Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Turning Tricks, No Treat

How do I make R2D2 slutty?

That's the question facing me
today. I could dip into my collection of past Halloween costumes and
just go as a slut devil, or a slut angel or a slut pirate.

Hubby is going as Luke Skywalker with Zev – dressed as Yoda – strapped
to his back, just as the characters appear on the swamp planet of
Dagobah in "The Empire Strikes Back" (have I lost you yet?).

only other character in that scene is R2D2. And since it'd be kinda
lame for Luke and Yoda to be traveling around Dagobah with a French
maid, I have to figure out how to slut up R2.

If you're asking
why I have to turn a 2-foot droid into a whore, why I can't just go as
a "normal" R2D2, then you've probably spent the last 20 Halloweens
alone in some darkened patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear.
When you're a kid, Halloween is about treats. When you're an adult,
it's about looking as though you turn tricks.

I suppose, as a
presumably thinking person, I should question why women across the
country have silently declared one of the coldest evenings of the fall
as the night we collectively waltz around outdoors in our underwear.
But when it comes to tradition, I've learned not to question: Why do we
eat turkey on Thanksgiving? I don't know. Who cares? It's the one day
of the year my mom ever cooked. Why spoil it with analysis?

is true for vampish Halloween costumes. Is it odd for a nice Jewish
girl to celebrate a pagan ritual that's been funneled through Christian
traditions? Yep. Is it any more odd to do so while wearing a corset?
Probably not. So lace me up!

Truth is, women are sexual beings.
At least, we'd like to be. There's an awful lot of punishment and
condemnation and mixed messages out there for women who enjoy sex and
feel comfortable with their sexuality. There is this weird definition
women have of "sexy" as "being sexy for men." Halloween, the way I see
it, is a way of turning that on its head. Of being sexy for ourselves.

is, of course, some harm we're doing our daughters and little sisters
in presenting "dress up" as something other than a fulfillment of our fantasies.
Do girls look at these revealing costumes as a choice or a mandatory
uniform? It's hard to know, but I suspect the latter.

A loyal,
if crazy, reader, Kirsten, says the whoring of Halloween starts young
these days. Her 8-year-old daughter wants to go to her "very orderly
Lutheran school" dressed as Marilyn Monroe.

"Of course, I'm letting her," she wrote in an e-mail.

But that doesn't mean the sex-kitten-for-a-day thing doesn't get her dander up.

really bugs me is the women who answer the door with candy and a
skin-tight, low-cut top with their giant boobs hanging out," she wrote.
"I know they're doing it for my cute husband, but my 11-year-old son
stands there staring at the 'candy.' "

Which brings me back to my own boobs – and just how I am going to manage to reveal them in an androgynous droid costume.

gone through various methods in my head: The super short white dress
with blue buttons sewed on it and a silver hat? Nope. I'd be mistaken
for a Rockette. The cylindrical box that shows off much leg but covers
my head? I'm afraid I'd look like a suppository.

I was about give
up, when I decided to turn to Jessica Paster, the celebrity stylist
responsible for dressing Kate Bosworth, Thandie Newton and a host of
other starlets. If she couldn't help me out with my R2 costume, no one

As it turns out, years of dressing the sexiest women in
Hollywood have given her some insight into this Halloween tradition of
ours. In other words, she's questioned it. And it didn't hold up.

creative and having a creative costume is fun. Looking like a hooker is
not fun," said Jessica, who will be sporting an elaborate raven costume
tonight. "I think that women think that's sexy. It's not sexy."


I've got, like, five hours to figure this thing out now, and the way I
see it, I have two options: Either I realize that I'm under no
obligation to show skin tonight and stick myself inside a big white
box. Or I take the slut costume tradition to its logical conclusion,
strip all my clothes off, paint the words "I'm R2D2" on my body and
call it a night.

A cold, cold night.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Red In the Face

Sweaty and stupid.

That's how people usually feel when the
rage hangover kicks in. After the steam has left your ears and the red
receded from your cheeks. You're usually left hoarse, winded, sweaty
and stupid. 

That's how my new pal Amber probably feels about
now. Two weeks ago, Amber (her real name is Stephanie, but I promised I
wouldn't use it in print), e-mailed me to tell me what a sophomoric,
insulting and boring writer I am.

