Top 10 list fatigue

shareasimageScroll down to the bottom for my list of Top 10 things only women understand

I’m a big fan of lists.

At work, I have a “To Do” list. It’s supposed to keep me on track, making sure I stay on top of projects and get things in on time but it usually becomes more of a “Put This Off Until Someone Asks You For It” list.

I also have a “Honey Do” list at home. But he’s not the handiest of honeys and so that list just becomes the “Crap We Need to Pay Someone To Do” list.

So, I’m on record as pro lists.

But lately I have become a bit overwhelmed by the proliferation of lists on the internet. Almost every article has some number theme such as:

  • The Top 10 Reasons to Be a Librarian
  • 5 Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth
  • Top 10 Ways of Getting Arrested

And the list goes on and on.

I realize that this isn’t anything new, magazines have been masters of lists for years plastering their covers with top five or ten lists of reasons, how to’s and whys. I get it, lists sell. They are quick, fun, sometimes even informative.

Yet, I have developed an irrational love/hate relationship with these list articles.

Irrational because I can give you a list (I know) of reasons why I actually love them.

  1. Some writers are brilliant and can make lists very funny and enjoyable to read.
  2. Others have a knack for providing valuable information that are digestible in bite-sized pieces, which is very convenient.
  3. I’ve already established my own affinity for lists.

Yet, I can’t really give you one, let alone a top 10, list of reasons these articles annoy me.

I’m sure someone funnier, more creative, or more prolific will probably come up with some fabulous top 10 list of reasons why lists are so annoying. If so, I tip my hat to you.

But for now, I will leave you with this simple David Letterman-type list that I wrote many, many years ago.

It was a one-hit wonder, my 15-minutes of fame of being a “published author.” I submitted it to a magazine, which I’m not even sure is still around. It was accepted but sadly ran without any byline.

Hopefully, I’m not breaking any copyright laws (not that I remember signing anything) by sharing it on my blog.

10 Things that Only Women Understand

  • Spending $35 on cosmetics you don’t need just to get the free gift.
  • The joy of spotting cellulite on a younger, thinner woman
  • The difference five pounds can have on your life
  • Why you can always “use” the restroom even if you didn’t feel the “need”
  • The rationale behind chocolate chip cookies and a Diet Coke
  • The sense of accomplishment that comes from a clean refrigerator, clean toilets, clean clothes, a stocked pantry and a full gas tank
  • Decorative pillows and baskets – lots and lots
  • Cleaning the house the night before the cleaning people show up
  • The joy of finding a “skinny” mirror
  • The importance of knowing the difference between charcoal grey, barely black and black

 

My husband is not my soul mate

photo_16274_20100115Several years ago, a friend of mine was going through a rough patch in her marriage and asked me if I believed in soul mates and if so, did I consider my husband to be my soul mate.

At the time I was married about five years and gave her what I thought was a truly enlightened answer. I told her that I didn’t believe that we have one soul mate in our lives. I believe that we have many soul mates.

And yes, I believe that my husband is one of my soul mates.

Well, that was almost 15 years, one child, and at least four or five jobs ago.

So now, after close to 20 years with my prince charming, I wonder, does he still fit the bill? Is my husband my soul mate?

I mean, really, wouldn’t my soul mate intuitively know that my vision of cleaning the kitchen includes wiping the counters?

So I thought about it and did a quick search online and found that there’s a lot  on the subject. I found “10 Traits of Your Ideal Soul Mate,” “How to Know When You’ve Found Your Soul Mate,” and lots of quizzes including “What Candy is Your Soulmate?” (mine was a Mars bar, chocolate and caramel there’s a surprise).

And of course there are the definitions, most of which romanticize the idea of soul mates like this one from Dictionary.com

“Your soulmate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them. And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime.”

Seriously? If this defines your relationship then more power to you but I don’t think it’s a sense of peace, calm or happiness that I feel at three in the morning when I get woken up from a sound sleep because my soul mate is conducting a symphony of teeth grinding and snoring.

