01 April 2013

Hirsute Pursuit

We all had them.

C'mon. Get happy and admit it, y'all.

Childhood crushes. Hearts and flowers and names written in girlish hand intertwined on notebook covers or on paper inside our Trapper Keepers. Innocent yet oh-so-serious.

Ah, the objects of our innocent affections. Slightly older boys who we saw on TV or heard on the radio. Boys who we stared at dreamily on an album cover or on the pages of a magazine. Boys who we "kissed" in the hidden safety of our bedrooms, smushing our lips, garnished with some Dr. Pepper Bonne Bell Lip Smacker, into our pillows which served as surrogates for our personal teen idols.

David Cassidy.

Shawn Cassidy.

Bobby Sherman 
(whose 45 single I procured from the back of a box of cereal. Super Sugar Crisp, baby.)

Donny Osmond. Oh, how I loved Donny. You do know he sang "Puppy Love" just for me, don't you?

Those boys were safe. Non-threatening. Cuddly, even.

And then, one fine day, our tastes changed. We grew up. My, did we grow up.

Personally speaking, I went from this...

...to this
...in the blink of an eye.

Oh. Yeah.

What was the changing point that sent me from youthful affection to adolescent yearning?

I discovered chest hair. Men's chest hair. So masculine. So strong. So... heh.

Loved it. Still love it today -- even more now than I did then, if that's possible.

It all started with Andy Gibb. I was so entranced by the chest hair that it took me a while to even acknowledge anything going on below the torso (and there obviously was a lot going on there...) I hold this video (which I remember staying up to watch on the Midnight Special at a slumber party) totally responsible for hurling me into puberty.

But then there was Harrison Ford.
Who, in addition to the requisite chest stuff, sported some mighty tight pants. Mark Hamill who? I never ever gave that Luke Skywalker a second look after Han Solo swaggered onto the screen in the first Star Wars/Number IV/whatever the hell number was released in 1977. I was 13.

With apologies to Marvin Hamlisch --  Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello lust!

After Harrison, I discovered my two most enduring objects of burgeoning woman lust -- the ones that would carry me through high school and into college.

I give y'all Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher and Jockey Underwear model Jim Palmer:

Didn't get enough? Here's another view:

The large poster is an exact duplicate of one that hung over my desk in my high school yearbook office. For all four years I was on staff. Still not sure how I got away with that -- the fact that the yearbook advisors were both women might have had something to do with it.

Jim Palmer was my total idea of The Sex as a teenager. Because of that hairy chest. Masculine. Alpha male. Sexy. I liked baseball before I discovered him. After him, well, I was hooked for life.

Lest you think though that I was a one-lust-object kinda girl, let me allay your fears... I also had hormonal yearnings well into my college years for this...
Yeah. I know. Is that a chest or what? Seriously.

Damn. Damn. Hot damn.

Now I had friends who were more appreciative of this look. The Soloflex Man.

That's one hell of an inverted triangle. And six pack. Dude's totally ready for action.

And look at old Mitch Gaylord over there. Nice six pack. But it was all I could do, though, not to drop this photo into my editing software to draw in some chest hair on his torso -- just to see what it might look like.

These days, the desired look for ze male species is more Soloflex Guy than Magnum PI. A clean, smooth torso. Pffffffffff. Reminds me of a hairless dog. To quote Mammy in Gone with the Wind, it ain't fittin'. It just ain't fittin'. It ain't fittin'. Hmmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmm.

Manscaping, to my great disapproval, is currently in vogue, with men and their partners all about the deforestation of the chest. In the 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Steve Carrell's pals viewed his copious chest hair as a reason why he'd never made it big with the ladies. Poppycock! It's wrong, I tell you, just wrong. (Although we do draw the line at back hair. You should view the Male Body Hair Principle it as a reverse mullet: party in the front, all business in the back.) When it comes right down to it, gents, we love you just the way you are. Screw the media. Leave that torso alone! Plus, chest hair is timeless. I give you Exhibit A:

Yep, that's Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. The Shirtless 19th Century Wonder. With a very Macho Man Moustache to boot. I may never read The Adventures of Huck Finn the same way again.

