Category Archives: The Slattern Speaks
The thing no one ever tells you about middle age is that it’s the beginning of the end of dignity as you have previously known and experienced it. Adolescent store clerks start calling you Ma’m, or worse Dear. Incontinence supply catalogues mysteriously begin arriving in the mail – with your name right there on the cover next to the photos of Tranquility Briefs (sm) and hernia belts. And suddenly the term “age appropriate” is casually slung around by your hairdresser, your yogi and the bra fitter at Bloomingdale’s.
Then, as you are desperately trying to crawl up from the Fifth Circle of Hell — which by the way is Humiliation, not Anger — you suddenly slip down a couple more rings to Violence in the form of medical appointments, treatments and tests. Here tissue is flattened, squeezed, poked and punctured; orifices are regularly violated; and your inner workings are routinely nuked, drained and irradiated. All in the name of maintaining virtuous good health.
In light of the above, then, it would seem that the annual dermatological skin check is hardly likely to redline the stress meter, given that it consists of nothing more than someone eyeballing your epidermis; no needles, chemicals or surgical instruments are involved. And yet, somehow, it is this appointment I dread above all others, even the one with my gastroenterologist, the operator of an outsize colonoscopy hose in Midtown West, and whom I strongly suspect to be the evil spawn of Dr. Mengele, so watch your back.
In any case, the skin check is entirely pain-free, at least in the physical sense, so there’s no worry on that score. It’s the psychological torture of interaction with Dr. Clinka that agonizes. As with every dermatologist I have ever laid eyes on, her face is so smooth it’s nearly featureless — like an evil fetus who’s been at the airbrush too long. Her forehead doesn’t move, her eyebrows are halfway to her hairline and her skin is as tight as the casing on a Fenway frank. There is not a mark or a line or a blemish anywhere on the vast white expanse of her visage, and yet by the look of her hands she’s got be at least 110. Every year I vow to find another doctor, but then I remember she’s got the treasure map of my moles and I worry the new guy will overlook something or fail to notice a sudden increase in the size of one of the future melanomae on some part of the body I can’t see. And besides, it’s really easy to get an appointment with her on short notice. I’m guessing very few of her patients book a second visit.
Frau Doktor Clinka never “counsels” me until after the skin check in which I appear nearly naked under approximately one million candlepower of unflattering fluorescent blue lighting. How she manages to get through it without flashburns on her retinas I cannot fathom, but it could very well be she enjoys the pain, or perhaps she just prefers to keep the balance of power tipped in her favor. I suspect it’s both.
Last year we got through the body scan all right but afterward I had some trouble closing up the gown. They call it a gown, but it’s a gown in the same way the Winnebago my Uncle Buzz parks next to the gravel pit is his summer palace. Sure it’s got its own port-a-potty and satellite dish, but it’s not like you ever wonder whether the queen’ll be having her Bud Light in a glass or straight from the can when she drops by for a chat.
Anyway, there I was trying to cover as much of my personal real estate as possible with the skimpy green scrap when I asked about treatments for the ever-deepening frown lines between my eyebrows, which get more furrowed and asymmetrical every year.
“For you I wouldt recommendt zee Botox,” she began, regarding my browline as if it were mottled with a particularly virulent strain of leprosy.
Botulism toxin under the skin? Call me crazy, but no, I don’t think so. That’s a slippery slope I’m not interested in sledding on. I mean, one thing leads to another and before you know it, you find Priscilla Presley looking back at you in the mirror as you try to figure out where your face went. What’s more, the stuff has got to be toxic, and when it is eventually revealed that it causes massive brain meltdowns or brings on uncontrollable episodes of St Vitas’ Dance, I’ll be vindicated, mark my words. Anywho, what with my aversion to needles and sub-dermal WMDs, I demurred and similarly opted out of the injected fillers she was flogging at the fire sale rate of $500 a pop.
“In zat case your only options are zee surgery lift or zee topical lozion, which, unfortunately, makes for zee least effective treatment.”
I was all over the topical option, and I said so. “It sounds like a beach vacation,” I offered in the same way you might throw the last scrap of beef jerky from your rucksack at the feet of a particularly peckish alligator.
With a sigh, she extracted a tiny pink sample tube of Retin-A from her cabinet of curiosities. It looked like it had been klepped from Barbie’s Dream House, except of course everyone knows Barbie doesn’t need wrinkle cream. Bitch.
“So vat you do is take this amount every day and rub it on your face after zee moisturizing und sunscreening which of course you do not use even after I tell you zat you must.” She squeezed a white blob the size of a pea onto my index finger.