Don’t get me wrong, I like romance. I’ve watched the movies and read the books. I too had visions that one day a man would walk through my door and say, “You complete me.”

And I do love my husband, we have a wonderful life together and he is very supportive. But does he complete me? Do we connect in every way and on every level? The honest answer is no.

But what if a soul mate is something entirely different? What if your soul mate is not the person who brings you peace and calm or the person who completes you.

What if your soul mate is someone who makes life more difficult by challenging you to see the things about yourself that you didn’t want to see.

Would that be someone with whom you’d want to share your life?

Take a look at something else my search turned up, a quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert:

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back…A true soul mate… tear(s)  down your walls and smacks you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

Yikes, why would you want someone like that in your life? Someone who exposes my insecurities, who tears me down, who makes me look at my imperfections?

Hell, if my husband did that he’d be out on the street.

So, no thank you. I don’t need my husband to be my soul mate.

I’m perfectly happy believing him when he tells me that my outfit doesn’t make me look fat and that he really does like my singing.

Because it’s those little white lies that we tell each other that bind us together. The ones that pump us up rather than tear us down.

It’s being there for each other, through thick and thin, good times and bad that really matters.

Because after all, what’s a few crumbs on the counter?

 

*photo credit: Karen Pagayon

I shop at Chico’s and I’m not afraid to admit it

Last weekend, I took my son and mother to the nearby outlet mall for a little back-to-school shopping – yes I know it’s ridiculous to think about school in the middle of the summer, welcome to Georgia.

My role began as chauffeur, banker and fashion consultant for my 15 year-old son. That was until I dared to question one of his fashion choices and was ceremoniously fired.

So I joined my mom, who was really just along for the ride, for bit of retail therapy. I wasn’t planning on buying anything. I mostly went into the store with her to put some space between the teen fashion plate and me.

But there were signs everywhere screaming at me, “40% off the entire store” and, in fine print, “including sale items.” It was just too much to ignore.

I saw a pair of pants and top that I liked. I tried it on and fell in love. I did a quick calculation in my head and decided that with the extra 40% off they were practically paying me.

I made my way to the cashier, handed her my credit card and smiled when she complimented my selection. I watched as she carefully folded and wrapped each item in tissue paper and placed them neatly in the bag.

As I walked out of the store, despite how flattering and incredibly comfortable the clothes were, I knew with that single purchase, that I had finally jumped the shark — I was a Chico’s shopper.photo 1 copy

And it wasn’t just any outfit. I bought a pair of elastic waist, stretch crepe black pants with a print tunic that covers the area I still blame on the C-section that brought young Mr. GQ into this world 15 years ago.

What could possibly be next? Buying shoes from Naturalizer? (Too late, I did that a few years ago. But honestly, they have really upped their game since my grandma shopped there for shoes to accommodate her bunions).

I know what you’re saying, “You’re young, just because you’re turning 51 doesn’t mean you have to shop in ‘those’ stores.”

You’re right. And I’d be lying if I told you that I loved everything in Chico’s – some of it actually scares me.

At the same time, when I turned 50 last year I was expecting to have some great epiphany. I expected to wake up with a newfound level of confidence. One that would allow me to shed the insecurities of my younger self. After all, wasn’t 50 the year that allowed you to stand up and tell the world, I don’t give a rats ass.

But it never happened. I never felt any different. It seemed I was still carrying around the same insecurities that I had when I was 20 and 30.

It wasn’t until I put on those elastic waist pants that I finally felt comfortable in more ways then one.

I tried on the outfit again when I got home. When I looked in the mirror I saw a confident woman staring back at me. The kind of woman who knew that she looked good.

The next day I wore my new ensemble to work.

On the way, I stopped at Starbuck’s for my grande, nonfat, latte with one Sweet’N Low.

As I scanned my Starbuck’s app to pay for my drink, the cute 20 something barista behind the counter smiled at me and said, “I love your top, that’s a really cute outfit.”

