Monday, September 30, 2013

Do Not Be Certain of Yourself Until The Day You Die

"Your makeup is a little too . . . dramatic," she sniffs. 

Um, who asked you? 

We were standing in her kitchen, she being freshly engaged, devoid of face paint besides a faint hint of shadow in the dark recesses of a crease. While her nails were brushed with a refined clear topcoat, I noticed that beneath her stockings (she having kicked off her shoes) her toes sported maroon lacquer.

I didn't remotely take her words to heart, since, frankly, I didn't particularly ask nor care for her opinion. 

Now she has two babies gamboling about at her feet, and she sails into shul wearing red lipstick and red nail polish. Yes, on her hands.
See? It's fun to wear color, isn't it?

Or the one who made snide references to my gray eyeshadow, and after years of "tame" makeup wear suddenly showed up looking fabulous with Mac Carbon (black) on her lids?
After situations like these, I always wonder: When do I get to go around offering "advice" to those who didn't ask for it? Did I permit myself to say to either these two then, "Well, your complexion could certainly use a little coverage" or "Your eyes are dying for some mascara" or "How about a swipe of pink on those lips?" 

To quote Doug Heffernan: "Shutty!"   

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ah, To Be Young

At the Shabbos table, my four-year-old niece was holding court in her squeaky, earnest voice about her choice for a spouse. Her brother was the same way; they just want to plan ahead, leaving nothing to chance. 

"I don't like curly hair," she insisted, "so his hair will have to be straight. And he should be skinny"—my grandmother would be proud—"and not have those things on his face," she waved toward her father's glasses. 

Of course, we were all pretty much cracking ribs to keep from laughing out loud. 

"Uuuuuuum," she pondered, "what should his name be?" 

"How about Yitzchak?" Ta offered to this fink on his lap. 

"Yeah! No, Hadassa's Daddy's name is Yitzchak." Hadassa is her cousin who lives across the street. 

"How about Avrumi?"

"Yes, Avrumi! No, wait, not Avrum, Avrahum." 

Her future decided on, she slides off Ta's lap and patters off to play with the doll house.

Time will tell, I suppose, to see what this minx ends up with. Then I can throw it in her face by her vort.   

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"A Nation of Slobs"

In shul one Shabbos, in walks my fantasy project. Week after week, this gal of eligible age enters with her hair untamed—not even thinking about giving that mess a once-over with a brush.
In my attempt to be tolerant, I consider that maybe she holds that brushing hair on Shabbos is not permissible. I sigh internally and let it go. 

Until I see her on a weekday. Oh. She just doesn't brush her hair, in general. 

As spawn of Europeans, and Hungarians to boot, appearance is major. I mean, MAJOR. My parents would be excellent hosts on What Not to Wear. Never mind Babi—she would be a merciless judge on Project Runway

I have noticed a direct correlation to self-esteem and the fit and flare of my wardrobe. If I rush one morning and don't think out my look for the day thoroughly, I pray that I don't bump into anyone that will notice that my skirt desperately needs tailoring. If I don't respect myself, other people won't.

CBS News Sunday Morning featured a story on the downward spiral of current American dress. Thank goodness, it's not just us! Although Linda Przybyszewski, who teaches the "A Nation of Slobs" class in Notre Dame University, has a European unpronounceable name that fits in with the Continental mantra. 

"Americans," Ma and I moan as yet another ill-dressed disaster prances by in a cheap baggy top that ends in the worst possible spot, highlighting every potential bodily flaw.
As a reminder: When someone gushes, "Oh, this is just something I threw on," in response to a compliment, spoiler: She agonized a full ten minutes before she got dressed. Don't think it just happens.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hi Lili

I adore Leslie Caron. (Like I said, Gigi is my favorite musical.)

Technically, it has all the things I hate; a man who mistreats the very object of his love, a young girl infatuated with a no-goodnik. Maybe it is because Mel Ferrer is so very dashing (just because I don't need looks doesn't mean I'm not aware of them), and Leslie Caron is Leslie Caron, so I find Lili enchanting.
A teenage orphan finds herself a member of a carnival puppet troupe, her job to converse with the puppets. Despite the fact that she knows they are not real, she chats innocently and honestly with them, forgetting they are all actually her grim employer. 

The original name for Paul Gallico's short story, from which the film is based, was The Man Who Hated People, which was later extended to a novella called The Love of the Seven Dolls. While Gallico is a great author, able to infuse humor even in the most miserable of situations, I found the tale disturbing as the Lili character is abused most heinously by the puppeteer. Brrrr.

