Invisible at Fifty

Becoming invisible at fifty

PhotoCredit: Bryan Fuller

I recently read an interview (more like a Q&A) with author, Elizabeth Gilbert, in The New York Times In Transit section. Now while I wasn’t one of those readers who went insanely gaga over EAT, PRAY, LOVE, I was inspired by her latest work, BIG MAGIC.

All of this aside, I was taken aback by her response to the columnist’s question about whether she had met people who started traveling later in life. This was EG’s answer.

“My mother, for one! She was 55, and finally had the freedom and the means, and she woke up to the reality that my dad’s not a traveler. Now she and her sister-in-law do a trip every year. They’ve been to Chile, Turkey, Thailand, up the Amazon River. They’re really adventurous. Fifty is the age women start to become invisible, but the flip side of that is: Invisibility is a super power— it makes them safer to travel.”

I had to catch my breath. Invisible? Was she shitting me? It’s bad enough that profound and obvious ageism exists in this country, er, world, and that women are practically shamed for getting older, losing estrogen, collagen, ass mass, and their lovers, boyfriend’s and husbands to younger models, but EG, a woman whom other women look up to, tells Diane Daniel of the New York Times, hey, women disappear starting at fifty, but it’s okay, because now they can travel safely to war torn Syria because no one will notice them? It’s a win-win. 

Hey, maybe that’s how we fight terrorism. Let’s send a shit ton of fifty, sixty and seventy year old women, into Iraq, Nigeria and Lebanon. They’ll fly under the radar and then hit them with a surprise attack and take out the top leaders thus defeating militant groups around the world. Fuck drones, send in the old ladies.

And how is invisibility in the real world, not in the D.C. Comics world, a superpower? I hope that three years from now, when EG starts becoming invisible that she feels powerful. Me? I prefer to serve up my super powers front and center, with klieg lights spotlighting my fifty self; seen, visible and loud.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps I misunderstood her comment. Perhaps I’m taking it personally, as fifty gracefully saunters up to my doorstep. I just don’t think that we ever need women, or men, (I’m an equal opportunist) to feel, in any way, shape or form, that they’re going to blend in with the scenery once they hit the big 5–0.

Happy Father’s Day

PhotoCredit:NewYorkerMagazine

PhotoCredit:NewYorkerMagazine

Happy Father’s Day.

When I was a little Dani, about four or five years old, my father invented a character called, the Tickle Monster, long before Josie Bissett’s, Tickle Monster Laughter Kit, which included cuddly tickling mitts. I’m not sure why you would need a kit to tickle someone, but whatever. My dad was the original.

My brother and I used to share a bedroom in a cozy two bedroom apartment in Yonkers, New York. When my parents were home, and not behaving like the 25 year-old’s that they were; that is, partying with the downstairs neighbors, and nursing Sunday morning hangovers, my dad would don a random piece of clothing to mask his true identity, and he’d become, the Tickle Monster.

We’d hear growling, monster-like noises outside of our bedroom, and as the sounds grew louder, we knew that the monster was getting close. My body would tense in anticipation of the monster’s entrance.

Our bedroom door would fly open and my dad would come barreling in, often tripping over a Tonka truck or a Dr. Seuss book, that my brother or I left in the middle of the room. With his arms flailing, and his back hunched over, he pretended to look for us, even though we were right in front of him, jumping up and down on our beds, screaming, “No, no, go away,” as we laughed. He took his time, relishing the sound of our little kid squeals.

The Tickle Monster went to my brother first because he was an easy target. The kid would freak out, at the mere suggestion of being tickled. He screamed so loud that he’d gasp for air. Watching my brother squirm and shriek like a little girl, always made me giggle.

I was never ticklish. Seeing his two kids laughing together in the same room, instead of beating the crap out of each other, was pure joy for my father. Even at the tender age of four, I was like the character Morales in, A Chorus Line, “I felt nothing.” My dad loved playing the part, so I smiled and pretended to. (best acting job to date)

This particular brand of play was out of my father’s comfort zone. He was the reading and writing type; the parent that supervised homework, exposed me to Miles Davis, quoted Rolling Stones lyrics, and read Crime and Punishment to me at bedtime. He wasn’t so much into kid games, or child-like make-believe, but he put his heart and soul into the Tickle Monster and I couldn’t bing myself to tell him that I felt nothing.

From the time that I was twelve or thirteen, my dad knew exactly who I was, and thirty years later, little has changed. I recently reread a letter that he wrote to me when I graduated from high school. At the time, I passed it off as a father being a fearful parent, but how wise that Tickle Monster was.