“Thanks,” I said with a smile. “I got it at Chico’s

I forgot my son’s first word and lied about it…so sue me

First, let me say that I love my son. He has brought more joy to my life than I could ever have imagined.

Good, now that we have that straight, I must confess.

I don’t actually remember all of my son’s firsts. Nor do I have video documentation or an alphabetized library of scrapbooks as proof that my son did indeed take his first step or speak his first word. But, I can promise you that my now 15-year-old son is a walking, talking teen who can string sentences together and walk from place to place all by himself.

I know you’re thinking, he’s probably that forgotten middle child or one of 19 who just got lost in the mix.

Nope, my son is an only child.

*GASP*

Come on, admit it. When I said he was an only child you judged me, even if it was just a little bit.

I understand, because not only have I judged myself but just the other day my son became judge and jury when he asked me, for the umpteenth time, what his first word was and when did he take his first step.

I gave him the same answer I’ve been giving him for years. Your first word was “mama” and you began walking at 13 months. I’m not sure if he keeps asking because he never truly believed me or if he’s hoping for a different response. But there was something in the way I answered this time that made him question me.

“Are you sure,” he asked as if he were a detective trying to solve a case.

“Of course,” I said, avoiding eye contact and with as much conviction as I could muster.

“Really?” he replied, giving me another chance to redeem myself.

Don’t ask me why, probably mother’s guilt, but instead of sticking to my story, I looked at my grown baby boy and said.

“Perhaps your first word was dada but I’m sure that you started walking around 13 months.”

“Perhaps? Around? Are you kidding me? You’re a terrible mom, how could you forget my firsts?” He asked in the same exacerbated tone I’ve used with him a hundred times before.

I attempted to defend myself but realized he had me. And I knew that this would probably be the thing that would send him to therapy at the age of 30 – blame the mother, they always blame the mother.

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while the information was of interest to him, what he really wanted was the story behind his first words and his first step. And I wanted to share that with him the same way I had shared so many other stories with him about the cute things he had done or said as a little kid.

These stories, the ones about his own childhood, and the others that my mother, my husband and I share with him about all of our crazy family members, are his stories and his history.

Many of the stories are pretty funny whether we’re sharing embarrassing situations from our own childhood or telling him about the silly and crazy things his grandfather did when he was a kid. They are stories that make him laugh and allow him to connect with relatives that he knows, hasn’t met or who passed before he was born.

But each of these stories also provide him with another piece of the puzzle that together provide a more complete picture of who he is and where he came from.

And while I may not be able to offer him a collection of beautifully crafted, Martha Stewart-esque scrapbooks or a Hollywood style video of his early years (or really any years), I can share with him the boxes of loose photos and the memories they conjure up. I can share with him the stories of my own childhood and those of other family members that have been passed down to me that make me laugh, think or reflect on who I am and where I come from.

But most of all, by telling him that teeny, tiny little white lie about his first word and his first step, I have given him a precious gift. I have given him a story of his own to tell his children…

“You think you have it bad….did I ever tell you the story about how your crazy grandmother couldn’t remember my first words and then lied to me about it?”

What kind of shoe are you?

A sample of Diane's shoe collection

A sample of Diane’s shoe collection

I am a shoe bore. Yes, that’s a “b” not a “wh.”

Why? Because every pair of shoes I own are black and no higher than three inches (and I’m rounding up).

Even my husband tells me that I need to expand my horizons and his idea of fashion forward is a tie-dyed t-shirt from a Grateful Dead show and a cheese-shaped wedge that he wears as a hat (thankfully only when he’s watching a football game).

Yes, I have tried other colors. Once, I bought a pair of red suede shoes. They looked so pretty in the store and I thought I was finally ready to break out and try something different. But when I got home and tried them on again they just weren’t right. They just weren’t me.

I guess if I were a shoe, I would be a plain black loafer. Not because I own a pair of black loafers (actually I own three) but because it is a sensible shoe and I am a very sensible and practical person. Some would even call me a bit of a square.