“Right here?” I asked indicating the trenches above my nose.
“No, all over. And I vould recommendt your neck und chest too.”
“All over? Do I really need it all over my face? What are you saying? Is it really that bad?” I whined, but got no answer, just a knowing smile, at least I think it was a smile. The only muscles in her face that still seem to be fully functional are the ones controlling her lower lip.
This year I vowed things would be different. In the wake of last year’s horror show, I’d been using the magical Retin-A, which the pharmacist charges a mere $200 a tube for, on every inch of exposed skin, coating my body in zinc oxide then swaddling myself on the beach in August and wearing ridiculous floppy hats year round with Jackie O shades to help me stop squinting. And so, fish-belly white, rejuvenated, exfoliated and depilitated, I was ready for my close-up as I entered the examining room.
I was a fool, however, to think the good doctor had been asleep at the switch for the past year. Right away I realized that like all evil geniuses, she’d been hatching new plots to take the mortification level of the all-over skin check to previously undreamed-of, stratospheric new heights. This year’s flash of brilliance: paper bikinis.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a disposable undergarment, let alone had the pleasure of slipping into one, but just in case you’re not familiar with these items, they consist of a three-inch wide scrap of itchy fiberglass-infused tissue paper with skinny white elastic threaded through either end as a “waistband.” To say that these are universally unflattering is as mild as understatement gets, because unless you’re dancing for the Bolshoi, you are going to look like a sumo wrestler after a pig roast and a three-week noodle binge in this rig.
Still, there is an upside. With the paper bikini, La Clinka can now scope out my entire ass without having to yank down my underpants as I lie splayed on my stomach, an act that has a distinctly weird porno vibe about it. Every year I half expect her to give me a little spank when she’s done and am always afraid the scene is being secretly videotaped for some deviant web site, like Dermo Doc Spank Fest.com or BottomsUp.net, which is why I always wear my sunglasses during the exam. The doctor never objects, which makes me doubly suspicious. Sure there’s money in Botox and micro-dermabrasion, but the real dough’s in porno. Everybody knows that.
I’ll come clean. I am barely cooking at all this Thanksgiving. Instead I’m flying to Florida on the holiday to help stage an epic 90th birthday party for my Grammie Florence on the Friday, and I am some kind of excited about it.
I wish I could say I’ll miss the unbearable stress of accommodating twenty people in a living space that barely houses four, or that I’m pining for the experience of getting a massive bird, fifty side dishes (including a jell-o salad) and six pies made IN ADVANCE, or even that I regret not having the opportunity to get sideways drunk well before sundown on the case of nasty New Beaujolais my Uncle Fred invariably drags through the door. I won’t. What I will do is throw together a pie this afternoon, help roast up a little turkey breast tomorrow morning, then swallow three Klonopin in the car on the way to JFK in preparation for the flight and the prospect of having to re-don the skimpy summer wardrobe in a roomful of cameras.
As such, I’m not even going to apologize for recycling last year’s turkey post. Nobody was reading me at the time, so only a few stalwart family members even saw it anyway. And for those of you about to enter the inferno of frenzied dinner prep and family holiday shenanigans remember, it’s all about the path of least resistance, which in my experience leads straight to the portable bar.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Brine a turkey? Are you for real?
It isn’t hard enough to time everything so that a large turkey, two kinds of potato, four vegetables, three sides, dinner rolls, stuffing and gravy all hit the table at the same moment, hot and unspoiled?
Would you seriously consider adding to that madness a procedure that requires a trip to Home Depot the day before Thanksgiving for a bucket big enough to hold an eighteen pound bird and about fifty gallons of salt solution; soaking the bird in the solution for twelve to twenty-four hours; finding adequate cold storage for same; then fishing the sodden bird out of the drink early in the morning of a day when you’ve got ten people coming for a midday meal, some of whom might even be your in-laws?
Really? Well prepare to eat the meal in your pajamas, and you might as well start with Bloody Marys for breakfast and work up from there.
Let me tell you, I tried brining exactly once and all I have to say is never again. See above. Now, I can’t tell you absolutely that brining does not produce a moister bird. It may very well, and people who know a lot more about cooking than I do swear by it. What I can say is that when it comes to the year I tried to brine my bird, I can barely remember eating the meal (now generally referred to as the brining incident amongst my nearest and dearest) let alone cooking it. In any case, it took months of talk therapy, some high grade pharmaceuticals and a few meds that are not, strictly speaking, in the Physician’s Desk Reference to deal with the fall out from that little adventure, and there is no way I’m going to revisit it. For me, the big bird soak was the straw that very nearly broke the slattern’s back, the final drop that loosed the deluge from the sherry bottle if you will.
