Categories
Personal Essays Relationships Women

Mother’s Day 2020

34edb4313fd81bb294b820721b41c629I got the following email from a friend.

Did I tell you about my mom?  She uses a walker, but for some reason decided to try the tread mill at her apt building last week, hit the wrong button, sped up, she went flying, got battered, had to have eye surgery last week for a torn retina ….laugh or cry?

I read it and started laughing with the image of this older woman on a walker headed to the treadmill, and then as I thought about it more and more, I started to cry.

What possesses a woman on a walker to head to the gym in her building and get on a tread mill? I’ll tell you what. A woman that hasn’t been given anywhere else to go to celebrate who she is today, that’s who. If you are not young and in shape, you are nothing. End of that story.

I remember traveling in France with H2 (second husband) in our early years (the early 80’s). Sunday was always a long luncheon, often outside at a restaurant like Pre’ Catelan, where the meal (it was four or five courses) began at 1 and lasted until 5. What brings it to mind now is that there were French families there; four generations sometimes and the elderly people were seated next to the youngest generation and everyone hovered around those elderly people. All afternoon. They seemed to hang on their every word. I think about what I see now – in this country – and there are only those meals on major holidays, and the distance between generations has grown significantly, with little or no contact. People visit their elders in assisted living and the assisted living takes care of the contact. Even before Covid-19 there were no four or five hours meals every Sunday in a sedentary way where an older person could rule. Or at least I didn’t see them.

But now, I see pictures of people visiting the elderly and talking to them through their windows, or on Facetime in a new way. A way that recognizes there is no guarantee that the opportunity to speak to them will be there tomorrow.

So, apres Covid, maybe it will be back to basics. Family. Time together to marinate rather than regurgitate. And, as for my friend’s mother. I have thought of her often over the past few years since I heard the story. I think of how you summoned your strength and add it as inspiration for my own journey. I honor you today on Mother’s Day, and I think you are one special lady.

Categories
Parenting Personal Essays Politics Relationships Women World

Sharing on Thanksgiving

FullSizeRender-2This Thanksgiving, my favorite daughter, about whom I’m not allowed to write, is trekking in Nepal. She sent me this picture this morning. She told me about the wonderful people she is meeting and how hard their lives appear to be. The only reason I can post it is that I’m counting on the fact she won’t see it.

It took me back to a memory I’d forgotten. Another Thanksgiving.

When Sarah was seven, it was an especially cold Thanksgiving. My friend, whose daughter was Sarah’s friend, and I decided we would take the children on an adventure on Thanksgiving morning. We put them in my SUV and went to Dunkin’ Donuts, where I bought one hundred cups of coffee, one hundred cups of orange juice, and two hundred doughnuts. We drove down to the Port Authority, where many a homeless person finds shelter when it’s just too damn cold outside.

I asked a police officer to spread the word that we were there to other officers in the Port Authority and ask if anyone would like to have a doughnut and cup of coffee. My friend and I sat in the back seat of the car for two hours while those two seven-year-olds handed out coffee, OJ, and doughnuts.

There was a moment. There always is.

Sarah was helping a man who couldn’t decide between two doughnuts. Here is their conversation as I can best remember it:

“You can take both of them. We have enough — and if we don’t, my mom will go get more.”

“Oh, no — do you see the line behind me? I want to make sure we all get one. Maybe I’ll wait and see if there are any left over at the end. And your mom already did a lot for us.”

I saw her look at him. I watched her take in the message that this man, who had absolutely nothing — including a winter coat (I remember him vividly) — was not going to take more than his fair share.

Seeing Sarah’s picture today reminded me of Thanksgiving and sharing around a table an abundance of all things — especially stuffing, in my case.

And then I thought about our country, and how, as a country, we used to be like that homeless man. We used to know when each of us individually had enough, and when it was time to share with our fellow countrymen. All those working for large corporations had benefits. Health care. Retirement. And the shareholders were fine with returns that had slow growth to help them when they retired rather than wealth through stock at someone else’s expense. We didn’t simply buy the cheapest things; we bought from stores where we knew the purveyors. We waited while they gift wrapped the presents. There was enough for everyone, so on Thanksgiving, most Americans could sit back and be thankful for the opportunity our country provided to all its citizens.