“Firstly, you seem to be an anxious young bird who has learned how to fly, and now is trying to examine every tree in the forest. I can assure you that you will do that but racing to them will defeat your purpose and you will not maximize your enjoyment of them. Like constructing a building with blocks, a foundation must be laid before the spire can be placed on top.

Unless you have certain experiences to call upon, you may miss out on some wonderful fun. You know that I have never stopped you from exploring some very dark places; yet I am fearful of you missing something because of a lack of patience. Sometimes it is better to sit by the ocean and look at the sea, sense it and slowly feel it come over you, slowly and with all of its feeling, comfort and awe. Oh, yes, it is great fun to dive in, but how many people who do that could tell you the color of the sea and how beautiful it smells. Most times the short term is not as fulfilling.

And yes, each day is a challenge to your moral sense. Each day you will have to make up your own mind as to what to do- (unless you want to call us). You know how much I love you as my daughter, but now as you begin to leave the nest and start to fly, I relish in the fact of how much I like you. And remember our telephone number is 238…. Love, Dad.”

When I graduated college, my father wrote me a poem and I turned his words into a song for Father’s Day, mainly because I couldn’t bear to buy him one more pair of socks or golf shirt.

LISTEN TO IT HERE: Love Daddy

Jiggling Your Boobs is Healthy

I don’t know wPlasticNoseJobhy, or how, the weird and outrageous find me, but they do, and because they do, you are the lucky beneficiaries.

I bring you the Beauty Lift High Nose. My god, who was in this pitch meeting? Lift High Nose? It really doesn’t leave anything to the imagination, does it? The manufacturers sure didn’t want there to be any confusion as to what this proboscis contraption’s purpose was.

When the Beauty Lift High Nose is worn snugly around the problematic proboscis just three minutes a day, it will aid in lifting your snout higher on your face, (who knows, it might make it up onto the forehead- if that’s your desired final resting place) as well as making it firmer.

Now I’m no plastic surgeon, but I wasn’t aware that schnoz firmness was an issue for people. But if it is, than those people may want to try this nifty gadget. Vibrations emanate from all sides of the plastic doohickey, and, well, it just may do the trick. And everyone knows that a firm and lifted beak screams youthful vigor.

And did I mention that it was a fraction of the price of actual rhinoplasty?

But if the Beauty Lift High Nose isn’t your cup of tea, than what about the Breast Gymnastics Hand Massager. The title is a bit more nebulous, and honestly I really don’t know where to begin with this one. My breasts are going to do gymnastics? I read gymnastics and I think balance beam and back handsprings. How do my boobs fit into the equation?

Basically it’s a hand massager that’s used to reshape sagging boobs, and because of it’s size, it can reach around into those places that your hands cannot. (Although that’s what lovers are for). The plastic hand is even molded in the shape of the woman’s hand who developed this cutting edge product, so it’s as if she’s feeling you up.

The woman has developed a system called, Breast Gymnastics, which consists of a bunch of different ways to massage the breasts, including jiggling and juggling them. She claims that this will increase breast health and improve their shape. I’m all for healthy mammaries and keeping gravity at bay, but the fact that Breast Gymnastics is a thing confuses the fuck out of me.

Back in the day, we called this massaging a self breast exam, or simply playing with ourselves (because we could). Sometimes, when we were lucky, we had someone else play with them.

Why do I need to read a book, watch a video, or buy what looks like a fancy back scratcher, to do this? Someone enlighten me. Please.

breast-gymnastics-hand-massager-3

LiftSaggingBreasts

The Highly Improbable Was Hi-Larious

Coincidence or Random

PhotoCredit:kalw.org

I’ve always been fascinated by signs, symbols, synchronicity, coincidences (or not), and seemingly random convergences that make you shriek, okay, that has to mean something.

I believe that we’re all energy and that we can will an idea, or an image in our mind, into existence (or get close) because of the power of suggestion. It’s also entertaining to think that the universe has a mind of its own and can be a total bitch, acting out just to fuck with us.

I was practically strangled by a few random coincidences (or not) the other evening. And if the highly improbable had not occurred, and was therefore highly hilarious, I might have drowned in a puddle of my own tears.

It’s been awhile since I went to the theater. I’ve been busy, culturally unmotivated, and not in a Broadway state of mind. Shit, I never thought those words would ever fall from my mouth. In any case, a friend invited me to see the play, The Father. I didn’t know what it was about other than there probably was a father figure figured into the show.

