Category Archives: The Slattern Speaks
Surrender Your Dignity: The horror of the skin check
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 Ding Dong 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.
A little Valentine’s Day closet porn anyone?
C’mon down the rabbit hole.
Alert readers may have noticed that I have been rather conspicuous by my absence of late. The rest of you have probably been hanging out at the portable bar speculating on more pressing issues than why I can’t seem to get it together to post something pithy, and good on you.
As it turns out, I have been busy rather than slothful recently, though, let’s be honest here, there’s always at least a whiff of indolence mixed in with the miasma of eau de cologne, vodka processed through the skin and apple cider vinegar (trust me, you don’t even want to know) that surrounds me.
So where have I been you ask? Down the rabbit hole of middle-aged porn, obsessively re-screening the homeowner’s peep show, hanging out at the housewife’s glory hole. That’s right, my friends, I’ve slipped on my trench coat and have been spending huge blocks of time, and outrageous sums of money, at The Container Store. If you’re over forty or female or both, you probably require no further explanation, but for those of you who fail to grasp the significance of my new predilection, let me explain.
As I may have mentioned, I have some shoes — considerably more than pictured above, though nowhere near Imelda scale. Let’s just say it’s a substantial collection, carefully curated, lovingly arranged and personally significant, at least to me. As we all know, you can gain fifty pounds, develop female pattern baldness and a goiter, but your shoes will still fit. They are the foundation of the adult woman’s wardrobe, her security blanket, her hedge against sartorial disaster. As such, they need to be properly organized and displayed; they need “breathing room,” if you will.
Now, Mr. Slattern and I have shared a rather large, though inefficient, walk-in closet for several years, and in that time my need for space has increased. Unfortunately, this has impinged on his need to keep my off-season shoes out of the area designated for his shirts. Rather than accept marital discord as the inevitable result of this rather fraught arrangement, however, I came up with the clever idea of dividing the one large closet into two smaller ones. Well actually one smaller one and one really tiny one, but that’s more of a detail than a feature item. Let’s move along.
Anyhoo, it was during the closet renovation project that I began frequenting that den of organizational iniquity, The Container Store, to ogle its aisles of color coordinated hat boxes, ingenious rolling shelving units and mad clever “storage solutions.” I’d spend hours talking about retractable fixtures with the staff, stroking the finishes on cabinet facings and fantasizing about stackable accessory storage. I fetishized the perfect reach-in closet and lingered in front of the titillating array of colorful bins and coordinating hampers. I was hooked, an addict, a filthy closet junkie who could not get enough of that sweet organizational stuff.
Now, before this little adventure, I had never really understood the obsessive need for this kind of stimulation. It wasn’t until I was in college that I saw my first dirty movie, an X-rated version of Alice in Wonderland, complete with costumes, dancing, singing and more than a few acts of extreme lasciviousness. Given that Cosmo generally tucked the particulars of its centerfolds out of sight in those days, and that the interwebs wouldn’t be invented (and cluttered up with naked girlfriends, randy phone repairmen and bleating Kardashians) for decades yet, I had very little experience with this kind of thing, which is to say none at all. But my friends and I figured it was time we found out what all the fuss was about, so we located a fellow student with a car, offered to spring for gas and trundled off to the Stillwater monoplex for a double feature.
If you’ve never seen a pornographic musical, it may be somewhat difficult to imagine. It is certainly a singular experience, what with all the dancing and singing interspersed with nudity, fellatio and random episodes of fornication. If memory serves, it was all very light-hearted in tone, what Patsy Stone would call, “a bit of cheeky fun.” In truth the particulars of the film are a bit hazy owing to the extended Blue-Nun-and-bong binge that preceded our attendance, though I do recall being somewhat taken aback by Alice’s escapades with the Red Queen. Let’s just leave it at that.
In any case, not since Alice dallied with the Mad Hatter (in his improbable size 9 1/2 hat) has one pleasure seeker found such fulfillment in a single location: aisle 5 of the Container Store to be precise. Enter at your peril and try to be discreet is my advice.
To brine or not to brine…
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:
Happy Thanksgiving: Embrace the can
Don’t desecrate your Thanksgiving bird
How’s all that exercise working out for ya?
A guide to navigating the gym for the non-athletic
I am, to employ the overused expression just one more time, built for comfort, not for speed. Before, however, you jump to conclusions about my physical aptitude, let me just say that despite being rather generously upholstered I am not uncoordinated. My dad is a natural athlete and my mother is a heck of a dancer, so I come from well coordinated, physically able stock. I would not, however, say the members of my gene pool are particularly hard charging, preferring as we do to confine our activities to those that are less taxing but also require a certain mental agility, such as golf, poker and Scrabble. The more demanding sports, we prefer to relegate to the TV. Nothing wrong with that.