Growing up, I was the teacher’s pet, the proverbial good girl who always tried to follow the rules and never rebelled against my parents.

In college, I tried pot because well, it was college. But every time I tried to inhale I would cough so much that I finally just gave up. (Maybe Bill Clinton was telling the truth?)

When I was in my twenties, I went to Club Med and while my friend got her freak on with some guy she had just met, I sat inside in the air conditioning nursing a case of sun poisoning that had caused my body to break out in a red itchy rash.

Now that I’m older I wonder, as a lifelong good girl, did I miss out on something? Has my life as a goody two shoes put me at a social disadvantage? And if so, as I approach my 51st birthday, is it too late or is it possible to trade in my loafers for something more colorful, with more style. Something, perhaps, with a peep-toe?

Is it too late to change and be more like…my friend Diane?

The Rizzo to my Sandra Dee, Diane is the quintessential life of the party.

If I am a plain black loafer than Diane is a rhinestone-encrusted stiletto.

I admire her outgoing, no-holds-barred approach to life. Diane is comfortable with who she is and isn’t afraid to flaunt it. She is the fun mom that all the kids love, the crazy aunt, and the loyal and caring friend that so many adore.

Diane is the kind of woman that makes you think, “if only I could be even just a little more like her.” She’s someone you’d see at a deli and say, “I’ll have what she’s having” because she knows how to make everyday Funday.

We’ve been friends now for about five years and during that time I’ve had a front row seat to seeing how a smoking cheerleader from the Motor City navigates midlife. And I have to admit, like her, its pretty freakin’ awesome.

Still, I’m just not sure if this goody goody, 50-something from Smithtown (yes, that really is the name of the town I grew up in, very Leave it to Beaver-like, don’t you think?) will ever be able to fit into a kickin’ pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos with its signature red sole, because deep down I will probably always be a plain black loafer.

But with a friend like Diane, anything is possible.

Photo credit: Diane

Looking for your passion? At 50 I’m still hopeful

imagesAside from stalking old boyfriends, I’ve learned a lot about myself through the quizzes on Facebook. For instance, the “Friends”character I’m most like is Monica because according to the quiz, “I’m a little uptight but a great friend.” Not surprising, I am a peach pie, not because I live in Georgia but “I’m cute, quirky and a bit of a smart ass.”

But one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is that the emotion that guides me is hope because “for you, things can always improve and thrive.”

That was a bit of a surprise, but as I begin this next chapter in my life, I would like to believe that hope will guide my journey. Last year I turned 50 and I can honestly say that I don’t feel any older, at least on the inside. On the outside, well, that’s a different story. Looking in the mirror I see a few extra lines, and I can no longer wear turtlenecks because it accentuates the jowls that my mother has so lovingly passed down to me. But while time and gravity are catching up with me, the big 5-0 has forced me to take a better look at myself. Not the physical me (though I’m considering having my hairdresser add blonde highlights to the magic potion that turns my hair from grey to brown every six weeks).Nope, I’m talking about finally finding my passion in life.

I thought journalism was my passion when I went to college. I liked to write, but after taking two classes, I realized that it just wasn’t for me. The discovery of a new path – public relations, followed soon after and this time it stuck.

With my freshly minted degree and a pair of sneakers to wear with my suit (a fashion don’t, but you try walking up and down Manhattan in heels), I became a career girl and landed my first job. After that things sort of just happened. I did all the proper things you do to get ahead and I guess over my 30-year career I’ve become somewhat successful, at least it pays the bills. But after the initial excitement of each new job wore off, I eventually found myself longing for something different. Something more.

I always knew that I would get married and have kids so I thought that was the missing piece to my puzzle. I told myself that it wouldn’t be my career that would fulfill me; my passion would be my family. And at 31, I hit the jackpot. I actually found my “Boy from New York City,” in Georgia. He’s a wonderful husband (okay so he snores and forgets to put down the toilet seat) and we were blessed with a terrific son (who is now 15 and knows everything). But despite the happiness and meaning they bring to my life, the puzzle still wasn’t solved, and it wasn’t from lack of trying. I even tried therapy for a little while but I was looking for instant gratification. I wanted answers, someone to tell me what to do. Apparently that’s not how therapy works.

