Just in case you were feeling insecure about your wine preferences in the face of overwhelming wine snobbery, and the now-ubiquitous $13 glass of restaurant Malbec, here’s a little evidence that even the Italians, who for all practical purposes invented wine, occasionally take a walk in the gutter.
I snapped this photo in a Rome grocery store back in March, and no, I didn’t buy any Mateus Rosé. I was in the market for a little Prosecco to accompany, well nothing really. Mr. Slattern and I were just in the mood for a glass or three of bubbly, but were too tired to go out to the local wine bar. We found exactly what we were looking for below the boxed wine and Mateus.
Interesting that this stuff is kept on the top shelf. Presumably it gives the reprobates who buy it a yoga-like stretch as they reach up. Now that’s a workout I can get behind!
What’s the takeaway? Drink what you like, folks. Screw top or box be damned. Va bene.
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.
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.
Meet my new best friend, the roasted almond. This has replaced my old best friend, Mr. Chocolate Croissant, as well as his often-present bestie, Mr. Eggs Benedict, at the breakfast table, and while I cannot say I don’t miss the dynamic duo, I am at least getting by with the replacement.
Having recently sent the bathroom scale into hyperdrive, I am, as you may recall, walking a straighter path dietically speaking. It’s either that or replace an entire, carefully-curated summer wardrobe with items from the tactfully-named “Women’s” department at Bloomingdales, a prospect so horrifying that giving cinnamon toast a pass pales in comparison.
I don’t claim to have cornered the market on slattern-dom, and I certainly didn’t invent it. I have, however, done my level best to elevate the art form over the past twenty years or so, and as I look back on the cluttered landscape of middling meals, drunken dinner parties and neglected housekeeping that has been my life, it occurs to me that none of this could have been so easily accomplished outside the urban jungle. Let me explain.
First of all, the urban environment is easy on the domestic tippler. Let’s say it’s five o’clock and you and a couple of pals have been having a friendly chat over a bottle of vodka for the past few hours. You realize you were supposed to pick up your kids from soccer practice, but getting behind the wheel is no longer an option. No need to endanger the driving public, disturb your better half or give up your parking space — just call a livery service and send a car to pick them up. After three or four instances of this, most city teens will learn to take a twenty from your purse before leaving the house, store the car service number in their phones and call the ride themselves after waiting around for an hour or so. Kids these days!