So long story short, my advice is not to brine. Just cook the stuffing separately and drizzle it with some of the drippings from the bird before serving. Same diff, and your guests will not be any the wiser. When you shorten the cooking time (unstuffed birds cook much faster), the white meat is less dry. For flavor, use lots of butter and sherry and shove some fresh sage and half an onion in the cavity before you roast the bird. That’s it. Not exactly rocket science, but at least it gives you a fighting chance of remaining upright until the pies are cut.
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Game for more Thanksgiving madness? Try these:
Martha’s offices remain dark. All around the world, the sane breathe a sigh of relief.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Why, oh why, do you continue to subscribe to Martha’s missives given that you neither follow her advice nor drink the Kool-Aid she ladles out from the tasteful punchbowl in her lofty perch atop the domestic goddess pantheon?”
Thank you for asking.
In response to your question, I have to say I’m not sure. The most obvious answer is that Martha’s busybody newsletters, narcissistic epistles, endless TV shows and rat-ass crazy magazine provide easy fodder for a slattern such as myself. They, in effect, help me position myself as the anti-Martha and define my world, albeit in negative terms — no crafts, no fiddly recipes and most importantly, no fucking Halloween parties. As I may have mentioned, the woman makes my ass ache.
Perhaps it’s the illicit thrill of getting something for nothing from Martha’s mighty Omnimedia empire that keeps me from hitting the unsubscribe button. I neither buy the mag, nor shop at K-Mart, nor order online, and still I get her product delivered, as if by magic and for free, to my shabby little inbox on a fairly regular basis. I worked in marketing long enough to see that this represents a poor return on advertising investment, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy being a drag on the queen’s bottom line.
Both answers are plausible, but it may be that the real truth is a bit darker and more sinister. Mayhap, there’s an element of Stockholm Syndrome about my relationship with Mrs. Stewart. Certainly the specter of the jailhouse hangs over her empire, even now. Yes, I loathe her and despise her fun-destroying, make-work approach to doing everything from changing a roll of toilet paper to making a ham sandwich and decorating the inside of your junk drawer, but somehow it delights me that she still encourages me to participate, to buy her line of crap if you will. In the words of Cheap Trick, “(Hey Martha) I want you to want ME.”
I don’t know, I guess the main reason I stay on the mailing list is probably that the ratchet-jawed old so and so is just fun to mock. In any case, I’ll be sure to let you know when the lights come back on. Hopefully there’s still time to salvage Thanksgiving.
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Hey folks, in all seriousness, Hurricane Sandy has devastated many lives and communities here in New York, and though the lights are slowly coming back on, it will be a very long time before this city and its people are whole again. I guarantee that anything you can do — a donation, a prayer or a message of support — will be most appreciated.
Holy Mother of God, is it Halloween again? Already? How I could have missed this given the flurry of Martha Stewart Halloween hints that clutter up my email this time of year is a mystery. Perhaps it’s because this is the first year the little Slattern has not been home for the holiday, and as such the first year I have not had to make or even think about costumes. Anyways…in recognition of this, my least favorite holiday, I give you…drum roll please…last year’s post. Don’t be disappointed. It was a corker.
I hate Halloween. The costume hysteria, the sugar meltdown, the sugar coma, the instant weight gain, the toilet paper in the trees, the stink of scorched pumpkin innards, and that’s before we even begin to deal with the children.
Then there’s the expectation that this, or something very like it, will somehow come into play. Yeah, sure. Imagine a bag of cold oatmeal in a thong and handcuffs for a preview of the appeal of that. Finally, factor in a bunch of cranked up kids and you’ve got a recipe for instant Armageddon, folks.
So how do I cope with it year after soul-destroying year? I think you know, but in case you don’t here’s my strategy. Do with it what you will.
October 27: Buy candy I think the kids will like, but which really is what I like: Snickers miniatures, Twizzlers, Heath bars, peanut butter cups, et al.
October 28: Emerge from sugar coma long enough to destroy the evidence and trash any remaining food items.
October 29: Replace consumed candy with items I do not like (Charlestown Chew, Laffy Taffy, pixie stix). Eat those anyway, because by now the sugar monkey on my back has become a gorilla and the beast must be fed.
October 30: Join Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous or similar. Plan a gym visit. Begin green tea detox and abandon it three hours later.