We can go back to that. I believe that the 1 percent that I think has taken over my country for their own personal gain — and dollars in the bank that they couldn’t spend if they tried — will be brought down. And this Thanksgiving, when I say my silent prayer before eating my turkey, I will pledge to do what I can to make sure of it.

God bless my broken country on this Thanksgiving.

Categories
Government Relationships

July 4th, 1976

imagesI had a great love in my life. I was in my early twenties and had just arrived in New York City from the cornfields of the University of Nebraska. He was ten years older than me, on his way to success, and further along in the “being a grown-up” arena. He was handsome, smart, funny and incredibly energetic — the kind of energetic that took others along for the ride. During one of the first marathons in New York City, he had his two kids and me out on the streets of First Avenue handing out water to the runners and cheering them on for hours … like four hours. We were more tired than the runners, but his joy in their success and spurring them on was something to behold, and we joined it. In the end, he dumped me (rightfully so — it wasn’t our time), but I never forgot the best weekend I’ve ever had in New York, a weekend that he brought to me.

It was the 200-year celebration of our country, July 4, 1976. Seems like yesterday to me, and in this time of turmoil and strife among all our countrymen and -women, I find myself reliving it a bit this year. I find myself yearning for it. Civil unrest in the South, Watergate, and Vietnam were all behind us. Ford was our leader and I now appreciate steady and boring in a new way. We were still reeling but the future looked mighty bright. And, that weekend …

The tall ships came through the New York Harbor, and we were there watching them in awe. Everyone was together though they didn’t know one another, and as the ships majestically sailed up the Hudson (or was it down the Hudson), we all knew what a journey we had as a country to get to this moment. There were festivities in the streets. There was food from all the other countrys’ patchwork fabrics that make up this country: Italian, French, English — and even hot dogs (oh yeah, baby). There was a searing fireworks display with a live version of “Stars and Stripes” that set the bar so high for love of country during fifteen minutes of explosive glitter that I have never ever come close to that feeling in other celebrations. It was three days of running all over the city via the subway to make sure we didn’t miss a moment. There were private moments too that bonded the entire weekend together, and it felt as if we were among citizens who all had the same love of country and yet, at the same time, it was just the two of us experiencing it together. To this day, it remains a weekend in my top ten of all my time.

You see, another great love of mine is my country. I am devastated by the division of our people — myself included. I am ashamed that I haven’t more empathy for those that see things so very differently from myself. I don’t think about Trump much, unlike others from my neck of the woods. He is one person who is filled with something I don’t wish to be around. I think about the millions of people who like his point of view, and that they are Americans too. That’s who I think about, and I realize that on that weekend forty-two years ago, there must have been many of those people there hugging us in the streets standing as one.

And, so I realize that something happened in those forty-two years that sent us to different corners of America. What was it? And, where was I living that I didn’t see this coming?

I will ponder it all tomorrow, but for today I’m going to remember that weekend in 1976 and how utterly perfect it was, and that we all asked God to bless the same America.

Categories
Business Relationships

Focus & My Ex Husband

downloadMuch is written about being in the moment, whatever that means. I had an epiphany today. It’s not just about being in the moment; it’s about turning moments into habits. Let me explain.

Someone for whom we were writing something mentioned that she has her Saturday “Mommy–Daughter Day.” She doesn’t plug in on Saturdays; she and her daughter plan a full day together. and it’s written in stone, or blood, or whatever ink is used these days to say it’s nonnegotiable.

Then I remembered that H2 (Husband #2) spoke to me about his closeness with his father. They didn’t speak numerous times on the phone per day. There was no email; his father has been gone for decades. But every day that he was in town, he walked around the Central Park Reservoir with his dad at 4 p.m., and they talked about all things. My memory tells me they did it every day, but I know that can’t be right. Maybe it was every Sunday? Either way, it was written in stone. It was part of the pattern of their lives. It was a habit.

Then I remembered how H2, when he was in New York City, would sit down with our fabulous daughter, about whom I am not allowed to write, but if I were, I would say she has that same single focus as her dad, and went to an Ivy League undergrad and law school. Anyway, every single night, he sat with her and read through one book. Her hair wet from her bath, she would sit on his lap in her PJs and suck on her nighttime bottle, staring intently at what he read to her. Every single night that he was in the house. Same time. Same chair. It was a habit.

