Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Regular or Decaf?

Sex and Suburbia, Regular or Decaf?
By Julie Stankowski

I have been wondering why I am so stressed out all the time and I finally figured it out: it’s the invention of the espresso machine! Oh, you think it’s because I have two little children, a dog, a husband, four jobs that require so much time but pay no money and two stepchildren who strongly dislike me? NOOOO. It’s not those things. I swear. It’s Italy’s exportation to the United States of the espresso machine. Really, espresso changed everything.

In the era of plain drip coffee, life was so much simpler. Your choices were regular or decaf. That’s it. Simple. While sipping your simple plain drip coffee from your kitchen coffee pot, you dialed the phone attached to your wall to call a friend probably having a cup of drip coffee in her kitchen. If she wasn’t home, you called back later. If she was home, but on the phone, you got a busy signal. Maybe that’s because she was busy! Talking to someone else. Not wanting to be interrupted by an annoying beep in her ear telling her the phone was ringing when she was already on the phone. Your friend continued her original telephone conversation without hearing in the background the beeping of a fax machine, the pinging of an email or the ringing of a “Here comes Santa Claus” tone emanating from a Blackberry. Cream and sugar? Simple.

The era of plain drip coffee reminds me of my Grandma. Despite world conditions, I somehow feel that my grandma’s generation had a simpler life than we do. I wonder if my grandma ever felt like a complete stress ball, as I often times do. If she did, how did she keep it together? I definitely cannot picture Grandma Horenstein trying to meditate. I think she smoked lots of cigarettes, played lots of canasta and spent so much time fighting over ridiculous things with her brother, Brother Goldstein, and cousin, Cousin Feinstein, and sister, Sister Borenstein, that she had little time to worry about anything in the world other than people whose last names ended in “Stein.” Maybe she also worried about whether we liked her mandel brut (a Jewish pastry) better than Grandma Rhoda’s and whether her housecoat was prettier than Rose Goldfarb’s down the walk. I know she didn’t worry about how her hair looked since she went to the beauty parlor twice a week for a wash and set. I know she didn’t worry about her weight because in those days, life was all about food and cooking and eating (at least for us Jews). Bagels and cream cheese and lox for breakfast followed by a little rugulah dunked in your plain drip coffee. Matzo ball soup and some cheese blintzes for lunch followed by a little pound cake dunked in your plain drip coffee. Chicken in the pot and noodle kugel for dinner followed by some marble loaf dunked in your plain drip coffee.

My grandma’s generation didn’t think about fat and calories and cholesterol, they just enjoyed what they put in their mouths, whether they were hungry or not. Maybe that is why they died younger than more recent generations, but at least they were full and happy. I’ll never forget having dinner with my grandma one night. She wanted me to have ice cream for dessert, but I told her I was too full. She said, “Mumula, you don’t have to be hungry to eat ice cream. It just slides down.”

In the drip coffee era, kids came home from school and went outside in the street to play with the neighborhood children. No play dates had to be arranged in advance. The kids stayed in the driveways playing basketball or on the streets playing stickball or in the backyards building forts until their parents called them in for dinner. And when their parents called, they came. When their parents told them to do something, they did it. Kids set the table and did the dishes. After dinner, kids did their homework and figured out how to entertain themselves without an Xbox, a Nintendo, a computer, an Ipod, a cell phone or a Wii.

Then came Starbucks and the infamous espresso machine. Life became crazy. All of a sudden we went from calling, writing letters and dropping by to see our friends to emailing, texting, instant messaging and turning on our webcams to see our friends. No need for in-person face time. Our days cannot now start off with a simple kitchen pot of coffee. No. Now, we need to go to Starbucks and decide between hot or iced, nonfat or regular, latte or cappuccino, mocha or caramel or vanilla or pumpkin. Tall, Grande or Venti. Too many choices for so early in the morning! How can I make these decisions while my cell phone is ringing, my email is beeping, my desk is full of this mornings’ emails, my son’s friend’s mom is waiting for my call regarding a play date this afternoon, my mammogram appointment is in an hour, my dog needs to get to the groomer and my daughter just called from school asking that I bring her a better lunch because the one I made was too boring? Instead of brewing a nice pot of drip while still in our pajamas in our kitchens, we need to wait in line for 15 minutes and pay $4.10 for a fancy coffee. Okay, my grandma would turn over in her grave if she knew how much I paid for a cup of coffee.

Is it me? Maybe I’m just becoming a crotchety old lady who now uses the phrase, “Kids Today!” all too often. I mean, I have cut my hair short, taken off my fake porcelain pink and white nails and started wearing cashmere sweat suits, but does the obvious fact that I am becoming my mother negate the horrible effects the espresso machine has had on our society? Maybe I need to up my dose of Ativan. Maybe I need to start doing yoga and learning how to meditate. We all know how that turned out last time I tried. Or maybe I need to start making my own coffee again, cooking fattening meals that do not involve fat-free or reduced-calorie anything, turning off my electronic gadgets and eating ice cream even when I am full. After all, as my Grandma told me, you don’t need to be hungry, it just slides down. And if I do that, I will save the $4.10 a day that I usually give to Starbucks and by next Christmas, I will have accumulated $1,496.50. Enough to buy my own damn espresso machine, with a little left over for a personal trainer if I get fat from all the ice cream!

P.S. My grandma died on New Year’s Eve of the millennium. It was just like her to go out with a bang. Love you, Grandma.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oy Vey . . . It's Christmas

Oy Vey . . . It’s Christmas
By Julie Stankowski

Oy Vey. Oh holy Jesus. Chanukah. Christmas. Gelt. Yule logs. Menorahs. Nativity scenes. Dreidels. Santa Claus. Potato latkes. Ham.

Christmakah or Chanuchristmas or however you want to say it, is an animal unto itself if you happened to have married someone of a different faith. For a Jewish girl (that would be me), the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s with eight days of Chanukah in between. Chanukah means taking out a few special menorahs, buying Chanukah candles, wrapping eight presents and making potato latkes (not so hard, you can use frozen shredded potatoes!). For a Christian boy (that would be my husband), the holiday season begins and ends the same way, but it is the in between time, when I am doing Chanukah and he is doing Christmas, that always makes me feel the major cultural difference between Jews and Christians (forgive me for my shallow take on interfaith marriage boiling down to Chanukah and Christmas. I am simply too ignorant about religion to discuss anything more substantive).

So, each year during Christmakah, my husband and I fight. You want to know what we fight about? Let me tell you. First, half of my three-car garage is unusable all year long because it is packed with Christmas storage boxes. I have never in my life seen someone with so much stuff! Anyway, the day after Thanksgiving, my dear husband pulls my car out of the garage (the only car that can fit in the overstuffed garage) so that he can begin what I have now come to know as the long, long journey into decorating the house for the holidays. He needs room to pull down all of his boxes and view what he has accumulated over the last 40 years (I don’t think he has gotten rid of one Christmas decoration since Kennedy was president!). He then decides which of the 500 boxes will come into the house and subsequently sit in the house for weeks while he decorates after work and on the weekends.

In between the decorating, he must shop. And shop. And shop. I think every clerk at Target, Toys R Us, Nordstrom, Costco and Macy’s is on a first name basis with my husband. He has (sorry, Honey) an illness. Is there an organization known as Christmas Shoppers’ Anonymous? I could just see my husband, “Hi, I am Jim and I am a Christmas Shopoholic.” I hope this article does not cause a divorce, but seriously, I do not think there is one toy or gadget currently on the market that is not in my house waiting to be wrapped for one of my children. It is the most serious case of gluttony I have ever witnessed. This is the case year after year after year. I mean how many children get so much that they can’t even open all of their presents and half of those hard-to-find toys end up sitting in my already overflowing garage until the following holiday season when I donate them to the cute firemen to give to Toys for Tots (okay, one benefit for me). So, once I think there are no more possible presents my husband can buy, he asks me to go shopping with him and tells me we hardly have anything for the kids. Are you kidding me? Well, I reluctantly go with him for I know this is a battle I cannot win. We buy five more bags of toys that I (Oy!) have to wrap. Then, on Christmas Eve, without fail, my husband tells me has a few more things he forgot to take out of his trunk. Can I please wrap them? OMG.

