I’m not an expert on much, and frankly anyone foolhardy enough to take life advice from me would be well advised to have a sturdy liver, legal counsel on retainer and a reasonable tolerance for extended visits to Betty Ford. Nevertheless there are several subjects on which I feel entitled to make rather free with advice, and on occasion I do — cooking (or not cooking as the case may be), aesthetic and sartorial choices, driving in the city, effective child rearing, grammar and language to name but a few. Well now that I think about it, that’s more than a few and really it’s not the whole list either, but never mind, let’s continue.
Since at the moment the temperature on the east coast is roughly equivalent to that of the surface of the sun and I am really REALLY cranky as a result, I’m feeling inclined to offer up a few unsolicited corrections to erroneous, even egregious, behaviors that are irking me. Obviously I understand that we all have room for improvement, and I am no exception. In fact, constructive criticism (“Pizza again? Is it too much trouble to put the wine bottle down and make dinner?”), helpful tips (“Try getting out of bed before noon if you want be able to sleep at night.”) and polite suggestions (“Perhaps if you chose gazpacho for lunch instead of a third Bloody Mary, you might feel a bit perkier in the afternoon.”) routinely come my way. I give all fair consideration before disregarding them and doing exactly what I feel like at the time. I may be a slattern but I’m no hypocrite.
Anyways, in the spirit of helping my fellow man and with the goal of blowing off some steam, here are a few suggestions I feel the reading public could benefit from. Feel free to forward them along to acquaintances in need of a gentle shove.
Underwear ≠ outerwear
I know, I know, I’ve pointed this out before, but clearly the message is not getting through. Witness the following photo I snapped last night on the New York City subway. At least I’m pretty sure I did. Given the number of margaritas with beer chasers that accompanied the rather festive evening meal, the details are a bit hazy, but how else to explain this photo in my phone?
Now, granted, it was hot — I mean searing, hotter than the hinges of holy Hell down there. But I was dressed and most of the other travelers were, too. Were we comfortable? No, but we were decent, and that’s the crucial issue here. We should all try and look decent.
Happily the front of the garment offered a bit more coverage than the back if my recollection is correct. But really in what galaxy is this an acceptable way to leave the house? Does no one own a mirror anymore? What is going on? I really would like to know, because I’m having a very hard time understanding the thought process/life perspective that allows a person to take a look at herself thusly attired and say, “Okay, looking good. Let’s go!” So ladies, please, I am begging you, check your back fat before you step out the door. And for the love of God, invest in a slip.
Your tense makes me tense.
Though I understand the linguistic evolution behind Americans’ misuse of complicated conditional verb tenses (I’ll spare you the grammar lecture, so don’t say I never did anything for you), it still irks me to hear someone say, “If I would have known your were coming I would have baked a cake.” In case you are wondering, it should be “If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake.” Or in my case laid in a supply of decent rye so we could sit out on the terrace like civilized people and have a refreshing Sazerac or three in this dreadful heat.
What chafes me even more is to see this erroneous verb tense published in an article about writing, as I recently did in Writer’s Digest. Yup that’s right, a magazine about writing, for writers. I’d share the quote with you, but I set the issue on fire (with my MIND) in a fit of pique.
Similarly, there’s the convoluted, hopelessly nonsensical “I would have liked to have done that.” It should be, “I would have liked to do that,” meaning that in the past you would have enjoyed something you didn’t do. Alternatively, you could say, “I would like to have done that,” meaning that in the present moment you wish you had done something you did not do and wish it was among your past experiences. What you cannot do is mash the two together into a grammatical Frankenstein and hope no one notices or cares, at least not if I’m in earshot.
You see, it’s not the death of the English language, but its slow torture and frequent maiming that drive me to drink. Admittedly it’s a short trip, but still, you take my meaning.
And don’t even get me started on “Does everyone have their paper?”
There’s a good reason you never used that Flesh crayon.
You’d fight with your sister over the Midnight Blue, pinch your best friend to get your hands on Forest Green, bite your brother to loosen his grip on Chrome Yellow, but that nasty Flesh-colored crayon stayed in the box untouched, as sharp as the day you whined and begged until your mom agreed to buy the 64-color crate with the handy sharpener on the back.
