Monday, February 27, 2006

Shot Down



Register columnist

I'm not a bad-looking woman. My face is fairly symmetrical; I have nice hair. But future Mayravian scholars won't know this because my husband hates me.

Most husbands - at least I need to believe this - grab their cameras when their wives are all gussied up and looking ravishing. Mine lies in wait, taking aim in the early morning hours when I've just stumbled out of bed, hair mussed, glasses slipping off my greasy nose.

He's like a sniper, shooting when I least expect it - and when I so, so, so don't want it. While brushing my teeth. When blowing my nose.

While pummeled into the couch by the world's nastiest flu.

Bowers could host an exhibit titled "My Ugly Wife"; that's how many unflattering photos he's taken over the years.

I've asked him what motivates him to shoot me when I'm down, and he swears it's a symptom of profound love. A blindness to my glaring flaws and bright red pimples. "You look cute!" he says, which I've taken to mean: "I hate you."

It started in college, when he made fun of photos that some ex-boyfriends had taken, "The Mayrav sitting on rocks by the sea collection" I think he called them. He vowed not to add to the portfolio, not to perch me atop a tide pool and ask me to say cheese.

His photos of me would be different. They'd be real.

They'd be ugly.

I used to have romantic notions of what it meant to be photographed by your lover. Soft lighting, intimate moments. We got the intimate moments, I guess. Nothing more intimate than a close-up of my tonsils as I yawn into the camera while breast-feeding at 3 a.m. But that's not what I meant: I wanted Annie Leibovitz. I got Robert Capa.

There isn't a married woman alive who hasn't sacrificed her girlish fantasies on the altar of "Oh well." After we'd been dating awhile, I dropped the glamour-shot expectations and all but ignored the flashbulb. (This is in direct contrast to Sis, who has this preternatural awareness of cameras. I don't care if she's being photographed on the toilet by an NSA-trained housefly, when the film is developed, she'll be looking right at the camera and smiling gorgeously.) Since I was pregnant with Zev, though, I feel as though every bad pic is an affront to my legacy.

One of my favorite photos in the world is a black-and-white, 8-by-10 glossy of my mom as a 22-year-old. In it, she's a lithe redhead sitting on the floor of her sparse apartment, a cigarette poised between her fingers. Her eyes are lit up like she's just heard something interesting and her lips are parted slightly, as if she's ready to respond. Her pantsuit and shoes are fabulous.

Many, years from now, some woman I may never meet will take this photo off her mantel and tell a friend, "This is my great-great grandmother."

"Wow," her friend will say. "She was beautiful."

"Yeah," she'll muse, pointing to one of my Hubby-taken head shots. "But somehow she had this pock-marked troll for a daughter."

I've tried to explain this to Hubby. I'm not sure he gets it, but I can tell he's trying.

While driving along the coast the other day, he told me I looked great. Then, despite my protests, he reached behind his driver's seat, into his bag for the digital camera. The photo he took could be titled, "Woman worried her crazy husband (who hates her) will get them killed by taking an (expletive) photo while driving."

But, I have to admit, the lighting is nice. And you can hardly see the dark circles under my eyes. Provided he doesn't get me into a disfiguring accident, Hubby might, one of these days, make me look good, after all.

This column appeared in the Orange County Register.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"For Sale" Doesn't Say It All



Register columnist

I'm staring at a sign right now. A big, ugly red sign that should read, "Go Away," but instead, for whatever reason, says, "For Sale."

I know it's just a few pieces of wood slapped together and painted, probably against its will, but I can't help deeply loathing this sign.

It is, as they say, a bad sign. I wish it ill.

Behind the sign sits my house. My home. Which, at this writing, has been "for sale" for exactly 12 hours and has already garnered an obscene number of interested callers. I had to flee my own home for half the day with my dog and baby (a lot harder than it sounds) so that some cruel and nasty couple could tromp through it.

Through my home. My house. Which is soon going to be "my old house," or "that place where we used to live."