That's not – by a long shot –
the worst anyone has ever called me. But what struck me was Amber's
rage. I can't print the whole e-mail because this is a newspaper and
not a prison yard, but the gist of it was that she didn't like the
subject matter of my column and that somehow the fact that I'm a Jewish
married woman with a child makes me unintelligible to readers of The
Orange County Register. (For this, I blame our Yiddish translator, who
is clearly sleeping on the job.) And while she was on the topic of
Register readers, she asked, in mouth-foaming all-caps: "DOES THE

I suspect they do. But
what I'm less certain about is how someone could pick up the paper,
look past all the true outrages reported in the news section and get
her panties in a bunch over a silly column. I think my column ran
alongside a piece that taught readers how to "pick up a boy" – this is
not the stuff that will advance Western society and political
discourse. This is the stuff you read while on the treadmill, when a
commercial comes on and you have to stop undressing Matt Lauer with
your eyes.

But Amber roared at me, full throttle – and I,
because I'm yet not old enough to know better, decided to engage her.
I'm glad I did. What I learned from her will likely help me the next
time I feel the need to choke a chatty checkout girl – or when I'm the
one getting stink eye.

I have yelled at people for things that
I eventually found out they didn't do. I cursed a hideous blue streak
of obscenities in front of my grandmother when I thought some dazed
driver hit our car – only to realize later that I had been the one at
fault. I once jumped out of my boyfriend's car to scream down a drunk
driver in the middle of the night on the Southside of Chicago.

after every one of these instances, I ended up feeling sweaty and
stupid and wondered why in the world these things set me off. Why
couldn't I control myself better?

Chris, who bears the
distinction of being my angriest friend, says people subconsciously
pick fights over small indignities because the big stuff is simply too

"People feel powerless about everything in their lives,
and so they either accept that they're powerless or they get angry
about it."

Amber seemed to concur:

"I have plenty of thoughts on world events, depressing and infuriating. However, Kim Jong's e-mail wasn't printed."

So, was I a scapegoat for North Korea's nuclear proliferation? That's kinda cool, actually.

makes being the subject of a stranger's outsized anger seem like a kind
of public service. Something we can all get behind. It's a lot harder
to get worked up by someone's instant hatred for your screaming child
if you realize they don't want to kill your kid, they're just working
out their disgust over the genocide in Darfur.

So the next time
someone flips you the bird in traffic, don't get indignant. Realize,
instead, that it's just the guy's abbreviated way of saying, "PCBs in
the environment are turning female polar bears into hermaphrodites and
threatening the entire species, and that frustrates the hell out of me!"

Can't get mad at that guy now, can you?

Also realize that the person with the outstretched finger will go from consternation to contrition in a matter of minutes.

sorry if I insulted you, really," Amber wrote a day after flaming me.
"One major thing about having anger is the remorse the angry person
gets after the rage subsides."

That's OK, Amber. We all need to rage.

And afterward we all feel sweaty and stupid.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Gift That Just Stopped Giving

It was a sweet gift. A year ago, Steve gave me a leather-bound
journal. In it, he'd jotted down witty thoughts and glued old
photographs and New Yorker cartoons on random pages. Most of the pages,
though, were blank. 

A handwritten note came with it explaining
that he'd put down some funny things in the book and was leaving it
with me "for a couple of weeks, a month," and then I was to send it
back to him with some more of the pages filled. We'd keep at this until
the blank pages disappeared, and then, "when the book is full, you get
to keep it," his note said. "Hopefully around your birthday or a
holiday, so I don't have to think about what else to get you."

gave me this caveat: "It's a gift, not an imposition. So if you decide
you don't have the time, inclination or memory, I won't be offended at
all. I would want it to be fun, not frustrating." 

The truth is,
I really don't have much time, but I love the idea so much that
whenever I get a chance, I jot stuff down. I've only filled a handful
of pages in this past year – but it's pretty good stuff.

the guy who admitted that he was so freaked out after renting "The
Ring" that when his 8-year-old, long-haired daughter walked into his
bedroom asking for a glass of water in the middle of the night, he
"jumped up on the bed and screamed like a girl."

