. There was one other customer ahead of me, who was clutching a big ole ginger-jar lamp.

“Do you have any lamp harps?” she asked.

In reply, and with an expression befitting the Soup Nazi, Mr. Manager pointed at the illuminated sign over his head. Which read, of course, “Just Bulbs.”

“Do you get that a lot?” I asked when it was my turn. He responded with a world-weary Larry David-esque sigh. Then went to get me my bulb.

After which I went home, screwed it into my pretty little lamp — then promptly dimmed it.

Me. Happy as a female clam with my Glam Girl lighting. Dimmed, of course

New York City. March 2022

 

Lean on me

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‘Another Dog Day Afternoon. Er, Morning’

One of the nice things about the Ken & Barbie House, teensy though it may be, is its proximity to Central Park. Every morning I’m here, I roll out of my itty-bitty bed, tie on my sneakers and go for a walk.

That’s when I like the Park best — in the mornings when pretty much the only people there are the ones walking their dogs. Oh, there are the crazy runners and bikers, but they’re on the road. On the paths, it’s the dogs who rule.

The doggie brigade leaving my building this morning

They run around tossing balls to their masters, doing high jumps over the fences, terrorizing the squirrels (who just laugh at them), and gleefully sniffing each others’ butts. Continue reading

“Your turkey or your life!”

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‘The time I was mugged on my way to Thanksgiving dinner’

I did a little calculating this week and realized that this will be the 25th time I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner out here in Amagansett.

Flippin’ the Bird at one of those 25 Flippin’ Feasts

Yup. My first turkey and fixins’ for a crowd was in 1995 — when the “crowd” was my Mom and my Dad and The Dude — and The Child when she was an actual child. There may have been Others here as well. If so, it would have been our Same-Age-Best-Friends, J and P. I’ll have to ask them. They (of course) will be here this year.

An even-earlier Amagansett T’giving, when The Child was so small that we tied her to a kitchen stool with a bathrobe sash, having no high chair out here at the time

If you’re good at math, you’ve no doubt found a discrepancy in mine. “But every Thanksgiving since ’95 makes 26 times, not 25,” you might be thinking. And you’d be right. One year (2009) I was persuaded to skip the Amagansett Thanksgiving because The Child, who was a college freshman at the time, wanted to have Thanksgiving in the City so she could see her friends.

Speaking of “seeing friends,” here’s a batch from a few Turkey Days ago

Well. That year we enjoyed a perfectly-nice (but rather sedate) feast at Wayne’s Club. But The Child was fruitless in her attempts to connect — turns out all her friends were celebrating in away-from-the-City family hoedowns of their own. Continue reading

Skirting the issue

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‘Celebrating Seventy in style. A very old style.’

“I’ve got belts older than you,” one of my bosses once said, reprimanding a young whippersnapper of an assistant account executive (the lowest rung on the Suit Ladder) for having the nerve to change my copy.

Well, I’m here today — the day after my Big Old Birthday (and I do mean “old”) — to tell you that I’ve got a skirt older than you.

Yup. That’s the same skirt as the one seen at the top of this post

Yup, that apricot confection you see here in multiple fashiony iterations could very well be older than you. The Skirt was purchased back in the early nineties and played a shimmering role at many a “do” right up into the aughts. Any time we were invited to a Fancy Shindig, out it came. Because I could mix it up with various tops, it was less likely to prompt a comment like, “I remember you. I recognize that dress.

The Dress that got worn — and recognized — on numerous occasions

The Skirt got coupled with a black sweater, a gray sweater, a black velvet top, a shimmery paillette-strewn tank, a crisp white shirt, some lime brocade thingie, and even a little sweater I knit myself out of ribbon. Continue reading

Earning my stripes

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‘My hot date with Yayoi Kusama’

“Wow, you sure do like stripes,” commented The Child’s Friend Alexandra, spying me in my pjs one summer morning.

Alexandra, who is now fast on track to be a neurosurgeon, was one of a gaggle of girls gracing our Amagansett Abode a few years ago during one of our sparkly celebrations of the 4th of July. (A much-missed summer tradition of ours you can read about in “Stars in Stripes” and “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Oh-So-Blue.”)

The Child and I rocking our respective stripes on a 4th of July Weekend a few years ago

It should be noted that Alexandra, during the course of that particular weekend, had already seen me in striped tee shirts, striped tanks, and probably a striped bathing suit as well.

Three Henry Girls live it up on the beach. I’m the one in the stripes, natch

I guess I would have made a good convict. An economical one, anyway, since I could have furnished my own prison wardrobe. That is, if my place of incarceration had gone with the classic striped jumpsuit instead of the neon orange one.

Another year, another striped shirt. Fun fact: I happen to be wearing this shirt right this very minute. I’d take a selfie, but the poor shirt is in only-worn-when-no-one-else-is-here condition

But what’s all this got to do with Yayoi Kusama? In fact, you may be asking, “Who the heck is Yayoi Kusama?” Well. Kusama is a Japanese artist who does all kinds of what I call poppy-powy stuff like sculpture and painting and fashion — she even wraps trees in dotted fabric. Continue reading

My morning at Jabits Center

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‘It gave my trip to the City a real shot in the arm’

If you have attended a trade show in New York City — like my Taza-chocolate-founder nephew Alex or my former-freelance-partner Terril — then you’ve been to the Javits Center. It’s a super-huge convention center that was repurposed into a vast field hospital during the peak of the pandemic and is now one ginormous Pfizer booth. Well, er, vaccination center.

The ticket that ticket scalpers can’t scalp — not for any price

In honor of its new role, it’s been redubbed the “JAVax Center,” which I suppose is pretty clever, though Jacob Javits, who was kind of a male Bella Abzug, might roll around in his grave to hear it. They should have asked me; I would have offered up “Jabits Center.” After all, you go there and get what they call, rather cutely in the UK, a “jab.”

Well, I got my first jab this morning. It was super quick and super easy — in fact, it took me longer to book the appointment than it did to get the vaccine, including travel time. (I took an Uber, which is an indulgence for public-transportation-loving me, but I was — of course — nervous about being late.)

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