Okay, so back to the decorating. No exaggeration . . . There is not an inch of my house that is not covered with a Christmas decoration of some sort or another. Wreaths, check. Garlands, check. Little Santa’s, check. Big Santa’s, check. Huge real tree, check. Many, many ornaments check. Christmas soap dispensers, towels, dishes, cups, salt and pepper shakers, soup tureens, tissues, toilet paper, cookie jars, sleighs, check. It has taken weeks for my husband to decorate the house and during this time of year, some may refer to him as Mr. Martha Stewart. I, on the other hand, take out my one “Happy Chanukah” sign and desperately try to find a spot for it. It is literally hanging on the oven handles of my Viking because there is no more visible place available.

Here is a typical November/December conversation between my husband and me:

The day after Thanksgiving . . .

Husband: I’m going to pull your car out of the garage so I can start taking down the Christmas decorations.

Me: Ummm, okay. Do you want to go through them so we can get rid of what we don’t use anymore?

Husband: No. Please don’t ruin my Christmas.

Three days later . . .

Me: There seems to be an extra Jesus Christ in our entry way, along with the four others. Did you buy another one?

Husband: It is not Jesus Christ, Julie. It is Santa Claus. Don’t you know the difference? And no, I didn’t buy another one. These were all here last year.

Me: No, I don’t know the difference. They look alike to me. (Then, I walk away and think to myself, “Oh my God, I will be living in a church for the next month. And I know that my husband just bought that fourth Jesus Christ, I mean Santa.”)

Three days later . . .

Husband: When can you go shopping with me? We need to start shopping. We don’t have much time left.

Me: You go. I’m going to try to do some shopping online. I don’t feel like dealing with the crowds. Don’t go crazy this year, okay?

Husband: Please don’t ruin my Christmas.

Three days and 30 presents later . . .

Husband: Have you made time to go shopping with me? We don’t have very much stuff.

Me: I really don’t feel like shopping. You go.

Husband: I want you to go with me. I want to pick things out together.

Me: Well, what are you looking for exactly?

Husband: I don’t know. I won’t know it until I see it. That is why we have to go out looking.

Me: Okay, but don’t you think we have enough?

Husband: I work my butt off all year long so that my family can have a special Christmas. This is what I live for. It matters to me. It makes me feel good to give to others. Please don’t ruin my Christmas.

Four days and 400 presents later . . .

Husband: Do you think we should get that Cadillac Escalade mini car for Jack (our three year old son)?

Me: Do you think we should get that $4 million dollar beach house I have always wanted? Because maybe if we don’t buy the Escalade and we return just a few toys, we could afford it!!!!!!!

January 2009 . . .

My son is cruising around our driveway in his new Cadillac Escalade. My daughter is be-bopping around the house listening to the cool Hannah Montana tunes blasting from her new Ipod. My husband is taking down decorations and preparing to put the 500 boxes back into the garage. I am smiling because, even though I didn’t get my beach house, I know that my family had a great holiday. Oh. . . . . And because with all of the new Christmas presents scattered all over, my husband won’t realize that I stole the fourth Jesus he bought and donated it to St. Max’s Church.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, The Hallelujah Fairy

Sex and Suburbia, the Hallelujah Fairy
By Julie Stankowski

When we are young, we dream about our first visit from the tooth fairy. My daughter lost her first tooth when she was six years old. We were on vacation in Cancun, Mexico. Ole! Her tooth had been hanging on by a thread for days, even weeks. It finally came out and that night, the Mexican tooth fairy came and my daughter woke up to find 20 pesos under her pillow. She was thrilled. She has gone on to lose three more teeth and has become well acquainted with her American tooth fairy, Lulu (or “toof” fairy as she now says since she has no front teeth).

When we are older, we dream about any kind of visit from any kind of good fairy. Yes, I know that I am Lulu, the tooth fairy. And yes, I know that Santa Claus is really my husband dressed up in a big red suit. But just as my daughter still believes, I too believe . . . in the Hallelujah Fairy. I’m not crazy (well, sometimes I am). I have good reason to believe in this fairy (if information disseminated by the Enquirer, the Star and talk shows constitute good reason). Watch Oprah or Letterman or Leno or Ellen and listen to what the all-knowing celebrities have to say and you too will become a believer, should you have nothing better to do.

According to the many women I have seen on talk shows, one should expect to go through a metamorphosis at the age of 40. The celebrities extol the virtues of aging and describe feeling “Fabulous at 40.” They discuss how they have grown into themselves, have become completely comfortable in their own skin and have achieved that authentic and secure feeling of being one with their mind, body and spirit. Wow. That sounds fantastic and gives us all something great to anticipate upon approaching our 40th birthdays. I always imagined it as the Hallelujah Fairy coming.

I was truly looking forward to my visit from the Hallelujah Fairy and melting into this dream-like, Zen-like experience. I expected the light bulb to go on and I would feel a bolt of electricity running down my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. A complete transformation. Almost a religious experience. Like I was a blob of batter resting in a little ramekin for 39 years but on the 40th year, the Hallelujah Fairy would come and place me in the oven and I would come out a delicious and gorgeous looking soufflé. I would emerge from this sacred event feeling absolutely spectacular. Like I was receiving a Swedish massage 24/7 from a buff Russian guy with magical hands. My skin would be glowing and my smile sparkling. I would feel sexy. And best of all, I would feel completely happy and at peace with who I am, what I have accomplished and who I have become.

Apparently, the Hallelujah Fairy lost my address. Either that, or all of these women are a bunch of liars. Are they on drugs? Under hypnosis? Pretending? Living in a frickin’ Utopia? Enjoying their hot flashes? Do they really believe what they’re saying? Or are they as “real” as the Real Housewives of Orange County? Well, assuming for the moment my address is readily accessible to the Hallelujah Fairy and the fabulous at 40 women are not drugged-up, pathological liars, I question why I did not receive my visit. I feel like I have completely missed the party. Like I’m the lone loser standing on the dock waving sadly as the big ship sails into the azure blue sea carrying thousands of women who were visited by the Hallelujah Fairy and who found themselves at forty. “Wait for me,” I think to myself. I must not have been aware of what one is required to do before being visited by the special fairy. I want to be on that boat! I will figure out what I need to do, and I too will sail with the ship. If it’s the last thing I do! So now, I am trying to imagine what these lucky women did first with themselves to have earned a visit from the fairy.

Is it meditating? Is that a prerequisite? Is meditating the first step to enlightenment, to being able to reach down so deep that you become one with your bodies and your minds? Well, if it is meditating, I again, have completely missed the chakra! How do you meditators do it? Don’t you have too much on your mind to sit in a dark closet and repeat the word “oooommmm” to yourself 15,000 times praying you get some sort of calming message from Allah (or whoever). Every time I have tried to meditate, I have sat in my dark closet, closed my eyes and prayed for peace. Unfortunately, during my prayer, two little elf-like people, one on each shoulder, poke me in the head with a devil-like burning hot arrow and snipe, “Joke’s on you if you think this will help you to relax and become one with yourself. We’re here to keep you stressed out and make sure you sent out the party invitations for your son’s birthday, the thank you notes for your daughter’s party last week, paid the bills, met the deadline for early camp registration, picked up the only toy your kid wants for Christmas before it is sold out, baked the brownies for the religious school holiday party and shaved your legs.” Maybe the fairy didn’t come to me because I can’t meditate.

Is maturity a prerequisite? I don’t think so. Half of the women I know are as mature as a 16-year-old. This is especially true when your kids are in school. Did you know you are actually in whatever grade your children are? You thought you were done with the second grade? Not so fast, bucko. Many moms out there get so involved in their children’s day-to-day relationships that they act like second graders themselves. They bitch and complain about who hurt their child’s feelings and blah, blah, blah. If you’re the mom of one of the “feeling hurters,” you feel like you have to defend your kid. And you get pissed at the other mom’s accusations. And you think she is clueless. And you go home and say to your husband, “Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, at least I’m skinnier than that bitchy mom!” Maybe the fairy didn’t come to me because I acted like I was 8, not 40.

Does the Hallelujah Fairy require you agree with the proposition that, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Must you feel you have triumphed over tragedy and are now stronger and more powerful for having survived? I think that’s a load of crap too. Listen, if you didn’t die over something, you just didn’t die. You must keep going; you have no choice; you’re alive! That doesn’t mean you’re any stronger. You may know how to cope better. Drink a little wine. Eat a little ice cream. Pop a little Xanax (apparently wine, ice cream and Xanax are becoming a continuing theme in my writing). But coping doesn’t make you comfortable in your own skin. It’s like sticking a chewed piece of gum on a major pipe leak. It may stop the leaking for a moment, but eventually the whole damn pipe may burst. Don’t you get any points for coping?

