Currently viewing the tag: "Lifestyle"

On my way into a Starbucks a guy on his cell, blabs away the boring details of his life for all the parking lot to enjoy. He cuts me off as I reach for the door, not to hold it open for me, but to let it recklessly close with a whoosh of air in my face before I catch it with my foot. He continues his diatribe into his phone, chortling between mono-syllabic grunts, oblivious to his surroundings. He gesticulates in front of me with the grace of a gorilla at a tea party as the line inches along. When he hangs up, he checks out the climate, finally notices me behind him, gives me an cartoon onceover, then winks.*

I’m not the first, and won’t be the last person, who is appalled by big mouths chatting away everywhere you go. The cellphone thing is here to stay and we’ll have to deal with it. I’ve been as guilty as the next person of conversations at the drug store but I think we’ve reached a boiling point.

I tell this story, not to be all used to be, blah blah blah, but to illustrate the point that basic manners are grossly missing in our daily interactions. I suggest that a  guide needs to be issued. I don’t care where — Miss Manners, classroom curriculum, YouTube.

What about a reality show where people have to live with each other and endure other’s reprehensible behavior. What? Oh yeah –Survivor, Jersey Shore, American Idol. Not much learned there.

Hey, and what’s happened to a respectable RSVP? Evite has turned the organized party into a cesspool of ill-bred conduct. People reply “yes” to an event from their mobile, don’t appreciate there’s a headcount needed, and arrive to the barbeque with their Little League team in tow.

And really, not to generalize, but sometimes it’s fitting — men are the worst. Gone are the days of after you or excuse me. I can be almost anywhere, the grocery store, the gas station, an elevator, and the only people who dare to utter those words are women. Seriously. And, for the most part, preceded by an apology as you reach for a milk carton at the same time, i.e. I’m sorry (for my existence), excuse me. I don’t say this because I’m middle-aged and I think my hotness has hit the wall. Men seem to have a common lack of awareness of their bodies and personal space. Here comes one now, just strutting down the sidewalk in my direction without moving aside while I stuggle to restrain my barking dogs. Does it occur to him to cross the street to avoid the discourse? Uh, no. Just tromp tromp tromp and a “hey baby!” while I and the pooches get doused with lawn sprinklers.**

I could go on –having to endure the view of low-cut tank-tops and hairy armpits in a restaurant, the valet parker farting in my car before he gives me the keys  –but who has the time? Maybe that’s the issue. No one takes the time to teach anyone what’s appropriate. Call me old school, but I think we can all agree that, as a society, we’ve completely lost our way when it comes to tolerable public conduct.

*The “wink” and other outmoded, ineffective forms of salutation to be addressed in forthcoming blog.

**”Hey, baby.” See above.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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Tough week. Mother-in-law visiting from New York, daughter’s 8th birthday. House party for 100 people. Emceeing a silent auction at the school fundraiser. One must be organized, prepared. Selfless. Delightful. When the tiniest of details are imperative, niceties suffer and there’s little compassion for the hostess.

Sure, people say, “Is there anything I can do?” But it’s not like you can send someone to the ATM or have them hot-roll your hair 15 minutes before the caterers arrive.

Having your huband’s mother as a house guest during it all isn’t the best choice either. And I say this, knowing full and well that I’m extra lucky in that department. My mother-in-law and I have similar tastes, she’s lovely to everyone, not to mention, beautiful. But your MIL is your MIL, no matter how fabulous.

Trying to be the perfect mommy in my usual manner, I’d baked 72 cupcakes in the a.m. the day of the event. My crucial error was to save the frosting of them as a planned participitory activity for after lunch with Grandma and a couple of my daughter’s little friends. I reserved 4 cupcakes for the kids to “decorate.” My sly way to control the quality. (As a side note, today is my 18th wedding anniversary. After this long, you’d think there’d be few surprises, right?) Imagine my shock, when my MIL sits across the table from me and proceeds to frost, and I say this with love and admiration, like a four year old on Red Bull. Globs of the chocolate canned fluff just dumped atop, the wrapper covered with the sticky stuff.

“We’ll have to smooth that out.” I said with strained annoyance.

She stammered. “Well, it’s harder than it looks.”

Frustrated, I demonstrated the correct swirling technique. I even gave her a different butter knife. It only got worse. My husband entered, tried to fix one up himself. He failed miserably.

I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Have you either of you ever frosted a cupcake before?”

“Well, no,” they both said sideways to each other.