Why? Because it is the ugliest color in the universe that’s why. Worse than red-brown, chartreuse and mauve combined. It’s nasty, folks, and it should be illegal. At the very least, if –hypothetically — your next door neighbor were to paint the back of her house and all the masonry in the yard this dreadful shade, she should have the decency to sell the property to a nice gay couple who’d paint it a tasteful ecru.
I’m all for letting the freak flag fly, but really, this is just too much.
Well, I’m feeling better now. Any pet peeves you’d like to share? Have at it, my friends.
Of sweatsuits, French manicures, Vinny the Chin and tiny little women with big demands.
Having strolled the avenues and byways of this planet for more decades than I will ever admit to, I have seen a fair sampling of humanity. In airports, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and even the occasional holding cell, I frequently find myself cheek by jowl with people from every walk of life, social strata and ethnic group.
By dint of living in New York, I even encounter the odd celebrity, as, for example, I did on one of the upper floors of the Plaza Hotel in 1989. This was my first ever celebrity sighting, so it sticks in my memory. I was actually there to look at corporate meeting rooms when lo and behold, I spied the original Mrs. Trump, Ivana, standing by the elevators with a hapless flunky who was looking more like a whipped dog than an uptown interior decorator as a result of the tongue lashing he was receiving about the progress and direction of renovations to the hotel. If memory serves, Ivana was about the size of a toothbrush and was repeating the same thing over and over, “No, no, NO, I vant goldt!” Truly a moment for the ages.
Anyhow, I share this by way of noting that she looked fabulous — exquisitely tailored pantsuit, coordinating stilettos, Louis Vuitton binder and a beehive that Patsy Stone would have killed for. Her lipstick was intact despite the fact that she had clearly been flapping her gums for some little time, and you could have sliced a baguette on the creases of her trousers. Ivana the Terrible was, in a word, glamorous.
Sure she was old school, but as we all know, there are infinite ways to do glamour. Just last week I saw a gorgeous African American woman of Amazonian proportions on the subway. She was sporting canary yellow leggings, matching thigh high boots and bag, and was rocking a coordinating manicure and a gold streaked Lady Godiva weave. The color was fabulous with her skin, there was not one hair out of place, and she was sublimely confident. I longed to ask her where she’d scored the footwear, as it’s so very difficult to find high style boots with wide shafts, but reconsidered after hearing her excoriate the man standing next to her who had the effrontery to stare. It was an extremely admiring stare, and rightly so, but since she took exception I decided to keep still.
In the event I have any male readers left at this point, let me point out that glamour is not an exclusively female domain. Recently, at the corner bodega of all places, I spotted a hipster guy in high tops, jeans, a white shirt and a vintage tuxedo jacket. He was buying gourmet beef jerky, coffee and Red Bull, so although I shuddered at the state of his gastrointestinal tract, he nonetheless had an elegant je ne sais quoi that would have stood him in good stead in almost any social setting — until the Red Bull and cowhide made their presence known, symphonically, several hours hence, anyway.
The point of all this is that glamour is many things to many people. What makes me feel good (three inch heels, a pencil skirt and a martini) may not work for you, especially if you prefer yoga pants and a t-shirt. Provided both fit properly, the pants have been hemmed so as not to drag on the ground, and your dirty hair is pulled back in a tidy ponytail, this can work. At the gym. Where it doesn’t work is at Bloomingdale’s, jury duty or parent teacher conferences, which are just a few of the places I have spotted this “look.”
And then of course there are the pajama pants. If you recall, appearing in public in your sleepwear used to be a pretty solid strategy for your insanity defense. These days, however, you can’t swing a cat on the street without hitting some schmuck in penguin patterned loungewear. It’s sad really. Sad to see grown-up people with jobs and mortgages walking around town looking like they’re on a day pass from a nearby facility where no one’s allowed to have shoelaces or belts.
But as bad as the slovenliness is, the near nudity is even worse: thongs on the beach, muffin tops oozing over skinny jeans and the dreadful tank top that inflicts backne, tattoos and scraggly chest wisps on a blameless public. It’s as if we’ve all stumbled into a D-list Abercrombie shoot featuring a bunch of Kardashians, a couple of Wahlberg wannabes and assorted wardrobe malfunctions being passed off as fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have the image of Kim’s bum seared on my consciousness for the rest of my life, and yet I cannot seem to escape it.
