Category Archives: women

Poor Princess Meets Frankenstorm


At 4:21, I’m getting on an airplane to Go west, Young woman! —Not that I’m really young, but I’m about to behave as though I am. After all, here’s what I’m going to do when I arrive in Scottsdale, Arizona, where today’s high is 87 degrees and–what else?–sunny:

I’m going to meet with 7 other fantastic mamas from far-flung cities.

We’re going to go on an artwalk. We’ll eat. We’ll drink. Maybe dance?

Tomorrow, we’re going to get up early and go on a canyoneering trip. What’s that? Well, let me tell you: We get driven in 4x4s across the desert. We then hike and scramble; we rappel down waterfalls; we swim across crystal clear springs. We do some other stuff. It’s all insanely awesome and beautiful.

Check out the pictures.

Then, when we’re good and tired, we go home, quick shower, quick-quick beautification–

PP and Salsa Shaker — Jewish Mamas’ Annual — 2011

and then off to dinner at Cowboy Ciao where some of us will indulge in duckfat ice cream (and some of us will definitely not!). Where then? The night is young, and all that is calling our names in the next couple of days is the pool, long runs, perhaps a hike,  some shopping, lunches with aguas frescas, dinners with lots of alcohol, and who knows–maybe we’ll have to hit the V Spot again, as we did on one of our previous Jewish Mamas’ Annual Scottsdale Trip–

2010 –where we all learn the word “vagazzle” — but none of us were daring enough to try it. (Tatazzling seemed a safer bet).

Now there’s a business model I bet you didn’t think of!

Or maybe find a post-Halloween Halloween party–

The trip will end with me meeting some very old friends for a much-needed catching up. And I will return to my family happy, refreshed, and full of love.

It’s the perfect Fall Break and the perfect Girls’ Weekend. Which is why it’s the THIRD annual.

Except — poor, poor, poor Princess.

That’s not what is happening today. I can sing “I’m leaving on a jet plane” all I want (FYI–it’s Chantal Kreviazuk I’m channeling, not John Denver), but I am not leaving on a jet plane today, thanks to this baby–

Instead, I am huddled in my house where the temperature is not 87 or 77 or 67. It’s 53F.

I’m under 4 blankets with four other people and we’re all hacking away like a bunch of consumptives sleeping together in a freezing Lower East Side tenement at the turn of the 20th century.

From Jacob Riis’s time — not so different?

We have no heat, no electricity, no home phone service, no cell service, and no internet. When we’re not under the blankets, we’re smushed together in my office–surrounded by offices where people are trying to actually work–and fighting over the screens (oh internet, I miss you so!). And when we get good and hungry, we’ll wait in line with the rest of the town to get into the one restaurant that’s running. It’s all good.

I really really really want to leave on a jet plane today, but with roads blocked or jammed, and transit not running, there’s no way of getting to the airport and getting the fuck outta here. Poor, poor Princess.

Calling Mom


PP: “I heard you called a bunch of times. What’s going on?”

Mom: “What’s going on there? What took you so long to call back? I was so worried!”

PP: “Why?”

Mom: “I had no idea why you weren’t calling back! I thought something had happened to you or the boys!!!”

PP: “Nope. Just busy.”

Mom: “Too busy to call your mother?”

PP: “Sorry, Mom. I’m just trying to enjoy the country. I’m, you know, running, biking, taking the baby to the lake and the boys to camp . . . Also, I’m revising my manuscript.”

Mom: “What manuscript?”

PP: “The book I’ve been working on for the past 3 years.”

Mom: “What book?”

PP: “Don’t I talk to you like–every day?”

Mom: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

PP: “Forget it. Anyway, it’s nice here. Quiet.”

Mom: “Do you know anyone there?”

PP: “Actually, today I saw a woman at camp I know from way back. Her kids also come here.”

Mom: “Who?”

PP: “Oh, you wouldn’t know her.”

Mom: “How do you know her?”

PP: “She went to Hebrew High with me.”

Mom: “And she recognized you?”

PP: “Why wouldn’t she? I look the same.”

Mom: “As when you were 5?”

PP: “I wasn’t 5 in high school.”

Mom: “What’s her name?”

PP: “Elisa, but you really wouldn’t know her.” (Mom’s memory is notoriously sieve-like)

Mom: “I remember her.”

PP: “No you don’t.”

Mom: “Does she have a twin?”

PP: “Oddly, yes. But I still think you don’t know her.”

Mom (proudly): “I do. You took ballet with her and her sister.”

PP (sighing): “Her twin is a brother, and you are thinking of Amy and Adina, who were in my class in nursery school.”

Mom: “Weren’t they at Etz Chaim with you for kindergarten?”

PP: “I didn’t go to Etz Chaim.”

Mom: “Yes you did.”

PP: “I went to public school.”

Mom: “Don’t be ridiculous. I never sent you to public school. Dad–” (she calls my dad Dad. He calls her Ma).