So, I turned to the Internet and explored things on my own plugging different search terms into Google – “life after 50,” “finding my passion,” “midlife transitions” – and found plenty of advice, especially for and from women. Much of it focused on women who have nice little nest eggs to fall back on or a network of people in high places. Like Anne Sweeney, the head of Disney, who at 56 with an estimated net worth of $30 million, announced that she was leaving her high-powered job to become a director. While I applaud her for her “bold” move, I think if I had $30 million to fall back on, I might be willing to take a “risk” too.

Rather than inspiring me, these stories made finding my passion seem like an impossible goal. And that’s when I had my Aha! moment. It was an article that I read online in More and the essence was clear, reinvention doesn’t have to be something that “upends your marriage, or your career,” it just needs to be significant to you. And whatever form that change takes, whether it’s exploring a hobby or losing weight, “a well-chosen pursuit has a potentially huge emotional return.”

This message probably wouldn’t have resonated with the 20-something year old me. But as I approach my 51st birthday, I think it’s exactly what I needed to put me on the right path. I’m not sure that I will ever find the one thing in my life that defines who I am, but at least now the journey doesn’t seem so daunting. I guess that Facebook quiz was right after all because as I look ahead to the next phase of my life, I finally have hope.

Lessons from a summer camp dropout

ImageI just finished another one of those books about a group of teens who meet at sleep away camp, share their innermost secrets and form lifelong bonds that can only be shared by friends who’ve lived with each other 24/7 during that coming-of-age time in their life.

And I’m envious.

Even at 50 (okay 51), I still have the feeling that I missed out on something that I’m convinced would’ve set my life on a different course. In my mind this would’ve included annual reunions at some fabulous beach house where our spouses and children would frolic in the sand and form their own lifelong bonds.

But camp was never in my DNA. Not day camp and certainly not sleepaway camp.

Oh, I tried a day camp once. Not because I wanted to but because my mother, tired I’m sure of listening to me complain about how bored I was, signed me up for two weeks at a local camp. The only fond memory I have was learning the words to the “Bonnie and Clyde” song.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, however, that I realized I had missed out on something important.

I was twentysomething, living in Manhattan and still building a circle of friends. I met Jennifer at work. Despite living on separate sides of the city — she on the cool Upper West Side and me on the more reserved Upper East Side (much like our personalities) — we became good friends. We had a lot in common especially our love for the show “Thirtysomething” and our quest for a “nice Jewish boy.” But there was one thing that set us apart, Jen was a former camper.

I remember listening to her talk about her beloved Camp Wahnee, the friends that she still kept in touch with and the bonds that they shared. And that’s when it hit me, I missed out. I was not part of the fraternity of campers who had experienced summers of first kisses, bug bites and swimming in the lake (okay I don’t like bugs and I especially don’t like swimming in lakes but you get the idea).

Throughout my adult life I have met a lot of people, like Jen, who, to this day, talk about how much they loved camp. I even know someone who tossed aside his corporate life and bought a camp — I thought that only happened in the movies — and he seems happier than ever, well at least it looks that way on his Facebook page.

I guess the real issue for me, however, is not that I didn’t go to camp, it’s the idea of having a group of friends. Friends who know you as well or better than you know yourself. Friends you can laugh with about the stupid things you did when you were younger or remind you of that really awful guy you dated.

Looking at my life today, I don’t have that group. I don’t even keep up with the “kids from the neighborhood.” But I do have some wonderful friends. Some who helped me get the snot out of my newborn baby’s nose when I was too afraid. Some who like to keep me out past my bedtime. And some, well most, who are there day or night, rain or shine.

No, we don’t share a long history together or even a secret handshake but we do share a bond. And the best part is, I didn’t need to swim in a lake to find them.