Much like with good wine, good sex and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, when it comes to chest hair, the more the better. (Although Robin Williams may push that boundary just a bit. Almost too much of a good thing there.) A girl wants something she can lay her head upon when snuggling. Something she can caress. Y'all, it's not called the happy trail for nothing. Ahem.

So there you are. Chest hair. My Achilles' Heel, so to speak. Feel free to share yours, if you're so inclined. There's lots of room down here in the shallow end of the pool. BYOB, though. Unless you want to drink Prosecco with me.

And by the way -- the more things change with time and experience, the more they stay the same. Mmmmhmmm.

23 March 2013

Janey, You Ignorant Slut: A Point/Counterpoint on...Politics

We have met the enemy and they is us.
~ Pogo

Muse. Muse. Muse.

Ponder. Ponder. Ponder.

I’ve been mulling, nay marinating, on something for quite a while now.

You know, it’s kind of a weird time here in the old U S of A. There’s a lot going on. A lot.

Everyone has an opinion. Which is great. It’s what this country was built on. Although I am dean of the school of thought that says you only get to voice said opinion if you vote, but that’s another rant for another time.

But. And with any good rant, there’s always a “but”… the way these opinions are being expressed isn’t quite as great, at least from where I’m sitting.

We are, y’all, a nation divided at the moment. Left. Right. Liberal. Conservative. Republican. Democrat. The Great Divide runs right down the middle of the Canyon of Ideology. And it’s getting wider and wider with each passing day and with each refreshing of your Twitter feed and your Facebook timeline.

Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
~ Jane Addams

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
~ Jackie Robinson

As a reasonably aware person – I try to keep up as much as my crazy life will allow – I know that politics as usual these days is an intense place to be. The immediacy of the way we communicate allows voices to be heard, information to be shared, action to be taken – all fused with intelligence and passion. What’s missing, as I see it?

Respect. And hearing. Not just listening – but hearing.

There's a behavioral meme I would to run with my Children's Choir Urchins when I was directing at least three times during a rehearsal period – I call it a Gimme Five. When Miss Janey said “Gimme Five”, that means she wanted looking eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths, hands to yourself, feet on the floor.

We could all use a Gimme Five moment, y'all. Sooner, rather than later.

Because right now, we’re mired in the muck of disrespect. Closed-mindedness. And not hearing anything but what we want to hear – which is most likely a parroting of our own deeply held views.

It’s not getting us anywhere. Anywhere productive, anyhow.

It’s been about talk. Not so much about action.

Vitriolic language is bantered about to make points. It’s become sport.

Guess what?

Incendiary language doesn’t put food on a table.

Snarky 140 character blips don’t help a family facing a mountain of medical bills and a moat of insurance issues

Divisive comments don’t get that guy off the unemployment line and onto the route to having a job. And feeling good about himself.

Writing IN ALL CAPS won't provide the solution to the volatile issue that is gun control in our country.

Constant criticism and piling on with those of your ideological ilk -- and the incessant sharing of media advocating your position -- won't change minds.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words take up residence. Bones heal. Takes a lot more to evict words that hurt or sting.

Lest you think I’m merely pontificating from up here on my soapbox… I’m not innocent. I own my culpability in this one. I can wield my tongue with a sharp snarkiness that points and pokes. I have opinions -- just ask me. But as I watch the war of words and worlds escalate on social media between ideological opposites every time there's an incident which leads to a tragedy which raises questions about laws and government, it becomes obvious that this nonsense doesn't help the situation. At all. And so I vowed to curb it. Reel it in. Cut the biased rhetoric.

It’s damaging. It’s ridiculous.

Most of all -- it’s not productive.

And above all, I’m about things that are productive.

Somewhere, somehow, in a world when we know about news almost before it happens and the court of public opinion is fluid and viral and fickle -- we’ve lost sight of what matters.

Making a positive difference.

The art of compromise.

The impact of collaboration.




The seduction of a soundbite or a re-tweet is palpable. And like it or not, pundits have solidified their place in our society where processing news filtered through ideological cheesecloth is a national pastime. However, said pundits have a tendency to become the news themselves (Mr. Olbermann and Ms. Coulter, I’m looking at both of you…) further muddling the real issues.