4 pm: Run out to corner store in a panic to replace candy currently stored on my ass or passing through my digestive tract. Find only reject items, such as Good ‘N Plenty, Mary Janes, Red Hots. Buy anyway along with a large bottle of pink grapefruit juice.
5 pm: Dump all reject candy into a large bowl and set on front steps. Too shameful to hand out in person. Turn out all the lights. Retreat to the back of the house with the grapefruit juice and a large bottle of vodka and wait it out with a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon. By the time the trick or treaters have finished their retaliatory toilet papering and egging for the crap candy, I’m too fat to clean it up and too drunk to care.
November 1: Back to Betty Ford.
What’s Panera without the bread? No cure for a hangover, that’s for sure.
As it unfailingly does at this time of year, fall has come to New England, and so this morning Mr. Slattern and I rose before dawn to head north for a squint at the leaves. As the alarm sounded at 6 am, it occurred to me that undertaking a 500 mile drive just a few hours after returning home from a festive evening wedding was perhaps ill-advised, but we were committed to this course, and so there was no question of not pursuing it, hangover be damned. And I had one goddamned hangover, let me tell you.
Of course, at a wedding — especially one that involves two superbly matched, uber-fun queens of fabulosity like our pals Robin and Jen — the champagne should flow like water, and though Mr. Slattern refused a tipple from my slipper, a good time was still had by all. I even allowed myself a big old slice of wedding cake (an indescribably sinful and delicious homemade coconut confection with cream cheese icing, sigh) in direct contradiction of the Feelbad diet plan, aka dinner at Gitmo. I figured I’d probably be incapable of eating for a couple days anyway, so what the heck, I had a brownie and an éclair too.
So anyways, by about 11 am, Mr. Slattern and I both felt like we’d been up for about a week and decided that a little sustenance was in order. Unfortunately neither of us was fit for public view for reasons previously alluded to, so a leisurely lunch at the Old Port Sea Grill was out of the question. Besides, we were in a hurry. So we decided to drop off the highway and go foraging for reasonable fast fare, which is how we ended up at Panera Bread at the ungodly hour of 11:30 am.
Mistake number one. Well two actually, since I guess you’d have to count my appropriation of a full champagne bottle from the waiter and subsequent request for a straw the night before as the first step on this particular trip to hell.
In any case, it’s been a while since we were on this kind of meal schedule, like about sixteen years, which is why I guess we had forgotten that when you eat lunch well before noon your fellow diners will mostly be under five or over 90. Kids I don’t mind so much, provided they’re cute and silent, but as previously documented, the active seniors tend to get up my nose, unless they’re built along the lines of my Grammie Florence, who is still a head turner and party favorite as she approaches age ninety. But of course, she’s the exception rather than the rule.
We spent about eight hours in line behind a foursome with a combined age of about 420 who had lots of querulous questions about free refills and senior discounts. (They all ordered soup in bread bowls, the mere thought of which nearly made me vomit as wet bread disgusts me.) Finally though, we put in our order, received our complimentary Panera vibrator and picked our way across the dining room to a reasonably clean table by the window, which was a tad bright for my liking, but at least was well off the flight plan of the cookie-fueled preschooler whose mother was deeply involved in a phone conversation about what Stan was going to do with all that money and why he shouldn’t spend it on that whore he’d gone ahead and married even though his entire goddamned family had told him it would be a mistake verging on a crime to do so. Maine, the way life should be.
Anyway, the vibra-pager eventually lit up and we retrieved our food. Mr. Slattern’s turkey and avocado sandwich was entirely acceptable, even tasty. It came with a pickle and an apple, which made for a satisfying lunch that left him fueled up and ready to drive the remaining three hours. My Panera dining experience, however, was considerably less spectacular, consisting as it did of chicken and avocado atop a Cobb salad made of previously frozen romaine, tasteless tomatoes and some kind of chopped egg product, in which the texture of both the yolk and the white reminded me more of Peeps than anything chicken-related I have ever encountered. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing, putting Peep eggs into a salad; however, one would expect to see that at Easter rather than harvest time. And as the gag inducing egg bits were both indistinguishable and inseparable from the bleu cheese crumbles, I eventually just gave up and lunched on the chicken and avocado. Don’t even get me started on the “vinaigrette.” The apple, however, was delicious.
As for the hangover, a day of green tea and Alka Seltzer eventually put paid to the nausea, which is a good thing because we’ve got party guests at the cottage, and they always stop at the wine store before they arrive.