“You’ve never done this before?” This is directed accusingly at my mother-in-law, for all the reasons you might think. My husband’s childhood parties? A family barbeque? A cake walk? A bake sale? Home Ec? Come on! I felt outraged and oddly superior at the same time. My MIL, Mrs. I-have-it-all-together-all-the-time, had no experiece with Betty Crocker and a can of whipped frosting. Wow.

“I’ve always just ordered them or picked them up from the bakery,” she said defenseless.

My background is theater, show business. There is a call time. You work back from that. Two hours until curtain. It was now T minus 30 before the photo-booth was to arrive and I was in sweats without a stitch of make-up. So, you see, it wasn’t only that my mother-in-law had never iced a cupcake before — but I mean, really? — it’s that she pretended at her ability at crunch time.

“Do you think you could have told me that before you ruined my cupcakes?” I said, without charity. After I ruthlessly expelled everyone with “Get out of my kitchen!” I didn’t feel the least bit of guilt.

Look, I’m not going to act all down-to-earth here. Any friend of mine will tell you, I have NO affinity for washing floors and I’ve made it a point to do it as little as possible in my life. But, if asked, I could perform the task with agility. And if I was not sure of the correct technique or the proper usage of cleansers, I would, with utter integrity, out myself as unqualified, and ask for direction. Just saying.

It was the misrepresentation of skill that outraged me, not the incompetency itself. I swear this bleeds into every aspect of life. If it’s something you can fake, fine, go for it. But if you can’t, confess. When lives are at stake, or in this case, a child’s birthday party is on the line, it’s better to plead ignorance. I promise, you’ll get the necessary instruction and clemency will follow. People, in general, will be much more tolerant.

You can be certain that after re-icing, smoothing & lettering each mini-cake, no one noticed a blemish. Frankly, with all the mania around Happy Birthday! and a pinata on the horizon, no one would have blinked if the sugar arrived straight into their vein in a pitchfork-shaped syringe.

In the end, my MIL was, as usual, gracious, loving and forgiving for my “meltdown.” Her word. Others might say I’m bossy, a control-freak, dramatic, snarky. Perhaps a total be-yotch. But I prefer Perfectionista.

Really, is it so wrong to want things done right?

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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The story of Etan Patz, a six year old who disappeared in 1979 on his way alone to a New York City subway ride to school, is a headline you’d now be shocked to see, not only because of the every-parents-nightmare nature of it, but because nobody would let their child walk solo on a city street.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/nyregion/man-claims-he-strangled-etan-patz-police-say.html?_r=1

Today, the Department of Child Services would arrive at the family’s door of the assumed forsaken kid and instantly remove him to foster care.

How times have changed. If a teenage girl is seen walking by herself nowadays, it feels like: What’s wrong with this picture? Somebody should be chaperoning that poor abandoned soul. It can be mind numbing how much we arrange playdates and shuttle our children to and fro, door-to-door. How we all sit hyper-observant at the park, gripped by fear, that some pervert lurking near a trashbin might vanish with them. Even supervised after-school activity, necessitates our due-diligence about the expected full-time surveillance.

A stark contrast to the era when our parents said, “don’t come back until the street lamps come on.” Yeah, that’s right, kicked out for the day. If you actually went to someone’s house whose mom would allow gangs of kids to trample in muddied and maraud the food bins, she’d be laying on the sofa with a cold rag on her forehead, a cigarette in the ashtray and watching Days of our Lives. There was no “snack time” and friendly supervised play.

I’m not romancing the past, but let’s face it, present life demands full engagement to be a responsible parent. It’s exhausting, this Matrix we’ve created. We are appropriately horrified by stories like Etan Patz’s, but because of them, we tend toward a disproportionate response, to believe that every grown up in sight without a child in tow is a pedophile or kidnapper. The idea of children riding bikes by themselves down the street to meet friends is quashed by images of chopped body pieces found in a crate on the outskirts of town. 

No doubt, our kids already miss the freedom and boredom we had. And though we deride our own parent’s lack of participation, survival and creativity came out of those unsupervised hours. Our children’s summers, for sure, won’t be filled by ambling over flower-covered hills to re-unite with a best friend, arriving at the park for a pick-up game of baseball, or for a full day of swimming at the public pool. It will be parsed into strictly regulated minutes by grown ups instructing them on how to be visibly safe, engrossed, and happy.

I don’t know, maybe we’ve dipped in too deep again. Like my one of previous posts, have we over-corrected to the point of immobilzing natural growth, curiosity and imagination, having taken every ounce of quiet away from ourselves in the process? Perhaps we’re doing the best by this generation with the hovering, the indoor playgrounds, the plastic, the smart phones. But with summer looming, I wonder, are we ultimately doing more harm than good?