Is plastic surgery required before the fairy will visit you? If you look great, you feel great? Have all of these fabulous at 40 celebrities had plastic surgery of one sort or another that makes them feel hot and in turn more comfortable with themselves? Maybe. I’m not sure. I’ve never had plastic surgery. But maybe I should. I don’t think my poochy tummy with my boobies resting upon it helps to make me feel fabulous at 40. I’m just too scared to go under the knife if I don’t have to. I don’t know if that makes me more mature, less mature or simply wimpy. Hey, special fairy, isn’t real better than plastic?

Okay, I am tired of looking for the reason the Hallelujah Fairy somehow skipped over me. So I will pray to her and hopefully she will answer my prayer and show up tonight.

Blessed Fairy. I am sorry I do not meditate. I am obviously too much of a stress ball to go there. Please give me strength to do 100 sit-ups tonight while I am watching Survivor on Tivo so that tomorrow I do not look pregnant from all of the potato chips I ate during the show. Bless me, oh Fairy, with your divine intervention so that I may feel fabulous at 40 and ignore everything else. For I know that from whence you come, I shall have the patience of a saint and not yell at my children when they blow milk out of their noses at a restaurant. I shall have so much confidence that I will try on a bathing suit next to Barbie. I shall have such thick skin that I will no longer do voodoo on mommies I don’t like. I shall gain understanding and realize that when my husband comes home from a long day at work, it probably would be better if I didn’t immediately ask him to take in the trash cans, watch the kids and massage my feet. And finally, all of this will be possible because you will have blessed me with the penthouse suite on that gorgeous ship sailing away into the deep blue sea and I will be on vacation for the next several weeks with all of the other fabulous at 40 women praying that my husband receives a visit from the Yes-I-Can-Keep-The-Kids-Alive-Until-My-Wife’s-Ship-Comes-Back-To-Port Fairy. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Venting Part II, The "Blahs"

Sex and Suburbia, Venting Part II, The “Blahs”
By Julie Stankowski

Do you ever have the blahs? You know what I mean, right? Feeling blah about the way you look. Blah about your life. Blah about your friendships. Blah about your career, your cooking, your writing, blah, blah, blah.

What starts the blahs? Perhaps you have a vacation planned and you decide, begrudgingly, to go buy some new bathing suits. The last time you bought a bathing suit, bikini bottoms went up to your belly button. So you go to the bathing suit store and the sales girls are like 19 years old and look like they popped off the cover of Cosmo Girl. You’re a little self conscious because 20 years and three babies later, you have a few wrinkles, a little extra flab and, you just noticed, what some people may refer to as thunder thighs! Okay, you think, get over it. One of the Barbies offers to help you find a suit. She starts showing you styles that remind you of your grandmother in those ancient family photos. You say, “Um, I’d kind of like something a little more stylish.” So then, Barbie shows you some suits you think your mother may wear. Barbie assures you, however, that these styles look better on the body (yeah, her body maybe!) than they do on the hanger and that they are very flattering. You agree to try them on. When you’re walking into the dressing room, a 20-something woman who, dripping wet must weigh only 100 pounds and who obviously never had children and who apparently works out at the gym 10 hours a day, comes out of her fitting room looking like a super-model. She asks you if the bikini she’s modeling makes her look fat. You hold back the little bit of vomit you feel creeping up your throat and tell her, “No, it doesn’t. You look fabulous.” Bitch. Then you walk into your dressing room, look in the mirror, decide it will be too depressing to try on any bathing suits, walk out, run to the nearest bathroom because your aging bladder just cannot hold it anymore, drive home like a maniac and change your beach vacation to a skiing vacation so you can go shopping for big, baggy coats. Blah, blah, blah.

Perhaps the jerk in front of you in the supermarket express lane had 35 items. Perhaps when they opened up another check stand, a second rude shopper swarmed in and quickly started unloading her groceries and you were left behind the over-the-limit jerk. Perhaps you had your turn signal on waiting for a great parking spot at the mall after fifteen minutes of driving in circles and some obnoxious teenager drove down the aisle going the wrong direction and stole it. Perhaps you ordered a glass of red wine at dinner and it was served to you with “sloppy spillage” all over the rim so that when you had your first sip, an expensive drop of cabernet dripped from the rim onto your favorite winter white cashmere sweater. Perhaps you were excited because there was only one person in front of you at Starbucks, but when she walked up to the barista she pulled a list out of her pocket and ordered 20 Frappacinos. Perhaps the washing machine repair man, who was supposed to be at your house between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. showed up at 6:00 p.m. Perhaps a mom of a girl in your sweet daughter’s class told you your daughter was a bully and would not be having any play dates with her daughter in the foreseeable future. Perhaps you feel fat. Perhaps you feel ugly. Perhaps everybody is irritating you. Perhaps you’re frickin’ sick of the word, “perhaps.” Blah, blah, blah.

Well, I will generously share with you my twenty-four ways to beat the blahs. Hang out at the mall’s food court and see how many women you can find that you think are fatter and uglier than you are. Watch reality TV. Drink wine. A lot of wine. Eat Haagen-Dazs. A lot of Haagen-Dazs. Get dressed to kill, look as hot as possible and bring toys to a fire station for the Toys for Tots Drive. That kills two birds with one stone. Not only will you feel good by giving to charity, but hopefully one of the hunky firemen will flash you a smile you are free to interpret as flirting. Call your best friend and have a bitch session. Play online poker. Smile and say hello to the person next to you at the post office. Write (handwrite, not computer write) a note to a friend you haven’t seen in a very long time. Make a list of all you are grateful for. Watch the Sex and the City movie. Wear comfy cozy flannel pajamas. Invite your girlfriends over for a pajama cocktail party. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk and blast your ipod. Eat Kraft macaroni and cheese. Buy a Spanx. Go through your closet and find cute clothes you forgot you had. Try a new lipstick color. Have sex. Don’t answer your telephone, cell phone or emails for at least an hour. Book a weekend in Las Vegas. If all else fails, pop a Xanax. And if that doesn’t work . . . remember how lucky you are to be you. No matter what brought on the blahs, you have one life to live and you must live it to the fullest! Do what you must to get yourself out of the blahs and into the Hahs! You know, don’t sweat the small stuff; it’s all small stuff. Okay, that’s one saying, but here’s another you should never forget: It is not the number of breaths you take that counts, but rather the quality of each breath. Or something like that. Now, go be happy and have a great day, dammit!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Venting

Sex and Suburbia, Venting
By Julie Stankowski

When Carrie Bradshaw and her fabulous single friends in NYC were in a bad mood and needed to vent, for whatever reason (PMS, a zit in the middle of the face, a boyfriend who has a mind-boggling sexual fetish), what did they do? They called each other, met at a cool New York diner and spewed and vented and compared complaints, at any hour of the day or night. They discussed everything from relationships, to clothes, to sexual satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), to sexual techniques of those they were dating, to being broken up with on a post-it note, to adultery, to marriage, to death, to cancer. They were comfortable with each other. They trusted each other. They made each other feel better. They were (generally) nonjudgmental. It was okay, and easy, to vent.

And they were single in the Big Apple. And you’re thinking, “That matters why?” It matters for two reasons. One, because being single in the city means a very open schedule allowing friends to convene on spur of the moment notice. Oreos and wine at an impromptu pajama pity party at someone’s apartment at 1:00 a.m. Sounds good to me. It matters also, and this is a big one, because when you’re single, you do not have to consider the privacy or the feelings of a spouse or partner and are free to discuss anything you want during your girlfriend bitch sessions. It’s quite a special phenomenon, one that significantly transforms when there is a partner and kids involved. It’s like adding hot sauce to your chili - - the flavor totally changes.

When you’re having sex in suburbia, what do you do and where do you go when you feel the need to vent? Do you go to your best friend who has already heard it a million times and now is either dreadfully picking up the phone when she sees your number on her caller ID or guiltily ignoring it, like she does the telemarketing calls and her stalker mommy friends. Do you go to your mom and/or dad who have also heard from you ad naseum and who, if you were to vent anymore, will end up despising your spouse, your employer, your friends and maybe even their precious grandchildren. Okay, exaggeration. The precious grandchildren will always be on a higher pedestal than you - - what’s the saying - - my parents would drown me in a spoonful of water for my kids?