Or the
conversation I overheard between a pouty 3-year-old and her dad. I'm
not sure what the girl's demands were, but the dad was refusing them,
saying, "You can't because it's winter."

The girl, standing in a light dress in the warm sun, asked her dad, "What's winter?"

The dad, wearing shorts and holding an ice cream cone, suddenly looked very, very embarrassed.

"Winter," he said, slowly. "Um. Winter is now."

had intended to hand the Book of Funny off to Steve when he was here
this past weekend, but the stars didn't quite align. So I told him how
sorry I was that he was returning to New York without the book. His
response: "What book?"

"The Book of Funny."

"Oh, I figured that was dead."


"Why?! Oh, I don't know, maybe because you never, one, sent it back to me, or two, mentioned it. Ever. For a year."

"Oh," I said. "That."

of the hallmarks of a good friendship is that two people can go for a
long time without talking and then pick up right where they left off.
There is so much that never needs to be said.

But maybe it wouldn't have killed me to say something. Like "Thanks." Or "This is a great idea. I'm totally into it."

whole enterprise, Steve explained in that first note to me, was to give
me another stab at developing a hobby. I failed at knitting,
mosaic-tiling and exercising. I don't enjoy cooking, drawing or
painting. I can't sing.

Writing down funny stuff, he figured,
was a sure thing. I'm a humor columnist. But my silence left him with
the idea that the journal was going the way of the pottery wheel he'd
given me one year – a thing that I want to want to do.

Now, I
fear, I'm going to be carting around this mostly blank Book of Funny
for the rest of my life. A scrapbook of memories that will never be
recalled because they'll never be collected.

I protested that I
will fill these pages more, and that I want him to do the same, but
it's clear Steve's moved on. I guess I'm going to have to, too. It was
a good idea, and if anyone reading this has more discipline than I do,
maybe you can start (and finish) a Book of Funny with a friend.

for my book, I think I'll clip out this column and paste it inside.
That way, in a hundred years, at least my progeny will know why I
bothered to keep this mostly blank book lying around.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Get Out of My MySpace!

My sister and I are no longer friends.

She still calls me
whenever she needs something. And I call her to say "Hi." We always end
the conversations with a nice "I love you." And I'm certain she
wouldn't cross to the other side of the street if she saw me heading
her way.

But on MySpace, I'm dead to her.

I've never
had someone remove me as a MySpace friend, and it's fairly humiliating
that my first such blow should come from a flesh-and-blood relative. As
far as anyone peeking at my page is concerned, someone named *mofo* and I
are closer than me and Sis. I don't know *mofo*. I've never met *mofo*, and
if I did, she and I would have no idea that we're "friends." (But
thanks to MySpace's handy features, I do know that *mofo* turned 30 on
Monday. Happy birthday, *mofo*!).

Even before my sister exiled
me, I had been feeling like a little bit of a MySpace loser. I have
asked my favorite artist, Ani DiFranco, to be my friend 15 times (one
for each time I have seen her in concert). I still haven't gotten a

And comedian Dane Cook – the guy who pretty much
launched his career from the pages of MySpace and has, according to his
page, 1,533,755 friends – won't have anything to do with me.
Apparently, even if you have 1.5 million friends, you have to draw the
line somewhere.

Sure I have twice as many friends as Hubby.
And, yeah, I have forged an actual friendship – 27-year-old Nikki from
Milwaukee is a living embodiment of positive energy. But getting
ignored by Dane Cook and kicked to the curb by my sister pretty much
makes me the biggest loser on MySpace.

I have to admit that in the case of Sis, I did have it coming. See, I hate my sister's boyfriend.

I brought future Hubby home to meet my family, my then-9-year-old
sister shoved him and screamed, "Get away from my sister! You're going
to marry her and move to New York and I'm never going to see her again!"

a lot older than 9, but you might not know that by the aggressive
messages about Idiot that I posted on Sis' MySpace page. I called Idiot
a "creep," a "jerk" and a "loser." And I did it so he could see that I
did it. But that's not where I went wrong. The mistake I made was that
I should have just called him by his name: Idiot. 