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

 

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The thing that strikes me most after having viewed Lena Dunham’s much touted new HBO Series Girls is: we’ve done it again, we’ve overhauled feminism and sexual revolution and general freedoms to produce the opposite of whatever we intended: an age that is disconnected and immobilized.

Let me say upfront, I applaud Lena Dunham’s accomplishment in writing, producing and starring in her own show. No easy feat. I like it, and as I’m preparing to watch the fourth episode in queue on my DVR, I’m enjoying it even more as it develops. Please be sure, it’s not her I’m critiquing here, it’s society.

As the mother of an almost eight-year old girl, I am attuned to the present-day experience of youth and the direction my daughter will be heading. What the world looks like from their post-college view is of great interest to me.

The portrayal of the overall naivete of these 20-somethings is more disturbing than their hyperbolic narcissism and inability to pay the rent. (Not that my generation didn’t have their moments of complete self-involvement and poverty.) The thought: How do they avoid getting murdered everyday? is followed by, well, the Lord looks out for babies and fools.

In the first episode, Ms. Dunham’s character, after being financially cut-off from her parents, stops by unannounced to engage in a disturbing booty call with a guy who refuses to return her texts. Not distressing because it’s kinky, or hot, or cavalier, but because she talks nervously about her financial woes through the whole escapade while he describes pervy underage rape images into her ear — which one can only glean that he learned, not from a genesis of fantasy within his sensual soul, but from where all memories of his conquests are more certainly culled from: the island of You Porn, where wanton waxed, bleached and implanted females live. There’s nothing titillating about it. It’s just plain sad.

And then there’s the friend who represents the virgin “trend,” as my nurse practitioner at a recent OB/Gyn appointment described it. She’s even more disheartening. This girl’s so distracted by reality TV shows and her self-comparison to any and all of the four Sex In the City characters, that she’s forgotten to start her own life.

Young women who chose to abstain from sex until their mid-twenties was the subject of one of Oprah’s final season’s shows, and it was treated as an almost mental illness by the professional panel. Even more unsettling about this burgeoning “type,” is the notion that, due to hormones in the food supply and whatever other environmental variables, this generation is menstruating almost two years earlier on average than previous ones. So this “choice” of virginal behavior defers their adult sexuality to well-beyond puberty, which, at the current rate, ends by eighteen.

When I was growing up… Harrumph! I didn’t know one person who remained a virgin past their first year of college. By that time we were not only talking and reading about sex — Our Bodies Ourselves, the Hite Report, the Happy Hooker, anyone? — we were comparing notes, experimenting with our own anatomy, making it our business to know how to achieve orgasm. Maybe it was feminism. Maybe it was irresponsible, destructive behavior. Maybe we were inappropriately over-sexed teens and entirely unsupervised. Maybe we were normal.

Girls makes it seem as if early to mid-twenties is the first time any of these people realize that they are actual women, it’s as if they’re still in high school. Though they are seemingly obsessed with their vaginas, very few of them know where it is, much less how to use it. What’s worse is that the only adventurous, worldly friend in the crew, is so ethereal and oblivious, she not only gets pregnant, she’s reckless enough to miss her own abortion “party.” A tragic message of promiscuity — if anyone considers going through an experimental stage, all brain function and discretion will be removed to the point of self-annihilation.

Parental fear that their budding adults are going to garner a disease, produce an unwanted child, become porn actors, or –oh my heart! – altogether grow up, is nothing new. But it does seem as if we’ve become so intense about saving our offspring from the ills of the world, that we’ve terrorized them by the thought of any true carnal experience, instead of allowing them to organically feel their way through it.

If Girls is evidence of anything, it’s that we “grown ups” need to chill the F*@! out. What’s the worst that can happen, our kids will make ridiculous mistakes, learn from them and then end up being responsible adults like us? There’s no way to avoid the very real separation that occurs in families during the teen years, but I intend to educate my daughter as much as possible before she stops listening to me. And frankly, I hope she knows more about herself than these girls do before entering college to a life of drunken frat parties and boys who’s seemingly only sexual experience comes from web-based porn.