When all is said and done, the one thing that cannot be disputed (and should never be disputed. Ahem.) is that everyone, in his or her own way, loves this country. Just as it’s no one’s place to pass judgment on whether another person is religious-enough, it’s no one’s place to judge whether another person is patriotic-enough.

And PS: all those folks who look at things differently than you – they are not bad people. They are not stereotypes. They are individuals. Part of the whole. And they should be respected and treated as such.

This land really is our land, my fellow Americans – from California to the New York Island. Working together to make it the best place it can be would do more to honor the intent and action of our founding fathers than any amount of spewing rhetoric could dream of doing.

I’m ready. Are you?

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate...

...Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us...

...And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

~ President John F. Kennedy

20 March 2013

Janey's Secret... shhhh

It was a stay-at-home day. The kiddo has a cold in the nose; it’s not the worst cold he’s ever had but it’s enough to give his eyes that “I don’t feel good” look. Y’all know that look, don’t you? It’s the one that when we adults have it, no amount of concealer or powder can hide it from the world. While he napped and helped me with the laundry, I decided to start on a little spring cleaning in my dresser. One area in particular.

The underwear drawers.

The fact that I call them the “underwear” drawers and not my “lingerie” drawers is telling. Lingerie is something pretty and fetching and sassy and has personality. Underwear equals utilitarian, practical, easy, boring, bland. And comfortable. Underwear is comfortable. You know what I’m talking about. I know you do.

Once upon a time, I used to wear undergarments that had personality. A little color here. A little satin there. Perhaps a touch of lace. Oooh la la.  Sure they had to be washed separately; I had lingerie bags for the washer to help protect the bras from getting bent out of shape. Special hanging clips for them because they were never to see the inside of the dryer. And sachets for the lingerie drawers to add that final touch.

And then I had a baby.

In the words of Sweet Brown – lingerie bags and line drying: ain’t nobody got time for that after you bring your little one home.

True confession time. For years now, I’ve been about the least common denominator when it comes to ze undies. Cotton Jockeys. Hipsters. Bought in a three-pack. Toss in the dryer. Ready set go. Bland enough not to show through any fabric, but low enough in case my pants/jeans/shorts are the low-rise kind.  If a showing thong waistband is known as a whale tale, I don’t even want to think about what a showing hipster is called. Do me a favor and don’t come up with any names for that one. There’s always room on my Dead to Me list….

My bras are a little more upscale, since I do need that damned underwire. No more slingshots with adjustable straps. These things are engineering wonders. Hoist ‘em up, lift, support and show ‘em off. Even folded, they take up some serious square footage in drawer and suitcase. That damned underwire is a necessary evil. Now that I’ve been successful doing the losing weight thing, I’m more toned on the upper belly. Yay me! But without that damned underwire to keep things where they need to be, I’m well on my way to becoming a cover girl for National Geographic: WASP Edition.

As I sorted through the drawers that hold my bras and panties and tights and Spanx (best thing ever), there, amongst the beige bras and black bras and sport bras and white bras was a red bra. A purple pushup. A pink balconette.  And some matching panties.

Go figure. I had fun right there under my nose, totally forgotten about. My utilitarian Jockeys looked even more bland next to the good stuff. What makes this slightly ironic is that the one thing I bought in NYC was some pretty new lingerie. Matching bra/panty sets in crazy groovy patterns. A treat for me.  Now my cups runneth over and then some. (Sue me. I couldn’t help myself with that one.)

It’s true, you know, what they say about wearing pretty underthings – it does make you feel good. And I’ve ashamedly gotten out of the habit of it, opting for practical and easy. That’s not to say that I’m a complete undergarment slacker. Everything is in pretty good shape. And I can hear my nana’s voice saying “always wear nice underwear in case you are in an accident” resonating in my head when it’s time to do laundry and I’m down to the REALLY comfortable pairs, if you catch my drift. In the same vein, she also told me never to walk across a grate in the sidewalk if I were wearing any sort of skirt, since the “men underground” would be able to look up it.