I googled and saw that Frank ‘Dracula’ Langella was starring and who doesn’t like Frank? Certainly not my mother. When Dracula was on Broadway, my mother went Lady Gaga over Mr. Langella, and she was quite vocal about it. I remember thinking, whoa, mom, you’re a mom. You can’t like another man, you’re married—to my dad. Innocence is lost on the innocent.

I met my friend outside of the theater and we caught each other up on our lives before showtime. The more we talked, the more I realized how little socializing I had done this past year while I wrote my book. I had put blinders on, and I stayed laser focused. It worked, but in the process I hadn’t tried to make anyone, (other than myself), laugh, and it seemed that I had forgotten how to string words together without the aid of a keyboard and computer screen.

Once inside the theater, we padded down to the tenth row center. Geez friend, what’s with the lame seats. I was so close to the stage that if Dracula sneezed, coughed or threw up, I’d get it in the eye for sure.

The thing that I love about the theater is that no matter how many menacing announcements are blared through the speakers, or dirty looks from your fellow patrons, some entitled old bitty from Queens is going to confidently pluck a mint out of her handbag (fisted from the restaurant where she ate her prix fixe, pre-theater dinner) and unwrap it during the hushed denouement.

It is a mystery to me why audiences still have to be reminded not to be rude and douchey—in the same way that I don’t understand why there are still signs in women’s lavatories reminding them not to throw feminine products in the toilet. Are women throwing maxi pads, some the size of newborn sized diapers, into the bowl? Do men have the same reminders in their stalls? Please don’t flush your hankyDepends? Condom?

The curtain went up and a regal Mr. Langella was sitting in an arm chair in a Parisian flat stage right. I knew what the play was about two minutes into the opening scene; a man (F.L.) is struggling with dementia (Alzheimer’s) and the effect it has on his family. What an uplifting topic to tackle on a sunny Sunday. My ex’s father died from Alzheimer’s. Again, totally uplifting.

Mr. Langella stood up from his chair, wearing pajamas and slippers, and shuffled towards centerstage where he addressed the actress playing his daughter. I hung on his every word and then something distracted me on the wall upstage center.

It was a poster—of what I couldn’t quite make out but my eyes were drawn to the bottom edge. I blinked, and then I blinked again. There, in big bold letters, was my ex’s first name. Clearly it was the artists’ first name as well. I blinked a third time because well, three’s the charm. Yup, still there.

There are over twenty Broadway shows currently running. My friend could have easily gotten tickets to an Off-Broadway show, which are numerous. Nope, the first time that I get out to the theater after a long hiatus, I see a play about Alzheimer’s, seated close enough to the stage to make out the friggin’ details of the set dressing.

Why? Because sometimes the universe can be a real wench. “Give my regards to Broadway…”

What Do Couples Fight Over?

What Do Couples Fight Over?

PhotoCredit:Wisegeek

What do couples fight over?

Where finances or perhaps in-laws were common sources of conflict in romantic relationships, for my ex-boyfriend and me, it was recycling. In honor of Earth Day (April 22nd), I give you an excerpt from my forthcoming book, THE GIRLFRIEND MOM: Kids? No, Thank You, I’m Not Hungry.

***

I was on a mission to save the planet, one plastic container and cardboard toilet paper roll at a time. I was not digging water wells in Mali, Africa, or driving the van for Kosher Meals on Wheels, or rescuing abused circus elephants for that matter, but I knew that I could make a difference and I took pride in recycling my B-12 glass vitamin bottles and dolphin safe tuna cans—think globally, act locally I say.

As a good conscious- raising girlfriend, I gently urged my boyfriend and his kids to do the same. How could they argue? Who the hell didn’t want to save the planet?

Not long after I began my quest, the complaints started. “Dani, the kitchen looks like a bag lady’s hideaway.” It was true, although I might have used shopping cart as the visual example instead of hideaway.

The only convenient places to hang the various receptacles were on the backs of the kitchen stools and around the doorknobs and cabinets knobs—classy, I know. My boyfriend accused me of being obsessive, even though I stopped short of reusing soiled paper napkins like my grandfather “Big” Al used to.

When my brother and I visited my grandparents in Florida, and we sat at the kitchen table being wasteful with our food and paper goods—as most four- and five-year-olds are wont to do (because they don’t know the meaning of wasteful)—he would sneak up behind us, wearing a stained red T-shirt, and bark in his gravelly and menacing voice, “You think I grew up with an endless supply of napkins? We’d use one until it disintegrated.” This would also explain the stained shirt. He would continue his “whoa is me” Depression era story as he chomped down on the bagel half that he had saved from his breakfast days earlier, which had petrified and could now be used as a weapon.