The word
"idiot" has such a lovely, vaguely francophone arrangement of vowels. By
the time he sounded out the word, he would have been so intellectually
exhausted that he'd need a nap. By choosing simpler words, I left
myself open for a counteroffensive, an opening he took – however

The "war," as Sis describes it, proved too much
for her, and with a few angry clicks she removed me and Hubby from her
site (and her sight). She says she also removed Idiot, but I'll never
know because she blocked her profile so that non-friends can't see her
pictures of Israel or the photos of my son that she regularly posts to
her page. 

"MySpace is supposed to be fun. I just want to see my friends on it, I don't need this stress," she said.

she's right about that. I apologized to her for being childish – but
not for hating Idiot. Idiot's a creep and I hope even Tom drops him.
But I am sorry that I turned her page into a family feud. 

Sis accepted my apology. But not my friendship request.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

A Hybrid of Ideas

I used to draw on my clothes in high school.
Dumb stuff, like my boyfriend's name or Shakespeare quotes. On one pair
of pants I painted a giant green peace sign.

The first day I wore them, I heard this voice calling out behind me: "Have you ever even smoked dope?"

I turned around, shocked to find School Pothead talking to me. He was cute. And he never talked to me.

"What?" (Yeah. I have a way with words.)

"Pot. Have you ever smoked it?" Pothead said, half talking, half barking.

"No," I said, confused.

"Then why are you wearing that fucking peace sign, you fucking poser?"

Apparently marijuana not only kills brain cells, it dampens an appreciation for irony.

"What does pot have to do with peace?"

"If you're not a hippie," Pothead said, "don't dress like one."

conversation was bizarre in the way that those conversations between
Bert and Ernie were bizarre. Remember those? Bert would walk into the
bedroom to find Ernie covered in duct tape. When Bert would ask, in his
uptight Muppet way, about the tape, Ernie would always have some weird
Rube Goldberg-esque explanation about how the tape would remind him of
being stuck, which would remind him about a hard homework question he
had, which would in turn remind him about the housework he had to do;
which would then remind him to take Rubber Duckie out of the dishwasher
– or something like that, it's been awhile since I've watched.

you want to take a duck out of a dishwasher, there's no need to bind
yourself up in a lot of tape. One has nothing to do with the other. But
it seems like all around me people make these odd Bert/Ernie
connections all the time – connections between two disparate ideas that
put weird strangleholds on the brain.

It's like how Mom buys
cantaloupe in bulk because, per melon, it's cheaper than buying just
one – but then she throws out all but one of them because the rest go

Just recently, on Rosh Hashana, our rabbi talked about the
importance of buying fuel-efficient cars. It might seem like an odd
thing to sermonize about, but he had a really good point about the need
to stop filling the coffers of our enemies every time we fill up our
tanks. He was hardly preaching to the choir on this one: The parking
lot was full to bursting with giant SUVs.

I drove home (in my
fuel-efficient Honda, thank you) thinking that as persuasive as his
sermon was, it's doubtful that he changed any minds that afternoon.
Southern Californians bathe in petroleum. For every Prius you see on
the road, there'll be five Escalades right behind it.

But I was
heartened the following morning to talk to a mom in my son, Zev's,
Mommy and Me class who had also heard the sermon. She said her husband
thinks that as soon as his lease expires this year, "He's really going
to consider looking into a hybrid car."

"That's really great!" I said.

"Yeah. What's bad for me is that I can't."

"What do you mean?"

"I have three kids. I need a big car."

chose to ignore, for the moment, that this was a complete fallacy –
people the world over have even more kids and even smaller cars – and
instead said, "They make hybrid SUVs now."

"I know, but not the kind with three rows. I need three rows."

was about to ask just how big her children were that each one needed
his own row, but I held my tongue. When I came home, I relayed the
story to Hubby, who laughed it off as Bert/Ernie lunacy.

"What does having three kids have to do with a hybrid?" he asked.

"Exactly!" I said.

was going to leave it at that, but – in classic Bert/Ernie style, it
reminded me of Pothead's statement from all those years ago. I probably
should have set Pothead straight back then – and I think I should
definitely challenge Large Mom now. Maybe it won't earn me any friends,
but her strange thinking is keeping her stuck in the duct tape of bad
ideas. If people aren't challenged, they'll never change their thinking
– and they certainly won't change their actions.

It's a zillion
years later, and I still don't know what pot has to do with peace. But
I know I can't keep my peace on inanity any longer.