Yeah. I know.

There is so much being said about women taking care of themselves, in the face of the demands of family and career. I know this to be true, as I didn’t take care of myself for a long time after the premature birth of my son, but that’s another story or a hundred for another day.

Doesn’t something like wearing pretty underthings, even if no one but you know that they are there, qualify as taking care of yourself? You can take that meeting wearing an animal-print bra. Hit the PTA committee gathering in red lace. Give your doctor a chuckle with your pink polka dots. And sport a smile on your face the whole time. We’ve all heard this advice before. But I’ll be switched if it doesn’t work. At least from my experience.

As women of that certain age, comfortable (most of the time) in our own skin, shouldn’t what’s next to that skin be indicative of who we are and how we see ourselves?

One caveat: if you are wearing anything white, off-white, beige or any other of those potentially sheer and/or see-through fabrics, make sure your panties are shaded accordingly. Nothing makes a statement like that girl in the tight white capris with the striped panties. I’m sure you’ve seen her out and about. She gets around.

I don’t know if the baby thing was the primary precipitator for my shift from posh to utilitarian with the undies. Maybe it was just a gradual thing over time that came  with age and marriage and all that jazz. Now, I could be in the minority with this – the rest of y’all might very well be living it up in your pretties and loving the lingerie life. So consider this my rejoining of the tribe.
This is the most time I’ve spent pondering my underwear since I got my first Teenform training bra in 1975 and was mortified that all the boys at the skating party could see it under my new yellow zip-up top. And now I need to get about the business of organizing my new pretties. And hunting down those lingerie washer bags.

I’m coming out. Under my clothes. How about you?

love, your favorite auntie

18 March 2013

Shoot that sterilized arrow through my...

I am watching Dancing with the Stars tonight. A full episode for the first time ever. Call me curious to see what the fuss is about. I’m more of a singing/mudslinging/angst-wringing reality show kind of girl (see: The Voice, The Bachelor, anything on Bravo.) But since so many people I know (and don’t know  -- hi Twitter!) dig this dance-fest, I thought I’d check it out.

The dancing is fun. The costumes are FABULOUS. Tom Bergeron is a dream. I don’t know what I’m watching technically like I do when I watch musicians play/sing or a screeching harpie throwdown on any number of programs, but it’s interesting.

The highlight of tonight’s premiere por moi? Wynonna Judd has her nose pierced. Cool.

A bit of history: I have two – count ‘em, two – piercings. One in ear lobe left and one in ear lobe right. And no ink, save for the periodic marks on my hand when my fountain pen leaks.  For a good part of my life, I eschewed doing anything to alter that – save for maybe getting my ears double pierced so I could put in a pair of diamond studs and look like the rebel Junior Leaguer that I was.  But now that I’m older and more comfortable in my skin, which really is more boho-licious than porcelain-proper in the heart of its cells, I’ve been thinking about doing something unique to express my personality.

I’ve considered getting a tattoo. An ampersand (you know, that fancy “and” symbol from your keyboard) on the inside of my left wrist.  But something inside isn’t leading me that way. No, it’s not the pain – I was in labor and didn’t realize it for three days. I can handle pain, baby. I actually think it’s the idea of something permanent of my own doing. Yes, at least a tat on the wrist won’t suffer the ravages of age – there are going to be millions of tramp stamps fallen to unmentionable places in nursing homes world round in about 30 years. But I still can’t mentally commit to it. The tat that is.

So I’ve been pondering a piercing. Specifically, a nose piercing. Nothing fancy like a ring or hoop on the nostril. Just a little tasteful stud right in the crook of my nose. By the way, I have a great nose for a stud, if I do say so myself.  I would like just a bit of a something-something to make people double-take and nod.

I mentioned this to the mister, who commented that he would bring me home an employee application for Starbucks, since if I got my nose pierced, I’d look just like a barista. And a couple of my close male friends were nonplussed when I ran this crazy idea by them. My gal pals were supportive, even though the phrase "well, it's not something *I* would do, but you would rock it" was uttered more than once.