At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, I can remember a time when people bothered about their appearance, and society as a whole had certain expectations. Men wore hats, women wore stockings, everyone wore underwear. You couldn’t see it of course, but you just knew it was there, largely because all fabrics other than flannel were scratchy and unpleasant next to the skin. Underwear provided a necessary buffer zone between the more delicate areas and abrasive tropical wools, heavily starched linens and that miracle of drip-dry miracles, rayon. and rightly so.
These days, it seems not a week goes by that we’re not assaulted by the sight of some starlet’s deforested lady parts, a random pedestrian’s whale tail, or highly compensated movie stars dressed for a day
in the sandbox at work. I mean, c’mon Adam, we love you, but isn’t it time to shave and put on your big boy suit? I know you’ve got one.
So listen folks, it’s a new year and time for a fresh start. Toss out all those baggy surrender t-shirts, childish pajama pants (you know you’ve worn them to the grocery store) and ill-fitting sweat items. Slip into some stretchy new undergarments, coordinated separates and shiny shoes and show the world your glamorous bad self for a change. I guarantee you’ll get treated better on airplanes, at work and in restaurants (admit it, you do want to eat in places where it matters). As an added bonus, I can stop beating this dead horse and start writing important posts wherein I demonstrate how ontogeny really does recapitulate phylogeny or discuss whether Spinoza’s reconciliation of the mind-body problem still holds water. Or maybe I’ll just go back to flogging recipes. Either way, it’s win-win for us all.
Those of you who had progressed beyond teething rings and Cookie Monster by the tail end of the Seventies will probably recall the musical and sartorial splendor of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. In hindsight both are somewhat cringe-inducing, though to this day I maintain a soft spot for Tusk — it’s the brass section, I guess.
Honestly, guilty pleasure though the record most certainly is, it really gets the solo dance party started, at least after a few Saturday night Sazeracs anyway. Don’t believe me? Toss a couple back and have a look at Mick Fleetwood getting his groove on courtesy of the USC marching band. See if you don’t feel the urge to shake a tailfeather.
Anyways, if it’s all too far back in the murky past for you to recall, let me remind you that along about 1979, platform shoes, flowing raiments, floppy hats, tatty lace and Rapunzelesque locks were already a bit out of date, except on Steven Tyler and the occasional tranny, but our gal Stevie held on to them all well into the next decade, for better or worse.
Now owing to some “personal issues,” Stevie had largely disappeared from the musical/celebrity scene by about the mid to late Eighties, effectively ending her solo career, which I think we can all agree was really for the best. So imagine my surprise yesterday when I was out and about, shopping for suitable attire for an upcoming social event that’s not really formal, but just a little bit dressy — you know the kind of thing, and all I could find were Stevie’s cast off Welsh witch twirly skirts, princess-on-acid maxi dresses (no foundation garment possible with these) and impossible platform shoes.
Apparently after all these years girlfriend has assumed control of the fashion industry! Rehab must have included some mixed martial arts training, because she has somehow managed to kick Anna Wintour’s bony backside to the curb, replacing the tasteful Jackie O sheath with the crochet mumu or mini as every gal’s must have wardrobe staple in the process.
Unfortunately, Stevie redux (the sequel) doesn’t look quite as fetching on the middle-aged frame as it did on the teenage one; however, lace minis and swirling maxis were literally all I could find that were fashion forward without being a little black dress, and so I came home empty-handed and more than a tad frustrated.
I ask you, why is it women over 40 (who are not Demi Moore) must choose between dressing like the Olsen twins or Duchess Whatsername Mrs. Prince Charles? Is there no middle ground?
And why can’t I find a pair of dress shoes that weigh less than fifty pounds? Owing to my lack of stature, I have had to get used to walking in a very high heel, and more often than not I do just fine. But these newfangled platforms are like cement mixers. Have you ever tried dragging a pair of them around? Sure they build up your calves after a couple of days, but really, I have time to separate my workout from my leisure activities, and I prefer to do so whenever possible. Who wants to feel the burn while walking from the table to the ladies room, I ask you?