Did I mention he was an investment banker doing some of the largest global deals in the history of mergers and acquisitions? But even when he was merging Texas Oil & Gas and U.S. Steel, he still walked out of his study in the apartment and read that book to our child. It took maybe fifteen minutes.

Then I remembered how he had a call with a European client every Sunday from 11 to 12. Every week. From the phone in the bedroom while he was propped up on the bed, with papers in front of him that clearly had been prepared for him by someone earlier in the week.

And there was the time on a flight from Europe to the U.S. when I was sitting, shaking next to him and he was working on all his papers in the seat next to me. I’m not a good flier.

He put all his papers away, turned to me, and asked, “What is it you are afraid of?”

I answered without a moment’s pause, “We are all going to die. I’m sure of it.”

He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry; I can’t help you.”

He took out his papers and the focus wasn’t on me any longer. I don’t think he gave it a moment’s thought. He couldn’t fix it, so he focused on something else that could make good use of his time and expertise.

I hope you give me credit for sharing this part of me that doesn’t put me in my finest light. I thought it was worth the exposure because it so shines on the fact that he was also able to assess and not worry about that which he couldn’t fix. I saw him behave that way with deals too. He never considered them done, and there was no celebration until the ink was dry. And, if I’m being fair to him, I think he never wanted to make a deal more than making it a good deal. He could walk away.

He had the exact same routine every morning: Rise. Shower. Paper. Breakfast. Driven to the office. Habit.

If we went to the movies at 74th and Broadway, we always walked home. Always.

Every Saturday morning, he played tennis. In the city or at our country house. Same time every week. Usually with the same people.

He chose the wines every night to accompany whatever was being served for dinner, about a half hour before we sat down to eat. If it was a wine that needed to breathe, there was time.

Here is the thing: The man was busier than me, to be sure, but I never once saw him rush. Not once. The space between his habits (or rituals or whatever you want to call them) was the time for spontaneity. Trust me, he could come up with a spur-of-the-moment thing to do, but overall, his very, very busy life was planned, though not in that “there is no time for fun or important things” way that I see around me.

When we were in Europe doing his deals, he would schedule appointments and calls, but he would also schedule trips to museums and fabulous restaurants, and they might just be in the middle of the afternoon. Everything that mattered to him — his child, his work, his tennis, his art exploration, food, and wine — had a place and a time, and it was not generally sacrificed.

I would tell you that it was his nature to be that way. But now, as I read book after book that speaks to the need to segment time — and not just business time — in the same way he has been doing for … well, for a lot of years, I realize that some of us are built to be that way, and then there’s me, who should have spent more time segmenting my time. And, maybe it was less his nature and more something he honed over the years to be the success that he was and is.

The man was ahead of his time. Move over, Brendon Burchard, whose book “High Performance Habits” just blew me away. I just have to learn from the master, H2.

Categories
Parenting Relationships

Bayley: Well Trained Terrorist

IMG_0230I’m pretty sure Bayley is being trained by the Taliban at night to be a terrorist. It’s really the only possibility because during the day, she is constantly with me, so there is no other access to her. They have taught her well.

She never strikes in the same place twice, so when you have protected the vulnerable location where she previously struck, she moves on to other locations along the perimeter. It’s really quite smart, and since the house is large enough, she is never lacking for new options. Take, for example, the other morning when she ate her bed. Actually, if she’d actually consumed the bed, it would have been easier for me than having to go through the entire house and clean up each and every piece of the bed she deposited with remarkable accuracy of position in awkward places. Not just down the hallway, but also under the tables and beds, so I really had to get down and dirty to pick it all up. Her apparent goal: Do the most damage you can, quietly, as quickly as possible, and requiring the most effort to clean up. I’m pretty sure that the whole bed thing was completed in fifteen minutes. Planned. Executed. Total annihilation. Training. Takes training, right?

Then, when she is caught, right in the act, and you draw your guns and confront her, she is smooth. She looks at you quizzically, with earnest confusion regarding what it is you are upset about. Training. It really takes training to execute that response without a hint of her true glee, knowing she pretty much got through the safety procedures to stage her attack with impunity.

