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Date archive for: June 2011

Downloading Self-Control

I’m a writer. That’s my job title. But it’s a funny description for someone who does what I do: spends her days grasping for any excuse not to write.

You see, I have the discipline god gave a golden retriever. I’ve read about writers with fuel-injected work ethics, devoted scribes who lock themselves in mountain cabins for weeks at a time to expunge their souls onto the page with no interruptions.

Me, I welcome interruptions. No, I crave them. Focus is hard; interruptions are easy. When I hit a bump in my work — a lay-there lead, herky-jerky transition, or wussy ending — I slip out of writer mode like soap from a wet palm and find myself hunting for online distractions.

Email. Twitter. Google News. I’d like to blame modern technology for my short attention span, but the real menace is me and my diabolical reluctance to concentrate.

“It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.” Buddha said that. I would have said it myself if I hadn’t been so busy not researching column topics or negotiating editorial deadlines, but rather diving down the rabbit hole that is YouTube, searching for old friends on Facebook (who, at this point, it’s safe to assume, don’t want to be found), and checking Weather.com for the next 10 days’ forecast — not because I’m planning a wedding and may need to order a tent but just because the ‘Net allows me to see the future and how cool is that?

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Giving Birth: A Laughing Matter?

I’m not into pain. Not even a little bit. A fitness trainer once instructed me to push through my searing muscle ache, assuring me that “pain is weakness leaving the body.” My response: “This is me leaving the weight room and signing up for Zumba.”

Life’s full of pain. Why invite more?

It’ll come as no surprise, then, that my position on pain management during childbirth has always been an unequivocal “YES, PLEASE.” Upon arriving at the hospital to deliver my children, I told every human being who would listen, including the valet who took my car out front: “I’m going to need an epidural. A big one. Soon, probably. I’m one of those women. Just so’s ya know.”

I got my epidural — twice. And it even worked — once. The other time it failed and had to be re-administered late in the game. Which is really the only good reason for an anesthesiologist to be holding a long needle inches from a shrieking woman’s spine, instructing her to “hold very still” during body-quaking, soul-rattling contractions. But I digress.

My point is that labor and delivery are brutal. They’re absolute misery; I don’t care what anyone tells you. I did lots of unpleasant and involuntary things in the delivery room. I wept. I vomited. I may have soiled the delivery table; my husband has the good sense to deny it, and I have the good sense not to keep asking.

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Glossy and Glam, with Girth

I no longer read fashion magazines. I don’t subscribe to them. I don’t impulsively buy them at the grocery checkout aisle. Unless I’m at the salon, bored stupid while waiting for abrasive chemicals to work magic on my mane, I steer clear of glossy beauty rags altogether.

They endorse a pristine level of personal maintenance that makes me feel — in lax contrast — like a wrinkly, flabby savage in outdated pants. And I try never to feel like that.

But there’s a magazine out this month that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. The June issue of Italian Vogue boasts a lush and provocative cover featuring … wait for it … plus-size models. That’s right: The cover and a generous interior spread celebrate four stunning women with hips, thighs, and hindquarters that don’t hide from hotshot photographer Steven Meisel’s leering camera. In black-and-white 1960s cinema style, the voluptuous ladies lounge in lingerie, sprawling half-nude on divans, crawling cat-like across tables, cuddling up to fur coats (how desperately do you want to see this right now?).

The headline: “Belle vere.” Real beauty.

I’m not one to defend the fashion industry. It’s fickle, it’s shallow, it’s fiendishly (and intentionally) out of touch with reality. Case in point: It trumpets grasshopper-thin girls as paragons of glamour, but has lost five “successful” young models in as many years to anorexic deaths. The youngest was 18; the smallest weighed just 73 pounds.

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Lost: One Father

I always knew I’d speak at my father’s funeral.

It’s a morbid thought, I know. But I was sure I’d deliver his eulogy. See, he’s a fascinating man — passionate and charismatic, the kind of guy who seems to have lived several lives in the space of one. A dozen careers. Hundreds of adventures. Thousands of friends.

And my father taught me how to write. By turning me on to cunning authors and forcing me to rewrite shoddy school essays, he helped shape my voice. We share a love of style, an ear for rhythm.

So I assumed that when the time came, I’d need to squelch my own sadness, stifle my tears, and sum up the substantial capacity of this man’s character. The notion scared me half to death myself. I spent years wondering what I’d say to honor such a life and whether I could do it justice.

But I don’t wonder that anymore. Now I just wonder if anyone will tell me when he dies.

Technically, he’s not my dad; he’s my stepdad. But he was a real father to me for 30 years. He coached me in table manners and protected me from bullies. He donned a grass skirt to man the grill for my Sweet 16 backyard luau. He wrote a poem for me and read it aloud at my wedding.

That day — the day I got married — he was already one year into a secret love affair with a woman who was not my mother. The liaison lasted 12 years before Mom discovered it.

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My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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