PP: “Mom, I have class pictures. I remember my teachers’ names. I–“

Mom: “Daddy confirmed it. You went to Etz Chaim.”

PP: “I did not go to Etz Chaim.”

Mom: “Your teacher was Mrs. Traub. I hear she’s unwell. I saw her brother. I told him you were in her kindergarten class at Etz Chaim.”

PP: “That was your other daughter’s second grade teacher at Hebrew Day.”

Mom: “You have nothing to say about her being sick?”

PP: “I barely remember her. I’m sorry to hear she’s sick.”

Mom: “Hmmph.”

PP: “Mom, I have to go. I want to take the baby into town.”

Mom: “That’s it?”

PP: “That’s it.”

Mom: “Fine. If that’s all you have to say to me–“

PP: “The baby is very restless.”

Mom: “You could call me sometimes. It would be nice if I knew anything about your life these days.”

PP: “I’ll keep that in mind.”


Preparing for an Interview: Cosmetic Changes


It’s my first trip to Bluemercury. All the salesladies are too pretty–straight out of the pages of a glossy magazine. All the clients wear big diamonds. And lots of makeup. They all wear lots of perfectly applied, perfectly polished, perfectly perfect makeup, probably from Bluemercury.

In walks me.

Makeup-less. No diamond. Hair half-wet–it hasn’t seen a blowdryer or flat iron since the last time I went for a haircut. Eyebrows so-so: I have found a place to do them. A little mani/pedi place run by a Korean woman who says, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I know,” every time I try to tell her how I want my eyebrows done (but how does she know? I haven’t told her yet!). She’s cheap, but not great.

All these details I notice in the many mirrors that adorn Bluemercury. They add up to one thing: I don’t fit in here.

WHY am I in a chic little makeup store?

It began with an invitation for a campus visit. Campus visits, for those who aren’t familiar with this form of academic interview, involve affairs that last a day or two or more, where you eat, drink, and breathe the college you are hoping will hire you. You have coffee with the faculty. You give a talk about your research. Maybe give a mock class. Get questions about your talk and class. Endure the official “interview” phase of the interview, where the committee members and other interested faculty take aim and launch questions at you from the trenches. Then there’s lunch: more chatting with faculty, more questions. A campus tour. Along the way you might learn about things like salary and benefits, or you might have a meeting with a dean about them. You might meet with the provost. You might meet with graduate students, or undergraduate students, or both. Every sip of coffee and word you let pass your lips: they’re on trial. It can be exhilarating; it will be exhausting.

Before going on the interview, I knew I had to survey my materials. Of both kinds: the academic kind (practicing job talks, preparing answers to standard questions, reviewing the university’s website) so I can come across as smart and interesting, and the physical kind (suit, shoes, makeup) so I can come across as sophisticated.

The academic materials I readied in short order. As for the personal materials, I could use changes that are more than cosmetic. But alas, time is short. I’m not about to go for a Botox fix (“Are you angry?” Cool J frequently asks. Damn furrow). So I pick the flaw that requires the smallest solution–and what’s smaller than a tube of lipstick?

And that’s why I’m here. Yes, when Nancy Botwin said I was the lowest maintenance woman she’d ever met, she was probably right. What woman of a certain age, as I suppose I now am, does not own a lipstick?

The saleslady approaches me. I tell her I’m looking for a lipstick–and that’s it. She looks me over. “You have wonderful skin!” she declares. “You’re right. All you need is a lipstick. Have you tried Crazed by Chanel? Everyone is truly crazed about it.” I try Crazed. “It’s good!” she says. She’s right. It’s good. I head for the cash register.

“Wait!” she calls. “What’s the occasion?”

“An interview.”



“Well, you don’t want to look–you know–dead at the interview, right?”

“That would be bad.”

“I just mean a little blush might help you look, well, more, um, alive.”

“How much is the blush?”


$45 for the blush that makes me look not dead. $34 for lipstick, which every woman should own. I hesitate. She finds an opening: “Listen, you have great skin, and you really barely need a thing. You have a mascara, right?” It’s old and clumpy. I nod yes. “And foundation?” I shake my head. She frowns. “Well, you really don’t need much foundation. A tinted cream would do the trick. A tinted cream would keep you hydrated and smooth out your skin. And give you SPF protection. It’s like three products for one” (but more like one product for the price of three). “A bit of tinted cream, a bit of eyeliner, mascara, blush, and Crazed. You’ll be perfect.”


I look at the blush. I look at my wallet. I open my mouth. I close it. I decide to be strong. I lengthen my spine and say, “I’ll take the lipstick. I mean, for now. Maybe I’ll come back for the blush.”

I am very proud of myself when I walk out only $34 poorer.

I head straight to CVS, where I buy Physicians Formula blush. It’s $5 and must be good since physicians clearly came up with the formula. I come home and try it on. It’s hot pink. I mean, hot pink. I wear it all day. No one tells me I look more alive. Then again, no one tells me I look dead (again).