Anyway, do you go, not to your best, but your good friends? Those with whom you and your husband and your children socialize. The ones who have a Leave it to Beaver picture of you and your family which will shatter should you start to vent. Say one thing to this group, while venting, and perhaps they will surmise that your entire life is a sham. That you are on the verge of divorce and bankruptcy. That your kids need some really established psychiatrists. That you need a really established psychiatrist. One with the ability to prescribe multiple medications including Ativan, Prozac and something for that IBS and PMS you always complain about! Or, do you go to your husband, the one person you wish you could vent to (unless you’re venting about him), but he is either working, taking care of some sort of problem, watching ESPN, locked in his bathroom sanctuary or has had enough of any and all types of communication for the day that the only kind of venting he wants around him is the kind where cold air is cooling him off.

I think venting is a misunderstood phenomenon. I am a ventor. As such, I would like to clarify a few misconceptions floating around out there regarding the world of venting. Here is my attempt.

To my Non-Ventor Friends and Family, with love:

The universe is made up of ventors and non-ventors. Generally speaking, ventors are women. Not all women, of course, but a good portion of us are ventors. It is something we need to do in order to avoid spontaneously combusting. It is like our mind and body are so full of thoughts, complaints, worries, neuroses, ideas etc. that we just need to get it out. We need to DISCUSS it (eewwww, we know men hate that, but . . . !). It helps us decompress.

To the fabulous men we love. Sorry for being redundant, but simply for comparison sake, think of how you feel when you finally get to your bathroom haven and sit on your royal throne so you can have an uninterrupted hour to read all of your sports magazines and catch up on fantasy baseball. You guys feel better after sitting alone with anything sports related and relieving your body of its unwanted matter. We feel better after sitting together with other women with anything alcohol related and relieving our bodies of our complaints. Get it? It is not the verbalizing of true, serious problems for which we are looking for solutions (more on this point below). Nor is it a sort of confiding that we do when we actually do have serious problems. It is simply a non-thoughtful, non-edited spewing of everything in the world that is bothering us that particular day. We would be just as happy to vent to a stranger in the supermarket or our dry cleaning man as we would our husband, family or friends. Because it’s more about our pissy mood that day than anything else. And having someone to listen. To whom we vent is irrelevant. It is just the pure ability to vent that we find a necessity.

And venting, by the way, does not call for solutions. Listen up, guys, this is a very important point. Generally speaking, when a woman is venting, she is not coming to you with a problem for which she needs a solution. When we are venting, we just want to be heard, understood and maybe even coddled. I promise it is not that hard. Here is an example of what to do when your wife is venting. Just say, “Yes, dear,” or “I understand.” That’s it! You’re done! And you’ve earned major brownie points just for looking your wife in the eyes, pretending you were listening to her and saying only two or three words! Here is an example of what not to do. When we vent about hating our brand new expensive Viking dishwasher being the worst we ever had because it doesn’t get the dishes dry like our 20 year old Maytag used to, don’t say, “Read the manual, there must be something that you’re missing.” And don’t say, “Didn’t you do any research on the different dishwashers out there before you chose to buy this one?” And don’t say, “Call a technician out.” We feel bad enough. We are not stupid morons. We already did those things. We made an expensive mistake and we know that. We’re just venting!

To the fabulous women we love. We “ventors” really want to be able to vent to our friends without judgment. When we say how pissed we are at our husband that day because he forgot to let the dog out before he went to work and we had to clean up smelly pee-pee after changing our son’s smelly poopy diaper and then take out the trash cans he forget to take out and then miss our girls’ night out because he couldn’t get away from the office as early as promised and then go to bed with no sex or cuddling because he had such a stressful day at work and then get up in the middle of the night with our crying child (disclaimer: this is fiction, my husband wouldn’t do any of these things) . . . we are just venting! We still love our husbands! We are not getting a divorce and we do not need marriage counseling! When we spew about the fact that our son hit our daughter and our kids wouldn’t listen to a word we said and we needed to pop a pill to avoid a nervous breakdown, don’t suggest that our kids may have ADD or need to take a social skills class. They are awesome, awesome children. We just had a bad day and we are venting!

Sometimes, we want our ventees to vent back to us. Misery loves company. Take the dishwasher scenario I talked about. We would love to hear a fellow ventor or ventee complain about one of her stupid purchases. We love that! It makes us feel like we’re not alone. When we’re venting about our husbands, tell us how yours leaves his dirty socks and underwear all over the place or gets mad at you over the electricity bill because you always leave all of the lights on in the house. When we’re venting about our kids, tell us about the time your daughter bit the boy next to her during circle time at preschool and then threw a major temper tantrum at the supermarket which was so unbelievably bad that you had to leave your full cart in the middle of the aisle to get out of there and avoid any further embarrassment. We will not judge you! Ventors are non-judgmental ventees.

Whew, all that writing about venting felt good! So, are we all clear now? Let ventors vent and if you have to, just pretend you’re listening. Don’t offer any solutions. Say you understand, even if you don’t. Get in on the action and try venting yourself. It could be cathartic and you will be making your fellow ventor feel great by becoming a ventee. Finally, do not judge! We all live in glass houses. Even Carrie and Big have an enormous penthouse with floor to ceiling windows!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Domestic Goddesses

Sex and Suburbia, Domestic Goddesses
By Julie Stankowski

Are you a domestic goddess? Do you want to be? Are you jealous of your friends who seem to be related to Martha Stewart? Or do you just hate them?

The year is 1998 in New York City. What we know for sure: Carrie Bradshaw is no domestic goddess. Yes, she can help you find the perfect outfit and perfect accessories for the perfect holiday party being hosted by Charlotte in her perfect apartment, but she will not be bringing a professionally plated canapé of petit homemade phyllo cups filled with crème fraiche and caviar. She will probably spend the days leading up to Christmas (or Chanukah) window shopping on Madison Avenue, buying fabulous cashmere sweaters at Barneys and hitting the sack with Big, wearing her adorable, yet sexy Santa Claus lingerie, including the matching “F” me pumps designed especially for her by Christian Soriano of Project Runway. Miranda is no domestic goddess either. From now until December 24th, she will probably be in her office stressing over the mediation brief due in two weeks on the Big v. Aiden file and cursing Magda for having walked in on her and Steve having sex on the washing machine. She too will not be bringing a homemade cherry pie to Charlotte’s holiday party. And, I think it goes without saying that on the days leading up to Christmas, Samantha will be neither cooking nor shopping. She, instead, will be having incredible sex with an incredible array of men all over New York City.

Domestic Goddess Charlotte, on the other hand, will be spending the next three weeks in her kitchen or at ABC Home and Carpet (if you’ve never been there, you must go!) preparing for her annual Sparkles of the Season holiday bash. In her kitchen, she will be slaving over homemade pate brisee (pie crust, for you lay people), fiddling with the perfect combination of fruits and spices for her one of a kind dazzleberry pie filling and tasting each batch of her braised beef main course so it will have just the right amount of seasoning to rival Emeril Laggasse’s recipe. When she is not in her kitchen, she will be at ABC shopping for the perfect holiday décor. No holiday home is complete without a set of Waterford crystal Christmas present candle holders to display the glowing tea lights on one’s entry way table. And because she doesn’t have time to go clothes shopping right now, she will call Jackie O’s personal shopper (who is still alive) and have him bring her an elegant St. John knit with matching pearls for her star-studded entrance to Sparkles of the Season, THE party of the year according to the NYC elite, hosted by the one and only Charlotte York Goldenblatt and her wonderful, nebbish husband, Harry.

The year is 2008 in the Los Angeles suburbs. We know nothing for sure. What do your next three weeks entail? Are you going to be shopping, having sex or baking? Actually, all three sound good to me. But in suburbia, you typically are not doing all three. You are struggling to keep your head above water having just completed the 2nd grade Turkey Pageant, the 3-D turkey project, the Thanksgiving party (at two different schools), the Thanksgiving play (at two different schools) and the Thanksgiving dinner you prepared for 21 of your closest friends and family. You feel like you need to sleep for three days, but . . . no can do. You must get ready for the holidays. So, will you suck it up and be the Martha Stewart of December or will you order your presents on line, accept other’s invitations to dine and party at their homes and not cook another thing until 2009?