In the movie version, a war wound robbed the puppeteer of his dancing career, leaving him bitter and reticent. The only way he can express himself is through his puppets; the only kindness he shows Lili is when he shields himself with the different voices and personalities of his alter-egos. In truth, he has actually been there for her, but she doesn't realize it, gazing after a womanizing magician instead.
The moment I like best is when Lili's dreamy gaze focuses into that of steel. She grows up, and she understands, and she will demand instead of passively accept. She is no frail lily needing a man's protection; she becomes independent in her own right. 

It is categorized as a musical although there is only one song and two dance sequences (the film was later the basis for Broadway's Carnival! which starred Jerry Orbach, which then had a full musical score). The song from the film, "Hi Lili Hi Lo," is stuck quite irritatingly in my head. 
After seeing Lili I wondered about the whole idea of "love at first sight." Not being romantic I don't believe in it, but perhaps it was more common once, when men and women lived such separate and uncomplicated lives (I need to work these things out if a movie will get my endorsement).

"I loved you the moment I saw you." Possible? Eh.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


"Mazel tov!" I wish her heartily. Her son has recently become engaged, and I am truly happy for her and her family. 

"IY'H by you of simchas bikarov!" she quickly rattles off. 

Look, I am giving you a "mazel tov." Keep it, it's free, I've got plenty more in storage. 

Who's to say my life is lacking simcha? I have a large, wonderful, family, kinfauna I love dearly, celebrations by others that I merrily partake in; what is this assumption that my "mazel tov" should returned or exchanged? That I can't spare it? I have enough of my own simchos, thank you!

Flinging my "mazel tov" back in my face is merely an unnecessary reminder that I am single. I'm single? Who knew? I completely forgot! 

I hate to state the obvious. I hate it more when others do.

I am wishing you "mazel tov" because I am happy for you. I rejoice with you. Your son getting engaged really has nothing to do with me one day getting engaged. It sounds the same, but it's not.

Let's just focus on one celebration at a time, shall we? So here is my "mazel tov," gift-wrapped, topped with festive ribbon. It's yours. All you have to say is "Thank you." 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: If You Are Going to Eat It, Enjoy It

"Oh my," I thought in glee, "what is that?" 

Abandoned by my sister after a recent visit was a lukshen kugel. Not just any lukshen kugel, but a dairy-based one (heaven!), with an entire tub of sour cream and a divine wham of vanilla sugar.
I took a piece, and was very happy. 

The following day was an upsherin, boasting platters of blintzes, mac and cheese, and baked ziti. 

Until that day I did not know that it is actually possible to butcher each and every one of those dishes; inexplicably, none tasted good. But I filled my plate constantly, unable to process that yes, it was milchig, and yes, it tasted like cardboard. 

When I arrived home (stuffed and repentant), all I could wistfully think of was the magnificent lukshen kugel, heartlessly coated in sour cream and vanilla sugar. Feeling quite cheated after succumbing yet remaining unfulfilled, I decided to have one bite, just to straighten out my mouth. 

Then I was happy again. 

If something doesn't taste good, and it is highly caloric to boot, put it down and walk away. Focus instead on what does taste good, even if it is chock full of sour cream. 

Browse. Graze. Sample. But when you find the One, may the two of you (and your fork) be very happy together.
For the three-day yontifs, this is especially important. At the meals, only consume that which makes you happy. If you are going to overeat anyway, go down in blissful flames. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Setting the Face

It has been incredibly remiss of me to leave such a topic unaddressed, but I have only recently discovered the necessity of setting powder.

Setting powder, when dusted atop a freshly done Face, will keep the look for longer, through everyday aggravations, frantic wedding dancing, and Friday night sleeping.
Seeing it highly recommended some years ago, I purchased the Tarte Smooth Operator Micronized Clay Finishing Powder. When I say highly recommended, I mean that every single magazine referenced it. But I did not like it. For one thing, the powder is trapped beneath a sheet of plastic punctured by a solitary hole; I struggled to get the powder out of the container, until I was told that one has to hold it upside down, depressing the plastic with a finger and then the powder comes flying out. Too much, in fact. 

Secondly, perhaps because of the method of dispensation, the powder is so fine that it takes to the air, up my nose, making me cough and wheeze like a twenty-year smoker. I put it aside, and simply ignored it; I figured it was my fault the relationship wasn't working. 

But after struggling with makeup meltdown when my t-zone kicked in, I decided to dust up my face with Ma's setting powder (she had mixed her own Laura Mercier with my Tarte) one Friday night. I was stunned to see the following morning that the Face was as pristine as though freshly applied. 

OK, I was convinced, I'm getting me some setting powder!