Then there’s her posse whom she has snowed, and who stand up for her no matter what. “Come on, Christine, how bad could it have been?” “Look at that face; are you sure someone else’s dog didn’t do that?” Or, my favorite, “Mom, you really are responsible for her behavior. She needs more time outdoors.” While it’s true, I wish I spent more time with her outside, I’m not sure she gets a pass because I only threw the GD ball to her for one hour yesterday instead of the five they seem to think is appropriate. And in her training with the bad guys at night, I am sure they spend real time on “Fitting In So No One Really Believes You Are as Bad as You Are.”

Yep, she’s a trained terrorist; I’m sure of it. And, the thing is, she, like all evil things that breathe, is more than just that. She is sweet, smart, funny. When she runs, it’s poetry in motion. Her long, lean body can smooth it out like a thoroughbred running in the Kentucky Derby. When it’s snowing, she can bounce up and down in the snow to get to wherever she wants to go. And, when you take her to the beach, she will run a bit ahead but then turn back and stay right with you, because, in the end, she has no desire to go to Guantanamo when she could instead live happily ever after with me right here in East Hampton.

Bayley. Terrorist. And best dog ever.

Categories
Personal Essays Relationships

#AndThenThereWereTwo

18274984_10155079776312605_2034959647936000744_nToday my sister Leslie is having an operation and I will be sitting in the waiting room contemplating my navel while the surgeons fix what has been broken for a long time.

We were not a close family, that band of five that moved fifteen times to ten states by the time I was sixteen. Actually, much of the time, we didn’t even like each other. Our fights were big, lacking only in physicality. We wouldn’t speak for years sometimes, one or another of us. Then, five short years ago, we started to diminish. First it was my mom, who died of lung cancer, and went out with more dignity and humor and calm than I would have mustered. I liked her a lot in the end. Then it was my dad, of a disease we didn’t know he even had until we read it on his death certificate. And then, less than a year ago, my older sister left—ostensibly by cancer, but really, she was an alcoholic who everyone pretended wasn’t. The carnage she left behind was also swept under the rug of her power in the family. I’m told there is always one in a family who has that power to affect all others. It was her. The secrets of our family—there were so many—are not worth keeping anymore because they were all due to very human flaws and so why bother?

After our older sister died last year, I sent my sister Leslie an email that read “#AndThenThereWereTwo.”

It woke me with a start.

It took away all the anger of deeds done wrong both by me and to me. It put all of our goodness—our happiness—into the two of us, and somehow, I guess because diminished inventory means you treat what is left with much more care, all the things that used to drive me crazy, no longer do.

It’s like all the good from the original five became part of the two of us. And, all the bad things went somewhere else.

We started having brunch on Sundays and reminiscing about things. She is more kind than I when it comes to the deeds gone wrong, but I’m more honest about not pushing them under the rug and trying to see them for what they were so they no longer have power over us. Our combination could rule a nation. OK, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point.

I told her that when we moved to a house with enough bedrooms for us to no longer share, she was scared and I moved back into a bedroom with her. No matter, within a few months, we moved to the next place and then the separation began in earnest. I told her that she was the kindest of kids, befriending the elderly couple next door, who stayed alive just to see her face at the door each day. She was my mother’s favorite (and BFF), while my dad favored me, and now that they are both gone, each of us has answers to questions from the other that didn’t get asked during our parents’ lifetime. I really like her. I see her more clearly. I see myself and the dynamic of the band of five more clearly.

I look forward to driving to pick her up more than anything else I do in a week—and, I do some cool things.

I put this out to my readers because of the lessons learned. Maybe you can see and adjust your focus before you are reduced to two. With all the anger gone, I can see the loss as well: The times I could have called but just didn’t want to. The questions I didn’t ask. I wish I’d asked my dad more about his pitching days. What was it like to pitch a fast ball? I have seen the contract offered to him by the Boston Braves, which he turned down to go to Dun & Bradstreet, but I don’t know what it felt like on the mound. He once told me that he hated batting because back then, they tried to hit the pitcher on his pitching arm and it hurt like hell. “Hell” was a word he used a lot that I don’t hear anymore. I think I’m going to add it to my vernacular so I can keep him with me.

I know my sister will come through this day like a trouper. She is stronger than she knows and there is no way in hell that the hashtag #AndThenThereWereTwo is going anywhere for a long, long time.