My own doubts colored things – I’m a woman of a certain age. Am I too old for something like a nose piercing? While I like to show my individuality in dress and attitude, I’m very conscientious about being age-appropriate. I try not to dress too youthfully – just because it fits, doesn’t mean you should wear it, ladies. Ahem. I never want to appear as if I’m trying to maintain my youth. And I strive to wear clothes that flatter, not detract.

Is getting one’s nose pierced crossing the boundaries of what is age-appropriate?

One look at Wynonna tonight, her red hair flying, her curves grooving, her smile beaming  - and her nose pierced -  answered that question for me.

It sure as hell is age-appropriate. And it’s fantastic.

Wynonna is four months older than I am, almost to the day. Sure she’s a public figure. But she’s also a woman of a certain age. And if she can do it, so can I.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about such things – being age-appropriate and not looking like I’m trying to hold onto my youth.  But I am.  I think there’s a way to be current and savvy and sophisticated without dressing like a mannequin from Forever 21. I’d rather be Forever Fabulous than Forever 21, but that’s another story for another day. And as a curvy girl, it’s to my great benefit to look chic, not cheap. The only sausage casing I want on my bod is my faithful Spanx. And unless we’re really really good friends *eyebrow wiggle*, no one gets to see those.

Thank you, Wynonna. For representing us chicas with junk in the trunk. For being a great role model for us older Gen Xers. And for showing me that conventional opinion be dammed – it’s always OK to express your individuality.

Is Piercing Pagoda still around? ‘Cause if so, I’m headed its way. Boom.

love, your favorite auntie

17 March 2013

you are the company you keep

Twenty-five or so years ago, I took my first grown-up trip with gal pals. And by grown-up trip I mean one that didn't involve anyone I was related to, didn't involve sharing a motel room with my nana, and didnt involve one single visit to anything related to the Civil War (my daddy was - still is - a big fan of the War of Northern Aggression. I saw every major battle site below the Mason Dixon line before I was 14. Yeah. I know.)

I was 24, considered myself a full-fledged adult and was ready to see on the world. Which in this case started with New York City. The trip was my Christmas present from the parents which also included a new piece of luggage. With my fabulous new chapeau, boots and black gaucho pants (Hush. They were the height of fashion in 1988. You know you had a pair or at least something similar...) I was ready to hit it. For what specifically, I do not remember. I was just ready for something. Not just boys, either.

I do recall that we girls spent all our time together, walking around; getting takeout pizza (my stars, I thought I was all that, doing the carry-out urban thing); Christmas shopping at Bloomingdales; seeing 42nd Street the week before it closed; eating at Tavern on the Green (RIP); taking the NBC tour; stalking David Letterman (OK, that was my idea); and having brunch at the Helmsley, in the days before Leona lost her misanthropic mind. We wrung every bit of excitement out of those four days as only chicks in their eager 20s can.

I was struck my memories of that long-ago trip as I took a car this afternoon from my Hell's Kitchen hotel to the airport after another grown-up journey to the city, this time a week-long solo jaunt. When we young ladies about town crawled out of our cab at the airport, we barely had enough cash to pay the cab fare - and there sure wasn't anything left amongst our collective wallets for a tip. Unless you count change but that would have been tacky. The cabbie stood beside his opened- trunk vehicle, yelling at us in his native tongue and hurling what were certainly profane insults at us as we ran like hell into the terminal dragging our bags with us. Good times.

Maybe it's because I budget better for trip expenses these days or perhaps I now know and appreciate the value of quality customer service, but I made certain that my driver today was compensated for his efforts. The lovely man took my bags to the terminal sidewalk, for goodness sake! (If you could have seen and lifted my luggage, you'd understand what a great thing this was. Or if you've travelled with me before - my motto is " don't leave home without it, just in case." - you know what a scene my bags and I can cause.)

My 24- year-old-self was a little clueless in the ways of travel - I chalk that up to age, naïveté, budgetary restrictions and that single, self-serving attitude she had which is often a hallmark of youth. And she never would have been brave or self-secure enough to travel to the city alone.