Since my preferred method of makeup is mineral in nature, I figured I should start with bareMinerals Mineral Veil. There are quite a few options there, ranging from original to illuminating (read: sparkly) to hydrating to tinted. I opted for the bareMinerals Mineral Veil Broad Spectrum in "Completely Sheer" since it has additional SPF.
It has a distinctly pink hue, and I was concerned that would make my yellowish skin orange, but true as its word, it goes on sheer. Additionally, my lungs are free of irritation, and the bareMinerals "click lock go" lid is always convenient. 

As for setting ability? Loverly. I use an EcoTools Powder Brush to apply, since the bristles are loose and delicate enough not to upset foundation and such.

Now, if you are not a heavy makeup kind of gal, another great way to use setting powder is to lengthen the life of tinted moisturizer. I love TM, but I didn't know how to make it last until I read a suggestion in O Magazine

First I applied my current TM favorite, Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer, which evens out my skin tone and keeps it protected, then I set it with the Mineral Veil. The tint stayed admirably well for the day, and even kept oil somewhat at bay.

One Sunday, I was scheduled for a bris in the a.m. and a vort in the p.m. I simply set the Face with the Mineral Veil, and it stayed put for 12+ hours. All I had to do before I set out that evening was reapply lipstick. Same with an after-work date.      

Friday, September 13, 2013


I was walking toward the kitchen table, eager to be near my supper. A shopping bag from Marshall's was on the floor, a new tupperware purchase peaking out. Freakishly, one foot became entangled in the bag's handle, and as I stepped forward, the bag swung around, the tupperware lightly tapping the ankle of my other foot. 

Pain exploded. It was soon dulled by an oddly throbbing numbness. I hobbled to the table, dragging my now useless appendage; I collapsed into a chair, gasping in agony and disbelief. Holy mackerel, how could a gentle nudge from a tupperware do that? It took five full minutes to regain feeling in my foot. 

It made me think about how the tiniest amount of energy, if deftly applied, can have a gargatuan result. Like the Butterfly Effect. 
I thought then of how, comparably, the smallest word can make a difference. What are words, anyway? Air, vaporizing in the mist, wafting away without any sort of physical manifestation. Yet they can save. They can savage. 

We put no value on our own words, so why would anyone else take them seriously? But people do. Many hold words in high regard.  

I try to think before I talk. I do. But many times, too many times, I step into it. I thought I had cleared my words for takeoff, going over the safety checklist numerous times, but I fear that I have still said something unintentionally hurtful. There are moments when being a well-dressed hermit seems like a great new career path. 

If the spoken word, intangible as it is, can have such impact, how much more so the written word? Caution is vital when typing online, like the casually posted comment on a Facebook status, or even anonymously on a blog. There are ramifications even to a nameless, faceless, remark.

The smallest statement ("How lovely you look!") can be like yeast, making someone's day rise higher and higher, or can be a house dropped on a Bosch. Even if the remark was "well-meant," or "came from a place of honesty," don't volunteer to say a painful word.

I do believe that when someone eviscerates me verbally, it could not have been uttered unless I was meant to feel that pain, as every stubbed toe comes from the Eibishter. But that person did not have to volunteer for the job, and no one wants to be that volunteer. I want to be yeast. 

Women have the mitzvah of challah. Think of yourself as a chic baker, in more ways than one.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: Skinny B**** Syndrome

As I may have (repeatedly) mentioned beforehand, I have never been one of those amazing beings who can eat whatever they like yet remain waif-like. I have always had to carefully (very, very, carefully) consider whatever I consume, because it would end up manifesting on my belly area (i.e. "Her stomach precedes her.") 

Despite my not even being remotely see-through, I am starting to get snarky comments about my supposed superpower of spontaneous slenderness. 

"If I was as skinny as you," the crossing guard sighs, "I would be having bagels and cream cheese every day." 

"I can't have bagels or cream cheese ever!" I protest, but she smiles in that way when someone decides to let you off the hook knowing you are lying through your teeth. 

"For someone like you who is naturally skinny—" he says snidely, but I'm looking over my shoulder. Who?

"I'm just going to look for now," I explain to a woman next to me by a magnificent spread, after she harasses me for not heedlessly digging in. "Wait a sec," she replies in shock, "You watch yourself? I thought that . . ."
It is very nice to know that my supreme efforts of self-control are paying off. But I appear to be discriminated against as being one of "those." You know, "those." 

In college I had a classmate, a woman who tried desperately to gain weight. She morosely licked a vending machine ice cream pop, praying some of that fat would actually stick. She was not a b****. She was funny, natural, and a great person to take Creative Writing 101 with. 