In light of this, you can imagine my chagrin at being informed by Dr. Feelbad, diet doctor to the stars, that my daily waddles to the Cupcake Cafe and regular walking tours of Bloomingdales could in no way be construed as a fitness regime. He was very clear about this: In addition to removing every food I like from my diet, the price of a return to single digit sizes would be a minimum of two weight workouts and 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Swell, I said, but I vowed to do it. My first stop of course was Bloomie’s (for sneakers and appropriate gymwear), and then, since I was already in the building, it only made sense to look in at the Magnolia Bakery, conveniently located on the first floor.
Improbably, I have actually come to
suffer through enjoy my workouts. Within strict limits, which are:
I dislike sharing space with people who are sweating. In truth, I don’t even like to be around myself when I sweat. This makes yoga classes, which can be tightly packed, completely out of the question. I tried a few, and even the underpopulated ones invariably included a stinker, usually on a mat adjoining my own. What’s more, I have a tendency to fall asleep and snore during the little naptime at the end, which adds a general level of anxiety to the first 90 minutes of the experience as I fret about whether I’ll be able to stay awake and if I should or should not put a prop under my neck. Besides I can’t tell my chakra from my prana, and even if I could I’d never use those terms anyway. Is it me, or do they all sound vaguely pornographic? And since we’re on the subject, maybe I don’t want my hips to be more “open.” What does that even mean?
I know there are other classes, but there’s still the sweating issue, as well as the stamina problem. I’ve walked by the spinning room, and there is no way I’d last five minutes in that setting. The chafing of the bike seat, the horrible soundtrack and the military precision of it all would be too much. Stand up, sit down, now speed it up, crank it up a notch, go, go, GO! It’s like being force marched through an Easter mass by a speed-freak priest with music by the unholy trinity of Nickie Minaj, Rhianna and Lady Ga Ga. No thank you.
How about one of the dance-based classes?, you might ask. I think you know where I stand on Zumba generally. And anyway, I never dance in public until I’ve had at least four drinks, and then only if there’s a surf instrumental involved. When the instructors are all about twelve years old, there’s very little chance of that, you can be sure.
It has been suggested that I might improve the efficacy of my workout with the help of a personal trainer. I think not. There’s a slightly mildewy cloud of hopelessness that follows the trainer and student combos at my gym. Most of the trainers are weedy and unappealing, with the exception of Muscle Boy, the resident hottie trainer, but I’d never even attempt to work with him. There’s the whole Mrs. Robinson thing, and anyway being on the receiving end of pitying glances from a guy whose lips move when he thinks is not something I’m inclined to pay for.
Even if I could find a trainer, they all seem to employ this new system of flailing around the gym which I described in an earlier, satirical post. Whenever I see hapless mooks marching around the weight room while swinging kettle bells or walking sideways on the stairmaster under the knowing gaze of a personal trainer, I cannot help but suspect these “exercises” are more for the amusement of the fit than the physical development of the fat. No, I think I’ll just oversee my own work out with the help of a book and an occasional look at Pumping Iron, thanks very much.
No locker room.
I’ve heard that men are generally relaxed about the nudity issue and, if memory serves, I can say with some certainty that this is true. In all likelihood there are women who don’t stress over being seen in the altogether by other women, but then again, there are people who don’t mind dental visits or even high colonics for that matter. I fall into none of these categories, and so I prefer to handle post-exertion ablutions at home — alone, without any mirrors below chin level, and in a shower where if someone has peed, at least I know they’re family.
So what works?
The various cardio options are great because you can pop on your headphones and pretend you’re doing something else. I’m particularly fond of the elliptical machines because I can close my eyes while using them, which means even if people I know pass by I can legitimately avoid speaking to them. It’s embarrassing to have to stop your workout to hold a conversation, especially when you’re puffing like a steam engine after three minutes at level 1, or the wheelchair program as it is commonly known. To be avoided: the horrifying moving staircases. Yes, all cardio machines are in effect roads to nowhere, but these have a kind of Sisyphean gulag vibe that can easily turn working out into an existential crisis.
I also love the weight room. Really. The analog thrill of banging the iron appeals to me in some primal way. Again, it’s an individual thing, no group-think, just me and the dumbbells bonding in pursuit of flapless upper arms and a fat free back.
And finally, the one thing that makes it all bearable is the playlist. Now you’ll listen to whatever cranks your starter of course. I’ve developed a shameful habit of cueing up Florence + the Machine while on the elliptical — she’s kind of the Stephanie Meyer of art rock, but we all have our dirty little secrets. Generally I find that anything by the Foos (provided it’s at full volume) works exceptionally well at getting my thrash on, as do a host of other similarly loud musical selections. Listen:
Makes you feel like you could almost wind the treadmill up to 2, doesn’t it?
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Interested in more slatternly fitness antics? Try these:
Sandy’s Upside: Finally some good news
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.