Solo travel is a catharsis for me, especially at this point in my life. I have no responsibilities to anyone but myself when I travel alone. No kiddo. No spouse. Just moi. That's right. I can do what i want when i want. If I want to spend the afternoon reading and drinking Prosecco, then dammit, I will. If I want to rent an "Adults Only" video in the room because I'm curious to know what all the fuss is about, then I will. PS: it was sooooooooo boring. The same things over and over and over. Pose. Growl. Different pose. Sigh. Writhe. Pose. Plus it is not equal opportunity. So many girl bits (which I do appreciate, although not really my thing.) and not nearly enough boy bits. Then there is all that moaning. No one makes that much noise for that long, unless you've pulled something, have a Charlie horse or need to catch your breath.  And do not get me started about the acting or lack of plot...


What traveling alone has shown me is that no matter what negative residue lingers in my psyche or how I my insecurities chart on the measurement scale, I am pretty good company. Even to myself. Guess what? It is not scary to be alone, contrary to what my younger self thought. It's healthy even, and dare I say, fun. As women, we bear a lot of responsibility were wired to be the caregivers, the organizers, the nurturers. And were told that we need to make time to take care of ourselves. Sometimes that means just going and doing something alone. Just you, yourself and you. Taking part in an activity that you want to do. Without worry or concern about what anyone else in your life entourage wants to do. Can you imagine?

Go to a movie in the middle of the day? Do it.
Take a day to go crawling through thrift stores looking for bargains? Do it.
Spend hours reading a book and doing nothing else? Do it.

Ive discovered that taking time for yourself by yourself is beneficial for the soul not only is the indulgence (yes, sadly it is an indulgence) of actually doing something you want to do a good thing, but doing it alone takes it up a level. In such moments you are only responsible for your personal well-being. Youre not responsible for anyone elses happiness. And you are in control of you. Does that make sense?

My favorite example of a woman of a certain age taking alone time for herself belongs to my mother. Mama prides herself on trying to keep up with pop culture, even though theres a bit of a disconnect. Years ago, I was watching the MTV Video Music Award one evening. The phone rang it was my mother, calling to ask if the Red Hot Chili Peppers always wore socks over their penises. Yes, she used the word penis. So it was no surprise when she decided she wanted to go see the movie Waynes World, even  though my father refused to go with her. So off she went one Friday afternoon (after getting her hair done) to catch a matinee. Unbeknownst to her, it was a public school in-service day and so the theatre was filled with middle school boys and one middle-aged woman. She braved it out, found she liked the movie and then used the word schwing whenever she could for the next month. Still so proud of her for taking time to do something she wanted to do. By herself. Schwing.

Im home now from my week-long solo adventure; the cares of the day have marched back into my head and Im settling back into regular routine. But Im going to try to maintain that holiday feeling, taking time to do for me. I think it makes me perform better in all the roles of my life. My 24-year-old-posse-loving-self might not be comfortable with this concept. What would people think? But Im older, wiser and tip a hell of a lot better these days. And most of the time, Im at home in my well-moisturized skin. So if you see me dining alone, dont say bless her heart. Be jealous, since Im enjoying myself and the company Im keeping.

love, auntie janey

Riddle Me This: If you could take an afternoon for just yourself, what would you do with the time? 

16 March 2013

...on behalf of the women of my generation

(or, what this blog is all about...)

Who are we?

We’ve lived a life.

We’ve loved. Maybe lost. Maybe not.

We’re mamas and sisters and daughters and in-laws and aunties and wives and ex-wives and cousins and co-workers and neighbors and volunteers and patients and caregivers and and and. We are some of these. We are all of these.

We are not definable. We are everywoman. You know us. Or you think you do.

We are unique. We will not be labeled.

Our roles in this world do not determine our identity. We are the sum of our parts. And then some.

We are chronologically at the half-way point in life. But we are not going anywhere.

We are fine wine. We are gorgeous tarnished silver. We are heirlooms, not antiques.

We are women of a certain age. We are not what our mothers were at midlife.

We are fabulous.  Without question.

We are your favorite aunties. Because no matter how much we embrace our age or celebrate our lives well lived, we’re still not quite old enough to be your mother.

And don’t you forget it.