Some people think I’m a domestic goddess. Hahhh. They’ve been fooled. I bake, cook and entertain in November and December only. It is my favorite time of year. The cooling temperatures along with the NFL season inspire me. What’s better than staying in your pajamas all day long, cooking a big pot of chili and some cornbread and sitting on the couch with a couple of beers watching hard-as-rock tushes running up and down a long field and gazing at a roaring fire in the background? I love those days. I also love Thanksgiving and for that day, I also go all out. I bake my own pies, cook all of the food, decorate my house and even bake individual banana and pumpkin breads that I wrap like gifts from Saks and give out as favors. I celebrate Chanukah, but my husband celebrates Christmas. He alone decorates our home like it is a wonderland. I pretend it drives me crazy, but I secretly love it. And because my house looks so festive in December, I host several parties, including my neighborhood holiday bunko. And there you have it. Two months. Two months of the year I pretend I am Martha. My friends ooh and aaww and can’t believe my talents. What they don’t realize is that from January to October, I do nothing domestic goddessy at all! Nothing. Nada. Zilch. My house is messy, my kids eat mac n’ cheese and my husband and I eat Chinese take-out. But I have them all fooled. Just from two months of finally using what I learned the previous ten months sitting on the sofa watching HGTV and the Food Network.

It is now New Year’s Eve in New York City. Charlotte is putting the finishing touches on her tree which looks just like the one in Rockerfeller Center. She is organizing her caterers - - No, they did not cook the food, but they will be serving it on sterling silver platters while wearing tuxedos. Her bartenders are organizing the Crystal, Dom Perignon and Grey Goose Vodka. Her housekeeper is getting the last bit of dust off the gorgeously decorated fireplace mantel. Her dog groomer is giving Elizabeth Taylor a blow dry and donning her with a diamond doggie crown from Tiffany’s for the evening’s festivities. Her personal assistants are carefully helping her get into her fire engine red St. John Knit being careful not to ruin her hair or her makeup. Carrie is smoking a cigarette and Big a cigar, trying to catch their breath from their last round of passion. They can be fashionably late. Miranda is lecturing Magda on what needs to be done for the baby that night and nagging Steve about how he bought a wine that is too cheap to actually give as a hostess gift. And Samantha is having a quickie with her date in the limo taking them to Charlotte’s.

It is now New Years Eve in Suburbia. I will rub the tummy of my daughter’s little Buddha statue and wish for extra energy so I can stay awake until midnight. I will add an extra little wish that I get lucky when the evening comes to an end. I will attend the New Year’s gala of the true domestic goddess in our group of friends. The one who hosts parties all year long. The one who doesn’t own any paper goods and serves only on china, even for the little ones at the kids’ table. The one who has an extraordinary wine cellar and serves a different wine with each course of the meal for specific reasons. The one who, when she is really tired, goes to two specialty markets instead of four and cooks her husband an easy dinner of coq au vin with an herbed vinaigrette salad and herbs de Provence roasted potatoes. I will dress nice and schmooze and drink and have fun. I will come home from the party, kiss my sleeping angels and hopefully continue the evening’s festivities privately with my husband. Wishing on the tummy of a mini Buddha often works! Then, I will carefully store all of my aprons in a pretty little box until November 2009.

P.S. Are you a domestic goddess? Where do you fall on the maintenance scale defined in my previous column? I would love to hear your comments!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, High Maintenance

Sex and Suburbia, High Maintenance
By Julie Stankowski

“High Maintenance.” Interesting phrase. Lots of ways to look at it. A High Maintenance car may require being in the shop way too much for your taste. A High Maintenance girlfriend may drive you crazy because all she does is complain about her weight and she is 5’2 and weighs only 100 pounds. A High Maintenance kid may drive you to drink because you cannot turn your back for one second without hearing, “Mommmmmm.” A High Maintenance housekeeper may force you to never want to be in your own house because she doesn’t stop chit-chatting with you and she thinks you are her very best friend rather than her employer. A High Maintenance husband is just, well, a typical guy.

Did you think Carrie Bradshaw and her sexy friends were High Maintenance? Samantha with her botox and chemical peels, lying to Lucy Lui and the sales person at Louis Vuitton (or whatever Madison Avenue store it was) just for a purse, trying to decide if her flavor of the month this month is male or female, agonizing over whether Richard was having an affair to the point where she had to buy a wig and costume to catch him, but then forgive him. Charlotte with her over-the-top my apartment needs to look like Martha Stewart lives and cooks here on a daily basis, I can’t find the perfect Burberry sweater for my perfect dog, Elizabeth Taylor, and for that matter, I can’t find my G spot because I’m too scared to look down there. Miranda with her I love Steve, I don’t love Steve, I love the hot Knicks’ team doctor who lives upstairs, no I love Steve, but I hate his mother and I don’t want to move to Brooklyn, I hate Magda, I don’t hate Magda, I love Steve again drama. And Carrie, my stylish special Carrie who we all know I love and wannabe and who is truly my inspiration, with her should I have sex with the sexy and passionate Big or should I have sex with the studly and manly Aidan or maybe I’ll just have sex with both and oy, should I tell Aidan I cheated on him with Big or should I just go out and buy a new pair of Prada shoes. Let’s face it, Carrie and company needed to look great, dress great, have great sex, have great apartments, have great hair styles, great friends, great boyfriends, great shoes, great accessories, great bodies - - whew - - that all takes a lot of work and would be considered by most “High Maintenance.”

Well, here’s the deal my dear suburban friends, I’m not sure those adorable girls even knew the meaning of High Maintenance. I’m not sure I knew the meaning of High Maintenance until now (I’m 40, married with children and having sex in suburbia). I have come to learn that the phrase High Maintenance has at least two very different definitions. Not quite sure if Webster’s is on board (or if they even define phrases), but I think you’ll agree with me . . .

There’s High Maintenance-Sex and the City: a woman who, in order to feel fabulous, must sleep until 10:00 a.m., have a leisurely decaf nonfat mocha latte while watching Matt Lauer on the Today Show, enjoy a mind-calming yoga class with a super hot instructor followed by a massage and a facial, linger in a hot shower, slip on a Cynthia Rowley sheath dress, share some juicy gossip with celeb-stylist Jose Eber while he gives her a star-studded blow out, meet her girlfriends for lunch and more fab gossip over a Waldorf salad and a very dry martini with three olives, take an afternoon nap after watching her Tivo’d episode of Project Runway, change into her Marc Jacobs evening attire, stroll over to Babbo to meet her bestest friend in the world, the guy we all wish was our best friend (the one who stars in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), for some delicious al dente pasta and a bottle (or two) of Chianti and then saunter off to Big’s penthouse for a 1:00 a.m. booty call, simply the whipped cream on her Sundae (no pun intended).

Then there’s High Maintenance-Sex and Suburbia: Definition so long it requires four paragraphs:

A woman who, in order to feel fabulous, must wake up at 5:00 a.m. to start her work day as Mom (okay, she can hit snooze 5 times and wake up at 5:35 a.m., but my goodness, it still feels like the middle of the night). She rushes around to get the kids off to school (like a chicken with her head cut off, as if she’s never done this before, and thinks to herself that only a completely pathetic disorganized mom would not have laid out her kids’ clothes and gotten their lunches and backpacks ready the night before and certainly would not have forgotten that the diorama project was due today). She stays in her pajamas, however, since she will have time to shower when she gets home; not many people will see her at drop-off anyway. Oops, on her way home from drop-off, she notices that her gas light is on empty (the light is more like a flashing neon sign reading “you idiot, I’ve been on for two days, you didn’t pay attention and now you must detour, in your pajamas, to the nearest gas station to spend $107.00 to fill up your humungo Escalade). Her gorgeous gyno whom she has always had a secret crush on is, of course, filling up next to her and is chattier and friendlier than ever, all the while she is cringing inside because she’s wearing her raggedy pajamas with smiley faces printed all over them, hasn’t brushed her hair and has no make-up on. She gets through the gas station embarrassment and happily arrives home with three hours to herself to shower and get things done while the kids are in school and her husband is at work.