Categories
Relationships Women

Me & Harvey Weinstein

XY_161956414There were four ten-year-old girls playing in a field in Bosnia in the early nineties. A Serbian jeep pulled up with four soldiers in it. The soldiers got out of the jeep and called the girls to come over, in a strong soldier kind of way. Three of them stepped toward the men. Their obedience was immediate. It was a reaction to years – generations, actually – of men telling women to do something, and the women doing it without consideration. Reaction. The fourth, the one I met, turned and ran into the woods. She is the only one who survived.

Flash-forward to Harvey Weinstein. “Wait,” I hear you ask. “Are you seriously equating the raping and murdering of Bosnian women by Serbian men to Harvey Weinstein?” Yes. Yes, I am. I think the tenets of how women react to men’s directives are all part and parcel of our DNA – and something we can and must program out for future generations.

So women went up to his room for meetings. At last count, more than ninety women have now told this story, and as far as I can tell, the ending is mostly the same: they ran away, got away, pushed him off, or put him off with a delayed promise of succumbing after an Oscar win. Not one has said they did as asked. Without judging these accounts, would it have changed the way you viewed their stories if they had? If some of the women said, “I did what he asked, and I don’t know why. But I didn’t think about it, I just did it.” Is it possible the ones we’re hearing from are the ones who knew to run? Like the one young girl in Bosnia who was the only one to react against what she was told to do? Is it possible there are so many others who didn’t, and because of the ‘shame’ of their actions, aren’t speaking up?

Repulsive as this might sound in this particular context, is it possible that there could be something in the female DNA – the same DNA that inclines us towards nurturing – that when called upon to obey (do we have to re-visit hundreds of years of marriage vows?), we might just do it? If I’m honest with myself, and I’m truly not proud of this, but if I’d been in the shoes of these women (thank God I wasn’t), no matter how disgusting it would have been, I fear I would have done it. I would have watched him take a shower. I would have done it. I would have then put it out of my mind and tried very hard to not “go there” and evaluate my own behavior, let alone his.

I had a high-powered job at one of the big eight accounting firms in the early eighties. I had an affair (thought I really loved him) with my boss, a partner. He was being audited by the firm for his expenses (he was fired… we are talking felony avoiding fired) and he asked me to go to a hotel room and help him create the back-up for his expense accounts while they were auditing him. I did it. I never once stopped to think about it. I just did it. I did it because he told me to. He didn’t ask me; he was a mess. He told me. Forcefully. Firmly. And, I did it.

A few weeks later, he asked me to put that hotel room on my company American Express. I refused. My brain kicked in then – putting the expense on my card triggered something that made it feel different (versus my earlier complicity, where I was reacting).

Looking back, I felt no responsibility for my “accessory to a bad thing” status. I had zero ownership of that night in my own head. It belonged to him, and I was another pair of hands. I see now that it’s worth exploring, and that there are oh so many other examples in my life of the same reaction in me to things I don’t wish to own.

We women have really been dealt a psychological blow, forced into playing defense for far too long. Centuries of self-preservation, love for the male species, and/or a desire to be liked, accepted or… considered for a well-deserved role in a movie we worked our whole life to get to, make us react, without thought. Turns out, sometimes, the best offense might just be a good offense.

And just to clarify: whether we act or react, the true shame belongs to the perpetrator. Let’s not forget that.

What I’m interested in is mentoring the generations who’ve come after mine to stop, look, and listen before they act – in a way that might diminish the power of a perpetrator. When I think back to that night in the hotel, my biggest regret stems from the ground I gave in the self-esteem department – a loss multiplied by the possibly hundreds of times I didn’t use my power, or my voice, around men like Harvey Weinstein. I’d like future generations to be spared those kinds of regrets.

That young ten-year-old girl who ran into the woods in Bosnia? Her shame, she told me, was that she didn’t wait for the others to follow – or go back to help them. That they didn’t get away, and she did. So even the one who acted courageously was consumed by guilt, assuming responsibility for the others’ reactions. Over the years, I saw how she punished herself. I believe she never felt that she deserved her survival, when in fact, in my opinion, she should have taken to the rooftops celebrating it.