Forgive me if this sounds quaint. I know Orange County's maddening market has yielded many home-flippers. But this is our first house, which means it's our first time selling a house. Which means this is the first time I've had to come to grips with my home as a commodity, and I don't much care for it.

This is the first place I've ever lived where I could sit peacefully and read for more than a few minutes without fidgeting. We've thrown great parties here. Had our son here. Done a ton of therapeutic gardening here. And now we're going to leave it. Sell it. To someone else.

We're doing the right thing financially and psychically: We're moving to an apartment to cut expenses, and we're moving closer to Hubby's work so he can cut his commute. But I am feeling gutted. And since I can't hide under my covers (our agent says potential buyers are put off by unseemly lumps), I am going to buck up and put together a listing - I mean a list - of things I have learned so far in the process. (You choose your coping mechanism, I'll choose mine.)

1. The previous owners were not as tidy as I had thought. When we first saw the house, I marveled at how Dwell-magazine-like everything looked. They had a 4-month-old baby, a dog and a cat, but the house looked like no one lived in it. Now I know why: Their agent told them it had to. I'll bet you a cramped Accord they stuffed laundry baskets, family photos and baby toys into the back seats of theircars to give their home a more spacious appearance, too.

2. My mother is odd. Aside from suggesting that I bake a cake every time someone is scheduled to come look at the house ("It gives off an inviting smell," she says), she is under the impression that we are not moving, but rather, "running away" from her. "No, Mom," I tell her. "We're moving because it's better for Zev. The fact that you'll be farther away is just an added bonus."

3. Real estate agents eat bunnies for breakfast and wash them down a kitty-puppy puree.

4. My friends are terrible liars. "That's gr that'll be really I think you guys are doing the right thing. I think. Really," has been the predominant reaction.

5. As much as I hate them, "For Sale" signs are entirely too small. Those little placards don't have enough room on them to tell the full story of the homes they advertise.

On the inside of our home, the story is one of a family in transition.

Of a young couple taking a risk and praying it pays off. It is a story both terrifying and exciting - and, at turns, unbelievably sad.

But from the outside, it's just another single-story home, just another house. From the outside, it's just "For Sale."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Driven to dining on food in plastic



Register columnist

I’m sucking in the fumes of a white Ford Escort, cursing its pert-looking driver for ordering whatever it is she’s ordered that is taking so long, when my jaw goes slack.

The woman is tossing trash from her car into a garbage can just outside her driver’s side door: One McDonald’s bag. One fountain cup from Jack-in-the-Box. One Starbucks iced frappaccio cup, sucked dry of its contents. Another McDonald’s bag, this one slightly crushed.

"That is just disgusting," I say to my son who is asleep in the back seat. "Who lives like that?"

I feel my nose starting to run and grab an In-N-Out napkin that had been wedged into my cup holder beneath an empty Peet’s coffee cup. I’ll just toss it into that trashcan when I get up to the … Oh. My. God. I’m One Of Them.

In the movies, you know when the zombies are about to eat your brain and turn you into their brethren. But in real life when you join the Drive-Thru People, the change happens gradually, insidiously. One day, you’re just cutting a corner because you’re late for your son’s doctor’s appointment; the next, you’re recognizing the voice of the kid who works the In-N-Out intercom as though he were your brother. "Hi, Dave. It’s me, Mayrav. I’ll have the usual. Is your grandma feeling better?"

Like all things related to my waistline, I blame my son. Zev falls asleep so easily while I drive – and wakes up so easily when I take him out of the car – that I’ve started scarfing my lunches at drive-thrus between his increasingly shorter naps.

I’m stunned that this has happened to me. I was always the health nut of my group. I spent four years as a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Spent the entirety of my teen years eschewing fried foods. There was a time that nothing prepackaged passed through my lips. Now look at me: I’m planning my daily driving route based on where I can most easily find someone to thrust ground meat into my car.