Forget being a college prof–the next day I break out so badly I could probably walk into the high school across the street and get mistaken for the new kid in the freshman class. So much for coming across as sophisticated.


Commercial Watch II


This commercial seems to sum up Woman’s Existence:

I blogged about it over at Technorati, but I screwed up posting the actual commercial. So here you go, in all its excitement. Have a blast ogling women ogling shirts their working husbands get to wear to do their jobs (in the real world! where they make money! and use their brains!) and they get to clean (their jobs! no money! no brains!).

WooHoo! Yay for Women’s Lib! Simone de Beauvoir was SO right in 1949 when she said “Enough ink has been spilled in the quarreling over feminism, now practically over”–that’s right–OVER. Except that when had it ever begun? Did I miss the memo? Did Clorox?

Oh, silly me. Clorox made the men a bunch of dummies. THAT must be their feminist commentary (?!).

And for those of you who couldn’t be bothered to read my Technorati article, here is a beautiful picture of me doing what woman apparently does best:

Commercial Watch Part I: The Hebrew Ladies of Brooklyn


Much of my TV watching happens at the gym. I go to the Y. The Y, here in this princely town, barely grades a C-: 4 working treadmills on a good day, 3 or 4 bikes,  and a couple of elliptical machines are all crammed into a space roughly equivalent to that of my living room and set on a sweat-dampened carpet that should probably get Febreezed every so often. No individual TV screens. Magazines? There’s an Entertainment Weekly featuring Sawyer and a sneak-peek into the last season of Lost on the front cover. A Woman’s World promising the year’s best Christmas recipes. A 2009 New Yorker I’ve now read cover-to-cover at least 3 times. But no matter. The membership is relatively cheap; there’s a pool; and two lovely ladies watch the kids in a little playroom while mom or dad works out.

There are 3 TVs to watch at the Y, and no remote control. So here are my options: on the far left, CNN; in the middle, ESPN (and hence, my blindspot); on the right, which I generally end up in front of, Kathie Lee and Hoda. I have no idea what they’re actually saying, but I see them giggling, attempting to toss their shellacked hair, and clasping their hands together tightly on top of their legs also held together tightly. Perhaps with audio, I would find the show genuinely stimulating (is it possible?), but without, I can only concentrate on the movements of their high-gloss lips and flickering extend-a-lashes.

Ultimately, I’ve discovered something far more interesting than Hoda and KLG. The commercials.

Today I want to write about one I have watched numerous times, studying it frame by frame as I bounce along on the treadmill:

This MJHS commercial caught my attention for a series of reasons.

To begin with, it was the sepia. I am a sucker for anything that looks old. Then there’s the Mother of Exiles, the mighty woman with a torch, at the sea-washed, sunset gates. One year, my commute had me taking the subway over the Manhattan bridge every evening around sunset. How many times did I get all teary-eyed looking out at that Lady, glowing in the last light of the day, just beyond the Brooklyn Bridge (and I wasn’t even pregnant!)? There she is, offering refuge for the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse, the masses–whom we see–heads covered, indistinct, huddled over their belongings, also indistinct. Their new stomping grounds (my old stomping grounds) appear in bold at their backs: BROOKLYN.

From those immigrants, we move to the second set of women–elegant, established, hair dressed, necks adorned, American, contained in their frames of gilt and brass. These are not just any women: they are Jewish women. There is Webelovsky and Rosenthal, Berlin and Groden. And what did these women do from behind the glass? They “saw the despair.”

And here we have it again: Jewish women. The first set.

Both sets are Jewish women, but the women who appear in the first and third set, at the forefront, are not like those who keep to the safety of celluloid. These are old women, immigrant women, women adorned by babushkas and sheitels, arms weighted down with sacks and bundles. What is the story here? Is this a story of evolution? Are these indigent, religious women saved by the progressive American women who “saw the despair”? In the next generation, will their daughters, too, be able to retreat to their picture-perfect sanctuaries?

Is that the story being told by the series of sepia images for the Brooklyn Ladies Hebrew Home for the Aged?

Which no longer goes by that name. In a move made famous by Victor Fleming 72 years ago, the screen shifts from sepia to color, and a new name appears: MJHS (and in small, “Metropolitan Jewish Health System,” the name that was the transition-name between a locally-specific, ethnically-specific, gender-specific institution-specific name, and the acronym that means nothing).

The shift is to the present, and the new name indicates a new world.

From this:

To this:

And this:

And this:

Who are these people that are not Aged? Where is the Hebrew? Why have all the caregivers become people of color?

Except for this “Hebrew” woman–

who shares the “minority” status of the other 2011 women because she’s visibly frum.

I guess most Jewish women, particularly the secular ones, are above caregiving these days.

Except for these angels, who have found their places in our heavens–according to and on our gym TVs: