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!