So, women of today, may the women speaking up serve as the inspiration to us all. Let’s vow from this day forth to obey the better angels of our own voice and power. We might just change the trajectory of those who come after us. And, Heaven knows, there’s no shame in that.

Categories
Food Personal Essays Relationships

The Opinion of Strangers

We are funny ducks, we human beings.

We play games, thinking we are fooling the world. But the world couldn’t care less, and doesn’t even notice the lengths we go to in order to appear the way we wish we were but aren’t.

Examples abound:

imgresI love Maltesers—those malted milk balls from England that melt in your mouth (don’t judge me). My cousin Louise, who is British, loves them as much as I do. When she goes home, she brings back boxes of them and shares with me. The key is making sure I see her soon after her return—if too much time passes, she will have eaten them all. Anyway, if you can believe it, the local movie theater started carrying them a few months ago. Small bags of them. Oh happy day!

So now when I want them, I go see a movie. Sometimes it’s a movie I don’t wish to see, but if I want the Maltesers, I have to see a movie. Now, I could visit the candy counter without purchasing a ticket—it’s just inside the door before the ticket taker’s booth—but then the candy counter person would see me enter, buy the candy, and then leave. What would they think of me? On the other hand, no one serving me has ever actually looked at me when I’m ordering, so maybe they wouldn’t think anything at all.

So I see a movie I might not otherwise see, just so I can have my Maltesers. Now, I’m a smart girl, but this is not a smart strategy. If the bag has twenty pieces in it, that’s a lot. And the $6.00 cost of the bag has to be added to the $9.00 cost of the ticket, which means I’m eating a candy that takes ten seconds to chew and swallow at a cost of 75¢ per piece. Seriously?

Then there is the take-out Japanese place near my home, from which I order at least once every week. I don’t order a lot; usually one order of salmon don and miso eggplant. But when I go there to pick it up, every week they ask if I want one or two sets of chopsticks. I always say two.

I love living alone. I live alone by choice—I haven’t found that perfect person who raises me up so I can stand on mountains—and my own company actually pleases me. So why do I want them to think there is another person at my house waiting to eat half of a meal that really only serves one? I don’t know, but I do. I have a drawer full of leftover chopsticks to remind me of my silliness.

The truth is that the opinions of strangers matter to some of us, and the absurdity of it all changes nothing. Note to self: If I want Maltesers, just go into the theater and buy them.

Categories
Art Books Personal Essays Relationships

It’s Norman’s Fault.

imgres-2I have been pondering who is to blame for the misconception of the “normal” American Family that we all struggle to overcome when our own families don’t quite measure up. Okay, forget the “don’t quite measure up.” Let’s call a spade a spade: Our families look nothing like the Leave it to Beaver, or even Modern Family models that we all love to turn on each week. There is no sign of the real sadness, anger, and stress of being part of an American family, and this makes us feel isolated in our inability to get it right. And, then there is the environment they live in lacking in the unmade beds or dishes in the sink that beg to be found out if anyone were to drop by your house on a given day. Maybe that’s why no one drops by anymore. And please do not get me started about the way Facebook enables us to re-write our daily lives into smiling faces and fabulous news that hide the real ebb and flow emotions of our own reality.

Anyway, I’ve figured it out. It’s Norman’s fault. Yep, Norman Rockwell, who happens to have the same birthday as me. He set up this ridiculous measuring stick that has no basis in reality. His artistic masterpiece covers for The Saturday Evening Post of happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving dinners and American life portraits were clearly set nowhere near my family’s Thanksgiving dinners, to which I was assigned to bring cranberry sauce in a can because no one liked me. Or Christmas when I was little, when my mother once gave me of a picture of myself as a gift. I immediately realized it was a photo of my sister, not me, which confirmed that no one ever took pictures of me when I was little because I wasn’t cute. (I’m cuter now. Actually, I was cuter in my twenties and thirties than I am now, but who wasn’t?) Anyway, the point is that Norman set us up to believe that someone, somewhere in America, was living the way his 322 Saturday Evening Review covers depicted, and he knew he was lying.

Norman was married three times and suffered from depression throughout most of his adult life. His repressed sexuality (he painted lots of men and boys), fear of women, and a fascination with manhood seem to stand out as his personal struggle, according to his biographer, Deborah Soloman, who worked on his biography, American Mirror: The Life of Norman Rockwell, for ten years. Of his 322 covers, only three depict a traditional family of parents and children. Who knew?