I am not sure if "those" exist, except in our insecure minds. If someone has that magical metabolism that burns off insane quantities of calories without effort, I can assure you she is not doing it intentionally to irritate you; she's got other things on her mind. 

As for me? I'm standing here, to the side, during a shul kiddush so the kakaós can't seduce me. Believe me, I would really, really like to have some, but I have a wedding next week and my suit is not accommodating.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'll Be There For You

Last Man Standing, "Wherefore Art Thou, Mike Baxter":

Mandy, the middle daughter and the most flightiest, is the understudy in Romeo and Juliet. She spends most of her time complaining about the fact she is not the lead, rather than preparing for her part. When "Juliet" falls off the stage, Mandy gets her dream role, except she doesn't bother to learn her lines. 

Her father, Mike, tries to make it back in time to see her unintentionally hysterical performance, but he misses it. When he expresses surprise that she had to ad-lib from lack of practice, she retorts that he didn't even show. But you didn't do the work, he responds. You do the work, and I will show up.  

Isn't that like our relationship to the Eibishter? We have our hishtadlus; when we do our part, He shows up. 

We have to meet Him halfway. "God helps those who help themselves"—no, we are not omnipotent or all-powerful, but in all our lives we have some areas which we have some control over. In order to get a paycheck, one has to get up on time, plan for traffic, and do some work first (but I don't consider stalking "shadchanim" as hishtadlus).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tangles Tackled

"Sit still," I admonish her. She whines and wiggles and emits yelps of pain as I haul my brush repeatedly, heartlessly, through her full mane. 

I finally manage to wrestle it into a semblance of control, twisting the now gleaming yet thick halo into a zaftigeh braid. "Ooooow," she still moans, reaching for her scalp. 

"Don't touch it!" I snap, whacking her hand away before she can mess up my hard work. "Your fault, anyway; you have been obviously not using all those conditioners I bought you. Standard? Deep treatment? Leave-in?" 

She smiles a tad guiltily, and ceases her noisy self-pity. 

That is something along the lines of my hair-dressing interactions with my nieces, but it is simply history repeating itself. As a child, after getting dressed in my offensive polyester uniform, I meekly sat at my mother's vanity and had my hair brushed, ponytailed, braided, and ribboned.
"People talk to you differently when your hair is made," she would say to me, and now, to her granddaughters. "Especially morahs. So stop kvetching; bring me the brush." They sullenly trot off to fetch it.

For those out there with little girls whose hair needs to be manipulated, and there are accompanying waterworks, there is a new tool at hand. 

The New York Times mentioned the Tangle Teezer, a supposedly miraculous brush with malleable bristles that gently eases its way through knotty strands and coaxes them away, as opposed to standard brushes that rip them out of existence.
When I checked it out on Amazon, I was informed that there are already other options, like The Wet Brush and SHARKK, which have handles that can be gripped. I got The Wet Brush. (I later purchased the SHARKK as well, and the two seem to be equatable).  

The premise is that it calmly detangles gnarly hair, when it is especially so when wet. But I make a point not to brush my hair when wet, since hair is weaker then and more prone to breakage. But no worries, it works divinely on dry hair as well. 
It also claims to be good on wigs—takes the tangle out, not the hair.

When my thick, wavy hair has dried, this brush gently tugs it into civility, without a squeak from me. I experimented it on my niece who had just gotten out of the pool—apparently she screeches bloody murder every night when her hair is brushed out of the bath—and she boomed, "This is my favorite brush!" 

Needless to say, I have purchased these for all the little lasses.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I blame elementary school for this. 

"Rosh HaShana is the time of year we ask for forgiveness," the morahs would say. "But if you don't forgive someone after they have asked, you are a rasha." 

So girls would stand in doorways, hawking "Forgiveme? Forgiveme? Forgiveme?" as every classmate walked by, and if someone didn't squeak "I forgive you," they would cackle and squeal, "You're a rasha!" 

On the adult level: When mass emails are sent out to everyone's contacts, saying, "If I have offended you I am sorry and I hope you forgive me": If one doesn't know if one has done something wrong, distributing "Get out of jail free" cards doesn't count. 

The phrase "I'm sorry" has been cheapened nowadays. Children are demanded to say it after every transgression, whether they feel contrition or not. They are just empty words, quickly muttered to get that lady off my back. 

I have a little nephew, the runt of the family who is one tough cookie. Not yet two he stomps about, a principled yet undersized weenie. If his parents tell him to say "Sorry," he bellows, "No! I not sorry!" 