When I added junk mail envelopes to the mix, my boyfriend just about opened a recycled can of whoop ass on me. As much as I hated to give him the pleasure of being right, he was. Perhaps I was obsessing just a smidge.

Every product that we bought, including the packaging that it came in, had the potential to make it into the Fresh Kills Landfill. I couldn’t stop. I found my manic recycling peculiarly therapeutic as I broke down cardboard boxes from Amazon deliveries or rinsed out empty butter tubs and shampoo bottles.

I was trying to keep my hands busy—idle hands and all, because it gave me the illusion that I had some authority in my life, when at times, as the Girlfriend Mom, it felt like the complete opposite.

I moved from New York to New Jersey. I went from single and child-free to coupledom and kids. I lived in a furnished town house and used a stranger’s wine glasses and placemats. (We had started construction on a new home and didn’t want to move our belongings twice.) I searched for work in a new profession in a new town, where I got lost every time I left the house and where I had no friends. I turned in my New York State driver’s license, shared my workspace with an eleven-year-old boy, and neither my voice, nor my name, was on the answering machine’s outgoing message. You bet I ran to the next-door neighbors to see if they had any egg cartons that I could flatten.

A few months into my waste management, which started to look a lot like an actual hobby, a rainbow seemed to have appeared over our kitchen, or shopping cart. My boyfriend agreed (silently, and without fanfare) to join my recycling party. I knew I was in love with him for real when, without any prompting, he brought used plastic bags to the grocery store. That man never looked sexier.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

PhotoCredit:Greenlight-arts.com

Forgiveness is sometimes overrated. I was talking to a friend the other day because I wanted to know if it was possible to move forward in our lives without forgiving, even though most schools of thought and religions, preach that we only hurt ourselves when we don’t forgive.

Whatever. Sometimes holding a grudge and not being exceptionally magnanimous is way more satisfying; even if it’s temporary. Maybe there are cases when it’s just not possible to forgive. How can we in the face of profound hurt. I’m no friggin’ saint.

If being unforgiving doesn’t hold us back in our day to day life; careers, relationships, romantic world, then what’s the big whoop? My ping pong reasonings were put to the test recently when my ex-husband reached out to me.

To say that I was shocked to hear from him after 13 years is not saying enough. He asked me to meet him for coffee to talk. At first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to meet. Why? What was the point? What could he possibly have to say? Was I even interested in what he had to say? Did I want to invite that into my life?

Our divorce was amicable, devoid of drama. And from where I was standing, I hadn’t any lingering or unresolved feelings. I had packed our relationship in bubble wrap and put it gently in the pile.

I thought about his request and decided that if he had the cajones to reach out to me after so much water under the bridge; unsure of how I would react, the possibility of rejection, then the least I could do was show up. Clearly it was important to him. I’m a lot of things, but douche isn’t one of them.

It was a surreal and mildly weird rendezvous. We spent nine years together and even though it had been a lifetime ago, there was a comfort in talking to him, an ease. Our history gave our conversation a welcomed familiarity. We spoke in shorthand,  reminiscing about the early days, and I could feel myself smiling.

After a few struts down memory lane, he launched into an apology. He was sorry for not being a better partner in our marriage, and admitted to his selfish behavior. He was taking responsibility for his actions, citing examples, because he genuinely wanted to be a better person.

Wow.

I have to be honest, as he spoke I wasn’t entirely sure what he was referring to. It had been a long time since we were married and let’s just say that there have been several relationships since, and, well, frankly I can’t even remember what I did yesterday, let alone back in 1997.

And then I did remember. The more he spoke, the more I thought, Oh, yeah, now that you mentioned it, what about that? Shit had long been buried and now it was being unearthed.

Events and incidents came rushing back to me, without anger, disappointment or resentment. Our discussion was calm and objective. As he spoke I was able to see the battles that I had been waging within my myself at that time.

I told him that all was forgiven. He appreciated my meeting him and I felt good knowing that our conversation had brought him relief and some peace.

As we get older, we become more and more conscious of life’s  fragility and brevity. Living guilt-free, without bad juju or unspoken feelings and thoughts is an admirable goal for anyone.

It was a mature and brave thing that my ex-husband did. A mensch and a man.