She goes into her bathroom to take a long, hot shower, excited at the prospect of having time to shave her legs and armpits, put her make-up on and blow dry her hair, a rarity in her job. As she’s stepping into the shower, she gets a quick, unintentional glimpse of herself in the mirror. Not good. She realizes she desperately needs a bikini wax (why didn’t her husband mention that?) and a lip wax and an eyebrow wax. She steps away from the shower and closer to the mirror and is horrified to see she also has hair growing out of her nose, her chin, her chest, her stomach, in between her eyebrows, and actually, her entire face is covered with peach fuzz that seems to have quadrupled in thickness since last night’s face cleansing. When did she go through the reverse Darwinian process of morphing from human to ape? How did this happen and why have none of her close friends mentioned anything, at least about that one long disgusting hair growing out of her neck? I mean it is so rude to let your best friend walk around with spinach between her teeth all day - - isn’t this worse? At this moment, she wishes she could be drinking an iced caffe mocha nonfat vodka valium latte (and maybe she is).

She decides to forgo a shower (being clean and smelling nice is irrelevant if your entire body is covered with hair) and instead calls for an emergency waxing appointment. She gets in her gas-guzzling SUV to go see Atilla the Wax Hun and realizes, as she practically runs a red light, that she must make an appointment with an ophthalmologist because she can’t see as well as she used to. She blasts the car’s air conditioner because she is having her own personal summer. She catches another unintentional glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror and realizes that not only is she as hairy as King Kong, but the hair she is supposed to have on her head is totally thinning and very much gray! She is freaking out, trying to decide what she will do after her wax - - should she try to get into the hair salon or should she try to get into the therapist to get some Prozac? Before having a chance to decide, she’s laying on the table getting her unwanted hair torn off (even getting her nostrils waxed), but luckily, she makes it through her waxing appointment without throwing up. She decides trying to fix her hair may be a better drug than Prozac so she frantically calls her hairdresser for an emergency color and cut, and threatens to cry like a baby in his chair if he does not put in some hair extensions to mask the thinning.

Exhausted and smelly, but proud she has attempted to “maintain” herself, she picks up the kids up at school and continues to perform her mom duties. Once home, she orders Chinese take-out; obviously she didn’t have time to go to the market today. By the time the kids are asleep, she says a quick hello to her husband, lets him know that she had an exhausting day and is going upstairs to relax. No lingerie, no glitz, no glamour, no sex. She grabs a bottle of wine (not a glass, a bottle - - give her a break - - she chose hair over Prozac) and this week’s People magazine, but gets yet another unintentional glimpse of herself in the hallway mirror on the way up (why are there so many damn mirrors?) and realizes she friggin’ needs a manicure, pedicure, body check at the dermatologist, mammogram and pap smear. And decides maybe she won’t go the eye doctor - - maybe if she lets her eyes get worse, she won’t notice all of these imperfections! Finally, at 11:00 p.m., she sits down to watch her Tivo’d Discovery channel show, “How in the hell did I ever get this old - - I am so High Maintenance I can’t even keep up with myself.”

Okay, Carrie and company don’t seem so High Maintenance now, do they? Am I exaggerating? I think not. At this point, maintaining me seems like a full-time job! Seriously! I’m exhausted with me! Internists, gynecologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, boob-smushing mammographers, estheticians, hairdressers, manicurists, blah, blah, blah. It’s too much! Can you hear me? Are you there, God? It’s me, Julie.

So I am writing to Webster’s. I will argue that the phrase High Maintenance should be clearly defined for us all. It should have delineations. Like small, medium and large. Regular or decaf. Mild or spicy. Salt or no salt. Straight up or on the rocks. We need to know where we are and where we’ll end up on the maintenance scale. So we will not ignorantly label ourselves High Maintenance when we’re having single sex in the city and we will not suffer a mouth-opening shock stroke when we’re having married sex in suburbia. In the city, we’ll know that we are “Pebbles in the Manolos High-ish Maintenance.” And in suburbia, we’ll know that we are “Bunions in the Uggs High-est Maintenance.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Julie Stankowski

Wow. It’s Thanksgiving again. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that we were getting ready for Thanksgiving last year? It does to me. But another year has passed. I know, it went by so fast! Our kids have grown, our lives have evolved. But here we are, at this beautiful time of year when the leaves turn amber and start to drop and the air turns cool and crisp and is perfect for a roaring fire. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. A special day to show everyone we love how much we care about them and how thankful we are for all that we have. In my eyes, no Chanukah or Christmas gift could even come close to the joy Thanksgiving brings.

Okay, my friends. Here is my message: with all that’s happening in our world and our economy, we need to step back tomorrow and celebrate life this Thanksgiving. We must appreciate every day we have on this Earth. We must appreciate our friends and family and give thanks, in whatever way works for us, for their presence here and in our lives. We must realize how precious life is and how fragile it is. Let petty things remain petty. Let work stay at work and appreciate our families. Let the wrinkles on our faces signify our luck to be alive rather than our need for botox shots. Love the fact that your three-year-old son wants to crawl in bed with you and cuddle instead of thinking it’s a problem. For when your baby decides he is too big to cuddle with his parents, you will be sad. You will miss those days.

Treasure today’s moments! Enjoy your Thanksgiving and really be thankful for what you have. Your mother, your father, your children, your health, your spouse, your friends, your home, whatever. Just be thankful. This is a holiday which allows us to show our appreciation. And we should. Each of us has our crosses to bear, but sometimes we do not see our blessings. Take the time to think about yours. Even make a list of the things you are thankful for - - it makes you feel good! On November 27, 2008, I will be truly thankful for all that I have been blessed with and I sincerely hope that you will too. Let this Thanksgiving bring you joy, peace and happiness for what you do have, not sadness for what you do not. That is reserved for another day. My sincere best wishes to all of you for a beautiful and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

[Today is my wonderful parents' 44th anniversary. Of course, I had to post about it! Disclaimer: I'm not a poet and I know it! Just thought it would be more ambitious and more fun than writing a plain note. But don't forget, you can just scroll down to read my first two Sex and Suburbia Stories. And look for my latest column, Sex and Suburbia, High Maintenance, scheduled to post on Friday!]

By Julie Stankowski on November 25, 2008

Today, please celebrate with me
The ultimate meaning of “We.”

My mom and dad should prove to us all
How special love can be, above and beyond call.

They’ve spent 44 years as each other’s Prince and Princess
And today their love for each other is even more, not less.

They hold hands and kiss and reminisce
And enjoy special moments together, that they never miss.

Stronger than ever is their precious love affair
It’s truly amazing how much they care and share.

True best friends is what they are
In my opinion, they’ve really raised the bar.

As parents, they are stellar
Nobody could ever be better.

As individuals, they are divine
Each so special and one of a kind.

At last, they both have Medicare
So they’ll still have money to buy cute clothes to wear.

And they can now both go to the movies at a discount
So they’ll still have money to take their children out.

And let’s not forget the senior early bird specials
So they’ll still have money for whatever Nordstrom sells.

Inspirational is the description and despite their “old age”
They’re anything but beige.

Nobody loves them more than I
No matter how hard any one may try.

They are my heroes and I can’t adequately express
How very much I love them, even if I’m a teary mess!

May they enjoy many more years of health and happiness
And many more years of wedded bliss!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, Never say Never

Sex and Suburbia, Never say Never
By Julie Stankowski

A week later and, yes, I am still a Carrie Bradshaw wannabe. What is it about that character that draws so many people in? Is it the ultra chic wardrobe? Is it her girl-next-door despite working for Vogue sweetness? Or is it the fact that, in spite of her absolute glamour, she personifies the typical gal. The gal in all of us who wants to look great, wants to pursue a career she actually enjoys, wants to be in love, wants a “Big” in her life, wants amazing girlfriends, but also has normal problems.

On the one hand, I like to think of myself as this fabulous Carrie Bradshawesque type of girl, who is sexy, stylish and of course, totally hip. On the other hand, however, I sometimes think of myself as this completely boring, unaccomplished mom whose biggest decision of the day is what to serve for dinner. My days are filled not with Jimmy Choo shoes, bottles of Crystal, CEO’s or IPO’s, but instead with a myriad of KIO’s “Kid-Issues-Oh how to handle them!”