And you know what? I like it. Sure, food tastes better when eaten at, you know, a table. But I’m an American. I demand convenience. What are those men and women fighting for, after all, if not my ability to drip ketchup on my steering wheel? (Seriously, I’ve lost track: What is the reason we’re fighting?) I ain’t getting out of my car unless you got a warrant – or I run out of gas. (Oh, wait! I remember now.)

I’ve decided that everything needs to cater to Drive-Thru People like me. Supermarkets. Dry cleaners. Even friends’ houses. How many more people would you keep in touch with if you could just drive up to their living room window, chat for a few minutes and then motor off? Maybe with a latte for the road. Bet you a bag of Pampers Britney Spears wished her Starbucks was a drive-thru.

I bet this could even fit in with Schwarzenegger’s transportation plan. Eliminate the need for parking lots! Use the extra space to build more roads!

It’s brilliant.

The woman in the Ford Escort gets her sweaty, frothy, iced thingy and drives off, while I inch forward to take her place. I order only a tall coffee. Black. Nothing else, thank you very much.

The chipper barista stammers, "Sure I can’t interest you in a reduced fat blueberry coffee cake?"

"Just the coffee."

"That’s all you want?"

Well, no. I want a complete overhaul of our commercial marketplace. A drive toward isolating convenience at low, low prices. A capitalist capitulation to car culture. A revolution. A dining car revolution!

But, for now, coffee will do just fine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Pink is the New Black



Register Columnist

You can't tell from reading this, but my nipple just popped out of my blouse.

Boop! There it is, all pink and powdered and camera-ready. I'm usually a little more careful with my body parts, more discreet. But a girl like me can't afford to fall behind - and so, instead, I must fall out. Out of my shirt. Out of my dress. But never, ever, out of the camera's view.

When Ms. Jackson had her famous wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl two years ago, the exposure scandalized the country. These days, however, a slipped nipple is all the rage. Forget puggles. If you want to be somebody, you've got to pop out.

Rachel McAdams, Tara Reid, Keira Knightley, Lindsay Lohan. They've all flashed their headlights at paparazzi's flashbulbs in recent months.

It seems pink is the new black, and I am not one to pass up a trend.

I've been out of the public eye now for seven months, and I figure I have a lot of catching up to do. Instead of a subtle "pop," I'm going to have to expose myself round-the-clock.

So if you see me at the grocery store or standing in line at the bank, the answer is, "Yes. I know you can see my nipple. Now go tell a friend."

I can only hope to be as successful as Mischa Barton. Her little Skittle made its primetime debut on - this should make us all proud - "The O.C."

Now, I stopped watching "The O.C." when they killed off Caleb (the show just doesn't pack the same punch without the Donald Bren-like uber-villain). So I missed an actual viewing of Mischa's bobbing boobie. But, boy howdy, I didn't miss hearing about it: television, radio, newspapers. Mischa's mammaries were everywhere. No publicist in the world can get a girl as much exposure as, well, exposure.

I could use some semi-scandal buzz right about now. Stay-at-home mommyhood doesn't pay much, and no velvet rope bouncer cares how many diapers I changed today. I guess I could try to write more. But that's so Alan Greenspan.

These days, it seems, everyone is using her nipples to gain the kind of acclaim once relegated to those other twin workhorses, talent and perseverance.

I'm relieved that a simple slip has come along to free us all from the burden of "hard work" and other nonsense. Woody Allen said he didn't want to achieve immortality through his work; he wanted to achieve it through not dying.

Me, I'm taking another route. Why try when all you have to do to get ahead is pop a little pink? So, girls, put down your math books. The game is over, and our breasts have won.

Still, I am a little confused. I know I've been gone awhile, but wasn't Kabbalah the key to cool not too long ago? Are we supposed to study the 72 names of God andflash everyone we see? I can't keep up.

Or maybe a whole new trend will come along soon. Me, I'm as eager as a beaver to see that day come.

After all, the weather is changing and it's getting a bit too nippy around here.

This column appeared in the Orange County Register