Soloman’s look at Rockwell has drawn a lot of criticism from those who prefer to let his paintings’ depiction of life be seen as his life’s reality, which was clearly not the case. His life was filled with the dark side that never saw the light of day in his paintings. His shrink, for example, spoke of suicidal moments and repressed everything. One of this models jumped out a window after he dropped him with nary a word, as was the painter’s habit. When Deborah Soloman spoke in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “You’ve taken all the optimism out of Rockwell’s work.” Well, girlfriend, wake up and smell the paint brush. His work wasn’t portraits after all, but rather something I’m going to dub American Surrealism Under the Guise of Portraits. It sets everyone up for failure by encouraging them to reach for something that doesn’t exist. It’s like You’ve Got Mail, or Pretty Woman, two movies that depict love in such an unrealistic way that many women never find men who measure up. More American Surrealism. Hey, I’m just the messenger. And, I’m a reluctant messenger. I love Rockwell’s work and Pretty Woman and You’ve Got Mail are two films I watch at least once a year.

So, don’t get me wrong here. I write this not to complain about any lack of fabulousness in life; I love my life, past, present, and hopefully my future. But it’s important to recognize that there are ups and downs and imperfections and shades of gray in everything, and to accept this and realize that no one’s life is perfect makes those parts of our daily life so much easier to bear. If Norman had painted the kid getting his first haircut crying, instead of with that silly look of happy surprise, he might have given us a better mirror of our own lives. Couldn’t one face in the Thanksgiving Feast have been sullen? Just one out of the eleven in the picture? Come on, give a girl a break here. Make me feel at home.

So Norman, I forgive you. And after reading about your life a bit, I will say that it must have been hard to be held to a standard you knew didn’t exist, but which you somehow must have thought could exist. Or should exist. Maybe if you had tried just a little bit harder, it would have existed.

Categories
Personal Essays Relationships

It’s My Party.

22DINELI2_SPAN-articleLargeDid I ever mention I had a party once and no one came?

H2 (Husband #2) and I had a lovely home on the beach in the Hamptons. He still has the home, but trust me, it really always belonged to him. We decided to have a beach party with lobsters, a steel band, and various other costly things to entertain one hundred plus of our nearest and dearest friends. It was going to become an annual event.

So on the night of the party, it’s 6:30 p.m., balloons are at the end of the driveway, and valet and security are ready to keep everyone safe. H2 and I are on the beach looking casual fab (I was trophy-wife cute back then). The steel band is ready to start a calypso something or other, the bars are open, the bartenders are at their posts, and one hundred plus lobsters are ready to give their lives in the name of wowing our friends. Ready, set … nope.

We waited until around 7:00, and then H2 said, “Did you do something to piss off every person we know?” I actually thought for a minute before answering, which is one of my issues that needs work. “Surely you jest.”

I turned on my heel and went into the house to call my good friend, Susan.

“Hey,” said Susan.

“Hey yourself. Why are you still home? You were supposed to be here at 6:30 for the lobster bake on the beach.”

“And I will be there … next week, which is when I was invited to attend.”

Susan hung up without another word, knowing that I was going to want to plan my conversation with H2 carefully. Also, you should know, Susan was never known for her empathy.

H2 was actually really nice about it, even after we realized that we would have to pay twice for one party. As they say in the year 2000, shit happens. I felt like an ass, and I was happy that the secret of my ridiculous mistake was confined to our household, Susan (who probably never had another thought about it), and my sister and her POSSLQ (IRS term for Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters), who never opened the invitation and were called during the day to remind them to come.

The four of us sat on the beach as the fog came in and listened to the band and ate lobsters while discussing where we could send them so they did not die in vain. We laughed a lot, and the next week’s weather was even better than the week before, and all was well in the kingdom on the beach.

I bring it up because a client of mine is doing an open house party thing, and he is a mess. I told him that story to ease his nerves, and judging by his silence at the end of my story, I think he thinks he needs to look for a marketing person who is better with details. No matter. The point is that the best-laid plans are not always well laid, and you can make yourself nuts or go with the flow. More and more, I’m a go with the flow person.