KIO’s can range from minimal to severe. Think tiny pricks you-can-barely feel of botox injections versus a full-on chemical peel that leaves your face red, raw and blotchy and forces you to not leave your house for a week (remember Samantha with the black veil over her face at Carrie’s huge book party?). KIO’s can be as insignificant as your child wanting to survive on Captain Crunch alone for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or KIO’s can be much more serious. The stomach flu, for example, (aka vomit on your designer couch, Frette linens and the fabulous, expensive rug you bought on your cruise to Turkey). Or the ear infection (aka mind-numbing screaming for hours which starts at 1:00 a.m. when no doctor’s office is open and your children’s Motrin must be defective since it seems like a placebo with no effect whatsoever). Or, what about when your kindergartener comes home from school crying because her best friend yesterday is her arch enemy today and wouldn’t let her play with the “cool” group on the monkey bars (when did high school start at 5 years old?). Or, what about every mom’s most dreaded KIO, the biggest whopper of all, worse than your son throwing up all over your brand new Mercedes - - Lice!

Omigod - - the big “L”. A front row seat at Fashion week in Bryant Park wearing a designer Ralph Lauren suit and drinking a cosmopolitan versus hair fairies, Nix, vacuums, trash bags, sweats and laundry, laundry, laundry. Oh, and did I mention laundry? Okay, pretty clear, Carrie Bradshaw - - I am not (at least not this week).

But then I got to thinking. How would a married in suburbia Carrie Bradshaw deal with a massive KIO? Would she sit at her laptop, look out her window and ponder the philosophical reasons of what she did so wrong in her life that colic, chickenpox, bullying of her kids, or even the big “L” would be thrust upon her? The one issue she prayed she would never have to deal with. Worse than Miranda’s water breaking on Carrie’s brand new hot pink Manolos. Would she sit there scratching her head, wishing God would have given her a yeast infection instead? Would she call her good friends and whine and feel sorry for herself? And open a bottle of chardonnay and a pint of Coffee Haagan Daaz in the hopes that wine and ice cream would help drown her sorrows? Maybe. And maybe I am more like Carrie than I thought.

When you’re still single (and childless) in the city, you are quite sure of what your future will look like, and it does not involve any KIO’s. First, when you marry your prince charming, you will NEVER stop wearing sexy lingerie and you and your husband will continue to have sex at least 5 times a week. You will NEVER wear frumpy sweat pants and an old t-shirt when you leave the house. You will continue to wear your chic clothes (with high heels) even if you’re just dropping your kids off at school. Speaking of kids, yours will NEVER run around in a restaurant, screaming, going under the table and clanking their spoons together creating a headache-causing noise akin to the scratching of a chalk board. NEVER will your kids be allowed to act like that and NEVER will you be the kind of parent who accepts such behavior. And what about while you are at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade watching those parents with three kids who are all attached to leashes, like they’re animals! What are those parents thinking? Treating their precious children like dogs? You will NEVER do that. And finally, your clean, well-dressed and well-groomed kids will NEVER get the big “L.”

However, you’ve now made that journey from single sex and the city to married sex and suburbia. You have 2.4 kids and a dog. And all of the sudden, you realize that the prior you was the most ignorant, naïve and judgmental human being alive. That realization hits you constantly, like a pesky fly which flew into your house while you were bringing in the groceries and you just can’t seem to catch (even with your really cute flip-flops-attached-to-a-stick fly swatter). And you discover KIO’s.

When dealing with a moderate to severe KIO in married suburbia, as soon as you walk in the door, you take off your bra (if you were even wearing one to begin with) and change from your sweats with no holes in them to the 15-year-old sweats which look like you bought them when Miami Vice was the hottest show on TV, but who cares, they’re the most comfortable clothes you own. Go away, fly. In KIO suburbia, after you’ve shuffled getting the kids to three different schools, soccer, ballet, softball, tutoring and religious school and after you’ve done snack, homework, dinner, baths and bedtime (all before your husband gets home from work), you crawl into bed yourself and go to sleep - - no lingerie, no sex, just Don Johnson-era sweats serving as pajamas. Go away, fly.

Now, when you are out to dinner, you ignore the fact that your kids are crawling under the table trying to pull some stranger’s chewed gum from underneath it just so you and your husband can have a moment of quiet, chew one piece of food in peace and finish one conversation (the conversation is about how soon you can get your parents to watch the kids for the weekend so the two of you can get out of town to have sex, something you haven’t done in months). Go away, fly. When you go to Disneyland and you’re freaking out about losing one of your kids in the happiest place on Earth, you curse yourself for not having a child leash with you. After all, it’s better to not lose your kids than to have judgmental childless thirty-somethings looking at you with a disapproving eye for “treating your children like animals,” right? Go away, fly.

In married suburbia, when your kids come home from school with the stomach flu, chickenpox or even the big “L”, you go into super-mom mode (because you have no choice). You call the hair fairies to come and do their magic on everybody’s heads. You make the dreaded phone call to the parents of the girl whose house your daughter had a sleepover the night before. You continue to comb the kids’ hair for hours and days on end, using oils, mayonnaise, potions, voodoo and anything else you’ve heard may help. You do more laundry and vacuuming than you ever thought was possible in a lifetime. During this time, you feel you are the epitome of the un-Carrie Bradshaw. You’re way more like Mrs. Cunningham (not that she wasn’t cool for her time, but you know what I mean).

And at the end of the day when you sit down at your computer to check your email and you are happily gazing at your peacefully sleeping, big “L”-free child, you may think to yourself that in suburbia, being a combination of Carrie and Marion is not so bad. You have a husband and kids you love and adore. You surprised even yourself that you could actually get through colic, vomiting, poop, bullying and the big “L” without having a nervous breakdown. You secretly enjoyed having sugar cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And despite all the KIO’s, you wouldn’t trade this week with anyone, even someone with a front row ticket to fashion week in NYC.

BUT, the fabulous sex and the city Carrie Bradshawish gal in you is yearning for some blingy-over-the-top-type of sexy fun. So you call your parents to confirm the babysitting arrangement for next weekend and you log onto Expedia to make reservations for a childless, KIO-free, alcohol, gourmet food and gambling filled weekend in Las Vegas. Dreaming of Martinis, Manolos and Men (well, your man, of course), you log off the computer and start putting away the kids’ toys so the house will be clean enough for them to mess it up again tomorrow. And there you are, almost ready to get into bed, not pondering what cute outfit to wear tomorrow, but instead, remembering your sex and the city days and thinking to yourself, I will NEVER use the word NEVER again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cabo San Lucas, a restaurant review

Hi All:

I hope you enjoyed my introduction to Sex and Suburbia. If you haven't read it yet, please scroll down and take a look! I intend to post a new "Sex" column each week. In a couple of days, I will post Sex and Suburbia, Never say Never. In the meantime, as promised, I will include posts of my unsolicited opinions about restaurants, vacation spots, shops, bargains and just about anything I think is worth talking about.

I am a total "foodie" and lately I have been writing restaurant reviews. Since I also love to travel, I am posting my review of a restaurant in Cabo San Lucas. While cruising is my favorite way to vacation, my family also enjoys hanging out in Cabo a couple of times a year. Several months ago, we stayed at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach (which we loved!). Here is my review of one of the hotel's restaurants, La Nao.

La Wow at “La Nao!”
Ideally situated just steps from the sparkling Pacific Ocean in Cabo San Lucas, on the grounds of the spectacular Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort, sits La Nao, an internationally themed restaurant with upscale service, superb food and a breathtaking view of the azure blue sea.

While dining at La Nao, the sound of the crashing waves and the sight of the setting sun glistening off the water provide the perfect transition from your day in paradise to your evening in paradise. And if your view of paradise includes al fresco dining on an elegant veranda while sipping a peach daiquiri, umbrella and all, you’re in luck here. If wine is more your style, however, La Nao’s extremely knowledgeable sommelier will happily help you choose the perfect bottle from the restaurant’s impressive cellar (I hope you have your Platinum Card for this though - - wine here is about the only thing I would say is very expensive). At this outdoor oasis, each table is adorned with a candle and fresh flowers and is shaded by an oversized, romantically lit palapa. Of course, every outside table has a magnificent view of the ocean. Should you prefer sitting indoors, La Nao’s glass and marble pavilion also offers ocean view tables, but the atmosphere inside is a bit noisier, more hectic and more generic than the relaxing and serene loggia.