It’s a testimony to Lena Dunham’s insider description of today’s young adult that I’m compelled to comment. And though I worry about the fate of my child’s generation, I also understand that we survived disco, the birth of AIDS and the drug-fueled-money-binge 80’s, the fervor of rehab and the explosion of internet porn. I’m confident we’ll muddle our way through this current stupor.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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I can’t tell you how many times a week I say did you go to the bathroom? before I leave the house with my child. Not because my daughter is incapable of monitoring her bodiliy functions, but because public restrooms are, in general, disgusting. So much, in fact, that I’m shocked when I come across one where there’s an unclogged seat, actual toilet tissue, and the sink doesn’t look like I’d just skirted a plumbing accident. I’m extra floored when paper towels are available instead of the miserable short-circuiting hand-dryer — of course, the updated version of that being the Dyson hurricane blower that’s enough to rip the rings off fingers — neither, in reality, able to perform the act of drying.

The thing that literally bugs the crap out of me, pun not intended, is the perpetual ladies room line. I could be almost anywhere — where I hear crickets from the silence — and end up waiting for a stall. Architects, contractors, our society have not quite figured out that more women go to the bathroom on average, more times than men. Come on. I want that study, please!! But it’s not rocket science people, is it?

While I’m at it, I’d like to instruct the general misinformed on the correct use of the “handicap” stall. To those who think the seat is only for someone in a wheelchair: it’s not a parking space. Personally, I refuse to leave that slot open when I need to pee on the off-chance someone with a scooter might arrive. As far as I’m concerned, “whoever” can schedule her potty visit like the rest of the adult world. Get in the queue like everyone else ladies! It’s maddening, when after waiting an eternity, you realize an idiot at the front of the long line has taken it upon herself not to do the due diligence to check if there’s a pair of feet under each door, holding up the works for the rest. Believe me, when the frustrated crowd figures it out with the “courtroom murmer” of is anyone even in there, the collective rage is palpable.

And, lastly, the hipsters who came up with the brilliant design idea of coed washrooms need to have their heads examined. Really, is this a glimpse into our dystopian future or merely a flimsy attempt to save space? Frankly, I don’t appreciate having to share the primp zone with some other girl’s date at the communial sink. Not to mention inevitable emergencies –it shouldn’t take much to stretch your imagination — menstrual cycles, IBS, men’s sloppy aim. Still think it’s a hot trend? Anyone? Seriously. Anyone? I didn’t think so.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

 

 

 

 

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I miss seeing movies. As a child, I was the wierd one who stayed in the house on Saturday mornings watching back-to-back black and whites on the local TV stations, by the era of the big box office, I was compelled to see each blockbuster. Comedy, sci-fi, epics, anything with a decent story. Later, it became my business to see everything out there and my husband and I shared in the joy of Friday openings. But since becoming a mom, the precious hours when I’m not power-organizing other people’s lives, it’s either too difficult to schedule the two-hour slot on date night or I’m too exhausted during the week to get through a film queued on my DVR .

So I was bummed when faced with the choice for this coveted weekend’s flick. After a season dry of money-worthy films, there were two at the cineplex I was dying to see: 21 Jump Street; for pop-culture sentiment, my background in and love for a good comedy, and because I truly want Jonah Hill to have a huge win on his film (curses that my birthday weekend in New Orleans fell on his opening day), and Hunger Games; because I’m a sucker for any epic futuristic dystopian teenage drama. My husband and I (grudingly, because in my perfect world I would see them back-to-back), tossed a coin and saw Hunger Games.

As noted, it’s a daily race to the finish line to carve out a crumb of private time, so I’m particularly annoyed with the critics for giving Hunger Games such a blatant pass and high score on the adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s YA novel. And though I didn’t even read it, the gaping holes in story, conflict and character’s purpose were catastrophically aparent. It’s a challenge when conveying any literature to the screen, but it can be and has been, done right. And well, the writer and director really failed on this one.

Sure there were tearful moments and the acting was good — yay for Woody Harrelson, who rocked it, but in general, the desparation and passion were amiss. And I could waste my time critiquing Hunger Games but everyone else already has. Up until now, in my view, certain reviewers have retained a shred of dignity, but it seems we’ve lost those discerning few to the Hollywood machine.

The thing is, I not only expected Hunger Games to be good, I wanted to believe the hype. Unfortunately, I surmised, at the level everyone was freaking out over it, that I would, at least, have left the theater satisfied that the two hours and $25 spent was worth it, but it wasn’t. And I’m additionally irked that I didn’t give my time and money to Jonah Hill’s 5-year artistic achievement. Don’t worry Jonah, I promise to get there, but sadly now, not until after spring break. I pray you’re still in the theaters then.

Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com

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