The final injury is the hats. If the ladies at Bloomingdale’s are to be believed, we should all be topping off our hippie costumes with big floppy hats, a la Rachel Zoe, whom I now believe to be in cahoots with Stevie. Or maybe she IS Stevie. Have you ever seen them together? Think about it and get back to me.
Dateline New York
Trust me, folks, the ironic old man hat is over, finit, passé. Stick a fork in it, it’s done. If you persist in wearing one, rest assured you will most certainly and immediately join the ranks of the tragic and the lame. After all, the only thing worse than a hipster is a hipster wannabe. I say this not to injure, but to enlighten.
Not convinced? Think that raffish topper from Target is just what you need to catapault your bad self to nerd elite status while walking the mall or sipping your latte? Consider this then. Justin Beiber wears one.
So please, now that spring is officially here, and you can put away that ridiculous Rocket J. Squirrel and its pal the Commissar, give the sighted public a break and try going hatless for the season. The vitamin D will do you good.
And by the way, since we’re on the subject of summer fashion — Ladies, wearing dirty, ratty old boots with a summer dress in stinking hot weather is gross and nasty. It telegraphs one thing and one thing only: “Mah feet smell.” This never looked good, but now it looks bad AND out of date. And don’t even consider UGGS unless you’re under twelve.
For the love of God, just get some flip flops. Please?
C’mon ladies, let’s send the surrender T-shirt to sartorial oblivion.
Spring approaches and my sisters and I are contemplating a change of habit, specifically those of us in cooler climes are about to undertake the semi-annual, seismic shift from wool to cotton, from boots to sandals and, sadly, from cake to cucumbers — all in the name of spring fashion. As our toes yearn for liberation and our limbs again seek the sun, I am once more reminded of the question that springs to mind every year along about this time.
Ladies, why oh why do you continue to buy these?
There’s really only one reason companies keep making these things you know: women keep buying them. Open a closet or dresser, and I’ll bet if you see one, there are ten more lurking nearby in a range of glorious colors and splatter patterns, depending on where the coffee/red wine/baby spew tends to land first (chest, mid-section, lap). I can’t even bear to think about the striped ones.
If you own one or more of these, I’m guessing that once the mercury starts to rise you wear them a lot. After all they’re marketed as “wardrobe staples,” right? They go gardening and shopping, get thrown in the suitcase for summer vacation, and even appear regularly at the office and social gatherings. Tell me I’m wrong. Please?
Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to get this off my chest, so you’d best buckle up.
Even if you look better than the perky model, I guarantee that the surrender t-shirt does absolutely nothing for you. It is just not possible. See photo above.
Which brings me to the name. Why surrender T-shirts you ask? Because when you wear them, this is the message you send the world: I give up. I feel unattractive and will never look good again. All I care about is taking care of my kids/fifteen cats/elderly and incontinent parents. I have no life. I surrender. If you’re reading this blog, I am willing to wager a significant sum that that’s not who you are.
Before you argue with me, hear me out. I’ve heard the justifications for these horror shows a hundred times. “Ooh but they’re so comfortable and cool. They go with everything. They hide my trouble spots. Cotton breathes, you know.”
Bullshit. These things are shapeless, frumpy and unflattering and they make anyone who wears them look like Charlie Brown in drag. Trust me, other than slapping an extra ten pounds and another 15 years on you, they do nothing for you, or anyone.
Still not convinced? Time for some tough love.
Still resisting? In that case you leave me no choice but the nuclear option, God forgive me.
Just so you know, this is how a cotton T-shirt should fit:
And yes, you have to look like Angie if you’re going to rock the body armor and firearms as accessories.
C’mon ladies, let’s put the surrender t-shirt manufacturers out of business and this wretched item out of its misery once and for all. Are you with me? OK, go to your dressers and pull out every one of those horror shows and destroy them immediately. Either cut them into dust rags or set them on fire so that you’re not tempted to resurrect them in a moment of weakness. Do not save them for gardening or house painting. And for the love of God, don’t give them to charity. Poor people have enough problems.