La Nao features a wonderfully diverse menu consisting primarily of California cuisine with Asian and Mexican undertones. Among our favorite dishes were the crab-stuffed jalapenos, the ahi and mango ceviche (which was so fresh that each bite was like a burst of the tropics) and the grilled-to-perfection guajillo marinated lamb. In addition to the regular menu, each evening La Nao offers an internationally themed buffet, different every night of the week. The first night we were there, the buffet was Italian and included everything from fresh antipasto and heirloom tomatoes with imported buffalo mozzarella (which melted in my mouth) to a cooked-to-order pasta bar with a myriad of sauces to choose from, a variety of specialty pizzas, a wide selection of hot delicacies such as osso bucco, spinach aglio olio, twice baked potatoes and much more. The selection is sure to satisfy any palate. Amazingly, the food on the buffet tasted like it was made especially for you upon order.

It doesn’t end there. Each night, the buffet also includes an abundance of sumptuous desserts to match the theme. On Mexican night, we ordered the buffet simply to try the more than 20 mouth watering desserts beautifully displayed. We were not disappointed. The Biscochitos, traditional Mexican sugar cookies which are very thick and dusted with cinnamon-sugar, were to die for, as were the Bananas Foster Chimichangas, fried and sweet burrito-like bundles generously stuffed with banana slices, butter, brown sugar and spiced rum! Simply delicious.

Wait, there’s more. If excellent service is what you seek, you will definitely find it here. The several times we dined at La Nao, at least two wait staff took care of our every need. They were friendly and attentive, but never intrusive. A further benefit, La Nao features nightly live music to match the theme of its international buffet. The music is set up inside, but piped through the superior stereo system to the outdoor eating area for all to enjoy.

And perhaps best of all in these crazy economic times, the buffet costs only $30.00 US per person. A true bargain given the quality of the staff and the food coupled with the unbeatable ambiance of a candlelit dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Among the array of Cabo San Lucas’ restaurants, La Nao is a “Wow!”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sex and Suburbia, an introduction

SEX AND SUBURBIA, an introduction
By Julie Stankowski

Okay, I admit it, I am a complete Carrie Bradshaw wannabe. I was addicted to Sex and the City when it originally aired as a series on HBO, continued to be addicted to reruns on TBS and now, after seeing the Sex and the City Movie (which, by the way, did not disappoint!) am even more in love with Carrie Bradshaw than ever. No, I’m not some crazy nut who heads Sarah Jessica Parker’s internet fan club. I’m just a wife and mom of two in Westlake Village, California who, even though I love being a wife and mom, misses (and sometimes even yearns for) the fabulousness of Carrie and her friends in New York City.

That got me to thinking . . . How different, really, are the single thirty somethings in NYC than the married 40 somethings in the throws of suburbia? Um, let’s see . . . There’s taxi cabs or convertibles versus SUVs or minivans. There’s dinner at Mario Batalli’s newest restaurant and then off to see the Matisse exhibit at the MOMA versus dinner at Chili’s and then off to see Kung Fu Panda at the Mann. There’s the burning desire (and the extra spending money) to have those fabulous Manolos in the window at that very chic store on Fifth Avenue versus the utter excitement that Costco finally has cute colored Crocs in sizes for the whole family. There’s pole dancing exercise classes with a martini and Botox shots at the end (oh wait, do we have that too?) versus mommy and me classes with poopy diapers to change at the end. Okay, point made.

So, the question becomes: Does going from single sex in the city to married sex in suburbia totally change who we are and what we want? Can we have that feeling of sexy fabulousness (and fabulous sex, for that matter) and at the same time have the proud feeling of being the cupcake baking Brownie mom? Can we seamlessly meld the two, like an apple martini? Or, once we make that journey from city to suburbia, do we lose our right to occasionally be selfish, spur-of-the-moment cosmo-drinking fashionistas who still want romantic sex? A complete division, like (310) and (818)?

I, for one, think (wishfully or realistically) we can have both. We may have to study our daytimers, line up all the kids’ activity schedules and our husband’s work schedule, scramble for some babysitters, change our carpool schedule and dip into our household account just a little to ink in some Carrie Bradshaw time for ourselves, but isn‘t it worth the effort?

Recently, for the first time in 7 years (when my oldest child was born), I decided to leave the kids alone with my husband and fly to San Francisco to visit one of my closest, most special friends. My “Charlotte” or my “Samantha” so to speak. Actually, she’s my “Miranda,” since she is not domestic enough to be on the cover of House Beautiful and she is not sex-crazed enough to sleep with the check-out boy at the supermarket. She also, by the way, is a lawyer. So we’ll call her Miranda.

Anyway, I was completely freaked out about leaving my little ones alone with my husband, able-bodied as he may be. Would he give them chocolate cake for breakfast? Put sunscreen on their pale, soft skin? Make sure there was paper on the toilet seat in the restaurant bathroom my daughter inevitably needs to use? Or God forbid, lose one of them at the amusement park he intended to take them to while I was away? Despite my neuroses, I bit the bullet and made reservations for one night and two full days in the wine country to hang out with Miranda.

All I can say is from the moment she picked me up at the airport to the moment she dropped me off in the same spot just 32 hours later, Miranda and I experienced suburban fabulousness in our forties (minus the sex). We stopped off to see her new house and say a quick hello to her husband and kids. I called my husband to make sure our kids were wearing hats; it was really hot here. We grabbed her overnight bag (definitely couldn’t stay at her house; there were kids there) and headed out. I called my husband to remind him that my daughter was not old enough to go into the girls’ bathroom by herself and he had to take her into the oh-so-gross men’s room. We headed to Healdsburg to have a fantastic lunch with, of course, a sumptuous glass of Pinot Grigio, shopped around the upscale square with the upscale people (think the Hamptons in July) and had some heavenly dark chocolate from an adorable candy shop. I called my husband to remind him the kids needed to drink lots of water so they didn’t get dehydrated.

Since Miranda and I didn’t want to drink and drive (one great and important difference from one’s thinking in her early thirties to one’s thinking in her early forties), we checked into our hotel and headed (on foot) to the cute town of Petaluma for some more shopping and cocktails! I called my husband to make sure he hadn’t yet lost a child at the amusement park. Miranda and I found some great antiques and some great martinis! I didn’t call my husband anymore since he had, during the last phone call, expressed his extreme irritation at all my phone calls (and I was otherwise occupied by the world of Martiniville, Miranda and minute upon minute of fabulous girl talk).

The next morning, we sobered up at this old world Manhattan-like diner with the best cornmeal pancakes ever (didn’t even know there was such a thing). I called my husband and much to my delight (and relief), my kids were home and happy and couldn’t stop talking about going to Camp Snoopy with their Daddy. Feeling full, well-rested and secure knowing that my kids were not abducted by Snoopy, we headed to the local theater for the morning showing of Sex and the City. OMG, it was so much fun - - we loved, loved, loved it! With a few more hours left of our girls-only weekend, we were off to a hip Mexican restaurant for more food, drink and catching up. Off to the airport, via Miranda‘s SUV, we still couldn‘t stop talking until we had to; a moment longer and I would have missed my plane.

Admittedly, we didn’t go to some new, hip night club filled with hot twenty somethings who we no longer find interesting or even sexy and we didn’t buy any Manolos (because we now spend our extra cash on camp, karate, baseball, ballet and hip kids‘ clothes), but we had the most incredible time! Just two great friends able to have a whole conversation without hearing, “Mommy, mommy, mommy.” I’m not saying you need to get on an airplane to get some alone-girlie-fabulousness time, but I am saying that with a little planning and effort, even an hour or two of being able to act like our younger selves goes a long way in rejuvenating our mind, body and spirit.

Yeah so, we‘re in suburbia and not the city. A house next to a playground rather than a loft next to Barney’s. But we can still have fabulous girl time, relaxing alone time and hopefully, romantic sex. Perhaps, we just have to change our vision. Instead of spontaneous passion (which almost always is interrupted by somebody needing to go pee-pee), maybe we get a babysitter and a local hotel room with blackout curtains?! How romantic is that?! And let’s be honest, even a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, shared with the mom of your kid’s play date, can be utterly fabulous if you make it that way.

P.S. My husband is a fantastic Daddy; I’m just a neurotic, paranoid Mommy.

This is the first in a series of columns addressing the topic of sex in the city versus sex in suburbia. Stay tuned for my next column - - “Never say Never.” If you have any questions, comments or stories you would like to share, I would love to hear from you!