I laugh for joy when I hear him say it. He won't lie, not even to get out of trouble, and I think that shows a perseverance of character. Saying "sorry" should mean being sorry; the words should not be pithily uttered. That kid knows what being sorry means, and he won't fake it.

Whenever I think back to someone "who done me wrong," I don't want apologies from them. I want to see them do better, treat others kindly, to show consideration. If I see them act so, I know they are truly sorry. I know they won't make the same mistake again, and will be sensitive and respectful. 

Don't do a casual FB status, "Forgive me?" to your 300+ "friends." Don't include a card in your wedding invitation, saying "A wedding is like Yom Kippur, so sorry to all and sundry." A few Yom Kippurs have passed without an apology, so don't start now. Don't ask for mechila if you don't even know if you have done something wrong.

Because asking for forgiveness also means recognizing one's own faults, and taking action on them. It's supposed to change one's being, inside and out. It's serious stuff. Like in the A.A. 12-Step Program (making amends is #9).

It doesn't belong on Twitter.      

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nostalgia, the Right Way

I always find it entertaining how people with little grasp of history sigh in the bliss of false memories as they enthuse about how simple and admirable life was in Europe, before arriving to this "shmutzik" country.

Just for starters, at least there isn't a chance of having all the women in the shtetl raped by Cossacks.
On a less murderous level, dating. When I go out with a guy that I kinda like, I am able to zone in on possible faults, as well as qualities; not to penalize, persay, merely to be aware of. If he says no, suddenly my observations of flaws are out the window; only his shining virtues remain.

Nostalgia can be a two-edged sword. Stephanie Coontz, in "Beware Social Nostalgia" and her follow-up, "The Not-So-Good-Old Days," reminds us that while we can croon over the days "When Zaidy was Young," we forget that the past was no less devoid of negatives as contemporary times. 

Coontz is not saying that reminiscing is dangerous; rather, focusing only on the good as opposed to the bad of the past has no meaning in the present. What matters is to learn from the past, both good and bad, and not repeat that which should be avoided. 
he psychologist John Snarey has studied men who had very difficult childhoods because of their fathers’ poor parenting. Some of these men replicated the same problems in their relationships with their own children. But others were able to use the memory of what their fathers did wrong to chart a different course in their own parenting. What separated the two groups was that the successful ones neither idealized their own fathers nor focused on their shortcomings. Rather, they placed their fathers’ failures in context, turning their anger “into a sense of sadness for and understanding of the conditions under which their own fathers had functioned.” Their unhappy memories became a guide for avoiding bad behavior rather than an excuse for it.  
In college, my psychology professor said that only 30% of people raise their children differently than how they were raised. Since 100% of children has said at some point to themselves, "When I have kids . . ."—what happened in the interim? Maybe nostalgia? 

Luke observes that we often ooh and aah over architecture from way back when, but fail to take into consideration that before unions, workers were relatively expendable. They were harmed on the job, maybe killed, overworked without benefits or insurance. Contemporary construction may be comparatively shoddy, but what is the price of a human life? 

Babi came to this country at the age of 40 and never looked back. No more chickens to pluck! Indoor plumbing! She could even sleep in if she wanted to without worry that her kids would have nothing to eat since nothing was prepared from dawn on. Heating and air conditioning!

Ma spent her childhood in Europe, and while she tells me over the stories of then, she never bathes it in the aura of wistfulness. Their time there was very pleasant (before the Nazis, and the interim before the Communists showed up), but now we are here, with wonderful conveniences and free of fear. 

She certainly shuts up someone quick who gets misty-eyed over the idyllic life of a "pashuter Yid" back there. A sense of history and perspective is vital. 

John Tierney is less combative against nostalgia in "What is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows." He approaches it from a different angle; not a longing of how things used to be, but rather a means to remember difficulties and the resultant success, pushing one to move forward. Like the Seder. 

Or even now, on erev Rosh HaShana, when we are supposed to review our behavior of the past year, and consider where it needs improvement for the future. If we have changed before in the past for the better, we can do it again, and come even farther. 
“Many other people,” he explains, “have defined nostalgia as comparing the past with the present and saying, implicitly, that the past was better — ‘Those were the days.’ But that may not be the best way for most people to nostalgize. The comparison will not benefit, say, the elderly in a nursing home who don’t see their future as bright. But if they focus on the past in an existential way — ‘What has my life meant?’ — then they can potentially benefit.” 
Rosh HaShana shouldn't be about facing one's mortality; we are not supposed to be morose or morbid or fear the avenging arm of God. Rather, we should use nostalgia to see where we need to excel for the next year.